Resources for Physically Challenged Tourists
Prior to her Caribbean Cruise, Ann Marie, one of our subscribers asked me several questions concerning wheelchair accessibility and activities for disabled travelers on St. Maarten/St. Martin. I emailed her questions to business owners and managers on the island. Her questions and their answers follow.
Scrolling down the page, you'll find a list of Wheelchair Accessible St. Maarten/St. Martin Businesses; Accommodations for Physically Challenged Tourists; and, at the bottom, you can read Ann Marie's Trip Report after her Cruise. It's an eye opener!
1. Are there accessible transportation services like Dial-a-ride or taxis willing to transport someone in a wheelchair just as long as the wheelchair folds up?
Yes, definitely they will. There is no Dial-a-Ride on the island; but, there are approximately 100 taxis at the Cruise Ship dock in Philipsburg whose drivers will carry or help the client into the taxi and put the wheelchair in the trunk.
2. Are there wheelchair accessible tour buses?
Numerous island bus companies were telephoned and unfortunately none of them are wheel chair accessible. Like the taxis, they assist the client on to the bus and stow the chair away.
3. Is there somewhere on the island that I can rent a beach wheelchair for the day. Unfortunately, there aren't any.
4. Are there adventure things to do like parasailing, diving or snorkeling?
Normally, the crews on each activity are very good about helping the disabled; this of course depends on which activity the client is interested.
5. Are there accessible villas to rent out or hotels?
The bigger hotels in general are accessible, but with each villa rented from an agency, you would have to ask, as there are so many villas on the Island for rent.
6. Are restaurants and shopping accessible?
In Philipsburg (Dutch SXM) the shops are on Front Street and mostly on the ground floor but there are at least one or two steps to get into each shop.
Aqua Mania Adventures
Your One Stop Vacation Shop!!
Located at Pelican Marina, Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
PH: 599 544 2640 FAX: 599 544 2476 (dial 011 prefix from US and Canada)
Visit us at www.stmaarten-activities.com and www.diveadventures-sxm.com
I don't know of any reliable services on island for people in wheelchairs. Regarding Diving for disabled travelers, we can do it; but, the boat we have is not easy for handicapped people. I will send you more info about the new boat as soon as it is here.
Scuba Fun Caraïbes, PADI Gold Palm Instructor Development Center # 19461
Scuba Fun Dive Center, PADI Gold Palm Resort # 798686
From USA/Canada tel: 011.599.586.2822 or 011.599.542.3966
Sint Maarten 12 Metre Challenge, Bobby's Marina, Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Tel: 542.0045/46 Fax: 542.6419
GUESTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Every effort is made to accommodate "Guests with special needs". However the nature of the St. Maarten "America's Cup" 12 Metre Regatta is very participatory and the motion of the boats may cause problems for some. We therefore request that a guest with special needs be accompanied by a companion who has the capability of assisting the guest onto and off the boats. If the companion feels at the point of departure that the experience will prove to be too much for the guest, we will be happy to offer a refund for both tickets returned.
Our business is on the dock level at Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg; but our boutique is up one step. Also, the restrooms will most likely be a problem as the entrance willl facilitate a wheelchair, but the stalls will not and there are no bars on the walls. Great Bay Beach is accessible via the Boardwalk. The America's Cup Regatta race as well as other sailboats and yachts are available to disabled traveler, but as mentioned they must be accompanied by a companion.
Sint Maarten 12 Metre Challenge
My thanks to Gail (Aqua Mania Adventures), Antoine (Scuba Fun) and Sue (12 MetreChallenge) for their replies.
