The EU Regulation defines a ‘disabled person’ or ‘person with reduced mobility’ as: ‘any person whose mobility when using transport is reduced as a result of any physical disability (sensory or locomotor, permanent or temporary), intellectual disability or impairment, or any other cause of disability, or as a result of age, and whose situation needs appropriate attention and adaptation to his particular needs of the service made available to all passengers’.
Your rights as a passenger, in respect of disability and reduced mobility, applies at all stages of your dealings with a ferry or cruise operator (before, during and after travel) and whilst present in ports with staffed terminals.
Right to transport
If you are disabled or have reduced mobility, you are entitled to make a booking for, and travel on, a ferry or cruise on the same basis as other passengers. You cannot be charged a higher price for your ticket, and you must be provided with defined assistance as necessary for you to travel.
Ferry and cruise companies, travel agents and tour operators should not refuse your booking, or let you travel because of your disability or reduced mobility. However there are two circumstances that you should be aware of, that may impact this:
If allowing you on board conflicts with safety requirements as established by international, EU or national law, or in order to meet safety requirements established by the competent authorities. For example, there’s a legal requirement to be able to evacuate all passengers from most vessels in an emergency within 30 minutes.
If the design of the passenger ship or port infrastructure and terminals make it impossible to carry out the embarkation, disembarkation or carriage of you in a safe or operationally feasible manner.
Things to consider
Ships are fundamentally different and have different safety considerations. For example, some routine items of medical equipment (such as oxygen cylinders) may not be permitted on board, or may be subject to a size limit. Large or heavy items of mobility equipment may not be permitted in all parts of the ship, particularly if the ship itself is small. Information on such restrictions will be available from the ship operator.
There will be a limit on the number of wheelchair users who can be carried on the vessel, because not all cabins are designed for wheelchair users. Operators aren’t obliged to provide more accommodation that caters for disabled passengers, and so are within their rights to refuse bookings for accommodation if it is already fully booked.
In certain circumstances, and where strictly necessary, carriers, travel agents and tour operators may require that you be accompanied by another person who is capable of providing you with assistance if required. If this is the case, that person should be carried free of charge on a ferry (but not on a cruise).
If you need it, assistance should be provided free of charge for you. You should notify the ferry or cruise operator of your assistance needs at least 48 hours before you’re due to travel. If less than 48 hours’ notice is provided, the ferry or cruise operator must still make all reasonable effort to help, however it can’t be guaranteed. If you do need assistance, make sure you agree a time and a designated point to meet up with the person who will be helping you.
Assistance in the port
If you have requested assistance, the operator of the port terminal will help you to check-in and register your luggage (including mobility equipment and any other specific equipment). The operator will also help you through any security and border controls, and will see you onto the ship.
You should expect to receive similar assistance on disembarkation at the end of your voyage if you are getting off the vessel in an EU Member State.
If you arrive at the port with medical or mobility equipment, but you’ve neglected to notify the operator in advance, you may not be able to take it onto the ship. This could result in you not being able to go on your trip.
Similarly, if you haven’t informed the operator or travel agent of your disability or reduced mobility when you made the booking, the operator may refuse to check you in.
Assistance on board
Operators must carry, at no extra charge, any medical or mobility equipment you need that is reasonably necessary for your trip, subject to such equipment being permitted on board.
If you’ve requested such assistance, the operator of the ferry or cruise ship will help you on embarkation, to proceed to an appropriate seating area or cabin, and to stow any luggage. If you use a motorised wheelchair that is too large or heavy for areas of the ship (and therefore may need to remain on the car deck of the ferry, for example), you will be provided with alternative equipment for use during your trip.
During your trip, on request, the ferry or cruise operator will help you to proceed to the toilet. However if you have a companion with you, they will need to help you to use the toilet or with other aspects of personal care (such as feeding, breathing, or using medication) or if you want to take advantage of any of the recreational or retail opportunities on board the ship.
At the end of your trip, if you have requested assistance in advance, the ferry or cruise operator will help you to retrieve any luggage and to disembark the vessel.
If you have an assistance dog, the dog will be allowed to accompany you on board however this is subject to safety conditions and applicable EU rules on the movement of animals. The dog will be subject to animal health controls and you must ensure that your dog meets these requirements. You may also be asked for evidence that the dog (whether it is a guide dog or other assistance dog) has been appropriately trained.