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.