The Adventures of Ceplina Pax 13
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This is the tale of a group of friends who had planned the adventure of a lifetime. The group had scrimped, saved and done odd jobs to build enough money up to go on vacation together. Mostly we are police officers and police wives. After months of planning, price shopping and searching, our group leader, Tim, found the best deal through a travel agent. She recommended using a tour company, Apple Vacations. That way, if any problems occurred, we would have a support system. That was the plan anyways.
Our group of 13 intrepid travelers, many of whom had never been out of the state, much less out of the country, embarked upon the vacation plan. We were as giddy as school girls. By May, everyone had paid for their trips. Now it was all about the waiting. We all thought that was going to be the hardest part. Boy, were we wrong. Even before the trip began, the problems started. A little over a week before our scheduled departure, we received our travel packets and vouchers.
We had originally paid for five days and four nights in Cancun, Mexico. We were to leave Monday afternoon and return Friday night. We were soooo excited as I passed out the packets to the group. Then it hit. Fridayís flight was scheduled to bring us home at 10 am instead of 7:25 PM. Friday was gone. I called our agent, who was upset and said that the evening flight had been cancelled and to make up for it we would be upgraded to ocean view rooms at our resort, the Oasis Cancun. Well, we decided that we could live with that and we could have a great time since our rooms were supposed to be in a block next to each other. Right.
The day finally came and we were almost bouncing off the walls with excitement. Several in our group had never flown so the airport was also a big thing. Some thought it was cool, while others were a bit apprehensive. Either way, it was exciting—and we were off to sunny Mexico!
The flight south was uneventful and pleasant. We made happy chat all the way and we didnít crash, so all were happy. Then we landed. According to our agent, there was supposed to be an Apple representative at the airport in Cancun to meet our group. We were told they would have a sign that read "Ceplina Group," and they would escort us after Immigration to our transportation. Right again. We waited and no one showed. After winding through the airport, we found our buses and handed over our vouchers to go to our resort. Here we were split up into separate vehicles. That was a bit distressing for some of our group. It was getting late and we were just ready to kick back and relax at the resort. We knew that when we arrived, the Apple rep would meet us and get us all checked in. It was almost 6:30 pm. Right.
We arrived at the resort and it was very nice. Sadly, we were doomed. Even though we had paid months earlier, as I approached the front desk and met a young man named Jorge, I was told that the hotel was overbooked and we would be taken to a different resort that was similar to the Oasis, called the Laguna Verde. Right. Oh by the way, the Apple rep had already left the hotel. We were on our own. Good thing we had that support system.
After sitting in the lobby for an hour and a half, unable to call home because our cell phones didnít work and we couldnít figure out how to use the pay phones in the lobby and no one would help us, we finally got into taxi vans and were off to the Laguna Verde. Or so we thought.
Amado, our driver, had no idea where the hotel was. Thus our real adventure begins. We had a two-hour tour of Cancun by crowded taxi vans. That was special. Amado was becoming aggravated, not to my level, but I could tell. We stopped at a hotel that appeared to be a good place for a mugging and called the Oasis for directions. Magically, Jorge was already gone and we had to speak to someone else. They knew nothing about it.
Eventually, we came to rest in a back alley hotel, behind Club LaBoom, called the Acquasol. Lovely? No. Exotic? No. Anyplace to eat or drink? No. What it did have was dirty rooms, lots of bugs and poor air conditioning. Talk about classy. The shower curtains were even tied back with toilet paper. NICE.
That evening we went out to eat at a nice restaurant. Our resort was all-inclusive, you know, meals and drinks were all in the purchase price. Dinner for Ceplina Pax 13 the first night cost $335. This was quite a bit since most of us had spent a lot of our money on the vacation itself. This was turning into the kind of things that movies are made out of and you make fun of them because they are so far fetched. That doesnít really happen. Well, guess what, it does.
