(12:55 p.m. EST) -- Carnival Cruise Line is the first cruise operator to be certified "Sensory Inclusive" by nonprofit accessibility organization KultureCity, offering crew member training and onboard resources for passengers with sensory needs on six of its ships.
Scheduled to be rolled out fleetwide by March 2020, the new collaboration -- currently found on Carnival Horizon, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Victory, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Magic and Carnival Sunrise -- will train hundreds of passenger-facing Carnival crew members, including guest services personnel and youth staff, to assist and accommodate cruisers with sensory-related needs associated with conditions like Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Ships will also offer sensory bags containing a variety of items to help affected passengers remain calm, relax and manage sensory overload. Each kit includes noise-cancelling headphones, fidget toys and a visual feeling thermometer that allows passengers to indicate levels of agreement or disagreement in terms of temperature.
Additionally, informational videos designed to create awareness are available on cabin televisions..
Cruisers wishing to participate in the program can inquire at the guest services desk after boarding. KultureCity VIP lanyards can be worn by participating passengers to help staff easily identify them.
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"Carnival Cruise Line and KultureCity share a heartfelt commitment to acceptance and inclusivity," said Vicky Rey, Carnival's vice president of guest care and communications and the company's ADA responsibility officer, in a statement.
"Carnival Cruise Line is to be commended for training their staff about autism and offering sensory bags that will enable individuals with autism and their families to have an enjoyable cruise," said Dr. Temple Grandin, a University of Colorado professor, renowned autism advocate and author, and one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience.
Carnival joins at least two other cruise lines in making cruising more accessible for people with autism. In 2014, Royal Caribbean partnered with Autism on the Seas to offer dedicated sailings, onboard resources and crew member training. Celebrity Cruises followed in 2015.