Restaurants - Dutch side
Buccaneer Bar & Restaurant, at Pelican Resort
La Dolce Vita Ristorante Italiano at Princess Port de Plaisance Casino
Lee's Roadside Grill & Restaurant, Simpson Bay Lagoon
Oualichi Beach Bar & Restaurant, on the Boardwalk, Philipsburg Beach
Pizza Galley, Simpson Bay Lagoon
Pineapple Pete's, Simpson Bay Lagoon
Taloula Mango, on the Boardwalk, Philipsburg Beach
Toppers Restaurant, Simpson Bay
Turtle Pier Bar & Restaurant, Simpson Bay Lagoon
Most restaurant restrooms are small and not accessible to wheelchairs.
Restaurants - French side
Many of the restaurants in the Marina Port la Royale in Marigot are at sidewalk level including:
Brasserie de la Gare
La Belle Epoque
La Petite Auberge des Iles
Le Main de la Pate
The Fish Pot in Grand Case has a wheelchair ramp leading to its front door.
La California Restaurant, Grand Case is at the sidewalk level, but has one step.
The Lolos, Grand Case, are at the sidewalk level.
Most restaurant restrooms are small and not accessible to wheelchairs.
Casinos - Dutch side/There are no casinos on the French side.
Diamond Casino, Front Street, Philipsburg
Hollywood Casino, at the Simpson Bay Resort (formerly Pelican Resort)
Princess Port de Plaisance Casino, Cole Bay
Tropicana Casino, Cole Bay
Dunes Casino at Caravanseria Resort near Princess Juliana Airport
Casino restrooms are generally large and are accessible to wheelchairs.
Many to most of the shops in Philipsburg and Marigot are at sidewalk levels. Likewise, some of them are up a step or two from the sidewalk. Most of the entrance doors to the shops are wide enough for wheelchairs and many shops have double doors. Generally, restrooms in shops are not accessible to wheelchairs.
Venetian Jewelers, #11A and #54 Front Street, (two locations), Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Tel: 543.3336 or 542.3414. Fax: 542.3428
The stores are at sidewalk level with one small step for entry through the entrance door which is wide enough for wheelchairs. The sales staff is always ready to assist.
Heritage Foundation, Front Street, Philipsburg
The museum shop is located on the ground floor and is accessible for people in wheelchairs to enter and browse. The museum itself is located on the second floor.
The Butterfly Farm, Quarter D'Orleans, St. Martin
Tel: 590.5220.127.116.11 or 599.547.1097
The Butterfly Farm is "wheelchair friendly." Many cruise ship visitors, several who were senior citizens in wheelchairs, have taken the tour. The entire building is at ground level; and, although, there is one step up to the reception/shop area and down the other side, it is navigable with some assistance from friends or staff. Restrooms are at ground level, but do not have sidebars attached to the walls. Inside the exhibition, the pathways are very wide and the ground is hard compacted sand. The tours are very slow moving and guides will bring to the visitors anything of interest that they cannot reach such as a caterpillar on a high leaf for example.
The following hotels/resorts have indicated that they provide accommodations for physically challenged tourists. Please contact the specific resort for details or questions.
Esmeralda Resort, Orient Beach, Orient Bay, St. Martin
Reservations/Tel: 011.590.518.104.22.168 Fax: 011.590.522.214.171.124
Esmeralda has 2 rooms, which are wheelchair accessible, one has a King bed and the other two twin beds, shower with seat inside, and terrace overlooking the bay. There is a ramp to their restaurant L'Astrolabe, a ramp to the beach, and Coca Beach Restaurant on the beach.
Mercure Simpson Beach, Nettle Bay, St. Martin
Reservations/Tel: 011.590.5126.96.36.199 Fax: 011.590.5188.8.131.52
The hotel has 5 rooms, which are wheelchair accessible including the bathrooms. They are at ground level and have a garden path, which provides access to the pool, restaurant and bar.
