If you were less than impressed with your last vacation, you’re in good company. Say “hello” to Colette Blanchette, who recently traveled to Cuba for what was supposed to be a relaxing tropical getaway.
It was February, and she and her husband were looking forward to escaping the cold Toronto winter. They’d booked a week at the Husa Cayo Santa Maria through Transat Canada. The trip was booked through her sister-in-law, who is a travel agent.
“We are not inexperienced travelers to Cuba, and know that you don’t go for the food but for the beaches,” she says. “But what we experienced has so soured our outlook on Cuba that we have decided to never travel there again.”
Blanchette calls it a “vacation from hell.”
How did the Husa Cayo, which describes itself as a “five-star” property, let them down? Let us count the ways.
No water. That’s right, they had no water in their room when they checked in. “The water did not come back on until Sunday night,” she says. “The water went off again on Tuesday all day and did not come back on until the evening for the entire resort.” It went out for two more days while they were at the hotel. The situation was so bad, she says, that the resort was directing guests to get water from the pool in order to flush the toilets. Water was not delivered to the rooms, guests had to go to the front desk in order to get bottled water and were limited to one bottle per person.
Food shortages. On top of the water outages, the couple reported frequent food shortages. When they tried to use the buffet on Sunday, they were met with a long line. A few days later, they decided to wait in a long line, only to find that there was no food left at the hot tables. “The line for the pasta and grill stations was one hour long,” says Blanchette. “By Wednesday there was a full-out brawl in the buffet due to the lack of food. People were frustrated and hungry.” (Riots at a tropical resort? That’s something you don’t hear about every day.)
Indifferent management. The couple contacted both the hotel’s management and their tour operator to complain. “Neither were willing to do anything to remedy the situation for the food or the water issues,” she says. “We spoke to other people at other resorts in the region and they assured us that they had water as we were being told that the whole island was out for water, which was a blatant lie. No compensation was offered or any alternative to the situation.”
After she returned to Toronto, Blanchette contacted Transat in writing. It didn’t respond to her, but sent a letter to her travel agent with the following explanation.
We are truly sorry to hear of your disappointment with the services and facilities of the Husa Cayo Santa Maria.
While every property may experience the occasional technical or operational problem, we do expect our guest to be provided with quality service and speedy resolution to any problem reported.
Transat strives to provide memorable holidays and we regret that it was not as expected. It is through this type of feedback that we can confirm the direction and quality of our services and that of our providers. The inconveniences you experienced during your stay are not to the standards of service Transat expects and we convey our sincerest apologies.