William Watson Lodge – Kananaskis, Alberta

We have stayed at William Watson Lodge several times over the years. This is a really special place, nestled in the heart of Kananaskis Country, which provides year-round, barrier-free lodging for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.

William Watson Lodge is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the edge of Lower Kananaskis Lake. It is about 25 minutes south of the Kananaskis Village on Highway 40.

THE GOOD

William Watson Lodge has 22 fully accessible cabins of varying sizes. Some are one and two bedroom units ($30 per night) and some are three bedroom units ($40 per night).  Every unit has a wheel-in shower, full kitchen, kitchen supplies, living room with pull-out sofa bed and dining table with chairs.

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Dining Table

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View of the Living Area and Dining Space

Each unit also has tracks on the ceiling for moving people from the bedroom to the bathroom. Some of the cabins are pet friendly.

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Ceiling Tracks

They are slowly replacing the older cabins with beautiful new cabins. We recently stayed in one of the new cabins for the first time and it was modern, clean and really nicely decorated. They put a lot of thought into the design of these cabins in order to make the space as easy as possible for those with mobility challenges. The ambience is very homey and it makes for a perfectly relaxing stay.

Our unit had three bedrooms. Each bedroom had two beds in it, a dresser and a window.

Our unit had two bathrooms. The first bathroom had a full bathtub, a raised toilet seat and a pedestal sink. One cool thing about this bathroom was that the shower rod holding the curtain could swing completely out of the way and then swing back to be tension fit on the wall. 

The second bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.

The flooring throughout the unit was laminate, making it very easy to wheel around on.

The main lodge, where guests check in and check out, also has a number of amenities. There is a large fireplace, a big deck out back, books, magazines, board games, bikes, sleds, and snowshoes for borrowing and coin-operated laundry machines.

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William Watson also has RV camp sites, an accessible comfort camping trailer and an accessible comfort camping hut. It is worth investigating all of the options if you are looking for a real wilderness experience.

Around the cabins are a number of barrier-free paved pathways and over 20km of accessible trails. In the summertime, they are completely clear and easy to traverse. In the winter, due to the volume of snow in the mountains, the pathways around the cabins are kept clear but the trails accumulate snow. People enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the network of trails that surround the lodge. There is a sit-ski available for borrowing as well as a sled for pulling those with mobility challenges through the snow. It attaches to a harness that an able-bodied person can wear in order to pull the sled behind them.

There is an accessible playground about 2 minutes down one of the main trails. In the summer, it is completely clear and easy to get to. In the winter, that particular trail is impassable in a wheelchair but relatively easy to get to on a sled or on skis.

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There are accessible picnic sites and campfire sites, so if you come with a group of people there are lots of outdoor spaces to use for gatherings. 

THE BAD

One bad thing about William Watson Lodge is that it is completely outside of cellphone range and there is no internet availability. The lodges also have no TVs, so you can feel very isolated. Once you get used to the lack of connectivity, it actually feels nice to have the time to focus on other things. We usually read lots of books when we are there and we enjoy the family time.

The cabins do not come equipped with any bedding, so you do need to bring your pillows and blankets with you. This can make for a number of trips to and from the car when you are loading and unloading. You also need to bring your own towels.

When you check in to your room, you are given a cleaning list. The cleaning tasks are less onerous than they used to be but they do expect you to help out to cut down on costs (i.e. you have to vacuum, clean all the dishes, wipe all surfaces, empty garbages, etc.). After I have finished packing, cleaning and hauling all of our stuff out to the car, I am usually pretty exhausted, but the price reflects the amount of work you have to put into your stay here.

One other thing to keep in mind is that reservations must be made pretty far in advance and there is a priority listing for bookings:

  • People with disabilities living in the province of Alberta get first priority and can make reservations up to 4 months in advance for the severely disabled (non-ambulatory, legally blind, profoundly deaf, dependently cognitively disabled). Those with less severe disabilities can make reservations 3 months in advance (semi-ambulatory, medically fragile). 
  • Alberta seniors (65 years and older) can make reservations up to 2 months in advance, space permitting.

THE UGLY

Some of the older cabins are getting a bit ugly. They are definitely cozy and rustic but the carpets, kitchens and bathrooms are showing their age. If any are available, I would recommend requesting a new cabin. 

OVERALL

Overall, William Watson Lodge is an absolute treasure. The fact that we have this amazing place right here in Alberta is really special. Everyone can enjoy the mountain parks and everything that the great outdoors has to offer and William Watson makes that possible for so many who would otherwise have difficulty finding a comfortable place to stay.   

 

Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort – Kelowna, British Columbia

We stayed at The Grand Okanagan for 5 nights in April of 2017. Kelowna is one of our favourite places as it is beautiful, the weather is usually great and there are lots of things to see and do there. I have stayed at this Resort many times before but this was our first time staying there as a family.

THE GOOD

You know the saying, “You get what you pay for?” Well, this is usually true of hotels, and The Grand is no exception. The room rates aren’t cheap; they ranged between $250 and $300 per night when we stayed there. But from the moment we checked in, we felt like guests. The bell staff at the front of the hotel was absolutely amazing. They helped us with our bags, carried everything to our room, chatted with us about things to see and do, and within a few minutes of settling in, they brought presents up to the room for the kids. During our stay, they also brought us a card and offered us a complimentary movie complete with popcorn delivered to our door. We ran into one of the staff members downtown on her day off and she stopped on her bike to say hello and see how we were doing. The level of service we experienced at this hotel was way above average.