Hôtel Beach Plaza, Marigot Bay, St. Martin
Reservations/Tel: 011.590.590.87.87.00 Fax: 011.590.5184.108.40.206
The hotel provides wheelchair access from the parking area to the reception lobby. Two large elevators permit access to all areas of the hotel without the worry of steps; and, the restaurant, bars, game room, snack area and pool are all at ground level. There are four specially equipped ocean front rooms where the entrance door pulls open so that it doesn't get in the way of a wheelchair. The bathroom has a large door, a special toilet with handrail, and a large shower with easy wheelchair access. Two rooms can be combined with twin beds in one and king bed in the second. There are two steps down to the beach from the hotel.
Le Flamboyant Resort, Bay Nettle, St. Martin
Reservations/Tel: 011.590.590.87.66.00 Fax: 011.590.5220.127.116.11
Le Flamboyant has ample handicap facilities, ramps run throughout the property, and public bathrooms are spacious. Restaurants have wide entries and ramps. Both pools have areas with shallow water, ideal for sitting, and the pool staff is available for assistance. Handicapped rooms have wide doors, light switches located lower to the ground, and spacious bathrooms with shower and handlebars.
Le Petit Hotel, Grand Case, St. Martin
Reservations/Tel: 011.590.590.29.09.65 Fax: 011.590.590.87.09.19
There is a ramp leading to the reception area and the hotel has two units specifically for physically challenged tourists. Restrooms are at floor level and the unit doors, restroom doors, baths, showers and toilets are all wheelchair accessible.
Hotel L'Esplanade, Grand Case, St. Martin
Reservations/Tel: 011.590.590.87.06.55 Fax: 011.590.518.104.22.168
Two of the Studio units are handicapped accessible with a ramp leading to these guestrooms. The rooms, doors, and restrooms to these two units are totally built to code for physically challenged tourists.
Medicall Total Access, Marigot, St. Martin,
Tel: 011.590.590.29.04.04 Fax: 011.590.522.214.171.124
Web site: www.medicall.net
Medicall Total Access provides handicap accessible transportation, medical emergency evacuation, and activities on the island.
The St. Maarten Tourist Office has indicated that the following resorts all have accommodations equipped for physically challenged individuals.
Atrium Beach Resort, Simpson Bay, St. Maarten
Reservations/Tel: 011.599.544.2126 Fax: 011.599.544.2128
Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel & Casino, Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Reservations/Tel: 800.223.0757 or Tel: 011.599.542.2446 Fax: 011.599.542.3008
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, Maho Bay, St. Maarten
Reservations/Tel: 800.223.0757 or 011.599.545.2115 Fax: 011.599.545.3180
Princess Port de Plaisance Hotel & Casino, Cole Bay, St. Maarten
Reservations/Tel: 800.622.7836 or 011.599.544.5222 Fax: 011.599.544.2315
August 3, 2005
Well, I'm back. I didn't have a good time. Nothing on Carnival Cruise Lines' ship was wheelchair accessible (except for the casino, and I don't gamble plus the casino was the only place on the ship that smoking was allowed, gross! None of their shore excursions were wheelchair accessible so I found things on-line to go and do myself with my friend. Well, that was a disaster. The beach I found online that had a ramp into the water, the government closed that beach down because the ramp was corroding. The next island they changed the schedule on me. They went there a day earlier than was on my itinerary; therefore, the ride that I set up with a wheelchair transportation company was all messed up. The ship tried to call them and see if they could come out a day earlier, they could but 4 hours later and they would pick me up to return in 3 hours, so that cut my time off the ship.
The best island that we went to was St. Martin. Someone actually lifted me into the taxi and a fellow taxi driver was there to help me out when we returned. There was a taxi van with a lift, but it wasn't attached so they couldn't bring it with us so I wouldn't be able to go with the group when they stopped and the driver said he wouldn't be able to leave the air conditioner running while they were gone. It was a very gorgeous island. We weren't there long enough. I would love to spend time just on that island.
I'm very blessed to live in the US.
Editor's Note: Although the information above was updated in August 2011, Ann Marie's questions and letter were written in August 2005. I hope since then there have been many positive changes in the cruise industry and at their travel destinations to aide and support physically challenged tourists.