The Sandals Saga Continues AKA Worst Customer Service Ever

 

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If we knew then what we know now, we would have left right then and demanded a refund.

Yesterday, I published the blog “Not All Vacations Can Be Winners: Sandals 2016“.

Apparently Sandals took notice. Today, I received a fairly worthless offer to shut me up. Suddenly, the lack of negative Sandals reviews online is making a lot more sense – they’re literally bribing people to take them down. 

Today, I received an email back from Sandals saying this:

We truly regret that you feel the way you do based on your feedback. Nevertheless, we wish to express that our conciliatory gesture still stands, and it is our sincere pleasure to extend to you our goodwill gesture of one (1) credit night; a voucher will be sent to you under separate cover (restrictions apply). If you wish to accept, we ask that all parties to the booking sign where indicated, and all signatures must be witnessed by an independent individual, not related to you.

So let’s just examine all that’s wrong with that response, ok?

  •  “We regret that YOU feel that way.” Ummm…that’s not an apology.  It’s actually putting more guilt on the other party.  For example, I regret that your service sucked and ruined my vacation.  See how that wasn’t an apology, either?
  • Offering only a one night voucher essentially requires us to spend more on something that has proven to be a worthless product, in order to take advantage of it.  Unless I want to fly to the Caribbean (which requires about 6 hours of total travel time from my home) and fly back the VERY NEXT DAY, I am forced to shell out additional funds in order to use it. If you actually cared, you would have refunded some of the $3,000+ you already took from us.
  • The voucher offer? It’s conditional on me taking down this blog and any other social comments, never saying another bad word about Sandals again, and agreeing not to sue them over how horrible their service was.  Specifically:

Release: We, WHITNEY and CARL M*******, accept the offer noted above as final settlement of all claims, suits and actions which we have or may have against Grand Pineapple resorts, Sandals Resorts International, its associates, employees, officers, agents and insurers arising from an incident occurring in February 2016.  In consideration of said compensation; we unconditionally release Grand Pineapple resorts, Sandals Resorts International, its associates, employees, officers, agents and insurers from any and all liability now and in the future in respect of this incident.

Confidentiality: We, WHITNEY and CARL M******* agree not to disclose any information regarding the existence, substance or terms of this Agreement to any third party, without the prior written consent of Sandals Resorts International Limited.  We, WHITNEY and CARL M*******, agree that violation of any obligation contained in this Paragraph, is a material breach of this Agreement and shall entitle Sandals Resorts International Limited to all available remedies, including but not limited to termination and/or withdrawal of any consideration given, the right of injunctive relief, reasonable attorney’s fees, costs and expenses in obtaining relief, to be determined by the Court.

Social Media/Online Comments. Within five (5) days of this Agreement, We, WHITNEY and CARL M*******, hereby agree to remove, or cause to be removed, any blog posts, social media publications, or other online comments or content that may be damaging to the reputation or brand of Sandals Resorts International Limited, and/or Unique Travel Corp., and/or any of its officers, agents, servants, employees, directors, successors, assigns, associates, affiliates, insurers, sister corporations, parent corporation, subsidiaries and any other person or entity connected to Sandals Resorts International Limited or Unique Travel Corp. of any nature whatsoever and that we, WHITNEY and CARL M******* posted, or caused to be posted, prior to signing this Agreement.

So….No.  We’re not signing that.  In fact, we’re more insulted now than we were before your “apology” arrived.

Thanks for giving me some more blog fodder though.  My views have already been through the roof today!

Not All Vacations Can Be Winners: Sandals 2016

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We didn’t enjoy our trip to Sandals…but at least the drinks were strong

Updated 2/16/2016 3:53 PM: Once you’ve read this, make sure to check out my next post in which Sandals tries to bribe me into taking this down.

I am very susceptible to good advertising.

I think that’s why, back when the hubs and I got engaged, I was totally starstruck by the Sandals ads that I kept seeing in bridal mags, on wedding-themed tv shows, and at bridal expos.

No kids allowed, I thought! Suites that come with a butler! Rooms with their own private pools! I mean, it all sounded pretty great. I filed it into the mental list of eventual “must-do vacations.”

A few years down the line, when Southwest rolled out service to Jamaica as part of their new international routes, it seemed like the time was right. We had the Companion Pass, and plenty of Southwest points, meaning we could get our flights to Montego Bay for free.

And while the Sandals properties were pricey — our room ended up costing over $1k a night — they were all-inclusive, promising unparalleled service, and a “perfect” vacation experience. So, for once, I put my points-first approach to travel aside and shelled out actual cash money for a 4-day, 3-night long weekend in Montego Bay at the Sandals Royal Caribbean.

We were literally SO excited. We filled out our butler info and our online check in forms and sent them off well in advance. We called and verified amenities and arrival times over the phone the week before. We prepared a trip itinerary with requested daily activities and restaurants for our Butler, anticipating this would be one of the best trips we’d ever taken.  Finally, we boarded the plane for Jamaica, and from that moment on…

…we were so let down. It was probably the worst vacation experience we’ve ever had.

