Embassy Suites by Hilton Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort – Oxnard, California

We stayed in room 9301 at the Embassy Suites in March of 2016 for one week. We booked this hotel knowing nothing about Oxnard, California other than that the hotel was right on the beach with some accessible pathways alongside the beach. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by the overall accessibility of the hotel and surroundings.

THE GOOD

There were several different buildings at this hotel and our room was on the third floor of building number 9, which was just to the right side of the main lobby building.

View of Main Lobby

View of Main Lobby Area

All of the rooms at this hotel are suites. In our room, we had two queen beds in a separate bedroom, two bathrooms (one with a wheel-in shower and built-in shower bench, wheel-under sink and toilet with grab bars), living room with a pull-out sofa and small kitchenette (microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker and sink).

Two Queen Beds

Two Queen Beds, Access to Deck Across From Far Bed

Main Area Bathroom - Not Accessible

Main Area Bathroom Located by the Front Door – Not Accessible

Accessible Bathroom

Accessible Bathroom Attached to the Bedroom

Wheel-In-Shower With Shower Bench

Wheel-In-Shower With Shower Bench

Accessible Toilet Area

Accessible Toilet Area

Pull-Out Sofa and Living Room Area

Pull-Out Sofa, Living Room Area and Access to Deck

Kitchenette

Kitchenette

Front Door And Desk

Front Door And Desk

Our room was a “resort view” room. We had a nice view of the pool and courtyard and could actually see the beach and ocean in the distance.

View From Our Room

View From Our Room

View of the Main Pool from Our Room

View of the Main Pool from Our Room

View of Waterfall Near One of the Two Hot Tubs

View of Waterfall Near One of the Two Hot Tubs

Our room was cleaned every day by the time we got back from our morning activity except for once. The staff seemed very efficient and happy to help.

This hotel served free breakfast every morning until 10 am and free drinks and snacks every night between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Breakfast was buffet-style with eggs, potatoes, pancakes, waffles, sausages, bacon, cereal, fruit, toast, yogurt and a selection of beverages. There was also a made-to-order section where you could order eggs or omelettes. The happy hour snacks consisted of nachos, veggies and party mix and the drinks consisted of alcoholic selections from the bar, punch and pop. Although the food wasn’t the best quality, it was plentiful and it made for an easy alternative to going out.

There was one large swimming pool and two large hot tubs at the hotel. The pool and one of the hot tubs were equipped with battery-powered pool lifts. We had no issue with the lifts and they seemed to work smoothly using a handheld remote.

Main Pool Lift

Main Pool Lift

Hot Tub Lift

Hot Tub Lift

Turn On the Key and Use Remote to Operate Lift

Turn On the Key and Use Remote to Operate Lift

There was direct beach access at the hotel. There was a gate in the back that led right to the sand and a long accessible pathway along the edge of the beach. If you turned right, it led you to a beautiful park with a large playground.

Beach Access at Back of Hotel

Beach Access at Back of Hotel

Paved Pathway Along the Beach

Paved Pathway Along the Beach

Amazing Playground for the Kids

Amazing Playground for the Kids

There was an accessible pathway through the sand so that wheelchair users could get closer to the ocean. The beaches were extremely large and there were lots of sand dunes, so one would not be able to get to the water in a wheelchair but you would be able to get close enough to see over all of the dunes and to watch the waves roll in. There were picnic tables up near the end of the accessible pathway where you could sit and have a nice lunch or dinner on the beach if you wanted.

Accessible Pathway Towards the Ocean

Accessible Pathway Towards the Ocean

Accessible Pathway Heading Towards Ocean

Accessible Pathway Heading Towards Ocean

View From the Top of the Accessible Path

View From the Top of the Accessible Path Facing Away From the Ocean

Looking Towards The Ocean - The Picnic Tables Mark the End of the Accessible Path

Looking Towards The Ocean – The Picnic Tables Mark the End of the Accessible Path

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean – The Sand Was Extremely Soft Everywhere Except Right Along the Water’s Edge

In terms of its general location, this hotel was within walking distance of a number of beautiful harbours where you could look at fancy boats and beautiful homes. We also drove around and explored a number of shops, grocery stores and restaurants.  There was a family-friendly restaurant close to the resort called Toppers that served some of the best pizza we have ever had.

