Fairmont Hot Springs Resort – Fairmont, British Columbia

We stayed at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for 2 nights in April of 2017. It took us about 3.5 hours to drive there from Calgary (we stopped for a nice lunch in Radium). The drive is very scenic and there are a number of beautiful stops along the way. 

THE GOOD

I had extremely low expectations of our room at this Resort as when I called to book it, they told me they only had one accessible room and that it had absolutely no view. They said the windows faced a rooftop and because of the terrible view it was in their “economy” room category at a rate of $100 a night. I decided we might as well try it as I couldn’t locate any other accessible options in Fairmont. 

When we arrived and had a look around, we were very pleasantly surprised! The room (number 566) was rustic, but spacious; it had a queen-sized bed and a single bed. It took us a while to figure out, but the single bed was actually adjustable so you could raise the head or feet of the bed using a remote. The kids had a blast with that!

The bathroom was large with a wheel-under sink, toilet with grab bars and a bathtub with a built-in bench. 

There was a very peaceful indoor hot tub and steam room area on the lower floor of the Resort that was accessible by wheelchair. To get to the outdoor pool, you had to go up a long, indoor ramp to get to the door that led outside. The ramp was a bit steep, but not impossible. The outdoor soaking pool was for hotel guests only. It was spacious and the view of the sunset and nearby scenery from there was really breathtaking. 

Access to the Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs, was just a little further down the pathway from the guest pool. The Hot Springs are open to the public but, if you are staying at the Hot Springs Resort, you can access them for free.

Wheelchair accessibility to get into the Hot Springs was questionable. There was a gate that you could go through at the top but then you would have to traverse down a large, grassy hill to get to the Hot Springs level. The men’s changeroom was accessible at the top but the women’s changeroom was down a set of stairs. Getting back up the hill after your swim would also be a major challenge. Can you imagine trying to wheel up a grassy hill soaking wet and in your swimsuit? Um, no thanks. They could definitely do some work on the accessibility of the public Hot Springs. 

This Resort had three or four food establishments to choose from and we were able to find decent food without any issues. 

The Resort provided amazingly soft bathrobes in each room. I loved the robes so much, I almost bought one for myself at the swim shop. Speaking of the swim shop, it was located adjacent to the entrance to the Hot Springs and its claim to fame is that it holds Western Canada’s largest collection of swimwear. 

THE BAD

From the bathroom pictures, above, you may have noticed how far the bench is away from the taps and shower head. It would be extremely difficult for anyone sitting on the bench to use this shower without help.

As I alluded to earlier, the view from the accessible room wasn’t great. We had 2 small windows that overlooked a rooftop. We didn’t spend much time in our room, however, so I felt it was a non-issue. 

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The Resort has a lot of stairs as there are two wings connected by a central lobby/reception area. Once we got used to where we were going and where the elevators were, it was less of an issue but we couldn’t check in at reception and then head to our room because the only way to get there inside required going up the stairs. We had to go outside, up the hill and then inside a different door. This is a relatively minor hassle in the summer but it would be a major issue in the winter. 

THE UGLY

Ugh – I will never forget this hotel stay as one of our kids injured his finger pretty badly in the bathroom door in our room. When we called the front desk to ask where the nearest hospital was, they sent one of their ski patrol personnel to our room in less than a minute. She arrived with her complete medical bag, bandaged his finger securely and gave us directions to the hospital in Invermere (about 25 minutes away). I was extremely grateful that they had someone on staff that could attend to him immediately and give us proper instructions, but the thought of it still makes me sick to my stomach. None of this had anything to do with the Resort of course but, for me, this was the only ugly part of our stay in Fairmont. 

OVERALL

This Resort is a great mountain getaway for anyone looking for a relaxing place to stay. Fairmont is pretty hilly, so be prepared for a really good workout if you are wheeling or walking outdoors. It is worth it to go out and explore as you’ll be able to take in the beautiful mountain views. If you enjoy golfing, there are several popular golf courses located in Fairmont as well.

The price of the accessible room here was really reasonable, I thought, especially considering that it included free access to the Hot Springs. I look forward to going back to Fairmont sometime soon!

Fairmont Palliser Hotel – Calgary, Alberta

We have stayed at this hotel a few times before, most recently in July of 2016. This historical hotel is located in the heart of the downtown, just down the street from the Calgary Tower. The Palliser is over 100 years old and is known locally as the hotel of choice for hosting elegant events.

