I had a brilliant idea today. Why not spend my birthday, my self-awarded, once-in-a-blue-moon day off, by writing a thorough recap of our disastrous destination wedding week? Everyone has been asking how it went and I’ve been avoiding the topic on social media, but it’s been weighing on me so heavily that I’ve had nightmares every night since we got home, and I’m just plain tired of thinking about it.
I thought perhaps today was the perfect day to get it all off my chest… because you know how much I like writing up the negative side of travel. (See here, here, here and here for the 4 negative stories I’ve written in the past 657 posts. One of them is about Kim Kardashian’s butt, FYI.)
5,000 words later, I’m a wreck. I’m shaking & disappointed & livid all over again. Rookie move, Ange! It’s been three weeks since we said “I do” and I thought that would be enough time for perspective but, as with our choice of venue, it appears I made a huge mistake.
(And, UPDATE: things have gotten much worse. Stalking, defamation and death threats… I’m not even kidding.)
Before my frustrated fingers run away with storytelling, our wedding did take place and we remain hopeful that we are legally married. We still have no marriage license or actual proof from the Bahamian government, but that’s not a concern I can entertain right now. I’ve been assured we’ll get it within 3 weeks to 6 months. (So yeah, we may head to the courthouse for wedding 2.0)
Since no one really has time to read 5,000 words, I chopped it all down to a quick version with some photos. For a more complete look at what happened, check out our TripAdvisor reviews & Wedding Wire review. (Pay particular attention to the response from the resort owner to my Mom. It’s shocking & priceless.)
[12/12/15 UPDATE — The owner of Bahama Beach Club has had all our negative reviews on TripAdvisor removed except for one, so these links likely won’t work anymore. Scroll to the bottom for screenshots of our original reviews.
1/7/2016 UPDATE — Read about our ongoing saga to get our TripAdvisor reviews republished.]
Soon we’ll have all the pretty professional photos and with any luck they’ll warp my memories from the mess we ended up with to a fuzzy version of the week I wish we’d had. I just want to point out before I share the gorgeous footage and pictures of smiling faces and perfection, that our wedding week was NOT perfection. We are just photogenic & we hired a top notch photo & video team.
In reality, I was a crying ball of stress (made photo-ready by a magnificent makeup artist & waterproof everything), Rick was furious and our loved ones who scrimped and saved for months didn’t get the resort vacation they paid for.
As I continue to grow as a blogger, I’m doing my best to present the whole picture with less emphasis on perfection.
It’s easy to get away from authenticity in the social media realm, where we often present stylized, filtered, sometimes unrealistic images of ourselves, our DIY projects, our brunches and our travels. I don’t want to be that person, and I really don’t want to perpetuate a myth that all weddings are picture perfect and Pinterest-ready, so I’m making a particular effort now to say,
“Our wedding week was a huge mess. We didn’t get what we paid for. We are extremely unhappy with the way it happened and we don’t want anyone else to waste hard-earned money on an experience that isn’t worth it.”
But first, some background on why we chose to get married in The Bahamas. I worked with the Ministry of Tourism as a publicist from 2006-2010, visiting several dozen times, coordinating conferences, visits for journalists, TV show tapings, brand partnership, b-roll shoots, pageants – you name it! As part of my work projects, I visited Mayaguana, Rum Cay, Cat Island, San Salvador, Inagua, Nassau, Grand Bahama, Andros, Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Crooked Island, Long Island and of course, Abaco. Once I quit my PR job to become a full-time writer & blogger, I continued to write about The Bahamas and represent various hotel clients in Abaco and Exuma. My long-standing, positive relationship with the country was the main reason we chose to get married on Treasure Cay.
So what went wrong? Literally, all of the things. 100 million little details slipped through the cracks and all I could’ve dealt with each and every one without batting an eyelash. Hello, I work in PR.
But for now, I’ll just focus on the biggest debacle of all – the one I couldn’t do anything about.
After months of wedding planning purgatory – both hotel-related and not – we finally made it to Treasure Cay on Oct. 18 and checked into our condo. I was so ready to relax and focus on the big day ahead. We were starving so I gathered the family for a property tour en route to lunch.
Confused and bewildered – I mean, why would there be construction at our wedding venue that we didn’t know about? – we made our way to the Pool Bar & Grill on the other side of the resort. This area was set to be the site of our Thursday night rehearsal dinner.
