Arrival at San Juan airport was very smooth and airport staff were very quick at retrieving Shawn’s wheelchair. The airport transfers that had been arranged was waiting for us right outside the baggage claim area. At first I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t be there because our flight was over an hour late arriving but it was there. We rented a small shuttle that could accommodate our entire party and the wheelchair. The rental for the shuttle was $100 plus tip. It seemed pricey since the hotel we stayed at was only 10 minutes away but it was the best option to keep our whole group together.
The night before our cruise embarked we stayed at a hotel close to the port area. We decided on this hotel due to it’s location to the cruise port and they had a 2 bedroom suite that we could all stay together. This suite was accessible in that Shawn was able to move easily around the room and his chair fit in the bathroom, however it did not have a roll-in shower. It worked for us only in the fact that Shawn wasn’t planning on showering the next morning anyways and would just take one once we got on the ship. The hotel offers a complimentary hot and cold breakfast in the morning and it has a decent selection and not overly busy.
Pedro, our wheelchair shuttle driver arrived at noon on Sunday morning to take us over to the cruise port. He was very friendly and professional and I would recommend this shuttle company to others. The ride to the cruise port was about 20 minutes and Pedro was our own personal tour guide and pointed points of interest out and told us about various buildings that we passed. When we got to the cruise port, shortly after 12:30, the lines were starting to form but nothing that seemed overly long. We opted for paying a porter to take all of our luggage and therefore we didn’t have to wait in line to check our luggage onto the ship. There were 3 lines that were forming, to the right was line to drop off your luggage to be taken on the ship, middle line was for entering the terminal and going through security and the far left line was suite and wheelchair user passengers. Since we had a Junior Suite, and a wheelchair user, we went straight to that line. Our entire party of 7 were allowed to wait in that line even though we all weren’t in a suite. There was nobody in this line and we went straight to the front and right to the security checkpoint. Once past security, we had to check in and get our Sea pass cards. Each line is split up depending on which deck you are on. All of our rooms were on Deck 10 but a cruise ship personal saw Shawn and immediately came over and directed us to the very end of the check-in counter were there was a wheelchair/special needs counter.
Embarkation was amazing. We were checked in and on board within 30 minutes. Went to the Windjammer, which was busy but had some lunch. All of our rooms ready for 2pm. At around 3pm I had to call the medical equipment rental company to confirm that the commode was on the way. It was probably close to 4pm before it arrived and I didn’t even know they had come because they just left the commode sitting out in the hallway. I was very disappointed with the commode chair that was rented to us. It didn’t fit over the toilet seat so we had to use the attached bucket. It also looked like it was in need of some repair as one of the wheels was very unsturdy. We even asked our Room Steward if they had any extras commodes that we could use, but everything he brought us was not appropriate, raised toilet seat types. The distilled water and extension cord for the CPAP were not in the room but they never are as soon as we get here. I did have to ask, even though it was on our reservation, but it was in our room long before Shawn’s bedtime.
Our Junior Suite was very spacious but we needed to arrange furniture because the chairs were in the way for Shawn to get to the balcony. Balcony was very roomy and probably double the size of a regular balcony. The balcony was large enough that Shawn can maneuver easily and we had a lounge chair, 2 patio chairs and a small side table. One of the kids slept in the sofabed in our suite and each evening they would make it into a bed and every morning turn it back into a sofa for us. When the sofa was turned into a bed it blocked any access to the balcony, this made it difficult to have morning coffee on the balcony. Luckily we travelled with someone strong enough to lift the bed out of the way so Shawn could access it. One of the best features for us on the Adventure of the Seas was having our accessible stateroom connecting to another room for our kids. They were in a Deluxe Oceanview connecting with our Junior Suite and this is quite uncommon on many ships.
The bathroom area was very adequate and the only issue was that everytime anyone showered it flooded the entire bathroom floor but this is quite common in the cruise ship roll in showers. Whatever towels we had, we used to soak up the water which was always replaced with dry towels by our stateroom attendant.
Another feature of our accessible Junior Suite was a large closet area that had shelving and we were able to leave the wheelchair in it every night so it was out of the way when we were sleeping.
Our luggage was quite late arriving to our stateroom and one thing I would definitely recommend is making sure you have enough supplies with you. Most of Shawn’s supplies were in the luggage so we were alittle stressed when we needed things and didn’t have them.
Our 1st stop was at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, one of the U.S Virgin Islands. This is one of the stops that Royal Caribbean offered a wheelchair accessible excursion, Easy Coral World. The wheelchair taxi picked up Shawn and our support worker (who we travel with) and took them to Coral World Ocean Park. The taxi is only able to accommodate a wheelchair user and one companion so the rest of us took the regular Coral World excursion and met them there. The aquarium was very accessible and there was ramps to almost all areas. Shawn was able to pet a shark and feed stingrays. They also had a Sea Lion show and various bird and fish exhibits. The entire excursion lasted about 3 hours and then back to the ship just in time for lunch. We have found that the only time to really sit around the pool and find decent shaded seating for Shawn is port days otherwise the pool area is so busy on sea days.
The ship did not offer any accessible excursions that could accommodate a power wheelchair or even a folding manual chair. They advertise an accessible excursion but it seems the only type of wheelchair their vehicle can accommodate are the transport manual chairs. So Shawn spend his time at this port looking around the shopping area known as Port Zante. The majority of the shops had too many obstacles and clutter that he wasn’t able to browse around in the shops. There was a couple restaurants near the entrance but one had stairs up to it on the 2nd floor (no elevator) and the other had only bar high top tables which would be too high for his chair.
The ship did not offer any accessible excursions, however there are numerous options because Aruba does have a wheelchair accessible taxi that you can hire. We decided to use a private accessible transportation company to transport Shawn to a resort right on Palm Beach. The resort offers day passes for cruise ship passengers at a cost of approx $20 a person. The day pass allows you to use their pool, towels chairs and beach cabana. The passes are based on availability so we took a chance that we could use their facility. If they did turn us away then at least the beach is public and there is a pathway that runs along the boardwalk to all the resorts. It ended up being a great setup because the pathway was right up next to the cabana that we were assigned. We were able to transfer Shawn into a lounge chair and then just slid the lounger a few feet to the shade under a cabana. Shawn spend most of the day lying on the lounger enjoying the sun. This beachside resort was very accessible as far as what we could see looking around at the pool area and poolside restaurant. I was told by the Pool and Beach Manager at the hotel, that they have a beach chair that can go into the zero depth entry pool as well as on to the beach and into the water there. We did not use it because we didn’t know they had it so Shawn didn’t bring his bathing suit.
Shawn was not able to do any excursions at this port but was able able to explore around the small shopping port area.
Disembarkation was a little chaotic with people and luggage everywhere. We used the services of a baggage porter and unlike U.S ports, there is no special needs line. We were ushered right to the front of the regular line, which always amazes me when you hear people disgruntled about something like that. I always want to turn to them and say “Really? Do you want to trade places with Shawn because I know he would rather stand and walk in the back of this line then get to the front in a wheelchair”. Anyways, once outside we attempted to locate our booked wheelchair shuttle to take us to the airport. At first we were offered the services of truck that would put the wheelchair with the luggage heading back to the airport. Obviously we turned that down and eventually we located the proper shuttle to transport us. The San Juan airport was a mad house and once again no specific special needs lines but we were patient because we did have lots of time for plane to depart.