Norwegian Epic – Norwegian Cruise Line

We sailed on this boat for two weeks in October of 2010 when it was only a few months old. It was the third largest cruise ship in the world at that time, but has since been bumped down to the fourth largest cruise ship in the world (the top three all belong to Royal Caribbean).

Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic

On our cruise, the ship left from the pier in Miami, Florida. The first week, we stopped in: Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico before heading back to Miami. The second week we stopped in: St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas and then returned again to Miami. We had a balcony suite on the very back of the boat.

THE GOOD

The Norwegian Epic is a HUGE ship, which we thought was good because there were so many things to do. Once everyone got settled in, we didn’t notice that there were approximately 4000 people on board.

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible room at the very back of the boat. We wanted the back of the boat because we thought it would offer the best view. When sailing away from the ports, we got to take in all of the scenery and the views of the sunsets were out of this world. 

Beautiful Views of the Sunsets from Our Room at the Back of the Boat

Beautiful Views of the Sunsets from Our Room at the Back of the Boat

Our Room Was in the Middle Just Above the Big Rectangular Window

Our Room Was in the Middle Just Above the Big Rectangular Window

Our room was quite large compared to the non-accessible rooms on the boat. There was ample room to wheel around. The bed was a king-sized bed and it was very comfortable. The decor on this boat was very tasteful (some boats have a lot of crazy colours but this was very modern).

Wheelchair Accessible Room on Norwegian Epic

Wheelchair Accessible Balcony Suite at Back of the Boat

The balcony could easily be accessed in a wheelchair as they built a small wooden ramp on the outside to create a smooth transition.

Outside on Balcony

Outside on Balcony – Small Ramp to Ease Transition

The bathroom in our room was very compact (as all of them are on the boat) but it had everything we needed. The shower and toilet were in a separate room of their own. The toilet came equipped with grab bars on all sides of the toilet (and behind) and a plastic, raised toilet seat. The shower was small but functional and had a built-in shower bench that folded up and out of the way when not in use. The shower controls could easily be accessed by someone sitting on the shower bench. 

Toilet in Accessible Room on Norwegian Epic

Toilet in Wheelchair Accessible Room on Norwegian Epic

The sink was outside in the main area of the room, which was nice as it could be used even if someone was in the bathroom. It was small but it was wheel-under. The height of the counter was good for those in wheelchairs (although basin-type sinks can be trickier to use when you can’t stand over them).

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Those who have been on cruises before will know that cruise ships are a great way for those with mobility issues to travel. They are generally completely accessible and the Norwegian Epic is no different. Other than some of the activities on the boat (rock climbing wall, waterslides, etc.), there was no area of the ship that was not accessible. Even at the back of the boat, where the main elevators didn’t run, we located a wheelchair lift that gave us access to every level.

Wheelchair Lift at the Back of the Norwegian Epic

Wheelchair Lift at the Back of the Norwegian Epic

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair Lift

There were several pools and several hot tubs on this boat and one pool and one hot tub were equipped with a pool lift. 

Pool With Lift

Pool With Lift

Hot Tub With Lift

Hot Tub With Lift at the Back of the Boat

The other pools could be accessed by someone in a wheelchair if you felt comfortable bouncing down into the water. The other hot tubs could not be accessed as they were all raised and required the ability to navigate a number of stairs.

View of Additional Pools

View of Additional Pools

View of Additional Pools

View of Additional Pools

Access Into Other Hot Tubs Was Via Stairs

Access Into Other Hot Tubs Required Ability to Navigate Stairs

The main areas of the Norwegian Epic were all accessible. Most cruise ships have very narrow hallways but, on this ship, they were not too bad. The only real problem we ran into navigating the hallways was trying to get around the housekeeping carts in the middle of the day.

Hallways

Hallways

The buffet area was huge and could easily be navigated in a wheelchair. 

Buffet Area

Buffet Area

The food on the Norwegian Epic was amazing. Norwegian Cruise Line does freestyle cruising, which means you can eat whenever you want. The food at the buffet was exceptional and there was always a good selection available. A few of the specialty restaurants required reservations, but for the rest of the eating establishments, no reservations were required.  The specialty restaurants not only had good food but they offered beautiful views. They were definitely worth experiencing. The food served on the Norwegian Epic was far better than anything we have experienced at an all-inclusive resort. 

There were a lot of activities available on this boat. The evening entertainment included a magic show, comedy show, dinner theatre, dance party, the Blue Man Group show, impersonator show (Legends), movie night, sports night, etc. During the day, there were pool activities, waterslides, a rock climbing wall, ping pong, an arcade, a bowling alley, a basketball court, a climbing cage, etc. There was a huge gym on the boat, a walking/jogging track and a spa. Really, I wish we had had more days at sea so we could have spent more time exploring and relaxing on the boat.

