Montego Bay, Jamaica – Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible, swim-up room at this resort in 2009. We had never stayed in Jamaica before so this was our first experience with the wonderful people there. We ended up at this resort because we really wanted to try a swim-up room. My husband really liked the idea of being able to transfer into the pool in the privacy of our own patio and this turned out to be the perfect thing for us. 

Swim-Up Rooms At Night

Swim-Up Rooms At Night

THE GOOD

The resort itself was mostly wheelchair accessible. Our room was very beautiful and you could wheel right out onto the deck through the patio doors. The patio was a really peaceful area where we had breakfast many mornings and sat and read our books. 

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Swim-Up Room

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Swim-Up Room

Wheelchair Accessible Threshold from Inside to Outside

Wheelchair Accessible Threshold from Inside to Outside

Because the pool was right there, we could sit with our feet in the water, sit on the stairs or go right in for a swim and then come back and lay down on the patio. The pool that ran in front of the swim-up rooms was only used by the people staying in those rooms, so it was very quiet and very peaceful. 

It Was Easy to Bump Down Into the Water in the Privacy of Our Patio

It Was Easy to Bump Down Into the Water in the Privacy of Our Patio

Steps from our Patio into Swim-Up Pool

Steps from our Patio into Swim-Up Pool. The Lounge Chairs Could Easily Be Moved Around.

Very Peaceful Pool Outside of Swim-Up Rooms

Very Peaceful Pool Outside of Swim-Up Rooms

The bathroom in our room was very spatious. One of my frequent complaints is that wheelchair accessible rooms almost never come with a wheel-in shower AND a bath tub, but this one came with both! The bath-tub was a huge, jetted tub and it was perfect for relaxation.

Beautiful Jetted Tub

Beautiful Jetted Tub

The toilet area in the bathroom was very accessible. The toilet was ready to go with a plastic toilet seat and grab bars both behind and beside the toilet. 

Accessible Toilet With Grab Bars

Accessible Toilet With Grab Bars

Our room, because it was one of the swim-up rooms, came with the butler service. We felt very weird about that at first, but we ended up having two girls as butlers who rotated their shifts. They were so adorable and took amazing care of us. They would bring us our favourite drinks when we were sitting on the patio, they would reserve chairs for us on the beach, they made all of our restaurant reservations for us and walked us to dinner every night to ensure that we wouldn’t have to wait in line. They brought us snacks to our room every day and stocked our fridge with whatever we wanted. When we didn’t feel like going out for breakfast, they would bring whatever we wanted to our room and set it up for us on the patio.

Breakfast on the Patio

Breakfast on the Patio

When my husband needed help going somewhere or getting into the ocean, they called all the big men on staff to come and carry him around. They were just so cute and they made our stay extremely relaxing and stress-free. If you are in a wheelchair or have other mobility issues, you should definitely consider paying for a butler suite as you will have access to help whenever you need it. These rooms are also larger and will give you more room to move around in. 

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Room

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Room

The beach at this resort was great as you could wheel straight on to it and the sand was pretty well-packed so you didn’t immediately sink into the sand. The resort did have a beach chair on site that we used to push my husband across the sand and into the water. The staff was really great about helping me get him in and out of the ocean. They were happy to carry him in and stand by for a signal indicating that he was ready to get out. 

View From Our Beach Chairs

View From Our Beach Chairs

The fitness facility/spa was not accessible but they built a ramp for us so that we would be able to use it. The gym was quite large and there was a nice variety of equipment in there. We signed up for couples massages at the spa even though the room for them was down a flight of stairs. They helped us get down and back up the stairs without any trouble and getting onto the massage table wasn’t too difficult (and the massage therapists were amazing).

The majority of the restaurants were wheelchair accessible. The French restaurant had a small step down into the restaurant, which could be quite easily navigated by someone who could navigate a small curb. There was a restaurant located on a private island as well. We had to get there in a boat which was not accessible, but the staff was more than happy to carry my husband on and off. We also found out, quite by accident, that the private island had a nude beach. 

