Apple vacations cannot be trusted
My family booked a all inclusive vacation at the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo Resort in Mexico (40 miles South of Cancun) based upon Apple's recommendation/rating system and the reviews they posted online. Apple advertises the Paraiso Lindo as a "ALL INCLUSIVE VALUE ADDED" Resort with a 5 + Orange rating.
The Iberoster webpage describes the resort as:
IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts, the hotel division of Iberostar Group, is one of the most renowned Spanish hotel chains at the global level. Founded by the FluxÃ¡ family in Palma de Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain) in 1986, it has come to offer top-level accommodation in major travel destinations around the world.
As a brand name, IBEROSTAR is synonymous with quality in the fifteen countries where it operates, providing outstanding service and personal assistance to ensure full guest satisfaction. With a star as its symbol, the chain has managed to Win over customers with its philosophy and values, and its efficient, professional staff.
Considering guests as the backbone of the organisation, the IBEROSTAR brand and the firmâs business strategy are aimed achieving customer satisfaction by providing the best quality service. In this regard, the companyâs staff âan innovative, multitasking teamâ seek to apply the latest trends in every field. Heavy profit reinvestment in hotel renovation and refurbishment is one of IBEROSTARâs key strategies to accomplish these goals.
The Apple and Iberostar websites boost:
â¢ The worldâs most important tour operators entrust their clients to Iberostar, because its hotels are distinguished by:
â¢ Meticulous care over service and a significant volume of investments in all the chainâs establishments, allowing for excellent reception and treatment of guests Comfortable facilities with wide open spaces and modern decoration.
â¢ Privileged locations of establishments, situated on the beach front with easy access to the main places in each town and surrounded by gardens and green areas.
â¢ Varied gastronomy, with exquisite buffets, traditional cuisine, cafeterias, pizzerias and theme restaurants.
â¢ Qualified, specialist staff.
â¢ Expert entertainment teams and sports and entertainment programmes.
Apple in its literature posted online and disseminated to travel agents boosts of Iberostarâs superior service and quality of the dining facilities. Our complaint lies in the fact that the Paraiso Lindo is at best a 3 Star Resort and Apples rating system and their on line reports are disingenuous at best.
As examples of the issues we had at this resort and with Apples misrepresentations:
My family and I have also been on a number of Cruises and have had an opportunity to sample âcruise lineâ food with both the middle to higher end cruise lines, traveled overseas (Europe, Korea, Ireland, Africa, Costa Rica) throughout the Caribbean ( 17 islands), Mexico, Canada and Bermuda and have had the opportunity to sample the local cuisine so I believe we entered into this vacation with reasonable expectations.
Prior to our arrival in Mexico we had no illusions that we were not going to be staying at the Hilton but expected that at least one of the 7 restaurants advertised at the Iberostar resort would be comparable to a 4 Star restaurant based upon Apples 5+ rating.
We made a point of asking our concierge to book us at âsit down restaurantsâ as we did not want to deal with a buffet at dinner and based on the literature provided by Apple and Iberostar we were looking forward to 4/5 star dining. We understood that breakfast and lunch involved buffets and we were fine with that.
Well, the food in plain terms was mediocre. It was difficult to find a decent meal. A majority of the food was either pre-prepared food that was then micro waved or reheated.
On our first night we tried the Italian restaurant and three of the 5 meals were just plan horrible. The other two ranged from âokâ to not bad with the ânot badâ meal being the equivalent of a fast food chain restaurant (Applebeeâs, TGIFâs).
On our second night we tried the Steak House and the meat was tough and very greasy and the vegetables mashed and soaked in oil. Everyone was in agreement that no one had a decent meal that night.
On our third night we tried the âGourmet French Restaurantâ and again no one had a decent meal. The steak/tenderloins were tough, the fish was overcooked. I complained that night and was met with a number of apologies and a visit from the âHead Chefâ but we were left with a situation where we needed to âfindâ something to eat at 9 am that was not Burgers, Carbs or a picked through buffet.