To our horror, the area was in a much worse state than the Pavilion – unpaved, covered in tarps, dust, equipment and a dozen workers.
The pool with swim-up bar and the hot tub were both bone dry and unusable for the foreseeable future and naturally, due to all the construction, the restaurant and bar were closed.
With the rehearsal dinner five days away, I stood there with my mouth agape as our guests arrived and it dawned on me that there was nowhere to eat or drink on the property. Since it was the last week of off-season on the island, most Treasure Cay restaurants were shuttered. The closest restaurant by a long stretch was the Tipsy Seagull, a bar about 10 minutes walk down the road.
Despite my many attempts to be thoroughly prepared for every possibility, management neglected to inform me before arrival that the resort was barely functional and not equipped to receive guests.
How would you feel if you promised your family and friends, some who came from as far as Italy, Australia and Afghanistan, an unforgettable beach vacation in a super classy resort only to bring them to a decidedly low rent situation with no available food or bar? That’s me, the professional travel expert of the family, bringing everyone to a construction site where you have to hike for your meals.
With two weeks notice, I could’ve moved our party to a resort with the capability to feed and entertain my group. Instead, I wasn’t even given a courtesy heads-up.
While all our loved ones saved for 8 months to make this once-in-a lifetime getaway happen, upon arrival they received a subpar experience that cost far more than it was worth from a vacation perspective – roughly $11,000 in room nights alone for a half-open resort with no food, bar, Wifi or amenities, that are all prominently advertised on the website.
And I spent my wedding week in hysterics because I couldn’t get a straight answer about when or if the construction would be completed. Every time I spoke with a staff member, the story changed. No one could tell me a real reason why the construction was taking place during a time when guests were scheduled to be on island. The first excuse was “due to Hurricane Joaquin damage,” but when I reminded them Joaquin didn’t hit their island, that changed to “hurricane preparation.”
And I didn’t know until the actual day if our rehearsal or wedding would take place as planned.
I cried myself to sleep more than once and almost packed up and went home on Wednesday night – and I’m reasonably certain that’s not how a bride should feel during her wedding week.
Short of truly serious situations, like illness and death, I have never been so stressed out or overwhelmed in my life and I have one of the 6th most stressful job in America. (PR!) As with every event I’ve planned in the past, I expected inevitable bumps & snags, and we had plenty of minor issues to go with the big ones.
I believed that once we arrived in The Bahamas, all the meticulous follow-up on my part would lead to a fun, carefree week, as promised from day one by the wedding team at the hotel. Instead we were met with lies and half-truths and a management team that never once offered an apology.
Rick and I attempted to meet with the owner who was lurking around the edges of the events, schmoozing with selected guests, but he never made the time to meet with us to express his regret over ruining our week.
Never in my professional life have I ever dealt with a more disrespectful, condescending management team. It was appalling.
As you can imagine, there’s much, much, much more to the story. I won’t get into it all now, because I’m saving all the tears, injuries, outbursts, shark run-ins (actually that was the best part of the week), mini-hurricanes, hair stylist debacles, etc. for the book I’m writing. Something good should come of this debacle.
Many have said, “Hey, at least you’re married.” It’s not just about the fact that we are successfully married – we could’ve saved tens of thousands in flights, accommodations and travel expenses if it was just about “being married” at the end of the day.
We paid for a certain wedding experience, and along with our guests, a certain luxurious resort experience, and neither was delivered.
I don’t write about sad feelings very well – you guys know I like to tell about the fun stuff – but I don’t know how to put a positive spin on this massive disappointment. We appreciate that the hotel refunded the cost of the rehearsal dinner since we had the privilege of hosting it next to an empty pool, and they did offer a few complimentary meals & drinks, but why not just tell us in advance about the construction so we could decide whether or not to spend our week (and our money) at a barely open hotel? Why not give us that choice?
Bahama Beach Club very cavalierly took away our one opportunity for a fun, relaxing wedding week and we can never get that week back.
Maybe in a year, we can have a stress-free vow renewal somewhere peaceful? I’m not inclined to return to the same spot anytime soon and I just feel so sick about the whole thing, especially because I had such a wonderful relationship with The Bahamas for the past 10 years.
