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

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

“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?

(Photo: aemi nphilly/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • BruceInCharlotte

    A quick Google search and either the OP’s are mistaken or the property does a really good job of optimising their reviews. Three pages and nothing obviously negative to say about the place. Even the TripAdvisor reviews are decent – though also possibly inflated by a number of one and two review people.

  • JulieB

    Get yourself a new travel agent. And count your blessings it was only $2K.

  • Dip

    I’d like to see this website of this hotel

  • Tony A.

    Well, at least Funjet Vacations lived up to their motto –
    “Do Something You’ll NEVER FORGET”. Ain’t that the truth?

  • Anna
  • Sam Varshavchik

    When you buy a stay at a hotel halfway across the world, where you’ve never been before, you’re essentially buying a pig in a poke. You really never know what you’re going to get.

    I would discard the complaint about the price and the quality of restaurant food. Pig in a poke. Really, what else do you expect from a tourist trap? Similarly, discard the complaint about the ocean view. Pig in a poke. Really, it’s rather naive to believe every word in a promotional brochure, in the best possible light. The complaint about the remoteness of the hotel is also a pig in a poke.

    The only real complaint here that I see is an unclean room, and the unprofessionalism of the cleaning staff. That, I would agree requires some consideration. Also, the noisy appliances would also be a valid complaint, for a supposedly premium vacation resort, and not some run-of-the-mill Holiday Inn.

    The three night compensation voucher is, once again, a pig in a poke. It most likely has plenty of restrictions, and plenty of blackout dates. It would most likely go unused.

    I would push for some actual, but a small refund. No way this justifies a complete refund. In my opinion, no more than the actual cost of a one night stay, after subtracting the airfare from the cost of the vacation package. Given that the chain essentially agreed to comp a three night stay, supposedly, an actual refund of one night would be in order.

  • Raven

    $2K isn’t much, even in Costa Rica. If he wanted, say, the quality of Peter Island, he should’ve booked it, but the price tag would’ve been at least $10K. You get what you pay for! (And yes, I’m a Peter Island fan. Been there plenty of times and always want to go back)
    Also…a full refund? If it was that horrible, why didn’t they leave? Then, I could see a full refund. But this guy ordered the steak, ate it, and then complained he didn’t like it. So…?

  • Kevin Mathews

    I’m beginning to love these people that expect absolutely everything to be perfect when they go on vacation.  You paid $2K for 2 people for a week.  In the world of all inclusive resorts and such, that’s CHEAP. 
    I’m not trying to sound heartless, but who gives a crap about the view from the room?  You are down in the Caribbean, leave your room and go enjoy yourself.
    As far as the sheets go, that is a completely valid complaint and one that should’ve and did prompt a call to management.

    Our honeymoon was far from perfect.  A hurricane delayed our trip by a couple of days.  My mother, our Travel Agent for the trip, ended up sending us to Puerto Rico in the Marriott there for those two days.  We then proceeded on to Aruba from there for the remainder of our trip.  The Marriott that we stayed at in Puerto Rico was absolutely amazing and we actually didn’t want to leave.
    We got to our resort in Aruba, the Divi Phoenix, and were very disappointed.  The entire resort was under renovation, and they were in the process of building a complete new addition onto the resort(Side note: The resort looks absolutely amazing now and I’d love to go back and experience post renovation).  So at 6am each morning, we were woken up by the sound of Pile Drivers 100 yards from our room.  They had new and used furniture strung around the lobby of our building and the A/C in the elevator didn’t work.  Our bathtub leaked so you had to be extra careful when getting out of the shower.  Our power went out several times a day(I assume due to the construction), so keeping a clock correct was impossible.  We had bought 4 days of meal vouchers for the resort thinking we’d be there for 7 but were only there for 5 due to the “hurricane” that delayed us.  While the food was OK, would have rather not felt forced to eat there every day.
    But even with all that, it was a room down on one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  My wife and I explored the island, went to all the different local hang-outs, hung out in the pool and by the beach.  We went to several of the spots on the island that only the locals know about and had a blast.  Our room was a place to sleep, shower and change clothes.  We didn’t fly all that way down there to hand our in the room.
    So for all the people that sit there and complain that things aren’t absolutely perfect when you are on a tropical island or somewhere in the Caribbean, remember that things could be a lot worse: You could be at home…

    On a side note, since I know Chris loves writing about Travel Insurance.  We got married on Saturday, Sept 1.  We were scheduled to leave on our honeymoon the following morning.  That night, we caught a weather report that show the track of a hurricane headed close to Aruba.  We bought Travel insurance THAT NIGHT.  The next morning(8 hours after purchase), we found our flight to Aruba had been cancelled.  My Mother rerouted us to Puerto Rico.  The cost of the Hotel in Puerto Rico, and the additional airfare that we incurred we both reimburse by the travel insurance…  So the $50 policy we bought the night before our honeymoon saved us around $800…

  • The Condor


    If we were not on an excursion we were stuck with nothing to do.

