Bahama Beach Club wrecked my destination wedding — and then I was stalked

By | August 8th, 2016

Editor’s Note: The following post includes language that may not be suitable for all readers.

When Angie Orth planned a dream destination wedding in the Bahamas, she had no idea what a nightmare it would become. And when the Bahama Beach Club resort failed to deliver the event she planned, she turned to us for help.

If you think this is a run-of-the-mill ruined destination wedding, you’re right — as long as you had included allegations of lying, harassment and cyberstalking in your description.

Orth, her fiancé and their 38 guests arrived last October at the Bahama Beach Club in Treasure Cay for their special event, collectively spending tens of thousands of dollars on accommodations. When they arrived, half of the resort was shut down for renovations. Restaurants and bars were closed, and pools were empty. Six days before her ceremony, Orth visited the reception venue, which was filled with construction tools and equipment as it underwent renovations.

Weddings often create unrealistic expectations in brides. But Orth’s case raises interesting questions about what can be done when a destination wedding doesn’t go according to plan, and what recourse is available when things start getting ugly.

And things got ugly.

But that’s not how things started. Orth, a blogger and public relations professional, chose a Bahamas wedding because she had worked in public relations in the Bahamas for several years and was familiar with the island. And while she hadn’t stayed at Bahama Beach Club before last year, she took trips to the resort during the planning stages to discuss the event and vet the facilities. Following her initial trip to the resort, she wrote glowing reviews about the beauty of the location and the amenities available to resort guests.

But the same amenities she gushed over were notably absent months later, when she arrived for her wedding. Even though Orth was in regular contact with the resort in the weeks leading up to her wedding, the resort never told her that certain facilities would be closed during her stay. The resort did contact her, however, to insist her final payment needed to be made weeks in advance of her arrival.

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Orth was understandably upset about the on-site construction project, but when she complained, Bahama Beach Club management blamed the renovations on Hurricane Joaquin, which didn’t actually hit Treasure Cay.

While Orth and her now-husband did get married that week in a ceremony Orth said was beautiful, the only concession made for her disappointment — and that of her guests — was refunding $1,700, the cost of the rehearsal dinner, which was held under a pavilion next to an empty pool.

Orth recalls:

The night before the rehearsal dinner, I was crying to the wedding planner who had just arrived. We’d already been there several days and she was not present as promised. As part of our package, her services were supposed to be included all week. Her replacement was the bookkeeper, who knew nothing about our wedding or any plans that had been made.

The rehearsal venue was set to take place at the poolside restaurant, but the pool and spa were both empty, the pool deck was unpaved and the bar area was covered in dust and equipment. The day of the rehearsal, it was all still a wreck, so the wedding planner called and said they’d decided to refund just that part of our wedding expenditures. We appreciated that very much, especially considering the dinner was ultimately held next to an empty pool, but it wasn’t terribly helpful for all the guests who paid for a luxury resort experience and instead listened to jackhammers all week.

Once home, Orth wanted to let others know about her disastrous wedding experience. She and several family members posted negative reviews on TripAdvisor about Bahama Beach Club.

Strangely though, the negative reviews kept disappearing. Orth began to question why TripAdvisor removed the reviews, and whether it was at the request of Bahama Beach Club.

TripAdvisor’s guidelines clearly state that it may remove user reviews for any reason at its own discretion. We’ve investigated this practice in the past, and I suspect that multiple people posting similar, negative reviews may have gotten them removed en masse.

We also know that when TripAdvisor removes reviews, it sends an email to the reviewer to let him know. But unfortunately, it will never tell the user exactly what language in the review triggered its removal. Reposting a review that was previously flagged in violation of policy will also result in removal.

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During the short period the reviews were active, Bahama Beach Club management responded in turn, launching accusations against Orth. The company wrote:

This is now the 12th, 13th or 14th bad TripAdvisor review from the very same unhappy bride and her aliases. This gal wanted money to write “nice things” about our resort to offset the cost of her wedding. We refused!

On background: There were two beachfront wedding at our resort that weekend, but only one unhappy bride. She invited 120 guests, but only 38 showed up.

Further, as a result of our Hurricane preparations and resulting renovation delays, this unhappy bride was given free round-trip airport transportation, free rooms, free meals and drinks, a free rehearsal dinner for her 38 family members and guests, free golf carts, etc., etc., etc. Even her mother’s $4,300 credit card charge has been declined!

