No, you probably can’t afford this – but pay attention, anyway

The largest Four Seasons hotel in the world opens today in Orlando, and since I live in Orlando, I’m here to witness the spectacle.
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Do they hate us?

When I lived in the Florida Keys, an area heavily dependent on tourism, I remember seeing a bumper sticker a time or two: “If it’s tourist season,” it asked, “why can’t we shoot them?”

The men officiating a sham wedding at Vilu Reef resort in the Maldives (video above) may have been asking themselves the same question. In the ceremony, conducted in the Dhivehi language for a Swiss couple, an officiator curses at the visitors and calls them infidels. (Warning: The clip contains explicit language.)

The Maldivian prime minister, Mohammed Nasheed, condemned the video and ordered the men responsible for the ceremony arrested.

Still, it makes you wonder if people hate us when we’re on vacation.
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A reservation and a charge — but no room

Question: My family is a member of Marriott Vacation Club International and we have a timeshare with them. As part of that purchase, we were told that we have the ability to purchase “getaways” for either a week or a weekend. (A getaway is simply a low-cost way to rent an unsold timeshare condo like a hotel room.)

My wife contacted Interval Travel, which handles reservations for Marriott, to purchase a getaway at a Marriott Vacation Club resort in Orlando. Interval told her that there were no Marriott properties available for getaways at that time, but instead suggested another property called Westgate Vacation Villas in Kissimmee, Fla.

We paid $339 for four nights at Westgate. We received a booking confirmation by mail the day before the getaway was to begin and it appeared to be in order. It wasn’t. When I reached the front desk, they advised me that they had no record whatsoever of our reservation. Eventually, they offered us a “spare” room but only after sitting through a sales presentation.

Once I opened the room, a strong smell of mold and mildew blew out at us. The room had clearly not been maintained, the air conditioning was not on and the air quality was intolerable. With the added complication of severe allergies in our family, there was no way that we could possibly stay in this room.

I was told that there were no other rooms available and that nothing could be done. I told the desk agent that we could not stay in that room due to its condition, and she apologized and said that the only option would be to leave the resort. She then printed me a “zero balance” receipt to show that I had not stayed, and told me that I needed to seek refund from Interval for this experience. I’ve called Interval repeatedly since then, but it has told me there are no refunds for its getaways. Can you help? — Mike Ray, Bradenton, Fla.

Answer: If you had a confirmation, you should have had a room. It’s as simple as that.
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Splashing into I-Drive’s newest waterpark resort


It’s a waterpark. No, it’s a hotel. No, it’s both.

Actually, it’s CoCo Key Water Resort in Orlando (warning: loud music will play when you open this link) the newest addition to this chain of waterpark-resorts.
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Weekend adventure: At Leu Gardens without a map


Leu Gardens is one of Central Florida’s cultural centers. At this 50-acre enclave near downtown Orlando, we found America’s largest Camellia collection outside California, a museum, and several impressive botanical gardens, including a butterfly garden.

Although the stated mission of Leu Gardens is to inspire people to appreciate and understand plants, we discovered that the facility offered a lot more, including art exhibits, special events and and an 1880s home that has been restored.
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What the heck is going on with the TSA in Orlando?

Maybe there’s something in the water in Orlando, but the Transportation Security Administration just can’t stay out of the news there.

Earlier this week, a TSA officer at Orlando International Airport was arrested on charges of molesting a minor. Turns out he was reportedly a fan of bondage and sadomasochism.

Charles Henry Bennett’s MySpace profile identifies him as “Master Charles or Sir.” The online page shows the 57-year-old airport security guard has “many years experience” as a bondage and sadomasochism master and is looking to meet people, especially “submissive females.” The TSA’s blog said the agency was “deeply saddened and disgusted” by its employees actions. Bennett resigned on Monday.
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An ice time at the Gaylord Palms

ice
When I asked my kids if they wanted to see ICE at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, I heard a groan from the back of the car.

“It’s too long,” said Aren, my oldest.

“Too cold,” complained his younger brother, Iden.

I got my way. But the kids are glad I did.
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‘Keystroke error’ turns $289 rate into $28

keyQuestion: I recently found a $28 per night rate at the Westin Imagine in Orlando. I was amazed. I booked the room, and several days later I called the hotel to ensure that it was a legitimate rate. They confirmed this, so I booked nonrefundable airfare, and have been happily anticipating my getaway weekend ever since.

That is, until this past Monday morning, when I received an e-mail from the hotel’s director of revenue management saying that the rate was caused by a “keystroke error” during data entry. The actual rate was $289. The Westin offered a rate of $99 per night as an apology, but refused to honor the original rate.

I contacted Westin at the corporate level, and the hotel offered to waive its mandatory valet parking charge of $18 per night, but insisted it couldn’t honor the $28 rate. Then the manager of the hotel responded, offering to throw in an extra 5,000 loyalty points.

I’m writing because I don’t think I’m getting fair treatment by this Westin hotel. If there is anything you can do to help, I would be extremely appreciative. — Terry Capps, San Diego

Answer: If you book a rate that you know is an error, then you shouldn’t expect the hotel to honor the price. But $28 per night wasn’t an obvious “fat finger” rate, and the fact that Westin confirmed it certainly didn’t help.

If the hotel had offered rooms at $0, then this would be a different story. Actually, it wouldn’t be a story at all. If a business mistakenly prices something at a rate no reasonable customer believes is valid, it shouldn’t be required to honor that price. But you can find hotel rooms at $28 a night.
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