One of Many Beautiful Harbours

One of Many Beautiful Harbours

We learned when we were there that Oxnard is surrounded by fruit farms. It’s quite something when you are driving there to see the miles and miles of strawberries and other produce growing right there.

For entertainment purposes, you can drive from Oxnard to Ventura in 5 minutes, Camarillo (where there is a HUGE premium outlet mall) in 23 minutes, Santa Monica (where there is a really fun pier with rides and food, etc.) in one hour and Solvang (which is a very cool Danish tourist town) in one and a half hours. We thought Oxnard was ideally located for fun day trips with the kids.

Santa Monica Pier - View From the Top of the Ferris Wheel

Santa Monica Pier – View From the Top of the Ferris Wheel

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

For those flying in to California, this hotel was about one and a half hours away from LAX. Do not be afraid to rent a car as the shuttle buses for the major rental companies are accessible and they will pick you up at the terminal and take you to the rental company. Most all major car rental companies will install hand controls in a rental car for you for free. (Little tip we learned – don’t pay for anything fancy as chances are good that no matter what you rent, you will end up with a Chevy Impala (or similar) and they will not refund you the difference. Apparently most companies can only install the hand controls in mid-sized cars.)

THE BAD

I really had to think about something bad to say about this hotel. All I could come up with was that the food was not amazing and it would not be somewhere I would recommend to someone travelling without kids. We were there during spring break, mind you, but this is not a peaceful adults-only type hotel. It is definitely geared towards hosting families.

THE UGLY

The only thing that was ugly in my view was the bird poop on our deck. We were on the top floor and there were wooden slats above our deck that the birds sat on. Every morning, the deck, the deck chairs and the deck table were covered in fresh bird droppings, which made the deck unusable.

Our Deck

Our Deck

Bird Droppings on Our Deck

Bird Droppings on Our Deck

OVERALL

Overall, we thought this hotel was great and that Oxnard in general was a total hidden gem for those in wheelchairs and for families. We tend not to go to the same place more than once but we both agreed that we would definitely return here in the future. We left feeling like there was still a lot more to see.

Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel – Calgary, Alberta

This hotel is located in the downtown core at 110 9th Avenue SE. I stayed at this hotel many times as a child when it was operated under a different chain and I had fond memories of it, so we decided to stay here with our kids in September of 2015. The hotel recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation in the spring of 2015 so I thought now would be a good time to check it out.

THE GOOD

The location of this hotel was great – right across the street from the Calgary Tower and accessible to the Calgary Convention Centre and the Glenbow Museum. There were shops and restaurants nearby and you could easily walk to the LRT from this hotel.

The staff at the hotel, for the most part, was very pleasant and friendly.

The nightly rate at this hotel was very reasonable. We paid $130 for one night while many of the surrounding hotels go for about $200 a night.

There were blackout blinds in the room that were operated by pushing a button on the wall. Needless to say, the kids had fun pushing those buttons and watching the blinds go up and down.

View of the Room and the Blinds

View of the Room and the Blinds

When you swiped your card to get into the room, the door opened on its own. This is really nice for wheelchair users as you don’t have to try to manoeuver on the carpet to open the door. There was also a button on the inside that you could push to open the door when you leave the room – very convenient.

Button on Inside of Door

Button on Inside of Door

Visually, the decor of the hotel and the look of the rooms was appealing. The layout of the bathroom inside the room was good and there was a true wheel-under sink, a wheel-in shower with built-in bench and a toilet with one grab bar.

Wheel-Under Sink With Good Clearance

Wheel-Under Sink With Good Clearance

Toilet With Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Room Had a TV, Mini-Fridge, Iron, Ironing Board and In-Room Safe

Room Had a TV, Mini-Fridge, Iron, Ironing Board and In-Room Safe

View From Our Room - 3rd Floor

View From Our Room – 3rd Floor

The hotel had a fitness room on the third floor that could be accessed by someone in a wheelchair (this was at the bottom of the steps that led up to the pool). There was an accessible bathroom outside of the fitness area.

Fitness Room - 3rd Floor

Fitness Room – 3rd Floor

Free Weights - No other Accessible Equipment

Free Weights – No other Accessible Equipment

Bathroom Located Outside of Fitness Area

Bathroom Located Outside of Fitness Area

THE BAD

Ok… get ready…

The accessible hotel room we stayed in on the third floor smelled like sewage. As soon as we walked in, the smell hit us like a ton of bricks. It seemed to emanate from the drain in the bathroom but, regardless of where it came from, it smelled disgusting and it was really difficult to ignore.

