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Monday, December 7, 2015

Deal of the Century...Will it be a Dream Trip or a Nightmare?

When you travel with a wheelchair the biggest need you have is assurance. You need to be assured that there will be accessible transportation at your destination; you need to know that there will be no steps where you need to go; you need to know the bathroom in your room will be suitable for your needs; you need to know that the doors will be wide enough for your chair…in short, assurances.

The problem with assuring your vacation is that it usually comes with a price. When you see those really good deals on the internet, the only thing you can be assured of is that the company selling it will not want to give you any. “We can request it but it’s not guaranteed…you can request it when you check in,” is the familiar refrain.
But…what if the deal was just too good? What if you found the perfect destination, with one of the worlds best hotels, right when you wanted to go and the price was a quarter of what you’d normally pay? Would you throw caution to the wind or would you pass it up.

That was the quandary I was in. We had so much fun in the Dominican last year that I told Letty and Tim that I’d try to book another great beach vacation for this spring’s trip. I was working with a travel agent, who is supposed to be an expert in finding accessible vacations. We were looking at Playa del Carmen, just south of Cancun, and were getting quotes of $5-6,000 for a six night vacation.
It was just too much out of our budget range, even if it was all inclusive. Just when things looked bleakest, one of her e-mails came in with a Gmail ad at the top saying the Virgin Islands were on sale. What’d I have to lose? I clicked…

I was taken to a big-name online travel site and it came up with a form to enter my dates of travel and the number of persons. I did and it came back with an unbelievable price…$1,900 for six nights, including airfare from Los Angeles to St. Croix, accommodations at the highest rated hotel on the island, a full breakfast buffet daily, airport transfers, taxes, and free watersports for three people.
The problem was, of course, the wheelchair. Could it work? Would it work?

Naw, I’m not going to book a trip like that online without that magic word but, hey, there’s an 800 number on here. I’ll give it a call.

“First question, is this a real price?” I asked the agent. He assured me it was.
“Next question, is the hotel accessible?” I continued.

“Let me put you on hold and I’ll call them, “ the agent replied.
A few minutes later, he assured me that the hotel had a few step free rooms. He talked to someone named Lydia at the front desk and said the ground floor rooms were accessible and he could request one…but could not guarantee it. I’d have to request it at the front desk.

There it was…I was almost there but just couldn't get past that last hurdle. The price was unbelievably good. Basically, just pay the airfare and everything else was free. The hotel, the Buccaneer, is widely regarded as the best on the island and one of the best in the Caribbean. We’d get at least one full meal a day, and more…but what if?
What if the room was taken when we were there? There’s no elevator and our flight gets in kind of late at night. What would we do if we’re in the lobby and had nowhere to go? How committed to our cause would the staff be especially knowing that we paid just pennies for the room?

I went over the logistics in my head. If no room was available, I’m sure the concierge could at least find us another hotel. I could buy “cancel for any reason” trip insurance, call the hotel a few days ahead of time, and…if I got a bad feeling…cancel and get a refund.
Not completely assured but knowing I've been in worse situations, I rolled the dice and gave the agent my card number. We’re booked, now what’s going to happen?

It’s a week before departure; we've got our travel documents, flight information, and vouchers for the hotel and airport taxi. One more thing…I’ll call the Buccaneer and see if I can get some of that assurance.

I call and talk to the front desk manager. She asks what exactly we need, I tell her. I’m told that we have been booked in a mountain view room (the cheap rooms upstairs) and that there is no elevator to get there. It’s okay,  she assures me, she’ll give me a no-charge upgrade to the ground floor room and we’ll have step free access. She also asks me if I’d like to have food and drinks waiting in the room, a shower chair installed, or anything else I’d like.

I take her up on the offer of a shower chair and make a mental note to give that woman a good tip if everything is in order when we arrived.
Last minute assurances in order, it’s time to drive to LAX, board our American Airlines flight, cross our fingers and hope for the best.

See how it all turns out when we get to the island on the next part of this report.
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. I know you'll be fine. Tip: be creative,determined and make use of local people. I recently took a trip to Tanzania, wher there is no such thing as accessible nada its not in their vocabulary. But my assurance was laid on my determination to make my dream trip to Tanzania and parks not Serengeti nor Ngorongoro but I reached Tarangire national park. My creativity assured me the rest, with the use of the local Tanzanian people, who by the way were great. So helpful. They showed me around, assisted me to put together a make shift ramp and found a vehicle that I could get into with my powerchair. So have fun!!