THE GOOD

When you enter the lobby of the Palliser, you immediately get a sense that you are stepping back in time. The ballrooms are grand, the decor is elegant and you can see hints of times gone by everywhere you look. 

There have been several updates to the Palliser over the years, one of the recent ones being to the Gold Rooms. On our most recent stay, we were lucky enough to have a gift certificate to use for one of the newly renovated Gold Rooms!

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Along with a Gold Room comes a couple of pretty nice perks! You can check-in on the Penthouse level to avoid any lines, you get nicer towels and bathrobes, an upgraded coffee machine in your room, turn-down service, etc. But the best perk by far is access to the complimentary Gold Lounge where they serve breakfast every morning and snacks, cookies and appetizers every evening between 5-7 pm. They also have unlimited beverages available all day long (and an honour bar) and they have big jars of candy, which our kids were over the moon about!

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Fresh Juices Available at Breakfast in the Gold Lounge

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Gold Lounge

The room itself was comfortable. There was a king-sized bed, TV, a small desk and a small sitting area.

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The bathroom was very large and was fully wheelchair accessible. It had a wheel-under sink, toilet with a grab bar on the left and a wheel-in shower with built-in shower bench. The bathroom also had an electronic scale, upgraded amenities (mouth wash, cotton balls, Q-tips, etc.) and heated floors. 

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Huge Bathroom

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Wheel-Under Sink

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Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

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Toilet Only Had One Grab Bar

The hallways on the Gold floor looked to have been recently updated and this floor was completely non-smoking.

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One of the best things about the Palliser is their pool and spa area. The pool area is complete with pool, hot tub and steam room and it is very quiet and peaceful. This area can be accessed by anyone in a wheelchair (although there are no pool lifts). The spa is called RnR Wellness and it is one of my favourite spas in Calgary. I have had a good experience every single time I have been there.     

THE BAD

It is a challenge to think of anything bad to say about this hotel, but I can say that the view from our room wasn’t amazing. It overlooked the train tracks and you could hear and feel the trains going by as they ran adjacent to the hotel. The kids enjoyed watching the trains go by, however, so it wasn’t all bad. 

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The windows in our room were older casement windows that cranked open at the bottom. The bottom half of the window opened out and there were no screens on the window. I was pretty sure that my kids would be able to fit through the opening. Given that we were on the 8th floor, these windows made me pretty nervous. 

The Palliser is really old and you can tell that the accessibility features came along many years after the hotel was designed. The main entrance to the hotel is all stairs and there is no wheelchair access right at the main entrance. There is a long ramp off to the side of the main entrance that takes you into a small room with a lift. The lift takes you down into the lower level of the hotel (spa level) and then you can access the main elevator bank to get up to the lobby or up to your room. The staff was very helpful and escorted us through the accessible entrance but the setup is certainly less than ideal. 

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about the Palliser. 

OVERALL

Its proximity to other downtown amenities makes the Palliser a very attractive choice. The staff was exceptionally pleasant and helpful and they really went out of their way to make us feel looked after. For the access to the Gold Lounge, I think the extra cost of a Gold Room would be well worth it. Overall, the Palliser is a very elegant, peaceful hotel, perfect for a relaxing weekend or overnight stay. 

Excellence Riviera Cancun – Puerto Morelos, Mexico

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

THE GOOD

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

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

Beautiful White Sand on the Beach

Beautiful White Sand on the Beach

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

Theatre for Entertainment

Theatre for Entertainment

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

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

Ramp into Pool

Ramp into Pool

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

THE BAD

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

No Wheel-Under Sink and High Mirror

No Wheel-Under Sink and High Mirror

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

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

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

Very Low Toilet with Grab Bar

Very Low Toilet with Grab Bar

Very Small Shower Bench

Very Small Shower Bench

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

Very High Bed

Very High Bed

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

Jacuzzi Tub Inside Room

Jacuzzi Tub Inside Room

Outdoor Jacuzzi

Outdoor Jacuzzi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Was the Sign on Two of the Three Elevators

This Was the Sign on Two of the Three Elevators

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

View of Patio in Swim-Up Room

View of Patio in Swim-Up Room

Loungers Outside of Patio in the Swim-Up Room

Loungers Outside of Patio in the Swim-Up Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

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

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