A hurricane ruined my Sandals vacation. Please help me un-ruin it.

By | January 8th, 2017

Lisa McNulty and her husband are excited about their Christmas getaway to Sandals Great Emerald Bay Resort in Exuma, Bahamas. Then a hurricane blows through and destroys the hotel. Can Sandals and Expedia help fix this disaster, or will she be stuck with a ticket to nowhere?

Question: My husband and I had not been on a vacation in quite a while, so when a friend suggested that we all go away for Christmas I was all for it. We decided we should book with the Sandals resort in Exuma and go before Christmas. I was more than thrilled.

Because our friends live in a different state, we each did our own booking and airfare. They booked directly through Sandals, while I booked through Expedia. It was an all-inclusive vacation at Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, in a beachfront honeymoon walkout butler suite, including airfare for two from Minneapolis, on Dec. 10 and returning on Dec. 17. The total package cost was $7,879. This booking was done on July 13, 2016.

In October, a hurricane destroyed the resort. Sandals closed until Dec. 18. However, they did rebook us at the Sandals resort in Antigua. Because our fellow travelers booked directly through the resort, they were rebooked in Antigua and all of their airfares were taken care of without incurring extra costs. But because we booked through Expedia, the resort said that they would refund our change in airfare.

We had to do the change through Expedia and to email Sandals the receipt. I contacted Expedia and changed the airfare, but I had to pay the original $200 change fee plus the difference in airfare which, for the two of us, came out to an additional $899. Now I’ve spent the last month sitting on the phone for hours trying to be reimbursed. Expedia said to talk to the resort, and the resort said to talk to Expedia. I’m truly getting the runaround.

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I would like to be reimbursed for the $899 change in airfare. It is not our fault that the resort closed due to hurricane damage. Could you please help? — Lisa McNulty, Chanhassen, Minn.


Answer: We hate to hear about natural disasters that affect people’s vacation plans, especially when a travel agency such as Expedia won’t help with making the changes necessary to save your vacation.

In this case, you did the right thing by first contacting Expedia and then taking up Sandals on their offer to redirect your vacation to Antigua. You can find a contact list for Expedia on our website. However, neither party took responsibility for reimbursing you for the change in flights.

As Expedia points out in its terms of use, “Expedia is committed to customer satisfaction, so if you have a problem or dispute, we will try to resolve your concerns.”

You were concerned about saving your vacation, and Sandals was able to rebook you to its Antigua resort, but this required a change of itinerary with Delta Air Lines and a change fee of $899. There’s nothing written in Sandals’ booking and cancellation policies about a hurricane closing a resort, so you needed a little extra help in order to save your vacation.

While this booking didn’t happen during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, it’s a reminder that travel arrangements made for any time during the year can be affected by natural disasters. We wrote in October about how natural disasters can bring out the best and the worst in travel providers.

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Unfortunately, the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort was not scheduled to reopen until one day after your vacation was scheduled to conclude, and you were out the cost of changing your flights to the new destination.

You reached out to our advocates, who contacted Expedia on your behalf. Shortly after, you heard from an agent at Expedia who said they contacted Sandals on your behalf and arranged for a refund of $899 to your credit card.



  • AJPeabody

    Book directly with venue, no problems. Use a third party, problems. Part of a pattern here.

    Why do third party booking services continue to exist?

  • Rebecca

    Yet another story illustrating how important it is to book direct. Two couples booked literally identical vacations. When a problem arose, the couple that booked directly had no problem, their reservation was changed to a new resort, including airfare. And the couple using an OTA had all sorts of trouble over $900. I’m willing to bet the original cost savings, if any, wasn’t more than $50. And I don’t know anyone whose time isn’t worth more than that $50 (or less).

    In short, don’t use an OTA vending machine. Especially Expedia, where this sort of issue is absolutely endemic.

  • Rebecca

    Sadly, the answer is that people are willing to use an OTA to save a very, very nominal amount. On an $8k vacation, I’d be willing to bet the difference was less than $50 (around 5%). And while everyone will say their time is worth more, they’re willing to pay a nominal amount more for better service, the one big thing I’ve learned here is that 90%+ of them are lying. The vast majority will choose the $5 over the good service.

  • BubbaJoe123

    FYI, 5% of $8000 is $400, not $50.

  • Rebecca

    You’re right. That’s what I get for multitasking. I was trying to explain to my husband how to use a digital coupon, and the numbers got mushed together in my head. I meant to hit the 1, not the 5. The savings is actually a little less than 1%. I’ll edit it now!

