Saturday, October 9, 2021

Tru by Hilton North Charleston Airport

Date of Visit: September 16-17, 2021

Normally I wouldn't do a post for a hotel when we did not have an accessible room, but we were supposed to. Not only did I make a reservation for an accessible room, but I actually made the reservation before I was able to buy tickets to the Blake Shelton concert because I wanted to ensure we had an accessible room if I could get accessible seats. We didn't get wheelchair accessible seats at the venue and that was our accessibility concern of the trip, but it turned out fine compared to the hotel, which has always been the least concern for us when traveling.

Around 11am on check in day, the Hilton app sent me a notification to check in, which I proceeded to do. At that time it not only showed me I had a reservation for an accessible room, but when I completed check in it had assigned me a room and sent me an email that my digital key was processing. I was actually initially impressed with the online check in because it has an option to tell them that there is a person in the room that may require assistance if there is an emergency evacuation of the hotel.

Around 1pm, I got an alert from the app that we had been assigned to another room and our digital key was ready. I assumed it was just a different accessible room that had become ready earlier even though I selected estimated arrival time of 5pm. However, I did start to be concerned because the app no longer showed anywhere that it was accessible, but I wasn't sure if it had after I completed the check in and was assigned the other room either.

When we finally got to the hotel at 6:15pm after unexpected traffic delays, we proceeded straight to the room to discover it was not accessible at all. My cousin went down to the desk to try to get us reassigned, but they had no available accessible rooms at this point, which is not surprising. We then had to waste more time trying to prove that I not only had reserved an accessible room, but had been assigned one. 

While the guy at the front desk was helpful and tried to figure out why some rooms were out of service, he also tried to convince us that our room was not guaranteed because we had not paid for the room until we checked in and we could not have checked in that early. While I understand that some room requests are not guaranteed until paid, I specifically had made a reservation for an accessible room and per my understanding of ADA law that room has to be set aside when I make the reservation and cannot be given away like it was. It is further annoying that it was given to someone else after the app assigned me the room and I had done everything I could to check in except actually access the room.

We requested a refund and he said he couldn't do that. All he could do was put a note in the system. We also requested to have the manager call us. We never received a refund nor further contact from Hilton. I also provided feedback in the Hilton app when it asked me and via the e-mail survey and never received a response there either despite asking to be contacted. I know we could have probably tried harder to contact them and complain, but they already almost ruined that night and wasted so much of our time. I decided to just report it to the DOJ in case there is a pattern to be investigated and be done with Hilton (except a few locations we have previously enjoyed).

I have long avoided Hilton just because there website has always annoyed me and I found I had to constantly go back and forth to find a hotel that actually had an accessible room to book despite filtering by accessible rooms when searching for reservations. In the last few years, the website has gotten better, but I'd rather go with Best Western that seems to not have online booking for ADA rooms at many locations like it should allow but at least they have never failed to provided it when we are able to book an ADA room online.



And this one feature of the toiletries in the room was so not joy inducing... Also, darn hard to use for someone with grip strength issues, so wonder how well that works if those are in the ADA rooms, too, because even kids (and me) could barely use the soap.

Destination Info:

Tru by Hilton North Charleston Airport
3331 W Montague Avenue
North Charleston SC 29418

Saturday, September 18, 2021

North Charleston Coliseum: Blake Shelton Friends and Heroes 2021 Tour


Date of Visit: September 16, 2021

When the tour stops for the Blake Shelton Friends and Heroes 2021 were announced, I went back and forth on getting tickets for DC or the stop nearest where we now live. In the end, I'm glad we picked close to home as not only was the DC stop cancelled, but this gave us a good chance to try out the venue when it was an artist we knew Mik enjoyed.

Same as last time I attempted to get wheelchair tickets when presale started. Again, I didn't mind that they didn't go on sale (and was pleased that this venue does sell them online when they do release them). This time, though, I did find ADA semi-ambulatory seats I could buy during the presale. We decided to deal with transferring Mik instead of trying for wheelchair seats later and risk getting nothing. In particular, the venue is also old and the wheelchair sections are mostly like the view we didn't really like at Royal Farms Arena and the semi-ambulatory ones at least meant getting a closer to straight on view of the stage. Also, this time there were four of us and I didn't want to take that many spots in the wheelchair section if they even let me buy that tickets or end up having to split up, which we lucked out not having to do at Royal Farms when it was just three of us.

Our seats were in Section 116 Row K. This section and the one next to it have the top two rows designated as semi-ambulatory. The way it is shown on the seat layout map I wasn't sure which row would be the one with less steps for a transfer and kind of thought the row in front looked easiest. I ultimately ended up with K just because that was the last option to get the seat on the end of the row. Turned out to be the right choice as this row you can roll the chair right up to and was an easy transfer for us to do.