We requested two cribs when we booked this room and they told us it would be no problem. When we checked in, they told us they had no record of the request on the reservation and that they likely didn’t have any cribs available, let alone two of them. I told them that they would need to let me know because if they didn’t have cribs, we would have to stay elsewhere. The person checking us in assured me that they would find some cribs for us and bring them up to the room. By the time we got back to our room after dinner, there were still no cribs. We called down to the front desk and they again told us that they had no cribs. We told them they would need to find some or re-locate us to a different hotel and they again assured us that they would find some. At about 10:30 pm, waaaaaay past the kids’ bedtime, they brought two playpens from a hotel across the street (Hotel Le Germaine) and it took me and the staff member who brought them about 30 minutes to assemble them (the rails weren’t locking properly).

We checked out on a Sunday morning and the standard hotel check-out time was at noon. Starting at about 9 o’clock, housekeeping began knocking on our door asking what time we would be leaving. They knocked a total of 3 times between 9 and 10:30 asking when we would be gone before I finally told them that we would be there until we left and asked them to stop knocking on our door. Luckily we were already awake but I would have been really angry if that had been my one chance to sleep in. 

There is no self-parking at this hotel. You can drive around and find a public parking lot or pay for the valet parking that is available at the hotel.

THE UGLY

And… it gets worse…

When I went to shower in our room, I noticed something all over the walls of the shower. I got in to take a closer look and – yep – it was hair! Long pieces of black hair left behind by the last hotel guest. If the housekeeping staff didn’t even see this it definitely makes you wonder what else in the room was not cleaned…

Not My Hair! Yuck!

Not My Hair! Yuck!

The pool and fitness centre were located on the third floor. The pool was up a flight of stairs but there was a lift for wheelchair users for access to the pool area. We called the front desk from our room and they sent someone up to operate the lift.

Lift to Access Pool Area

Lift to Access Pool Area

When we got up to the pool area, I have to say, I was shocked by the condition of the pool. The entire swimming pool was covered with a slimy pool liner and there was about a 2-inch strip of grime along the waterline all the way around the pool.

View of the Pool

View of the Pool

Here's a Closer Look - Note the Grime Along the Waterline

Here’s a Closer Look – Note the Grime Along the Waterline

The steps into the pool had obvious signs of mould on them.

These Are the Steps Leading into the Pool. Gross.

These Are the Steps Leading into the Pool. Gross.

The kids wanted to go in, so I took them for a quick dip and I kept getting big chunks of hair stuck on my hands – disgusting!! I honestly felt like I was jeopardizing my health by being in that pool. The hot tub was better than the pool but it was difficult to enjoy the entire area given its state of repair.

Hot Tub

Hot Tub

The front desk staff told us to call the emergency phone when we were ready to go back to our room and they would send someone up to operate the lift for us but – SURPRISE – the emergency phone at the pool area did not work. I had to walk down to the fitness centre to find a working telephone. If I hadn’t been there, my husband would have been pretty much screwed.

Trip Down the Stairs

Trip Down the Stairs

As soon as we got to the hotel I started coughing, my nose was running and I was sneezing like crazy. I figured all of the travelling had finally caught up to me and that I was getting sick. Interestingly though, as soon as we left the hotel, I was completely fine – no sneezing, no runny nose, no coughing… Something at this hotel had a major effect on my allergies, which rarely flare up anymore. You could smell a lot of things in the air here between the sewer smell and some type of chemical smell which seemed to be coming out of the carpets. I have never stayed anywhere before where this was an issue but it is clearly an issue here. Anyone with allergies should beware!

OVERALL

I can sum up this hotel in one word – RUN!!! Multi-million dollar renovation or not, this still needs a ton of work and, in my opinion, it is not worth risking your health to stay here. 

Days Inn & Suites – Strathmore, Alberta

We have stayed at this hotel multiple times over the years and have found it to be a clean, comfortable and convenient choice. It is located at 400 Ranch Market on the southern side of Strathmore, just off of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). The hotel is right next to Walmart and a host of other shops and restaurants. Our latest stay at this hotel was in August of 2015.

THE GOOD

The wheelchair accessible rooms we have stayed in have always been located on the ground floor. They come with a king-sized bed, wheel-in shower with a portable shower bench, wheel-under sink (kind of) and a toilet with grab bars. The rooms also have a mini-fridge, microwave, iron and ironing board, tv, desk and a chair for lounging in.

King-Sized Bed

King-Sized Bed

Toilet With Grab Bars

Toilet With Grab Bars

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Desk

Desk and Corner of Hotel-Supplied Crib

The room rate comes with an extensive free breakfast which includes hot breakfast options (eggs, bacon, etc.) as well as cereal, toast, muffins, fruit, yogurt, etc.

The hotel has a great pool and hot tub. There is also a waterslide in the pool area that is perfect for kids (young and old). The slide isn’t too fast, so even the little kids enjoy it. There is a large, shallow platform in one end of the pool for the really little ones to sit and splash around in.

There is ample parking at this hotel, with accessible parking spots located right beside the door.

THE BAD

The wheel-under sink in the accessible room is almost wheel-under. They had the right idea, but the bottom part of the sink is just a touch too low for my husband’s legs to get under. It might be okay for you if your chair is lower than his.

Clearance Under the Wheel-Under Sink

Low Clearance Under the Wheel-Under Sink

We have never had an issue requesting two cribs and getting them at this hotel, but the cribs they have are very small and they are hard metal. This is good for sanitary reasons (assuming they are wiped clean after each use) but they are not very comfortable for sleeping.

THE UGLY

I haven’t noticed anything ugly about this hotel.

OVERALL

Every time we have stayed here, we have found the staff to be pleasant and accommodating. The rooms are clean and relatively comfortable and the location is easy to access off of the highway. The price for one night is reasonable in the $130-$140 range. Considering that the room rate includes a great free breakfast and the hotel has a nice pool with hot tub and waterslide, this remains one of the best places to stay in Strathmore.

Banff Aspen Lodge – Banff, Alberta

We stayed at this hotel in the summer of 2015 for one night. After researching a number of Banff hotels and asking questions about accessibility, this one seemed to be the most cost-effective option with the basic accessibility features that we needed for a one-night stay.

THE GOOD

The location of this hotel is excellent. It is right on Banff Avenue, which is the main street that most of the shops and restaurants are located on. It is about one block away from the beginning of the main shopping district. It is also one block away from a Safeway store, which is really convenient if you need to grab some food or, in our case, some children’s Tylenol.

Our room was located on the main floor, just off of the hot tub area.

Main Floor Wheelchair Accessible Room, Room 111

Main Floor Wheelchair Accessible Room, Room 111

Our room was simple but clean. One of the nice things about the room was that there were two queen beds on different sides of the room, with the bathroom in the middle. It made the room seem very large and almost created two separate bedrooms. On the side with the patio door to the outside, there was ample room for two pack-and-play-style cribs, which the hotel supplied. Without the cribs in the room, there would be lots of space on this side for a wheelchair to move around.

Queen-Sized Bed on One Half of Room, Ample Room for Two Cribs

Queen-Sized Bed on One Half of Room, Ample Room for Two Cribs

TV, Mini-Fridge, Dresser, Coffee Maker on One Half of Room

TV, Mini-Fridge, Dresser, Coffee Maker on One Half of Room

Queen Bed on Other Side of Room, Faces Another TV and Another Dresser

Queen Bed on Other Side of Room, Faces Another TV and Another Dresser

There was a grab bar by the toilet in the bathroom and the sink was wheel-under. Our room did not have a wheel-in shower. We were okay with the bathtub for the one night so I did not inquire as to whether they had a shower bench or whether other rooms had wheel-in showers.

Bathroom in Between Two Bedroom Areas

Bathroom in Between Two Bedroom Areas

Bathtub with Grab Bar

Bathtub with Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Wheel-Under Sink Located Outside of the Bathroom, Mirror and Hair Dryer

Wheel-Under Sink Located Outside of the Bathroom, Mirror and Hair Dryer

The hotel did not have a pool but it did have two hot tubs, which were located in the central courtyard area of the hotel. The hot tub area was open to the sky, so there was quite a nice atmosphere in there. The hot tubs were very warm, but not so uncomfortable that the kids wouldn’t go in. One of the hot tubs faced a nice, outdoor fireplace. There was also a steam room and sauna located right beside the doors leading in to the hot tub area.