    On one’s honeymoon?

  • DavidS

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

    So they got an oceanview room. Based on the description above, they got what is considered and oceanview room in industry terms. If they wanted oceanFRONT they should have asked if that was available at the time of booking or upgraded if available at check in. If they were looking to save more $, a parking lot view may have been available.

  • Rose

    I’ve read many negative reports about the Riu Guanacaste on the Trip Advisor forums, so I’m not surprised by the complaints here. I’m always surprised that people don’t take the time to do a little research before they book an important vacation.

  • cjr001

    Maybe they were taking the whole notion of marriage ending one’s romantic life literally? :)

  • Kathleen_keyte

    I’m not exactly sure why they stayed on. Once they saw the conditions in the entirety of the hotel they should have left and then asked for compensation for the 1 or 2 nights they wre forced to stay. Having said that, many friends who have gone to Costa Rica report massively overinflated ratings. Buyer beware.

  • Comanchepilt

    Ok. 2 people. Just got married. Not planning on splitting up any time soon? Right? Offered a full refund travel voucher from their travel agent good toward another trip. They are going to travel gain? Right? London? Paris? Rome? St. Maarten? Yet the voucher good for other travel is not good enough? Why not? Go somewhere nice and spend some quality time together. Geesh. Do not be greedy.

  • Guest

    I know a LOT of people who go crazy on their honeymoon and go out of the US (usually to an all inclusive in Mexico, Jamaica, or another typical honeymoon spot) and then they NEVER have any desire to leave the US again.  Whether they then start having kids or view any international travel as “too expensive” (which it’s not) it’s very common.

  • Guest

    this may come as a surprise but sometimes people view their honeymoon as a chance to do things fun and adventurous, not just a chance to stay in their rooms the whole time. Costa Rica is known as a country where you go to do things, the beach, zip lines, jungles, etc, perhaps this couple expected more.

  • Christine

    We must have gotten married on the same day! Also got married Saturday, Sept. 1, and had a flight scheduled to Aruba on Sunday the 2nd when the hurricane hit. Our flight was only delayed 4 hours instead of being canceled. Like you, we stayed at a timeshare that was less than romantic and the food at the resorts was blah at best, but the room was free (courtesy of timeshare trade-in by the in-laws) and we weren’t there to find things to complain about.  We found plenty to do to occupy ourselves and the island was beautiful.  Trips are what you make of them.

  • Bob

    Where? I’m looking here: and I see 643 of the 896 reviews are either Very Good or Excellent. Am I looking in the wrong place?

    Looks like the property was new in 2009. 

  • Guest

    exactly, there are a LOT of good reviews and a few bad reviews. 

  • MikeZ

    I completely disagree with your assessment. It was billed as a 5 star resort. The quality of restaraunt food IS an issue and worthy of noting. Also worthy of noting is the supposed ocean view. When you pay extra for a view, you expect that view, not some view of the roof, with some blue in the background. Again, supposed 5 star resort.

    I agree however with the voucher, though I’d say make it 5 days vs the 3 that were offered. 5 would be a fair amount since the couple did stay at the property. At least they know better than to stay at the same one again.

    Now with what everyone else said about the price. Some places in the world are more expensive than others. A $90 a night hotel room in the midwest is going to be really nice. Try getting anything even remotely decent for that in NYC or Chicago. Similarly, when you are basically visiting a third world country, where people make dollars a day, vs hundreds a day, one should expect decent quality wityhout breaking the bank. So $2k may have been a substantial price for the area.

  • Chiroalex33

    Reread that part, they ASKED for a voucher for future travel but were denied. They were offered 3 days at the same resort which they did not want. I misunderstood it the first time too.

  • Bob

    I don’t know what to say to this, other than that I hope you’re wrong. If there are significant numbers of people who only wish to leave the US once in their lifetimes, and at that, only to go to an isolated, all-inclusive resort, well that is just sad. 

  • Bill

    There seemed to be no way out of this “all inclusive” nightmare.
    –This is way too strong. Anyone who travels this part of the world should expect a little dirt, mold and things not perfect at this price. Get over it and have a great time instead of spending your time whining.

  • Guest

    You can hope I’m wrong all you like but given that less than 40% of Americans have a passport and that number jumped DRASTICALLY in the past few years when you needed a passport (or passport card) to go to Canada/ Mexico/ Jamaica, etc.  It used to be less than 20% of Americans had passports. 

