My wife and I were married in June of this year. We booked our honeymoon with American Express Travel to St. Lucia at Amex’s recommendation. We spoke with their “honeymoon specialist” who insisted that St Lucia would be the perfect place for us. We described wanting somewhere that combines Disney World with Vegas. If you’ve been to St. Lucia, you know this is nowhere near that.
We stayed at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian which turned out to be more of a two-star than a five-star hotel.
The food was lousy, the staff harped on my wife and I for not drinking, the activities we wanted to do were not free (this was our first trip to an all-inclusive resort so we didn’t know that), my wife was bitten by bed-bugs and ultimately got sick when we got home with something called herpangina.
Herpangina comes from fecal to oral contact. Someone didn’t wash their hands properly at the resort. We didn’t discover the bed bug bites until after we left the resort.
I complained to the resort manager that we weren’t happy with the food or the services the hotel was providing. He offered us a free spa service and to eat in the exclusive restaurant.
Since this was day two of a seven-day trip, eating in the same restaurant for the rest of our trip was not of interest to us and we don’t do spa treatments. I attempted to get in contact with American Express to get us sent home, but after leaving several messages, no one called me back or answered the phone. I ultimately booked us on the only Delta flight off the island and informed the resort we were leaving.
Fast forward to today. After fighting with American Express, Classic Vacations and Sandals I’ve been offered a two-night refund and a three-night voucher from Sandals, a $500 travel credit with Classic Vacation and a $250 refund from American Express.
I paid $5,300 for this trip!
What I really want is all of my money back! I wouldn’t be opposed to paying for the two nights we were at the resort.
I’ve managed to get $3,600 back from my credit card company, but that still leaves me pretty far in the hole.
I’ve spoken with everyone at American Express up to the administrative aide to the President of the travel division. They claim that they provided exemplary service.
Can you help me? I feel like I’m out of options now.
This doesn’t sound like the ideal honeymoon.
I contacted American Express and Sandals.
American Express hasn’t responded to my inquiry, but Sandals issued the following statement:
Sandals Resorts has a long tradition of making honeymooners very happy so it was terribly disappointing that the company was unable to satisfy Mr. Salamon and his wife Katherine Simon.
The couple arrived on Wednesday, June 24 and departed Friday, June 26.
It rained for the entire two days they were there.
They met with the manager on Friday morning. When they complained about the dining, the manager went beyond Mr. Salamon’s description and offered to have the couple meet with the Executive Chef to organize personalized menus for the rest of their stay.
In addition, because the couple inaccurately believed that spa services and off-resort island tours were part of Sandals Resorts’ Luxury Included experience, the manager offered them a complimentary island tour as well as a complimentary spa service – both of which were declined.
At this meeting, the couple also complained that the resort was “too quiet,” but never mentioned the behavior of staff or bed bugs. Mr. Salamon said he had already made up his mind and had made arrangements to leave that day, Friday June 26. They were offered a credit voucher at that time for the unused nights, but again, declined.
As an aside, the bed bugs and herpangina finding were only brought to the company’s attention in late August. Sandals Resorts immediately asked for medical substantiation, but has never received anything further.
Should the couple get all of their money back? In more than a decade of resolving travel complaints, I’ve never come across a case where a full refund was given in similar circumstances.
Salamon sought the expert advice of a travel agent who specialized in honeymoon vacations, but he also had a responsibility to do a little due diligence on his vacation. June tends to be rainy in the Caribbean. A quick glance at the Sandals site would have shown that spa treatments were not part of the “all-inclusive” rate he paid.
I don’t know about his travel agent. If you tell me you’re looking for a combination of Disney and Vegas in the Caribbean, I’m not sure if St. Lucia would be the first place that came to mind. I do, however, know that travel agents are heavily incentivized to sell Sandals and similar products. If Salamon’s agent was just trying to meet a quota without listening to Salomon, then we have a problem. But we’ll never know what happened behind the scenes.
And Sandals? It looks as if the property tried to address the honeymooners’ grievances while they were there. I might chalk up the staff issues to cultural differences.
But the bed-bug thing? Yuck. No excuse for that.
If Salamon can provide Sandals with medical evidence of the herpangina, he might be able to push for more generous compensation. But a full refund is doubtful.