Rock Climbing Wall

Larger Rock Climbing Wall

Rock Climbing Wall

Shorter Rock Climbing Wall

Waterslides

Waterslides

Basketball Court (This Was Taken on a Rainy Day. Most Days it Was Really Hot up There).

Basketball Court (This Was Taken on a Rainy Day. Most Days it Was Really Hot up There).

Video Arcade

Video Arcade

Kiddie Pool Area and Waterpark

Kiddie Pool Area and Waterpark

THE BAD

Although the size of the boat was a good thing for us, as we were on it for two weeks and we never got bored, it could be a bad thing if you have a hard time getting around. Cruise ships are primarily carpeted (with the exception of the pool deck and buffet area) and it can be really tiring wheeling down long hallways when you have to wheel on carpet. Given the size of this boat, you could be faced with having to make quite a trek to the buffet area or to one of the specialty restaurants depending on where you are coming from. This is something to keep in mind. Sometimes we went up to the pool deck to make our way to the other side of the boat just because it was easier and quicker to wheel across the floor on that deck. 

There was a casino on this boat, which is a good thing for most people. We aren’t much into gambling so we don’t give it much thought either way. The only thing that did bother us was the smoke emanating from the casino at night. It was really strong on that floor and wafted up to the floor above it as well. They did make a real effort to use deodorizers and air purifiers but the smoke around the casino area was noticeable. 

Casino

Casino

We had one unusual experience on this trip that has never happened to us before. While the boat was sailing, a bird flew into our room through the balcony door and we couldn’t get it out! It resulted in some hilarious antics on our part, and eventually we were able to help it find the door again, but we spent a few crazy hours ducking and diving and running around the room trying to convince it to go back outside.

Bird That Decided to Join Us in Our Room

Bird That Decided to Join Us in Our Room

For the second week of our cruise we had an issue with the heating and cooling system in our room. The ventilation system was continually blowing hot air. Given that the temperatures outside were extremely hot and humid, this got to be very uncomfortable. They tried multiple times to fix it and ended up having to order a part, which they were able to pick up at a port on our second last day on the boat. 

By far, the worst part of this boat was the vibration and noise it made when it docked at the ports. I am not sure if this could only be heard or felt at the back of the boat, but we would be sleeping soundly early in the morning and when the ship began docking at a port (usually around 7am, but sometimes earlier) the whole room would start to shake and the boat would make a horrible noise. It was so unbelievably loud that it was impossible to sleep. We are not morning people at all and every day that we were not at sea, we could count on this rude awakening.

THE UGLY

We had a really strange room steward for the two weeks that we were on the boat. When he noticed that my husband’s tires were leaving marks on the new carpets in the room, he taped white plastic all over the carpet with duct tape to help protect it. He seemed much more concerned about the cleanliness of the carpet than about how crazy it looked or how it would make my husband feel. I am sure he was trying to avoid having to shampoo the carpets at the end of our stay, which was totally understandable, but when we came back to our room and saw the plastic everywhere it kind of made us feel like we were in a contamination zone. 

THE PORTS

If you go on this same itinerary, you might want to know a little bit about the accessibility at the ports.

Costa Maya – There was very little to see at the stop in Costa Maya and it was insanely hot there. There were some shops right at the port where we wandered around but they had the usual souvenirs. You would have to look for an accessible excursion here if you wanted to see something interesting.

Roatan – Roatan was relatively accessible, however, we felt pretty unsafe walking around there. We left the shopping area at the pier as we wanted to find some local crafts, but after walking through several dark, back-alley shops and being followed and harassed by small children needing money, we made a quick exit back to the boat. 

Cozumel – Cozumel was great for accessibility and it was a fun stop. We had a really good day there walking around and were able to see lots of different places and do a ton of shopping for family back at home. 

St. Maarten – St. Maarten was fairly inaccessible. We were able to get on a water taxi to the downtown area so that we could walk around a little bit but there was a lot of cobblestone, very narrow sidewalks and a lot of uneven pavement.

St. Thomas – We were unable to get any form of accessible transportation in St. Thomas or find anyone willing to take us on a tour so we spent the day wandering around the shops at the port. There were quite a few shops there, but nothing overly exciting.  

Nassau – We were not able to find a wheelchair accessible cab in Nassau but the cab drivers were all willing to help carry my husband into their vans. We took a cab over to Atlantis and walked around there for most of the day. Beware that it is crazy expensive there but it was fun to see. We also explored the straw market in Nassau, which was a little tough to navigate in the wheelchair due to narrow aisles, but it was a good place to shop and chat with local people.