    It IS sad but that’s the nature of things here in the US.  We are not a coutry of citizens who leave the border (at least the majority of citizens dont’)

  • Stoyko

    Get the voucher. They have excellent properties elsewhere. Don’t forget to do your research before you go :)

  • David

    Look, you hired a travel agent because as a PROFESSIONAL they are supposed to protect you from this stuff.  That’s why you use them instead of just booking yourself over the web.  This should land squarely in the lap of the agent.

  • Vanessa

    The voucher was for use at only another Riu Guanacaste resort.  That limits the couple to wherever those resorts might be located.  Shame they didn’t have a good time, with a bit of research on my own I found an all inclusive in Tortuguerro, and a great hotel in Arenal.  Sometimes it’s better to do due diligence when going to an unknown spot..  Or atleast hit up a few travel agents with his or her take on the travel location.

  • Eric

    The resort on the web-page looks nice.  However, photos occasionally DO lie.  They could be ten-year old photos for all we know.  I think we’d all like to see photos of this place if the OP took any.  I would have, if it were as bad as the OP says.  For bargaining power, or failing that, posting them to warn other travelers.

  • JJ

    Actually, if you look at the reviews they are good for this property. And, frankly given their $2000 budget what did you expect? You never book the lowest category in ANY hotel.

  • ChelseaGirl98

    Isn’t the point of hiring a travel agent that they will go to bat for you? This didn’t happen; it doesn’t sound like the agent tried very hard to satisfy them. It’s clear the place was misrepresented. I don’t think a total refund is appropriate, but a partial one might be. The hotel said it is five star and it isn’t. 

    Nonetheless, I am continually amazed that people book honeymoons in places where the standards are known to be different than those in the States, and they don’t really research the place. They just take the word of their travel agent, the vacation company they book through, or the hotel’s Website. You can’t rely on the vacation company or the Website; and unless the travel agent has either been there or has sent lots of people there who loved it, you can’t rely on that either. Trip Advisor is usually on target, but apparently in this case it wasn’t because many of the reviews are good. Booking a place without doing extra research is bad enough when you are going on a regular vacation; for your honeymoon, wouldn’t you want to be absolutely certain that the place you were staying in was top-quality? Recommendations from friends, and friends of friends, are really the only way to go in cases like this; and perhaps a travel agent who has been recommended to you. If the customer’s agent was someone he had used before, I’m sure this will be the last time.

  • Guest

    I’m curious what research you think they should have done?  They went to a travel agent who sent them to this place.  The majority of the reviews, the VAST majority of the reviews I’ve found via Google on this resort are positive.  Are people supposed to look at Trip Advisor and dismiss all the positive reviews and only go with the negative ones?  That’s not very smart either.  Reviews take some reading between the lines which lots of people don’t realize.  Everyone says the food is great?  What is their standard of food normally?  Are these folks that LOVE McDonald’s and their idea of a fancy meal out is TGIFridays?  Or are they really experienced travelers who are used to very fancy places? 

  • Guest

    If this person had written in saying THEY had booked their honeymoon here and they had a bad experience everyone would be saying, “they should have used a travel agent!”.  Well they DID use a travel agent, and Apple is a good company, why aren’t they working to get their customer a better resolution? 

  • Rose

    There are over 100 reviews that call the place either “terrible” or “poor.” That’s a lot of negative reviews!

  • Guest

    but at the same time there are over 600 reviews that rate it “Very Good” or “Excellent”!  There are 145 that rate it “average”.  Which are you to believe before you book? 

  • LeeAnneClark

    And that’s exactly what Costa Rica is.  But you won’t find those activities at a hotel – the hotel is where you sleep.  You have to actually leave the hotel to partake in the adventures.  Anybody who goes to Costa Rica expecting to hang out at their resort is nuts – you can do that in the US.  They mentioned they took excursions, so it sounds as if they got out and did things.  What did they expect from the resort itself?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Note that many of those good reviews are very short, and the reviewer has only 1 review.  Anyone who knows Trip Advisor knows that those reviews are suspect, and have a high likelihood of being planted there by the property itself, or friends of the property. If you toss out the short 1-shot reviews, you have a far greater concentration of not-so-good reviews which paint a pretty accurate picture of the place.

  • Guest

    From the sounds of it they expected something to do at night.  Sure they are newlyweds but that doesn’t mean they are going to go on an excursion every day, come back and eat then go straight to their hotel room for the rest of the night. 

    TripAdvisor reviews talked about nightly entertainment shows and other things to do. 

