Carnival Cruise Lines Review for Special Needs Families



Palm trees, ocean waves, and sand between your toes are calling your name. Just the thought of a Latin beat makes you begin to sway side to side and shimmy! You salsa your way over to the computer in search of a cruise to sail away to bliss. Then you pause, eyes wide, where to start? Nobody wants a coconut thrown into their plans! Well, unless it is filled with a fancy umbrella drink! Let’s break down and discuss one of the most popular cruise lines around!

Carnival Cruise

Carnival “The Fun Ship”

For Reservations:


With extensive water parks on board, there is no doubt able bodied preteens and teens will find plenty of enjoyment on board. Some ships have smaller waterslides for our pint sized kids. I can attest to the Dream having fun slides for the six and under set. Children of all ages will enjoy spaces set aside just for them! Be sure to take advantage of the fact that Carnival offers vacation specialists to help you. It’s an added bonus that they don’t earn commission for assisting you in booking your vacation. Can can speak to a real human for nothing extra! Whoa! This will afford you the chance to ask questions about your family’s specific needs.


“If you need general information about accessibility before you cruise, please call our Guest Access team at 1-800-438-6744 ext. 70025 or email If you have an ADA complaint, please email us at” – Carnival Cruise Lines

  • Camp Carnival for ages two to five years, six to eight years, and nine to eleven years old. Ahhhh, now to enjoy that coconut beverage! Activities are structured and on a tight schedule. Don’t let that beverage make you late! Parents are issued a pager if their child needs to be picked up. Just don’t lose it ok? Otherwise you will be the proud new owner of a lost pager. Special needs parents are issued a cell phone, which makes me feel significantly better about leaving our child in someone else’s care. From personal experience, the staff is well trained and does a phenomenal job with special needs children. Name tags are given to all participants. Special needs children have their names written in red. This allows the staff to know who may need some extra help. You will be surprised how many there are! All children were treated equally in our experience of many MANY cruises with Carnival.


  • Parents must remain onboard while their children are at camp. Umm, you would think that’s a given, but there is a certain line that has mouse ears that allows you to leave your children on board while you head ashore.
  • Children under age three do not have to be potty trained for camp, but they must be to use any of the pools. If your older child is incontinent, they are still allowed to attend camp. You will be called or paged to assist with changing them. If your child needs help toileting, you will also be called or paged to do so.
  • The structured nature of this camp means your child will not miss out on activities when they show up at the time each one begins. This is in contrast to some other cruise lines with more free play.
  • Night Owls is a night time group babysitting service offered by Carnival for ages six months to eleven years old from ten pm until one am. An additional fee applies for this service. In room babysitting is not offered on any cruise line that we have sailed.
  • Camp Carnival will take your kids to dinner from six to six forty-five pm. Just remember that this may or may not coincide with your dinner plans. Our special needs child needed assistance eating, and they were happy to comply! Although, Carnival’s stance is that they will not feed your child. Please make sure to ask and plan accordingly. I suggest speaking directly with the director of Camp Carnival after their informational meeting on the day you set sail.


  • Be sure to bring medication on board with you and not in your packed luggage. You won’t have access to your luggage for a few hours.


  • Children must wear a plastic wristband that indicates their muster station. That’s where they would go in the event of an emergency on board. Parents, beware that these can be sharp and children can get them off. We have placed this “custom jewelry” on our child’s ankle with more success with our younger ones. For those of you with sensory sensitive kids, bring noise canceling headphones. They will have to signal loudly during the muster station drill. Also, if your child is in a wheelchair, be sure to get to your muster station BEFORE the drill starts because elevators are disabled. This may have been learned the hard way for this family!
  • I highly recommend talking to your cruise consultant about priority boarding if you have a medically fragile or special needs child. This will allow you to board prior to assigned boarding zones.
  • Wheelchair bound individuals may have trouble disembarking in ports where tendering is necessary. That’s when you need to take a boat from the cruise ship to shore.

-Ports that tender:

  • Cano San Lucas, Mexico
  • Catalina Island, CA
  • Grand Cayman
  • Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
  • Kona, HI
  • Belize
  • Occasionally needed in Alaska

“If you need general information about accessibility before you cruise, please call our Guest Access team at 1-800-438-6744 ext. 70025 or email If you have an ADA complaint, please email us at”

Bon voyage my friends!


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