William Watson Lodge – Kananaskis, Alberta

We have stayed at William Watson Lodge several times over the years. This is a really special place, nestled in the heart of Kananaskis Country, which provides year-round, barrier-free lodging for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.

William Watson Lodge is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the edge of Lower Kananaskis Lake. It is about 25 minutes south of the Kananaskis Village on Highway 40.

THE GOOD

William Watson Lodge has 22 fully accessible cabins of varying sizes. Some are one and two bedroom units ($30 per night) and some are three bedroom units ($40 per night).  Every unit has a wheel-in shower, full kitchen, kitchen supplies, living room with pull-out sofa bed and dining table with chairs.

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Dining Table

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View of the Living Area and Dining Space

Each unit also has tracks on the ceiling for moving people from the bedroom to the bathroom. Some of the cabins are pet friendly.

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Ceiling Tracks

They are slowly replacing the older cabins with beautiful new cabins. We recently stayed in one of the new cabins for the first time and it was modern, clean and really nicely decorated. They put a lot of thought into the design of these cabins in order to make the space as easy as possible for those with mobility challenges. The ambience is very homey and it makes for a perfectly relaxing stay.

Our unit had three bedrooms. Each bedroom had two beds in it, a dresser and a window.

Our unit had two bathrooms. The first bathroom had a full bathtub, a raised toilet seat and a pedestal sink. One cool thing about this bathroom was that the shower rod holding the curtain could swing completely out of the way and then swing back to be tension fit on the wall. 

The second bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.

The flooring throughout the unit was laminate, making it very easy to wheel around on.

The main lodge, where guests check in and check out, also has a number of amenities. There is a large fireplace, a big deck out back, books, magazines, board games, bikes, sleds, and snowshoes for borrowing and coin-operated laundry machines.

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William Watson also has RV camp sites, an accessible comfort camping trailer and an accessible comfort camping hut. It is worth investigating all of the options if you are looking for a real wilderness experience.

Around the cabins are a number of barrier-free paved pathways and over 20km of accessible trails. In the summertime, they are completely clear and easy to traverse. In the winter, due to the volume of snow in the mountains, the pathways around the cabins are kept clear but the trails accumulate snow. People enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the network of trails that surround the lodge. There is a sit-ski available for borrowing as well as a sled for pulling those with mobility challenges through the snow. It attaches to a harness that an able-bodied person can wear in order to pull the sled behind them.

There is an accessible playground about 2 minutes down one of the main trails. In the summer, it is completely clear and easy to get to. In the winter, that particular trail is impassable in a wheelchair but relatively easy to get to on a sled or on skis.

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There are accessible picnic sites and campfire sites, so if you come with a group of people there are lots of outdoor spaces to use for gatherings. 

THE BAD

One bad thing about William Watson Lodge is that it is completely outside of cellphone range and there is no internet availability. The lodges also have no TVs, so you can feel very isolated. Once you get used to the lack of connectivity, it actually feels nice to have the time to focus on other things. We usually read lots of books when we are there and we enjoy the family time.

The cabins do not come equipped with any bedding, so you do need to bring your pillows and blankets with you. This can make for a number of trips to and from the car when you are loading and unloading. You also need to bring your own towels.

When you check in to your room, you are given a cleaning list. The cleaning tasks are less onerous than they used to be but they do expect you to help out to cut down on costs (i.e. you have to vacuum, clean all the dishes, wipe all surfaces, empty garbages, etc.). After I have finished packing, cleaning and hauling all of our stuff out to the car, I am usually pretty exhausted, but the price reflects the amount of work you have to put into your stay here.

One other thing to keep in mind is that reservations must be made pretty far in advance and there is a priority listing for bookings:

  • People with disabilities living in the province of Alberta get first priority and can make reservations up to 4 months in advance for the severely disabled (non-ambulatory, legally blind, profoundly deaf, dependently cognitively disabled). Those with less severe disabilities can make reservations 3 months in advance (semi-ambulatory, medically fragile). 
  • Alberta seniors (65 years and older) can make reservations up to 2 months in advance, space permitting.