On our fourth night we tried the Mexican Restaurant which we felt would and should be terrific in light of the fact that we were in Mexico. Well, it was horrible. Two of us had a lobster that had been cooked and reheated and was so dry that we gave up on trying to âdissect itâ. Our remaining three meals were again reheated and rubbery. We were once again relegated to the buffet to grab some grilled chicken and guac. Of all the restaurants this was the most disappointing as we expected a wonderful meal prepared by the âIberostar 4/5 Star Chefsâ and ended up with a meal that a wait person at Ruby Tuesday would have sent back.
On our fifth night we tried the fish restaurant and four of our meals were overcooked and rubbery which is hard to do with fish and scallops. My daughter had a nice piece of salmon and my vegetables werenât too bad.
On our sixth night we went back to the âGourmet French Restaurantâ as the people we met at the pool and beach had warned us to stay away from the Japanese Restaurant with comments like âour meal was just plain terribleâ to âwe had to ask our waiter to please find us someone who could speak English and tell the cook to prepare a meal based upon our requests and not his interpretation of what a Authentic Japanese meal should taste likeâ. At that point we had a choiceâ¦..back to the burger/chicken/carbs buffet or âupgradeâ at a cost of $40.00 per person to eat at one of Iberostars two Five Star Restaurants at their high end Grand Resort. At that point in our vacation we did not want to spend $200. extra on a meal plus tip hoping that it would be better than the other 6 restaurants so we went back to the âGourmet French Restaurantâ and two of us had a decent meal in that the meat was not overcooked and the vegetables (which were steamed) were tasty. At this point our rating system had gone from - is it a 4 star meal to is it edible.
Seriously, a majority of our dinners were just plain terrible and most of the staff was oblivious. At the beginning of our 2nd visit to the âGourmetâ restaurant we were escorted into what was described as a âprivateâ dining room which if you and your family were there alone with a waiter/waitress it would have been a fun experience. In our case the staff proceeded to break down the room around us as we ate and used the room to store then retrieve chairs, glasses and tables. Needless to say the constant distractions dampened any conversation and at times we simply had to stop talking until the staff had finished moving a table out of the area.
To add insult to injury, most restaurants had a buffet for your appetizer and dessert and were quickly picked over. The desserts were comparable to what you would receive on a low level cruise or the packaged dessert you would buy in bulk at Samâs Club. Most of the bread based/puff pastry desserts (cream puffs, vol-a-vue, pastries) were stale and hard to cut much less ingest. We had expected the food to be affected by the humidity and made allowances for that. But we found a majority of the bread /pastry products were not âfreshly bakedâ and the bread they served was virtually tasteless. It was difficult if not impossible to get a salad unless you raided the condiment section of the burger buffet and used the lettuce, tomato and onion as a basic garden salad. A majority of the items in the buffets at lunch and dinner involved a lower cost cut of meat drenched in a number of sauces that ranged from very oily to low end butter substitute.
A majority of the cooks/servers in the buffet did not speak English so it was not unusual to get a mystery omelet if you did not sit there and make sure they put the requested items in. The lack of proficiency in basic English was really an issue at the bar. Now keep in mind, this is an all inclusive resort were we spent close to $10,000 for a week and a majority of the waitresses did not have a basic understanding of English. My son served as our translator but when he wasnât available we had a problem with the waitresses not understanding any request for any drink that was not a âstraight rum and cokeâ. On a number of occasions we were left with a decision as to do we drink the mystery drink or ignore the waitress and ask the bartender (who were usually very good to deal with) for the drink.
A major issue for us was the fact that a majority of the cooks/wait staff did not wear gloves and made minimal attempts to observe any sense of hygiene. I observed the cook at the omelet station cooking multiple omelets wiping her hands on her apron and sleeve, fixing her hair and leaning on the counter as she added one condiment after another without washing her hands or making any attempt to ensure that the raw egg batter stayed away from the utensils or food.
In fairness to the resort the waiters were very nice and most of them tried their best to make sure we had a nice dinner experience. However, whenever we raised a concern the response was always the sameâ¦we can get you another lobster/steak. If we just had a terrible meal for the 4th time and we can see the cooks preparing the meals (and know that we will receive the same thing) why would we try another reheated lobster? After the first time we âtried another mealâ and found it to be just as disappointing we made a point of trying to fill up at the buffets and not anticipate a decent meal at night.