Miami – Miami was very accessible. We took a cab to South Beach and enjoyed walking up and down Ocean Drive. We were surprised to find that there were mats laid out along the beach for wheelchair access and there were beach chairs available at the Beach Patrol Office. We wished we had had more time there so we could have spent more time on this beautiful beach. 

Wheelchair Beach Access in Southbeach, Miami

Wheelchair Beach Access in Southbeach, Miami

OVERALL
 
For wheelchair users, you can’t go wrong on a cruise. It is a great way to see more of the world with very little hassle. No matter how inaccessible the various ports might be, you always get to go back to your room at night and you know that you have what you need there.  
 
The real luxury of a cruise is that no matter what type of vacation you like to have, whether you like to be busy and see everything and try every activity or whether you like to sit on a lounge chair in the sun sipping on drinks all day long, you can do it on a cruise. There is truly something for everyone. 

Akumal, Mexico – Grand Bahia Principe Tulum

We stayed at this resort for two weeks over Christmas and New Years in 2013-2014. We were there with a group of 10, so we got a pretty good feeling for what the resort had to offer and what others’ experiences were as well. We stayed in the 200 block and our wheelchair accessible room was on the main floor. 

Wheelchair Accessible Room 203

Wheelchair Accessible Room 203

200 Block of Rooms

200 Block of Rooms

THE GOOD

We had a great family vacation at this resort and it was very wheelchair accessible. There were ramps everywhere and the lobby, buffet, pool area and beach were all accessible by wheelchair.

Flooring in Lobby Area

Flooring in Lobby Area

There was a wooden mat that went a long way on to the beach, so you could wheel right down to the water if you wanted and there were loungers there for people with mobility issues to use. These types of features are hard to find, so we were pretty impressed by this.

Transition from Path to Wheelchair Beach Access

Transition from Path to Wheelchair Beach Access

Wheelchair Beach Access

Wheelchair Beach Access

Bottom of Wheelchair Beach Access - Looking Back Towards the Resort

Bottom of Wheelchair Beach Access – Looking Back Towards the Resort

Our room was outdated but the bathroom had a wheel-under sink, a wheel-in shower and grab bars by the toilet. The grab bars by the toilet were far away and awkwardly placed but we asked a manager about this and they delivered a special toilet seat to our room that had arm rests and this helped a lot. 

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Toilet Seat with Armrests

Toilet Seat with Arm Rests Provided by Resort

We were able to request a shower bench for the wheel-in shower. It was plastic and quite small (and not overly stable) but the height was adjustable by rotating the legs.

Wheel-In Shower With Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower With Portable Shower Bench

Opposite End of the Wheel-In Shower

Opposite End of the Wheel-In Shower – The Entire Bathroom Would be a Lot Easier to Use if That Glass Panel Wasn’t There

There were so many good things about this resort in general, but these are the things that really stood out to us:

1. They had a great Kids’ Club with exceptionally nice staff members. They did lots of crafts and activities with the kids during the day. After dinner every night, they did a mini disco for the kids in the lobby where they danced and sang songs (and burned off some energy). They also did a beach party for the kids on New Year’s Eve. Our kids weren’t old enough to attend the Kids’ Club but when we went in to check it out, the staff gave them little Mini Club T-shirts and made a big fuss over them. 

Mini Disco in the Lobby

Mini Disco in the Lobby

2. The pools were very nice and not too cold. There were a few different pools, so we had the option of being at the main pool or going to one that was closer to the snack bar. There was a swim-up bar right in the main pool and a regular bar beside the other pool. There were lots of loungers available by the pools and there was entertainment at the main pool in the afternoons.

Main Pool

Main Pool

Swim Up Bar at Main Pool

Swim Up Bar at Main Pool

3. The service we received at the buffet was exceptional. They served our group of 10 almost every day and they were very efficient and very good to us.

4. The resort was large and we never ran out of things to do. There is a huge market with clothing and souvenir shops right by the entrance and there are two sister resorts, Coba and Akumal, that are within walking/wheeling distance (or, if you are able-bodied, you can take the free trollies that go between the resorts all day long). There is some shopping at the sister resorts as well and you can eat at Coba for free. The buffet over there is quite good and the service is very good.

5. There was a dolphinarium at the resort. I wasn’t sure where to put this as I think dolphins are amazing but I don’t think keeping dolphins in captivity should be encouraged. I’m putting it on the good list because dolphins are so incredibly beautiful to watch. You can learn all about them, swim with them, kiss them and interact with them if you pay for one of the dolphin experiences at the dolphinarium. 

Dolphinarium

Dolphinarium

6. The beach was clean and there were big bags of sand in one part of the ocean to calm the waves. There happened to be some great snorkelling close to the sand bags.

Sand Bags In Front of Beach - Ocean is Shallow Enough to Walk to These

Sand Bags In Front of Beach – Ocean is Shallow Enough to Walk to These

There was a long stretch of beach between the Tulum resort and the Akumal resort that was relatively quiet and not too crowded. 

