I just spent a long weekend in Cancún, México (read about my tips and suggestions in “Justin Does…Cancún, México!”). What was meant to be a quick beach getaway with friends from Dallas turned into a weekend of debate: Have I become a travel snob?
Let me start by saying this – I am quite comfortable on the road. I traveled quite a bit last year and have many trips planned for 2013.
I would like to think that I am quite adaptable to my surrounding situations. I don’t need glamorous accommodations when I travel (but I won’t lie, first class and fancy hotels sure are nice). All I need is something that is clean, safe, and gets me from Point A to Point B.
So what is this post all about? The destination this past weekend was the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort in Cancún. Now, this isn’t a typical Westin hotel as it is a part of the Starwood Vacation Ownership properties. What is that? Timeshare.
I’ve had great experiences with other Starwood timeshare properties, namely the lovely Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas in Avon/Vail, Colorado. Essentially, they treat you like a normal hotel customer and recognize any elite benefits you may have with the Starwood Preferred Guest program.
But our experience this past weekend is making me rethink my involvement with this timeshare program.
We arrived to the Westin Lagunamar around 1:30 p.m. Although the staff were friendly, they were not extraordinarily helpful. We originally wanted to book a two bedroom suite but unfortunately those were not available when we made our reservations. When we inquired at check-in, the two-bedroom suite was available. For a small upcharge. Okay, that’s fine. After typing away, the employee came back and said, “Oh, sorry, but since you are not a hotel guest and you are a vacation rental owner, we cannot upgrade you. But you will need to call the Vacation Ownership and they can do it for you.”
Meanwhile, we were told that no rooms were currently available as they were being cleaned, but we were welcome to go to the restaurant and bar and they would page us when the room was ready. Fine by me as I was in need of a margarita (or three).
Four o’clock comes and goes and no word from the Westin. Back at the check-in desk, we inquired about our room and again for an upgrade. This time, the employee said that a two-bedroom suite was available and that they would dial the Vacation Ownership group so we could arrange the reservation change/upgrade. After handing over the phone and making the change, the front desk replied, “Your room is not ready.” Wha what? Check-in time is 4:00 p.m. (oh, and check-out time is 10:00 a.m.) You do the math and they need six hours to turn a room. Seriously.
As we were walking back to the bar and margaritas, we are flagged down and told that one side of the two-bedroom suite was available and the other would be ready shortly. They would bring the keys to the second room when it was ready. Okay, so we hang out in the suite for a bit and no call or staff to drop off the keys to the other room. After calling the front desk, they sent someone over. Thinking that this gentleman would have the keys, instead, he proceeded to try to break down the door that joined the rooms. When we asked if it would be easier to just open the door, he replied “Sí” (Spanish for yes).
Meanwhile, it is now 6:15 p.m. and the second room isn’t ready. Back at the front desk, the staff issued the keys (with no apology for the delay, by the way). Then they proceeded to inform us that because our stay was for less than four days, we would not be receiving housekeeping services. Um, excuse me?
We even offered to pay for housekeeping services. Ahem, no, “lo siento” that would not be possible. Really? You don’t want additional money? Okay fine.
Side note: Apparently word got out that we desired housekeeping services. So what do you know. Housekeeping finally showed up. At 9:00 a.m. On a Sunday morning. After a long night at Coco Bongo. I guess they showed us, huh?
Fast forward to the next morning. After a nice workout in the gym, we all decided to head to the breakfast buffet. Mind you, this is Saturday morning, so we were a bit shocked when we rolled into the restaurant and were turned away at 10:57 a.m. Again, Saturday morning.
Turns out that the buffet runs from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Okay, that’s fine, however, the entire buffet is still set up and staff were still restocking it. Couldn’t we just fill a plate and eat? Nope, sorry. After a few minutes of negotiation, the hostess agreed to let us eat, but we must hurry.
So we filled our plates, shoveled down the food, and about 20 minutes later when we were done, did they begin to take down the buffet.
Two of my friends went to the University of Kansas and it turns out that KU was playing the University of Oklahoma. Coincidentally, the Westin Lagunamar had an onsite “sports bar.” Quotes are used because it was a bar–marketed as a sports bar (it was in the name)–but the only sports part about it was that the TVs that were turned to soccer.
When we walked in, we were the only people there. “Do you mind if we turn one of the TVs to a basketball game?” The response, “Sure, no problemo.” Great! We weren’t told no! Well, the only problem was they only got soccer games. Apparently ESPN Deportes (Spanish for sports) only plays soccer.
So we went back to the room to try watching the game via the Slingbox at home. Well, as you might have guessed by now, the internet (which the hotel is proud to advertise is free) was pretty, um, unreliable. When you could connect, you were in this infinite loop of having to re-login in. When we were connected, even gmail couldn’t load 100%. I mean, I get that this is México and one should relax on a beach not connect to the rest of the world, right? But, c’mon, don’t even offer it if you can’t get it to work, right?
At this point, all we wanted was to watch the game and not be told “no” for everything. Across the street from the hotel was a shopping mall. And in that shopping mall was a Hooters. Surely they would have plenty of TVs. Perhaps even WiFi. What the heck.
So there we found ourselves. At Hooters. In México. When we walked in, the first TV we saw was playing the KU/Oklahoma game. Score! Then we asked if we could sit out on the deck that overlooked the lagoon and turn one of the TVs to the KU game. Response? Sure, you go pick whatever seat you want and I’ll turn the closest TV. And they gave us the WiFi code (WiFi at Hooter’s is lightening fast. Even in México!)
Once situated, our server Mira, greeted the table and took our order. We felt like we were kings.
So, back to the whole point of this story. Have I become a travel snob? I argue no, and here’s why.
I really don’t think I was asking or expecting too much. What do you think? If you think I might be overracting, just mosey on over to tripadvisor.com and read some of the reviews.
Will I return to Cancún? Absolutely.
Will I return to the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort? Absolutely not.
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