Our room was on the second floor of the hotel side (there is also a timeshare side). The room itself was pretty basic but the bathroom was huge. There was a wheel-in shower with built-in shower bench, wheel-under sink and toilet with grab bars. There was a massive turning radius in the bathroom!

The location of the Grand is amazing. It is on Water Street, which is a very popular area. In one direction, you can take a short walk to downtown, passing by a huge Cactus Club and the Kelowna Yacht Club. In the other direction, you can walk along a beautiful boardwalk around the lagoons. There is a very peaceful nature reserve not far from the boardwalk as well. Across the street is the Kelowna Art Gallery and a block away is the public library. 

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Cactus Club and Kelowna Yacht Club with The Grand in the Background

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Beautiful Boardwalk

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Nature Reserve

The Grand has a spa, large fitness facility and indoor/outdoor pool. There was a hot tub inside and a small hot tub outside as well. There was no pool lift but the pool area, both inside and out was accessible.

Kelowna is great for couples and families alike. There is a lively nightlife in Kelowna in the summertime for those looking to go out. For those with little kids, like us, there is a great playground and splash park in the Kelowna City Park downtown. You can also spend time walking along the beach and splashing in Lake Okanagan. Although some of the playgrounds have pea gravel, the splash park is cement and the pathways are all easy to navigate in a wheelchair. 

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Playground in Kelowna City Park

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Sandy Beaches Alongside Kelowna City Park

There are loads of fun things to see and do in the City of Kelowna itself. There are lots of great places to walk, restaurants to try and lots of shops to explore. One of the highlights for our family was a place called “Jump 2 It” that houses a bunch of giant bouncy castles. The kids bounced around in there for hours! It was immaculately clean, free for the adults to get in and they allowed outside food and drinks, so I thought it was a good find. 

THE BAD

Our room location in the hotel wasn’t great. We were right outside of the elevator bank on the second floor and just to the left of a walkway between the timeshare part and the hotel part. We could hear the elevator dinging all night long in addition to staff members hauling laundry carts and people talking in the hallway. It likely would have been a lot quieter on a higher floor.

Parking at the Grand was an extra $20 a night. They had a covered parkade but there were several handicap parking stalls right outside the main entrance, so we parked there. We had to leave the keys with the valet people in case they needed the spots in an emergency, but it made it easier for us to come and go. The extra costs do, however, have a way of adding up.

The Grand does not have any on-site laundry machines for guest use. We had to drive to a laundromat to wash our clothes. 

While we were there, the hotel shut down the indoor pool and the indoor hot tub for maintenance. I appreciate that things have to be fixed up from time to time, but the sign said it was scheduled maintenance and no one gave us a heads up about this when we called to book. We were there at a time of year when the outside temperature was still pretty chilly so swimming in the outdoor pool was not an inviting option. 

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about The Grand. 

OVERALL

Overall, this is a great place to stay in Kelowna. It has everything you could want on site: pools, hot tubs, spa, fitness centre, bar, restaurant, shops, hair salon, casino, etc. and it is surrounded by beautiful scenery. The location is ideal for people who like to be close to everything. 

The staff here really go out of their way to make you feel welcome and to make sure that you have an excellent stay. When I mentioned the noise and the inconvenience of the closed pool upon checkout, they waived the cost of our parking for the entire stay, which saved us at least $100. The focus on hospitality is very apparent here and it makes for an above-average guest experience.  

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort – Fairmont, British Columbia

We stayed at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for 2 nights in April of 2017. It took us about 3.5 hours to drive there from Calgary (we stopped for a nice lunch in Radium). The drive is very scenic and there are a number of beautiful stops along the way. 

THE GOOD

I had extremely low expectations of our room at this Resort as when I called to book it, they told me they only had one accessible room and that it had absolutely no view. They said the windows faced a rooftop and because of the terrible view it was in their “economy” room category at a rate of $100 a night. I decided we might as well try it as I couldn’t locate any other accessible options in Fairmont. 

When we arrived and had a look around, we were very pleasantly surprised! The room (number 566) was rustic, but spacious; it had a queen-sized bed and a single bed. It took us a while to figure out, but the single bed was actually adjustable so you could raise the head or feet of the bed using a remote. The kids had a blast with that!

The bathroom was large with a wheel-under sink, toilet with grab bars and a bathtub with a built-in bench. 

There was a very peaceful indoor hot tub and steam room area on the lower floor of the Resort that was accessible by wheelchair. To get to the outdoor pool, you had to go up a long, indoor ramp to get to the door that led outside. The ramp was a bit steep, but not impossible. The outdoor soaking pool was for hotel guests only. It was spacious and the view of the sunset and nearby scenery from there was really breathtaking. 

Access to the Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs, was just a little further down the pathway from the guest pool. The Hot Springs are open to the public but, if you are staying at the Hot Springs Resort, you can access them for free.

