Days Inn & Suites – Strathmore, Alberta

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

THE GOOD

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

King-Sized Bed

King-Sized Bed

Toilet With Grab Bars

Toilet With Grab Bars

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower with Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Desk

Desk and Corner of Hotel-Supplied Crib

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

Clearance Under the Wheel-Under Sink

Low Clearance Under the Wheel-Under Sink

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

THE UGLY

I haven’t noticed anything ugly about this hotel.

OVERALL

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

Banff Aspen Lodge – Banff, Alberta

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

THE GOOD

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

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

Main Floor Wheelchair Accessible Room, Room 111

Main Floor Wheelchair Accessible Room, Room 111

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bathroom in Between Two Bedroom Areas

Bathroom in Between Two Bedroom Areas

Bathtub with Grab Bar

Bathtub with Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

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

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

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

First Hot Tub Located in Outdoor Courtyard

First Hot Tub Located in Outdoor Courtyard

Second Hot Tub Facing Outdoor Fireplace

Second Hot Tub Facing Outdoor Fireplace

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

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

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

Airline Travel Tips

Sometimes my husband and I get asked “What is it like to travel when you are in a wheelchair?” or “What is it like to travel with someone in a wheelchair?” While in some ways, it can be a challenge, it probably isn’t as bad as you might think once you get your routine down. We have learned a lot from experience and these are my top tips for making your journey a smooth one!

My husband often comments that the biggest thing he misses about not being in the chair is the ability to be spontaneous – to throw some clothes in a suitcase and head off on a road trip or on a last-minute vacation. When you have a disability, spontaneity kind of has to go out the window; hence my Travel Tip #1: Plan Ahead. You really need to have a packing list that includes all of your important personal items, medical supplies and medications. Make sure that you have more than enough supplies for the entire trip as you never know what might happen while you are away (maybe your flight home will get delayed, maybe you’ll develop an infection and need more supplies, etc.). Refer to your packing list every single time you go away to make sure you haven’t missed anything important.

My Travel Tip #2 is: Bring Tools. Most people don’t have to worry about their ability to walk becoming compromised, but when you travel on wheels it is a real possibility that something could happen to your chair that would render you immobile. This isn’t as much of a big deal if you are travelling near a city that has a bike shop you can access for repairs. However, being stuck on a cruise ship or at a resort in the middle of nowhere without a functioning wheelchair would be disastrous. Consider bringing an allen key for tightening loose screws, a patch kit for your wheels in case you pop a tire, an emergency CO2 canister (make sure you pack this in your checked luggage) and the pump for your seat cushion if you use an air-inflated seat cushion. It is always a good idea to take your chair in for a tune-up before your trip to make sure your tires are fully inflated and everything is greased up and working properly.

My Travel Tip #3 is: Let the Airline Know in Advance If You Require Assistance. If you book your airline ticket on-line, you do need to call the airline ahead of time and let them know what type of assistance you require. If you cannot walk, you will need to let the airline know that a “washington” or aisle chair needs to be waiting for you at the gate so that they can help you make your way to your seat.

Travel Tip #4: Consider the Location of Your Seat. If you have the ability to select your seat, consider the location of your seat and try to choose something that will best suit your needs. There is one “accessible” bathroom on the plane and it is at the very back of the plane. If you have the ability to walk or take a few steps and you think it will make your life easier if you are closer to the bathroom, you should look at getting a seat towards the back of the plane. (As a side note, I am not sure what makes this bathroom accessible. It is still tiny, has no grab bars and I have no idea how you would be able to use it if you didn’t have the ability to walk. The airline staff will, apparently, help you to the door of the bathroom even if it requires the use of an aisle chair, but they will not help you get into the bathroom. If you can’t do that on your own, you need to travel with an attendant who can help you.) Even though sitting at the back might be easier for bathroom access, consider that being at the back of the plane will mean a long journey from the gate to your seat. If you have to be moved using an aisle chair, the farther back you go, the greater the likelihood that you will bang your legs on the other chairs as you go by and the longer it will take you to get on and off (making your way down the aisle in an aisle chair is a slow process). Preferably, ask for a seat in a row where the first arm rest goes up so that you can transfer straight on to a seat instead of having to be lifted over the arm rest. Also consider whether you want to be in the seat by the window or on the aisle. My husband prefers being by the window even though it is harder to get over to that seat initially. He feels like he has more privacy there and when people in the other seats need to get up, he doesn’t feel like he is in their way. Getting into and out of an aisle seat is definitely easier but if you can’t walk or stand up, consider that the people sitting on the other side of you are going to have to step over you every time they get up to go to the washroom. If they are relatively petite and limber, this isn’t an issue. However, there have been some really awkward moments where people were straddling my husband in an attempt to get out and go to the washroom (I’m sure you can picture it).

