Cruise Holidays with Special Needs Kids: Our Travel Expert Shares Her Story

Heading off to explore the world with a cruise holiday is an amazing way to visit iconic destinations. While it’s exciting for most of us, it can be stressful for holidaymakers with autism as well as their families. If you’re a parent travelling with an autistic child, it can add a level of stress to your holiday. Our expert travel advisor Michelle understands this and we want to share her experience of taking a cruise holiday with her own children, one of whom has autism. Remember that many of our travel experts at Cassidy Travel have families of their own, so we’re here to help! Read Michelle’s story below.

"To see my kids having such an amazing time was worth every penny spent"

Before I brought my kids on a cruise in October on MSC Seaview, right up to the point we boarded the ship, I questioned if what I was doing was right. Was there enough to keep them busy? Were they going to be seasick? Will they like it? The answers to all these questions were very quickly diminished.

Before we left for our cruise I had filled in a special needs medical form, advising that Leo has Autism, as the staff in the kids club needed to be aware .

The excitement from the two of them was amazing. Leo was telling everyone he had waited 147 days for this trip. And there was no way he was letting us forget this.

My two are not the kids that tend to go to kids clubs, they are a couple of cling-ons, so I thought that's how this was going to be .

On the day we boarded our room wasn't ready until 2.30pm, so we took the time to look around the ship, register the kids in the DOREMI kids club, and also book the shows that were available to book.

Checking the kids into the kids club was like filling out paper work equivalent to signing your life away which I was very glad of. It allowed you to go into detail of any medical & dietary requirements your child might have. With Leo, we were given a mobile phone from the kids club, so we could be contacted at all times if needed. This took a lot of anxiety away from me .

That evening our kids went to the kids clubs and from then on, they didn't want anything to do with us. I was very conscious that they were absent the whole time, and when you have cling-ons like I do, this is a very alien feeling. So I kept making excuses to take them out, bribing them with ice creams, but the ice creams were no more finished and they were asking to go back to the kids club,

Ava, my biggest cling-on, didn't even want to come on the day trip to Malta. She wanted to stay on board with the kids clubs. The maternal part of me didn't allow it, however the next time I will definitely allow her to stay on board.

All of the staff on board MSC made a huge fuss over the kids, and the staff knew and remembered their names, now for a 6 and 7 year old this is huge, and it showed.

In our cabin we had a letter from the Accommodation Director who welcomed us on board and mentioned that she was aware we had a child with extra needs and if we needed anything just to call her. These little touches make such a difference.

From the kids clubs to the pool to the arcade with the 4D cinema, my kids wanted for nothing. Everything was in easy reach for them, not once did they say they were bored and not once did they look for their iPads. Even at night going to bed, there was no time for them to play on their technology. The events of the day had them wrecked, so it was La La Land for them within minutes of their head hitting the pillow of the bunk beds which was another huge hit with the kids.

Gilbert, our Cabin Steward, always made a point of placing their teddys snuggled up in their beds, this was something they checked everynight. It really was the little things that made such a big impact on little minds.

To see my kids having such an amazing time was worth every penny spent, to see my kids sob with sadness on the day we got off the ship to come home, was also a great comfort knowing that the fears I had previously had were now redundant, and I had made such an amazing choice for my family.

MSC have some really amazing deals for families, with balcony cabins, super family plus cabins and something to suit people of all ages. Having a child on the autism spectrum and taking him on a cruise was daunting but for me it will be the new way for us to see the world, especially as Leo is very interested in different languages and different cultures. The benefits of cruising with young kids is that you only have to unpack once, and you can explore a number of different places in one trip, in complete comfort and luxury.

I've already booked our holiday for next year on the brand new ship MSC BELLISSIMA with even more new discoveries for us to enjoy as a family.

We've gathered together some of the most common questions and queries we get around travelling with different needs on our Special Assistance page. And our expert travel advisors are always here to help!

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Michelle Buckley - 21 July 2020

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