Wheelchair accessibility to get into the Hot Springs was questionable. There was a gate that you could go through at the top but then you would have to traverse down a large, grassy hill to get to the Hot Springs level. The men’s changeroom was accessible at the top but the women’s changeroom was down a set of stairs. Getting back up the hill after your swim would also be a major challenge. Can you imagine trying to wheel up a grassy hill soaking wet and in your swimsuit? Um, no thanks. They could definitely do some work on the accessibility of the public Hot Springs. 

This Resort had three or four food establishments to choose from and we were able to find decent food without any issues. 

The Resort provided amazingly soft bathrobes in each room. I loved the robes so much, I almost bought one for myself at the swim shop. Speaking of the swim shop, it was located adjacent to the entrance to the Hot Springs and its claim to fame is that it holds Western Canada’s largest collection of swimwear. 

THE BAD

From the bathroom pictures, above, you may have noticed how far the bench is away from the taps and shower head. It would be extremely difficult for anyone sitting on the bench to use this shower without help.

As I alluded to earlier, the view from the accessible room wasn’t great. We had 2 small windows that overlooked a rooftop. We didn’t spend much time in our room, however, so I felt it was a non-issue. 

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The Resort has a lot of stairs as there are two wings connected by a central lobby/reception area. Once we got used to where we were going and where the elevators were, it was less of an issue but we couldn’t check in at reception and then head to our room because the only way to get there inside required going up the stairs. We had to go outside, up the hill and then inside a different door. This is a relatively minor hassle in the summer but it would be a major issue in the winter. 

THE UGLY

Ugh – I will never forget this hotel stay as one of our kids injured his finger pretty badly in the bathroom door in our room. When we called the front desk to ask where the nearest hospital was, they sent one of their ski patrol personnel to our room in less than a minute. She arrived with her complete medical bag, bandaged his finger securely and gave us directions to the hospital in Invermere (about 25 minutes away). I was extremely grateful that they had someone on staff that could attend to him immediately and give us proper instructions, but the thought of it still makes me sick to my stomach. None of this had anything to do with the Resort of course but, for me, this was the only ugly part of our stay in Fairmont. 

OVERALL

This Resort is a great mountain getaway for anyone looking for a relaxing place to stay. Fairmont is pretty hilly, so be prepared for a really good workout if you are wheeling or walking outdoors. It is worth it to go out and explore as you’ll be able to take in the beautiful mountain views. If you enjoy golfing, there are several popular golf courses located in Fairmont as well.

The price of the accessible room here was really reasonable, I thought, especially considering that it included free access to the Hot Springs. I look forward to going back to Fairmont sometime soon!

Holiday Inn & Suites – Osoyoos, British Columbia

We stayed at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Osoyoos, BC for 5 nights in April of 2017. This was our first trip to Osoyoos as a family and we picked this hotel largely because all of the other hotels I called in Osoyoos were booked solid. They all told me the same thing – Osoyoos gets a number of snowbirds that rent out the hotel rooms on a monthly basis through the winter and they don’t go home until the end of April. Apparently the wheelchair accessible rooms get booked up by people looking to escape the winter weather elsewhere in Canada. This isn’t too surprising given that the daytime average temperatures are higher in Osoyoos than anywhere else in Canada. The winters are shorter and milder and spring arrives earlier than in other parts of the Okanagan. If I could afford it, I would spend my winters in Osoyoos too!

THE GOOD

The Holiday Inn & Suites is located in one of the best spots in Osoyoos. It is right on a peninsula in the middle of Osoyoos Lake. There is a small private beach area in the back of the hotel and it is an easy walk to the larger public beach (Gyro Beach) and the downtown area. 

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Our room rate for the accessible room with a wheel-in shower was $158.95 per night. The room was really well-appointed for a family. It came with two queen-sized beds in a separate bedroom, a large accessible bathroom with wheel-under sink, wheel-in shower (with built-in bench) and a toilet with grab bars.

Bedroom

The rest of the room had a very large living space with a full-sized kitchen, dining area and living room with couches and a TV.

There was a large balcony off of the living room which made for a nice spot to sit at the end of the day. 

There was free laundry available at the end of one of the hallways. The hotel also had a restaurant with a beautiful view overlooking the water. 

There was a pool, hot tub and fitness room located on the main floor. There was a large, accessible washroom located in the pool area. 

Our nightly rate included free, underground parking. 

THE BAD

This hotel is clearly not one of the finer properties in Osoyoos. It served its purpose, however, it is outdated, dirty and looks run down. It was probably in its prime 30 years ago. 

The wheel-in shower in our room had a built-in plastic shower bench. However, the bench was really far from the taps and it would be a challenge to stay on the slippery bench while trying to reach the taps. If you have mobility challenges, you may require help with this shower. 

The hotel had a pool and hot tub, however the pool wasn’t functioning for the first 3 days of our stay due to an issue with the pump. Also, every time I went to the pool area with the kids I had to go to the front desk to ask for towels as they weren’t stocked on the racks near the pool. They would often give me 2 towels for the three of us, which I found strange. 

When we checked in, they gave us “kids eat free” coupons for the restaurant. Apparently these coupons can only be used to order food off of the kids’ menu and when we ate at the hotel’s restaurant, we were told that they didn’t have a kids’ menu. 

THE UGLY

The hallways and common areas in the hotel smelled very strongly of curry and other combinations of food and grease. 