We returned to the Acquasol after a very good, although expensive, dinner. Everyone was tired and we went to rooms. Still unable to sleep, I watched ESPN on Mexican television for a while. Marty, the guy I have known since we were kids, was my roommate. There are a lot of bugs in Mexico. There are also a lot of noisy nighttime things that hum, buzz, howl, screech, hoot, and groan in Mexico. At one point in the night, Marty and I were convinced that the offspring of Quetzalcoatl and Big Bird was perched just outside of our window. And it was pissed! Needless to say we didnít get much sleep. It didnít help that the power cord to our air conditioner was hanging lifelessly along the wall. The room was somewhat warm, but it did have an attractive domed ceiling that served to retain heat.
The next morning broke early. We were out and about by 8:30 and looking for a cab back to the Oasis. Oh yes, this is after showering with water that stank of bleach so strongly that it burned my eyes. We finally got to the Oasis by 10 am and it was on like Donkey Kong. I had some of our guys looking for the Apple representative, who was to be wearing a Hawaiian shirt, while my brother, Joe, and I waited in line to speak to the front desk. Nick came strolling over to me and said, "Hey, Iíve got the Apple guy over here and left John watching him." OK, no escape now. My guys were on their game. I left Jeremy and A.J. in line and went to the Apple guy. He introduced himself as Jahair (Jaw Ear) and said that he was happy to see us and what could he do to help. Wow, wrong question. We filled his ear with "whats, wheres and how comes" until he looked like a whipped pup. Jaw Ear said that he was sorry, but there really wasnít anything he could do about our first night, the meal we bought, our rooms not being ready and our flight leaving early.
This was a problem. What happened to the support system? Where was the Apple corporate power that was supposed to make our vacation fun filled, exciting and hassle free? Letís just say it wasnít in Cancun. We later learned that it wasnít in the United States either. Jaw Ear said that we would have to speak to the hotel about our problems and that it wasnít Appleís fault that the hotel overbooked. Apple should have known how many rooms they had and asked, I explained. Jaw Ear was also not able to call anyone at the headquarters to assist us in our troubles. He even said he only had a local line. I then asked if he could call his local office, and he said that there wasnít one. No local office for a company that serves dozens of hotels in a city. That was funny. Now I was getting aggravated.
Around 4 pm on Tuesday we finally got into our rooms. Remember the block of rooms that were supposed to be upgraded to ocean view? That didnít happen. We only had two rooms that were even close. We were spread out all over floors and different buildings! I asked at the desk and Jorge, who was now on duty, cringed a little and said " I am sorry senor, we only have the rooms that are available."
At this point. I went a little high and right. I returned to Jaw Ear and asked about the rooms. Once again, he gave us the Apple Motto "Sorry, I can do nothing." I asked if Apple could offer us some complimentary tours for our inconvenience. You guessed it. "Sorry, I can do nothing." I again asked if he could help us in calling home to speak to our families and agent. He offered to sell us Mexican phone calling cards at $10 a shot. I bought one. I was sure I could figure out how to use a phone. I mean, I am a former Marine, a police sergeant and I hold a Masterís degree. I could NOT make that sonofabitch work to save my life. Now I was determined to take complete advantage of one facet of the all inclusive vacation. Free drinks. I proceeded to begin getting liquored up and pissed off. Someone was fixing to meet an ugly American. Again.
Next, Joe and I went to the front desk and told them that I wanted to speak to the owner, president, CEO, Head Manager or anyone in charge at the Oasis hotel. Much to my surprise, we were escorted into to small office and introduced to Citlali, a very nice young lady who represented the hotel in matters of customerís problems. Before too long we had reached an understanding. The hotel was going to help make things right for us by giving us a complimentary dinner, two tours each AND free locks for the security boxes in our rooms. By now it was almost 9 pm. Day two was gone. We shifted into high-speed party gear.