  • Guest

    You can say the same for the reviewers who rated it Poor or Terrible, mainly they all have just 1 review under their belt. 

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’ve been to Costa Rica numerous times – I have friends (Americans) who retired and bought property there, whom we visit regularly.  It’s one of my favorite countries, and is a vacationer’s paradise.  However, it’s NOT the Caribbean…it’s Central America, and as such, travelers need to understand how it differs, and set their expectations accordingly.

    The resorts in Costa Rica mostly cater to Latin Americans, not U.S. tourists.  Hence, they have different standards, and different foods than Americans are used to seeing at All Inclusives that cater to mostly U.S. tourists.

    Even the top-rated properties in Costa Rica are not quite as luxurious as the resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico that cater to Americans.  It’s just a fact.  And the food at these places is not going to suit the American palate – unless you like Costa Rican food, which tends to be bland and soft.  (We personally love Costa Rican flavors, but realize that American tourists often don’t.)  If you also take into account the amount of money they paid – there are properties in Costa Rica that cost a heckuva lot more than that, and naturally provide a higher degree of luxury.  In travel, you get what you pay for, in spite of what the brochures say.

    I have to agree with Sam Varshavchik – the only valid complaint is about the housekeeping.  Certainly, bedding should always be fresh and 100% clean.  But the rest – that’s just the way it is down there.

    Whenever you are traveling to a foreign country, you have to suspend your expectations of American-style luxury.  Especially when you’re visiting a country for the first time.  If the couple had truly done their homework first, they would have had reasonable expectations, and wouldn’t have been so disappointed.  They would have known not to expect U.S. or Caribbean-style resort amenities or food. They would have known that the best parts of Costa Rica are going to be found on excursions – zip-lining, scuba diving, and river rafting are just a few of the exciting things that can be done down there.  They wouldn’t have expected the resort to be the be-all and end-all of their vacation.  And they would have known that for the price they paid, this is what to expect.

    As for a refund…oh please.  ::rolling eyes::  They stayed there, ate the food, and slept in the beds.  A small refund for the problems with housekeeping is due – and that’s it.

    I do cast some blame in the direction of the travel agent.  Any travel agent worth her salt would have taken the time to set their expectations.  Perhaps the travel agent should be giving them back part of her commission, for having not done her job thoroughly.

  • jennj99738

    LeeAnne, I could not have said it any better myself.  Agree 1000%.

  • SoBeSparky

    The TripAdvisor reviews for this hotel are a mixed bag, with bugs and bad food complaints very prominent.  If I had been booked there for a honeymoon by an agent and tour company, I would tell them to look at other properties.  Do you really think for the small markup they get these people are going to do real research? 

    When you want it done right, do it yourself.  Hotel research is as close as your keyboard.  They are at fault for not spending 10 minutes to look at the reviews of their honeymoon hotel.  I am sure they spent more time thinking about which clothes to pack.  The buyer does have a responsibility to examine (or research) the merchandise.

  • Janice

    Chris, don’t you frequently say, “If you had used a travel agent . . .”  Isn’t that what Ben did?  Why isn’t he going back against the travel agent?  Or am I of the old, old school who uses a travel agent when I want a “specialty” trip, i.e., a honeymoon, and that travel agent stands behind his/her knowledge of a property?  I helped plan both of my children’s honeymoons with the help of a travel agent and they both had great experiences.

  • DavidS

    Once again star ratings are a joke. The hotel descibes ITSELF as a 5 star property. Days Inns have their own rating sysytem where some properties are 5 Sunburts (their logo). I cannot imagine anyone expecting a Ritz Carlton experience at even the best Days Inn!

    Get past the self affixed star ratings and do some research!

  • Guest

    Apple also descibes it as a 5 Apple resort.  The same as the Westin resort

  • Clare

    “…a little dirt, mold and things not perfect…”
    I’m still hung up on the dirty sheets AND the maid who thought it was okay to brush the hair off and remake the bed.  Did Chris not recently post a piece on hotels not changing sheets between guests, that thoroughly grossed us all out?  I would be a shrieking wreck if I walked into a place and this was my first indication of How The Staff Here Thinks.  If brushing hairs away (right in front of the guest, no less!) is good enough, what other types of filth does the place also contain which they’re not seeing (yet)?
    Having said that, I think it’s unreasonable to point an accusing finger at the newlyweds and say, “you should have left.”  Where were they supposed to go?  They just had a wedding (kaCHING!) and shelled out $2K for this sewer, so maybe they didn’t have a wad of cash readily available to go find another resort which they didn’t expect to have to pay for, you know?  Cut them some slack.  If you’ve got the money to do that, fine.  But remember that not everybody does–especially if they aren’t 100% positive that they’re going to get any of their $2K back. 

