“Memories Last Forever,” was the theme for my graduating class in high school In 1992! All my life I have carried that theme with me in everything I do. It definitely held true as a couple of wk. ago I went on my 4th cruise!! I was calling it my last HURRAH because traveling is so very exhausting for me. I actually did not think I would have the opportunity to go on another cruise, but the opportunity presented itself and I could not let it pass me by. We were going to be headed on a seven-day Carribean cruise Jan 6-Jan 13 going to Mahogany Bay, Belize, and Cozumel! My good friend Alice was going to be going with me! We had never traveled together before, so it was a learning experience for her to care for someone with a disability. But my mind was at ease from the very beginning! We have always gotten along perfectly! We made a pact with one another that whatever comes our way (and it was inevitable that things would come our way) that we would make the best of it!
Because it was my last HURRAH I got on Google, and typed in beach wheelchairs in Cozumel just to see what would come up. I had been to Cozumel before where I definitely made a memory that will last forever when I got to swim with the dolphins! I knew that Cozumel was all about the beaches and I wanted to use a beach wheelchair, never had before. Hoping that some beach in Cozumel would have one to rent or something. This is the website that pops up: http://www.accessibleCaribbeanvacations.com! I looked around the website, and was thinking this is nice, very nice! They had a accessible excursion for every port I was going to!! So I emailed the lady in charge, and she made it all sound legit. I gave her the names of the excursions that I was wanting to go on while telling her a little about myself and my disability. She mentioned that it could be done! So dad and I called the lady, and much to our surprise she lives in Dallas!! My Dad was extremely generous, and paid for all of the excursions I wanted to go on!! They were all a pretty penny I will not lie, but I am assuming that you would know that from either being disabled or knowing someone who is. Put the word accessible, disability, handicapped on something and the price goes up tons.
Here is a list of the excursion, what I did, and how I rate them:
1st stop was Mahogany Bay (Roatan)- The Best of Roatan! We started out in a sedan with our driver Tex, LOL, he was born and raised in Rotan! He spoke very good English! Alice and I both enjoyed talking with him, Seeing the sights, and learning all about Rotan!! Not the most wheelchair friendly form of transportation, but we made it work! I knew before hand that I would have to transfer into a seat. Alice would help me get into the seat while Tex would help me out. We went to a small interactive zoo where I got to hold a
sloth! He was so soft and cuddly and I wanted to take him home! That was a definite highlight! I also got to go into the cages with the spider monkeys, and one of them jumped on my head (I am so glad that he did not decide to go to poop!). As far as accessibility goes for this zoo, those people are willing to make anything adaptable for whomever goes there. But the walkways are not clear, smooth, or wide enough for a power wheelchair. I had a blast there though! Then Tex took us to an iguana park. If you know me you know I freak out at anything that crawls. They were probably 15 or 20 iguanas all around me, under my chair, and I did not even flinch. They even let me feed them some plant. They are so strong they could have pushed me away! We got to see a few sea creatures, but it was not very wheelchair friendly to go completely through the whole thing, Even in my manual wheelchair. I would definitely say I would do it again for sure! It was amazing!
Next stop is Belize- Essential Belize Accessible Shore Excursion! We had to go on a tender (which is a smaller boat) in order to make it to Belize. Once we found our driver we made it to his wheelchair accessible van with a lift in the back. I told Alice that I feel like the bad girl in school who gets seated in the back of the bus, LOL! Our driver asked where we wanted to go 1st the zoo or the Mayan ruins? I told him whichever one is the furthest drive to get there, and then we can come back and stop to see the other. He said that sounded like a plan, so the zoo it is! We were not sure what all it would entail if it would be small like the one in Rotan or bigger? It ended up being bigger with a lot more animals. Animals that you would not find at the Dallas zoo! Our driver, Rick, was a great tour guide at the zoo. Very knowledgeable about them! He kind of lost track of time while at the zoo, and told us while in the gift shop that there would not be enough time to make it to the Mayan ruins before heading back to the tender! Lunch was provided, and we could have made it, but I did not want to chance it. I was so disappointed to not get to go see the Mayan Ruins:( Even though I knew from the beginning that they would not be wheelchair accessible at all, but that it would be good enough for a photo. Plus I had Alice who could go explore and take good pictures for me:) Let me just say that if you are ever thinking of going to Belize and you are in a wheelchair bring some knee pads, LOL! I do not know if all of their vans have this little sharp plastic piece that comes out from the back seat, and if pushed up to close your knees will get whacked on those incredibly bumpy roads. I guess that’s what I get for being such a bad girl, LOL! This is not at all our drivers fault as he probably was not even aware that happened! I did not say anything to him as I was just so happy to be there! So we made it back in time, and it could have been much worse! Belize was the least favorite place I went!