Main downside to the semi-ambulatory versus actual wheelchair seating is that you easily get your view blocked by the people standing up in front of you. Mik and I were lucky because the two people in front of us were unable to stand much and sat the whole show. The rest of the people in both rows on both sides, though, were standing like much of the rest of the arena for the whole show. When Blake came on and everyone stood up, Nora was sad because she no longer could see, but she ended up being able to stand on her seat with Kirsten putting her leg on it to make sure it stayed down.


Last year we were supposed to take Nora to her first concert (Rascal Flatts in DC area) and Kirsten had been playing her the music so she would know it. This time after so many things being cancelled over the past year and a half, we didn't tell her and she didn't even know who Blake was until Kirsten remembered she had seen The Voice and knew him as the guy that does the finger thing. Thus, I wasn't sure what she would think not knowing the music, but she was totally into it as soon as Lindsay Ell came out. However, she was like, "This isn't country." Then Blake come out and she said, "Now this is country." By the end, she was dancing and singing along as she quickly picked up the choruses. She was also making sure we all got our phones out with the lights on and sang when the artists would have the crowd sing the parts back to them.


Overall we really enjoyed the concert. Nora and I were most sad that we ended up having to leave just as they were getting ready to all come out and play, though, because Mik's butt hurt since traffic was bad and he didn't get a chance to have a break from sitting at the hotel before as we had expected. Also, we still had to try to further deal with the hotel having given away our accessible room reservation before the shift change at 11pm (going back to hating Hilton...). It was also much more pleasant to get out of there early and not wait for elevator or try to get Mik back in his chair as everyone exited, although it seemed the usher was ready to get it and block traffic from getting in our way of transferring him back in it.

Destination Info:

5001 Coliseum Drive
North Charleston, SC 29418

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort 1-Bedroom Accessible Villa w/ Roll-in Shower

 

Date of Visit: June 18-20, 2021

Originally we had planned to celebrate Mom’s 60th birthday with a Norwegian Fjords cruise in September. When it became clear it wasn’t going to happen and with Destination D cancelled last year we had banked DVC points that had to be used this year, we decided to try out Hilton Head. Unfortunately, I thought of it too late to even have a chance of booking for or near Mom’s birthday in July, but after weeks of checking I did finally find two nights in a row that would at least use the points we had to use this year. While it also happened to be Father’s Day weekend and near Mik’s birthday, we specifically only celebrated Mom’s birthday.


To the side after entering is a nice little area to leave your shoes and beach stuff. It also is where the studio would connect if you book a 2-bedroom lock-off.


Laundry is located in the entry area. Not a fan of the top loader as it was hard to fish the socks out of when unloading, but it is somewhat preferable to the usual stackable and allows for larger loads.


Mik liked that the living room had a fold out chair as well as sofa as we ended up only having to use the chair leaving Mik with plenty of floor space for him to hang out along with the TV being at a great height for him.


Kitchen area was one of the worst we've seen. It is usable, but would be annoying if we were actually staying more than a few nights and seems odd for a place that you would really need the kitchen if you stayed a week since there is no restaurant and a rather limited quick service (and even more limited the usual due to not being back to full regular operations or so I assume with it's hours being only until 5pm when we were there).


We found the fridge to be rather small as we almost didn't have enough space for the limited stuff we had brought with. It certainly would have been annoying if we had done this as our usual family trip, which we had considered for 2022 since we aren't sure we want to do WDW again, yet (mainly because no annual pass, but also majorly turned off since they replaced Great Movie Ride with something that requires a transfer).

The design with it ending at the table ends up with it being a tight fit for wheelchair to go through kitchen. Mik even found it hard to crawl that way and thus was basically stuck in the living room when the folding chair bed was out if we hadn't moved the chairs to each side by booth seating, which at least there was plenty of area for that to be done.




We did like the open shelf and counter design on the side behind the TV. Just wish they had made the path in kitchen slightly wider, but then you really would have a problem with the fold out beds in living room, I guess...


Living Room


Verandah


View from Verandah


The bathroom was kind of awkward with how the door opened by the toilet. Overall the design is okay. Unfortunately, for Mik it just didn't work to use by himself since he has trouble when there is only a grab bar on the right side.




The shower was rather strange. With it mounted off to the side it was awkward and difficult to get it angled to stand under. The hose length was then also made it not that easy for Mik to use either.







We decorated for Mom's 60th similar to what we had done for Dad on our Panama Canal cruise. We also surprised her with some lefse. Not the same as getting to go to Norway, but it was one of the best batches Kirsten and I have ever made.