Private Island

Private Island

There was live music and entertainment at the resort every night. There was a barbecue on the beach one night and a buffet at the resort one night with a huge chocolate fondue fountain. The entertainment crew was very energetic and really wanted everyone to have a great time. My husband mentioned to them one night how much he loved the music and the next night, they showed up with a bunch of CDs for him full of Soca and Reggae music.

I really can’t tell you how incredible the staff was at this resort. As an example, my husband popped a tire one afternoon on a piece of glass and someone was right there helping him into a replacement chair for the day. When they didn’t have the right glue to patch the tire on-site, one of the staff members told us he was driving it to the airport to get the right glue to patch it. When he brought it back, it was as good as new and when we offered to pay him for it, he absolutely refused to accept anything.

THE BAD

Initially when we arrived, they tried to put us in a totally inaccessible room which was not what we booked and which would not have worked for us whatsoever. After about 5 hours of waiting, some phone calls back and forth with our travel agent and supposedly moving 2 other couples into different rooms, they moved us into the wheelchair accessible, swim-up room that we had booked. The staff was very apologetic about it and very easy to deal with but having a mix-up with your room never gets your vacation off to a good start. It is probably a good idea to call and confirm your room before you head out. 

In terms of accessibility, be aware that the sink in the bathroom wasn’t quite wheel-under. They tried, but the vanity was too low and you couldn’t quite fit your knees underneath.

Not Quite a Wheel-Under Sink

Not Quite a Wheel-Under Sink

The shower was a wheel-in shower with one awkwardly-placed grab bar. They provided us with a shower bench, which actually broke as soon as my husband transferred onto it. There was a built-in shower bench, but it was too far from the shower controls for someone sitting on the bench to reach. It would be ok if someone was with you who could turn the water on and off and angle the shower head, but it was pretty inconvenient. 

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Buit-In Shower Bench is a Long, Long Way From the Shower Controls

Buit-In Shower Bench is a Long, Long Way From the Shower Controls

Be aware that the bed was so high that anyone in a chair would have extreme difficulty getting into it. We mentioned this to the resort and they ended up building my husband a platform and bringing it to the room. They took a bunch of measurements of his chair and then showed up with this platform later in the day, all sanded and painted and ready to go.

Platform They Built so Wheelchair User Could Get Into the Bed

Platform They Built so Wheelchair User Could Get Into the Bed

In terms of food, it was just so-so. It wasn’t bad but don’t expect to have the best food of your life. The room service food left a lot to be desired, but it was available and arrived fairly quickly. The restaurants requiring reservations were definitely the best bet in terms of quality and flavour. The French restaurant had nothing vegetarian on the menu but the chef came out to talk to me about what I might like and I ended up having the best meal of the week there. 

The transportation to and from the airport was not wheelchair accessible. We had to book our own transportation (however, after we asked, the resort did agree to cover the cost). The transportation to and from the other Sandals resorts was also not accessible. We did get over to Sandals Montego Bay one night to check it out (by asking some people to carry my husband into the van) and found it to be completely inaccessible. There were stairs everywhere and we couldn’t even access one of the restaurants.

THE UGLY

The mosquitoes drove us absolutely insane! The staff went around the resort every afternoon with smoke machines trying to get rid of them but the mosquitoes were so, so bad. I had to buy a big can of OFF from the gift shop and practically bathe myself in it. We came home absolutely covered in mosquito bites. 

OVERALL

The bottom line is that this resort is not perfect, but few places ever are. The one thing you will never be able to beat about Jamaica is the hospitality of the people and the relaxed atmosphere. Nothing in Jamaica ever feels rushed. It is a wonderful place to go if you need some SERIOUS relaxation. We still talk about how this was the most relaxing week of our lives. 

 

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