Carnival Cruise Line takes stand on a controversial on-board issue

Cruise ships pack thousands of people into what sometimes are very small spaces. While the ships are large, some points of failure on board can create problems.

If you want pizza on a Royal Caribbean ship early on embarkation day or during many late nights, the line will be long, in my experience sometimes 15 minutes or more. The cruise line can bake only so many pizzas at a time, so when demand increases, wait times increase.

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The same thing happens during peak periods at the pool bar. Yes, the cruise lines can use roving waiters to take orders and lessen the crowds, but there’s only so much bar space and, in the case of popular pool-area drinks, only so many blenders.  

Elevators can also get crowded, especially on the first day as people visit their cabins and then head to the buffet or pool deck. There’s no simple solution for this crowding since you can’t easily add more elevators to ships just for peak times. (Royal Caribbean’s new elevator technology does ease this problem.)

In a broad sense, elevators require cruise passengers to be courteous and respectful. Since there’s no line, passengers must be aware of who was there first and must accommodate people who have mobility issues and need extra time and/or space to board.

That’s usually what happens — but not everyone is kind, courteous and respectful of others. Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald addressed the matter in his weekly Facebook video.

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Carnival limits what types of scooters can be brought onboard. 

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Carnival passengers take two distinct views

Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are quite common on cruise ships. They help people with mobility challenges navigate the ship more easily. 

There’s no specific medical standard required for using one on board (although there are cruise-line standards for which ones you can use). Just because someone uses a scooter or wheelchair does not mean they can’t walk. The cruise line accommodates anyone who needs to or chooses to use either one.

Heald read an email from a passenger who uses a mobility scooter and says the cruise line hasn’t done enough to accommodate users of these products. 

“Why on the new ships can they not put a wheelchair and mobility-scooter-only elevator? People do not automatically let us in. They jump on leaving no room for those on mobility scooters or who have walking challenges or are in wheelchairs,” the person wrote.

Heald also shared a second email that questioned why so many people on board were using mobility scooters.

“The amount of mobility scooters on your ships is ridiculous…On no other cruise lines do I see the amount of scooters. Do other cruise lines ask for medical proof before they are allowed on with a mobility scooter,” the writer, whom Heald identified as “she,” wrote. 

In the letter, the writer accused Carnival of “empowering people to be lazy.”

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Carnival shares its elevator policies

“I do believe that the vast majority of the thousands of people who will watch this video, if they see somebody on a mobility scooter waiting for an elevator, they are going to hold the door and let them in,” Heald said. 

The brand ambassador did not deny that “most people” is not the same as “everyone.”

“Then, we have the situation I know where not everybody will do that,” he said. “That’s the society we live in.”

Heald made clear, however, that the cruise line would not be adding a dedicated elevator.

“The reason we can’t do this, have a single elevator, is that we would have to have a crew member control it. That crew member would have to be on every floor and at every elevator bank,” he explained “We just don’t have the manpower.”

Heald says that signs alone would not work for the same reason that there are issues with the current policy. 

As for the second claim of “too many” mobility scooters on board, Heald said the cruise line would not get involved with who can bring a scooter on board. 

He noted that the number of mobility scooters on board has increased since before the Covid pandemic. 

“We don’t have people tell us they’re bringing a mobility scooter, or renting one. There is nothing that says ‘you have to tell us,'” he said. “I believe, let me say ‘allegedly,’ I don’t believe we can have someone have to prove that they need a mobility scooter.”

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Some people, he allowed, don’t need one and are using it for convenience, but he sees that as a tiny number.

“I would like to think that 99% of the people that you see on our ships on a mobility scooter need it,” he added.

Related: Get the best cruise tips, deals, and news on the ships from our expert cruiser

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