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Sunday, May 3, 2015

“Autism Friendly” designation certifies Celebrity Cruises’ services, venues and amenities are accessible to guests with autism and other developmental disabilities


Shelton, CT   ̶̶   In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, Autism on the Seas™ (AotS), the leading travel organization catering to vacationers with autism and other developmental disabilities, today announced that Celebrity Cruises has received the Silver Level “Autism Friendly” certification from AotS.
The important designation qualifies the modern luxury cruise line’s efforts to accommodate guests with autism and developmental disabilities for inclusion and participation in its cruise vacation experience.
Effective immediately, the Celebrity Cruises fleet* is Silver Level certified “Autism Friendly,” with dedicated onboard youth staff specially trained in autism awareness by AotS.

Celebrity has implemented best practices to accommodate vacationers with special needs, along with the introduction of new Autism Friendly products and services.

Celebrity’s Fun Factory youth program, for ages 3 – 11, also will offer families the option to participate in the onboard autism friendly, toy-lending program, which includes the opportunity to enjoy the borrowed products in the comfort of the guest’s stateroom or around the ship.

“We’ve been providing consultative services and guidance to cruise lines since 2007,” says Mike Sobbell, founder and president of Autism on the Seas.
“Now, through the efforts capped by cruise lines’ adoption of our Autism Friendly standards and certification, which also includes a customized training program for their ship staff, we view this as a great achievement and service to the special needs community and the entire cruise industry.
Celebrity Cruises has been exemplary in its efforts. We are honored to bring Celebrity into our family of Autism Friendly cruise lines and look forward to continuing to work together to further accommodate special needs families seeking a vacation designed for their wide range of unique needs.”

“Our Autism Friendly certification is extremely important to us as we want all our guests to have an amazing experience and enjoy their modern luxury cruise,” said Becky Thomson-Foley, director of entertainment, Celebrity Cruises. “Our history of collaborating with Autism on the Seas has led to this new designation, and we look forward to continue working with them.”

Autism on the Seas supports the unique, autism friendly toy lending catalog offered by Celebrity Cruises and Fat Brain Toys. Providing top-rated products with both play and educational value, Fat Brain Toys is one of the most highly regarded toy companies by occupational, physical and play therapists.

About Autism on the Seas Cruise Line “Autism Friendly” Certification Standard & Training
Autism on the Seas Cruise Line Autism Friendly Certification Standard is designed as a guideline for cruise lines to ensure their pre-cruise and onboard services, venues and amenities are accessible for inclusion and participation by the autism and developmental disability community.  The reasonable accommodations to comply with this Standard are, and can be, customized to each cruise line’s policies, procedures and ships, to ensure sustainability and effectiveness in retaining the scope and intent of the certification.  

Certifications are awarded by individual ship.  Depending on the certification level, ships may be required to conform to seven categories, including:
1.        Cruise Staff Training
2.        Youth Program
3.        Pre-Vacation Planning & Services
4.        Dining/Dietary
5.        Disability Accommodations
6.        Guest Satisfaction & Feedback
7.        Support for “Cruises with Autism on the Seas Staff”
Four Autism Friendly Certification Levels 
There are four levels of certification, each progressing with increased levels of staff training.
·        Bronze Certification: Confirms the ship’s readiness to accommodate guests with autism and other developmental disabilities to provide equal access onboard services and amenities.   Some of the reasonable accommodations include providing sensory related toys and cruise social story, autism friendly modification to youth activities (where appropriate), autism friendly movies, priority boarding,  dietary offerings (including gluten free and dairy free), and several modifications to services for groups of guests with disabilities. See AutismontheSeas.com for a full list. 
·        Silver, Gold and Diamond Level:  Focuses on increased staff training. Silver Level ensures that all Youth Staff have received basic awareness training in autism and other developmental disabilities. Gold Level ensures that all Youth Staff have received advanced training, and we provide other shipboard staff with basic awareness training. Diamond Level ensures that we provide “hands-on” training for our Youth Staff.
Visit AutismOnTheSeas.com for a list of Certified Ships and details on the Certification Standard Criteria.
About Autism on the Seas
Founded in 2006, Autism on the Seas (AotS) is a niche travel company that organizes and staffs cruise and land resort vacations for families and adult guests with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other cognitive and intellectual developmental impairments.  The Autism on the Seas Staff is qualified, experienced and educated in caring for special needs individuals.  These vacations offer parents and caregivers a sense of normalcy through accommodated group activities and the daily respite enable families to recharge and reconnect with siblings and other family members in the household that may take a backseat to a child with special needs.  AotS also provides consultation services to cruise lines.  In February 2014, AotS launched the industry’s first Cruise Ship “Autism Friendly” Certification Standard & Training program to provide cruise ships with guidelines and training to effectively accommodate families with autism and other developmental disabilities.
About Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises ‘iconic "X" is the mark of modern luxury, with its cool, contemporary design and warm spaces; dining experiences where the design of the venues is as important as the cuisine; and the amazing service that only Celebrity can provide, all created to provide an unmatchable experience for vacationers' precious time. Celebrity Cruises' 10 ships offer modern luxury vacations visiting all seven continents and present immersive cruise tour experiences in Alaska and Canada. Celebrity is one of six cruise brands operated by global cruise vacation company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE, OSE: RCL). For more information, dial 1-800-437-3111, visit celebritycruises.com, or call your travel agent.

*Celebrity Xpedition is a 100-guest mega yacht that sails in the Galapagos Islands year-round; therefore it was not included in the certification.

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