View From Tulum Resort Looking Towards Akumal (Sister Resort)

View From Tulum Resort Looking Towards Akumal (Sister Resort)

Beach Volleyball

Beach Volleyball at Tulum Resort

View of the Beach - Beautiful Sand

View of the Beach – Beautiful Sand

7. The grounds were immaculately maintained and there were lots of little critters to take pictures of.

Central Grounds Outside of Main Pool and Main Buffet Area

Central Grounds Outside of Main Pool and Main Buffet Area

Beautiful Grounds

Beautiful Grounds

Cool Critters!

Cool Critters!

Critters!

More Critters!

8. There were shows and entertainment at the resort every night. We only saw 2 of them but the rest of our group saw more and they said they were well done.

Elvis Show - Very Funny

Elvis Show – Very Funny

9. The Coba resort (sister resort) had an amazing water park for kids of all ages. We could have spent several days there running around with the kids. There were lots of loungers for parents with older kids to relax on and we were able to find loungers in the shade so that the really little ones didn’t get too hot. 

Waterpark at Grand Bahia Principe Coba

Water Park at Grand Bahia Principe Coba (Sister Resort)

Waterpark at Coba Resort

Other Side of Water Park at Coba Resort

10. They did a good job of celebrating the Christmas and New Year’s festivities. They had a special dinner on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve. Santa came on Christmas Eve and gave little gifts to all of the kids. On New Year’s Eve, they had a huge party with music and lots of crazy festivities. We missed it because our kids were pretty little and we were in our room with them but we heard the next day that it had been very wild. 

Christmas Tree in the Lobby

Christmas Tree in the Lobby

New Year's Festivities On the Way in to the Buffet

New Year’s Festivities On the Way in to the Buffet

New Year's Drinks on the Way into the Buffet

New Year’s Drinks on the Way into the Buffet

11. This resort worked out well for a group vacation as it was so large and there was such a variety of things to do. Everyone, despite different age groups and abilities, was able to enjoy themselves. It was easy for people to go off and do their own thing during the day and then meet up for dinner. 

12. There was free wi-fi in the lobby. The connection was occasionally unavailable but it was convenient to be able to check email on the way through the lobby.

THE BAD

In terms of accessibility, there was only one wheelchair accessible bathroom in the public area of the resort. It was located by the lobby, but if we were eating at the buffet or out by the pool, it was a little inconvenient to have to go all the way back to the lobby to use the washroom.

The paved pathways around the resort were all cobblestone. It wasn’t that big of a deal but those in wheelchairs will know that wheeling on an uneven surface is not nearly as relaxing as wheeling on a paved pathway. 

Cobblestone Pathways

Cobblestone Pathways

The sister resorts, Coba and Akumal, were accessible by free trollies that ran all day and all night long but the resort did not have a wheelchair accessible trolley. We carried my husband on to one of the trollies on our way to the Coba resort and a family member carried the wheelchair on the back. This was very difficult and very inconvenient. On our way back, we decided to just walk/wheel back (at the dismay of the staff) and it only took us about 15 minutes to get back to our resort. Walking/wheeling was a way better option. 

The room we stayed in was quite outdated and the bathroom was very small. It was very difficult to shut the bathroom door once the wheelchair was inside. We had to push the glass shower door in all the way so that my husband could squeeze right into the shower and then I would attempt to sneak the door closed behind his wheels. It was a really bad design for wheelchair users.

Outdated Decor in the Room

Outdated Decor in the Room

In terms of the resort in general, we felt it could use quite a few improvements. Keep in mind that we have pretty high expectations but here are some examples from our experience:

1. The toilet in our room was broken and basically not attached to the floor. It almost fell over when my husband transferred on to it. They did a crappy (ha ha) job trying to fix it and we eventually had to switch rooms because it was unsafe to use.

2. We asked the mini-bar staff and front desk staff repeatedly for juice and water in our mini-bar instead of pop and beer. They always said no problem. Despite leaving big tips, we never received juice or water in the mini-bar in the entire 2 weeks we were there. Also, because our kids usually napped in the afternoon when they made their rounds to stock the mini-bars (and we would put the do-not disturb sign up), they would usually skip our room and not come back. 

3. Our room was not cleaned one day and on our way to dinner we asked if they could send clean towels and sheets to our room. The front desk said they would send someone right away and when we got back to our room over two hours later, nothing had been done. We called the front desk and they finally sent someone an hour later. (By then our kids had gone to bed and the arrival of the housekeeping staff woke them up.) 