Hurricane Joaquin killed more than 33 people in the Bahamas that week; fortunately our island was spared any deaths or damage. Still, we apologize again for our October 2015 storm delayed renovations and wish this unhappy bride much success in her marriage.

Even if any of his accusations about Orth were true, this type of review from a business is telling.

Defensive responses that do not address the facts of the situation speak for themselves and border on harassment. A business response littered with accusations intended to damage Orth’s professional reputation, or information about a declined credit card transaction, are clear red herrings, designed to distract from the true problem: These renovations took place at a time that disrupted dozens of people’s vacations, and yes, left a bride quite correctly “very unhappy.”

The company’s responses, too, were eventually deleted. But the owner continued to post the same response to other, unrelated guests’ negative reviews, trying to sweep them all under the rug.

We wrote to management at Bahama Beach Resort on Orth’s behalf to try to help facilitate the discussion, but our messages went unanswered.

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One of the stranger aspects of Orth’s story, however, was the dozens of messages she received over the course of a few months on Twitter. According to Orth, the tweets came from an individual claiming to be a public relations professional for Bahama Beach Club. Although most of them have since been removed, Orth sent us the screen capture of the bizarre messages, some blatantly threatening.bahama-beach-clubbahama-beach-club

The only tweets remaining are the very few Orth responded to, asking him to cease communications. Orth kept a paper trail of these unsettling posts, and reported them to law enforcement.

After several months of documenting the intimidating messages, the messages stopped. Orth tells us the account profile was modified to no longer reflect any connection to the resort.

Hindsight being what it is, Orth now questions some of the signs that the Bahama Beach Club might not have be able to deliver everything it promised, such as avoiding putting things in writing. She thought planning a destination wedding would be a simple way to have a casual, fun wedding, but in the end it was, according to Orth, “a risky venture.”

“Had we gotten married in the U.S., we would have a much easier time holding the venue to the contract from a legal perspective,” she wrote. “In our case, there’s little we could’ve done differently. We visited in advance, had dozens of phone calls, ironed out every detail and still, it turned out like this. Bahama Beach Club was out to scam us from the beginning, so no amount of due diligence could predict how low they would stoop.”

While it seems that Orth has taken all of this in stride, it is unfortunate what unexpected and dark turns her story took. We regret that we have exhausted our resources in trying to help, and it seems that the parties will never see eye to eye on who is to blame.

And while we readily acknowledge there are two sides to every story, we might think twice before booking a trip to this resort.

Whose version of the story do you believe?

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  • Annie M

    It is inexcusable that the resort omitted information that the resort was under renovations. This should have been disclosed well beforehand so Ms. Orth could have had the option of negotiating lower prices for the missing venues or she could have moved somewhere else. But this is not totally unusual – we very well known all inclusive does this all the time, even not telling travel agents about renovations, closing or construction until it happens – even if you have heard rumors and ask them directly about it.

    I totally fault the resort. It’s too bad that whoever paid could not have disputed the credit card charges since they did not get what they were supposed to.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I feel sorry for this person because she did everything right and things still didn’t work out well. The only advice in hindsight I could offer anybody in a similar situation is that since the letter writer had worked there previously she could have enlisted the help of a friend/colleague to check on the place leading up to the event, particularly since there had been a hurricane in the general vicinity. Was the place still looking good? Pools open? Etc.

    It might have helped to have had some of that information earlier on even though the hotel absolutely should have communicated that amenities would be unusable during her event.

  • AAGK

    Amazing article. The second I saw the hotel’s response, I knew we were dealing with disordered psychos. The Bahama Beach Club is probably engaged in many illegal practices, sounds like it is heading for bankruptcy and no one should EVER consider this property.

    I am so sad Ms. Orth’s wedding was disappointing but she seems to have done everything right. I would have withheld the reviews bc they were her best leverage. However, I understand the emotional response. I would contact the Bahamaian police, send those tweets to tripadvisor and seriously suggest they drop this horrible property, additionally submit those reviews to any relevant Bahamian hospitality groups. The property declined an effort to hear its side of the story on Elliott and the vile language it used is beyond disturbing. Ms Orth spent a lot of money there and I can only imagine the poor quality she received. I would also submit the tweets to all the OTAs who partner with this place and suggest they drop it from their list, as well as Facebook and Twitter requesting they remove this business. I wonder if they own other hotels? The investigation options are endless but probably more time consuming than they are worth. It may be best to move on at some point but thank you for sharing this story. I would never stay in this horrible place and will remember it’s name in case anyone asks for recommendations in the Bahamas.

