Why are we so uptight?

Old Feb 1st, 2006, 09:48 AM
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Why are we so uptight?

I have been reading alot of posts lately from people who are already anticipating the worst from their vacation -- and they haven't even left. Many of these concerns are relatively minor: size of bed, Ritz Carlton service issues (it's still a Ritz Carlton) People, remember in the Caribbean you have to go with the flow to some extent. You can't control everything and perfection cannot be guaranteed. Just think: you will be in the Caribbean and attitude will make or break your holiday.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 11:19 AM
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Interesting post! I have kind of a theory about this...

It seems like here within the last few years, there has been a lot of press of movie stars and entertainers traveling to the islands (although this has been true for years).

There was a poster recently who had been to a handful of Caribbean islands and had been miserable at all of them. She mentioned more than once that she wanted the privacy and luxury of the accommodations of the "stars" but couldn't afford it, and she was aggravated that she had to actually DEAL with the people who live on the island - she wanted to be left totally alone.

I think some people just want to go where the "stars" go, so they can impress people at cocktail parties or where they work.

Other people see the glossy photos of smiling locals with fizzy drinks on their heads delivering them to plastic-looking couples on a deserted beach with the sun shining and the blue water, and they buy into this image of what the Caribbean is like. (Anyone who has seen the cruise ship commercials and then been on a cruise can relate.)

I understand what they think they are getting - but that is not reality. Life just isn't like that all the time.

Sometimes, it seems like people are so spoiled they expect the whole world to revolve around them when they travel. It's truly sad. The Caribbean is not Disney World - it's a (rather poor) region of the world where real people live and work.

We went to Jamaica in 2004 for the first time. While we were sitting in a beach bar in Negril having a libation, the bartender/owner - Nya - asked us if we were enjoying ourselves and if we liked Jamaica. We said we loved it!

He asked, "what do you like best?" We answered "the people!" He was astonished. He said NO ONE ever says that. They all say the beach.

People can go to vacation for a multitude of reasons. They CAN go for the beach only, they CAN go for the sun only, they CAN go for food or people or ganja or whatever. The reasons I go aren't better than anyone else's, but people NEED to educate themselves about their EXPECTATIONS!!!

I can't imagine shelling out thousands of dollars for ANYTHING and not getting loads of info about it. A vacation is no exception.

Over the years, we've had lost luggage, husband kicked by unruly horse, 100 mosquito bites in one hike, surfaced from a dive without a dive boat in sight, no reservations (when one was made), hurricanes, tropical storms, rained whole vacation, bugs in room, no power, A/C out, stung by a deadly jellyfish (Man O' War), and about 1,000 other things that went wrong.

Travel is all about EXPERIENCES. Even if you sit on the beach at the resort the whole time, and never leave, things may not always go right - especially if you stay at less expensive places in the Caribbean - you WILL be getting some "experiences." They make for great stories!

The only way you are just about guaranteed a great time is if you go with a smile and an open mind.

Happy travels!
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 11:37 AM
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Very interesting observactions, folks.

It amazes me that in this day & age, with information such as hotel reviews and sites like TripAdvisor, that folks can go ANYPLACE and be unprepared for what they encounter there. You don't even need your own computer--you can use one at any public library for free (at least, here in the US).

On a side note, Diana, where were you when stung by the Man o' War? Or was it a traveling companion who was stung? And what did you do for medical care?
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 12:55 PM
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Another theory:

Many of us here, especially the more frequent posters, are fortunate enough to visit the islands often. This results in two attitudes that make it much easier to let the little things roll off our backs.

First, over the years, we learn from experience what it's really like down island -- how the culture, attitudes, geography, climate, economics and infrastructure influence the people who live and visit there. We come not only to recognize that not all can be perfect, but also to appreciate -- even revel in -- the little quirks. We learn how to make the best of things.

