Honeymoon in hell: “I wanted to leave and go home”

Jessica Kase describes her stay at Sandals Grande St. Lucian as a “honeymoon from hell” and she wants the all-inclusive hotel chain to make it up to her. But has it done enough for her already? And how do you make up for a honeymoon in which you spend “three days in my room sobbing because what was supposed to be an amazing vacation and honeymoon was completely ruined”?

Kase and her husband booked a week at the resort and another week at a Sandals property in Antigua, despite some misgivings. The online ratings were mixed, but another couple they knew had recommended the hotels.

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“I should have been smarter than that,” she says. “It was the worst vacation of my life.”

What made it so awful?

There was a laundry list of issues. The bathroom fixtures were rusted, tiles were cracked and broken in showers, and rooms were in more than a little need of repair but a complete renovation. The whole resort I felt was in need of a renovation.

The food, service, and hygiene were also major issues as well. I saw bartenders time and time again take dirty drink glasses rinse them with water and make another drink – no sanitizing. I took several pictures as evidence of my legitimate complaints.

Full disclosure: As a cub reporter at Travel Weekly in the early 90s, I was almost fired for a less-than-flattering writeup of a Sandals property in St. Lucia. (Seems Sandals was a big advertiser in the trade publication, and the review, though it was completely true, managed to ruffle some feathers.) Still, it brings me no joy to report Kase’s story, or to mediate it.

Kase tried to resolve her issues while at the hotel.

I talked to management about my concerns. They showed us a couple of other rooms, but they had looked exactly the same and had the same exact issues. They upgraded us to a suite, but we couldn’t be moved for three days. The room was bigger, but same exact issues.

I wanted to leave and go home. I emailed corporate several times during my stay and they would not respond. I called corporate while at the resort and the customer service agent told me that I could not speak to anyone in higher management and that they were the only person that could help me.

Kase wrote to Sandals when she returned, and was sent a generic response and an offer to return to St. Lucia for free, even though she had promised she’d never stay at another Sandals. She wanted a full refund, and contacted me to see if I could do better.

Full refunds are extremely rare, but I didn’t mind sending her grievance to Sandals for a second look. I mean, it’s her honeymoon, for goodness sakes.

Here’s Sandals’ response:

Sandals Resorts is truly disappointed that their experience fell so short of expectations.

Regarding their stay at Sandals Grande St. Lucian, the couple was upgraded from their originally booked deluxe room category to a one-bedroom suite, offered a complimentary dinner at Gordon’s restaurant and received two complimentary nights to return. At, Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa, the couple was upgraded four categories – from deluxe to a Venetian Oceanview Suite in the new Mediterranean Village which carries a 7-night rack rate of $10,570.

Honeymooners are held in special esteem at Sandals Resorts, where romance and a dedication to couples in love is what the company is all about. Should Mr. and Mrs. Kase give Sandals Resorts the opportunity to host them again, and we hope that they do, please have them contact me personally to make the arrangements.

In other words, we’ve already done enough for the honeymooners. If they want to return, we’ll try to make it up to them.

Is that the correct answer? Probably not.

The company should have acknowledged the issues Kase had brought to Sandals’ attention — the substandard facilities and allegedly unhygienic practices — and addressed them. Sandals could have, as a goodwill gesture, refunded part of the couple’s stay in St. Lucia.

One more thing: I’d like to have words with the travel agent who booked the Kases on this honeymoon, if indeed an agent was involved. The Kases aren’t ideal Sandals customers, which an agent would have known. This vacation from hell should never have happened.

But getting all of their money back? I don’t know if this couple has the strongest case.

(Photo: Fast Way/Flickr Creative Commons)