"The House" Barbados review

Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 10:59 AM
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"The House" Barbados review

The title of this review should probably me -- "Maybe it was us"

My husband and I, both 33 with no children, stayed at the House in Barbodos for 7 nights in late August/early September. We were hoping that it would be our last, luxury vacation for a while until after our baby is born. I was looking for a wonderful hotel on a tropical beach and an island where there was just a little more to do than sit on the beach. I was hoping, I think, for a more tropical version of our honeymoon in Bermuda.

I wish I could say we loved the House, but I just didn't (and I hate to say this knowing others have already booked trips there!). While we had a great time (as we always do on vacation) and I can't put my finger on the one thing that would have made the trip perfect, here were my concerns. (FYI, the House was full the week we were there, much to the surprise of the staff)

1) For a new hotel, the rooms are worn, and for a "luxury" hotel, they aren't particularly luxurious. Furniture was scratched, dirty, etc.; tiles were cracked; walls were marred. In the lobby, the all-white look is very chic until you get close up and see how dirty all those couches are. We had an ocean front junior suite (which I do recommend for the proximity to the beach and pool), but nothing about the room (furnishings, layout, amenities) was as nice as I expected from the hype. It was all fine, just not special like I had hoped.

2) The beach. By my standards, very rocky, narrow, and full of seawood. Most House guests walked next door to swim at a portion of Tamarind Cove's beach that had no rocks at the shore. I was also not really prepared for how close the hotels are together or how close the House is to the road. There were always plenty of beach chairs, although getting just the chair you wanted under an umbrella, etc. required claiming it by about 9 a.m.

3) The pool. Very small, although seldom used and the hotel is small as well. Also in need of updating (paint, tiles, etc.) and more frequent cleaning. They didn't have a hot tub per se, but they did have a smaller attached pool with hot tub-like bubbles, just no heat (actually, I enjoyed it anyway, and maye they had the heat turned off since it was August).

4) Beach and pool services. A lot of the things mentioned on the web site rarely if ever appeared. During the week we were there we were offered ice cream twice and a cool towel once. That's it. There is also no beach service to speak of. If your ambassador (more on this later) happens to walk by you can ask for a drink, but you'll pay dearly for it. Our ambassador never happened by the beach the entire time we were there and I rarely saw others doing so. The beach was also not particularly well tended and could have used more attention (raking, picking up trash, etc.)

(more to come in next post)
K_in_DC is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 11:10 AM
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5) The service. The "ambassador" concept just didn't work for us. Our ambassador greeted us and gave us a drink, showed us around the property and our room, and then literally disappeared for days. She was not clear on what she could do for us, but merely answered questions when asked. Also beware that anything you ask them to do (other than make reservations) will entail a $15 (Barbados) service charge. That includes picking up lunch from next door, bringing you a drink on the beach, etc. Luckily we never figured out what to do with our ambassador and she was never around anyway so we didn't get any of these charges. Service from others at the hotel was slow and not particularly friendly.

6) Breakfast. Really no better than the buffet you might get at the Holiday Inn Express you stop at on the interstate for the night. Staff wasn't great at restocking items, and items not on the buffet were bought very slowly.

7) Lunch. There was no good place to have lunch. Twice we ate at Daphne's, the attached Italian restaurant, which is nice but sometimes you just don't want all that for lunch. During our stay, our ambassador would NOT bring you lunch on the beach (which would add on $15 as well) from the "Oasis" snack bar at Tamarind Cove, despite what seemed like fliers to the contrary. If you walked to the Oasis the food (and I'm just talking about a ham and cheese "panini") was horrible. Once we walked down the beach to "Bomba's" for lunch, and if you want to spend $25 for 2 bad burgers (albeit with some beach charm), then it's fine. But it was very frustraring not to have a good lunch option.

(still a little more to follow)
K_in_DC is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 11:23 AM
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8) Finally, I want to share one conspiracy theory. We booked our room through Expedia (I think we paid $350 a day) and not through the House (where the rate was $500 a day). I believe we may have gotten a lower level of service because of that. My husband saw a list the staff maintained of the current guests and how they booked. Some services were not included in our rate (namely, hotel transfers) because we booked through Expedia. And we were questioned whether other services (the "jet lag massage," which we had to ask for many times before we received it) we really included in our rate. It's hard to tell whether we got poor ambassador service because of Expedia, because we had a bad ambassador, or simply because the whole system doesn't really work. But the service we received was a big let down.