  • web/gadget guru

    Look…The groom has very little to do when it comes to the planning of a wedding…In fact, he has only three things that he *MUST* do…pay or his family pays for the rehearsal dinner,  show up to the wedding and set up the honeymoon. These things are not that difficult.
    In today’s day and age, not researching something as important as a honeymoon it no excuse for not having a wonderful time! Look, if you’re going on your honeymoon, you need to stick with the basics…places that specialize in honeymooners, Poconos, Hawaii, Orlando…places like that…visiting a foreign country for the first time and that being your honeymoon is a recipe for disaster.
    20 years ago, I organized my honeymoon. I had no internet to fall back on, only people I knew. It was a choice between Rio or Hawaii…My dad, who has traveled the world, recommended Hawaii for the exact reasons I mentioned above… Other than one error on my part, the event was all we could hope for…It was expensive…more than I wanted to spend, but this was not the time to cheap out!
    So yeah…while the resort wasn’t everything you wanted, you really should have done *SOME* research before you paid your money!

  • DavidS

    Apple is a travel seller. Another meaningless rating. They booked on Funjet BTW who lists it at 4 1/2.

    Can’t believed everything the car salesman tells you! Do some research on your own!

  • Guest

    But do research where?  As others have pointed out the vast majority of reviews on this place are all positive.  There are over 600 reviews on TripAdvisor saying this place is very good or excellent.  So if you can’t believe your travel agent and you can’t believe the company’s website and you can’t believe the resort and you can’t believe supposed trip reviewing sites then where are you to get good information?

  • Guest

    Who the heck goes to Orlando or the Poconos for their honeymoon anymore?

    LOTS of people go international for their honeymoon with no issues.  There is no way I’d go to Hawaii or any of the “typical” honeymoon places where I’m going to be one of 50 (or more) honeymooning couples any night at dinner.  Honeymoons are meant to be special, not make you feel like you are just one in the honeymoon herd.    

    Again, claims that research should have been done.  As many have pointed out most of the reviews online, the majority of the reveiws, say this place is top notch. 

  • DavidS

    It sounds like the traveler was hung up on “5 Star”. Based on reading the reviews, while it sounds generally positive I don’t think it would be confused with a Four Seasons. There is no “official’ 5 star rating, I could open a hotel and call it SIX star if I want. (Reminds me of the amp that goes to 11 in Spinal Tap!)

    Others have stated in just this column alone about Costa Rica vacations compared to Caribbean vacations. There is plenty of independent information available online.

    He had a questionable experience with housekeeping…and was offered a free stay. His expectations of a view were too high, he was booked in oceanview..and got it. Sounds like he was expecting oceanfront.

    Why this hotel and why Costa Rica? Did he see the advertised price in a Sunday Travel Section and go to a Travel Agent to book it? Did he consider Hawaii, Jamaica and Nevis and settle for Costa Rica based on price?

  • Don Brown

    I had same experience in Honolulu with Aston chain .. same experience and same offer of compensation .. “if you didn’t like that hotel experience let us offer you another bad experience!!”

  • LeeAnneClark

    And they have them most nights.  The hotel has everything in their brochure – just on a smaller scale than other, larger, more U.S.-centric resorts.  The casino was open every night – the couple just didn’t like it.  The disco was open every night – they just didn’t like it.  It sounds exactly like several of the AI resorts in Costa Rica I’ve stayed at.

    I’m not sure what they were expecting in terms of activities.  Unless they just wanted to hang at the pool all day, watch a brief (usually all in Spanish) show at night, and then go hang in a casino…what did they want to do there?

    When I’m at a resort in Costa Rica, I go on excursions most days (because that’s what Costa Rica is best for), then go back to the hotel, eat dinner, watch the show if I still have energy, have a drink or two with my beloved, then go to bed and get up early the next morning for another exciting excursion.  The possibilities for adventure are endless – but you won’t find them at a hotel.

  • Anna

    I agree. This sounds very much like a case of too high expectations, too little investigation. The question is whether to blame it on the travel agent or the unhappy happy couple?

  • Anna

    Google “I went to Costa Rica and it sucked” vs “I went to Costa Rica and it rocked” and see what you get. 

  • LeeAnneClark

    Methinks “Guest” is the couple themselves – or a friend of!  LOL!  This “Guest” is among the few people posting on the side of the couple.

    When I research a property, the FIRST thing I look at are all the bad and average reviews.  That’s where you’ll find the truth about the place.  If you read the reviews with a discriminating eye, you can tell which ones are just precious princesses expecting perfection (a la this honeymooning couple) vs. reasonable, rational travelers with valid opinions and reasonable complaints.