4. We asked the front desk for a bottle of water and they said they could not give us one but they could deliver it to our room. We asked if they could deliver 2 bottles of water to our room if they were going to send someone with it and they said it was no problem and that they would make sure we received 2 bottles of water in our room every day. They weren’t delivered to our room that day until 10:30pm (woke our kids up again) and they never sent them ever again. I think this resort hoards the water bottles because apparently their tap water is filtered and safe to drink but it is weird to ask for a bottle of water in Mexico and be told no. 

5. The staff broke a bunch of glass outside of our unit one day and there were giant shards of glass everywhere (bad for kids’ feet and wheelchair tires). We asked to have it cleaned up and nothing happened that day or the next day. We finally asked the housekeeping staff if they could clean it up and they picked up most of the big pieces of glass. We cleaned up the rest. 

6. The buffet food was just so-so. We ate there for almost every meal for two weeks and most of the food had little taste. The desserts left a lot to be desired (which is maybe a good thing if you are trying to behave!). A lot of the trays at the buffet sat empty for a long time. If you wanted guacamole, for example, you had to be there right when it was set out, otherwise you would have to wait another 30 minutes for the tray to be re-filled. We heard that the food at the specialty restaurants was better but we didn’t have the opportunity to try any of them.  

7. The snack bar food during the day was okay (pasta, fries, salad, burgers, soft ice cream, etc.) but at night it was by order only. I am vegetarian and the only vegetarian thing on the menu was nachos. I went there to eat very late on the first night we arrived (after not eating for the entire day, I was absolutely starving). The “nachos” (stale plain chips with cold, watery cheese), however, were so bad that I decided I would rather go hungry until the next day than try to swallow them (that should tell you something!). The late-night food was absolutely inedible.  

Snack Bar

Snack Bar

8. If you want a drink at this resort, you will have to get it yourself. No one will come around asking if you want a drink or if you need anything. When we were at Coba, the sister resort, we got asked 4 times in one afternoon if we wanted a drink, but this never happened at Tulum in 2 weeks!

Drinks at Coba!

Drinks at Coba!

9. The cribs we were given for our babies were very dirty and the mattress portion of the cribs was too small for the crib and hard as a rock. As a result, we usually ended up having them sleep with us in our bed (4 people to one bed = very little sleep).

Playpens for the Twins Were Hard and Dirty - I Was Very Happy That I Brought My Own Sheets

Playpens for the Twins Were Very Hard and Dirty – I Was Very Happy That I Brought My Own Sheets

10. The AC did not work properly in our room. It seemed to switch off at night and the room was very hot all night long.

11. The system they have for the in-room safes is weird. When you check in, they give you a key and a component for the locking mechanism to insert into the door of the safe. Depending on the type of reservation you made, you may or may not have to pay extra for the lock and key. The safe is extremely tiny and you will likely only be able to fit your phone, important documents and your cash inside. You cannot fit an iPad in the safe.

In-Room Safe - You Had To Purchase The Key Depending on the Type of Room You Paid For

In-Room Safe – You Had To Purchase The Key Depending on the Type of Room You Paid For

12. Some members of our party had issues upon check-in with the wrong room being provided. Make sure you call or email the resort prior to arrival to confirm that you are getting exactly what you paid for. 

THE UGLY

Bed bugs! I probably don’t need to say any more than that, right? 

They supposedly fumigated our room 3 times and fumigated our new room and it did not seem to help. We came home with several bites and another group in our party had the same experience. When we told the front desk that we thought our room had bed bugs, they didn’t even bat an eye. They just told us that they would have someone come to fumigate the room. BAD SIGN!

Also, I hung one of my shirts out to dry on our balcony after it got soaked at the pool and it got stolen. We even saw the guy walk by and take it as our balcony door was open. I really do know better than to trust that my things will be safe on a main floor balcony but it was still kind of shocking that it got taken in the middle of the day while our balcony door was open. 

View of Balcony From Inside Room

View of Balcony From Inside Room

View From Our Main Floor Balcony

View of Outside From Our Main Floor Balcony

OVERALL

My best advice is to go to this resort with realistic expectations. You do need to be prepared for the fact that it is NOT a 5-star resort. The food isn’t great, the service can be hit and miss and you will notice that they are trying to save money by cutting a lot of corners. However, the resort is located on a beautiful stretch of beach, it is large and can accommodate a variety of interests and it is all-inclusive, which makes life easy when you are travelling, particularly if you are travelling with a group or with kids. If you get a good deal on the price and you go with realistic expectations, you will most likely enjoy your time here.  

If you have kids, I would recommend staying at the cheaper Coba resort. Although I don’t know what the rooms are like over there, the water park was great for kids, the service seemed better to us and the food at the buffet seemed just as good as the buffet at Tulum. 