The resort did have a nice set up at the beach. If you have a family with a couple of kids that love the beach and burger and fries Iberostar does a nice job with the beach portion of their resort. At the beach you can enjoy great water, views, sand, semi comfortable beach chairs under your own umbrella and the wait staff will bring you food (burgers and fries) along with drinks all day.
The beach also has fairly clean bathrooms and a number of activities that would keep your kids busy all day. The Paella cooked on the beach was a fun experience for everyone as the cooks made a point of getting the entire beach involved in the process. If you wanted to live at the beach, were not concerned with the above referenced dining issues and did not want any other activities I think you would have a decent time at this Iberostar resort.
In regards to our choices of restaurants, It was not until just before our departure did we find out that the resort had two Italian and two Mexican Restaurants and you had a choice of either the buffet or a âsit downâ style. What bothered me was we made a point of asking for a âsit down dining style restaurantâ and our concierge totally missed that point. I do not contribute his failure to make a reservation at the sit down Mexican/Italian restaurant to a misunderstanding or inability to communicate. Quite frankly, the reservation process for those restaurants involved an additional step and he simply did not want to take the time to make sure we got what we asked for.
We all felt that the Iberostar Resort did a nice job with security once you were on the bus and/or in the resort. I had no problem walking around late at night and I felt that the staff were all trustworthy (by that I mean I used the safe in the room but did not have any issues with leaving money in my clothes in the room while I was at the beach or In the pool), the issue I had was at the airport. Immediately upon exiting the immigration screening section you were descended upon by everyone from baggage handlers, taxi drivers, time share resort salesmen to people trying to sell you anything you could think of. I think Iberostar/Apple should have had a representative at the gate (we arrived in a Apple chartered plane) to save us from having to fight these people off. I realize that everyone has to make a living but when you are trying to get your luggage and find the right exit while making sure your family stays together the last thing you need is a time share salesmen literally breathing down your throat.
Our flight was a charter booked by Apple that left Logan Airport (Boston, Mass) at 6:50 am which meant we had to get up at 2 am to catch the limo at 3 am to get to Boston by 4:30 am to allow us time to get through customs.
My issue was not the 6:50 am departure, it was the fact that we arrived at the Resort at 11 am and could not get into our room or any room until 3 pm. If Apple is booking the charter and as such they know exactly what time we will be arriving to require us to sit around for 4 hours in 90+ degree heat until our room is available is unacceptable.
They could have made arrangements to have our luggage brought to an area that had showers so we could have changed into our bathing suits and gone to the beach or pool for a few hours or made a number of excursions available to fill that void. We would have been more than happy to pay an additional fee to fill the gap with something productive rather than sitting around for 4 hours.
Room Service/Chamber Maids/Cleanliness
We were very frustrated with the chambermaids as they basically cleaned your room when they got around to it. There was no definitive schedule so you could not plan on taking a nap, playing cards or watching TV around the scheduled maid service. Our chambermaid would arrive somewhere between 11am and 5pm. Now, when you are trying to get showered and dressed for dinner and the chambermaid shows up after 5pm to clean your room and it would take them anywhere from 50 minutes to 1 hour to clean it that creates a problem as our schedule is now impacted by theirs. Overall;
a. The room was not âspic and spanâ it was clean,
b. We did not have any local critters so that was nice,
c. The air condition ranged from âkind of workingâ to being OK,
d. The room was all tile so it was very slippery when wet which present a problem when you consider the humidity in Mexico and the fact that this resort is a pool/beach based resort. We witnessed a number of people slip on the wet tile and take a nasty fall. This resort had very little to no carpet and due to the presence of the tile you were always watching were you walked because that the tile was so slippery. If anyone in your party has a walking disability I would not recommend staying at this resort as they will have a difficult time getting around due to the slippery tiles unless they stayed at the high end Grand resort which has carpeting and because that it is an adult only resort you do not have to deal with kids running from pool to pool to their rooms getting the floors wet.
e. Most of the chambermaids did not understand English so you needed to get a hold of the concierge to get almost anything done to include having the maid refill the bottle water in the refrigerator, get an extra pillow etc.
