Is this enough compensation? A voucher for a “completely forgettable” honeymoon

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By Christopher Elliott

We’ve had plenty of “honeymoon from hell” stories on this site, and they never get old. So let’s hear from Ben Barnhart, who just returned from his post-nuptial vacation at the Riu Guanacaste in Costa Rica.

Just to set your expectations, the Riu describes itself as a “five star” property with “a superb range of leisure possibilities, the hotel offers five modern, fully-equipped conference rooms, and fine restaurants.”

It look like a nice place for a honeymoon. That’s exactly what Barnhart thought when he booked it through his travel agent and Funjet Vacations.

It wasn’t.

Experience sparks complaints

When the honeymooners checked in, they found out that the RIU was the “exact opposite” of what they’d been told, and in so many ways. Not surprising, we receive many complaints about RIU.

“I have stayed in a lot of hotel rooms and would compare the rooms to those of a Best Western or Red Roof Inn,” he says. “Which is to say about two-star quality, at best. The rooms were dingy and old, with cracked paint and mold in the showers.”

The couple had been promised an ocean-view room. But they could only see a sliver of ocean from their room.

Then things took a turn for the worse.

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I pulled back the sheets to reveal that our pillows had little curly hairs on them, so I called the front desk and they promptly sent a maid up to our room. She was a manager of the maids and she looked at the sheets and brushed off the hairs, she was just going to remake the bed.

I had to tell her to replace the sheets and she was not going to replace the comforter. I had to tell her to promptly change the comforter.

The sheets and comforter have definitely been there since the hotel opened.

Could it get any worse? Yes.

The couple asked for a different room, but encountered the same problems. The ocean view? Blocked by a large palm tree. The bedspreads? Stained. And now they had to deal with a noisy fan and a refrigerator that hummed so loudly that they had to unplug it at night.

Barnhart and his new wife began to understand that this was “how the hotel was” so asking to move to a different room didn’t make any sense.

There seemed to be no way out of this “all inclusive” nightmare.

The one restaurant we ate at each day (because we had to) was terrible to say the best. The food was bland and overcooked. Nothing had flavor. It was cheap, low-grade food.

Snacks, which were not all-inclusive, cost ridiculous prices. We bought a small bag of cashews and a small can of Pringles for $25. A hat at the souvenir shop cost $30. Luckily I did not buy it, because on one of our excursions the exact same hat cost $7 on the beach.

The remoteness of the hotel left you with little to do. Yes they have a casino and a dance club, but those are more like the size of a room. If we were not on an excursion we were stuck with nothing to do.

Honeymooner demand refund after disastrous experience

You get the idea. It was, according to this honeymooner “a completely forgettable trip” and he wants every penny of his $2,000 back. So he asked for a refund.

Not possible, said his travel agent. How about a voucher for the amount of the trip? Also not possible, he was told.

Finally, Riu agreed to offer a three-night voucher at another Riu resort. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the most affordable rate.)

“This is far from what we asked for as we had such a bad experience with the resort we do not want to ever stay in another Riu resort ever again,” his wife, Shannon, told me.

No doubt, the Barnhards had a bad honeymoon — a very bad honeymoon.

Is Riu’s offer adequate?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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