OVERALL 

Although the hotel itself wasn’t amazing, the location of this hotel was great. The view from the balcony was really beautiful and it was a very short walk to the public beach area and downtown. We were able to walk everywhere once we arrived. 

Some highlights of our stay in Osoyoos included the Desert Model Railroad (www.osoyoosrailroad.com) and the Rattlesnake Canyon Theme Park (www.rattlesnakecanyon.ca). The town also did an amazing family oriented celebration for Easter, complete with an Easter Egg Hunt, live music, petting zoo, face painting, games, bouncy castles, etc.

At that time of year, the town felt a bit sleepy, but it was a great place to unwind, relax and enjoy the beautiful Okanagan air. 

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Marriott’s BeachPlace Towers

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to write this post! This was one of our favourite hotel stays and I definitely want to go back to the BeachPlace Towers again. We stayed at this hotel for four nights in February of 2015 (2 bedroom villa, room 1116). The hotel is located right on the beach, within walking distance to restaurants, shops, playgrounds, entertainment and lots of beautiful scenery. 

THE GOOD

Our two-bedroom villa was huge and fully wheelchair accessible! We had two full bedrooms, each with a king-sized bed, two bathrooms (one was fully accessible), a huge jacuzzi tub, kitchen, dining area, living room, pull-out sofa, washer and dryer, balcony, etc. 

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Jacuzzi Tub

The view from our balcony was absolutely amazing. We got to watch boats come and go all day long and admire the gigantic houses across the water. Watching the sun go down and taking in the city lights from that vantage point was really quite breathtaking. 

This hotel was absolutely perfect for families. There was lots of room to explore, there was a splash park in the pool area and there was a huge playroom on the main floor of the hotel with a giant wooden ship for them to climb around on. The kids absolutely loved it. The hotel had a program of activities with things like craft time and movie night. They also had video games, board games, chess and other activities for older kids. 

The pool area was accessible. There was a ramp to get from the pool area to the hot tub area. The pool was equipped with a lift (the hot tub was not). There was also a pool-side bar where you could order food and drinks to enjoy by the pool or to take up to your room. 

The location of the hotel was perfect. It was set back a little bit from the road but it was in a complex with lots of restaurants and fast food options. We had a very short walk across the street to get to the beach. 

About 10 minutes away on the same street as this hotel, there was an accessible playground and mats for wheelchair users to get closer to the water. The kids had a ton of fun playing there. They had convenient foot showers and sprayers located at the entrance to the beach so you could get the sand off after playing.

THE BAD

The entrance to this hotel was through a semi-sketchy parkade and it felt a bit strange walking through there after dark. 

A portion of this hotel is a timeshare for Marriott Vacation Club. We definitely got the timeshare vibe when we were staying there. We were invited to a sales pitch, which we declined. 

We checked out the Fort Lauderdale water taxi, which stops about a 5 minute walk from this hotel, but it was not accessible. There was no way that someone in a wheelchair could get themselves up the huge step to get onto the water taxi. That was a real shame as it would have been a great, inexpensive way to see more of Fort Lauderdale.

THE UGLY

There was nothing ugly about this hotel. 

OVERALL

This place was one of my favourite vacation stops for a number of reasons. The weather and the beach in Fort Lauderdale was amazing. It was sunny and humid and the evenings were absolutely beautiful. Having the two bedrooms with a full kitchen and washer and dryer was so great. I could make food for the kids that I knew they would eat and save us from having to eat out for every meal. 

The location of this hotel was perfect. We were right in the middle of the action and a stone’s throw away from the beach. We took the kids to play in the sand and ocean every morning and then came back to shower off and have lunch. At dinnertime, we would walk to a nearby patio, listen to live music, sip piña coladas and watch the cruise ships sail away. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back there! 

Regal Princess, Princess Cruise Line

We went on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Regal Princess in February of 2015. The boat left the port in Fort Lauderdale and sailed first to Princess Cays (Princess Cruise Line private port), then to St. Thomas and lastly to St. Maarten before returning back to Florida. We had three full days at sea.

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible balcony room (room B303) on the starboard side of the boat, close to one of the banks of elevators. This was very convenient for going to and from our room.

THE GOOD

The room was tastefully decorated with modern, neutral colours. I am not sure why but our room only came with two twin beds. I had requested a queen instead of two twins but there must only be one configuration for this room. It worked out okay because we had to have two cribs in our room as well, so we put one of them in between our beds and one over by the balcony.

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Two Twin Beds

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View of Room Facing Balcony

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TV, Desk and Storage Closet

Although the room was not huge, there was lots of storage space in the room for luggage and clothes. Just to give you an idea, we had two strollers, four pieces of luggage, two playpen-type cribs, the wheelchair and all of us in the room. Having the balcony definitely helped as we were able to see the natural light and get fresh air into our room.

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Large Storage Closet

The bathroom in our room was great for accessibility. There was a wheel-under sink, a shower with a fold-down bench and a toilet with grab bars. There was even an alarm next to the toilet for someone to push if they were in distress in the bathroom. Unfortunately this alarm was well within reach of our little people and there was no way to disable it 🙂 We had the front desk calling us several times some days when our kids couldn’t keep their hands off of the buttons.

The balcony was fully accessible. There was a metal piece that dropped down to cover the threshold after the sliding door was fully opened.

