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Staffing, Respite & Assistance

  • Staff at beachStaff Qualifications & Requirements Staff

    Assisted Cruises ONLY

    • The AotS Staff are Professional Volunteers who have degrees relating to child development, behavior therapy, and/or special education.
    • We maintain hundreds of qualified Professionals from around the country (and internationally), to ensure our cruises are staffed appropriately.
    • The AotS Staff have extensive experience caring for children and adults of all ages with developmental disabilities.
    • The AotS Staff can manage all levels of behaviors or functioning abilities of all types of developmental disabilities.
    • The AotS Staff are led by our professional volunteer "Cruise Group Leaders".
    • The AotS Staff clear National Background Checks and Sex Offender Checks.
    • The AotS Staff successfully complete extensive criteria and interviewing process.
    • The AotS Staff conforms to and integrates with all applicable Cruise Line policies.
    • JOIN OUR STAFF  See the form below.

    For more about AotS Staffing, Assistance & Respite please visit our What's Includedpage.

    Bilingual Staff - Espanol Staff

    Assisted Cruises ONLY

    Selection of Staff for each cruise  

    Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    • We select our staff (from our pre-qualified staff pool) using special needs information collected from parents/guardians to ensure we have the proper skill sets, experience and sufficient number of staff to properly care for the children, teens and adults with special needs traveling with us on each cruise.

    Staff at hotel

     AotS Staff Ratio   Staff

    Assisted Cruises ONLY

    • The ratio* of the AotS Staff per guest with special needs is 2:1.
    • During our cruises, we are able to afford periodic individualized attention (1:1) to our guests as required.
    • Each cruise has an AotS Staff Group Leader who manages the staff and coordinates all of the accommodated activities and services with the cruise line personnel, as well as acting as our guests' personal concierge during their vacation.
    • We also offer 1:1 Staff Service (additional fee applies)

    *Staff ratios may fall slightly above 2:1 on some cruises

    For more about AotS Staffing, Assistance & Respite please visit our What's Included page.

    Interested in joining our Staff? 

    Complete the form below to obtain Staffing information and an Application.

    • Minimum Personal Requirements Include: 21 years or older and may be from any country
    • Minimum Educational Requirements Include:4-year degree in a qualifying major
    • Licensed Physical Therapist, Physical Therapist Assistant, Occupational Therapist, Occupational Therapy Assistant or Registered Behavior Technician
    • Minimum Experience Requirements Include: 1-year minimum experience with individuals with developmental disabilities.

    AotS Staff positions are volunteer, and cruise fare is complimentary, on a cruise-by-cruise basis.  No commitment beyond each cruise is required.   You can volunteer on just one cruise per year, whatever your schedule will allow.


    Join AotS Staff - Request for Application

    Please let us know your name.
    Please let us know your email address.
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  • Introductory Sessions  

    Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    Parents and Staff

    We hold Private Introductory Sessions between our Staff and each family at the beginning of each cruise:

    • To explain the Special Needs accommodations, Respite sessions and Private activities in detail. 
    • To review each child’s unique needs using the Questionnaires the parents fill out prior to their cruise as a foundation.
    • To spend some time with the children to begin our relationship with them.
    • To answer questions, and to address any concerns families may have.


  • Pool Time - Assistance

    Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    We provide "Pool Times" during our cruises, typically each morning (when the pools are less crowded) for 2-3 hours on Sea Days and other times as the schedule permits.  This assistance helps allow parents to enjoy the pool themselves in a more relaxing mode.  Our staff helps keep the children in the area, assists inside the pools swimming with the children, assists with the children using the Pool Slides, etc. 

    NOTE: Most ships have rules prohibiting guests that are not potty trained from using the pools (Contact Us for more information and options).

    staff with kids at pool   staf with kids in hotub


  • Babysitting by our Staff

    Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    BabysittingOur staff makes themselves available for after-hours in-cabin babysitting, on a first-come, first-serve basis.  This service is not provided as a service of "Autism on the Seas" but between you and our staff.   The AotS Volunteer staff are not permitted to charge a fee for this service, but we encourage families to tip the staff, as they are providing this service on their own time.  Please feel free to inquire to our Group Leader once onboard.  This is not a service that can be arranged prior to the cruise.

