Thursday, January 03, 2008

After all the adventures in the jungle, we were quite happy that we had planned on spending the next seven days at the beach just chilling out (our first morning, after looking out at the beach, B cancelled our flights to Iguazu Falls and extended our stay at the hotel). I had a reserved a really nice room at a hotel that had been recommended to me at a beach town a few hours up the coast from Rio, Buzios. Buzios is fantastic! Beautiful and chic and relaxed and very Brazilian. I loved it. Our hotel, Casas Brancas, was less of a delight.

Don't get me wrong- we didn't suffer through our entire stay. The hotel is beautiful, the music and atmosphere is the height of cool, and the food and drinks were great. Our room was less awesome but maybe other people would have found it perfectly adequate. Let me explain.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, it was nearly midnight and we had more or less been travelling since 8 am. We were thoroughly exhausted. The clerk showed us to our room and as we walked through the hotel we were so impressed by how gorgeous it was that I think our mouths were hanging open. Our room was enormous and very beautiful so we thanked him and quickly went about unpacking our suitcases. You see, because it had rained to hard the last night, everything in our bags felt a bit damp and after a day sitting in a closed suitcase, I was a bit worried about things smelling funny and getting wrinkled beyond repair. Once we were done we collapsed into bed.

Only to be woken bright and early by the sun shining in the room through the two windows that didn't have curtains! This didn't really matter so much though, as breakfast had started- in the room located directly above our beds and we could hear people chatting away. It sounded like our window was wide open; it wasn't just open, it was broken and couldn't be closed. We wrestled with it for about 10 minutes before giving up and climbing out of bed. I had a better look around the room and realized that we didn't have a balcony although I thought that I had reserved a deluxe room in order to have one. I figured that I must have changed my mind at the last minute. After stuffing our selves at the breakfast buffet (which was really fantastic, by the way) we flopped down on the deck chairs around the pool and talked about which of us should go and ask for a new room. By the time B finally went to talk to them, they said that there were no rooms free until Sunday night (we were Friday) so they couldn't switch us. I was feeling too lazy to actually want to repack all my things and it did look like all the ocean view rooms were quite close to the restaurant and therefore probably equally noisy, so we let it go. We had eyemasks and earplugs from the airplane, that would probably be enough to help us through the worst of it.

The hotel also has a spa and guests are treated to a 15 minute welcome massage (although I wasn't told this at the desk, it was only after a mix-up at the spa reception that I learned about this...) so the first afternoon, I went down and booked treatments for B and I. I managed to get in a facial straight away. The staff are lovely, and the decor is as lovely as the rooms but once in my treatment room, I realised that the equipment was all broken. After my facial, they asked me if I wanted to use the jacuzzi and gave me a gorgeous black bikini to wear (I wish I kept it, it was more flattering than any of them that I tried on when shopping!). I went to the room where they had a tray of drinks out for me, and... the jacuzzi wouldn't work.

It was the beginning of a long list of broken equipment at the hotel. The shower next to the pool was out of order; the pool filter was blocked, which you could see by the layer of grease and leaves floating on top of the water (and of course, as we were staying in a room just next to the pool, we were privy to the early morning meetings of the repairmen around the pool); the security gate to the beach didn't open so guests had to pull a fence aside and climb over the potted plants. It was all a bit disappointing for what was supposed to be the best hotel in Buzios.

The real disappointment though, was yet to come. We had decided that we couldn't be bothered to move rooms because it would be so much work to pack up all our things but one day, I happened across our reservation papers and lo and behold- I had reserved a deluxe room. I asked B what we had paid for the room and he said he wasn't sure because the rates were quoted in dollars but he had to pay in reales. We did the figures and sure enough, we had paid the deluxe room rate. I went to the front desk to sort things out directly and was assured by the deskclerk that my room, room 11, was definitely a deluxe room. I pointed out that there was no balcony as stated in my reservation. He admitted that there wasn't one, but that it was bigger room than the other deluxe. I insisted it couldn't be a deluxe room because it said on their own internet site (now corrected, atleast) that all the deluxe rooms had balconies. He said that they had finished up some renovation work and the website must not have been changed. I pointed out that it didn't matter to me what the excuse might be, I refused to pay the price for a room I didn't get. He couldn't do anything about it, I had to come back the next day. The next day, it was the same thing. Come back later to talk to the manager. The manager said the same thing, it was a mistake on the web, blah blah blah.

The biggest problem was then that our vacation was being ruined by having to go and argue about this everyday and then ruminate on the argument all day long. Obviously, they had our money and were convinced that it wasn't cheating to give us a room that didn't correspond to what we had paid for, so they weren't giving any of it back. We were having a lovely holiday in the sun even if we were in a (relatively) lousy room and were too lazy to move our mountain of clothes and luggage and souvenirs and books and sunscreen and... so we let it go. I think that there is a point when you have to ask yourself if the fight is worth it and in this case it definitely was not. On the other hand, how shitty. And quite frankly, what a scam. It still pisses me off.

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