The ship itself was very accessible. There were plenty of elevators, albeit slow ones. Several of the common areas had nice, smooth tile on the floors, making it easier for a wheelchair to get around. 

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Atrium in the Middle of the Ship

The back of the boat had a few different levels, which you could access via a lift. The very top level of the ship had a mini-golf course and you could access that level using a stair lift. 

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Lift To Get to Exercise Track Level

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Mini-Golf Course on Very Top Level

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Stair Lift to Get Up to Mini-Golf Level

As with most cruise ships, this one had something for everyone. The Regal Princess had a casino, theatre, spa, adults-only pool area, a gym, a walking/running track, movies under the stars and a night-time water show. The kids particularly enjoyed the Seawalk, which is a glass floor walkway that extends out over the edge of the boat so that you can look down into the ocean.

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Seawalk

ITINERARIES

Our first stop was at Princess Cays. This is a private island owned by the Princess Cruise Line and they use it as a port of call on their Caribbean cruises. This was a tender port and the cruise representatives said that my husband would only be able to get to the island if he could get onto the tender boat without assistance. Given that he can’t walk, this is impossible. We took our chances and headed down to the gangway and the people loading passengers on and off the tender boat had no issue carrying him on. I often find this to be the case. People are more than willing to help you when you are right in front of them but the official position often is that they aren’t supposed to do it. The boat ride to the island was about 5 minutes long. There was not much there other than the beach and a buffet-style lunch place, but the sand was soft and it was nice to get off of the boat for an afternoon. The island itself had some paved pathways that were easy to wheel on.

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Princess Cays

Our next stop was St Thomas. Last time we were there, we realized that there wasn’t much to do if you didn’t have some form of accessible transportation. This time we got pro-active and booked an accessible excursion to the Magic Ice Bar. The vehicle that picked us up was an open air bus, but they had a lift at the back and it all went pretty smoothly. They were even able to fit two people in wheelchairs on the bus.

The Magic Ice Bar was actually pretty cool (no pun intended!). When we walked in, they gave us big winter parkas to put on and, from then on, we felt right at home! There were ice sculptures everywhere and even ice slides for the kids. There was a long ice bar inside and they let us sample various flavours of rum (i.e. coconut, pineapple, cherry, etc.). 

Our last port on this cruise before heading back to Fort Lauderdale was St. Maarten. We had been here before and walked through the downtown shopping area that time. This time we decided to head to the beach and spend a day hanging out by the ocean. The water taxis to get to the downtown/beach area are not accessible per se, but the operators have always been extremely helpful and we have never had an issue getting on or off. We had to pay to rent a big beach umbrella to provide some shade on the beach but it worked out okay and the kids had a blast playing in the sand and water. 

THE BAD

All cruise lines operate differently in terms of dining, reservations, gratuities, etc. We found Princess somewhat more challenging with kids because if you wanted to eat anywhere other than the buffet, you had to book a reservation or wait in line for a long time. Because of this, we ended up eating at the buffet for every meal. The buffet food was good but the buffet area always felt very busy and it was sometimes tough to find a table. 

Getting through the hallways on cruise ships in a wheelchair can be a challenge, especially when luggage is left in the hallways on embarkation and disembarkation. It can also be a challenge getting to your room during the day when the housekeeping carts are in the halls. The best strategy is to book a room very close to the elevators so you don’t have to traverse a long hallway to get in and out of your room.  

This boat did not have an accessible pool or any accessible hot tubs and did not have any pool lifts. 

This cruise ship was definitely better-suited to adults or families with older kids. The boat had a mini-golf area, sports court and a shallow pool area but not a lot for younger kids.  

THE UGLY

This was a very classy ship and it was practically new when we were on it. There was nothing ugly about it. 

OVERALL

The Regal Princess was a beautiful boat with some very cool features. I enjoyed the Seawalk and the water shows at night. I appreciated that they had room service and we had a very lovely room steward for the week who took good care of us. Although we didn’t suffer in the food department, I would have liked it if the specialty restaurants had more flexible dining options.

In terms of accessibility, this specific itinerary is a bit of a challenge for wheelchair users as two of the three stops require being hoisted onto a tender boat or water taxi. If you cannot walk at all, you may be better off selecting an itinerary with no tenders. If you have some mobility, however, you may find it to be more manageable than we did. 

 

Hyatt Regency Calgary – Calgary, Alberta

This hotel is located in the heart of downtown Calgary at 700 Centre Street SE. We stayed here for two nights in September of 2015 for a work function. 

THE GOOD

The Hyatt is in a great location. It is easily accessible by the LRT or “C-Train,” as it is otherwise known, and there are several restaurants and shops very close by. The hotel is right on Stephen Avenue (popular spot for restaurants, bars and shops) and the famous Calgary Tower is about a block away. 

The hotel had on-site parking, although it was full when we arrived at the hotel. If you can get in early in the day, you are more likely to find parking here. The hotel also offered valet parking, which was considerably more expensive.

There was a beautiful pool, hot tub, steam room and gym located on the 18th floor of the hotel. This entire area was wheelchair accessible, including the steam room. Although there was no pool lift, one could bounce down into the hot tub or pool. There were steps in both pools that one could sit on or use to bounce in and out of the water.

