How to book a hotel in Cape Town (or not)?

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We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again,
some sunny day.

Vera Lynn
Copyright: africatravelresrource.com
The Mother City – Copyright: africatravelresrource.com

Yay! We are going on a Christmas holiday again. 🙂 December 22nd we are heading back to South Africa and the Mother City – Cape Town. Last time we were there (2006), I must admit to falling in love with both the city and the country. You can read my travel report from the trip here.

This time we are meeting up with our guide Warren again. He has started his own business Africa South Tours, and is creating a tailormade tour for the 5 of us (the Rio rebels). Warren is arranging accodmodation for us outside Cape Town, and we are booking hotels in Cape Town ourselves. So how can this go wrong?

imagesCape Town is definitely cheaper than Rio de Janeiro. And unlike Rio, there are a lot of hotels that claim to be accessible for wheelies on Booking.com and similar pages. Well, as you could read in my blogpost about Lindesnes Havhotel, things aren’t always what they seem. So our strategy has become the following:

 

1. Define our needs and standards.
This time we wanted a hotel that had 3 wheelchair accessible rooms (if possible), without steps/stairs and an accessible and sunny pool area (preferably more than a bathtub). Walking distance to Victoria & Alfred Waterfront would be a bonus. For New Year’s week-end, walking distance to V&A was elementary.

2. Making several (or many) reservations
We made several reservations through Booking.com as we found different alternatives. However WITH the possibility of cancelling the order at any time without any costs.

3. E-mailing the hotel
Asking specific questions about the wheelchair access.

4. E-mailing the same hotel again (and sometimes again)
Because answering a simple yes or no-question can (obviously) be really really hard…

Afrika2006 001
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (from 2006).

Here is an example of how a “Is your hotel wheelchair accessible?”-conversation can be:

Me:
“I have made a reservation through booking.com (cancellation possible) for the period 22.12.13 – 12.01.14.
 
Is the hotel wheelchair accessible?
Do you have wheelchair accessible rooms available?
Are there any steps/stairs inside the hotel?
Are there steps/stairs to reach the pool?
Is there anything else I should know regarding wheelchair access in your hotel?
 
Regards from
Ingunn Westerheim”

The Commodore Hotel:
“Dear Ingunn. Thank you for the email. Please note that the hotel is wheelchair accessible and we do have paraplegic rooms with walking in shower however our swimming pool is not wheelchair friendly.

Kind regards
The Commodore Hotel”

Me:
“Thank you very much for your quick answer. How many paraplegic rooms do you have? Is it possible to explain what the difference between the wheelchair accessible rooms and the normal rooms are? How wide are the doors in the normal rooms (room door and bathroom door)? Do they have bath tubs/shower? Step to get into the bathrooms? The reason why I ask, is that we are several friends (wheelchair users) who are looking for a hotel. We have small manual wheelchairs.
 
Are there stairs/steps to get to the pool area? Or do you mean that it is just a “normal pool” without any adaptations? Thank you in advance!”

The Commodore:
“Dear Ingunn. Please note that the hotel have 4 paraplegic rooms and all have walking shower there is steps to get to bathrooms and there is stairs to get to swimming pool. You will need the assistance if you want to make use of the swimming pool.”

(Me thinking: What on earth does this mean? Where are the steps inside? And do they mean that there are steps to get into the POOL or to get to the pool area?)

Me writing:
“I am sorry for asking so many questions. But do you mean that there are steps to get to the bathrooms in the paraplegic rooms or the normal rooms? Is it possible to use the pool at the Portswood hotel?”

The Commodore:
“Kindly please note that there are no steps to the bathrooms but there is steps to access swimmingpool.”

(Me thinking: Congratulations. You actually managed to answer one of my questions! But I am still confused on this pool issue.)

At this point, we had come a bit further regarding our other inquiries, so we gave up on The Commodore for the first period in Cape Town. But we still left them open as an option for New Year’s.