First Hot Tub Located in Outdoor Courtyard

First Hot Tub Located in Outdoor Courtyard

Second Hot Tub Facing Outdoor Fireplace

Second Hot Tub Facing Outdoor Fireplace

One of the big advantages of this hotel was that the room rate came with a free breakfast. It wasn’t just a continental breakfast either! They had eggs, toast, bacon, cereal, muffins, yogurt, home-made granola, etc. The breakfast was served downstairs but there was an elevator on the main floor for access to the breakfast room.

Hallway Facing Lobby, Elevator on the Right to Go Downstairs to the Breakfast Room

Hallway Facing Lobby, Elevator on the Right to Go Downstairs to the Breakfast Room

Parking was included with our room rate as well and there was a small underground parking area and ample parking in the back (covered). We had no trouble finding an accessible stall and we had a very short walk to get inside from the outdoor parking area.

This hotel is not at all the same calibre as the Banff Springs or the Rimrock, but it was also much cheaper than those alternatives. On the weekend we stayed, the Rimrock quoted us $358 a night (with AMA) plus $18 for parking and no free breakfast. The Banff Aspen Lodge cost us $269 a night with free parking and a free breakfast.

THE BAD

The bathroom in our room was a little bit small. My husband did okay transferring on and off the toilet but he could definitely have used more room. We didn’t need a shower for the one night but I am always surprised when an “accessible” room has no wheel-in shower.

The steam room and sauna would not be accessible by wheelchair as the doors to those rooms were too narrow.

Doors to Sauna and Steam Room are too Narrow for a Wheelchair

Doors to Sauna and Steam Room are too Narrow for a Wheelchair

The outdoor patio would not have been accessible by wheelchair as there was a large lip that a wheelchair would not have been able to manoeuver over.

The Patio Doors Open to the Street, There are Some Plants and Landscaping Separating the Patio Area and the Public Sidewalk

The Patio Doors Open to the Street, There are Some Plants and Landscaping Separating the Patio Area and the Public Sidewalk

The breakfast room downstairs was accessible by using the elevator but the food was located down a couple of stairs. They had four tables on the main level where someone in a wheelchair could sit to eat. We sat on this level but I had to run up and down the stairs to get food for our table.

By far the worst thing for us was that we stayed at this hotel during a heat wave (30 plus degrees outside) and upon entering our room, we came to realize that the hotel did not have air conditioning! We wanted to sleep with the patio door open so badly but because we were on the ground floor facing the street, we thought this might not be a great idea.

Extra Fans Were Provided in the Closet, Along with In-Room Safe, Iron, Ironing Board and Hangars

Extra Fans Were Provided in the Closet, Along with In-Room Safe, Iron, Ironing Board and Hangars

THE UGLY

The only ugly thing about this hotel experience was that our room was so unbelievably hot. They supplied us with three fans, 1 of which worked and 2 of which were broken. We went to the front desk to ask if they could find us something else and they did locate a big fan for us (although it was dirty and looked to be about 20 years old).

OVERALL

Overall we were happy with this choice. The location couldn’t be beat and with the free parking and free breakfast, we felt it provided a good bang for our buck. If I had known in advance about the lack of air-conditioning, I might have requested an upper-level room with a patio door that I could leave open all night.

Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Red Deer South – Red Deer, Alberta

We stayed at this hotel for a family get-together in December of 2014. There are two Holiday Inns in Red Deer but this is the one located at 37471 Hwy 2 SouthRed Deer, AB. It is visible from Highway 2. We stayed here with a group of twelve people, so we got a good feeling for what the various rooms were like and for what different people’s experiences were.

THE GOOD

This is a newer hotel and, in my opinion, is currently the best place to stay in Red Deer. The hotel is easy to access right off of Highway 2, whether you are coming from Edmonton or Calgary. There was ample free parking and check-in was a breeze. We had no issue getting the two cribs that we needed for our kids. We also had no issue getting rooms on the same floor as the rest of our family so that we could be close by. 

Cribs Provided by Hotel

Cribs Provided by Hotel

I understand that there are two fully-accessible rooms at this hotel. The accessible room we stayed in (room 303) was absolutely massive! There was a king-sized bed, a huge chair and ottoman, a desk, a dresser, a flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge, a microwave, a Keurig coffee machine, an iron and ironing board and a large accessible bathroom. The room itself had a huge living area with lots of space for the kids to run around and play. 