  • AAGK

    This property has numerous “amazing wedding” posts in a row on tripadvisor. I bet they are all fraudulent and I reported them to tripadvisor to make sure these are real bookings. Hopefully tripadvisor will prioritize its integrity and look into these possibly bogus positive reviews.

  • Annie M

    I am not sure it is very responsible to suggest that they are
    “probably” engaged in illegal activities and sounds like it is heading for bankruptcy.

    Just because a hurricane wasn’t a dead on hit doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been damage that was done to the resort. However, the responsible thing to do would have been to notify the bride and any guests that this was happening.

    As I said previously, a very BIG all inclusive company does this frequently in not letting guests know of closures (nor travel agents) until the deed has been done. And this company is far from doing anything illegal or going bankrupt. They just don’t want to have guests change their plans.

  • RichardII

    A side comment. The article notes “TripAdvisor’s guidelines clearly state that it may remove user reviews for any reason at its own discretion… …when TripAdvisor removes reviews, it sends an email to the reviewer to let him know. But unfortunately, it will never tell the user exactly what language in the review triggered its removal.”

    A well known consumer advocacy blog also removes comments at its own discretion and, like TripAdvisor, it does not let the author know why the common was removed. However, unlike TripAdvisor, this site does not notify the poster at all. I would hope that consumer advocacy organizations would play by the same rules they expect others to play by.

  • Tigger57

    Hahaha!

  • AAGK

    That’s totally different. Tripadvisor is based on submitted reviews. Without them, there is no point in its existence. Other places, comments on other content may be removed but it doesn’t diminish the value we receive from the original content.

  • AAGK

    Well we don’t know the company’s status bc they chose not to respond here or to anyone in a meaningful way. Instead it resorted to personal attacks, I won’t repeat them but it disparaged many irrelevant things without addressing the main issue. The bride and the other hotel guests showed up to a construction site. There are pictures online and it’s really bad. Hard to imagine a business that isn’t in dire jeopardy of losing the booking not disclosing the alarming state of the property. The business also disparaged the 36 paying hotel guests, who weren’t mad about the wedding but mad they spent $690/night for a construction site. I doubt a well functioning company would pull something so desperate. Too bad they didn’t disclose their side of the story but it sounds like the owner was having a cash flow issue.

  • FQTVLR

    My inner skeptic is having a difficult time with this. The Bahama Beach Club is a 3-star condo style resort with only 2 pools and 2 restaurants. (I was there earlier this year for a friend’s 50th birthday celebration. My friend goes annually and is very familiar with the resort.) So saying that multiple pools and restaurants were closed made me wonder a bit. So were both pools and restaurants closed when she was there?
    With that said I think the resort should have very clearly spelled out to her what would and would not be open when her wedding was scheduled. She should also have been informed of the construction that would be taking place when her wedding was scheduled. The refund of the $1700 for the rehearsal dinner seems very stingy. Even if the notifications were last minute the resort should have been able to work something out that would have made the bride a bit happier with the upheaval at the resort.
    I also wonder why the OP did not make screen shots and share them of the now removed reviews on Trip Advisor while she was sure to keep the response from the resort. I would like to know what those reviews said. The resort’s review was horrendous and should never have been posted, but it made me wonder what was in the deleted reviews.
    The resort is most responsible for the problems the OP encountered. But, as always, I am extremely curious about the exaggerations (multiple pools and restaurants closed) as well as the missing information about the deleted TripAdvisor reviews.
    My overwhelming curiosity regarding missing details tells me I would never make a good consumer advocate.

  • RichardII

    The point wasn’t that the sites remove comments/reviews. That is understandable. The issue I raised is that the article noted in particular “… [TripAdvisor] sends an email to the reviewer to let him know. But unfortunately, it will never tell the user exactly what language in the review triggered its removal.”

    If a review or comment is removed, then, at least in my view, the poster should be told so, and given the reason why. Of course there are people who simply repeatedly post abusive or offensive material and in so doing they give up the right to civil notification. But, as the article above points out, simply transgressing the rules is not abuse and as is the case with Orth, the poster deserves to know what the problem was.

  • Extortion and sending her pervy tweets definitely counts as illegal activity, perhaps even under Bahamian law.

  • Michael__K

    Just because a hurricane wasn’t a dead on hit doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been damage that was done to the resort

    We have a pretty good idea that there was no storm damage, because management’s own quoted response on Trip Advisor, in spite of invoking the hurricane to minimize the bride’s complaints, states:

    “fortunately our island was spared any deaths or damage” ….

