Over the years I've stayed in many dozens of different places in all sorts of accommodation categories: B&Bs, baches, cottages, home-stays, hotels, motels, lodges and resorts.
Almost without fail, regardless of the particular price bracket concerned, the welcome has been warm, the premises have been comfortable and the service has exceeded expectations. But on just three occasions the experience wasn't satisfactory.
I understand that there will always be setbacks and little hiccups when you travel or go on holiday. Most of the time you can laugh them off and declare them just a small part of a big adventure. In fact, with the benefit of time and distance, an occurrence that appalled as it unfolded can turn into your favourite travel story.
But when your accommodation disappoints, it can put a real dampener on your trip. This is your home away from home. You expect to feel safe and comfortable there. And when you consider that most lodgings actually make you feel nurtured and appreciated, a bad experience can leave you feeling cheated.
My impressions of these particular three places - one beach resort, one rural cottage and one city hotel - left a lot to be desired. Neither time nor distance has made me view these venues more positively.
HAYMAN ISLAND, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
Back in 2001 we'd splashed out on a beachside room rather than staying in the main hotel block. The setting was idyllic at high-tide but the bathroom scales were broken and part of the ceiling in the bathroom drooped from some sort of mould or dampness problem. Despite the fact the resort had several restaurants, most nights we were unable to secure bookings. With no other dining options, we became extremely familiar with the room service menu. One morning a staff member dragged rubbish bins right across the central decking in the pool area in full view of guests. No big deal for some people perhaps but it seemed very amateurish - certainly not what you'd expect of a supposedly luxury establishment. Disappointed with the overall quality, we decided to head for home ahead of schedule. We easily arranged earlier Air NZ flights to Auckland as well as flights off Hamilton Island. The only thing we couldn't arrange for love nor money was for the resort boat to deliver us to Hamilton Island a couple of days earlier than initially planned. We felt like hostages unable to escape. I left a message on my brother's phone: "We're on Hayman Island. We've complained a lot and now they won't let us off the island. If anything happens to us ..."
Conclusion: My paranoia may have been unique but our general dissatisfaction was nothing unusual. Sixteen per cent (127 out of 773) TripAdvisor reviews rate this place either "Poor" or "Terrible".
ENDSLEIGH COTTAGES, HAVELOCK NORTH, NEW ZEALAND
On our final morning my husband telephoned the proprietor to settle the account by credit card. The man on the phone said "Just pack up, take your dog and get out of here" then hung up. My husband recounted his words to me. "But we haven't even got a dog," I said. Or was he calling me a dog? The more I thought about it the stranger it was. We were loading up the car for the trip to Napier airport when the female proprietor appeared and cheerfully asked if we'd enjoyed our stay. We told her it had been fine until her husband ordered us off the premises when we tried to pay and that we were leaving immediately. She looked shocked. "Haven't you pre-paid?" she asked. "No," we replied. She ran off for a few minutes then reappeared as we were driving away. "He didn't mean to say that to you. He meant to say it to the other guests," she called out. (We supplied credit card details either that evening or the next day. We were overcharged $200 then refunded.)
Conclusion: We may have been unhappy with our Fawlty Towers-style experience a few years ago but four out of the five reviews on TripAdvisor rated it "Excellent" or "Very Good".
THE CUMBERLAND, LONDON, ENGLAND
After a long flight and having faced many queues for boarding, security screening and immigration processing over the last twenty-four hours, the last thing you want to do is join a queue to check in at your hotel. Yet that's precisely what we encountered here. The lobby was more like a train station that a welcoming entrance. There was a line on the floor behind which we had to stand. When we accidentally crossed it (with a foot or corner of a suitcase) a check-in person yelled at us to get back behind the line. The first room we were given reeked of cigarettes. The air in the second room was thick with paint fumes. Our third room was gorgeous (and, importantly, fragrance-free) but we were unable to forget the check-in incident so we made ourselves scarce for the rest of our stay, not incurring a single item on our room bill. We would scurry furtively through the lobby hoping we weren't told off again. Nothing could have enticed us to eat or drink there.
Conclusion: This happened about 20 years ago but with 17 per cent of reviews (496 out of 2813) on TripAdvisor rating it "Poor" or "Terrible" it seems that little has changed.
Have you encountered accommodation that doesn't live up to expectations? Have you visited any of the aforementioned places? If so, what was your experience there?