Mik was happy that he at least still managed to get Mickey waffles. He actually ended up saving them for breakfast at home the next day, though, as instead he filled up the fresh beignets.

Overall it is a decent beach resort, but certainly not somewhere we would have likely ever considered if we didn't have points we needed to use since I am not into the beach and Mik finds it no longer worthwhile as he has gotten older. While DVC is all about "Welcome Home" this is too much like being at home since we now live in Myrtle Beach and it really feels like you could pretty much get the same experience if not better at any other resort at Hilton Head. Perhaps, if the room design had been better, we might have kept it on our maybe list for our annual family trip, but now we won't even consider it and would probably rather risk the annoyance of RCI exchange or even just losing points instead (or maybe even settling for a non-accessible non-park WDW trip).

Destination Info:

22 Harbourside Lane
Hilton Head, SC 29928

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Blue Bicycle Books

Date of Visit: June 18, 2021

One of the things we considered as a stop on our way down to Hilton Head was used bookstores. After deciding to stop at Charles Pinckney NHS, I didn't expect to also end up at a used bookstore, but Mik thought we should waste more time and not risk getting to Hilton Head before 4pm check-in and not have our room ready. We had already picked out Blue Bicycle Books as a store that looked worth visiting in Charleston sometime.

Mik enjoyed rolling around the store as one of the few independent/used bookstores he could actually navigate through. There was just a little bit in the way back that he couldn't really go to, but it was not any of the sections he was interested in anyways. The one room at the front was also hard to get in to with a bicycle leaning in the way, although that could be moved.

Overall it was a good stop, especially since we ended up finding a parking spot a few blocks away on the street and enjoyed walking around the area as well. I didn't find any WPA or Rivers of America books, but they do have a good selection of local books including old and new.

Destination Info:

420 King St
Charleston, SC 29403

Friday, June 25, 2021

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site


Date of Visit:
June 18, 2021

Our visit to Charles Pinckney NHS was the first stop as part of our weekend trip to Hilton Head to celebrate Mom’s 60th birthday. Mik probably would’ve rather chosen to visit Fort Sumter if he could’ve picked, but currently they are doing dock work and it’s more inaccessible than normal. Charles Pinckney NHS site just said that the historic house was closed, so we figured it probably wasn’t accessible anyways and it wouldn’t really affect our experience. Plus, it’s not far from where we live now that we could always go back if we wanted to see more. Turned out it is just in phased reopening with the only thing still closed being the store (would’ve been nice if I could have gotten the National Park Passport stickers as I never got the 2020 set and now also need the 2021 set).

The parking lot is a little rough with it not being paved and the grass has gotten a little wild taking up part of some spots.

By the parking lot there is a covered seating area and bathrooms. Mik was impressed that the bathrooms had buttons to open the doors and that was before we discovered they also had a family bathroom in the visitor center.

The path from here to the visitor center (i.e. the historic house) and around the house are paved.

The visitor center has a lift so that wheelchairs can access it. The lift goes up to the porch and then you can enter through the side door that has you enter through the back of the shop. While the shop is “closed,” the wheelchair can still go through it as really it was only still closed because they have not got the staffing and registers set back up.

The visitor center contains three rooms with exhibits about Charles Pinckney, the history of the farm, and a little on the region. There is also a family accessible bathroom by the room that they show a film in.

Mik wasn’t sure about doing the trail as it was hot and humid. Mom and him almost just stayed in the visitor center where the ranger had offered to put in the other films they had. Ultimately, Mik decided to go because it was a pretty short trail even though we couldn’t do it as a loop and had to it as two short there and back trails as the nature trail between the slave community and boardwalk is through the woods with tree roots and poison ivy to watch for, etc. (Ranger was very good at being able to describe the whole trail and accessibility.)

We did the part of the trail that went past the model rice trunk and to the boardwalk first. This path looks like wood chips, which maybe it is, but it is packed down and was pretty much the same as rolling on the sidewalk/paved paths.

At the end of the boardwalk area, Mik was excited to get a snuggly photo with Mom and I didn’t have to be the one to do it for once.

We then took the part of the trail that goes along the Historic Road Trace, which would have been the way towards Charleston in Pinckney’s time (including when George Washington visited in 1791).

The path from here to the slave community goes through grass. It is wide and we could have easily taken Mik on it, but he choose to just stay back in the shade than go on a bumpy ride.

Overall we enjoyed Charles Pinckney NHS as Mik really did get to experience it all (or at least as much as he wanted and not because it wasn’t accessible).

Destination Info:

1254 Long Point Rd
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464