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January 27, 2003

Royal Caribbean Accessible Seas Program Ensures Great Vacations For Guests With Special Needs; Little Touches Make a Big Difference for Guests With Disabilities

From: Yahoo News - 27 Jan 2003

MIAMI, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Royal Caribbean International has announced a fleetwide enhancement to its industry-leading Accessible Seas program that may seem a small thing to the average cruiser, but will make a big difference for some guests with disabilities. To better meet the needs of visually impaired travelers, the company is adding Braille deck numbers to staircase handrails on each of its 16 ships in 2003.

"We've learned that it's sometimes the small things that add up to a relaxing and stress-free cruise experience for our guests with disabilities -- something as simple as not having to ask passers-by what deck they are on," said Laura Amor, access specialist for Royal Caribbean. "We've looked at our ships from bow to stern to make sure that every aspect of the cruise is easy and enjoyable. Our ships offer an extensive list of amenities from larger features like automatic doors, hydraulic pool lifts and shore-side beach wheel chairs to smaller extra touches such as pull-down closet rods, Braille menus, and, now, stairwell banister deck numbers."

This latest addition is just one component of Royal Caribbean's comprehensive accessibility program, which strives to make travel more convenient and hassle-free for the nearly one in five Americans with disabilities. As a result of initiatives such as these, cruising has been cited by the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH) as the most common way for Americans with disabilities to travel overseas.

"I've traveled extensively since becoming paralyzed and have found that cruise travel has distinct advantages," said David Rafter, an active disabled traveler and travel writer. "From the moment I embarked, Royal Caribbean's activity-packed ship and helpful staff made me feel like an active participant, rather than a passive bystander. Cruising also gives me peace of mind knowing that I'll have the same room, bed and shower to come back to at the end of each day."

Rafter offers travelers with disabilities and their loved ones the following tips to help plan a successful vacation:

* Seek out companies offering modern accessible features and accommodations (such as wheelchair lifts, gradual inclines, automatic doors and accessible bathrooms ).
* Choose a vacation that creates opportunities for guests with disabilities to actively participate in the same activities as other guests.
* Inquire if there is staff dedicated to helping both before and during the vacation, and take full advantage of their services.
* Look for destinations that offer convenient dining, activity and entertainment options all in one place.
* Get out there! Don't let fear hold you back. With some upfront planning, travelers with disabilities can have a terrific vacation with exciting new experiences.

"For many people, when it comes to traveling, fear and apprehension of the unknown are far worse than the reality," Rafter said. "Seemingly insurmountable challenges faced by Americans with disabilities in the past have been addressed by travel industry leaders like Royal Caribbean."

Other notable accessibility features onboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager-
class and Radiance-class ships include:
* Staterooms with 32- to 34-inch doors, ramped bathrooms, roll-in showers,
grab bars, raised toilet seats, lowered sinks and vanity areas, and a
five-foot turning radius in sleeping areas, bathrooms and sitting areas;
* Spacious corridors, pool lifts and ramps in terraced public areas;
* Braille on menus, stateroom doors, service directories and elevators
* Portable kits for the hearing impaired including TTY (Text
Telephone)/TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf), Alertmaster and
a strobe alarm; and
* Closed-captioned televisions, amplified telephones in staterooms and
public areas, and infrared systems.

Royal Caribbean International is a global cruise brand currently with 16 ships in service and three more under construction or on firm order. For more information about Royal Caribbean's disability programs, or to request an Accessible Seas brochure, contact the Access Desk at 800-722-5472, extension 4492. For additional information about the cruise line, please visit the company's Web site at or call 800-327-6700.

Source: Royal Caribbean International

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