Like most frequent flyers I spend many, many nights each year at hotels including Marriotts. For the past many years I have always tried, if at all possible, to stay at an SPG branded or affiliated hotel. They have always impressed me and respected my Platinum status that I held for years and that I went out of my way to maintain that elite level even if it cost me more than possibly staying at other hotels. Loyalty, for years anyway, mattered to me with my hotel choices.
Then SPG got Marriotted and I expected the worst. So I made the sad choice to become a free agent when it came to hotels and content myself with mid-level status with a number of hotel chains including SPG and Marriott as a byproduct. I found it has worked and most properties still offer some perks to mid level elites. But Marriott is a very strange brand and has differing standards for different locations and that includes their resort properties.
But let me tell you I sure was not expecting a possible upgrade to a jail cell for my family! Let me share with you what happened.
My wife and I had plans to spend a week on St. Croix, but the hotel was decimated during last year’s hurricanes. Delta offered a free waiver and I decided to change my destination to Grand Cayman that I love and have visited for weeks at a time over the years. While many friends suggested I stay at the outstanding Westin on Seven Mile beach, I foolishly chose the Marriott Resort Grand Cayman.
What a massive mistake that was!
As a travel blogger I wanted to give an objective review of this property. I wanted to see if, in fact, they would extend ANY meager elite perks to a Gold Marriott Rewards elite member. So, while I was checking in my wife behind me had her phone filming my back. As I asked the rep question after question I would turn back to the camera and share the response. I asked:
Q) Will there be any kind of continental breakfast extended as a Marriott Gold?
A) No, no, no there is no breakfast for you.
Q) OK, will there be any kind of credit toward the breakfast buffet as a Marriott Gold?
A) No, no, no there will be no credit for you.
Q) Humm… Is there any chance for an upgraded room as a Marriott Gold?
A) No, no, no you booked on points! You get the courtyard garden view room you booked!
Q) Will I at least get high speed internet as a Marriott Gold member?
A) No, no, no! High speed internet is part of our resort fee!
Q) I see there is a resort fee. I would rather not pay that if I do not use the listed benefits.
A) Let me check with my manager, hold on.
At this point the rep disappeared behind a door and left us waiting for a good 10 minutes at the check-in desk. The check-in rep had already taken my ID, my Chase Bank Marriott Rewards credit card and processed most of my info.
Then suddenly things got ugly. An intimidating man, also accompanied by a security officer, showed up at our side and within seconds started barking at us:
“I AM GOING TO CALL THE POLICE!”
What a warm welcome to the Marriott Resort Grand Cayman. He repeated this threat to my family, not once, but 3 times over the length of the conversation. Now it may be normal for this resort to intimate guests in this manner but in all my years of staying at hotels I have never had myself, or my family for that matter, threatened with possibly going to jail for documenting my check-in to a hotel (have you)?
I was shocked and disturbed as anyone would be. This was not what I had in mind for my island vacation. I explained to the rep from the “loss prevention department”, along with the security guard, when asked what I was doing (other than checking in, that is) that I am a travel blogger and documenting my experience at the hotel.
I was told I must advise them in advance before I do anything like this. I was told later on that he was formerly from the Ritz Carlton, Bahrain and that he felt that when people come in and video the hotel staff have no idea what their intentions are. OK, but Grand Cayman is not the middle east and I would suggest a simple question like “can I help you?” or, “why are you filming?” would have been a better choice (when at this point the hotel clearly had all my info already) rather than repeatedly threatening POLICE ACTION.
At this point I was told to delete the video and I said I would be happy to comply and step by step showed the rep and the security guard that I was doing so. I was told that if I wanted to take other video I must contact him. As a side point, part of the hotel resort fee includes use of GoPro cameras (if available). I did not ask if all those folks also must check with him before they use these video cameras!
Then the story gets even “better” if you will.
A few days later the rep who threatened my family called, under the guise of apologizing to me, and to ask what they could do to make things better. Moments into that conversation he was accusing me of being at fault for his POLICE threats and that I in fact was responsible for slowing down the check-in of the couple behind us.
I can tell you this: I hardly slept all week at the Marriott resort. I kept waking up with cold sweats and having nightmares of this rep showing up at our door with the police. In fact every single time, from now on, when I see the Marriott logo I will think of the possibility of ending up in a jail cell. I could not wait to depart this resort and never return.
Next week I will have a review (clearly, only with still shots) of the Marriott Resort Grand Cayman, a King room courtyard view and if you also have to pay the “mandatory” $50CI resort fee if you choose to risk staying at this Marriott property yourself. – René
UPDATE 6:PM ET: The hotel has reached out to me personally about the above events and there will be a follow-up post tomorrow! <-LINK