My Travel Tip #5 is: Arrive to the Airport Early. Okay – so we are not always very good at this one… but people in wheelchairs are expected to pre-board the plane along with parents with small children and other people requiring assistance. Make sure you ask when you check in what time pre-board is and get to your gate with lots of time to spare. Pre-board is usually 15 to 30 minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time for your flight. If you miss pre-board, you will be forced to board the plane dead last and – trust me when I say this – boarding the plane first is much, much better than boarding last. When you board last, there is very little room to manoeuvre, you bump into everyone as you make your way down the aisle, people who are already seated near you are asked to move so that the staff can help you and you become a public spectacle as you get carried into your seat. It’s not cool.

My Travel Tip #6 is: Prepare Yourself For the Pat-Down! If you cannot walk or get up from your wheelchair, the metal detectors in the security screening area will do you no good. When they see you entering the security area, they will identify that they need to do a pat-down search with you and they will usually ask someone of the same gender to conduct a pat-down of you and your chair. They will ask you whether you want to be searched in a private room. If you say no, you will be asked to wheel off to the side of the security area for the pat down which involves going through a routine that has varying degrees of thoroughness (depending on the security personnel conducting the search). They will often ask you to lean forward and lift your legs up so that they can pat down the surfaces of your body and your chair. They have asked my husband to remove his belt and the bags he has attached to his chair so that they can run those things through the scanner. They usually swab the chair itself to test it for substances. If you are unable to take off your shoes because they will be too difficult to get back on, they will swab your shoes as well. The pat down can take a while, so don’t be surprised if everyone else you are travelling with is waiting for you for a few minutes after they have cleared security.

Travel Tip #7 is: Protect Your Chair. If you are travelling with your own wheelchair, make sure that it gets handled properly and make sure it comes with you on your flight! When you check in, you will need to ask for a gate tag for your wheelchair so that you can check it right at the gate and it will get stowed under the plane along with the strollers. When the plane lands, the idea is that they will bring it right back up to the gate and it will be waiting for you when you get off the plane. The ground crew often does not know how important your wheelchair is to you and the success of your trip and we have seen many wheelchairs get tossed around. Do not be afraid to tell them if it does or does not fold and if the wheels do or do not come off. Our usual instructions are: “It does NOT fold and the wheels do NOT come off!” The wheels actually do come off but every time in the past that they were taken off for the flight, it resulted in bent rims and a very expensive trip to the repair shop. Also don’t be afraid to tell them to take good care of your “legs.” My husband sometimes says this in a joking way but he is seriously trying to get them to realize that without his chair he has no way of getting around.

Travel Tip #8 is: No Short Layovers. We have booked flights with short layovers many times thinking that we could sprint from one gate to the next. Unfortunately we have been burned by this thought process more times than I care to admit. For starters, you need to consider that wheelchair users are the first to board the plane and the last to get off. You have to wait to get off your first flight until everyone else is off, and then you have to wait until the aisle chair shows up (if you need one), and then you have to wait until they have enough staff around to help you transfer on and off the aisle chair, and then you have to wait until your wheelchair is brought up to the gate, and then you have to find your way to the next gate using only the elevator routes and not the stairs, etc. It can easily take 30 minutes just to get off of the plane when you are in a wheelchair. Considering you need to be first on to your next flight, you don’t stand a chance of making any connection leaving within an hour and 30 minutes after your first flight lands. If your first flight is delayed at all, you will need even more time! Having learned this mistake the hard way, I will no longer book any connecting flights that have less than a 2 hour layover. If we need to clear customs during the layover, I will never book a flight with less than a 3 hour layover as you have to go and get your bags before you go through customs and this requires extra time.