Pool and Hot Tub Area

Pool and Hot Tub Area

Door to Steam Room

Door to Steam Room

Steam Room Access

Steam Room Access – Wide Enough for a Wheelchair and No Threshold

Nice Gym Area - No Modified Equipment for Wheelchair Users

Nice Gym Area – No Modified Equipment for Wheelchair Users

Our accessible room (on the 10th floor) had a wheel-in shower, wheel-under sink, toilet with grab bars, king-sized bed, TV, mini-fridge, desk, chair, ironing board, iron and a coffee machine. Upon request, the hotel provided a portable shower bench and a raised toilet seat.

Wheel-Under Sink - Good Clearance

Wheel-Under Sink – Good Clearance

Toilet with Grab Bar and Raised Toilet Seat

Toilet with Grab Bar and Raised Toilet Seat

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

The bed was comfortable and we had no issue getting two play-pen style cribs upon request. 

King-Sized Bed

King-Sized Bed

Our Two Little Monkeys Enjoying Curious George

Our Two Little Monkeys Enjoying Curious George

THE BAD

There was no breakfast included with the room, which is always a negative, particularly when you travel with kids. There was no microwave in the room for re-heating leftovers or making a hot breakfast.

The bathroom in our room, although accessible, was really outdated. It could definitely use some new tile and a paint job. The portable shower bench provided by the hotel was very small. It would have been a lot easier if the shower had a built-in shower bench. The toilet was very low without the raised toilet seat attachment, so be aware that you will likely have to ask for one or bring your own. Although it is very common, I always view it as a negative when accessible rooms have no bathtub. I understand that they only have so much space, but it is always nice for the kids when there is a bathtub. 

While we were at the hotel, there was a huge convention going on. There were several parties being held by the convention attendees in their hotel rooms and it was extremely loud on our floor at night. This is not likely to be the case all the time but the Hyatt is a popular location for retreats and conferences. 

THE UGLY

The Hyatt is a nice hotel and there was nothing ugly I noticed about it. 

OVERALL

There are lots of positives about the Hyatt. It is in a convenient downtown location and the staff is helpful and accommodating. For accessibility, it meets all of the basic criteria. In my opinion, however, this hotel is overpriced for what it is. There is nothing particularly amazing about it (standard hotel room, outdated bathroom, no breakfast, no free parking) but it costs about $200 a night. The Fairmont Palliser, which is about two blocks away from the Hyatt, is a much nicer hotel experience for roughly the same price.

Banff Park Lodge – Banff, Alberta

We have stayed at this hotel twice in the last 2 years, once for a Christmas party (November 2015) and again in October, 2016 for a conference. The Banff Park Lodge is located on Lynx Street, making it one of the more centrally located hotels in Banff. You can walk down Caribou Street to get to Banff Avenue (main shopping area) in less than 5 minutes. 

THE GOOD

The Banff Park Lodge has underground parking for its registered guests, which is nice in the mountains as you don’t have to scrape snow off of your car if you are staying in the winter. You can take the elevator in the parkade straight up to the lobby level or up to your room if you are staying on one of the higher floors. 

The wheelchair accessible room we stayed in (room 102) was very average. It had a king-sized bed and a small pull-out sofa. The room was located on the main floor of the hotel, just off the elevator to the parkade. The patio doors opened up onto a nice little outdoor area that would be a good place to sit in the summertime (or convenient if you were travelling with a dog).

The bathroom was large and had a wheel-under sink, toilet with grab-bars and a wheel-in shower. The shower was upgraded to include several different controls and the heated towel bar was a nice touch. The hotel supplied a portable shower bench.

There were two eating establishments in the hotel, one lounge area on the main level and a restaurant on the second floor. We ate at the restaurant on the second floor twice and, although overpriced, the food was good. A much better option is the famous Melissa’s Missteak restaurant across the street, which serves the best breakfasts known to man (yes, I think this has been scientifically proven). See below for photographic evidence:

There were a few shops and a hair salon located on the main floor of the hotel. The gift shop offered quite a few things, so if you forgot something, you could probably just pick it up there. 

The main floor and lobby of this hotel was completely wheelchair friendly. The sidewalks outside of the Banff Park Lodge were easy to navigate, although immediately across the street, some of the sidewalks were missing curb-cuts. 

THE BAD

The pool area was quite pretty, complete with a swimming pool, hot tub and a cooler hot tub. They also had a steam room and a very small fitness room. Unfortunately, the accessibility for this area was extremely poor. There were three steps down into the pool area from the entrance door and there were no pool lifts. The fitness room (if you can even call it that) was accessible but there was no room to manoeuver in there and no accessible machines or equipment. 

The staff at this hotel wasn’t overly helpful. When I called the front desk to ask what time the pool opened they told me 7am but 9am for kids. So I entertained the kids for two hours until 9am only to go and see a sign on the door to the pool that said the pool was open to adults at 7am and everyone at 8am.

Another example of the below-average hospitality occurred at breakfast in the upstairs restaurant. They had a big buffet set out for the conference attendees and my husband grabbed a plate and came to sit with us in the restaurant. We ordered food from the restaurant menu for the kids and myself but the kids were picking some hashbrowns off of my husband’s plate. When we got the bill, we noticed that we were charged for the breakfasts we ordered and $10 extra for a “kids buffet.” I thought that was pretty bad. If we had intended to feed them from the buffet, we wouldn’t have ordered separate meals for them.