  • Respite Sessions*  

    Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    Respite-SessionsRespite Sessions are held throughout the cruise, while parents can enjoy adult activities.  Typical Respite Sessions:

    • Sea Days - At least Two Respite Sessions ranging in duration from 1 hour to 2 hours each (typically afternoon sessions are 1.5 hours and evening sessions are 2 hours)
    • Port Days - At least One Respite Session ranging in duration from 1 hour to 2 hours each (typically evening sessions are 2 hours)
    • A 3-hour Respite Session is provided one day during the cruise through dinner (for parents to enjoy dinner alone)

    Children and adults (of ALL ages) with special needs are cared for by our Autism on the Seas staff during these respite times.

    Learn more about our Staff, their Care and Ratios

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    *Our Respite sessions are Private, and separate from the cruise line children's program.

    Respite Grouping


    Interactive Play Room/Area
    Active respite room/area, and interaction with other guests with and without disabilities.  Staff keep the environment as sensory controlled as possible.

    Quiet Room/Area
    Quiet respite room/area, where sensory stimulation is low, and interaction with others is minimal except by Staff

    Ship Explorer “Option” – Teens and Adults
    Transport to different ship venues when ship activities are available.  These typically include karaoke, shows, movies, trivia, etc...  Staff will consult with parents and evaluate the suitability of activities for guests accordingly.

    Typical Siblings
    Typically developing siblings traveling with us are free to join any of the respite sessions.  Siblings must be at least 3 years of age (exceptions can be made if a 1:1 Staff is acquired).

    Notes on Respite Groups:

    • Respite is often divided into the 2 MAIN GROUPS as stated above as necessary, either in separate rooms/venues and/or within one room as appropriate depending on available respite venues Each Group may be altered, and/or other groups or fewer groups formed as necessary
    • Guests will be placed into a Group depending on the parents' initial input and the staff’s continued evaluation.
    • Guests may be moved from one group to another as appropriate during each respite session.
    • In some cases, we will merge our respite into the cruise line children's program, either if appropriate or if private venue space is unavailable..
    • On Disney Cruises, Respite Sessions may be reduced in number and/or length.  See Disney Cruise pages on this site for more information

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  • Ship Youth Center – Child Care

    In addition to our Autism on the Seas Respite Sessions (Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY), the Children's Programs onboard the ships can also offer respite time, with their own staff, where our staff is on call to them for assistance.  

    Toilet Training Provisions

    Note:  These guidelines are specific for Royal Caribbean International Cruises, but are very similar on Disney, Celebrity, Carnival and Club Med as well…

    For individuals with special needs who are not toilet trained, please note the following:

    If an individual is less than 3 years of age by the cruise date:

    • Participation IS allowed in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots Programs.  This program requires parents to participate as well.
    • Participation IS NOT allowed in the Children’s Program.  This program is for individuals 3 years or older.
    • Participation IS allowed in the Private "Autism on the Seas" activities within the Youth Center. (Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY)

    If an individual is more than 3 years of age by the cruise date:

    • Participation MAY BE allowed in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots Programs if the parent feels this is the appropriate grouping for their child.  This program requires parents to participate as well. Special restrictions may apply here, please contact us if you have any questions.
    • Participation IS allowed in the Children’s Program.  A consent form must be completed by a parent or guardian, and:
      • A pager, walkie-talkie or ship phone is required to allow the counselors the ability to reach a parent if necessary.
      • One Parent or guardian must be present on the ship whenever their child is in the program.
      • Participation IS allowed in the "Autism on the Seas" Respite Sessions.(Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY)
  • Port Excursion - AotS Staff Assistance

    Port-ExzscursionStaff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    • Families are free to ask our staff to join them on port excursions to assist with small groups or individual families.
    • This service is not provided as a service of "Autism on the Seas" but between you and our staff. 
    • This service requires the fee of the excursion to be paid for the staff member by the family or small group.
    • AotS Volunteer staff are not permitted to charge a fee for this service, but we encourage families to tip the staff, as they are providing this service on their own time.
    • Please feel free to inquire to our Group Leader once onboard. 
    • This is not a service that can be arranged prior to the cruise.