Accessible Room - King-Sized Bed

Accessible Room – King-Sized Bed

Chair and Ottoman

Chair and Ottoman

Play Time!

Play Time!

In the bathroom, there were grab bars by the toilet, there was a wheel-under sink and there was a large wheel-in shower with grab bars and a portable shower bench. The floor in the bathroom was tiled and there was a drain in the middle of the floor in case you are like me and happen to soak the bathroom while showering. 

Toilet With Grab Bars

Toilet With Grab Bars

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-In Shower

Wheel-In Shower

Portable Shower Bench

Portable Shower Bench

There is a wide variety of non-accessible rooms at this hotel as well. I have stayed here before with my niece and nephew in a room with bunk beds for the kids. One couple in our group got upgraded to a room with a jacuzzi and fireplace, which was very nice. The room with two queen beds is standard and pretty much exactly what you would expect from a traditional hotel room. 

There was a large, warm pool at this hotel with a waterslide which was great for the kids and adults alike. There was a large hot tub as well with jets that could be turned on or off. The pool area was located on the main floor just off the lobby and it was accessible by wheelchair. There were stairs in the pool and the hot tub that a wheelchair user could bounce down on in order to ease into the water. 

There is a 24-hour gym at this hotel that can be accessed in a wheelchair. It is mostly equipment but there is room to do some free weights (available in the gym) or exercise bands if you travel with those. 

The restaurant at the hotel (same floor as the lobby area) was really amazing. It was called Boulevard Restaurant & Lounge and the food at lunch and dinner was very impressive. We learned when we were there that the chef at this restaurant has won awards for the food and it is not surprising when you see the presentation and experience the food for yourself. Prices range from about $10 to $17 per entrée. They have one area full of booths and another area of tables, so they can easily accommodate larger groups and they regularly served our party of 12 with no problems. 

Kids eat free at this restaurant if you are staying in the hotel. You have to ask for coupons from the front desk that you present to the wait staff in order to get the free meals. The kids’ menu consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers, pizza, burgers, mac and cheese or grilled chicken. Each meal came with a drink and a side of fruit, veggies or fries. For dinner the kids even got free ice cream. At breakfast, the kids were able to choose from yogurt and fruit, pancakes, eggs and bacon, or oatmeal and fruit. The portion sizes were quite substantial.

The hotel was very clean. There was not a single time I passed through the lobby that I did not see someone mopping. The pool maintenance staff checked and tested the hot tub every time we were in the pool and it appeared that the staff was really on top of the cleaning. 

THE BAD

In terms of accessibility, the only bad thing was that the sink in the wheelchair accessible room was too deep. There was no foam on the bottom of the sink to provide a protective barrier either, so you would have to be very careful when using hot water not to burn your legs. We did mention this to the hotel and they indicated they would look into placing foam on the bottom of the sink.

The waterslide in the pool was very fast. And by very fast, I mean probably one of the fastest hotel pool slides I have ever been on. Some people liked it and it was too fast for others.  

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about this hotel. 

OVERALL

This is a nice, new hotel located in a very convenient spot just off the highway. I highly recommend this for a stay in Red Deer, whether you are in a wheelchair or not and whether you are travelling alone, as a couple or as a family. 

Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre – Toronto, Ontario

This hotel is located on 30 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario (there are a couple of Holiday Inns downtown). I stayed here for 2 nights on business in 2014 but was able to view the wheelchair accessible room while I was there. 

THE GOOD

This affordable hotel is just off Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. While it is a bit further towards the north side of downtown, it is only a 10 minute walk to the Eaton’s Centre. It is less than a block away from the entrance to the subway, next door to a Loblaws grocery store and across the street from several small, independent restaurants. There was a restaurant in the lobby of the hotel for those interested in a sit down meal and there was also a Starbucks connected to the front of the hotel. 

I particularly appreciated the fact that there was a Subway restaurant across the street from this hotel and there was a big Winners store on the corner of Carleton and Yonge Street. 

There was a large ramp at the entrance of the hotel for wheelchair access. The doors into the hotel were automatic, the lobby was accessible and there were elevators for access to each floor. 

Ramp at Front Entrance

Ramp at Front Entrance

There was a pool at this hotel, but no hot tub. The pool was located on the 6th floor and it was accessible. The bathroom immediately outside of the pool area was also relatively accessible, with large showers, wheel-under sinks and a large changing area. The water in the pool was very warm.