Travel Tip #9 is: Avoid Really Long Flights. Long flights are a drag for everyone but when you are stuck in your seat for the entire duration of the flight and can’t get up to use the washroom, long flights are a whole different ball game. After trying a few flights, you will learn what your tolerance is and what the perfect flight duration is for you. We find that we can pretty easily cope with a 3-4 hour flight but anything more than that is really starting to push comfort levels. My husband, like a lot of people in wheelchairs, avoids drinking liquids prior to flying and during the flight to avoid having to use the washroom and this can lead to headaches and dehydration by the time you land. If we have to make a longer flight, we always try to break it up into 2 flights or 2 days, if possible. This gives the bum a break and reduces the likelihood of pressure sores.

My Travel Tip #10 is: Put Your Medications and Critical Supplies in Your Carry-On. We have been relatively fortunate in that our luggage usually always arrives where we do, but it has been lost twice before. The first time we were smart and had packed all of the essentials in our carry-on. The second time, we were not so smart and my husband ended up having to stop off at a local hospital to pick up a bunch of supplies to get him through the first few days of the trip. If you have liquids and gels that exceed the airline size restrictions but you use them for medical purposes, you can still take them with you in your carry-on. You do have to let them know that you have these items when you are going through security and they will need to test the substances before they clear you to take them on the plane. We have never had an issue with any of these things being confiscated.

Travel Tip #11 is: Arrange Your Transportation on the Other End Ahead of Time. If you are travelling within the U.S. or Canada, you will pretty much always be able to find an accessible cab at the airport without calling ahead first. If you are travelling outside of these two countries, however, you cannot assume that you will have easy access to transportation on the other end. It always pays to do some research on-line before you go and to pre-book something that you know will be accessible. It doesn’t hurt to send the transportation company an email the day before you leave to confirm the time that you get in and the time that they are expected to be at the airport. The good news is, if everything goes well from the airport to your hotel or resort, you can grab a card and re-book with the same company for your trip back to the airport.

Travel Tip #12 is: Pay For Someone to Help You With Your Luggage. We went through many years of struggling with our luggage because we were travelling on a student budget and it felt like such an extravagance to pay a porter to help with our luggage. I understand why we did that but, in all honesty, it was dumb. It only costs a few dollars to have a porter help with your bags and they are quick, efficient and they need the money. They will not only help you get from point A to point B but they can often direct you to the right meeting point and help load your luggage into your cab. Now that we have kids, we have no choice but to pay for help with our bags but even if you aren’t travelling with kids you should absolutely plan to use this service and have some cash handy for the porters when you get off the plane. 

And Lastly, my Travel Tip # 13 is Ask For What You Need. This really applies to all things in life, but flying can be a particularly frustrating experience when the staff that is there to help you doesn’t know what to do. We have found that the training for how to assist people with disabilities really varies by airline. Sometimes you get lucky and find people who listen and who generally know how to be helpful. Other times you will get people who have absolutely no idea how to help you, who think they know how to help you and just start moving you around, or who are scared to help you because they don’t want to make a mistake or make you uncomfortable. You need to be prepared to tell people exactly what you need help with and exactly what they need to do. If you need them to hold your chair steady so you can transfer onto the aisle chair, you will have to tell them this. If they don’t do it automatically, you will have to tell them to strap you and your legs in to the aisle chair so that you don’t fall off of it or bang your legs on all of the chairs in the plane as you go down the aisle to your seat. If you need help transferring onto your seat in the aircraft, make sure you know how to do a proper two person chair lift and make sure you tell the people helping you how to do it properly. Allowing someone to lift you under the arm pits (which is what they will usually try to do) can damage nerves and leave bruises and get your trip off to a terrible start.  If you’re not used to advocating for yourself, giving people this type of direction might feel uncomfortable. Just keep in mind that most people genuinely want to be helpful but they don’t know what to do unless you tell them.

For a good video of the two person chair lift, check out: http://www.proergonomics.com/en/training. (Once you get to that page, click on “Proper Moving and Lifting People Techniques” and then click on the video for “Two Person Chair Lift”.)

These are my top tips. Please let me know if you have any tips or things that have helped to make your travelling experiences easier. I would love to hear from you!      

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

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

THE GOOD

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

Cribs Provided by Hotel

Cribs Provided by Hotel

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

Accessible Room - King-Sized Bed

Accessible Room – King-Sized Bed

Chair and Ottoman

Chair and Ottoman

Play Time!

Play Time!

