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. 

 

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. 

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

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

Swim-Up Rooms At Night

Swim-Up Rooms At Night

THE GOOD

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

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Swim-Up Room

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Swim-Up Room

Wheelchair Accessible Threshold from Inside to Outside

Wheelchair Accessible Threshold from Inside to Outside

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

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

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

Steps from our Patio into Swim-Up Pool

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

Very Peaceful Pool Outside of Swim-Up Rooms

Very Peaceful Pool Outside of Swim-Up Rooms

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

Beautiful Jetted Tub

Beautiful Jetted Tub

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

Accessible Toilet With Grab Bars

Accessible Toilet With Grab Bars

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

Breakfast on the Patio

Breakfast on the Patio

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

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Room

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Room

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

View From Our Beach Chairs

View From Our Beach Chairs

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

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

Private Island

Private Island

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

Not Quite a Wheel-Under Sink

Not Quite a Wheel-Under Sink

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

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

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

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

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

Platform They Built so Wheelchair User Could Get Into the Bed

Platform They Built so Wheelchair User Could Get Into the Bed

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

 

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