Pool

Pool

Access to Pool

Access to Pool

Showers in Pool Change Room

Showers in Pool Change Room

Sinks in Pool Change Room

Sinks in Pool Change Room

There was a gym at the back of the pool area. The gym was accessed by walking up a few stairs. I did not see any wheelchair access to the gym, although I didn’t use the gym so I may have missed it. 

The wheelchair accessible rooms were very small but functional. They had a wheel-in shower, a wheel-under sink and grab bars by the toilet. There was a built-in shower bench in the shower. 

Queen-Sized Bed in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Queen-Sized Bed in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Wheel-Under Sink in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Wheel-Under Sink in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Toilet With Grab Bars

Toilet With Grab Bars

The rooms had a mini-fridge, a TV, a desk, a chair, a safe and an iron and ironing board.

Mini-Fridge and In-Room Safe

Mini-Fridge and In-Room Safe

The trip to and from the airport in a taxi cost about $65 each way and it took about 30 minutes. 

THE BAD

There was nothing luxurious about this hotel. It was basically a cheap place to sleep. The carpets were dirty and although the bathrooms appeared to be recently renovated, the rooms appeared run down. The decor was a hideous orange colour and could definitely use some major updating. There was no view to speak of. The window overlooked an alleyway. 

King-Sized Bed in Regular Room

King-Sized Bed in Regular Room

Desk and TV in Regular Room

Desk and TV in Regular Room

TV and Closet in Regular Room

TV and Closet in Regular Room

The bathroom in the regular (non-accessible) room I stayed in was extremely small and had no bathtub (only a shower). 

Sink and Toilet in Regular Room

Sink and Toilet in Regular Room

Shower and Toilet in Regular Room

Shower and Toilet in Regular Room

The location of this hotel isn’t great if you want to be in the heart of the action.  Although it is only 10-15 minutes away from the central part of downtown, this may be too far for some people.

Downtown Toronto - Across the Street From the Eaton's Centre

Central Downtown Toronto – Across the Street From the Eaton’s Centre (about a 10 minute walk away)

This hotel is also not in a location where you would want to be out walking around by yourself late at night. It is a bit too far from the main action and it is very dark on this street.

THE UGLY

The rooms in this hotel are really ugly. I felt like I didn’t want to touch things in the hotel room because everything looked so old and dirty. You typically get what you pay for and this hotel is no exception. 

OVERALL

While this isn’t an amazing hotel, I think it is a good alternative if you are looking for a cheap place to sleep in downtown Toronto. A nice hotel in downtown Toronto will cost you over $250 a night. This hotel cost me $150 a night. Considering it had easy access to food, good wheelchair accessibility and was close enough to the heart of downtown to walk/wheel there, I thought it was a decent choice for a short stay.  

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. 

Grand Bahia Principe Tulum – Akumal, Mexico

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.  

Follow Papa Wheelie on WordPress.com

Hilton Toronto – Toronto, Ontario

We stayed at the Hilton Toronto in May of 2012. We booked this hotel based on a phone conversation with the front desk and were pleasantly surprised with what we saw when we arrived. This hotel is right in the heart of the downtown core.

THE GOOD

The location of this hotel is really convenient. It is easy to drive to when you come in to downtown from the Gardiner Expressway. There is valet parking at the hotel, which makes it easy to check in and not have to worry about parking. This hotel is within walking distance of the Eaton’s Centre (to the North) and The Beach (to the South). The CN Tower was visible from the window of our hotel room and we could have walked over there if we had wanted to explore it.

View Out Window in Room

View Out Window in Room

View From Window At Night

View From Window At Night

The wheelchair accessible room we stayed in was huge and there was lots of room to move around. There was a low, king-sized bed, a flat-screen TV, a fridge, a desk area and a large bathroom. The door into the bathroom was wide and there was lots of room to move around in the bathroom. They had a raised toilet seat with two grab bars and a huge wheel-in shower. There was no built-in shower bench in the shower but they had a portable shower bench available upon request.

Very Large Room

Very Large Room

Toilet With Two Grab Bars

Toilet With Two Grab Bars

Great Wheel-In Shower

Large Wheel-In Shower

We had no issues with getting in to the hotel or getting around in it. We had a lot of fun exploring downtown Toronto and got to see some pretty cool sights. Before we went there, I didn’t even realize that there was a beach in Toronto but we went there and felt the sand in person!