    The “average” reviews are where you will find the most truth.  The “terrible” ones are often overwrought and dramatic and based on absurd expectations.  The average ones will usually  include a good balance of what was good about the property, and what was not-so-good. 

    All the information about this property (minus the unchanged sheets!) is there to be read among the many average-to-bad reviews on TripAdvisor.  Also, there are massive amounts of information to be found either on the web, or in travel guide books, about what resorts are like in Costa Rica.  I personally never go on any vacation without doing my own research, and getting a feel for the place first, so I’ll know what to expect.

    And while I do cast some blame on the travel agent, I would never in a bazillion years leave any important trip, least of all my HONEYMOON, up to the judgement of a stranger – especially one who makes money on commission.  I would listen to what they said, then do my own research and make my own decision.

  • DavidS

    I would love to hear from the Travel Agent. Specifically I would like to know why they sold a cheap Costa Rica package to someone on their honeymoon rather than a more expensive, tested, tried and true Honeymoon destination like Hawaii, Tahiti, Jamaica or even a cruise. They would have made a higher commision!

    Did the traveler balk at other options? Was he/she looking for a “deal”?  

  • LeeAnneClark

    I think the blame is shared.  The travel agent didn’t do her job…but then, I NEVER leave my vacation decisions entirely up to the judgement of a paid salesperson who is making a commission off me.  I take input from the agent, then do my own research.

  • Rose

    That high a percentage of very negative reviews would be a big red flag for me. Just glancing at them shows that a lot of people are unhappy with the food, which is a big issue for an all-inclusive resort.

  • guest

    Sorry but I’m NOT the couple in question nor a friend of them and I post here all the time, most usually under the name my log in automatically gives me, “guest”.  I just don’t see where this couple, who are likely not well traveled were supposed to do all this research and get all this information PRIOR to going on their honeymoon.  Lots of people who post on this site are well traveled and I think many times people forget what it’s like to NOT be well traveled.  To be a bit clueless and trusting of a travel agent and a site like TripAdvisor to help them out because it’s that what they are there for? 

    I don’t know jack about cars so when my car breaks I go to a mechanic.  Now if one shop gives me a super high price I might get a second opinion but I’m sure if I posted on a car site all the car gurus and mechanics would have a laugh at how I got screwed and how I should have known to do this and check that and read between the lines here.  But as someone who doesn’t know anything about cars how am I supposed to know to do all this? 

  • Allison

    Wanted to point out that although there are a lot of positive reviews on TripAdvisor, even some of the 4 star reviews point out some negatives like the lack of quality beverages, bland food, hard beds, smelly bathrooms, etc.  Some people will have problems but still rate the property rather high for whatever reason.  I read the first 30 or so reviews and more than half (closer to 3/4) pointed out problems that would cause me to pause.  That’s not such a good sign.

    I do think the debate about the effectiveness/efficacy of travel agents merits some discussion.  Do they read consumer review sites? Do they get special incentives to push certain properties?  If I was a travel agent advising a honeymooning couple, it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes to find some important detractions on this property–things I would want to discuss with the couple.  Sounds like none of this happened.

  • Anna

    Your point is valid, but the OP suggests at least the male half of the unhappy happy couple is not a complete travelling novice: He has “stayed in a lot of hotel rooms” and he “would compare the rooms to
    those of a Best Western or Red Roof Inn”. He may not have been to Costa Rica before, but if he frequently stays in hotels… is this really the first time he’s noticed a slight discrepancy between the brochure and reality!?

  • LeeAnneClark

    I agree with Anna – valid point, but as someone who has stayed in that many hotels, he should not be quite so clueless.  I also think it doesn’t take a veteran traveler to know not to hand over one of the most important vacations in your life to a salesperson on commission.  That’s just common sense.

    Making a vacation destination choice is a very important decision.  Add the honeymoon aspect, and that doubles the importance.  I know there are infrequent travelers out there for whom this all seems very challenging, but with the internet today, it’s really not that hard to find out what you need to find out to make an educated decision.

    As I said in earlier comments, I do put some of the blame on the travel agent, who did not do her job well – and I feel she should be refunding a large chunk of her commission to the couple.  But people need to assume responsibility for themselves as well, and not expect everyone else (especially commission-based salespeople) to take care of them.

    To use your car analogy – would you go to a car dealership and buy a car based solely on what the salesperson says?  Or would you visit the dealership, listen to what the salesperson says, then go home and do some research of your own, comparing features, reading reviews and making your final decision based on education, rather than trust?