Side Note Regarding Transportation

Transportation in Mexico can sometimes be tricky, especially when you are travelling with a wheelchair and two babies. For transportation to and from the resort, we used Cancun Accessible (www.cancunaccesible.com). We have used them in the past and have had a great experience with them. They were waiting for us when we arrived (even though we were very late getting in) with a big, accessible private van and were very patient as we strapped the kids in to their car seats. They helped load all of our luggage and it was a very smooth one-hour trip from the airport to the resort.

On the way back to the airport, they brought the wrong vehicle and created a bit of a problem for us as it wasn’t big enough to fit the wheelchair and the rest of the family. I ended up taking separate transportation with the two kids and we met up at the airport. To the credit of Cancun Accessible, they admitted that they had sub-contracted out the pick-up to another company and that the instructions had been miscommunicated. The other company had brought a van for a child in a wheelchair, not an adult. Even though we had pre-paid for the round-trip transportation, they did refund us 100% of our trip from the resort back to the airport. It was the right thing to do but we were not expecting it. Based on the way they responded to this incident and our previously good experiences with them, I would probably use them again if we were to return to the Cancun area.  

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Puerto Morelos, Mexico – Excellence Riviera Cancun

We stayed at the Excellence Riviera Cancun for 1 week in mid-March of 2012 in a wheelchair accessible swim-up room. We stayed in Room 1002 in Building 1 and the swim up rooms there were very private.

THE GOOD

I feel torn writing this review because for those not in wheelchairs, this is a very beautiful resort with a lot going for it. The food was really excellent – probably better than at any resort we have stayed at in Mexico or elsewhere. I really enjoyed that they had a lot of healthier and vegetarian alternatives. The buffet was full of fresh fruit and salad and there were tons of salad toppings. There were also healthier alternatives available on the menus and they tasted very good. There was 24-hour room service with decent food and none of the restaurants required reservations.

The pools were very nice, the rooms were clean and there was a (very) mini bar in our room that got stocked with water, pop, beer and a few chocolates each day. All of the staff were pleasant and willing to assist. The sand on the beach was amazing. It was fine, fine white sand that a lot of people said was just like Cuba.

Beautiful White Sand on the Beach

Beautiful White Sand on the Beach

The resort felt very safe although guests did not have to wear wrist bands and the beach was open to the public. There was entertainment every night and most afternoons and the hotel provided a sheet every day of the next day’s activities, restaurant hours, etc.

Theatre for Entertainment

Theatre for Entertainment

There were lots of people at this resort who had stayed here before, so they must be doing something right.

In terms of accessibility, there was an accessible bathroom outside near one of the pools and inside near the main bar. There were tennis courts you could access in a wheelchair if you were able to travel over a little bit of cobblestone. There was a big gym that you could get around in as long as you could get over a small step at the door. You could get in to the spa area in a wheelchair (although I’m not sure about the treatment rooms). The three stores/shops were accessible and all of the restaurants, other than the Basmati restaurant, were accessible. Although they do not have a pool lift, there was a ramp into one of the pools, which might be helpful if you have a chair with which you can wheel in to the water (they do not have one on-site).  We found it was fairly easy to just bounce in to the pool near the stairs.

Ramp into Pool

Ramp into Pool

We had a great experience doing a shopping tour of Playa del Carmen. The bus driver and tour guide carried my husband on and off the bus, which was amazing. Playa del Carmen was worth seeing, especially at night. Although some of the shops are not accessible, many are and the main road (although a bit bumpy in spots) is easy to navigate in a chair.

THE BAD

Despite all of the good things about this resort, I would have a really hard time recommending it to anyone in a wheelchair. There was no wheel-under sink in the bathroom (which they did tell us before we got there) and the mirror above the counter was too high for someone in a wheelchair to see into.

No Wheel-Under Sink and High Mirror

No Wheel-Under Sink and High Mirror

The toilet was low and was in a separate room with the shower, so there wasn’t a lot of space to maneuver a wheelchair in there. The shower had a built-in bench that was made from tile and was very small (very slippery and very difficult to stay on when wet).

Toilet and Shower Were in a Separate Room - Not Much Room to Move Around in There

Toilet and Shower Were in a Separate Room – Not Much Room to Move Around in There

Very Low Toilet with Grab Bar

Very Low Toilet with Grab Bar

Very Small Shower Bench

Very Small Shower Bench

The bed was very high and difficult to get in and out of and there wasn’t much room next to the bed for a wheelchair.

Very High Bed

Very High Bed

Although the jacuzzi tubs were nice, there were no grab bars near them. My husband managed to get into the tub in the room without too much trouble but we just about killed ourselves trying to get him back out.

Jacuzzi Tub Inside Room

Jacuzzi Tub Inside Room

Outdoor Jacuzzi

Outdoor Jacuzzi

The pool area had a lot of step bridges to get from one side to the other and those in wheelchairs could not cross them. There was only one long way around the pools for those in wheelchairs, which was extremely annoying.

