Grand Bahama Vacations Complaint - False Advertising
FREEPORT, BAHAMA -- Check-In Process
To begin with, our Check-In process with Northwest Airlines (the ticketing agents for Laker Airways) at Raleigh-Durham Airport was frustrating, confusing, and took more than an hour to complete. Booking more than two months ahead did not provide us with pre-assigned seats. Further, we were told that our own baggage tags were insufficient, and that we would have to fill out new ones for each piece of luggage we checked in. We were also informed at this time that no carry-on luggage was permitted, and that we would have to check all our bags. None of the counter staff had any answers for us when we asked questions. They simply told us that “we’re Northwest, and we don’t have anything to do with Laker . . . “ Needless to say, this only angered us further, since we knew that Laker was paying Northwest to perform these services.
When this was finally completed after more than 60 minutes, we were told to go to another line down the counter 15 feet to check in for the “resort package”. Finally, we completed the check-in process and headed toward the gate.
The flight was 4 hours late departing Raleigh-Durham. Communication regarding the reason was suspiciously poor at best and inexcusable at worst. This went on for more than an hour and a half --- every time a passenger approached gate personnel for an explanation, the gate agent’s consistent reply was “we don’t know anything, we just handle their ticketing”.
Finally, we were informed that the airplane had been struck by lightning on approach, and that it may not be fit to fly to Freeport. Obviously this decision was in the hands of the Captain, but it soon became clear that there were little or no local maintenance resources available for Laker to check out the airplane’s flight systems --- apparently the crew had to have maintenance documentation on the 727 fax’d from another location in order to conduct system troubleshooting and testing.
In any case, after more than three hours of waiting at the gate, we were finally advised that the Captain had decided to fly to Freeport and we prepared to begin boarding. Prior to boarding, however, we were required to queue up once again to receive our room keys for those of us who were staying at the Towers or the Country Club. By the time this was completed, the airplane was packed like a cattle car, the Captain had made perfunctory apologies, and we departed. Fortunately, the flight was uneventful; not even interrupted by an offer of a beverage, nor any other courtesy one might expect from an organization that relied on the good will of customers for their economic survival.
Country Club Arrival
When we arrived at Freeport, we got through customs, and baggage claim, only to be once again packed like cattle into a minivan where the driver demanded $2 per golf bag before he would even load them. When we arrived at the “resort”, at almost 5:00 a.m., we were appalled at the state of the facility. First of all, the entire street is one big construction project. All around are construction barriers, heavy equipment, plastic sheeting, and bare earth awaiting grading and landscaping. The entry and lobby of the Country Club is permeated by the overwhelming smell of moldy carpeting and water damage. Walkways and promenades are flanked by plywood sheeting, temporary walls and containment barricades; the entire outside of the building has a fine coating of dust from the construction and earthmoving activities under way.
At this point, all we wanted was to get to our rooms and get some sleep. We had abandoned any idea of a few cocktails and maybe a couple of hours at the casino. We’d been worn down by the delays and the hassles. We asked for directions to our rooms, and were told by the person at the front desk to proceed out an exit and follow the signs. Well, the signs were not only inaccurate, but also contradictory --- it took us another fifteen minutes to find the building in which we were to stay, and to figure out the numbering scheme of the rooms.
In making our reservations, we had made sure to book and pay for “superior” non-smoking, exterior entries, and king-sized beds. What we found were second-floor smoking rooms with interior entries, one with two double beds. When we called the front desk (we were handed off three times), we were finally told that there was nothing that could be done until morning after 9:00. By this time, we were too tired to push it. There appeared to be no one who was customer oriented enough to champion our cause for us, so we just went to bed.
After all 4 of us having to physically go to the front desk because no one would handle the problem on the phone Monday morning (after 9AM), they gave us keys to two rooms to inspect. Thankfully, they were better than what we had and we moved.
We were amazed and disappointed at the difference between the location as we expected to find it, and as it presently exists. We were told that the construction on the facilities was essentially completed. This was a gross misrepresentation. There are construction activities (both new structures and remodeling of old facilities) that will not be completed during this year. The “beautiful salt-water lagoon”, a signature project adjoining the Country Club and the Tower, is months, perhaps a year, from completion.
Construction was even going on in the pool at the Country Club. As we sat by the pool workers pushed wheelbarrows filled with mortar past us to their co-workers in the pool. There was no such thing as “peace and quiet” at this resort.
Snorkeling Trip and Water Bike Ride. We did have one pleasant experience. We went snorkeling off Port Lucayan Beach on Tuesday afternoon. The beach and facility were beautiful. However, the Grand Bahama Island Options brochure states the Pizazz Inclusive includes “a snorkeling trip and water bike ride not “a snorkeling trip or water bike ride”. No one would ever acknowledge this statement. (I’ve attached the wordage)
Golf. There was so much confusion regarding golf discounts or coverage depending on whom you spoke to in person. One person said there was only a $25 discount, when again, the brochure stated $35 discount. We had to dispute or question everything in order to obtain what we had paid for in the Pizazz package.
As long as we had our little blue cards with us, we were able to get our simpler needs for food or refreshments met with little trouble. We always had the breakfast buffet and the casino buffet (both equally terrible!). We were unable to find many of the 7-9 restaurants that we were led to believe existed. The Rib Room is no longer in operation. We availed ourselves of the stage show “GOOMBAYA” at the hotel on Tuesday night. It was billed as an interesting cultural soire’ punctuating a wonderful Bahamian dining experience turned out to be a rather amateurish talent show following one more terrible buffet!
Departure From The Country Club
If our arrival set the stage for an unpleasant visit, then our departure really put a bow on it. When we booked this vacation package, we were told that we would have access to our rooms until it became time on Wednesday for us to depart for the airport, which was roughly 6:15 p.m. We raised this question because we had hoped to be able to use Wednesday afternoon for some enjoyable tourist activity, rather than simply sit with our luggage all afternoon until the airport shuttle arrived. So when we went to the front desk on Wednesday morning to settle our accounts, we were really confused when we were told by the desk clerk that we had to be out of our rooms by noon. Further, we were told that our little blue cards, the symbols of our investment in this vacation, would be voided at that time. HOW INCREDIBLY IRONIC!!! Our scheduled arrival is delayed by five hours, and our scheduled departure is moved ahead by six. I concluded that this must be a very profitable operation, and that I should buy stock!!!
It became imminently clear as our stay unfolded that the concept of customer service has yet to take root in the Bahamian business community or its labor force. Nowhere did we see anyone, not a waitress, a bartender, a sales agent, a shopkeeper, a driver, not even a manager, with any sense of urgency, nor any outward appearance that customer service was an important component to the vacation experience. I am certainly aware that the Bahamian people take some pride in the slower pace one can find in their island paradise, but the total indifference to customer satisfaction left me with the impression that Bahamians want Americans to spend their money as fast as they can, but they would just as soon they didn’t stay any longer than they absolutely had to in order to do it.
Well, we certainly did our part! The four of us paid approximately $3100 for what was effectively a two-day (at best) whirlwind visit to Freeport. We were drawn to this visit, and willing to put up with the vicissitudes (to say nothing of the $950 travel expense from Seattle – airfare, rental car, hotel room) of such travel because we believed what Grand Bahama Vacations stated and represented in their advertising, on their web sites, and through their representatives. Needless to say, we are not in the least bit pleased with our visit to the Bahamas. And we heard similar comments from many of the other guests we met at the resort. We feel we have been deceived, that we have spent a great deal of money for little or nothing in return, and that we have wasted a precious week of time that we could have used for more enjoyable and restorative pursuits.