My husband is paraplegic and uses a manual wheelchair. He is incredibly active and has a strong upper body. The one bedroom suite was perfect for our needs. I did quite a bit or research before our trip and most of it was reading reviews on various sites to get an idea of how we should prepare. There were a few areas that were “grey” in my research so let me clear those up for you. When we arrived the bed was too low for my husband to transfer in and out of by himself. This was quickly rectified by our stateroom host who had the bed put on risers at the perfect wheelchair height. The stateroom host was also able to remove a few extra chairs to open up the living room space to be more wheelchair friendly. There were plenty of hangers for all of our clothing.
They DO have a rollaway bed (even though the land concierge told us via email that they did not). This was an issue for us as our two children (10 and 15, boy and girl) did not want to share the pull out. We brought along a twin air mattress, but would not have packed it had I known for sure we could have a rollaway. My daughter reported the pull out was very comfortable. The bathroom off the master bedroom was smaller than the Dream one bedroom suite. It has a tub, a shower with a fold down seat, a toilet with grab bars and a sink with drawers for storage. You can only wheel in forward and then have to back out. There is not enough room to turn around. It was also difficult to shut the bathroom door.
The veranda is HUGE. It is a must for the Alaska experience. The views are breathtaking. I had read about people complaining about noise from the upper deck. They do move chairs around for about 3 minutes in the morning. It was not terrible, I could have slept through it had I not been on east coast time and awake. As we were leaving port in Vancouver, some teenagers did start throwing streamers on our veranda, I asked them to stop and that was the only issue we had with others. You can hear people’s conversations above you when you are on the veranda and they are at Beach Blanket, this did not bother us and it’s only at meal times. There is a special entrance via the Cadillac lounge for wheelchair access to the shows so you and your family can sit in the front row. Let your room concierge know and arrive 35 minutes before show time an usher will take you through a back hall to your seats. The other wheelchair seating option is the very last row of the theatre. The final quick detail I have to share is the customs/embarkation process for wheelchairs is extremely fast. We were ushered to the “crew” lane and ahead of every line in the process until the final line to get on the ship. It was nothing like the nightmares I read about and I was unable to get a sense of how it would work for us prior to leaving. When you arrive at the terminal look for help and ask people where to go. They were eager to help us and very friendly.
Food: The room is one flight of stairs down from the Beach Blanket. We found it was easier for two of us to go up in the morning and gather food to bring down to enjoy in our room than to think ahead and order room service. Also, we, along with our stomachs, were on east coast time. Room service does not deliver until 8:30 am and it was a difficult wait when we did plan ahead and order breakfast. We did one sit down lunch. The other lunches we ate in the room or on our veranda to enjoy the beautiful sites. The beverage station was next to the Beach Blanket so a fresh cup of coffee was always nearby.
Excursions: We have found that as wonderful as Disney is, too many people have sued them, so they are extra cautious about people in wheelchairs. The wheelchair executions offered were not going to be our cup of tea, so I booked with private companies to suit our needs. We booked a private van tour of the Yukon Territory in Skagway with Beyond Skagway Tours. I imagine you see similar sights on the train ride, however, we were able to get out at a few spots to see things, stop and take photos and Brian our guide was very knowledgeable. In Juneau, our original whale watch on a small boat was cancelled due to engine problems, but the captain was very nice and booked us with a friend on the Orca Enterprises. Orca had a wheelchair accessible van with a lift that picked us up at the dock, we were able to wheel on the boat without any problems and the bathroom on the boat was large enough for the wheelchair! They also took us to the Mendenhall glacier for an hour. An hour at the glacier is plenty if you are in a wheelchair as you can only use the photo path and a tour of the visitor center. (This is a national park, if you have a disability pass for the national parks bring it). Our final tour was in Ketchikan. We worked with Howard McKim at Ketchikan Kayak Company. Between Howard and I, we got my husband in and out of the kayak and we had a spectacular tour.
Weather: It rains in Alaska… it’s just what it does… Bring rain gear including waterproof shoes (we like Merrill). We brought several pair of waterproof gloves for my husband. Two of the days our rain gear was so soaked by the end of the day we were heading to the dryers with a garbage bag full of wet rain gear. Our base layer was dry.
Other tips: We used lots of our Ziploc bags for food, wet clothes after rain and to keep things dry in the rain. I brought gallon and quart sizes and I was glad. This is the first trip I have really used the shoe bag over the door in the bathroom tip. It was immensely helpful in the bathroom by the entry door. Also, air fresheners. I put one in each bathroom and closet. I have no idea if it would have smelled bad, but it did smell good with the air-fresheners.