River Cruising for people who use wheelchairs – Europe

One of our readers suggested that we consider providing information about river cruising for the disabled.  She was particularly interested in a cruise holiday in France and has not been able to find ships that accommodate people who use wheelchairs.  Even the more recently built ships do not have any elevators or stair lifts.

The above observation is correct as we too have been through the exercise of searching for river cruise ships with wheelchair access when we were taking my mother-in-law on a river cruise in Europe.

Canal cruising

Canal cruising

 From our experience, the river boats are built to a width so that they fit through the lock system in Europe.  They want all passengers to have rooms with views, so the passageway is quite narrow to accommodate rooms on both sides of the ship. It’s not impossible to include an elevator in the boat build, however I guess if the demand increases, then we may see future boats that cater for travellers requiring wheelchair facilities. 

When we took my mother-in-law on the Amsterdam to Budapest river cruise in 2005, we resorted to booking her a stateroom that was on the same level as the restaurant so that the need to climb stairs was limited.  Her stateroom also had French windows so that she was able to enjoy all the views and the sunshine from the comfort of her room.  In December, we’re taking her on a Northern Lights Cruise and the Hurtigruten ships do have a few rooms especially designed for passengers requiring wheelchair assistance.  Whilst this is not a river cruise, it neverless cruises along the coast of Norway.

If you search the internet or make enquiries with river cruise companies, it is possible to find some boats that cater for disabled travellers.  In my quick search on the internet I was able to find a couple of companies that advertise that they have rooms with wheelchair access:

Special Places Travel run canal cruises in France, Belgium, England, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Scotland and Italy.  I checked their French canal tours and a couple of their boats do have wheelchair access.  The boats look quite flash and I wouldn’t mind doing one of their trips at some stage, especially as my mother-in-law herself has espressed an interest in this kind of holiday – www.specialplacestravel.com.

EuroRiverCruises.com is the other crowd that advertise wheelchair accessibility on a couple of their cruises.   Their canal boat the “Reine Pedauque” is designed specially to accommodate passengers with physical challenges and is fitted with a lift for wheelchairs and a stair lift for access between decks.  The doors are wide enough for wheelchair access on all decks. Of their river cruise fleet, the M.S. France has a couple of cabins equipped for the disabled.

Peter Deilmann Cruises – One of their ships, the M.S. Dresden has 1 two-bed outside stateroom for passengers in wheelchairs.  The company’s website indicates that their staff can offer clients every assistance to ensure mobility around the ship, however it needs to be noted that their ships do not have lifts to transport guests between decks. Guests are able to take their own wheelchairs on board.

Impending travellers would be wise to discuss their specific requirements with the cruise company before making bookings on cruises.  This will ensure that your needs can be met and there’s no last minute surprises or misunderstandings in regard to wheelchair access.  The people at www.disabilitytravel.com/accessible-cruises.htm also provide advice and service for disability travel.


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