Bimini Beach Club is the exclusive Virgin Voyages Bahamas retreat, located on the tiny island of Bimini. The Scarlet Lady cruise ship makes port calls here during every cruise out of Miami, and it is one of the rare Caribbean private resorts where the cruise ship can actually dock. This means that passengers who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids can just roll off the ship and not have to worry about using a tender boat to reach the dock.
That being said, the Bimini Beach Club is just one of several resort areas on the island of Bimini, and it is not within rolling distance of the dock. This means you have to take a tram for about a seven minute ride to get there. The good news is that the tram is wheelchair accessible with a ramp, and the space at the front of the tram can hold two wheelchairs side-by-side. There are slots for tiedowns, but the tiedowns were not present, and the tram driver didn’t seem too anxious to get them out. That being said, the tram moved very slowly, and despite some rain and slippery surfaces, I did not slide around or feel unsafe or unstable at all.
The launch of Scarlet Lady was delayed by a year and a half due to Covid, and I had only seen some vague sketches of the Bimini Beach Club leading up to my cruise on November 3. I was somewhat skeptical about the accessibility of the Beach Club based on these sketches, but I was very pleasantly surprised to know that the accessibility was actually quite wonderful!
There are two ramps that lead up to the main reception area, which has lots of open seating and a small bar. The rest of the Beach Club is spread out around two long pools, and everything is connected by either paved walkways or wooden slats. The wood boardwalk is a little bit rough, but very passable. I was very comfortable temperature wise because it was overcast and drizzling on the day I visited. However, as someone with MS who is sensitive to the heat, the Beach Club would not be a great option for me on a hot day because there is no access to air-conditioned spaces, if temperature management is important to you. There are plenty of areas in the shade, however.
I was particularly thrilled to see that there is a Mobimat that extends from the wood boardwalk down the sand toward the water. While it doesn’t reach all the way to the water, there are two beach wheelchairs nearby where wheelchair users can transfer and get pushed down to the waterline. I did not see any floating beach wheelchairs where users could actually get into the water.
There are tons of options for private cabanas and seating on the beach itself. However, you will need to be able to transfer from the beach wheelchair and take one step in to the cabana if you want to use it. I did not see any with a ramp leading directly from the sand into the cabana. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any; I just didn’t witness any myself.
There are several accessible restrooms located throughout the Beach Club. I did not personally use any of them, although from the looks of it, the toilets may be on the low side and the grab bars may be on the high side. Everyone’s comfort levels with this will be different. The good thing is that the accessible toilet is in a separate room, so it has plenty of space and privacy. However, they do keep the door locked so you have to find someone to unlock it for you. Neither of the two accessible restrooms I entered had changing beds.
I did a full circuit around both pools, and there are no permanent pool lifts installed. However, I strongly suspect that pool lifts are available to be rolled out upon request, just based on the availability of a mobile pool lift on the ship and the attention to detail for wheelchair accessibility with everything else Virgin Voyages has done. It was raining and I was rushed, so unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to specifically ask a staff member about a pool lift.
There are several bars and a dining area near the pools. Because the crowd was very small and because it was raining, most of the bars were closed, although food was available. I didn’t stay to eat, but I did take a look at the dining area. Most of the picnic tables were located in the sand. However, they did have a rubber mat spread out over a part of the sand and connected to the paved walkway so wheelchair users could reach some of the picnic tables. There are also plenty of other nice seating areas around the Beach Club on hard surfaces that have small tables.
In conclusion, I think that the Bimini Beach Club for the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady is a fantastic private resort option for wheelchair users in the Bahamas. I was thoroughly impressed by the wheelchair accessibility and the attention to detail, and the cruise line really seems committed to true inclusivity for passengers. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. But as far as wheelchair access for a cruise port of call like this, I give it two thumbs up!
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