Tomorrow Laurie and I will be celebrating the first day in three months that we have no guests. It has been a busy season with nearly 100% bookings. I also have no ships until Thursday so we will be relaxing. Our last vacation was a disappointment. I decided to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary by taking Laurie to a bed and breakfast I'd heard about that is right on the beach in the Condado (San Juan). We scheduled it for the 17th and the 18th, which was the only two nights that we could get someone to watch our inn. Because this blog will contain some negative comments about the place we stayed in I'm not going to mention the name as many people have stayed there and had a much better experience than we did. Perhaps our experience was a fluke or just resulted from our own twisted high expectations. The first thing that went wrong happened on the 17th. A ship in Fajardo decided, last minute, to take a charter voyage to St. Thomas that we had to enter late that night. To avoid checking in after they were closed we made a special trip to San Juan to check in early before driving all the way back to Fajardo for the ship arrival that night at 9 pm. So that also spoiled our first evening's romantic dinner (I think we had subway sandwiches). The boat was also late so we didn't actually arrive at our room until 1 in the morning or so. When we arrived there for our special early check-in (earlier that day at 4 pm) we discovered the second thing to go awry. The place was on the beach all right and it was a popular beach. There was no parking anywhere near the hotel and the hotel did not have a parking lot for guests (or for anyone). Laurie dropped me off to check in and she drove around the block looking for parking. It wasn't an auspicious sign. The clerk who checked me in was cordial but the rates turned out to be much higher than only a light reading of the web site would reveal.
On the Condado Beach Inn's web site--if you read the fine print--you will see that rates are based on single occupancy and that there is a $20 extra charge for the second person (I didn't notice that). I also didn't notice that on top of the room tax they are charging a city tax and they also charge a 15% service charge! We know about the 9% room tax in Puerto Rico because we have to charge it to our guests and that many resort hotels in Puerto Rico also charge other fees, parking fees (which this place wished it could charge) and resort fees (which this place couldn't charge as there was no resort). I ended up paying much more than I thought it would be. I think this practice of adding fees to the advertised price is kind of sneaky. It could also destroy someone's travel plans that had a carefully worked out budget.
The room was small. It had air conditioning and a TV. We don't have any TVs at the The Rainforest Inn so it was interesting to re-affirm that not having hundreds of channels of 24 hour entertainment but having fast internet instead really gives you more choice (with podcasts and I was surprised to learn that they didn't have WIFI. The room did have one nice feature that we liked; it is difficult for us to go to other bed and breakfast inns without noticing improvements for our place and we are always looking. There was an electronic safe in the bathroom closet (and I won't even go into the concept of a bathroom closet except to say that there wasn't also a normal closet in the room). The safe was large enough to put my laptop computer in--which I always have to take with me but not necessarily at the dinner table or to the movies. We have already ordered similar safes for our bed and breakfast. They were only $120 each on eBay. The furniture in the room was modern, made of compressed bamboo. There was also a small fridge loaded with some things like bottled water and soda with price list that was high enough to let us know to replace anything we might consume before checking out.
The next morning we got up to enjoy the breakfast. It was served continental style on a table in the restaurant. The hotel was wrapped around a small restaurant that served dinners on beach side tables. The restaurant is well known and gets good reviews and was one of the reasons we picked this hotel to stay at. The breakfast was coffee, pastries and fruit. One of the pastries was ok and they did have decaf coffee. The fruit wasn't ripe but it looked decorative.
After breakfast we relaxed in the lounge chairs on the beach. I had my laptop computer out to get some work done (finishing NOAD reports for U.S. Customs). Laurie got me a towel to roll-up and use as a pillow after I finished. There were no beach towels in the room. This is when the third thing happened that spoiled the vacation for Laurie and made it so we could never recommend this place to any of our guests. The hotel had about ten beach chairs with umbrellas put out for guests to enjoy. There was also tables and chairs set-up for the restaurant. There were also six or seven other guests lounging like us or sitting at the tables eating their breakfast. Just after I laid down the hotel manager called out to us from the pool area (in the next paragraph I will describe the pool because it needs describing). He yelled loud enough for all the other guests to hear, saying "are you two guests here?" asking us what we were doing on his lounge chairs. I don't know what made him think we weren't guests. Then he went on to berate us for taking one of the towels out of the room. When we explained that there were no beach towels he got us a couple of ratty beach towels from somewhere. This unnecessary public disturbance upset Laurie and put a large spoiler into our anniversary vacation.
We have a swimming pool at The Rainforest Inn. It is badly damaged and we have been trying to decide what to do with it. Some of our options are:
1. Repair it as is (small kidney shaped pool) 2. Make it smaller and more interesting looking. 3. Put landscaping, rocks etc and use black concrete and add a waterfall to make it a natural swimming pool and then have a very large Jacuzzi above it which is what everyone will end up using (because it will be heated) and it is usually a little cold here for swimming.
4. Make it much smaller and just a decorative garden pool not for swimming.
5. Fill it in and make a Zen garden there and also install a Jacuzzi.
We are probably going to go with option three. We are in the rainforest and even if a natural pool would not look as fancy in our advertising photos as a torques blue typical pool we still like the idea. It fits with our recycling, collecting rainwater, and composting garbage low impact environmental methods.
The pool at the Condado hotel was just a bit bigger than a plastic kiddie pool. It was set in the hotel's tiny courtyard so that walking to and from the beach or the main gate involved carefully skirting the edge of the pool so as not to fall in. No one swam in the pool while we were there and its very public location in front of the sliding door to the restaurant and its tiny size made it very unappealing. I think the pool was just built so that they could say in advertisements (like the web site description) that they had a pool. The dead crab that was lounging on one end the entire time we were there may have also discouraged bathers. We learned something else from this short vacation. When your day-to-day life is in the most incredible vacation spot on earth (at least that is how we feel about being lucky enough to live at the Rainforest Inn) then staying anywhere else, no matter how nice, will always be a disappointment.