UPDATE 12/1/2015: Bahama Beach Club is using my decorations – the ones I paid for & designed – to advertise their wedding offerings on their social media channels. Given what they’ve put us through and the amount of money we all spent on a truly subpar experience, I think this is pretty despicable behavior.
UPDATE 12/8/2015: The Chat invited me on the show to talk about romantic destinations AND our disastrous destination wedding experience at Bahama Beach Club. Check it out here!
UPDATE 12/12/2015: Y’all are going to love this. After 6+ weeks have gone by without a word from Bahama Beach Club in response to our requests for refunds for a vacation experience not received & a wedding week ruined, Craig Roberts, the owner, has responded to our handful of TripAdvisor reviews… by copying and pasting his original smarmy response to my mom about the hurricane that never hit his island. He did a bit of editing though, this time revising to say we received all sorts of freebies & refunds that we most certainly did NOT receive.
I’ve been very clear in my coverage about what was received – the rehearsal dinner ($1,700) was comped because it took place next to a CONSTRUCTION SITE and EMPTY POOL, and was only offered after much hysteria on my part and many days of lying on their part. We received ONE free golf cart to transport our 38 guests around Treasure Cay. We never received a personal or sincere apology, or any conversation whatsoever to this day. As to additional refunds and free condos, I know nothing of either. I certainly paid for mine as did our loved ones, save for a couple of media who had independent arrangements with the resort. And you saw the photos… I don’t think there’s any question that we didn’t get what we paid for.
UPDATE 12/13/2015: The plot thickens. Several folks who attended the wedding and paid for a week at the Bahama Beach Club wrote reviews on TripAdvisor about how their vacations were wrecked by the construction. Suddenly, after the owner responded to all the reviews yesterday, all but one review, including my 2,000 words, have disappeared. If that doesn’t scream guilt from the rooftops, I don’t know what does!
Here are screenshots of three of the reviews I managed to salvage:
Folks, this story just keeps getting more outrageous. Why a millionaire hotelier would bully a bride and groom and their family is beyond me.
UPDATE 12/14/2015: One of our wedding guests wrote about her experience at Bahama Beach Club. Sadly, it wasn’t just construction that made for a disappointing stay. Check out her post here.
UPDATE: 12/15/2015: Look! We’re in Modern Luxury Brides!
UPDATE 12/20/15: The Florida Times-Union wrote about the disaster (and our love story!) in their Sunday wedding section. Check it out here. Thanks for helping us share our story, FTU!
UPDATE 12/31/2015: I spoke with a friend at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism who has been trying to connect with the hotel to speak about a resolution. Multiple emails and voicemails have gone unanswered.
UPDATE 1/5/2016: Happy New Year! Bahama Beach Club is at it again. After reporting all our reviews out TripAdvisor & having them removed, I edited mine and reposted. The owner had this to say in response:
Someone should’ve told me I wasn’t a real blogger! What have I been doing all these years?!
But in all seriousness, BBC asked me for a comprehensive PR & social media proposal back in June and said the “sky is the limit.” They wanted someone to run their communications & social platforms, so I submitted a proposal. I never asked them for money to “write nice things.” Either they don’t know the difference between blogging & social media/PR, or they are purposefully defaming me and my career now. Obviously there’s not enough money in all of this rich hotelier’s bank accounts to make me write nice things about the bully who won’t quit.
And also, how about all these nuggets… free golf cartS, free ground transportation (ALL brides get that), FREE rooms – nope, we didn’t get any. The lies just flow so easily from this man.
UPDATE 1/20/2016: Since my post “The Curious Case of the Disappearing TripAdvisor Reviews” went viral last week, several new reviews from our wedding guests have posted on TripAdvisor. The owner’s original comments above were deleted and replaced with the following:
Isn’t it telling that trying to tear down my professional reputation is his only response?
Malicious & organized campaign from friends and family? Well, if 38 people have a terrible experience at your resort, I suspect you might get 38 negative reviews from them. Pesky math!
Our wonderful staff has apologized again & again? When? Where? We haven’t received a single personal response to any of our communications.
And my favorite part… “This Professional Blogger & very unhappy bride wanted money to write “nice things” about our resort. We refused!” The hotel asked me for a proposal to do their public relations back in June – clearly they need it, with management so off the rails! I obliged with a presentation and they decided to take their communications in another direction. That’s very different from me approaching them and demanding money to write nice things. Does he really think people buy his crazy TripAdvisor responses? Well, just in case they do, here’s the first email I received from Bahama Beach Club asking me for details on my services. Guess this kinda blows his whole assertion that I’m the unscrupulous one, huh?