This blog is long, mainly because I needed the catharsis of writing everything that went wrong down somewhere.  If you’re interested in the play by play, click “Read More” to keep going below the jump.  Otherwise, just know that Sandals is definitely on my “do not recommend” list.

Continue reading “Not All Vacations Can Be Winners: Sandals 2016”

Make Ahead Snacks for the “Big Game”

We like to play a drinking game whenever we watch a show on HGTV – you have to take a sip anytime someone says “open concept”.  This game can get you very drunk, very fast.  Because “open concept” is all the rage in real estate, but it has one fatal flaw – if everyone can see your kitchen from all the other rooms in your house, then they can also see your giant pile of dirty dishes from cooking!

After remodeling our kitchen last year, we too have an open concept first floor, and this has somewhat changed the way I plan menus for entertaining. Without the option of hiding my cutting boards, mixing bowls, and multiple utensils away from guest eyes in a closed-off prep space, I now attempt to do as much cooking — and clean-up — before guests ever arrive.

With the “big game” (you know which one…the one that will sue you for copyright infringement if you say their name on a lowly blog) this weekend, I thought I’d share three of the make-ahead appetizers I’ll be serving, so that you too can serve up both great snacks and a perfectly-clean kitchen.

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Buffalo Bites

This recipe is adapted from one I found on a Paleo/Gluten-free blog I stumbled across recently.  Not being Paleo or gluten-free myself, I’ve adapted it to make the balls a bit easier to assemble and in order to make a larger batch. This makes 24-30 bites.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using your hands to incorporate everything together.  Then, form roughly 1-inch balls and place them on a greased cookie sheet.

At this point – if you’re making ahead, cover with plastic wrap and store in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Once you’re ready to serve, place the cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Then, remove the balls and gently dredge them in your favorite wing-sauce, then return them to the baking sheet and cook for an additional 12 minutes. Repeat dredging in wing sauce and cooking for another 12 minutes.

Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing and celery sticks.  Stick the cookie sheet and the small dredging bowl in an empty waiting dishwasher, and you’ve got a great snack with no leftover mess!

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Kitchen-sink stuffed mushrooms

These are a huge crowd pleaser.  Once again adapted from another recipe, I call these kitchen-sink mushrooms because you can basically thrown in everything plus the kitchen sink.  The key is to balance salty + sweet + tangy and you get a great final product. Makes about 60 mushrooms — if you don’t need that many, just freeze whatever portion of the stuffing you don’t use, and you’ve got a great start on your next dinner party.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb “hot” ground italian sausage (if you can’t find hot, then plan to add 1 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 10 pimento-stuffed-green olives, chopped
  • 1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onions (or, replace with sauteed shallots is good too!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (+ more to drizzle on mushrooms)
  • Salt & pepper to flavor the mushrooms

Directions:

Remove the mushroom stems and gills and discard. Clean the caps with a dry paper towel (or a mushroom brush, if you’re fancy).  Place them open-side-up on an oiled cookie tray, and drizzle 2-3 drops of olive oil in each cap. Season caps with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using your hands to fully incorporate.  You’re looking for a consistency like cookie dough – if it’s too dry, add more oil, if it’s too wet, add more bread crumbs.

Next, put a heaping portion of the stuffing mix inside each mushroom cap and smooth down the top. Now – if you’re making ahead, simply cover the cookie sheet with plastic wrap and stick these in the fridge until gametime.

Whenever you’re ready to cook, remove the plastic wrap and place the cookie sheet in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and then serve.

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Dip in a Bread Bowl

This one’s the easiest of all, and ultra-customizable.  You can use any dip you want, though I prefer HEB’s “Love Dip” I’ve also served this with spinach-artichoke dip, bacon-cheese dip, or fiesta ranch dip.

Ingredients:

  • Your dip of choice
  • 1 Loaf French-country bread
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Using a serrated knife, cut the top (about 1/4 of the way down) off the bread. Place the top to the side, you’ll use it later.  Then, using a serrated paring knife, cut down along the inside of the bread, removing roughly 75% of the “insides”.

For the bread sections that you removed, cut into 1-inch cubed sections, and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  For the bowl, brush olive oil along the outside of the loaf and the new inside section, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, before placing on the cookie sheet along with the other pieces.

Pop it in a 350-degree oven for five minutes until it is a nice golden brown. At this point, the “bowl” is finished, and you can wrap it in paper until you are ready to use. Place the bread pieces in a large ziploc bag so that they won’t dry out.

When you’re guests are imminent, arrange your bread bowl in the center of your serving tray, surrounded by the bread pieces and (if you wish) crudite.  Spoon your chosen dip mix into the bread bowl, and you have a fancy way to present an old classic.