Help! My hotel is being renovated – and my vacation just got a lot more expensive

Frazao/Shutterstock
Frazao/Shutterstock
When her hotel is sold unexpectedly, it throws Miriam Ingber’s vacation plans in turmoil. Who should help her fix this problem?

Question: I’m hoping you can help me. My entire extended family booked an expensive vacation at the Veranda Resort in Turks & Caicos for a week. My immediate family had stayed there last spring and we loved it. When we booked it, it was managed by Grace Bay.

We found out less than a week ago that it was being taken over by Beaches, which is owned by Sandals, was being shut down, and they were refunding our deposit (although we haven’t seen a penny of the $16,000 yet).

Beaches would not reimburse us for our flights or any expenses associated with rebooking elsewhere. Our travel insurance also would not pay for any of our expenses.
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Can this trip be saved? They didn’t have my smoking room, so who pays to fix it?

Like 21 percent of other Americans, Larry Vail smokes. Having a room where he can light up is important when he travels, so when he booked his accommodations at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa through Bookit.com, he made sure it was a designated smoking room.

“This was our fifth trip to Jamaica and we have always reserved a smoking room without any problem,” he says.

Not this time.

Even though the all-inclusive resort offers smoking rooms online, and even though Bookit.com says he had one, he didn’t get one when he checked in.
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Beaches vacation goes bust, but how about that ticket promise?

Jen Knight’s family was looking forward to an all-inclusive vacation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, until the resort sent her some bad news: Her hotel, Beaches Boscobel, would be closed for renovations.

A Beaches representative verbally agreed to rebook the family at a sister property, Beaches Turks and Caicos. She was also told the company would cover the difference in airfare as well as the fees for changing their tickets from Jamaica to Turks and Caicos.

Case closed? Not quite.

It turns out that neither of the airlines on which she’d booked various family members — JetBlue and Airtran — flies to Turks and Caicos, nor do they codeshare with anyone who does. But both airlines will allow them to cancel their reservations and receive a credit for the value of their flights that must be used within a year, less applicable change fees.
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Predatory tourism? Visitor details a “horrible” vacation in Jamaica

negrilHigh crime. Outrageous prices. Fees everywhere.

Jonathan Shelton’s vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica, had it all. And he was so upset by it that he fired up his Blackberry at the airport and sent me a missive.

“I was awed by the locals trying to take advantage of tourists at every turn,” he told me. “The whole economy is designed to rake tourists over the leaves.”

Is his experience just another example of predatory tourism, where hotels, tour operators and merchants prey on their own guests? Or was Shelton just unlucky?
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Hey, where’s my ride?

Question: What are your rights when a tour operator fails to deliver part of your vacation package? I booked a one-week vacation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, through Apple Vacations recently. It included accommodations and transfers to and from the airport.

But when we arrived in Kingston, we discovered that the shuttle bus didn’t run from Kingston, but from Montego Bay. We had to pay $160 for a taxi ride from Kingston to the hotel. We also had to pay $75 to change our return flights to leave from Montego Bay instead of Kingston.

I immediately contacted Apple Vacations at the resort, but they were no help. I was referred to Apple’s headquarters in Pennsylvania, and I wrote an e-mail asking to be reimbursed for my expenses. They refused. Is there anything you can do to help? — N. M. Johnston, Cincinnati

Answer: Apple should have picked you up from the airport and taken you to your hotel, as promised. If it failed to do that, the company should cover your cost of transportation to your hotel.

But did Apple know you were on your way? I contacted the company, and it says it didn’t. When Apple reviewed your file, it discovered a “glitch” in its reservation system that would confirm a passenger has transfers from any airport in Jamaica, when in reality, all of Apple Vacations’ Jamaica services originate solely from the Montego Bay airport, according to Sandy Babin, Apple’s vice president of marketing.

Babin says if your travel agent had advised Apple that you were flying out of Kingston, the company would have confirmed that transfers were only available to and from Montego Bay. But as it turns out, you didn’t use a travel agent. You booked the trip directly through Apple’s Web site.

I might have been a little reluctant to pay for a taxi or a ticket change. In the original version of this story, I suggested that you should have contacted your travel agent (who, after all, took a commission when you paid for your vacation) and the hotel you’re supposed to stay at, which might have been able to recommend a less expensive way of getting to the property.

I based that advice on Apple’s contention that you had used a travel agent. But you self-booked this trip, so there was no agent to phone. Maybe you should have used one.

I definitely wouldn’t have taken an initial “no” from Apple Vacations as a final answer. You could call back and ask to speak with a supervisor or e-mail someone at a higher level at Apple Vacations. Here’s a hint: e-mail addresses are first initial, followed by last name – all one word — @applevac.com. Happy e-mailing!

If none of those steps are successful, consider a credit card dispute or a trip to small claims court. With such a small amount at stake, odds are the company wouldn’t have sent a representative to court and would have lost by default.

Apple Vacations apologized for the transfer problem and sent you two $150 vacation certificates.

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