UPDATE 1/24/2016: Bahama Beach Club is at it again! Check out this bride’s TripAdvisor review from their recently botched wedding:
That’s two weddings messed up at the hands of Bahama Beach Club. Brides & grooms, beware! There are dozens of other options in Abaco for your wedding. Don’t risk it at BBC!
UPDATE 2/7/2016: It’s been a little while since the last update! It’s hard to even know what to say about Craig Roberts’ responses to our guests’ latest TripAdvisor reviews. He continues to lie and say that I’ve asked him for money to write nice things – a risky move considering I have all the emails & voicemails where his team asked me for a PR/social media proposal to help their failing business. With the amount of evidence I have, I am shocked anyone could be so shameless! It really just continues to prove the level of deceit & appalling customer service we’re dealing with here.
In his latest rant against a paying hotel guest, Craig alludes to the bride’s aliases, as though I’m sitting here writing a bunch of reviews against his hotel. I don’t need aliases. There were dozens of unhappy, paying customers that week, at my wedding and at another wedding, and they’re all entitled to their opinions. I wrote one review and everyone else who was defrauded by the hotel’s false advertising has the right to share their story, too.
In a string of bizarre and irrelevant statements, he mentions how many people came to our wedding vs. how many he assumes we invited. He also says something about my Mom’s credit card charge being denied… which is A. untrue, B. has nothing to do with this guest’s experience anyhow and is C. not legal for a merchant to disclose customer transactions to anyone who is not the customer.
It’s a perplexing answer to a guest’s complaint that the pool was closed, right? Maybe next time Craig could actually address WHY no one told us that the hotel was under construction so we could move the festivities to a more prepared venue?
He’s now posting his whacko rants about how I’m extorting him to every negative review, not just the ones from our guests! I guess since he’s dug himself into such an embarrassing hole, he thinks smearing my reputation is his only way out. But all the proof I have speaks for itself, so he’s really just embarrassing himself further.
His instability, lies and pride are driving his business into the ground, which is a shame, because Bahama Beach Club has many employees and condo owners who depend on revenue and his unhinged responses on TripAdvisor just prove that it’s not a good place to stay — not while he’s in charge. I hope and pray he gets the help he needs sooner rather than later!
Also to note: a curious number of gushingly positive reviews have suddenly appeared. Whether they’re from actual guests or compensated fake reviews, I can’t say. But it certainly makes you wonder…
UPDATE 2/8/2016: I feel for the other bride whose wedding was botched by Bahama Beach Club. She posted her negative review about the experience on TripAdvisor and what do you think Craig did? He copied and pasted the same old defamatory nonsense about my wedding on her review. You’d think after they wrecked her wedding to such an extent that she CHANGED VENUES the day before, they might deign to respond to her individually. Absolutely shameful!
And here’s the message she sent to Craig afterward:
UPDATE 2/9/2016: My hunch was right. Bahama Beach Club has been sending out gifts & incentives to past guests who write positive reviews. No wonder so many over-the-top positive ones have popped up lately. This is expressly against TripAdvisor policy. I wonder if they’ll actually hold them to the rules this time?
UPDATE 2/24/2016: My husband posted a review and here is Craig’s precious response. Doesn’t warrant a diatribe from me, but I thought you guys would enjoy seeing his latest!
The saga continues… I will keep you posted on developments of course – watch this space! And TV, radio, the newspaper, the Internet….
Disclaimer: I received a menial discount from Bahama Beach Club on our rehearsal dinner bonfire. As you can see, we got the ultra-discounted wedding experience, too. FTC rules require that all journalists make it clear if they received anything free or discounted and also that they provide their honest opinion. You know I always do, hence this honest review of the Bahama Beach Club wedding experience. Also, I fully realize there’s nothing worse than reading a sob story about some girl’s first-world problems, and wedding complaints squarely fall into that category. Rick and I are the most blessed married couple in the world, and the most grateful. I write this post out of disgust for the way my guests were treated and taken advantage of, in the hopes that our experience will help other couples make better, more informed decisions when choosing a destination wedding location.