I like to cool off in the summer by going into the mountains. Two years ago we tried, and liked, Breckenridge, Colo.
This summer my family went to Jackson Hole, Wyo., not an easy place to get to. We flew into Denver and rented a ramp van from Wheelchair Getaways. Then it was a scenic day-and-a-half drive to Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole sits on the edge of Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming, and Grand Teton’s next-door neighbor is Yellowstone National Park. There’s lots to see and do in the area, and for the most part Grand Teton is accessible to users of wheelchairs and scooters.
Our three-bedroom condo at the Snow King Resort was without doubt the nicest I’ve ever stayed in — a huge bathroom with a roll-in shower and a Jacuzzi tub; a complete, well-stocked kitchen; a balcony; and four TV sets. It was wheelchair friendly and spacious. We paid around $300 a night. The main lodge has less expensive accessible hotel rooms.
Jackson Hole looks like an old cowboy town fresh out of a Hollywood movie set. It’s full of charming restaurants, art galleries and Western-wear shops, including the Jackson Hole Hat Company, where I bought a white, straw hat from one of the hundreds of kinds they carry.
The mountains offered chair lifts, a gondola ride and a wonderful alpine slide that our grandchildren loved.
To me the best attraction was one I’d never heard of, the National Museum of Wildlife Art. This extraordinary facility overlooks the National Elk Refuge just outside of town. The museum’s permanent collection numbers more than 3,000 items, including paintings, sculpture, photography and other works by more than 100 distinguished artists ranging from 19th-century explorer-painters through contemporary masters.
We saw a special exhibit of animal drawings by Alexander Calder, an exhibit of safari-related works by some old German masters, and another exhibit of wildlife art done by women. The museum has a wonderful children’s interactive section, a cafe and a splendid gift shop featuring Native American art. Don’t miss this if you’re in the area.
Grand Teton Park is a treat. There are no foothills as you approach the park — all of a sudden the towering, jagged peaks just appear before you. The park features a mix of scenery — alpine peaks; pine forests replete with bald eagles and black and grizzly bears; sagebrush flats, flowering meadows and wetlands inhabited by elk and moose; and lakes, ponds and rivers where you can see and catch rainbow trout.
We spent two full days in the park looking for wildlife. I actually saw a bear, a herd of elk and more kinds of birds than I could identify. I rode my scooter on paved trails along Jenny Lake, and there’s a drive up Signal Mountain to the very summit.
The Signal Mountain Lodge in the park has seven one- and two-bedroom accessible cabins on Signal Lake for less than $200 a night. You need to reserve these well in advance.
If you want real luxury, the Jenny Lake Lodge is the place to go. This is a rustic, elegant, four-star resort in a wilderness section of the park with 37 cabins, some of which are accessible. The resort is American plan, which includes meals and horseback riding, for $450 a night for two people.
We didn’t go into Yellowstone on this trip, but Old Faithful is just a couple of hours away.
For more information contact: Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, (307) 733-3316, www.jacksonholechamber.com (ask for a list of handicapped lodging published by the Rotary Club); Snow King Resort, (800) 522-5464, www.snowking.com; Museum of Wildlife Art, (800) 313-9553, www.wildlifeart.org; Signal Mountain Lodge, (307) 543-2831, www.signalmountainlodge.com; or Jenny Lake Lodge, (800) 628-9988, www.gtlc.com.
I haven’t been on a Princess cruise for quite a while, so when the Caribbean Princess was launched in April I wanted very much to sail on it. Princess, Holland America and Royal Caribbean remain the most disability-sensitive cruise lines afloat.
The Caribbean Princess exceeded my expectations.
Princess is one of those lines people keep coming back to. On our seven-day Caribbean cruise I ran into a great many repeat passengers, some of them back for their 25th cruise! They always give the same answer when asked why — gourmet food and terrific service. The ships are beautiful as well. The original Love Boats that made Princess famous are still around, but it’s easy to fall in love with this new generation of cruise liners.
The Caribbean Princess is a “grand-class ship.” At 113,000 tons, carrying 3,100 passengers, it’s a sister of Princess’s highly successful Grand Princess. One of the features that sets these ships apart is an abundance of affordable cabins with balconies. This ship has 881 of them, 25 of them accessible and in all price categories. We had a beautiful cabin with a roll-in shower and a balcony. There was plenty of maneuvering room for my scooter — I could even turn around on the balcony.
I especially liked the ship’s Movies Under the Stars program. You can relax on a lounge chair by the pool, under a blanket, and watch a film on a giant LED screen.
Princess now operates its own in-house Lotus Spa, with an accessible sauna. I found the service better and the prices more reasonable than on ships where the spa is a concession. Better yet, there’s an accessible swimming pool with a hydraulic lift. With the help of a couple of crew members who appeared instantly every time I wanted to get in, I enjoyed several dips during the cruise.
The Caribbean Princess features either a traditional fixed-seating dining plan or “anytime dining.” Besides the Coral and Palm Dining Rooms, and a Caribbean dinner buffet in the Cafe Caribe, there are two specialty restaurants, the Sterling Steak House and Trattoria Sabattini. Both have a cover charge, but they’re well worth it.
I don’t usually take shore excursions because they aren’t accessible, but in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the ship’s shore excursion manager arranged for us to go in a taxi following the tour bus and to be part of a tour to Croydon Plantation and Rose Hall.
Croydon Plantation, high in the mountains and accessed by narrow, winding roads, is an outstanding place to visit. I found all the paths paved and accessible. Croydon grows a wide variety of pineapples, coffee beans and other tropical fruits. The tour allows you to see, touch and sample everything from breadfruits to sugarcane. It also includes a delicious luncheon of Jamaican specialties.
After lunch we went to Rose Hall. Built in the 1770s as the Great House of a vast sugar plantation, it has a notorious reputation because its owner, a gorgeous brunette named Annie Palmer, did away with three husbands, along with several slave lovers. The mansion has been restored to its original decor, typical of the English aristocrats who emigrated to Jamaica.
For more information visit Princess’s Web site, www.princess.com, or call (800) 744-6237. For a real kick, go to “ships” on the Web site and then click on “bridge cams.” By satellite you can see the current view from the bridge of any Princess ship.
I’ve written before about Wilderness Inquiry, which offers tours for people with any kind of disability and mixes them with able-bodied people. The staff helps you do anything and everything.
This is the time of year to consider taking one of the coming summer tours such as a safari in South Africa, or sea kayaking in Norway and Costa Rica. These tours are priced reasonably and are completely accessible.
For more information go to www.wildernessinquiry.org or call (800) 728-0719. Go ahead, you can do it!
Andy Vladimir and co-author Bob Dickinson have recently published The Complete 21st Century Travel & Hospitality Marketing Handbook, 627 pages, 2004, $35. Pearson/Prentice Hall, www.directtextbook.com. The textbook addresses a hospitality-industry audience and includes a chapter by Roberta Schwartz titled “The Fastest-Growing Market: Travelers With Disabilities.”