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

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

THE GOOD

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

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

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

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

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Beautiful Boardwalk

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Nature Reserve

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

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

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Playground in Kelowna City Park

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Sandy Beaches Alongside Kelowna City Park

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about The Grand. 

OVERALL

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

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

Holiday Inn & Suites – Osoyoos, British Columbia

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

THE GOOD

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

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

Bedroom

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

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

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

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

Our nightly rate included free, underground parking. 

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL 

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

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

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

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Marriott’s BeachPlace Towers

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

THE GOOD

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

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Jacuzzi Tub

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

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

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

THE UGLY

There was nothing ugly about this hotel. 

OVERALL

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

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

Regal Princess, Princess Cruise Line

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

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

THE GOOD

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

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Two Twin Beds

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View of Room Facing Balcony

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TV, Desk and Storage Closet

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

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Large Storage Closet

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

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

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

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Atrium in the Middle of the Ship

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

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Lift To Get to Exercise Track Level

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Mini-Golf Course on Very Top Level

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Stair Lift to Get Up to Mini-Golf Level

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

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Seawalk

ITINERARIES

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

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Princess Cays

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

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

 

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.

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.  

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Excellence Riviera Cancun – Puerto Morelos, Mexico

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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Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa – Maui, Hawaii

This resort is perfect for those looking for a relaxing, wheelchair accessible holiday on Ka’anapali Beach in Maui. This resort has everything a wheelchair user could ask for! 

THE GOOD

The grounds at this resort are completely wheelchair accessible, with nice, concrete paths throughout the resort for wheeling on.  

Wheelchair Accessible Grounds

Wheelchair Accessible Grounds

There are two pools at this resort and the bigger pool is equipped with a wheelchair lift that works great! It is really easy to work the lift – even without any assistance. You just transfer on and rotate the lever and it slowly lowers you around into the pool. Getting back out is done the same way in reverse. It has a very smooth motion and is in a slightly secluded location, so you don’t feel like everyone at the pool is staring at you while you transfer on and off.

Pool Lift

Pool Lift

The pool has a bunch of giant bean bags that you can sit on and float around on. There is a lazy river design to the pool  and we found it very relaxing floating around on the big bean bags soaking up the sun. It is also really convenient that the bathroom by the pool with the lift is wheelchair accessible.

Accessible Bathroom by the Pool

Accessible Bathroom by the Pool

This resort has a beach wheelchair on-site and the staff is more than happy to help you get in and out of it and across the sand to the water. They enthusiastically pushed my husband to the water’s edge and came back to get him when the tide got a bit high for his liking! 

Beach Chair at the Sheraton

Beach Chair at the Sheraton

The Sheraton is located on the beautiful Black Rock, which is known for its world-class snorkelling. We didn’t try any water sports, but the staff at the hotel was keen to take my husband out snorkelling if he wanted to go. I really regret not doing this as it is supposed to be amazing.

There is a nightly cliff diving ceremony on Black Rock that is quite something to watch. When you are staying at the Sheraton, you can view the entire thing from the  comfort of your lounge chair by the pool (which is where this picture was taken from).

Beautiful Black Rock in the Distance

Beautiful Black Rock in the Distance

The gym is wheelchair accessible, the tennis courts are accessible and although we didn’t use the spa, we did walk into it to take a look around and it appeared to be wheelchair accessible.

Accessible Tennis Courts

Accessible Tennis Courts

The room we stayed in was completely wheelchair accessible with two balconies looking out onto the courtyard/pool/ocean. Our room was classified as a “partial ocean view” which had a lovely view of the ocean.

Partial Ocean View

Partial Ocean View

The room was very spacious with lots of room to move around. The bed was comfortable and there was a large flat-screen TV and mini-fridge.

Interior of Room Facing Out One of the Balconies

Interior of Room Facing Out One of the Balconies

Interior of the Room Showing Both Balconies

Interior of the Room Showing Both Balconies

The bathroom was equipped with a wheel-under sink and a wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower in Bathroom

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower in Bathroom

There were also grab bars behind and beside the toilet.

Toilet with Grab Bars

Toilet with Grab Bars

The Sheraton is located at the end of the Ka’anapali Beach strip and it seemed to have a quieter, older crowd. There is a cement path that goes all the way down Ka’anapali Beach and we walked it/wheeled it several times. There are lots of great restaurants worth trying along the way. 

View Down Ka'anapali Beach from the Top Floor of the Sheraton

View Down Ka’anapali Beach from the Top Floor of the Sheraton

Whalers Village is a short walk down the beach and it is also completely wheelchair accessible. Whalers Village has shops, a small food court and an interesting whaling museum that is worth checking out. 

We took a helicopter tour of the island of Maui while we were there. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters has a wheelchair lift that will allow you to get in and out of the helicopter with ease. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the beautiful island of Maui from the sky.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Lift - Very Easy

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Lift – Very Easy

Amazing Sights from the Helicopter

Amazing Sights from the Helicopter

Amazing Views from the Helicopter

Amazing Views from the Helicopter

If you are considering going to Front Street, GO! There’s so much to see and you will have no trouble getting around in a wheelchair. We had a fantastic time walking/wheeling around this area, visiting the art galleries and the shops. The largest Banyan Tree in the United States is located at the end of Front Street and it is definitely worth seeing. You may have some trouble finding a wheelchair accessible washroom on Front Street, but ask around. We finally found one in the old courthouse behind the Banyan Tree.  

The Banyan Tree

The Banyan Tree

Travel Tip – Prior to travelling, we arranged for a rental car to be available for us at the airport in Maui and when we inquired about hand controls, they told us they would install them in it for free. Even though my husband only drove once while we were there, it was worth it to have them installed so that we would have the option.

THE BAD

The main downside to this resort was that the wireless internet coverage was spotty, but I understand they were installing wireless in every room the week after we left. I sure hope they did as I spent a few nights reaching over the balcony trying to get a better connection.

The restaurant at the hotel, Black Rock Steak & Seafood, is quite pricey (although most restaurants in Maui are), so we drove to Safeway for groceries and filled the fridge in our room with food for the week.

THE UGLY

There is really nothing ugly about Maui…

OVERALL

If you’re in a wheelchair and you are considering Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, you really can’t go wrong with the Sheraton. It is pretty tough to find a place with a pool lift and a beach chair and this place has both and staff that is nice enough to help you with whatever you need. This resort is quite peaceful (maybe due to its location) and it is not overrun with kids like some of the other hotels on this strip. While we were there, we toured all of the hotels on the Ka’anapali Beach strip and we both felt that if we had it to do over again, we would stay at the Sheraton. It is a large, beautiful resort with a great beach and it is absolutely perfect for wheelchair accessibility.

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