f. The resort was quite large so you had the opportunity to request that a golf cart pick you up an drop you off at your destination. This was a pleasant surprise especially if you were dressed up for dinner and did not want to arrive at the restaurant soaked due to the near 90 percent humidity. The problem was waiting for a golf cart or the âtrainâ. If you called from your room they would be there anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes and were very accommodating. If you were on the grounds of the resort and waited at the train stop or in front of the shopping center you could be there for quite some time as they did not keep to any regular schedule so in most cases it was quicker to walk.
g. When you ordered room service you got your food within a reasonable period of time but it was not always warm (forget hot) and they usually did not bring any condiments.
h. As I had stated above we were taken back by the lack of cleanliness. To be clear the resort is very well maintained. Iberostar has workers on site all day cleaning, repairing the facilities. Our issue was with the people handling our food. It was clear that a majority of the people working there did not understand or if they did did not care about the transmission of viruses and transmitted food borne illnesses. You can dress someone up in a nice white chefs uniform but if they wonât wash their hands after touching eggs, poultry or rare meat before preparing your meal then there is an issue.
The entertainers were local and most spoke pretty good English however their âHollywood reviews/stage showsâ were equivalent to a High School Musical (my apologies to Disney). In some cases they had an entertainer who did a very nice job but that was the exception. In our case the onsite entertainment was not on our radar screen when we booked this resort so it made no difference to us.
If you are looking for a cruise line quality production you will not find it here.
The TV is OK, a majority is in Spanish of course. A majority of the TV shows are old and the movies are at least 2 years old. As this is a beach resort we did not expect to have HBO but it would have been nice to have that option.
There were a number of times when we had a legitimate issue which did not get addressed due to Iberostars failure to have anyone with any authority on hand.
Specifically, we had a number of what we considered to be legitimate issues to include;
a. The low quality of our meals,
b. The concierge failure to book us for a âsit down restaurantâ despite two requests,
c. The fact that we could not get dressed for dinner at 5:15 because that the maid had just started to clean our room and we had to go searching on many occasions to find a maid to get refills (toilet paper, towels),
d. The fact that the grounds people decided to spray for bugs in a populated area as we were going from one resort to the other and despite the fact that they could see us approaching continued to spray in front and behind us which resulted in us having to deal with the bug spray/fog for about 100 yards,
e. The fact that a employee had charge my daughter $8.00 (American) for a bag of cheetos,
f. The fact that we did not have hot water in our bathroom for most of our stay,
g. The fact that the train operator had failed to make his scheduled pick up at the shopping center requiring us to walk back to our section of the resort,
When we asked for a manager the front desk representative suddenly developed amnesia and her English immediately began to deteriorate. We had to ask her twice before she approached another front desk employee who then started to giggle (seriously) and told us they did not have one. At that time she told us she could take our name and have a person from PR speak to us later.
We did not hear anything and when we had the issue with the staff members dismantling the dining room around us at 7pm (during our meal) we went back to the front desk and was asked to wait a few minutes and a representative from PR would be right over to talk to us. The young lady from PR showed up about 10 minutes later and was very attentive and apologized for the quality of the meals and the fact that we were not âhaving a good timeâ. She told us she would have to turn this matter over to her supervisor who was not there and that her supervisor would be back the next day between 8 and 9 am and that the supervisor âwould contact us as soon as she was inâ. The next day I sat in my room from 9 to 11:20 am waiting to hear from this âsupervisorâ and after leaving a message with our concierge left for the beach to join my family. Upon our return late that afternoon we had a message left for us on our bathroom sink that the PR supervisor had called to talk to us at 11:30am and that we could go to the front desk to meet with her. At that point I was disgusted with the whole process. I expected the âsupervisorâ to contact us when her subordinate told us to expect a call â not 2.5 hours later and why would I at 4pm have to rush up to the front desk (a decent walk) to catch her before she left for the day? It was clear to us that we had received lip service and would continue to receive the same treatment. From that point on we accept the fact that the representations in Apples web site and in their literature had been grossly embellished and that Apples rating system had no direct relationship to the actual service at the resort. After returning home I contacted both Apple vacations and Iberostar with my concerns and never heard back from either group...... a fitting end to a subpar vacation.