Afrika2006 009b
Looking forward to going back to V&A Waterfront. 🙂

To save you guys (my wheeling travel buddies) from some work next time you go to Cape Town, I will now sum up the results from the big hotel room in Cape Town investigation:

1. Protea Hotel President (the winner for the first 4 days)
– 3 wheelchair accessible rooms (Bathroom fully modified with accessible shower, toilet and basin. The rooms are spacious with standard bed high as indicated by international standards for wheelchair friendly rooms)
– Steps in hotel, but ramped access everywhere.
– No steps to reach pool area, which is big and sunny
– 6-7 km drive to city centre of Cape Town. Situated in quiet area in Bantry Bay (close to Sea Point Promenade). 

2. The Portswood Hotel
– Safe walking distance (with low curb cuts) to V&A
– Small rooms. Only 1 wheelchair accessible.
– Accessible pool area. But looks small in photo, with more shadow than sun.
– Accessible main entrance. Parking entrance not accessible.

3. The Commodore Hotel
Well, you can analyze that for yourself (read above)….

4. The Protea Hotel Victoria Junction
– Walking distance to V&A (not safe) and with possibly bad curb cuts.
– 1 wheelchair accessible room
– 4 steps to get to pool area (or pool??)
– Wheelchair accessible entrance from the back of the hotel.

5. Cape Town Lodge Hotel
– 3 accessible rooms (“slightly larger bathroom with grab bars and are user friendly”)
– Ramp from the entrance of the hotel to the reception area. The elevators will take you to all areas except the bar area has about 4 steps.
– No steps to pool area.
– Not a safe area at night. Possibly bad curb cuts. Close to Company Gardens.

7. City Lodge V&A Waterfront
– Do have accessible rooms (we stayed there in 2006 – but don’t know how many)
– Ramped access to reception
– No steps to pool area, but pool is extremely small.
– A few tables available in restaurant. Steps to reach most tables. – Walking distance to V&A (not advised to walk at night). I remember 1 bad curb cut (in 2006).

8. African Pride Chrystal Towers Hotel & Spa
– 3 accessible rooms (with roll-in shower)
– 3 steps to reach pool area, but ramp for wheelchairs.
– Situated in suburb Century City within walking distance to huge mall Canal Walk. 10km drive to city centre of Cape Town.

9. Cape Royal Hotel & Spa
– 2 suites wheelchair accessible (2 bedroom family suites. These rooms are bigger is size and the doorways are bigger and the bathrooms are converted to be wheelchair friendly)
– Level entrance and ramp in lobby area.
– Most of floors have life access, however you are unable to access the Sky bar and pool area by wheelchair. This is only accessible via the staircase (2 flights of stairs)
– Situated in Green Point. Not sure about walking distance to V&A.

10. Harbour Bridge Hotel & Suites
– 2 accessible rooms
– Reception area is accessible. Stairs in hotel, but also elevator.
– “The way to the V&A Waterfront as well is wheelchair friendly. please keep in mind we are not based at the waterfront we are at the entrance of the Waterfront about 15 minutes walk and 5 minutes drive.”
– Going to the pool are about 10 to 15 stairs.

11. Hilton Cape Town City Centre
– 2 accessible rooms (wheel-in shower)
– There are steps to the reception area but there is also a ramp that leads into the hotel. The pool deck however only has stairs.

So where to stay in Cape Town with a wheelchair?
If your are travelling alone (or with a power chair) I would definitely recommend one of the hotels in walking distance to V&A. This harbour area has a lot of shops, restaurants, bars etc and most of them are wheelchair accessible (ask for ramp if the entrance has steps). In the city centre (Long Street) the sidewalks are crazy. In 2006 the sidewalks were about 40cm higher than the street. No curb cuts. You will definitely need a strong helper here – and a power chair seems very difficult. The area is also unsafe at night.

Sea Point we don’t know about yet. But we will blog about it in December 2013. 🙂

Afrika2006 019d
The view to Camps Bay from Table Mountain is hard to forget…

Until then – have fun planning your holidays. Don’t give up even if the hotels give you stupid or non-informative answers. Be persistant and remember: Some people are just…stupid! 🙂

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