The next day, Joe, who likes to wake the sun up in the morning, woke everyone else up with it. We were off to the tours. First, a cruise to the Isle of Mujeres. We took the bus as far as possible, then walked to the cruise office. If you have never taken a breakfast cruise where alcohol is served by 8:30 am, I must recommend it. Unless you are prone to seasickness. Not pretty. The restroom stayed pretty full. It didnít bother me, but a couple from Ceplina Pax 13, were afflicted and prayed to the Thundermug. The tour wasnít bad overall. When we returned to the Oasis, we saw Jaw Ear again and inquired if anything was being done about our problems and asked again about the fantastic Apple support system that was supposedly in place to assist us weary travelers. You got it. "Sorry, I can do nothing." Apple sure must be proud of their "Award winning" customer service. Maybe next year they will win the Emmy... in Hell.
That night we barhopped. And hopped. And hopped. It was fun. Mexican travel tip #126—Tequila is NOT your friend. Day three was down for the count.
The following morning, brought Joe to our doors again. It was 6:30 am. Bad Mojo, but Chitzen Itza called and there were Mayan ruins to explore. We got up, caught a bus to another bus and we were off.
This tour was definitely worth sweating out the hangover. The history was fantastic! Once again, if you have never taken a breakfast bus tour where alcohol is served by 8:30 am, I must recommend it. I didnít even fall off a pyramid. Things were looking up. We arrived back at the hotel late and were pooped. We still found the energy to go see Jaw Ear and inquire about our problems. "Sorry, I can do nothing." Apple must give them a commission each time they say it. We decided to make the most out of our last night and shop a bit for souvenirs. We boarded the bus, Public transportation rocks in Cancun. Day four went down the tube with the others.
Day five in Mexico. The last day we had planned to spend in the tropical paradise. We were up and out of the hotel by eight A.M. Had to be, since we were bumped from our 7 P.M. flight that made up for our late arrival. The transportation driver was angry and I had to ask how to spell the word, "HORRID" on the customer satisfaction form. In the airport, I spoke to a Champion employee, (that was the charter airline we used), who told me that we had been bumped with some other Apple customers because Funjet and MLT wanted to put their passengers on the later flight. That was AWESOME! Once again, our flight home was uneventful and we lived through it.
Upon our arrival in Missouri, I immediately contacted our travel agent. She is a very nice lady and was genuinely concerned that we had problems. I detailed them for her and told her I would send her a copy of the letter and pictures that would be sent to Apple Vacations. Then I sent the packet to Apple and asked for a refund or partial refund for the half of the vacation we lost. I asked about the "Support System" and was answered by a rather mean tempered woman, who told me that our complaints would be processed in due time, 30 to 45 business days. She was somewhat snippy when I asked her if I could book a vacation for next year and pay for it 30 to 45 business days after I returned. The service they provided was nonexistent and it appears to me that they exist purely as a middle man, making money from the hard working people that get suckered in. I called every week, as did our agent. I must say we will go through her again, but use a different company. Each week I was treated somewhat harshly and reminded that my "waiting period" was not up. I then advised her that we spent over $10,000 on a vacation that was up and had been salvaged by us, not them.
In the end, they faxed our agent a letter; they did not even have the courtesy to reply to me. They regretted that we had problems but attempted to "small print" their way out of it. They also said that the Oasis would be glad to offer us 4 free days with them, airfare not included, subject to availability, not valid on holidays or blackout periods, not valid with any other offers, no ugly Americans allowed.
Oh yes, they also offered us each a $50 complimentary travel coupon to be used with Apple by September, 2005. Great, something to light the grill with. We all courteously decline the coupons. If we ever receive them, we have agreed to shred them and send them back to Apple. Letís see if they even spring for a stamp.
In a nutshell, if you want to go somewhere, take your support group with you. Great friends make for great times. This major corporation has proven to me that they did not care one bit about our group or several others that were in Cancun while we were. We are the hardworking class of Americans that deserve a good vacation, at least every few years. That was all we wanted. Next time we can do something like this, we will probably book it ourselves and cut out the middleman.
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