Lastly, because we were staying two nights, housekeeping came to clean our room after the first night. I’m not really picky about that kind of thing but the effort was noticeably lacking. The garbages were emptied and the main bed was hastily made but that was it. This was how they made up the sofa bed:

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Sofa Bed Untouched After Room Cleaned

THE UGLY

While the sprayers in the wheel-in shower were kind of cool (our kids called it the car wash shower), the shower itself could have used a really good cleaning and repair job. The caulking around the shower was in bad shape and looked like it could be harbouring all kinds of grime and mould. 

OVERALL

The Banff Park Lodge is a very average hotel in a great location. Its proximity to Banff Avenue and tons of eating establishments definitely puts it higher on my list than it would be otherwise.  If you are looking for a wheelchair-friendly hotel in Banff and proximity to shopping and food is your top priority, then this one is a good choice. 

Fairmont Palliser Hotel – Calgary, Alberta

We have stayed at this hotel a few times before, most recently in July of 2016. This historical hotel is located in the heart of the downtown, just down the street from the Calgary Tower. The Palliser is over 100 years old and is known locally as the hotel of choice for hosting elegant events.

THE GOOD

When you enter the lobby of the Palliser, you immediately get a sense that you are stepping back in time. The ballrooms are grand, the decor is elegant and you can see hints of times gone by everywhere you look. 

There have been several updates to the Palliser over the years, one of the recent ones being to the Gold Rooms. On our most recent stay, we were lucky enough to have a gift certificate to use for one of the newly renovated Gold Rooms!

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Along with a Gold Room comes a couple of pretty nice perks! You can check-in on the Penthouse level to avoid any lines, you get nicer towels and bathrobes, an upgraded coffee machine in your room, turn-down service, etc. But the best perk by far is access to the complimentary Gold Lounge where they serve breakfast every morning and snacks, cookies and appetizers every evening between 5-7 pm. They also have unlimited beverages available all day long (and an honour bar) and they have big jars of candy, which our kids were over the moon about!

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Fresh Juices Available at Breakfast in the Gold Lounge

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Gold Lounge

The room itself was comfortable. There was a king-sized bed, TV, a small desk and a small sitting area.

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The bathroom was very large and was fully wheelchair accessible. It had a wheel-under sink, toilet with a grab bar on the left and a wheel-in shower with built-in shower bench. The bathroom also had an electronic scale, upgraded amenities (mouth wash, cotton balls, Q-tips, etc.) and heated floors. 

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Huge Bathroom

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Wheel-Under Sink

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Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

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Toilet Only Had One Grab Bar

The hallways on the Gold floor looked to have been recently updated and this floor was completely non-smoking.

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One of the best things about the Palliser is their pool and spa area. The pool area is complete with pool, hot tub and steam room and it is very quiet and peaceful. This area can be accessed by anyone in a wheelchair (although there are no pool lifts). The spa is called RnR Wellness and it is one of my favourite spas in Calgary. I have had a good experience every single time I have been there.     

THE BAD

It is a challenge to think of anything bad to say about this hotel, but I can say that the view from our room wasn’t amazing. It overlooked the train tracks and you could hear and feel the trains going by as they ran adjacent to the hotel. The kids enjoyed watching the trains go by, however, so it wasn’t all bad. 

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The windows in our room were older casement windows that cranked open at the bottom. The bottom half of the window opened out and there were no screens on the window. I was pretty sure that my kids would be able to fit through the opening. Given that we were on the 8th floor, these windows made me pretty nervous. 

The Palliser is really old and you can tell that the accessibility features came along many years after the hotel was designed. The main entrance to the hotel is all stairs and there is no wheelchair access right at the main entrance. There is a long ramp off to the side of the main entrance that takes you into a small room with a lift. The lift takes you down into the lower level of the hotel (spa level) and then you can access the main elevator bank to get up to the lobby or up to your room. The staff was very helpful and escorted us through the accessible entrance but the setup is certainly less than ideal. 

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about the Palliser. 

OVERALL

Its proximity to other downtown amenities makes the Palliser a very attractive choice. The staff was exceptionally pleasant and helpful and they really went out of their way to make us feel looked after. For the access to the Gold Lounge, I think the extra cost of a Gold Room would be well worth it. Overall, the Palliser is a very elegant, peaceful hotel, perfect for a relaxing weekend or overnight stay. 

Polo Towers – Las Vegas, Nevada

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible room at the Polo Towers for the first time many years ago and recently stayed again for one week in August of 2016. 

THE GOOD

The Polo Towers is conveniently located right on the strip between the MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood. There were lots of places to eat in front of the Polo Towers in a Hawaiian market of sorts, including a popular Chili’s restaurant. 

Our room was a two bedroom, two bathroom unit with a living room, sofa bed, full kitchen,  kitchenette and two balconies. One bedroom and one bathroom were fully wheelchair accessible. 

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Accessible Bedroom

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Accessible Bathroom

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Wheel-In Shower with Built-In Shower Bench

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Wheel-Under Sink in Accessible Bathroom

There was a handle on the bathroom door to make it easier for people with limited upper body mobility to shut the door. 