Secondly, we know that if the weather isn't perfect, or if the bed is uncomfortable, or if the service seems unattentive, that we have another trip coming soon. The next time, things will either be better (or different), or we'll go somewhere else. (And, if you're like me, you learn with experience how to maximize your travel dollars, so even a "mistake" doesn't seem so costly).

In the meantime, we might lose sight of the fact that for some people, that trip to the islands could be a once-in-a-lifetime journey. They've waited a long time for the trip, and saved up for a long time. Notwithstanding what the reviews might say (and most of us agree that they're all over the place, and have read reviews of places we've visited ourselves, but don't recognize in the review), they have a vision of what their trip should be. It may or may not be realistic, but this is a Big Deal and expectations run high. Sometimes, those expectations are realized and even exceeded. Sometimes the expectations aren't met. When expectations aren't met, you'll hear complaints and -- in fairness -- sometimes they are justified. There's no excuse for some things (e.g., filthy rooms, advertised amenities which turn out not to function or be available). Context is important.

I've lost count of how many trips I've made to the islands in the past 16+ years. I've also lost count of the travel snafus I've endured; suffice it to say that I've made 5 separate insurance claims and my friends always check in advance to find out when/where I'm going so that they don't go there at the same time. I've been through everything from being stranded on an island during a Category 3 hurricane to not having hot water in a rented condo (where I stayed after a week on a boat and was desperate for a hot shower!). No keys to the rooms? No problem! For me, it's all part of the adventure of travel, and makes my stories (for those who are willing to listen) that much more entertaining.

I'd like to think I would have been as blase about trip misadventures on my first trip down island (in a pre-internet era) as I am on my 30th. But I suspect that the luxury of much experience and many more experiences to come color my attitude.

This isn't to say that some travelers' expectations aren't unrealistic. Or that some tourist's attitudes guarantee that they will have an unsatisfying trip. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 01:18 PM
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Hmm... interesting.

As many of you know, I run a resort in Cayman.

I have also travelled to many Caribbean islands, and although the variety of cultures is a wonderful thing, all too often you do hear people excusing poor standards simply because "hey, relax, it's the Caribbean".

I'm sorry, that is not acceptable to me. Speaking for my resort, and in general for the Cayman Islands, we have extremely high standards of both quality of accommodations (including rigorous government inspections) as well as customer service.

I am not happy to set the bar low by expecting visitors to excuse poor standards because they think that is somehow ok in the Caribbean.

I want to be considered as world class, so I try to take best of breed from countries everywhere, from cleanliness and upkeep of rooms in top destination cities (particularly in the US), to high customer service standards (eg Asia), to a warm and welcoming relaxed atmosphere that, in reality, you cannot get anywhere other than in the Caribbean.

So, in short, visitors should be ready for things to be different, but they should not have to drop their expectations as to general service standards that they should expect.

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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 01:31 PM
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But Tom no matter how well you run your hotel, I am sure you run into guests who are unhappy because you can't control the weather or the insects or the employees weren't effusive enough or they come down so tightly wound that they are not happy to just "be". I'd be interested to know whether you have noticed a change in your guests' attitudes over the past couple of years in terms of expectations.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 02:00 PM
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I loved this posting since I am finding it almost more difficult to book with so much information. The catch is I want the info, but then I wonder if it's best to book and just go with it. At any rate, my husband and I will be travelling with our 4 year old and are thinking Caymans since we can all experience the turtles, swimming with the rays etc. However, we would love a place that also has a kids club, but--here's the catch--not overrun with kids. We live in the city and she is use to going out to dinner and being with adults, but naturally would love some playmates her own age. We desire good food, good sheets, clean room and good service on a safe island. Direct access to the beach as well--any suggestions? Cap Jaluca looked perfect, but no room at the inn. Tom, since you are a resident, could you weigh as well?
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 02:56 PM
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Service is a commodity and paid for with in most cases hard earned cash.

