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. 

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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