  • Michael__K

    It’s not clear if the other family booked their airfare directly with the airline or if they booked their airfare through the resort as part of a resort package.

    If it’s the latter, then the other couple also booked their airfare *indirectly* [with the resort as the “OTA”] in which case the story doesn’t exactly illustrate what you suggest it does… Booking each component directly may not have solved the OP’s problem. [Not that I recommend using Expedia for this sort of booking regardless].

  • Charles Owen

    I have booked dozens of trips on Expedia. I would not book on Expedia to save 5%. I usually save between 10% and 20% over booking directly. Here’s the deal: hotels have a contract that specifies a minimum price an online site can offer, which is usually identical to what you would get directly, so there is no advantage booking just the hotel on an OTA. But, when you buy a package, Expedia can discount the package, often at least 10% and sometimes 20% or more on the room (we’ve gotten 30% before, that that resort was struggling). 20% is a big deal for us and has been the difference that put us over the top to take a trip many times. And don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. I spend hours on every trip we take trying different airport combinations, different booking packages, and other various alternatives to find the least expensive option.

    Example: Right now I could book May 11-18 directly with Couples Negril for $2975. If I go to Expedia and do the same dates, I get, amazingly, $2975. If I book an Expedia package using JetBlue out of Detroit, the package is $3413. The Jet Blue flight is $852 for 2 people. So, the package costs $3413 from Expedia or $3827 booked direct. That’s a 14% savings on the hotel cost and is the first destination I tried. Now, Couples can include airfare, but they don’t really discount it, their package was $3791, a whopping $38 savings. Do I care about $400 in savings? And, this was just the first thing I tried. We’ve found larger discounts on most trips.

    I did not find this deal on Sandals Emerald Bay so there’s no guarantee, but for the destinations we go to we’ve done dozens of these package deals and never had a problem.

  • AJPeabody

    In effect, you are willing to trade a $414 savings on a trip ($3827-3413) and take the risk that a glitch will cost you an unknown amount of time and money. It is a risk many will take, as things usually run OK. Then, instead of using a part of the savings to buy trip insurance, come here if there is a financial disaster. Not an irrational plan, actually.

  • Charles Owen

    We always buy trip insurance when travelling outside the US. We buy it if we book direct or if we book a package. We always buy it separately, usually from TravelGuard. I have no idea what that has to do with anything.

    What’s irrational to me is paying an extra $414 for the exact same thing. As for the risk, there is risk in anything. We’ve seen plenty of people who have problems when they booked directly, both with airlines and hotels. I won’t take that risk if I don’t save money, but $400 is a lot of money to me.

    The main reason I posted this is not to promote Expedia. Frankly, they can do their own promotion. But because every time I read one of these stories I read a bunch of people saying there is no reason to every use an OTA because you can’t save money or it will only be a few percent and why bother. The fact of the matter is there are situations where the OTA’s are a significantly better deal, far better than people here seem to realize. At what point is it worth it to you? 20%? $1000? $2000?

  • Annie M

    I hope she learned to book direct with a supplier instead of using an OTA.

  • Barthel

    If I had an extra $7,879, I would invest it, not spend it on a vacation.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Congratulations.

  • Rebecca

    It says:

    “Because our fellow travelers booked directly through the resort, they were rebooked in Antigua and all of their airfares were taken care of without incurring extra costs.”

    We’ve seen multiple times here, folks that purchase their airfare from the cruise/resort/etc are rebooked without additional cost. I should have made it more clear. Personally, I am not a package vacation kind of person. Just not for me. But, if you’re going to purchase this type of trip, booking it directly can avoid a headache if there’s any hiccups. So I suppose it’s a rule with an asterisk. Booking airfare through the provider isn’t the same as booking through an OTA like Expedia. It isn’t directly booking with the airline, I concede, but it IS booking the package directly.

  • Rebecca

    Point taken. I am not a package vacation kind of person. I have found a hotel priced cheaper on an OTA a handful of times. And I called the property directly, requesting a price match. Every single time, I told them the site and they matched. It literally took minutes. The only “package” I’ve ever booked is a cruise. I like to arrive a day or two early, and book a hotel nearby to check out the port city for a day or two. So I don’t book air inclusive (especially true since I’m willing to pay more for a direct flight – I hate layovers). And again, the hotel will always price match.

  • Michael__K

    It’s a two-edge sword. If there’s a flight reservation hiccup that results in finger-pointing between the airline and resort, then the comments here would blame the customer for not booking the air directly.