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For Closing the Pocket Door on the Accessible Bathroom

There was a door in between the second bedroom and the main living area that could be closed or locked for additional privacy. The bed in the second bedroom was a murphy bed, so it could be folded up to create additional living space. There was a small kitchenette on this side and a second bathroom (the door was wide enough to get in, but the bathroom itself was not accessible).

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Second Bedroom, Murphy Bed

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Second Bathroom – Not Accessible

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Second Bathroom Shower – Not Accessible

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Kitchenette in Second Bedroom

The kitchen in the main living area was modified with lower counter tops and a wheel-under sink.

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Kitchen with Wheel-Under Sink and Lower Countertops

There was a Room Valet panel on the wall in the accessible bedroom, living room and accessible bathroom with several cool features. You could turn it on to receive visual alerts when the phone rang, when the doorbell was pushed, for a wake-up call or when the fire alarm went off. You could also set the bed to vibrate for these same alerts (I know what you’re thinking but this would be really handy if you were sleeping and couldn’t see the visual alerts!).

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Each room had a closet, a dresser, TV, in-room safe and coffee maker. 

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Main Closet

The entire hotel was accessible, including the entrances, exits, main lobby, washrooms on the main floor, fitness area, splash park and the roof-top pool area. There was a large cold pool and a smaller hot tub. Both pools were equipped with a lift. 

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Cold Pool Lift

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Hot Tub Lift

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View of Pool Area – Hot Tub is in the Back Behind the Blue Cabanas

There was an observation deck at the end of the pool area that was up a few stairs, however, there was an ADA lift so that people who could not climb the stairs could still get up to look around. This space provided a beautiful view of the strip at night!

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ADA Lift to Access the Observation Deck

There was an amazing splash park in the back of the hotel, which was great for kids of all ages. Because of the shape of the hotel, the splash park stayed shaded all day long, which was perfect for everyone. Even though it was 40 degrees Celsius outside, the temperature in the splash park was quite comfortable. There was a shallow kiddie pool, sprayers, a play structure with slides and lots of room to run around. For the parents, there were several comfortable loungers along the sides, tables and chairs and a vending machine.

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Play Structure

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Kiddie Pool

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Sprayers

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There was no casino at this hotel. For some, this might be considered a drawback, but for us it meant a much quieter place to retire to and a smoke-free environment to walk through and sleep in each night. 

I cannot forget to mention that his hotel had free laundry machines on every other floor! I walked up one floor and had full access to the machines for as long as I needed them. There was enough laundry soap provided in our room for one load and there was a vending machine in the laundry room from which additional soap could be purchased. 

THE BAD

The view from our room was facing the front of the building, which was not a great view. We could see people coming and going and see the MGM Grand in the distance but otherwise there wasn’t much to look at. 

Our room did not have a bathtub. The accessible bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower and the other bathroom had a shower as well (note that the glass door on the other shower didn’t open or close properly, which was a bit dangerous for the kids). We managed fine but I really prefer hotel rooms that have a bathtub for the kids.

The kitchen was not set up for guests with kids. The knives and all of the sharp implements were located in a cupboard that was very easily accessible for small people. As soon as we discovered this, we had to empty out the cupboards and move all of the sharp things to the top of the counter!

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Yikes! Not a Great Location for Knives When Kids are Around!

The Wi-Fi in this hotel was atrocious! They provided us with a password and log-in information for the free Wi-Fi when we checked in but the signal strength was terrible and every time we lost the connection, we would have to go through the log-in process all over again. It was so unbelievably bad it was practically unusable. 

My husband got stuck in the lift between the pool area and the observation deck one night. He got part-way up and then it stopped working. He was able to access the emergency phone to call the hotel staff and I pulled the emergency release button to get him back down to the ground. The hotel sent a maintenance crew up and they worked on it for about 30 minutes to get the lift up and running again. 

THE UGLY

The furnishings in our unit could have used an update. The couch in the living room, in particular, had a panel on the front that kept falling off exposing a bunch of sharp staples that little people could easily scratch themselves on. I kept trying to re-attach it to the couch but had little success.

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Living Room Furniture was Old and Outdated

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This Panel Kept Falling Off the Couch Exposing a Bunch of Sharp Nails and Staples

One of the toilets in our room was not working properly. It stopped flushing several times and we would have to call the front desk to request that someone in maintenance come and fix it. The first time this happened, we had just gotten back to our room and had a message on our machine saying that housekeeping noticed that one of the toilets wasn’t flushing properly and to call if we wanted maintenance to come and fix it. So what did we do? Naturally, we tried flushing the toilets. The one in the accessible bathroom overflowed everywhere and covered the bathroom floor in water. We called down to request that someone come and fix it and despite the fact that it was leaking everywhere, they said it would take about 30 minutes to get someone to our room (this was about 10pm). They did send someone up with a bunch of towels though!

OVERALL

I would definitely stay at the Polo Towers again. I think most of the bad elements were specific to our room and we probably would not have that same experience again. The proximity to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood was a bonus and the splash park was unbeatable for the kids. They started every day running around in there and had so much fun.  

The hotel was clean and quiet and our room was huge considering what you would get at a normal hotel in Vegas. The two bedrooms worked out great and having two bathrooms and a kitchen was ideal. I think Polo Towers is a great option, particularly if travelling to Vegas as a family.