Sunday, May 06, 2007
Deaf Freedom Cruise 2007
At the end of October, the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas will set sail with over 4,000 passengers. For the first time in history, the cruise will consist of deaf and hard of hearing passengers.
On the entire ship.
That's right, the Deaf Freedom Cruise will be the first time an entire cruise ship is devoted to deaf and hard of hearing passengers. This cruise was made possible by the hard work and dedication of the staff of Passages Deaf Travel.
Passages Deaf Travel is owned by Tabitha and Max Partlow, a husband and wife team. Tabitha first became involved with the Deaf community when she went to college to become an interpreter. The idea of creating a travel business devoted to deaf and hard of hearing persons came about when they attended a cruise with twenty-two other deaf passengers. Despite being promised interpreters and room kits, the deaf passengers boarded the ship only to find out there were none.
"It was at that point that Mac and I realized the need for travel agents to specialize in deaf travel" said Tabitha.
Last year, the team hosted Adventure Cruise 2006 with a group of 350 deaf and hard of hearing travelers aboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. "We had such a wonderful response to that cruise that I wondered if enough people would be interested enough to fill an entire ship," said Tabitha.
"When we had this idea," she continued, "I went to many different cruise companies to see who wanted to do this. Some cruise companies turned me down. Royal Caribbean and Carnival wanted to do it. Royal Caribbean really stepped up and decided to provide the interpreters and room kits at no additional cost to our clients." Real-time captioning will also be provided.
The staff of Royal Caribbean also convinced Tabitha that she could fill up the newest and biggest ship, Freedom of the Seas. "I wasn't thinking about the biggest cruise ship at the time... but Royal Caribbean talked us into it," she said. "Now I am thrilled, it is the best ship!"
Over 3,800 people have booked their rooms and the ship is nearly at capacity. Fully booked, it will hold 4,100 people. Royal Caribbean plans to take pictures of all of the passengers together, but will have to divide it up into four pictures. "Perhaps we can put all four pictures together to make big one!" Tabitha chuckled.
Current sponsors of the trip include Hands On VRS, Worldvuer, DeafNation and Crown Jewelers and more. Entertainment will be provided by some well-known performers, including John Maucere, Bernard Bragg, Keith Wann and CJ Jones. "Keith Wann will have a morning talk show that will air on TV in each cabin, every morning!" said Tabitha. "Keith will talk about the events happening that day, weather, dinner, and other things. Each day, he will interview someone from the ship."
This cruise is the accumulation of a dream for Tabitha. "We feel that the travel industry should provide more access for deaf people" said Tabitha.
"Maybe once they see how successful Deaf Freedom Cruise is... maybe they will come around."
View the DeafNation video of Freedom of the Seas