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 firm's business strategy are aimed achieving customer satisfaction by providing the best quality service. In this regard, the company's staff an innovative, multitasking team seek to apply the latest trends in every field. Heavy profit reinvestment in hotel renovation and refurbishment is one of IBEROSTAR's key strategies to accomplish these goals.
The Apple and Iberostar websites boost:
The world's most important tour operators entrust their clients to Iberostar, because its hotels are distinguished by:
Meticulous care over service and a significant volume of investments in all the chain's establishments, allowing for excellent reception and treatment of guests Comfortable facilities with wide open spaces and modern decoration.
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.
Varied gastronomy, with exquisite buffets, traditional cuisine, cafeterias, pizzerias and theme restaurants.
Qualified, specialist staff.
Expert entertainment teams and sports and entertainment programmes.
Apple in its literature posted online and disseminated to travel agents boosts of Iberostar's 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 "cruise line" 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 "sit down restaurants" 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 "ok" to not bad with the "not bad" meal being the equivalent of a fast food chain restaurant (Applebee's, TGIF's).
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 "Gourmet French Restaurant" 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 "Head Chef" but we were left with a situation where we needed to "find" 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 "dissect it". 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 "Iberostar 4/5 Star Chefs" 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 weren't too bad.
On our sixth night we went back to the "Gourmet French Restaurant" as the people we met at the pool and beach had warned us to stay away from the Japanese Restaurant with comments like "our meal was just plain terrible" to "we 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 like". At that point we had a choice..back to the burger/chicken/carbs buffet or "upgrade" 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 "Gourmet French Restaurant" 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 "Gourmet" restaurant we were escorted into what was described as a "private" 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 Sam's 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 "freshly baked" 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 wasn't available we had a problem with the waitresses not understanding any request for any drink that was not a "straight rum and coke". 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 same 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 "tried another meal" 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 "sit down" style. What bothered me was we made a point of asking for a "sit down dining style restaurant" 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 "spic and span" it was clean,
b. We did not have any local critters so that was nice,
c. The air condition ranged from "kind of working" 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 "train". 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 won't 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 "Hollywood reviews/stage shows" 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 "sit down restaurant" 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 "having a good time". 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 "would contact us as soon as she was in". The next day I sat in my room from 9 to 11:20 am waiting to hear from this "supervisor" 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 "supervisor" to contact us when her subordinate told us to expect a call 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.
May 2003, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
May 2005, Cancun, Mexico
May 2006, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
We have been Apple Vacations' very satisfied customers three times in the past and had our hearts set on Puerto Vallarta in February. However things don't always work out the way we want. My wife, Gayle, has stage four lung cancer that she has been fighting since November of 2006. She has undergone radiation therapy and chemotherapy twice since being diagnosed. Puerto Vallarta was to be our time to enjoy something normal, something that did not involve cancer. This was to be a time for Gayle to regain some strength and energy and to feel normal.
Cancer however had other plans for us. The week before we were scheduled to leave, Gayle started having crushing headaches that caused her arms and legs to become weak and unstable. When the headaches struck her vision would blur and she would be forced to sit as quickly as possible or risk collapsing. Finally on Sunday, February 17th she admitted that things were bad enough that I took her to a local emergency room. She was examined, and given a CAT scan. The results of the CAT scan indicated that there were either cancerous lesions or an aneurysm in her brain. She was immediately transported by ambulance to the Cleveland Clinic and admitted to the oncology floor. She remained in the Clinic from Sunday until Tuesday, February 19th. She was diagnosed with between 9 and 15 metastatic legions in her brain (brain tumors). Treatment was to be drastic and immediate. Gayle underwent fifteen session of whole head radiation starting the next day. These treatments ended on March 12th. It will be a month or more before we know the results of the treatment. At that time she may then need to undergo “Gamma Knife Surgery” a type of high energy radiation therapy used only on the brain.
On that first Sunday while we were in the emergency room, we knew that things were serious and that our vacation plans for the following week, in all likelihood, would not happen. After two more CAT scans, x-rays and ultrasounds at the Clinic, we received the diagnosis and the planned treatment. This formally ended our hope for Puerto Vallarta in February. I called my travel agent from the Cleveland Clinic immediately. She informed me that Apple Vacation's policy on cancellation was “no refunds” but offered to contact them to see what was possible. She latter informed me that Apple Vacations did not accept medical excuses and that I could either forfeit my entire prepayment or I could pay an additional $500.00 fee to reschedule.