THE UGLY

Some of the older cabins are getting a bit ugly. They are definitely cozy and rustic but the carpets, kitchens and bathrooms are showing their age. If any are available, I would recommend requesting a new cabin. 

OVERALL

Overall, William Watson Lodge is an absolute treasure. The fact that we have this amazing place right here in Alberta is really special. Everyone can enjoy the mountain parks and everything that the great outdoors has to offer and William Watson makes that possible for so many who would otherwise have difficulty finding a comfortable place to stay.   

 

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

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

THE GOOD

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

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

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

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

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Beautiful Boardwalk

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Nature Reserve

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

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

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Playground in Kelowna City Park

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Sandy Beaches Alongside Kelowna City Park

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about The Grand. 

OVERALL

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

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

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!

Holiday Inn & Suites – Osoyoos, British Columbia

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

THE GOOD

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

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

Bedroom

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

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

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

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

Our nightly rate included free, underground parking. 

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL 

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

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

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

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Marriott’s BeachPlace Towers

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

THE GOOD

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

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Jacuzzi Tub

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

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

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

THE UGLY

There was nothing ugly about this hotel. 

OVERALL

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

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

Regal Princess, Princess Cruise Line

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

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

THE GOOD

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

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Two Twin Beds

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View of Room Facing Balcony

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TV, Desk and Storage Closet

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

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Large Storage Closet

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

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

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

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Atrium in the Middle of the Ship

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

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Lift To Get to Exercise Track Level

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Mini-Golf Course on Very Top Level

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Stair Lift to Get Up to Mini-Golf Level

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

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Seawalk

ITINERARIES

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

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Princess Cays

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

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

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

THE BAD

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY

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

OVERALL

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

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

 

Polo Towers – Las Vegas, Nevada

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible room at the Polo Towers for the first time many years ago and recently stayed again for one week in August of 2016. 

THE GOOD

The Polo Towers is conveniently located right on the strip between the MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood. There were lots of places to eat in front of the Polo Towers in a Hawaiian market of sorts, including a popular Chili’s restaurant. 

Our room was a two bedroom, two bathroom unit with a living room, sofa bed, full kitchen,  kitchenette and two balconies. One bedroom and one bathroom were fully wheelchair accessible. 

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Accessible Bedroom

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Accessible Bathroom

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Wheel-In Shower with Built-In Shower Bench

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Wheel-Under Sink in Accessible Bathroom

There was a handle on the bathroom door to make it easier for people with limited upper body mobility to shut the door. 

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For Closing the Pocket Door on the Accessible Bathroom

There was a door in between the second bedroom and the main living area that could be closed or locked for additional privacy. The bed in the second bedroom was a murphy bed, so it could be folded up to create additional living space. There was a small kitchenette on this side and a second bathroom (the door was wide enough to get in, but the bathroom itself was not accessible).

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Second Bedroom, Murphy Bed

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Second Bathroom – Not Accessible

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Second Bathroom Shower – Not Accessible

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Kitchenette in Second Bedroom

The kitchen in the main living area was modified with lower counter tops and a wheel-under sink.

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Kitchen with Wheel-Under Sink and Lower Countertops

There was a Room Valet panel on the wall in the accessible bedroom, living room and accessible bathroom with several cool features. You could turn it on to receive visual alerts when the phone rang, when the doorbell was pushed, for a wake-up call or when the fire alarm went off. You could also set the bed to vibrate for these same alerts (I know what you’re thinking but this would be really handy if you were sleeping and couldn’t see the visual alerts!).

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Each room had a closet, a dresser, TV, in-room safe and coffee maker. 

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Main Closet

The entire hotel was accessible, including the entrances, exits, main lobby, washrooms on the main floor, fitness area, splash park and the roof-top pool area. There was a large cold pool and a smaller hot tub. Both pools were equipped with a lift. 

