When a beach isn’t really a beach, and other travel disappointments

Alan Kraft/Shutterstock
Alan Kraft/Shutterstock
To call Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla., a beach might be a little stretch.

The sand is imported from the Bahamas. On a recent windy day when I visited, there were no waves. Mostly, this island’s signature beach doesn’t have the scene you’d expect from a tropical resort, such as a boardwalk with concession stands.

So when a reader on Washington Post Travel section’s online chat recently asked if I could recommend a beach in Key West, I said not really. The natural shoreline in the Keys is dotted with coral rocks and mangroves that are beautiful in their own right. Tourists don’t come to this island for its beaches, and if they did, they’d be disappointed.

The complaints came in almost as soon as my response was published in the paper. Coincidentally, the answer appeared on Labor Day weekend, just as Diana Nyad finished her record swim from Cuba to Key West. And right there, on live television, readers saw Nyad coming ashore at Smathers Beach, which looked real enough on camera.

How could I say that Key West didn’t have beaches?
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Betrayed by a company? Here are 5 secrets for avoiding it

Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock
Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock

The call between Frank Alioto and his favorite cruise line went down like something straight out of a made-for-TV drama. You know that turning point where the hero actually turns out to be the villain? Just like that.

He and his wife, Susan, had accumulated 130,000 loyalty points over the years, using a special credit card called an “affinity” card that lets you earn more loyalty points, but can come with a series of unfavorable terms, like a higher annual percentage rate or a yearly fee.

“The program promises, among other rewards, that 125,000 points can be redeemed for a free five- to seven-day Caribbean cruise for two,” he says. And the Aliotos had collected for years, assuming that once they earned enough “loyalty” points, they’d get their promised cruise vacation.
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Did KLM lie about her ticket refund?

If you’re an airline apologist, you’ll probably answer Angelina Bellamy’s question reflexively, if not dismissively.

I almost did (and I’m no airline apologist). But this one’s interesting, and not as easy to fix as it looks.
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