  • Altosk

    I’m going to say the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    I know some of these bloggers want to get free stuff for “promoting” a company on their blog. I bet that was offered and declined, because let’s face it, if you’re a good enough blogger, the companies will come to you.

    Anyway, the hotel did behave badly, but you can’t fault it for the hurricane.

  • AAGK

    I wouldn’t stay if they paid me. Those tweets were horrific and definitely sent by folks on behalf of the hotel. I hate to say it but After seeing those tweets, I wouldn’t consider Treasure Cay whatsoever, maybe not the Bahamas at all. Too many islands to go to deal with Twitter. I know the Bride is more generous in her opinion of the area but I am not.

  • AAGK

    My only feedback at how this possibly could’ve been avoided was to not intermingle any discounts or job prospects with the wedding booking. I understand they pitched her, but that is the only area where I see things could have gotten murkier and perhaps caused this to blow up to such significant proportions. The bride did nothing wrong or improper, but the hotel is crazy and they seem to take special issue with things about her that should be none of their business (i.e. Her career, etc). There was no way to anticipate that but it may be helpful to take note going forward. It seems the hotel thought she should take substandard accommodations bc it felt it gave her better rates, etc. I know they didn’t refund anything really but it does seem she acknowledges some discounted pricing on the booking.

  • taxed2themax

    I agree.. There appears to be a pretty big gap between the two versions of the story — and in my eyes, both sides have a vested interest in their side of the story gaining traction.. So, I can’t hold out the possibility that one, or both sides have done things like intentionally omitted relevant facts or presented them in a manner that most favors their position while also minimizing the oppositions.. So, I just don’t know..

    As for the abusive twitter feed.. For me, IF the tweets were from someone associated with the property and were either sent with explicit or implicit permission, then I hold the company liable for that.. However, if the owner of the twitter account didn’t authorize (again, either implicit or explicit) those tweets and also properly secured their account access, then I think that’s something different.. Here too, I’m not sure what occurred..

    Yes, it sounds as if things went bad, and yes, it sounds like there was room for the property to have done things differently prior to this point, that perhaps would have lessened the impact, but given the gap between the two stories and absent more facts I have a hard time voting either way.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I have made some hotel reservations where it was listed on the website that renovations are in process; the pool is closed; etc. It was nice to know upfront.

    Another option is writing additional terms in the contract requiring the hotel to disclose renovations, closing, etc.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    For anyone questioning the extent of the construction or the availability of the pools, here’s a review from another blogger who attended the wedding:
    http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/bahama-beach-club/

    There’s a photo of a screened porch that supposedly shows construction, but I don’t see it. There’s another photo of poolside construction, which shows a full pool. The complaint is about the construction. not that the pool was drained, which would seem to make the claims above about drained pools, plural, an exaggeration. There is also a criticism that the ther pool was refilled with garden hoses. People refill their pools with garden hoses, that’s not unheard of.

    Along with the regular laundry list of contradictory complaints (the wind made the water too rough to swim, but they weren’t paddle board available as planned, and then her mother’s ability to walk is severely affected by a balance issue, but she was going to paddle board with a balance issue in water where she was afaid to swim?) there is a reference to deleted Facebook comments. As we’ve seen on this site before, a scorched earth campaign rarely results in the outcome that on wants, and often makes the advocates look bad when they’re not aware of all of the tactics that the consumer employed before using this site in their attempt to further shame a business.

  • Bill___A

    My wife and I were discussing where to go in the Caribbean. I guess I have crossed this country off our list.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I used to go to the Bahamas for deep sea fishing in the 80s. I never had any problems with the deep sea fishing boatscompaniesetc but the resorthotel that I stayed at was another issue. I quit going because of 1) the lack of service; 2) the speed of service (i.e. took 60 minutes to get a drink at the pool; however, I went up to the bar and got a drink and finished it before my original drink arrived) and 3) ‘shake downs’ (i.e. while playing golf on the resort’s course, the local youths will ‘take’ your golf balls and sell them back to you).

    It has been over 20 years from my last visit to the Bahamas but from reading current reviews and etc., it seems like nothing has changed in regards to service, the speed of service, etc. Since the OP had worked in public relations in the Bahamas for several years and was familiar with the island, wasn’t she aware of the cultural, business, etc. differences?

    The OP stated “…such as avoiding putting things in writing.” This is a red flag…a person should walk away if it is not in writing.

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