Ok, now that I've been so critical about the House, here's a bit about Barbados itself.

There are two amazing restaurants there -- The Cliff and The Tides. Whatever, the cost, I highly recommend you do both.

I was disapointed in the island itself. We spent a day touring with a taxi driver and visited Orchid World, some old churches (wish I could remember the names), and ended up on the opposite side of the island at the Roundhouse (completely blanking on the name of the really old restaurant overlooking the big waves). On this brief outing, the island didn't appear that scenic and the recommended sites were not so compelling.

We also spent a day (ok, it took 2 hours) in Bridgetown. Again, we had lunch, but the shopping was disapointing and the city was much dirtier and less interesting than I had hoped.

I really hate to sound so negative -- especially after all the kind advice I got on this board (in particular from Lois). But I just wouldn't return to the House or Barbados at this point. Sandy Lane looked really lovely, but Barbados to me seemed to be an island with little to offer but the beach, and I've been to nicer beaches, with better service, and which were more reasonably priced for the level of service.

Sorry! and I hope everyone else has better luck than I did. If I can answer questions about any specifics, please let me know.
K_in_DC is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 11:58 AM
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Very informative review. I have thought about The House in Barbados, but I have read a few reviews such as yours, so maybe I will look elsewhere.

Thanks!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 12:41 PM
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Sorry to hear about your disappointing trip. The price you paid is was an excellent rate, but that rate is the "room only" price. Whatever else comes with the higher price for the same room is what is paid for. I'm glad you paid less money for your room, as it sounds like it would not have made a difference, so you are ahead of the game. Paying more for the frills would not have cleaned the sofas or replaced broken tiles and the worst is a dirty. sea weed beach. That is really bad and just poor management.

Expedia is pretty good but keep in mind that Expedia owns Classic Custom Vacations which by far has better deals and excellent customer service. Since you are not on your own when booking thru Classic (a travel wholesaler which must be booked thru a TA) you would have had someone to call as you can call classic 7 days a week (unlike a ta) and they will always take care of you. Good to know for future vacations.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 02:11 PM
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what is the web address for classic custom vacataions Sandyfeet please?
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Old Sep 22nd, 2003, 02:16 PM
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www.classiccustomvacations.com or www.ccv.com

You can look, but you cannot get prices or book only a TA can do that, but you can see their hotel/resort listings.

have fun

What I usually do after that is go to the hotels website for more pics and info and www.travelhop.com for even more pics (if hotel listed)
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 05:16 AM
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Interesting reading your review. I had seen negative reports, but you never know if it's just few and far between. For the prices charged you should have expected and gotten better.

Sorry the island did not live up to your expectations. As I've mentioned at times, many beaches on the West Coast, while calm, are a bit rocky, or have big drop offs going into the water. That's why I always highly recommend Sandy Beach on the South Coast.

Most of the East Coast has some dramatic scenery with the coral cliffs and crashing waves from the wild Atlantic, with some very picturesque, romantic beaches such as Bottom Bay which has been featured in some cruise line ads.

We love the restaurants on the island -- particularly The Cliff, Carambola and The Tides, 2 of which you also enjoyed.

I guess everyone has different things they enjoy about the islands they visit.

Lois
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 07:48 AM
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Thank you so much for the review. I looked into The House, but then I started reading some other reviews with opinions similar to yours, including one article where the reporter said "the ambassador concept just does not seem to work." At that kind of hotel, for those prices, you should be able to get drinks and food delivered on the beach! It also appears to be a better option to just stay at Tamarind Cove and pay the lower rates since there is nothing great about The House rooms or service. I am looking into Sandy Lane (very pricey but more of a value off season and the reviews seem to be very positive) and the newly renovated Fairmont Royal Pavilion. Sorry you did not have a better experience but thanks for this valuable feedback.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 09:01 AM
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thanks to SandyFeet for the web address. Unfortunately I can not use them as I do not live in the US. Never mind!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 10:23 AM
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Thanks, K, for the detailed trip report. I was considering Barbados for a trip next year and its good to get this input.

Regarding your "conspiracy theory", I thought the exact same thing when we booked a trip through an auction website. We went to the Royal Hideaway in Playa del Carmen this past January and although the resort was absolutely wonderful, our pre-trip room and dinner reservation requests were completely ignored. Other travellers I spoke with had their e-mailed or faxed requests honored. I wondered whether ours were not given priority because we paid such a low price via the auction. It was just a theory, but it's good to know I'm not the only one dreaming that stuff up.

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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 10:58 AM
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No it is not a "theroy" it is a fact, unfortunately as you get what you pay for. When booking a trip on your own thru the internet (expedia etc..) or auction usually that is the "room only" price. Expedia, for instance does not sell "special packages" it is room only. You can get the packages when booking directly thru the hotel, just ask for any package deals, which usually include such things like concierge service. When booking this way you should call the restaurants directly and make your own reservations since you have paid the discounted price. Although it may not offically be called that, that is what it is.

It is the same thing when you buy airline tickets deeply discounted. Your waiting at the gate and you see that coach is full and its a bunch of screaming kids. You go to the desk to upgrade to business. They see the code on your ticket is a "q" (for example) and cannot be upgraded without paying the difference in coach price + the price of business class seats. The same is with rooms, when you pay a deep discounted price, you do not get the same service.

I'm not saying theres anything wrong with it. Just understand that there is no "conspirscy theory", you get what you pay for. Hotels know who is who and who paid for what and how much - it is a fact. Since you did not pay for anything but the room, you cannot expect the added luxuries such as room requests, reservations etc... When you fly coach you don't expect free drinks and reclining seats.
Sometimes it does pay to book thru a TA, if the agency sends lots of clients to a particular place, you in turn will get better treatment......at no additional cost. I have seen many times at the concierge desks lists of clients to be checking in from travel agencies. If XYZ travel sends 200 couples a year to ABC resort, you in turn will be treated better, no matter how much you paid. You send your requests thru your TA and they will forward them to the resort. The resort does not want to piss off XYZ Travel with negative reports from clients, so they will go the extra mile to make you happy and so XYZ Travel keeps on sending people.


No conspiracy about it.

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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 11:12 AM
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Thanks Sandyfeet, for the very useful information, but I must say I don't understand the perspective of a "room only" rate. If you are booking at a nice resort, isn't it a given that most or all of the services of the resort such as concierge, service, access to the facilities etc. are included in that rate? I don't understand why people would get lesser service, they have still paid to be guests of the hotel and it doesn't help the hotel any to have people reporting bad experiences on boards like this. But this also brings up a question I have wanted to ask you -- Is it better to book directly with the hotel if we are hoping for an upgrade to a nicer room category? For example, I have made a reservation with the Four Seasons Punta Mita for a very special occasion. I have heard that upscale resorts will make every attempt to upgrade you, especially if it is something special like a honeymoon. However, I could also book at the same rate through Virtuoso, which promises a room upgrade at check-in "if available." Do resorts like the 4S really treat folks who have booked directly with them better, even if they are paying the same rate? So would guests who booked directly with them get priority treatment or is it better to go with a service like Virtuoso which apparently has arranged for its clients to receive upgrades?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 11:44 AM
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I personally do not agree with booking with the hope of an upgrade. I always book the room I want and I also tell my clients the same. There may no room to upgrade to as they could all be booked for some reason or another - wedding, convention, company vacation or simply just those rooms are sold out by people spending the money for them. Most resorts fo give free upgrades when available anyway it really does not matter who you book thru. If it is something really special, I would call a TA and aks her to price out the trip with various travel wholesalers and pick the best deal for you. The best deal does not necessiarily mean the best price as different wholesalers have different specials with resorts. Some will include dinners, spa treatments, airline upgrades...but none can absolutely without a doubt promise a "free Upgrade".

What I mean by "room only" price is - Say a rack rate is $500 and you pay $300. A resort has to pay people to make phone calls, take care of special requests etc...most times it is not as easy at it seems and takes much more time than a phone call to make things happen. That type of service costs money because it costs the resort money to pay these people. Since these resort employees are doiing things fro the $500 per day people it does not make sense $$ wise to do this for the $300 people.

Some resorts that have 2X daily maid service and turn down service will only clean the room 1X for the lower price because it cuts into their profits - these are deeply discounted prices.

Say you own a hotel...you have 3/4 of your guests staying at $300 per day and 1/4 staying at $500 per day. The lowest cost per room at $300 is just to keep the hotel going, meaning they need to have at least $300 per day per room at 80% occupancy to keep the employees paid, the electric going etc...

So when you pay $300 for a room you are getting just that

The 4S is in a rank all by itself. you will never find broken tiles or a dirty couch or a run down room. They also keep their prices pretty consistant and service is always superb. It does not matter with 4seasons with whom you book, the only way you will get "more" service is if you book on their Club Level. the 4Seasons will upgrade you if available and you will be treated the same if you book directly or thru a TA. When booking let them know it is a special occasion. The 4S is fabulous and you will have a great time. I would also have your TA call Classic Custom Vacations, 4S Punta Mita is on their list. You may save on airfare! Hey it doesn't cost anything to call
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 01:34 PM
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Thank you for all the great advice. I agree with you about paying for the room you really want but in the case of the FS we won't be crushed if we don't get upgraded, I hear all the rooms are nice. It's just that the difference between "partial" oceanview and oceanview rooms at that resort is a whopping $220 a night and since we don't spend that much time in our room when we are on vacation, I couldn't justify it. I will check out your suggestions for booking, we actually went on a Classic Custom Vacation through American Express Travel to the Ritz Jamaica in March. I was disappointed when I arrived because we had paid in advance for an oceanview suite and three times the Ritz tried to put us in a room that was not what we had paid for. We finally got our suite, but only because of a cancellation. So that started to give me the idea that some properties do not treat people booking through such companies as well as those booking directly. Classic did write me an apology and we actually ended up in a suite on the club level so it ended well. I'll try them again. It sounds like you think very highly of them.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2003, 02:24 PM
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A large wholesaler is in fact the travel industry's biggest customer as they buy large blocks of rooms and airline seats. There are a few good ones, its good to call and not just go for the first price but do research and pick what is best for you!

I agree with the partial ocean view room, 220 is a lot of money...that's practically your spending money per day!


The same thing that happened to you at the Ritz happened to us twice! I honestly do not think it was Classic's fault but the hotel assignemnt. You are assigned your room up to 5 days prior to arrival. It is not easy trying to accommodate people..3 days in this room 10 days in that room. I think what happended to us happened to you.

last May we went to the Grand Floridian in WDW. We paid for this Octogon Suite overlooking all 3 parks...I had ordered a bottle of expensive champagne and choc covered strawberries as a suprise to be waiting for us. Everything was confirmed.. Well after checking in we were brought to a "regular room" and there was no champagne, no nothing..i don't even want to tell you what this room cost, but it way more expensive than what they tried to put us in...After waiting a while I was told that our room was being occupied. Meaning it was given out by mistake...poor planning. Anyway we were put in a huge suite. The same thing happened to us at Cap Juluca....and both trips were made directly thru the resort. So I think its the hotel not the wholesaler.
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Old Sep 24th, 2003, 10:30 AM
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Just to clarify, I do understand the difference between a room only rate and a package. But the whole POINT of the House is the ambassador service, which they highly tout in all their materials and in their initial tour when you arrive at the property. If there is going to be a difference in the service you receive because you book on Expedia, that should be clearly explained. We actually called the House prior to our trip and were told that the ONLY difference between the Expedia rate and the House's own rate is that you didn't get transfers with Expedia (and we ended up booking those through the hotel anyway). But we were sold on the House because of its promises of great service, we did our homework ahead of time to find out what was and was not included, and still felt like we were treated like second class citizens compared to others.

For the record, I don't think that there's any amount of service that would have been worth the extra $150 a day we would have paid through the House.
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Old Sep 25th, 2003, 08:16 AM
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For $100 a day I will follow you around all day, get your drinks, spray you with mist, wipe your face, get the sand from between your toes and even turn the page of the book you are reading!!

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Old Sep 25th, 2003, 09:14 AM
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Really? You would? That equals $4.16 per hour - much lower than minimum wage!
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Old Sep 30th, 2003, 11:54 AM
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I just wanted to add my experience to this discussion. My partner and I spent some time on Guana Island this past summer based on an auction package that broke down to be about 60% off their regular daily rate. We were greeted just as warmly and treated as considerately as any other guest staying there. The service and facilities were wonderful and I commend them for showing no distinction between those who had paid full price and those who had not. (We talked to other couples there at the time--others had also bid on auction sites and some had paid regular rates.) I cannot recommend the folks at Guana highly enough.
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