You get what you pay for. In some instances cheap can be expensive. Know what you're buying before you buy it.

Do not believe all pictures are what you will get. Many sites are "doctored" to make them appear more than what they are.

You will not be staying at the Ritz when paying Holiday Inn prices. This doesn't mean the Holiday Inn is sub-standard accommodations just a throw back to getting what you pay for.

There is no excuse for poor service, but if employees are consistently performing poorly or appear disgruntled quite often there is a good reason which can most often be traced to an indifferent employer or one who treats the help disrespectfully. If the employer is indifferent chances are that's the property that will have insects, poor service, etc. This is not the fault of the employee and should not be directed at him/her.

Another aside to disrespect....just because you are paying for a service doesn't give the consumer carte blanche to treat the hired help rudely.
Remember those manners taught as a child? Well they go a long way in fostering good relations between customers and staff and just might make your vacation that much more enjoyable.

Not all the beaches look like Corona commercials or what is portayed on TV. Know a little about the islands you are visiting. There is a big difference between visiting islands with mostly rain forest and mountains vs flat wide white sandy beaches.

Staying in a hotel is different than spending your vacation at a resort. If you prefer no mingling with the locals then make sure you book at the most posh expensive property that supplies pick and delivery back and forth to the airport. And above all don't leave the resort. Heaven forbid one of the locals smile or say good morning.

Attitude can make or break a vacation.
Diana and Tom cayman both have valid comments.

When I leave for my Caribbean or any adventure I go with the expectation of enjoying myself no matter what. Think of the stories you can share at the water cooler or with your grandchildren.

A rainy day at the beach is better than no day at the beach whether in the States or the Caribbean. And no one but the good Lord has any control over the weather.(How's that comment for being politically correct?)

Some people are plain miserable and will be no matter what. That's just how they are.

For the record when I go down island I want to experience my vacation not be an observer. I am like this no matter where I go. As a result I have learned the BEST restaurants to frequent, spectacular views and nature and made life long friends. Can it get any better than that?

Now each and every one of you GO AND ENJOY!!!!!!

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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 03:58 PM
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One of the elements of most tropical areas, but particularly islands, that is left out of researchable information are the costs incurred by the developer or owner just to get a place up and functioning in a manner "acceptable to most guests". Realization of these costs could help travellers put their expectations and financial considerations into focus.
First, most islands lack sustainable industry and seriously tax most imports, sometimes doubling the landed costs of building materials, appliances, furniture, etc...to say nothing of the actual transportation costs. Therefore, instead of, say, $300/square foot finished cost, the price escalates to, say, $600/sq. ft. Utilities, if they exist, then have to be factored in: electricity, potable water, sewer & garbage disposal, telephone, cable TV, etc. The list of expenses, many of which North Americans take for granted or are easily assumed back at home, grows almost expodentially on an island. The outcome is a $250/night accommodation "back home" is up in the stratosphere on the islands, quite possibly with the mind-set that paying double or more means one should get double the facility, service, appointments, etc. on the islands...NOPE! At least, not necessarily so. Sure, there are long established Caribbean resorts, hotels and villas that can keep their rates reasonable but just buying a can of paint, replacing a mattress & linen, installing cable, etc., can really put a bump in their budget, too.
So, if a traveller is uptight about a glitch, a missing "something", no asparagus on the menu...take a minute and think about the costs and logistics of obtaining supplies and services in remote areas. Could be the supply boat didn't make it, the only A/C technician is on holiday or...whatever. Find a bar, a book, and go limin' until things blow over along with any up-tightness. Sea ya on da beach, eh! Cheers, Richard.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 04:59 PM
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Our motto is enjoy it - you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. If we are in the caribbean or on any "holiday" for that matter, we aren't usually working, we are relaxing, not cleaning, cooking, answering emails or putting out fires and we certainly shouldn't be stressing. Chill out and enjoy. Meeting the locals and other travellers is the best part - next to finding a fabulous place to snorkel.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 08:22 PM
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I have to say, one of the "best " complaints I read was from a woman who went to Mexico and complained about the fact that there was mostly (not all mind you) Spanish speaking TV.

