I travel pretty often. I’m not what you’d call a “world traveler” by any means, but I’ve done my time in airports, train stations, and in long car rides.
With traveling comes the aspect of uncertainty, especially when traveling to a new location for the first time. You never really know what you’re getting yourself into. What if you hate the food? What if you don’t mesh with the culture? What if the hotel is bad?
What if the hotel is bad.
Modern day travelers are extremely fortunate to have the internet as a resource to help plan their expeditions to hopefully avoid any unfortunate situations. However, we are all human and even the most experienced traveler will book a hotel that might not be the most clean or an excursion that might not be in the safest part of town.
Can you tell where this is going? Yep, I’ve done both.
And within a year of each other.
My first experience with neglecting travel reviews happened while planning our honeymoon in April 2020. My husband and I chose a 7 Day Western Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean. We were so excited. This would be my first time out of the United States and both our first times on a cruise. We had heard great things about Royal Caribbean (which I can totally attest to) and felt extremely confident in planning this vacation, even though neither of us had traveled like this before.
To be fair, Royal Caribbean makes it extremely easy to plan your vacation. And they are a wonderful cruise line! It was one of the few vacations I’ve ever taken where I truly felt relaxed the entire time. Usually, by the last day of vacation I’m dying to get home. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with, or how much fun I’ve had. When it’s time to go home, I’m ready to go home. The last day of our Royal Caribbean cruise, I was actually sad that the vacation was ending.
But enough about how amazing Royal Caribbean is. Lets get into where we messed up on this vacation.
Our second port of call was Costa Maya, Mexico. The day before, we had an amazing beach excursion at Maya Key in Roatan, Honduras and was looking forward to another relaxing day at La Bamba Beach Club. The excursion promised white sands, palm fringed beaches, sunbeds and hammocks, and an all you can drink open bar.
Sounds pretty nice, right?
The ship docked and we headed over to the area to meet our guide and begin our excursion. Once in line, a staff member approached us and said the beach had gathered a significant amount of seaweed along the shoreline and they offered to refund us our money or we could sign a waiver and continue on with the excursion. We’re from a beach town, so a little seaweed doesn’t bother us.
Hindsight says, this was definitely our first sign that something would be off once we got to the destination.
Determined to make the best of the situation, we signed the waiver, hopped in the van and headed over to our excursion. It was about a 30-45 minute drive from the port through some extremely run down, and what I can only assume are poor areas of Mexico’s coast. That kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. I realize the privileged that I as an American have compared to most of the rest of the world.
What bothered me, was when we actually got to La Bamba Beach.
Now remember, we hadn’t read enough reviews and that is our own fault. We arrived at the beach and nothing really looked like it did in the pictures. As warned earlier, there was a significant amount of seaweed on the shoreline. The beach club offered a pool, which was actually just two shipping containers put together in an L-shape. We were less than impressed.
We made our way down to the beach and found a spot to sit down. I wanted to lay out on a day bed, but none of them had mattresses or any sort of cushion on them. They were just hard, flat beds you could put your towel on. We opted for a couple of standard beach chairs and set up camp for the day.
A bartender immediately came over and took our drink order. My husband got a margarita and I got a pina colada. My first drink was decent. Not as good as the ones on the ship, but not awful either. The margarita however, literally tasted like dirty dish water. It was awful. I’ve never had a drink that bad in my life.
The music is worth mentioning as well. The only music the entire beach played the entire time we were there was from the 50’s with random sprinklings of 80’s pop. And I’m not talking Madonna or Michael Jackson type 80’s pop. This was music we had never heard of. Ever. And it wasn’t even good. Even my husband, who is extremely knowledgeable in 80’s music was questioning what was going on.
The bathrooms didn’t have lights. The food was overpriced and didn’t look particularly appetizing. And after the debacle with the drinks, we didn’t dare try the food.
The entire thing felt like people who had never met American’s were trying to create an atmosphere that would appeal to American’s based on stereotypes.
It started to rain a few hours into us being there, so we decided to throw in the towel on that day. Fortunately, the beach offered a free taxi ride back to the port every 30 minutes so it was no problem to get back to the ship.
Once we got back to the port, we were able to salvage the day. The port offered a lot of shops, restaurants, a giant swimming pool with a swim up bar, and many, many other attractions. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the port and had a wonderful experience!
When we got back on the ship, we looked up reviews for La Bamba beach. Sure enough, other people had the same experience as us.
That was our first fail when it comes to checking reviews. The second time happened just a few weeks ago.
My husband and I recently went to Atlanta, Georgia for the weekend of my 25th birthday. Neither of us had ever been, and we were extremely eager to explore a new city!
I booked a hotel right outside of the city in a neighboring town called Brookhaven. It was a Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham, so I figured it was probably pretty legit. I looked at the photos (but not the reviews, of course) and the hotel looked like it was recently remodeled. The grounds looked nice and the rooms looked modern. Plus, the price was more than reasonable so I decided this would be the one. When we travel, we spend most of our time out and about so we’re not super picky about amenities and all that in a hotel.
When we arrived, we realized the hotel was right next to two strip clubs and a dive bar. Again, normally I wouldn’t have been too bothered by this. In fact, we chuckled about it a bit. Those places have to be somewhere in a city, right?
Which again, wouldn’t have bothered me normally if the hotel didn’t reflect that aspect at night. The entire hotel absolutely wreaked of marijuana. And it never subsided. From the moment we checked in, it was like someone was consistently smoking the entire time we were there. And what’s worse is you could tell housekeeping had tried to cover it up but it really just made it worse.
I’m “green friendly,” but it’s kind of weird when an entire place smells that strongly and we’re not even in a legal state.
In addition, both nights we were there around 3 AM we heard a group of women in the hallway yelling, laughing, and carrying on for about 30 minutes or so. It didn’t help that our room was directly across from the elevator. Any time someone got off on our floor, we could hear them in the hallway. We shrugged it off the first night. It was probably just a group of women after a night out, right? Totally harmless. When it happened again the second night, I was less than thrilled.
In addition to the late night commotion on the second night, someone tried coming into our room around 4 AM. They tried using their key card multiple times and even jiggled the handle when the card didn’t open the room. Needless to say, after all the activity I didn’t sleep very well the remainder of the night.
We were supposed to stay a third night, but after the second night we really didn’t feel safe or comfortable and decided to check out. We quietly informed the front desk of the situation and they told us they were aware they had a problem and were recently under new management who was trying to clean the place up. They also said that they had security on property for precisely those situations. They refunded us for the third night and didn’t make a big deal about us leaving early, which I really appreciated.
Management here knows they have a problem and hopefully they can fix it soon. However, I don’t fully blame management for this situation. The day we left the hotel, we checked their reviews online. Of course, all the reviews had the same complaints that we did about the hotel. We ended up at another hotel in Downtown Atlanta that was absolutely amazing and I’ll be discussing later in a guide to Atlanta post!
Moral of the story? Please, for the love of yourself and your precious vacation time, do your research and read reviews! Also, write reviews! Especially good ones!
Until next time!