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Cold Pool Lift

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Hot Tub Lift

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View of Pool Area – Hot Tub is in the Back Behind the Blue Cabanas

There was an observation deck at the end of the pool area that was up a few stairs, however, there was an ADA lift so that people who could not climb the stairs could still get up to look around. This space provided a beautiful view of the strip at night!

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ADA Lift to Access the Observation Deck

There was an amazing splash park in the back of the hotel, which was great for kids of all ages. Because of the shape of the hotel, the splash park stayed shaded all day long, which was perfect for everyone. Even though it was 40 degrees Celsius outside, the temperature in the splash park was quite comfortable. There was a shallow kiddie pool, sprayers, a play structure with slides and lots of room to run around. For the parents, there were several comfortable loungers along the sides, tables and chairs and a vending machine.

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Play Structure

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Kiddie Pool

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Sprayers

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There was no casino at this hotel. For some, this might be considered a drawback, but for us it meant a much quieter place to retire to and a smoke-free environment to walk through and sleep in each night. 

I cannot forget to mention that his hotel had free laundry machines on every other floor! I walked up one floor and had full access to the machines for as long as I needed them. There was enough laundry soap provided in our room for one load and there was a vending machine in the laundry room from which additional soap could be purchased. 

THE BAD

The view from our room was facing the front of the building, which was not a great view. We could see people coming and going and see the MGM Grand in the distance but otherwise there wasn’t much to look at. 

Our room did not have a bathtub. The accessible bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower and the other bathroom had a shower as well (note that the glass door on the other shower didn’t open or close properly, which was a bit dangerous for the kids). We managed fine but I really prefer hotel rooms that have a bathtub for the kids.

The kitchen was not set up for guests with kids. The knives and all of the sharp implements were located in a cupboard that was very easily accessible for small people. As soon as we discovered this, we had to empty out the cupboards and move all of the sharp things to the top of the counter!

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Yikes! Not a Great Location for Knives When Kids are Around!

The Wi-Fi in this hotel was atrocious! They provided us with a password and log-in information for the free Wi-Fi when we checked in but the signal strength was terrible and every time we lost the connection, we would have to go through the log-in process all over again. It was so unbelievably bad it was practically unusable. 

My husband got stuck in the lift between the pool area and the observation deck one night. He got part-way up and then it stopped working. He was able to access the emergency phone to call the hotel staff and I pulled the emergency release button to get him back down to the ground. The hotel sent a maintenance crew up and they worked on it for about 30 minutes to get the lift up and running again. 

THE UGLY

The furnishings in our unit could have used an update. The couch in the living room, in particular, had a panel on the front that kept falling off exposing a bunch of sharp staples that little people could easily scratch themselves on. I kept trying to re-attach it to the couch but had little success.

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Living Room Furniture was Old and Outdated

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This Panel Kept Falling Off the Couch Exposing a Bunch of Sharp Nails and Staples

One of the toilets in our room was not working properly. It stopped flushing several times and we would have to call the front desk to request that someone in maintenance come and fix it. The first time this happened, we had just gotten back to our room and had a message on our machine saying that housekeeping noticed that one of the toilets wasn’t flushing properly and to call if we wanted maintenance to come and fix it. So what did we do? Naturally, we tried flushing the toilets. The one in the accessible bathroom overflowed everywhere and covered the bathroom floor in water. We called down to request that someone come and fix it and despite the fact that it was leaking everywhere, they said it would take about 30 minutes to get someone to our room (this was about 10pm). They did send someone up with a bunch of towels though!

OVERALL

I would definitely stay at the Polo Towers again. I think most of the bad elements were specific to our room and we probably would not have that same experience again. The proximity to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood was a bonus and the splash park was unbeatable for the kids. They started every day running around in there and had so much fun.  

The hotel was clean and quiet and our room was huge considering what you would get at a normal hotel in Vegas. The two bedrooms worked out great and having two bathrooms and a kitchen was ideal. I think Polo Towers is a great option, particularly if travelling to Vegas as a family.

 

 

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.

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.