In order to salvage something of what may very well be our last vacation together, and with my wife lying in the hospital bed next to me, I was given literally minutes to accept the rescheduling fee, give my credit card information to pay in advance again, and to pick a new date for the trip. So, with Apple Vacations' gun to my head I complied with Apple's requirements and paid the fee and grabbed a date that seemed far enough in the future that Gayle would have completed whatever treatments were necessary and that she would have sufficient time to recover from the radiation and regain enough strength to make the trip.
When Gayle told her radiation oncologist about how we were treated by Apple, he was furious and without prompting felt compelled to write to Apple on Gayle's behalf. I too cannot understand how Apple can expect a person admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis, and required to undergo extensive radiation on her brain in order to save her life can be thoughtlessly and callously penalized by Apple.
Gayle recovered slowly from the massive amounts of radiation she's received. She was just barley strong enough to make the trip to Puerto Vallarta in May. She had only one or two good hours per day when she could enjoy our resort. It was not our best trip.
I wrote Apple Vacations' Customer Care Department regarding this experience in March, prior to our trip to Puerto Vallarta. Included with my letter was the letter my wife's oncologist. I recounted the events and noted that we had been charged a $500 “re-booking fee”; yet we had rescheduled not cancelled our trip. Five-hundred dollars is not an earth shattering sum of money, but it's not inconsequential either. I asked them to reconsider the imposition of this fee. I felt that the current circumstances, our past experience with Apple Vacations and good business sense might engender some compassion on the part of Apple Vacations. I was sadly mistaken and in for some rude surprises. Apple Vacations proved to be not only inflexible and unfeeling but for lack of a better word just plain liars.
My letters were mailed on Monday. To my amazement and great satisfaction I was answered with a phone message from a customer care representative just three days after mailing the letters. However my amazement lasted less than 24 hours. The phone message from Tanisha stated that Apple Vacations did not charge me $500.00 but only an airline re-booking fee of $47.00 per ticket. I called Tanisha the next day and gave her the details of the various payments made to Apple Vacations that demonstrated the $500.00 additional fee. She said she'd call me back.
When she called me back she said that Apple Vacations only charged me $100 per person rescheduling fee and the $47.00 per person airline re-booking fee. I again reviewed the payment history to Apple Vacations that totaled the additional $500.00. She said she'd call me back.
When I received the next phone call it wasn't from Tanisha it was from my local travel agent (it pains me to use the phrase “my travel agent” since realistically she works for Apple Vacations not me). I was told that Apple Vacations' policy is to not deal directly with the customer, that I would have to deal with the travel agent. I reviewed the entire history and previous conversations with the travel agent and was told: She'd call be back.
She called me back and informed me that the difference between the charges described above and the additional $500 payment was due to a $300.00 price increase by the airline. I had tracked the cost of my vacation on Apple Vacation's web site continually from our original travel date in February to the current date in May and I told the travel agent that there didn't appear to be any significant changes in pricing from then to now. She said she'd call me back.
When she called back I was now informed that the additional cost was because the original airline I was booked on was different than the air line on the web site. Again I had to correct the travel agent. The original booking was on American Airlines and the updated pricing I used as reference was also for American Airlines. To no ones surprise she said: “I'll call you back”.
The next call was from the owner of the travel agency. I explained my plight to him and told him that I was only looking for some compassion from Apple Vacations. He told me that “Apple Vacations will not do anything”, I asked him to repeat that so there was no misunderstanding and he did verbatim. I thanked him and hung up.
Apple Vacations should have handled this issue much better than they did. I understand that Apple Vacations serves an enormous customer base each year. I further understand the opportunity to abuse the system, but these policies are created by Apple and so can also be modified as needed. Instead Apple's customer service and travel agents chose to act in an arbitrary, unfeeling and mean spirited way.
When a service corporation fails to properly serve its customers and meet the goals and mission of the parent corporation the leadership of that corporation is a guilty as the customer service staff that represents them. I deeply regret that I will no longer be able to use Apple Vacations. Our previous enthusiasm for their services has been completely erased by this experience.
Very truly yours,