There are Step Bridges Like This All Around the Pool Area - No Way for a Wheelchair to Easily Get From One Side to the Other

There are Step Bridges Like This All Around the Pool Area – No Way for a Wheelchair to Easily Get From One Side to the Other

The Basmati restaurant was not wheelchair accessible and all of the tables in the other restaurants were low and difficult to wheel under.

They did not have a beach chair for going on to the sand. They did have some wooden planks that extended out on to the sand so that you could at least wheel onto the beach but it would be nice if they had a way of getting closer to the water.

This is as Close as a Wheelchair Can Get to the Ocean

This is as Close as a Wheelchair Can Get to the Ocean

There were a lot of stairs at this resort but there were also three elevators that, if operable, would make it fairly easy to get around. Unfortunately, two of the three elevators were not in service while we were there and when we inquired as to when they would be fixed, we were told that they had no idea.

This Was the Sign on Two of the Three Elevators

This Was the Sign on Two of the Three Elevators

I believe all of the wheelchair rooms are together in one building on the main floor and are all “swim-up rooms”. There is a step off of the deck onto some rocks and then onto grass and then about 20 feet of grass to get to the pool.

View of Patio in Swim-Up Room

View of Patio in Swim-Up Room

Loungers Outside of Patio in the Swim-Up Room

Loungers Outside of Patio in the Swim-Up Room

My husband had a very tough time getting off of the patio and over the rocks to reach the lounge chairs, so the maintenance staff installed a small ramp to help him get over the rocks.

They Installed This Little Ramp for Us to Make it Easier to Get Off of the Patio

They Installed This Little Ramp for Us to Make it Easier to Get Off of the Patio

In a chair, you would have a tough time getting in and out of the pool in front of your swim-up room. There are no platforms in the pool and no stairs on that side of the pool to bounce down on.

If you call the hotel in advance of your trip, they will tell you that it is fully wheelchair accessible, but this is not the case. We spoke with a few other people at the resort in wheelchairs who were also struggling with the lack of accessibility.

In terms of overall negatives, the resort felt understaffed. We often sat outside of our swim-up room or by the pool for 2 or 3 hours without anyone coming by to ask us if we wanted something to drink. This may have been because we chose the quieter pools to sit in, but still… The service in the restaurants, in general, wasn’t great. They were often slow to clear plates and it felt like there was only a couple of people serving large sections. We often had to ask for more water, more buns or had to wait quite a while for someone to come and take our order.

There was one morning where we had the do-not-disturb sign on our door and someone from the front desk called us to tell us something because they didn’t want to knock. There was another morning when a staff member knocked on our balcony door when we were sleeping to tell us about some work they were doing outside. These are things that definitely wouldn’t happen at most resorts.

The other guests hoarded these blue pool floaties even when they weren’t using them and it was frustrating trying to find one that wasn’t spoken for. Also, people left towels and other belongings on chairs and sun beds all day long and it made it difficult to find places to sit in the shade. We often struggled to find a place to sit and then watched the chairs next to us remain empty with towels on them all day.

THE UGLY

They have a great concept with the “X-box” which is a small closet in your room that can be accessed from the hall where you leave your dirty dishes after you order room service. The idea is that you don’t have to open your door to place the dishes out in the hall and the hallways don’t end up cluttered with dirty dishes and half-eaten food. The dishes in our X-Box piled up over several days, however, and we finally had to call and ask someone to come and take the dishes as they were smelling up our room!

OVERALL

Overall, if you are able-bodied, I think you will really enjoy this resort. It is an adults-only resort with a beautiful beach, great food and a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. If you are in a wheelchair, I would phone around and find something better for wheelchair access. Even with all of the good things this resort has going for it, the accessibility issues are so significant that they will seriously detract from your ability to relax and enjoy yourself.

Travel Tip: The roundtrip transfers that come with your vacation package (if you book a package) are not accessible. We complained to the resort that it was discriminatory to offer transportation that was not accessible and they offered us complimentary transportation with Cancun Accessible. They picked us up in a van at the airport and took us to the resort and picked us up at the end of our stay and took us back to the airport. They were efficient, had lots of room for the chair and all of our luggage and travelling with them made our transfers pretty easy and stress free. Their website is: www.cancunaccessible.com.  

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Riviera Nayarit, Mexico – Hotel Riu Palace Pacifico

My husband and I have travelled to Mexico a few times (both the Cancun side and the Puerto Vallarta side) and we really enjoy it there. We booked this place on short notice with a last minute deal and weren’t sure how it would be. When we got there, I must say we were very pleasantly surprised. 