  • Transition Assistance Staff Assisted Cruises ONLY

    We provide Transition Assistance during the cruise.  Whenever requested (or whenever our staff observes the need), our staff will assist in transitioning your child from/to any place on the ship to events, shows, respite, meals, etc..... 24/7 throughout the entire cruise.  We also provide assistance while departing the ship on the last day.

    staff transition assist walking in hall   Staff with child going down escalator
  • 1:1 Staff Member dedicated to your family

    Available on Staff Assisted Cruises/Resort Stay ONLY  *additional fee applies

    Scroll down for Request Form

    Our regular (included) staff ratio is 1 staff member for every 2 guests with special needs.  We understand that some of our families may require, or may like to have, additional and exclusive assistance during their cruise/resort stay.  We offer the opportunity for you to request one of our AotS Staff members to be dedicated to you and your family during your vacation.     


    • Staff will care for child exclusively during each Respite Session.

    • Staff can accompany your child into the cruise line youth club during our respite sessions (provided your child meets the age requirements of the youth club). *Except on Disney Cruise Line, where adults, parents and our staff are not permitted in youth clubs

    • Staff will assist family exclusively during Day 1 Port Check-in/Boarding ship

    • Staff will assist family exclusively during Day 1 Muster Station visit

    • Staff will assist family during the Departure off the ship and through customs at the end of the cruise

    • Staff will assist the guest at all Group activities and events.  A sample activity/event schedule can be sent to you (with Pricing Request Form below) to review a typical schedule, before you choose to acquire this service

    • Staff will assist you and your family in a mutually agreed upon substitute activity for any AotS Activity/Event you choose not to participate in

    • Staff will assist and accompany you on two Port Excursions for 7-night or longer cruises.
      Guest may choose alternate Non-AotS Group Excursions *Excursion fee for staff member applies to Non-AotS Excursions

    • Staff will assist and accompany you on one Port Excursion for 6-night or shorter cruises. 
      Guest may choose an alternate Non-AotS Group Excursion *Excursion fee for staff member applies to Non-AotS Excursions

    • Staff will assist and accompany you during meals (3) each day

    • Staff will assist transitioning from/to any places onboard the ship, throughout the cruise as requested

    • You may request more than one Staff Member

    • You may request additional in-cabin babysitting and excursion assistance (based on staff members availability)

    Sample Cruise Schedule
    Not familiar with our services onboard?  Complete the Pricing Request Form below, and you will also receive a sample schedule so you can see an example of how often the servcies above are typically applied.

    Request your own Caregiver/Aide
    You may request to use your own Caregiver/Aide as your AotS 1:1 Staff member.  Your caregiver/aide will need to apply and qualify as AotS Staff first.  Just complete the Request Form below and specify your caregiver/aides name, and tell them to apply with us.  If they do not qualify, you can still choose to use one of our Staff.  AotS Staff Qualifications.

    Review (and accept) Staff member prior to acquisition of Service
    Our office will match a staff member to your family, and present that staff members credentials and personal professional information for you to review before you acquire the service. If not satisfied, our office will continue to present staff to you until your expectations are met.  Your acceptance of the Staff member continues through connecting with the staff member, see below.

    Connect with AotS Staff PRIOR to Cruise
    Once you have accepted a staff member, the AotS office will provide contact information of the Staff member for you to connect with prior to the cruise. You may connect with the staff member to just have an introductory chat, have your child connect with the staff member if you choose, and/or stay in touch with the Staff member until the cruise.  You can even choose to replace the staff member with another staff member after you have connected.