The Beach

The Beach

There are some really cool sights along the shoreline in downtown Toronto. This is definitely an area to explore if you have time.

This Was Fun in the Wheelchair!

This Was Fun in the Wheelchair!

THE BAD

Unfortunately I didn’t snap a picture of the sink in the bathroom, but in our room it was not wheel under. It is always surprising to me when a hotel puts in the effort to install a wheel-in shower and an accessible toilet and then they neglect the sink, but this is one of those hotels. Hopefully they will be renovating these sinks soon and ensuring that they are adequate for a wheelchair user.

The pool was an indoor-outdoor pool and the area looked very run down. The inside area was dark and dungeon-like and the outside area was cold and uninviting. It was in the process of being renovated when we were there, so hopefully they have since made some significant improvements.

Indoor/Outdoor Pool

Indoor/Outdoor Pool

THE UGLY

The pool area at this hotel was ugly, I must say. We went down there and, because of the way it looked, my husband refused to go in the pool. I went in but only swam for about 5 minutes. There was no hot tub and the area wasn’t what anyone would consider relaxing.

OVERALL

Overall, this is a convenient, economical option in a great location in the heart of downtown Toronto. The accessible rooms aren’t perfect but they will probably meet your needs for a short stay.

Hotel Le Germain Calgary – Calgary, Alberta

We stayed at this hotel in December of 2011 for my sister’s wedding. It was a beautiful hotel with a very unique style. The wheelchair accessible room was large and well-equipped for anyone with mobility issues.

THE GOOD

The decor at Hotel Le Germain Calgary is very modern and you can tell that they have put a tremendous amount of thought into the design. The room felt more like a trendy apartment than a hotel room.

Our wheelchair accessible room came with two queen beds, a desk area, a flat-screen TV, and a huge closet area. I’m not sure why I thought this in the dead of winter, but I recall being tremendously excited that the windows actually opened. 

Two Queen Beds, Desk Area and Flat Screen TV

Two Queen Beds, Desk Area and Flat Screen TV

The bathroom in our room was huge and had a toilet with grab bars, wheel-under sink and wheel-in shower. The fixed shower head was a cool rain-shower type shower head but a wheelchair user would likely need to use the handheld shower head closer to the controls. 

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower

The suspended toilet seat was a bit different but had grab bars both behind and beside the toilet seat. If you travel with a padded toilet seat, I’m not sure that it will fit on this design, but you could rent a commode from one of the many healthcare stores in Calgary, if necessary (most will drop off and pick up any rented equipment at your hotel if you ask them).

Toilet with Grab Bars

Toilet with Grab Bars

At the entry of the hotel room, there is a huge walk-in closet area. The rods are lower and within easy reach for someone in a wheelchair. Given that we were here for a wedding, it was really nice to have a lot of room for hanging up our dressy clothes and a lot of space to get ready in. 

Closet Area - Lowered Closet Rods for Easy Access

Closet Area – Lowered Closet Rods for Easy Access

The lounge area near the lobby of the hotel, Central 899, has a very cool atmosphere. They have beautiful, modern lighting and comfortable chairs and it stays pretty busy there for a hotel lounge.

The hotel is right in the heart of downtown Calgary. It is within walking distance of the Calgary Tower, the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts, the Glenbow Museum, the TELUS Convention Centre, and Stephen Avenue. You will have no trouble locating nearby accessible shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars. 

THE BAD

One unfortunate detail about this hotel is that the lounge area on the main floor, Central 899, is down about four steps and there is no wheelchair access to this area. You will have to ask for assistance to bounce down into this space if you want to have a drink here or hang out with friends. 

The parking situation in downtown Calgary is always bad, but at this hotel there is no good place to stop to unload your vehicle. You really have no choice but to use the valet parking service as otherwise you are stuck trying to unload on the side of a very busy street. 

THE UGLY

There is definitely nothing ugly about this chic hotel. 

OVERALL

This is a beautiful hotel right in the heart of downtown Calgary. They have clearly spared no expense on the design of the hotel. The rooms are well-equipped and stylish in the sense that the accessibility features blend seamlessly with the overall design. The hotel itself would be perfect in terms of accessibility if the lounge area on the main floor was also wheelchair accessible. 

Follow Papa Wheelie on WordPress.com