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

Toilet With Grab Bars

Toilet With Grab Bars

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-In Shower

Wheel-In Shower

Portable Shower Bench

Portable Shower Bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about this hotel. 

OVERALL

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

Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre – Toronto, Ontario

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

THE GOOD

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

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

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

Ramp at Front Entrance

Ramp at Front Entrance

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

Pool

Pool

Access to Pool

Access to Pool

Showers in Pool Change Room

Showers in Pool Change Room

Sinks in Pool Change Room

Sinks in Pool Change Room

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

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

Queen-Sized Bed in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Queen-Sized Bed in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Wheel-Under Sink in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Wheel-Under Sink in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Toilet With Grab Bars

Toilet With Grab Bars

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

Mini-Fridge and In-Room Safe

Mini-Fridge and In-Room Safe

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

THE BAD

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

King-Sized Bed in Regular Room

King-Sized Bed in Regular Room

Desk and TV in Regular Room

Desk and TV in Regular Room

TV and Closet in Regular Room

TV and Closet in Regular Room

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

Sink and Toilet in Regular Room

Sink and Toilet in Regular Room

Shower and Toilet in Regular Room

Shower and Toilet in Regular Room

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

Norwegian Epic – Norwegian Cruise Line

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

Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic

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

THE GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wheelchair Accessible Room on Norwegian Epic

Wheelchair Accessible Balcony Suite at Back of the Boat

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

Outside on Balcony

Outside on Balcony – Small Ramp to Ease Transition

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

Toilet in Accessible Room on Norwegian Epic

Toilet in Wheelchair Accessible Room on Norwegian Epic

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

Wheel-Under Sink

Wheel-Under Sink

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

Wheelchair Lift at the Back of the Norwegian Epic

Wheelchair Lift at the Back of the Norwegian Epic

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair Lift

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

Pool With Lift

Pool With Lift

Hot Tub With Lift

Hot Tub With Lift at the Back of the Boat

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

View of Additional Pools

View of Additional Pools

View of Additional Pools

View of Additional Pools

Access Into Other Hot Tubs Was Via Stairs

Access Into Other Hot Tubs Required Ability to Navigate Stairs

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

Hallways

Hallways

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

Buffet Area

Buffet Area

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

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

Rock Climbing Wall

Larger Rock Climbing Wall

Rock Climbing Wall

Shorter Rock Climbing Wall

Waterslides

Waterslides

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

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

Video Arcade

Video Arcade

Kiddie Pool Area and Waterpark

Kiddie Pool Area and Waterpark

THE BAD

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

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

Casino

Casino

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

Bird That Decided to Join Us in Our Room

Bird That Decided to Join Us in Our Room

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

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

THE UGLY

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

THE PORTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wheelchair Beach Access in Southbeach, Miami

Wheelchair Beach Access in Southbeach, Miami

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

Hilton Toronto – Toronto, Ontario

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

THE GOOD

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

View Out Window in Room

View Out Window in Room

View From Window At Night

View From Window At Night

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

Very Large Room

Very Large Room

Toilet With Two Grab Bars

Toilet With Two Grab Bars

Great Wheel-In Shower

Large Wheel-In Shower

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

The Beach

The Beach

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

This Was Fun in the Wheelchair!

This Was Fun in the Wheelchair!

THE BAD

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

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

Indoor/Outdoor Pool

Indoor/Outdoor Pool

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

Hotel Le Germain Calgary – Calgary, Alberta

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

THE GOOD

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

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

Two Queen Beds, Desk Area and Flat Screen TV

Two Queen Beds, Desk Area and Flat Screen TV

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

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower

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

Toilet with Grab Bars

Toilet with Grab Bars

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

Closet Area - Lowered Closet Rods for Easy Access

Closet Area – Lowered Closet Rods for Easy Access

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

THE UGLY

There is definitely nothing ugly about this chic hotel. 

OVERALL

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

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The Mirage – Las Vegas, Nevada

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible room at The Mirage for the first time in 2009. We actually booked a cheap package on-line and then called the resort to request that a wheelchair accessible room be set aside for us. This usually works okay in Vegas because they have a lot of wheelchair accessible rooms (so don’t be afraid to scope out cheap Vegas deals on-line). 