Last stop was Cozumel- Accessible Cozumel Beach Break was a very relaxing time! We were one of the 1st folks to make it off the port as we were ready to get our Sun On!! Cozumel was an hour ahead of ship time so we did not want to miss any of our time there. It did not take us long to find our driver, Autoro, or to get to the beach. It is was a van with a lift in the back where I again felt like the bad schoolgirl in the back. However, there was no plastic piece coming out of the back seat, thank God!! The name of the beach in translation meant “little beach!” Majority of our time in Cozumel was a little windy, but it was sunny as well. We laid out for about an hour and a half (We applied and reapplied SPF 50 sunblock as we were not about to come back crispy critters!), and I think that we both ended up getting sunburned and possibly a little wind burned, but it all turned to tan! So we be AHH-IGHT (a.k.a. all right)! Yes, I got my beach wheelchair (included) and it was wonderful going up and down the beach, Those big wheels just kept on turnin:) feeling the sand in between my toes (we improvised and adapted, but we did it!)! Also, accessible snorkeling was included and I was so excited to give it a whirl. So right after a nice lunch buffet (included) we headed over to the snorkeling station! I got the wetsuit on (it is true, that it does keep you warm, and no I did not pee in it!) The dude that was helping me was named Angel, and I told him that he was my angel for the day! I got on a life jacket, and made it to the ocean! I sat on the rocks practicing my breathing into the snorkel. I wrapped my arm around a lifesaver, and Angel and Alice were by my side. I had on goggles, and put my face in the water for a minute or 2. I then started to freak out and popped up. I was claustrophobic and my breathing was not acting right. I decided I wanted to go set on the rocks and gather my composure then try again. That is what I did, but lasted less time. Inhailing saltwater is not the best feeling in the world, don’t know how the fish do it? I was so disappointed in myself as I really wanted to do it. Angel was very sweet to me, as he said I was very brave and that at least I tried that is way more than some people do! As I rolled back from the situation I realized that he was right, at least I tried!! I made Alice go out there and do some snorkeling for me, take some pictures with the underwater camera, enjoy herself, and come tell me all about it! That is what she did!! As we headed back to the ship that day we were saddened in realizing that the conclusion of being on these excursions were closing:( I would definitely do an excursion like this again, maybe not the snorkeling but there were other options of things to do.
I feel so lucky to have found this website with these excursions! So let this website be a reminder to all of my peeps with disabilities who are wanting to do something like this! If I had to do this over again I would skip Belize! Been there, done that, and got the T-shirt to prove it! At every stop everyone was overtly friendly and would do anything to make sure I had a good time! I am so glad that I did not bring my power wheelchair with me on this cruise (I have before) and I would not have been able to go on the excursion to Rotan because of the transportation. I do not think I would have been able to go to the zoo in Belize. So if you do decide to go on these excursions I think you would be more limited with a power wheelchair. I did not see every single port, but for the ports I went to there were 2 or 3 different options of things to go on. One of them may be more suited for you. For every port that I went they also had options for accessible restrooms. However, I did not look at any of them to see how accessible they were. I did not have to go. All of the vehicles were air-conditioned. I could not have asked for a better time! Being around awesome folks can make it or break it! All of the folks on these excursions definitely made it awesome!
John Sage is the founder for the Accessible Caribbean Vacations. After he had a snow skiing accident that left him with a spinal cord injury. He loved to travel and wants to share that with everyone despite their disability! I hope to get to meet him one day, and personally say thank you!!
The way I look at it we got 2 choices, the right way and the wrong way to handle every situation! Think about how you act before you do so. Attitude is everything, and Never say never!! MAKE MEMORIES THAT WILL LAST FOREVER!
Rolling on, Stephanie