    Plan Non-AotS Excursions Pre-Cruise
    Guests can substitute Staff Assistance on AotS Group Excursions with Excursions of Guest choice prior to the cruise, which enables Guest to purchase Excursion Tickets for Staff member pre-cruise) as all Non-AotS Excursion ticket fees are guest responsibility).

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    Please do not hesitate to Contact Us


    Comparison - Bringing your Own Caregiver/Aide versus AotS Staff

      Bring your OWN Caregiver/Aide Use an AotS Staff

    1. Sharing cabin with family will cost a FULL cruise fare for one guest,
    2. Aide in own cabin will be charged double occupancy (two guest fares).

    “AotS Cost”: Your cost is based on a discounted cruise fare (AotS Staff cost) for one guest. 
    NOTE: This will be equal to or in most cases less than the cost to add an aide in your own cabin.

    Staff/Aide Medical Insurance

    1. You pay, or
    2. Aide pays, or
    3. No insurance.

    Included in “AotS Cost”
    Staff/Aide Travel Insurance

    1. You pay. or
    2. Aide pays. or
    3. No insurance.

    Included in “AotS Cost”
    Staff/Aide Liability Insurance

    1. You pay. or
    2. No insurance.

    Included in “AotS Cost”
    Staff/Aide Salary

    1. You pay. or
    2. No salary

    Included in “AotS Cost”
    AotS Staff are volunteers

    Cabin Privacy

    1. Aide stays in your cabin, or
    2. You get separate cabin for Aide (at double occupancy cost).
    NOTE: Cruise Line policies do not permit non-AotS Staff staying in AotS Staff cabins.

    Included in “AotS Cost”
    AotS 1:1 Staff stays in other AotS Staff cabin

    Staff/Aide Travel Arrangements You or Aide coordinates and pays for the aide’s travel to ship

    Included in “AotS Cost”
    1. AotS Staff volunteers make their own way to departure city.
    2. AotS assists staff in hotel fees
    3. AotS arranges ground transportation to port.

    Staff/Aide Cancels

    If aide cannot go on cruise:
    1. You will be responsible for paying any cruise line cancellation fees, or
    2. You will be responsible for finding a new aide and paying for any name change fees.

    If AotS Staff cannot go on cruise:
    1. AotS will find replacement, and guest will incur NO costs.

    Pricing and Availability - Varies by Cruise

    • The availability of this service is based on the availability of our Staffing resources, but we should be able to accommodate every request.

    • The charge for this service is based on the price of the average cost for 1 staff member in the least expensive cabin (with other staff members) available at the time of the request, plus miscellaneous staffing expenses.

    • DISCOUNTS apply to:
      • 1st Time use of acquiring a 1:1
      • 2 1:1 Staff for same cruise
      • Solo Traveling parents
    • 1:1 Fee pricing increases closer to cruise, so secure your 1:1 ASAP / LOCK in the Fee / Only requires a 50% deposit (of 1:1 Fee) 

    NOTE:  3-6 months advance request will help ensure staff availability.

    Dedicated Staff Member (1:1) - Request FORM for Pricing/Service

    NOTE: This service is ONLY available for "STAFF ASSISTED CRUISES and RESORT STAYS"

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    1:1 Requests can only be requested from Guests who are currently booked on an AotS Staff Assisted cruise.  If you would like pricing of a 1:1 Service for a cruise before you book, please submit a Quote Request for one of the AotS Staff Assisted cruises (1:1 pricing varies by cruise/sailing).


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    Contact Person
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    Request Specific AotS Staff member or use your own Caregiver/Aide

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    You may list more than one name. Staff already under contract for another cruise whose dates conflict with this cruise will not be available.

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    Caregiver/Aide must apply and qualify as AotS Staff. Link to Request AotS Staff Application:

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    Staff Member Requests 

    To aide us matching you and/or your family with the best possible available volunteer, and also in case any specific staff member requested is not available, lease answer the following questions.

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    Communicate with Staff options

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