  • LeeAnneClark

    That is exactly what TripAdvisor is best for.  You can’t look at the numbers – you have to drill down and read.  I recently made a decision to stay at an all-inclusive in Cozumel based on a detailed reading of dozens of reviews.  While the vast majority of the reviews for this property were positive, most of them did point out some of the negatives.  Ultimately I decided that I could live with those negatives, and the positives of this resort outweighed the positives of the other resorts.  In the end I was satisfied with my decision – I knew exactly what to expect, and was not surprised by the few negatives I encountered – which were precisely what everyone wrote about!

    It’s all about setting expectations.  I NEVER go on a vacation without having a good idea of what to expect.  That’s how you avoid unpleasant surprises like the one that happened to this couple.

  • Anna

    When I read the part about the maid, what played out in my head was a Very Unhappy American speaking in a stern voice, gesturing, complaining… to a Costa Rican maid who barely speaks English. Maybe it was because of the phrasing “I had to tell her to…”, maybe it was because he used it twice? I mean, obviously you have to tell her what you want her to do… if she were a mind reader, she’d probably have a better job.

  • Guy VanDell

    i searched tripadvisor and lots and lots of reviews are good, and there are 900 reviews, so i can’t imagine they all fake, maybe the person cannot be satisfied?  also 2000 for all inclusive?  is this for a week for 2 people, that seems like a pretty good deal.

  • Charles B

    $2k for 2 people, all-inclusive, 7-nights, 5-star resort… is too good to be true. Clearly it wasn’t true. A good travel agent would have offered better alternatives knowing that “deal” was unrealistic. A good customer would have taken that advice when given. Not sure which side dropped the ball.

  • Charles

    Well said. The previous post to yours reminds me of the old line about “I can’t believe so-and-so won the election, everybody I know voted for the other guy.”  A huge chunk of people are in no financial condition to take trips overseas and another chunk doesn’t want to. (And really given all there is in this gigantic, glorious country, it is a tradeoff. You could travel your whole life seeing wonderful things and never need a passport.)

  • Guest

    “all inclusive” in Costa Rica.  I mean come on. 

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

    Welcome to the third world.

  • Charles

    I didn’t really get why they asked to have their room changed. I guess it was the view, because once the bedding issue was addressed, I’d have thought they’d have been happy to have that ordeal behind them. Instead, they were surprised other rooms had the same issues…and they picked up some noisy appliances to boot. 

    The ocean view issue is really a non-starter. They could see the ocean, just not very well, but absolutely everybody knows that still counts as an ocean view in hotel speak.  If there really only was one restaurant when they’d been told there were five, that’s a valid gripe. 

    Bottom line, if you want to assure a great stay (or come as close as is humanly possible) you need to go with known commodities that offer unquestioned excellence. And that means booking places that are accredited 5-star properties, not places that just claim to be. 

  • Strizis

    $2000.00 for 2 people for a week. All inclusive? Exactly what did they expect? The wife never wants to stay in a Riu resort again. Where’s Riu’s motivation to do anything. Sounds like they Wanted a Ritz style vacation for a Holiday Inn price. I wouldn’t get involved at all with this, Mr. Elliott.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Ours was a timeshare swap as well.  Ours was cancelled because our connecting flight in Miami got cancelled.  Although after talking to people down there, they got a little bit of rain, but nothing that should’ve cancelled or delayed any flights…
    Where did you guys stay down there?

  • Christine

    Aruba Beach Club.  It was… fine.  When we landed, it was grey and kind of muggy, but the following morning, it was like nothing had ever happened.  Blue skies and beautiful.  The irony is that we picked Aruba because all the information said they NEVER got hit by hurricanes.  Locals told us that’s not true – they do get hit, just not as severely as the rest of the Caribbean. This storm just skirted the north shore of the island, no damage, just rain like you said.

  • Josh S

    I can’t speak to the couple’s experience (the level of service certainly seems below par), but looking at TripAdvisor, it seems perfectly wonderful (see the photo below). 4 of 5 stars by user reviews.

    It shows 3 restaurants available all day, a massive pool/swimming complex, and beachfront property. I’m not sure what these people expected from the facility, but unless the place has been damaged or something, I’m not sure what more you’d want from a resort?

    I’m usually one to stick up for the consumer, but in this case it seems that perhaps they were expecting perfection on their honeymoon, rather than an adventure (and if we’re honest, every moment from “I do” onward is an adventure)!

