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Wheels up in Crete!

Hey, everyone!

My name’s Rachael, and I’m 29 years old. My dad Tony had a motorbike accident ten years ago that left him paraplegic, meaning that he requires a wheelchair all the time.

We talked about a family holiday, but like many things involving a disability it required planning, checking and triple-checking. There was the anxiety that can be caused by travelling to think about, not to mention that the thought of an unsuitable room can be enough to put you off all together.

But we were determined...

I must have spent hours upon hours searching for hotels and emailing managers in Greece and Spain (we decided on a family sun holiday), and after days of nobody responding or not being “100% clear” on the actual accessibility of the rooms, I was ready to give up.

But then I found DisabledHolidays.com. I called the number and spoke to a lady named Wendy, and she set about the search for a hotel that would suit not only my dad’s needs but the needs of the large group of us travelling on a big family/friends’ holiday.

She was a superstar! I cannot thank her enough, in all honesty.

Family in accessible transport on disabled-friendly holiday in Crete

Wendy and the team at DisabledHolidays.com worked tirelessly to ascertain the accessibility of the rooms and ensure that the toilet was fit for a commode chair and that there would be room in the bathroom and bedroom for dad to move about in his chair. I recall the day she called me to tell me it was all confirmed. The relief on my dad’s face at being able to say it was all OK was an amazing feeling.

Our hotel in Rethymnon, Crete

The flight to Crete went smoothly, and the airport assistance was organised and helpful :)

When we arrived, the transport van Wendy and the crew had arranged was ready and waiting for us. Our driver, “Mr Thanos”, was very helpful and informative. My dad had the appropriate straps and things in the back, and we were all sat together in the one car, which was nice.

Family on disabled-friendly holiday in Crete

Still, you never know until you get there, do you? How much can you trust someone else with your holiday?

All I can say is thank the Lord we did!

My dad’s room was accessible, and all the things we had told Wendy we needed were there. It was next door to our family room, meaning if he needed anything we were close by. The hotel staff were extremely friendly, and when the door in dad’s room jammed they were there ten minutes later to fix it. He was so relieved. There were no broken shower chair wheels (which we’ve had before), and finally we had toilet that wasn’t on a plinth or four-inch raised concrete block! You have no idea how many times we’ve seen that before.

Overall, the hotel was fairly accessible and I would rate it about 8/10.

Path lined by palm trees at a hotel in Crete

There is one main slope leading to the main pool that was great fun for my dad to whiz down but required some elbow grease to get back (but not unmanageable). He could access every room and bar with ease except one of the top cocktail bars. He was able to get in and sit at the tables, but for some reason there were two steps down to the bar, which was a massive shame as it was the ONLY place he couldn’t get. Even so it wasn’t somewhere we regularly visited as the main pool was our spot, and I think dad enjoyed the excuse of not being able to order the drinks for everyone!

The beach areas (coves) are not accessible for wheelchairs. There were lots of stones, and the slopes down there are steep. We found enough to entertain the children, so the lack of sand didn’t bother them, but it would have been nice to have gone there all together. If you have the ability to walk but require aids, there are handrails all the way down; however, I would be mindful if you cannot walk for long periods as the walk back up may feel like Everest.

Wheelchair user practising archery on an accessible holiday in Crete

The entertainment team were amazing, and the staff encouraged my dad to join in the activities. We had considered doing a bit of archery and decided it was probably not going to be accessible, but a member of staff came over and insisted we give it a go. He helped with dad’s chair and dad was chuffed to bits. He loves a bit of archery, and the rest of us enjoyed it too.

The holiday was fantastic for the kids. The entertainment throughout the day (including the sports) and the evening Lion King and dance shows were fantastic. A special shoutout has to go to Macaroni Tony, aka Pumba (below). He went above and beyond to make us feel welcome.

The hotel was beautiful and the views were amazing. At times the exotic trees made us feel like we were in the Bahamas.

Entertainer at accessible hotel in Crete Entertainers at accessible hotel in Crete

Braving the town

Before our booking, Wendy had warned us the nearby town was cobbled and hilly, but we decided to brave it to check out the shopping and local foods.

On the way out, the bus driver pulled down a ramp and all was accessible. We thought this was an amazing sign. Wendy had been right about the terrain. It was difficult to get around; the kerbs were quite high and roads narrow, meaning lots of navigating was required to simply get down some streets. My dad is extremely patient and laidback, but it tested the best of patience at times, understandably. Even so he got to immerse himself in some of the local little coffee bars while our large group scoured the shops for cheap perfumes, Greek god monuments and key rings :) The children enjoyed the toy shops, sweet shops and pretty summer dresses.

The journey back was not so easy. Trying to communicate without the local lingo that a ramp was required was awkward, and bus after bus turned up that we were not able to use. We were a little anxious but then finally a bus arrived close to the kerb, and with the help of friends and locals we carried my dad’s chair onto the bus. Next time we will call Thanos :)

Pretty flowers on a building in Crete

To summarise, the holiday was a little piece of heaven. As no hotel or destination can be guaranteed accessible, this was absolutely ideal. In fact we were so impressed that we have booked to go back, and after hearing how lovely the place was, more members of our family have decided to join us as well.

Thank you to Wendy and all of the staff at DisabledHolidays.com. We now know that we can enjoy a holiday with peace of mind.

Wheels up again soon :)

Rachael x

Want to follow in Rachael’s footsteps? Book a stay at her hotel here.

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