Whining and opining

We (well, mostly Mr E Man) have spent the last couple of weeks booking flights and accommodation for a much-needed vacation in Puerto Rico. We’ve now got everything sorted except the car rental and the last night’s hotel and are getting very excited – I’ve had a grand total of five days off in 2012, and one of them was for a job interview so it didn’t really count. And the best part? My sister’s flying out from London to meet us for the second week! YAY!

But before the two weeks of beaches and rainforests and swimming and kayaking and rum can begin, there’s all that pre-trip research to be done. As usual, we’ve been  relying quite heavily on Trip Advisor for accommodation reviews, and we’ve booked what seem to be some really nice places…

…according to most reasonable people, anyway.

I find the 2-4 star reviews to be the most informative, the 5 star reviews the most reassuring, and the 1-star reviews the most hilarious. I’m not talking about places that have a low overall ranking, where the 1-star reviews are likely to be fairly accurate – or about genuinely bad things (e.g. credit card fraud, seen in one 2011 review of one of our hotels – we’ll be extra vigilant!) happening in otherwise well regarded places. Nope, I’m talking about the handful of 1-star reviews for places with a 4.5-5-star average rating. Hours of entertainment, I tells ya!

Some examples from my favourite 1-star reviews, paraphrased a little bit (but really, really not that much):

“There were hundreds of ants in my rainforest chalet! Completely unacceptable!”

“The frogs that live in this rainforest were far too loud at night”

“The bathroom in my rainforest chalet had a very damp feel to it”

“They let people with small children stay here! It did not say this on the website, and it ruined our stay. Parents: this is not the right place to take your young children!”

“The road you drive on to get to this place is lined with McDonalds, WalMarts and the like. It didn’t feel like you were anywhere exotic at all”

“The desk staff and cleaners all greeted me with a smile and a hello, but nothing beyond what you’d expect at somewhere like a Holiday Inn for half the price” (I guess they were expecting bowing, scraping and fawning?)

“To get there from the nearest town you had to drive through a really quite impoverished area. I didn’t want to see that! They should let you know in advance on the website”

“I didn’t actually stay here. I called to ask about reserving a room for Christmas, but they just laughed and then hung up” (owner’s response: “you called in early December. We’d been booked up for the Christmas week since at least Easter. Also, you called our six-room B&B after midnight, and we get up at 5am to start making breakfast”)

My favourite start to a review, seen in two separate examples: “I do NOT understand all the 5-star reviews for this place! Those people must be very inexperienced travelers / used to staying in bedbug-infested hostels”

You do occasionally see the opposite: “The toilet leaked all over my clean clothes, the roof caved in for no reason in the middle of the night, and the maid stole my passport, but apart from that it was lovely. Four stars”, but much less often.

We are, of course, completely undeterred. We read similar complaints (and heard some in person, too) about the resort we stayed at in Cuba, from people who apparently think an embargo is some kind of Latin American dance: “The decor was so outdated – I felt like I was back in the 90s!” “Can you believe they ran out of real Coke and I had to drink that local stuff?!” “The veggies were all frozen, not fresh! I complained to the staff how bad the food was, but they didn’t seem to care!” – and we really liked the place. You just have to have realistic expectations.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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20 Responses to Whining and opining

  1. Grant says:

    Hope you enjoy it – Puerto Rico is a place I’d love to visit.

    • Thanks! It’s Mr E Man’s choice – we were originally going to go back to Cuba, but visit the other half of the island. I then I left Mr E Man alone with an internet connection one day (always dangerous – he was looking at electric cars when I left this morning) and our plans had changed by the end of the day…

  2. cromercrox says:

    Come visit Cromer. Is nice. You like. We have sexy time.

  3. Nina says:

    oh yes, tripadvisor reads like a book/blog sometimes. When I stayed in the hostel from hell in Perth last year and only read tripadvisor afterwards, I was so relieved that I wasn’t the only one freaked out by the blood and vomit and visible bacterial colonies in the bathroom. And then I started looking for similarly bad hostels just to get a laugh out of the reviews.
    In NZ I had the opposite happening once though: I had booked a hostel based on positive reviews by what I now realize were 18 year old travelling overseas teenagers who missed home: they all wrote how the hostel owner made them feel so at home like a “mother away from home”. As someone with a somewhat troubled relationship with my own mother, I really couldn’t handle this lady and her motherly attention.

    • Heh – I can just imagine a hostel owner fussing over her young charges!

      None of the reviews we read about places we’ve booked included the words blood, vomit or bacterial, thankfully…

  4. Last time I relied on online reviews, I booked what appeared to be a perfectly fine hotel in Winnipeg. When I told my local contact, she insisted I cancel the booking and booked me somewhere else instead.

    Those who have been to the less-savoury parts of Winnipeg (Dr. Caplan, I’m lookin’ at you) will understand – as I now do.

    Enjoy Puerto Rico! 🙂

    • “Last time I relied on online reviews, I booked what appeared to be a perfectly fine hotel in Winnipeg. When I told my local contact, she insisted I cancel the booking and booked me somewhere else instead.”


      • Ha ha ha ha ha (not).

        The Inn at the Forks, a rather nice hotel let down only by a loud “blurp” noise during a thunderstorm at about 5:00 AM, which turned out to be sewage backup into the sink. Otherwise, it was fine.

  5. chall says:

    I have noticed the same… a few years ago I stayed in NY at a hotel where the reviews were very telling. People who signed their home as “Europe” thought it was “a great hotel for the price, location superb and ok beds” compared to “:small rooms, not matching decor, staff was not superfriendly” …. I’d happily admit it was a slightly older hotel but it was also not top priced.

    As for going abroad to exotic places, I tend to look at “where the place is located” since I don’t want t osave money but ending up in the redlightdrugdistrict (hello back-backing trail years!).

    Hope you’re having an awesome trip!!! Looking forward hearing al labout it. I’m so envious going to the Caribbean…. one of these years maybe….

    • Unfortunately, Trip Advisor doesn’t let you do a geographical comparison, but I’ll keep an eye out for guest books to peruse!

      “I don’t want t osave money but ending up in the redlightdrugdistrict (hello back-backing trail years!).”

      Heh – my Dad has a true talent for booking hotels that are either right next to the station and therefore incredibly loud, and/or in the red light district. I’ve stayed in the red light districts of Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Paris, Antwerp, and a few more places I can’t even remember.

      Luckily, he’s much better at choosing rural self-catering accommodation for week-long stays than he is at picking hotels for one-night stop-overs.

  6. Grant says:

    Don’t let it put you off, but today’s earthquake there reminds that you’ll likely get some small ones while you’re there (aftershocks from Sept 5th). Locals will be pretty used to them.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      I’m not seeing anything on the news… did you maybe mean Costa Rica? (My sister keeps getting that wrong too, to the extent that we’re not 100% confident she’ll be getting on the right plane).

      We’re more worried about Tropical Storm Sandy (soon to be Hurricane Sandy, probably). It looks like it’s going to miss PR, but might mess up our flights…

  7. Massimo says:

    Sounds like a great vacation ! We were supposed to go to Aruba for New Year but then someone changed her mind and so we are going to Banff… not that I am complaining about it eh ?

  8. And, as a sidebar, Cath and Mr. E Man successfully sailed through Toronto’s Pearson airport, avoiding both (a) tropical storm-related delays and (b) the necessity of meeting me for a coffee while waiting for same. 🙂

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