  • Lindabator

    Too bad the travel agent can’t respond.   It sounds like the client wanted “cheap” and got it — I’ve been an agent for over 20 years, and could say 2 things about a honeymoon in Costa Rica off the bat — they could have chosen a FAR better hotel in that area, and I would have recommended a split between the beaches and rainforest to really experience the destination.  I would have compared hotels they already stayed at that they liked, and disliked, and why.  I would have advised them as to the area they were travelling to (Central America’s standards are NOT the same as ours), and I would have compared a different destination for the fare if they WERE only looking for a beach getaway.  I know better than to assume the client is savvy about the destination, and look to trade publications, consumer review sites, Chris :), etc.  Although there are sometimes incentives out there, they don’t make it attractive enough to want to lose the client’s trust and future business!  The majority of my clients are repeat clients and referrals – so I must ensure their needs are met and excedded.  But you need to shop a good travel agent, and when I ask questions, I’m not just passing time, I’m hoping to zone in on things you may not be telling me that may help me book a better trip for you.

  • TZ

    Why should Riu refund their money?  They’ve already said they will never stay at a Riu again.   Compensation is something that’s offered to try and retain a customer.

    And…if it was that bad…why didn’t they try to leave early?

  • Holdenba1

    we also had been told the day before we were to arrive at the riu in aruba that the hotel was over booked. expedia called us and told us that we would be staying at the westin for the first two nights. The riu gave us a voucher for four nights. The kicker is to use the voucher you must fax them the name of three of there hotels and dates and they pick the one that you stay at. And they want you to give them a signuature relase to place you where they want. When i send mine in next year i will send them one property  and one date. i will not agree to them setting the date and place of my vacation. i also found you can’t even get a phone number to call someone. Also want to know if we can upgrade the level of room. thanks

  • Carole Hayes

    “Nonetheless, I am continually amazed that people book honeymoons in places where the standards are known to be different than those in the States, and they don’t really research the place. They just take the word of their travel agent, the vacation company they book through, or the hotel’s Website. You can’t rely on the vacation company or the Website; and unless the travel agent has either been there or has sent lots of people there who loved it, you can’t rely on that either. Trip Advisor is usually on target, but apparently in this case it wasn’t because many of the reviews are good. Booking a place without doing extra research is bad enough when you are going on a regular vacation; for your honeymoon, wouldn’t you want to be absolutely certain that the place you were staying in was top-quality? Recommendations from friends, and friends of friends, are really the only way to go in cases like this; and perhaps a travel agent who has been recommended to you. If the customer’s agent was someone he had used before, I’m sure this will be the last time.”
    Some of us don’t know these things.  I can’t afford to travel all the time and I have NO WAY to know these things. Since finding Chris on Google+, I know a bit more if I ever CAN afford to travel, but really:  you expect people to know that hotels, vacation companies, and travel agents will all lie?  And reviews can’t be trusted unless you know some arcane formula for weeding out the non-reliable reviews?  

    “Recommendations from friends, and friends of friends, are really the only way to go in cases like this; and perhaps a travel agent who has been recommended to you?”  

    I don’t HAVE friends who travel.  I’m not sure if any of my friends do.  Nobody I know can tell me where to stay or refer me to a GOOD travel agent so, according to you, I’m pretty much SOL, and you’re amazed at my stupidity/gullibility.  


  • Carole Hayes

    ” but absolutely everybody knows that still counts as an ocean view in hotel speak. ”  

    No, really:  NOT everybody knows that.  Seriously.  Some of us don’t stay in oceanfront hotels on a regular basis.  Believe it or not, some people have NEVER booked a room at a hotel by the ocean, and they don’t have a CLUE what the different terms are.  

    I promise.  I’m not making this up. 

  • Sales

    There are some 4 to 5 star RIU resorts.  In my opinion, RIU Guanacaste does not come close to these ratings.  Once again, did the traveler use a professional travel agent that specializes in honeymoon travel for the Caribbean and Mexico?  I do not sell Funjet and certaining would not recommend most RIU resorts unless the client is looking for price only.

  • Traveling man

    I have stayed at 3 different Riu’s. They were the exact opposite of the Riu described. I liked them, but I did not love them. They are for drinkers! They provide unlimited hard liquor from dispensers in the room, also very strong drinks are made in the bar. Their dining was different in each country, and was edible, but not great. Those that depend on Tripadvisor as a rating are going to be burned 50% of the time, the Riu”s are generally 3 Star across the board. Foreign countries serve food differently, that is exciting, disappointing, horrible, incredible based upon your palate. If food scares you, stay at home. This Riu does not have much of a reputation. I believe the Paradisius is the hotel of choice.

  • Kathy

    I think I would have contacted the travel agent as soon as I realized the hotel was not what as expected.  Maybe you could have been moved to a better place.  Dirty sheets–gross.

  • jmiller45

    yes I was there in 2010 & the hotel opened in 2009