  • Lindabator

    or book with a travel agent – we would have had the vendor make all changes, and THEY work with Sandals in regards to flights being changed to a different destination in this case – had it happen for a couple clients myself

  • Lindabator

    you know – you can get the same package with a travel agent, and we not only price match Expedia, Orbitz, etc – you get a voucher for future use as WELL as the price match (another good way to save money in the few cases they are lower than what we find) :)

  • The Original Joe S

    Because people are Kin-Yao and GNOK.

  • DepartureLevel

    Exactly why it’s being suggested here not (EVER) to book with faux “travel” agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, Cheaptickets etc. Someone already said it best – travel vending machines. No help if even the slightest thing goes wrong. You are dealing with a 3rd party vendor with the lowest level employee sitting in an overseas call center not able or allowed to think out of the box and solve problems – their only function is to do bookings and collect your money. Stay clear !!

  • Michael__K

    And how can you be sure that doesn’t apply as well to a resort selling airline tickets?

    We’ve seen plenty of cases in this space where passengers didn’t get help when things went wrong even when they used agencies outside the group you refer to; even “brick & mortar” agencies.

  • Michael__K

    called the property directly, requesting a price match. Every single time, I told them the site and they matched. It literally took minutes.

    That has NOT been my general experience. Though the counter-examples I recall were all outside the continental US.

  • DepartureLevel

    Right, you can’t be sure, so again, book DIRECTLY with airlines, with hotels, with ground tour operators. I do my travel reservations like that all the time and find that the prices equal the same sum total (sometimes less) as some of the “travel agencies” offer in all-incusive packages – certainly without the fear of dealing with some low-level “clerk” calling themselves a travel representative.

  • Michael__K

    If this passenger booked directly with the airline, they could expect the EXACT SAME ISSUE chasing the resort for the out-of-pocket costs of changing flights…

  • Lindabator

    of course, most people do not have time to spend days exploring – time is money – which is why using a real travel agent makes sense

  • Lindabator

    that’s your priority – other people want to enjoy life while they are still here, and take some of their money to do so

  • cscasi

    But, as you stated, “it is not clear if the other family booked their airfare directly with the airline or if they booked their airfare through the resort as part of a resort package”. So, that leaves, “ifs”, “ands” or perhaps “maybes”.

  • cscasi

    That’s why the other couple came out ahead and hassle free; having booked the whole package through the resort. It worked, saved them time and effort and paid off when what happened, happened!

  • cscasi

    That’s definitely a good thought. But, for those who have the money and want to have a nice vacation, there it is.

  • cscasi

    More probably because we seldom see a case where someone got help when things went wrong. Why would they be asking Chris for help?

  • Michael__K

    Then those same “ifs” and “maybes” apply equally to the statements singling out OTAs/Expedia as the source of the problem here…

  • Michael__K

    Yet we do see cases here where things went wrong involving other agencies that don’t handle billions of dollars in transactions — including “brick & mortars”…

  • Rebecca

    When the passengers booked airfare through the cruise line/resort, the majority of comments stated it’s on that cruise line/resort. Myself included.

  • joycexyz

    Whenever I read a company’s boilerplate policy that says “we are committed to customer service,” my cynical translation is usually “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

  • joycexyz

    You can’t take it with you!

  • Michael__K

    Of course it’s on the cruise line/resort, but the comments in those cases also criticize the customers’ choice of booking air through the cruise line/resort. Those are not mutually exclusive statements. Just like you criticize Expedia here and pin “it” on them (even though, as far as I can tell from the info provided, Expedia did nothing wrong in this particular case) and you simultaneously criticized the customer’s choice to use Expedia. (I don’t recommend Expedia either, but I don’t think this particular case represents a great example of why not to use them).

    Examples:
    http://disq.us/p/3imt6a
    http://disq.us/p/331vlx
    http://disq.us/p/7ry0am
    http://disq.us/p/176pnzf

  • Rebecca

    I ALWAYS criticize Expedia. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s not to use an OTA vending machine. (Well, that and a lot more people than you think will put up with all sorts of bs to save a relatively tiny amount of money). Personally, I have taken a few cruises. I flew in a day or two early and extended my vacation in Miami. And I’ll do just about anything to avoid layovers. But, if you’re going to fly in day of, booking through the cruise/resort is definitely your best option. I have never said otherwise, although someone else may have.

  • Michael__K

    Unless the OTA vending machine happens to be operated by a cruise company or resort company… ;)

    I don’t recall anyone ever recommending flying in on the day of a cruise departure, no matter who books the flights. For a resort stay, it should be fine. The resort will still be there the next day (presumably) if the flight arrives a day late.

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