I love being outdoors, particularly near the ocean. The beach has typically been my vacation of choice over the years. For our latest vacation, my boyfriend Roy and I looked at multiple vacation venues, considering destinations in the United States and abroad. We even considered a cruise!

Accessibility is always a major consideration when looking for a destination. Roy and I researched many destinations and then looked up articles on their accessibility. I read articles on spintheglode.net, wheelchairtravel.org, and curbfreewithcorylee.com. The number of accessible destinations available is overwhelming. We started to narrow our options based on cost. We found a great deal on the flights to Grand Cayman. Next week looked up the accessibility of the Marriott Hotel on the island. I had Bonvoy rewards point so use, so that is the reason we chose to stay at the Marriott.

We eventually decided on the beautiful island of Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is a British territory in the Caribbean. We chose the island because of the beautiful blues water, white sand, and many coral reefs around the island for snorkeling. I was looking for a holiday where I could mostly lay around in the sun and snorkel. We were very successful at accomplishing all of these goals in Grand Cayman.

Hotel in Grand Cayman

Karen-cayman-1.jpgWe stayed at the Marriott Beach House on Seven Mile Beach, home to glass-like, still blue waters. A good amount of the property was recently renovated, and the views of the beach were spectacular! We spent most of our time outdoors and the property had so many amazing outdoor areas, including the courtyard, pool area, open-air restaurants and of course, the beach. All spots were perfect places to lounge, read a book and have a yummy drink.  

Due to past storms, there is very little beach left in front of the hotel. They no longer have a ramp, and there is only space for one row of beach chairs backed up against the wall of the pool deck. I had to be carried down the steps to get to a beach chair. This is obviously not a good situation for most wheelchair users, but I made it work! Once out on the beach and near the water, there are multiple anchored floating platforms to rest on or enjoy your drink while you take in the beauty of Grand Cayman.

My room was spacious, but the bathroom was not accessible for my purposes. I requested an accessible room with a bathtub with a partial ocean view but was told that the only accessible rooms they offer with that view include a roll-in shower. I am a paraplegic with good upper body strength, and I have never felt safe in a roll-in shower with a bench and prefer using a bathtub with built-in handrails.

We were able to stay in the partial ocean view room that we booked only because my wheelchair is small, and I had assistance. I was able to fit my fifteen-inch wide manual wheelchair between the toilet and the door and get in the bathtub. Roy did have to assist me when getting out of the bathtub because there were no grab bars.
Despite the room inconvenience, the service at the Marriott is excellent from curbside to the beachside waiters.

Snorkeling

C0BC6209-2571-4DA5-B03F-53ABB858B286.JPGWe also snorkeled almost every day at the Marriot property, which was so fun for me. Once I'm in the water, I can swim without assistance. I experience total freedom in the water. Blissful hours were in the water swimming with the beautiful array of fish, sea turtle, and other marine life. It was nice to be able to swim up to one of the anchored floating platforms and take a break from snorkeling.  I could climb in my floating oasis and soak in the sun with minimal assistance. Talk about true paradise!

We also booked two excursions at the dive shop, Red Sail Sports, and their service was excellent. As a manual wheelchair user, it limited the excursions we had to choose from, but we ended up being able to do an evening cruise to Rum Point and a breakfast cruise that included snorkeling with stingrays abroad a 65-foot sailing catamaran.

The crew did have to lift me while in my wheelchair over the side of the catamaran to the board. In order to get me in the water, both my boyfriend and the crew helped to lift me without the chair to the edge on the back of the boat. From there I was able to slide in the water. I did need some assistance when swimming in the rough currents of Sting Ray City, which is well offshore. If you are a manual wheelchair user and you are willing to be lifted in your chair off, and on the boat, then these excursions are well worth it.

Grand Cayman Island Adventures

karen-cayman-2.jpgIn order to explore the rest of the island, we rented a car. Since Grand Cayman is a British Island, you drive on the right side of the car and left the side of the road. I didn’t feel totally comfortable with that, so Roy did all the driving. We rented a regular car since I have a manual wheelchair. We visited Georgetown and the downtown shopping area, where all of the cruise ships dock. We drove across the island, making stops at Rum Point and Starfish Point.

Starfish Point has a shallow snorkeling area there that lots of starfish in the water. However, I didn’t get out of the car because I would have had to been pushed down a long trail to get to the water. Instead, I stayed in the car reading a book while Roy checked out the starfish for me. Since this spot wasn’t accessible, I don’t think it was worth the drive for a wheelchair user.

This would have been an excellent place to have Freedom Trax to get through the sand. There were not any paved sidewalks in this area. It was impossible for me to push my wheelchair through the sand and dirt without ruining the bearings in the front casters. The distance was too great for him to be able to tilt my chair back and push me on the back tires.

Driving through Rum Point was great, as we were able to see beautiful homes. We also stopped at a restaurant, on the West Bay side of the island, called Calypso Grill, which I highly recommend. Calypso Grill is on the water at a public dock, in front of some boat slips with beautiful views. The food is great, and my favorite was their signature dessert, the sticky toffee pudding. It’s more of a cake that pudding, but delicious.

Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the Cayman Turtle Centre, where they breed and raise Green Sea turtles, eventually releasing them into the wild.  We were able to see hundreds of turtles native to Grand Cayman - some of them were up to eighty years old and weighing more than 500 pounds! Their facility is entirely wheelchair accessible, including the bathrooms. Cayman Turtle Centre is an attraction that I'm glad we didn't miss.

Overall, I enjoyed every moment of my five-day vacation in Grand Cayman. The people on the island and especially at the Marriott were extremely accommodating and welcoming. While some situations were not wheelchair friendly, I found that the airport and most facilities on the island were. Swimming, snorkeling, and eating some lunch in the beachside restaurant was the way I spent most of my vacation and it was perfect.

 
Karen Roy, Numotion Brand Ambassador

Author

Karen Roy, Numotion Brand Ambassador

Karen Roy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 20 years of experience. Most of that time was spent as a Case Manager for an in-patient rehabilitation hospital. She was the victim of an armed robbery in 1987 and has been a wheelchair user for the last 31 years. She had 3 kids after her injury. Caroline, Austin and Joseph are all in currently attending college. As Ms. Wheelchair America 2019 Karen’s platform was “Stand for Life”. Her platform is about the use of standing technology and other devices that improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities.