Unfair Practices during hurricanes

Nov 5th, 1999, 01:36 PM
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Unfair Practices during hurricanes

Do I deserve a refund when a hotel doesn't provide the services they claim.

My wife and I got married three weeks ago and headed to Biras Creek Resort (Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands) in the carribean for our honeymoon. As luck would have it we got stuck right in the middle of Hurrican Jose. Biras Creek Management informed us 24 hours prior to the storm hitting that we had the option to evacuate and go to the main island of tortola. We informed them that we would like to do this as we figured we could stay in a 80 dollar a night cinderblock motel and saved over 350 dollars. I booked a reservation at Nanny Cay (Tortola) for $80 and planned on taking the 1:30pm ferry. The next day, after the first ferry had left at 10:30am, they informed us that we could not leave the island as the airport was closed and the seas were too rough. In other words we were held capitive on the island. During the entire day we sat around in our rooms while the hotel staff packed chairs boarded up windows and stored equipment and closed down the place. There was nothing for us to do at this 4-5 star resort (Biras Creek) The restaurant, bar, snooker room, beach bar and everything else you could think of was off limits. Chairs were roped to columns and doors tied shut.....The staff left at 3pm and My wife and I were left with the major task of preparing our room for the hurricane which involved putting up blankets in front of the windows, towels on the floor, moving furniture off our porch etc. Needless to say, we were 50 yards from the beach and only 10 feet above the surf....and very unhappy at the prospects of having to weather this storm.

That night we were up all night listeing to over 75 mph winds lash out against room....I didn't sleep a wink and at times was scared to death. Additionally, our bedroom windows were covered with wooden blinds which allowed for the seasalt to come in with the winds. Our entire wardrobe was damp and musty for the next 24 hours as their was no laundry service.

The next day we wanted to get off the island but they had cancelled the ferry service. Once again, there were no services....no maids, no meals except those that they delivered to our room in McDonalds type packaging which consisted of; cold cereal, sandwiches, and fried chicken and french Fries. This is quite a departure from the fine french food they served when the dinning room is open. Also, understand that we had purchased the FAP (three meals a day plan) We were reduced to sitting in our room and reading or going to an empty room entertainment room to watch CNN.

Please keep in mind that the second night I was not even suppose to be at the resort and furthermore, they were not taking any new guests as they new they could not provice the services. Furthermore, they never did anything to coordinate or update us with regards to getting off the island....in fact I had to threaten them to find some sort of ferry service so I could make my 10:30 flight the next day otherwise I probably would have spent another night there. Additionally, when I asked the front desk if they were going to charge us full fare I got this response, "I wouldn't think they would but they haven't told us yet."

Upon Checkout the next day at 9am, I was informed that I would not only be billed the full fare ($425) for the night of the hurricane but the following night as well even though we had no intention of staying that night. To compound things they didn't even want to discuss the billing issue with me and told me that I would miss my ferry if I didn't leave right away. I refused to sign anything and told them that I would challenge this fee with my credit card company. Don't get me wrong, I believe in paying for my fair share; i.e the room and board but on a level that is comesurate with the type of service I recieved. Currently, I am disputing this charge with visa but it will take 90 days to get is resolved and is a huge hassel.

Net net of it all....the management is only concerned with the bottom line and don't be fooled by their carribean "take it easy man" attitude". I felt Like I was in egypt.

Is there anyone out there who might be able to help ge this problem resolved.


P.S. There were over 4 different couples on their honeymoon with us and I'm sure they dinged them as well.
Nov 5th, 1999, 01:55 PM
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I had a similar experience and didn't ask for or expect a refund. A hurricane is an act of God and nothing the hotel should be held responsible for. It was out of their control; they didn't provide the services because it was not in their power to provide them! I was in Cozumel for Hurricane Roxanne in mid October several years ago with winds of 100+ mph. The ceiling of our bathroom caved in; all sliding doors and windows facing the ocean blew out; our room was full of glass and water. We packed all our clothes in our suitcases and put in the closet, so they were not wet. I have never been so scared in my life; I thought we were dead! We were right on the ocean and our hotel was shaking like we were in an earthquake. Afterwards there was no water, phone or electricity for days. We felt the hotel was not responsible; they did the best they could under the circumstances and provided food afterwards the best they could. Being on an island, and with communications and power interrupted after a hurricane, it is difficult to get information or services. We made the best of it and didn't expect the hotel to refund our money. The one thing I did learn is to never travel to the Caribbean during the hurricane season. I won't venture there between July and November. If you go during hurricane season, that is one of the risks you take.
Nov 5th, 1999, 02:06 PM
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When one books a vacation during hurricane season, one runs the risk of having to "rough it out", as you did. Look at it as an adventure! However, the resort would have shown some good PR if it had been flexible with your second night's rate.

When we had to evacuate our home in Montserrat because of the volcano a couple years back, and couldn't get off island for a couple days, a hotel showed some compassion to us and others by offering a favorable rate.
Nov 5th, 1999, 11:18 PM
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Nov 6th, 1999, 07:06 AM
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JB, I've stayed at Biras and a number of other islands and resorts in the Caribbean, and I've ridden out hurricanes at sea in the navy. There are quite a few postings at Fodors and other sites from people who wanted to take advantage of the great rates that resorts offer in the hurricane season. Usually these postings ask whether they should go during hurricane season. They know it's a gamble. You knew as well, but made a calculated decision to to take your chances. And, frankly, it's a reasonable thing to do because the savings in October are so very considerable when compared to high season prices. So you received the monetary consideration you were entitled to already. Right? That the dice weren't in your favor doesn't entitle you to more consideration now. Absolutely not, and, frankly, you come across as a sniveler who can't live with the decisions he made. I use the plural of snivel because having chosen to vacation during hurricane season (decision #1) you then decided to tarry in the face of an oncoming hurricane.
Let's face it, once you knew a storm was coming, you were advised by the hotel, and you should've made a decision to either ride it out or get on the NEXT ferry and plane out of there. Instead you dawdled and missed the last ferry failing to take into account that that whole region of the Caribbean was battening down for a storm of unknown ferocity.
I believe you received your due when you got the seasonal rate and should now take your lumps. Biras is NOT responsible for YOUR decisions.

Nov 6th, 1999, 07:14 AM
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You jest! It's as though you expect that you should've received all the services you'd have gotten on a bright, sunny day, that the ferry should've known you were coming (in your own sweet time) and remained open, etc. No, Mr. Burke, you do not deserve a refund. That's why your hotel rate was already so low. Suck it up. Stop whining.
Nov 6th, 1999, 07:18 AM
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I think that you and your wife have gathered some memories that will last far longer than the fine meals at Biras Creek could have provided. Be thankful that you have them. You will laugh about this in the future. Don't spoil it now!
Nov 6th, 1999, 11:32 AM
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I read the posts and it seems that some of the others got a little hot under the collar about this issue.
We were supposed to go to the Bahaams just as each hurricne hit and there were 3 of them, so we kept rescheduling and still haven't gotten there this year, so vacation will have to wait until the new year.

I am so sorry you had an awful time, but living in a Hurricane Zone, they are something that people have to take seriously and in the Carribean there are no Hurricane Shelters, so everything gets battered down, and guests become a problem.

Whenever you travel, especially during the summer months, check with www.weather.com before your trip so you know what to expect, and when a hurricane is expected in your destination, the easy answer is don't go.

The Hurricanes this year did alot of damage 100's of Millions of dollars worth, so the best idea is always to get Hurricane Insurance, so if there is a storm you can make other arrangements.

Some of the allinclusive resorts, like Sandals specifically have a guarantee and will accomodate you at another facility on another island, which is a great idea.

Again, I am so sorry your vacation was ruined, now you know first hand how awful Hurricanes can be.

Nov 6th, 1999, 06:32 PM
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I know this does little to help you
now, but maybe this next time you travel
to the caribbean you could consider
Aruba. They are completely out of the
hurricane zone and the temperature
is the same year round.
The Ombudsman section of Conde Nast
will look into grievences for travelers
if you write to them and ask, possibly
they could help you to get whatever
compensation it is that you're looking
to receive.
Nov 7th, 1999, 04:50 AM
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Well I have to say that if you travel during hurricane season you are taking a chance. Most of the time you win in this case you lost. As far as a refund you already got it in the form of a much lower rate then during the high season.
We were supposed to visit Antigua in October of 98 but got cancelled because of hurrican Georges and ended up going in January 99 for about 1/3 more in price. However what I found is that the
extra price is well worth it just to get
away from the mid winter weather. Anyway
you buy your trip and take your chances
I am sorry you lost the gamble but thats life.
Nov 7th, 1999, 02:51 PM
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JB--several years ago my husband and I had free first class tickets to anywhere in North America, which included some of the Caribbean. The catch was we had to use the tickets between Sept 1 and Dec 1. After researching areas in the Bahamas and Virgin Islands, we decided we'd be fools to travel there in October (when we decided to go) so we enjoyed a beautiful week in Maine--the bed and breakfasts, fall foliage, wonderful restaurants. There were a few snowflakes, but no hurricanes.
Nov 7th, 1999, 05:58 PM
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It certainly was starting married life together with a big experience and it is unfortuante that Jose and you were in the same spot at the same time! However, one should never consider booking any trip, especially one that takes a big bite in the wallet, without buying trip insurance that provides for trip interruptions - especially in the Caribb during hurricane season (am vey surprised that your travel agent would not recommend if not insist upon it). If you need to use it, it is a great bargain! But this does not help your current situation. I wonder why you didn't evacuate immediately given the room's proximity to water and the location of Biras and when the staff announced the plan to evacuate? I also wonder why the ferry that the staff left on at 3pm was not an option for you. I would not have taken the time to figure out where nor how much I could save, I would have been on the first ferry out ... either to Tortola or to home. Considering the damage done to the islands in the past, you were fortunate that Jose was merely a glancing blow. And also fortunate that the ferry could run to make that plane! Surely you did not expect to have "laundry service," did you? Can't imagine that there would be a refund for the rooms but maybe the meal plan charge is negotiatable. Often vouchers for return stays are offered in lieu of monetary refunds and maybe that is a course you could persue (but angry as you are, I doubt you would think that equitable). I am sure Biras was not happy with your being there either since they were "closed" (not accepting new guests) and I wonder if you were the only guests who stayed behind? I also wonder about their not boarding up your room ... that seems very unusual. I wish you luck on your persuit but consider yourself very lucky to have come thru what easily could have been more disastrous! Neither the wind, rain or the water is something to gamble with when a hurricane is headed your way ... just ask anyone who has lost everything due to one! And just think of the great story this will make for your grandchildren.
Nov 8th, 1999, 10:33 AM
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My 2 cents:
If this were a resort in the U.S., you would get either a refund or a voucher for a free stay. Although a hurricane is an "Act of God", a hotel must deliver what was promised. In the U.S., the hotel would get sued if it didn't deliver or refund a substantial portion of the money. Since it is not the U.S., you may be out of luck. But you can bet that some people (including myself) will avoid Biras Creek and its un-consumer friendly attitude. So I hope you get a refund, and thanks for letting us know what the management of Biras Creek is like.
Nov 9th, 1999, 02:55 AM
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WRONG.....When Acts of God prohibits you from providing services, you simple cannot do it. If the establishment have tried everything in their power, they are not responsible and will not be held liable. I have worked in the caribbean and I am often called in to resorts to assist with hurricanE evacuations. The management lots of times have practically beg their guests to leave because they would prefer to stay and the guests (not all) make it very difficult for them to prepare on time. Guests ask questions like, when it the rain going to end or how soon is the storm going to reach us instead of preparing to leave the island. You may still have your cake and eat it too...visit the caribbean during the hurricane season but pay attention to the weather channel (SO YOU MAY RESPOND ACCORDINGLY) and for heavens sake...BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE.
Nov 9th, 1999, 10:41 AM
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You're right, if an act of God prevents them providing services, then they cannot provide those services. But they also should not charge for those services. Act of God clauses prevent travelers from suing the hotel for the cost of their airfare and such, but they cannot charge for services they do not provide. This is for the U.S. under its legal system.
Nov 12th, 1999, 12:53 PM
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JB, I thank you for your post. I will certainly avoid Biras Creek; after all there are hundreds of other choices. Despite all the lashing you got (which is surprising considering there is not much info on how you ended up in the Caribbean during hurricane season), you still provided useful service to non-veteran Caribbean vacationers like me. I don't think you timed your wedding and honeymoon to take advantage of low rates.
Let us know how disputing the charges turn out.
Nov 12th, 1999, 07:59 PM
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I had inquired at other hotels in the Caribbean about their hurricane policies (3-4 years ago) and found them similar to Biras'. I think that we cannot judge Biras by what may or may not be standard in the USA. Let's face it, that hurricane was on its way to the BVI and covered on the Weather Channel and elsewhere for 4-5 days before it hit. Mr. Burke chose to not regard it, chose to not opt for insurance, and chose not to check with the hotel on its policies in advance. My sympathy meter still registers zero!
Jul 3rd, 2000, 03:51 PM
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I have recommended this particular posting from Mr. Burke to quite a few people who asked me whether it was a good idea to brave the Caribbean in hurricane season. It amounts to a case study in how NOT to vacation at that time of year.
Note I didn't say not to take advantage of the great prices, but know your back-up plan and don't go if the weather in the Atlantic looks iffy.
Also, the resorts I know in that region all have the same policy. It's the same as Biras' policy. I find it quite reasonable. It frankly doesn't matter what resorts in the US do or don't do. The Caribbean isn't the US and they have their own policies.
No tears for Mr. Burke.
Jul 4th, 2000, 06:47 AM
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These posts are a joke!

Don't you think the fancy resort has insurance for missed stays and services not rendered because of hurricanes.

You people are defending the precious resort like your shareholders or something.

You just don't get it do you....he received no SERVICES!!!

He should be charged five dollers for the meals (price of happy meal).

And....the hotel should pay him for taking care of their water soaked room for two nights.

However, my defense will stop there.
JB, are you that cheap to not have bought insurance for this trip?


Jul 4th, 2000, 08:44 PM
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"Poppa"--get serious. If you travel to the Caribbean in hurricane season, you *know* what you might be getting into. JB already got all the "refund" he was entitled to by paying the marked-down hurricane season rates hotels in the "zone" charge during this time of year--he was taking his chances and he knew it, or if he didn't he darned well should have.

If I want off an island where a hurricane is about to hit and I dawdle around and miss the first ferry, like it's any old leisurely day in the Caribbean ("ho hum, think I'll catch the afternoon ferry") then frankly, I deserve what I get.

No sympathy here for JB.

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