THE GOOD

This resort was fully wheelchair accessible as was the room we stayed in (room 1073). We were a little upset when we arrived as there was no grab bar in the bathroom by the toilet but after speaking with a manager about it, they had one installed within a few hours. The room was well-equipped for someone in a wheelchair with a wheel-under sink and a wheel-in shower.

Toilet After Grab Bar Was Installed

Toilet After Grab Bar Was Installed

Wheel-in Shower, No Shower Bench - We Used a Deck Chair and it Worked Out Fine

Wheel-in Shower, No Shower Bench – We Used a Deck Chair and it Worked Out Fine

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Accessible Bedroom

Accessible Bedroom

There was a constant supply of liquor and other beverages in the room. This resort really was all-inclusive in the sense that you could drink as much as you wanted without anyone giving you a hard time. The bar staff was happy to accommodate any request and they did not cheap out on alcohol at this resort. 

The gym and spa could be accessed by someone in a wheelchair. We used the gym quite a lot and it was a really nice space with hard wood floors, TVs, free weights and new equipment. There was also an accessible bathroom right beside the spa and gym, which you could also wheel to from the pool area without any trouble.

Gym

Gym

Ramp to Spa and Gym - Very Easy Access

Ramp to Spa and Gym – Very Easy Access

Accessible Bathroom by the Gym and Spa (and Pool)

Accessible Bathroom by the Gym and Spa (and Pool)

Soaker Tubs in the Spa

Soaker Tubs in the Spa Area – Very Relaxing and Very Quiet. An easy place to transfer into water without everyone watching.

Although the room had a slight musty smell, this resort was immaculately clean and the staff could be seen cleaning around the clock.

The restaurants were all easy to get reservations for and the staff was absolutely amazing. They really went out of their way to make us feel welcome, without making us feel like they were doing it for tips. Even at the buffet, they always helped us find a table, carried trays for us and provided us with any beverage we asked for. The food was good, but not amazing.

There were a few market nights at the resort where you could buy souvenirs, etc. in a very relaxed atmosphere. There was nightly entertainment and several of the shows were quite well done.

Theatre for NIghtly Entertainment

Theatre for Nightly Entertainment

The grounds were beautiful and well-cared for. They had built-in loungers in the pool, which were so nice to lay on. The area where they were was quite shallow and a wheelchair user could bounce down into the water and then bounce up on to the loungers quite easily. There was always someone coming by asking if you needed a drink. The pool was cleaned every night.

You could go eat or drink at neighbouring Riu resorts for free (although this one was by far the nicest of the three).

There was free wi-fi in the lobby area. 

The beach could be accessed via a ramp onto the sand. Although they did not have a beach chair (for wheeling on the sand), they did offer to help us find one for rent. The sand was quite difficult to wheel on. You would likely need to have someone carry you onto a lounger on the sand or into the water if you wanted to take in the ocean. 

Beach Access

Beach Access

We enjoyed a cab ride to the flea market in Puerto Vallarta ($20 for about 20 minutes) and the people there were also great. Those in wheelchairs will have no trouble getting around there and there was lots to see and lots of good deals to be had. There was even a ramp to get up to the second floor where the washrooms were (it was steep, but it was there). We had no trouble getting around outside of the resort and felt completely safe walking around. 

THE BAD

One of the downsides for us was that the resort was quite small and when we wanted to walk, we felt like we were walking in circles. We are fairly active and like to have places to roam. The size of the resort wouldn’t be as much of an issue if you could walk down the beach but that wasn’t an option in the wheelchair.

There was no shower bench in our room, so we pulled one of the chairs in off the balcony and used that. 

The pool closed very early. The good thing was, they closed it so they could completely clean it every night, but sometimes it would have been nice to go for a soak after dinner.

The garden view room looked out onto an empty, dry field so it was not much of a view.

Garden View?

Garden View?

One of the biggest complaints we heard while at the resort was that the elevators were very slow and very small. This is absolutely true. Especially for wheelchair users, this got to be really annoying.

Another minor annoyance was that the main building was a U shape and there was only a ramp on one side. So rather than heading straight up to the buffet, you had to go up on the other side of the main building and then around. We used this as an excuse to eat more coconut ice cream when we were there as we felt we were getting extra exercise!

Ramp Side of Resort - The Other Side of the U Shape Only Has Stairs

Ramp Side of Resort – The Other Side of the U Shape Only Has Stairs

THE UGLY

The excursions offered by the hotel were not wheelchair accessible (one of the agents told us one was, and when the bus showed up the guide told us it was absolutely NOT accessible). Getting a refund was a huge hassle and when we returned home we found out one of the agents ripped off our credit card number to call some Mexican phone sex lines.

OVERALL

Overall, we loved this resort. As a rule, we don’t like going back to the same place twice but we would definitely recommend this resort to others, whether or not they are looking for wheelchair accessibility. 

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