I love a good vacation, but I try to remember that the people waiting on me probably couldn't go on such a vacation in their wildest dreams. So, BE NICE! And enjoy.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 09:47 PM
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Actran, LOL. Reminds me of a "Here's your sign" (thx, Bill Engvall) moment, when someone asked me, "Do they speak English in England?"
Thank you Fodorites, for thought-provoking words on above posts.
I find lots of people asking how Hawaii and the Caribbean compare, or how a particular Hawaiian Island compares to a particular Carib island. Nothing wrong with the question-- I wondered too. Now, having been lucky enough to experience both (if for too short a time so far) i realize the best answer is --diffcult as it is, don't expect similarities.
Also, lots of advertising sells us the concept of being treated like a celeb or whatever, at a particular resort, restaurant, cruise cabin level, etc. It's fun to watch people who've bought into that, putting on airs at some of these places.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2006, 05:19 AM
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I posted the question about the Ritz Carlton service. I've never stayed at a Ritz but I thought it would be a great place to stay with my husband & two small kids. I thought long & hard before committing to their room rate. I assumed the Ritz would provide good service to justify its rates so I was surprised to read unfavorable comments from other readers. Like the guy who called 7 times & waited 6 hours to get a bed for his son. Some people consider that minor but I would not. If that makes me uptight, so be it. My point is that maybe it's not worth spending the money to stay at the Ritz if it's no different than a two star hotel. We go in April & will definitely report back.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2006, 05:35 AM
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I find that when I go anywhere on vacation or even at home, I tend to talk to people( on line at the grocery store, etc..). I sometimes see in older people that interacting with someone at the store is the only person they will talk to today. So, if they want to discuss the cost of canned veggies or the pending snow storm, I can certainly chat!!
On many vacations, I have noticed rudeness to the staff wherever we are. I can not comprehend how anyone can assume that they are above another human being just because they are the one in the lounge chair. I get so disgusted. I always find that being nice and treating another with dignity always gets you a better vacation.

The other thought is the anticipation of a great vacation. I have to admit, I always think that I am going to have a great time. I pray for sunshine and healthy kids. I hope that we get a great room and I am still holding out for being upgraded to first class on the plane by the grace of God(I will be waiting till eternity for that one!) But I generally have very good vacations. I do a lot of research before I go. I don't choose places because they are cheap and I am expecting the Ritz. I agree with Tom Cayman that the room should always be clean. I don't like to stay at a Holiday Inn in the US so I won't stay in one on vacation.
Not everything always goes as planned though. But, that is life. I hope that I can continue to travel as well and hopefully even more often as I get older!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2006, 05:43 AM
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elizabethanne; I don't think the original poster was directing his/her post at you in particular. Of course, I would be angry to wait 6 hours for a bed, but I would have gone down to the front desk after one hour. I would have waited at the desk until they wheeled out the bed and followed me upstairs. There is no excuse for bad service anywhere, but at the Ritz you pay a premium for good service and should get it.
I would go with an open mind and have a good time. We went to the Atlantis last year and they have a zillion awful reviews. We went there because we honeymooned there when it was Merv Griffin's place and thought it would be fun to go back for my 40th birthday. We had a great time and the food was good and the hotel was nice. I saw many rude people there. That was probably where I have seen the most Rude guests ever. No wonder the staff wasn't the happiest. We had fun though and got along fine.
I did not read your post, but I am sure a Ritz will have good service. Also, remember that more people post a negative experience than take the time to post a positive. Also, people tend to exaggerate their bad experience (6 hours waiting for a bed?) to get sympathy from the world.
So, go and have fun and don't worry about the fodors crowd. Their just a little uptight!
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