THE GOOD

The Mirage is one of our favourite hotels because of its central location on the strip and its pleasant atmosphere. I really like all of the greenery and the sound of the water inside The Mirage as it feels kind of tropical.

Interior of the Lobby at Mirage

Interior of the Lobby at The Mirage

The Mirage is completely wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair users will have no trouble getting into or accessing any of the shops or restaurants here. We particularly like the layout of The Mirage because you don’t have to walk a mile from the lobby area to get to the hotel rooms.

In our standard room, there was a comfortable, king-sized bed, a desk, a TV, two chairs and a mini-bar.

King-Sized Bed in Wheelchair Accessible Room

King-Sized Bed in Wheelchair Accessible Room

Interior of Room at the Mirage

Interior of Wheelchair Accessible Room at the Mirage

TV, Desk and Mini-Bar

TV, Desk and Mini-Bar

The bathroom was spacious, but not huge. Our room had a wheel-under sink, toilet with grab-bars and a bathtub with a portable shower bench. Most of the accessible rooms at The Mirage have bathtubs, not wheel-in showers. I understand that they do have a few rooms with wheel-in showers, so if you absolutely require one you should probably book with The Mirage directly to ensure you get what you need. 

Wheel-Under Sink and Toilet with Grab Bars

Wheel-Under Sink and Toilet with Grab Bars

Bathtub With Portable Shower Bench

Bathtub With Portable Shower Bench

Wheel-Under Sink and Bathtub

Wheel-Under Sink and Bathtub

The pool area at The Mirage is quite big although it is really busy and it was difficult, at times, to find a free lounge chair. There are lots of waterfalls and palm trees, which help to create a nice outdoor ambiance. We didn’t see any pool lifts at this pool and it was so busy that we didn’t try to get into the water. It was a good place to kick back for a few hours and do some people watching.

Mirage Pool

Mirage Pool and Palm Trees

Mirage Pool

Mirage Pool and Waterfalls

The Mirage has upgraded its volcano show in recent years and it is actually pretty cool to watch now. There is loud drum music that accompanies the flames that shoot out of the water. It goes off every half an hour in the evening and is worth catching at least once when you are in Vegas.

Mirage Volcano Show

Mirage Volcano Show

Mirage Volcano Erupting

Mirage Volcano Erupting

There is lots of good food available at The Mirage. The California Pizza Kitchen (one of our favourites) is located just off to the side of the casino. We also tried a place called BLT Burger that serves all kinds of milkshakes. They will also combine a variety of weird milkshake flavours if you ask, so you can really go wild (Twinkies, Nutella and toasted marshmallows milkshake, anyone?).

THE BAD

The view from our room was bad. Not only did we not get a strip view but we got the concrete jungle view on the opposite side. It’s not as though you spend a lot of time staring out your window in Vegas, but still. This is almost as bad as it gets. 

View From Our Room

View From Our Room

One issue that we have encountered a few times now is that some of the elevators outside on the strip can be out of order. There are several pedestrian walkways that cross over top of the strip or that connect one hotel to the next. To get to the top of the walkways, you either need to head up the escalator (if there is one) in your chair or access the elevators. Nothing in Vegas is that close so when you get to the other side of the walkway and realize you can’t get down in your wheelchair because the elevator is out of order,  it is a big pain. We have even been in a situation once where we took an escalator up to get to a walkway and when we got to the other side, the elevator was out of service. So we walked back to where we had come up and there was no down escalator and no elevator, only stairs. So… we were stuck… We had to convince several guys to carry my husband down a huge flight of stairs. This is something to watch out for as the elevators are out of service from time to time and it is possible to get up without being able to get down.

THE UGLY

The only thing I really do not enjoy about Vegas and the Vegas hotels is that smoking is allowed in the casinos. California Pizza Kitchen is one of our favourite restaurants in Vegas, but it is located on the edge of the casino in The Mirage. When you are dining at CPK, it is impossible to escape the smell of the smoke and, for me, it certainly detracts from the ambiance.

OVERALL

The Mirage is a great, family-friendly resort. It is situated in a convenient central location on the strip, between Caesar’s Palace and Treasure Island. There is lots of good food on-site and it is right next door to The Forum Shops at Caesar’s (some of the best shopping on the strip). The standard wheelchair accessible rooms are nothing fancy, but they are comfortable and they meet basic accessibility requirements. Who spends time in their room in Vegas anyway?

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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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