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What's your worst vacation booking to Cuba?

We are going through our worst booking experience in all the years we’ve been travelling, including not just Cuba. Yesterday, it came to a head and I just about blew a fuse >:( I’ve cooled off overnight but got to thinking that we can’t be the only ones who’ve been stiffed by the tour operators out there and wondered what issues others have run into.
Here’s a summary of our farcical attempts to book a trip to Cuba.
This was all done by our Travel Agent: attempted to book Air Transat Vancouver-Varadero return for Feb. 2013 and was told they are not flying direct. Now, our friends HAD just booked and paid a deposit so our TA had to argue with the AT rep about this situation. Next day, I get an email from our friend saying their travel agent had just been contacted by Air Transat and a mistake had been made and they would not be flying out of Vancouver and they cancelled their booking and would be returning the deposit! Question, how does a tour operator book something that doesn’t exist ???
So, now we move on to Air Canada Vacations. They show flying Vancouver-Varadero and return. We book, get seats assigned and the suite at the resort confirmed. Note, the suite can’t be booked on line but must be done directly with the resort so a time delay is involved before you get a confirmation. Done deal and deposit put down. Once this all was confirmed, I printed off our itinerary. Now, we have a price drop guarantee BUT ACV will not contact you if the price goes down so you have to monitor them. I did that yesterday morning and imagine my confusion when they were showing the flight going Vancouver - Toronto- Varadero and return via Ottawa to Vancouver. WTH??? I then plugged in our booking and sure enough, that’s what they were showing. I immediately contacted our Travel Agent and she got onto ACV to find out what was going on and why she was finding out through her client. Answer: “oh, we just did it and didn’t have time to contact everyone, yet”. That’s a load of crap >:(
I said that there is no way we are flying across Canada and return to go to Cuba. We are now booked Vancouver-Calgary-Varadero and same return. They are absorbing the connector flight cost because they made a change to the schedule after we booked but we now have to overnight in both Vancouver and Calgary. Oh, and the departure date has changed by 1 day later so the resort has to be contacted, again, and the suite rebooked! All I can say is a travel agent is worth their weight in gold. We have never gone through this kind of situation before and would NOT be using Air Canada Vacations if we had another choice out of Vancouver.
So, anyone else out there with nightmare bookings to relate?

Keep your fingers crossed they don’t change the itinerary again. I’ve read all kinds of stories about last minute changes that didn’t allow for independently arranged additions.
We use ACV to get to CL and consider it a blessing. Otherwise we’d have to book all the connecting flights and make weather/flight change allowances that can turn a two week trip into a 16 day adventure really fast.

I think the worst so far was having our return flight from Mexico (think it was Sunwing, but don’t remember) routed via the DR, which was not the case when we booked it. Otherwise, just the usual off season triangle runs, which is the price you pay to get where you want to go in the low season. Doesn’t bother me much, and I can honestly include Jamaica and the DR as places I have “been”, although I didn’t get off the plane in either of them. ;D

I’m not surprised!

AirCanada flights from Vancouver to Cuba have ALWAYS been routed via Toronto or Montreal. To hear otherwise was curious, but given that AirTransat was no longer offering service from Vancouver to Varadero, it seemed “plausible”- either that or I was just being too optimistic.

I’ve refused to use AirCanada to Cuba for many years now because of their routing. Lesson learned when we got caught for two days in Toronto due to a snowstorm and our one week vacation to Cuba ended up being a non event with absolutely no compensation. The travel agent I had used to do the booking was well known and supposedly reputable, but turned out to be useless. Made me wonder why I was paying them a booking fee. After this fiasco, I’ve done all of our bookings myself without incident except for the usual hiccups one expects when doing all-inclusive charters.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Air Canada direct from YVR to Cuba turned out to be the mirage I was expecting. Good to know!

That’s why we refuse to travel through Ontario/Quebec connections in the winter time. Heard too many horror stories of people being stuck in airports due to severe winter weather conditions. No thanks!
What really ticked me off was them automatically booking us through Toronto and then Ottawa for the return without even checking with our TA to find out if we would prefer a different connector city…like one much closer!!! We have booked Executive Class but that is only for the international flight. So, we would have been stuck in economy for the long flight across the country and back. At least Calgary is only 1 hour and a bit flying time. We have friends doing the same package as we are and they travel out of Kamloops. I had to email her and let her know of the change and, sure enough, Air Canada Vacations had not contacted their travel agent, either.
Sadly, our here, we have pretty much lost easy access to Varadero out of Vancouver and I suspect there will be a drop in business.

They are all the same. For every carrier someone likes, someone else has a horror story. For me ACV has been as good as any of them, until something happens personally to one of my bookings with them.

My worst vacation booking experience was with Sunquest. Had a trip booked and paid for 100% to the Bahamas in Feb/12. Had contacted the resort and heard back from them confirming our booking and room preference.

Flight was direct from Halifax-Nassau using Thomas Cook Airlines. 1 week before departure, we get a call that Thomas Cook is no longer flying that route. Sunquest doesn’t offer to charter another plane, doesn’t offer compensation, doesn’t offer us another resort or comparable resort at that price.

Here is your money back, that’s it. Resort was full, so couldn’t book with another company and the price was triple what we booked. And of course in peak season a week before your departure date, there are no deals.

Needless to say, I was so disappointed to miss out on a winter trip, and to the Bahamas where I have never still been. And have I ever looked at a Sunquest deal since…nope.

In my case, no one came through…not the airline(Thomas cook), not the vacation company(Sunquest), not the travel agency I booked with(Sears Travel) and not my travel agent.

Lesson learned…win some, lose some.

We’ve fortunately never had a booking experience as bad as yours. We’ve been booking last minute for the last few years and that seems to avoid some of the booking changes, although our last two trips had a direct (Ottawa to Holguin) flight change to Ottawa, Cayo Coco, Holguin a week or so before leaving.

That’s a drag steffiej… ::slight_smile:
There sure isn’t the selection there use to be when we first started travelling.
Our worse booking experience was back when GoTravel Direct was around…anyone remember them?
We had booked and paid for 2 weeks in Cuba for over Xmas & New Years…they call us late November and say 'Sorry…not enough people booked on this flight so have to cancel"…I was po’d for sure. They offered us a lesser resort in PP, DR or 1 week in Bahamas I think…we took the resort in the DR.
It didn’t ruin our vacation but we were very wary after that experience…so today I booked "on a wing and a prayer"
2 wks at Club Amigo Ancon same as last holiday season, Cubana out of Halifax direct. We won’t be travelling in style but we’ll get there, hopefully :sunglasses:

Nothing near as bad as steffiej but…I also would like to know how Air Transat can re sell Club Class seats!!! We booked in October 2011, paid in full seat confirmations in hand only to get on the flight that was supposed to be direct but a stop in Cayo Coco was added in January to fine people in our club seats. Nothing I could do, we did get other seats but not the 2x2 which we always book so we do not have anyone spilling over onto us. I asked the couple in the seats when they booked…February 2012. So Transat had our reservation fully paid and they then sold the same seats to someone else. Everyone(10 of us) is receiving a partial refund but that’s not the point, they need to be accountable for not providing what we are paying for. You can’t sell seats book them only to sell them again. AS for the meal reservation, not really. Called twice just to make sure everything was reserved, we get on the flight nothing was sent to the flight deck personnel. Now how the heck does that happen.

We are giving them a go again in April 2013 and once again we are paid in full with seat confirmations. I will be calling the week before just to confirm and I will get names and employee #'s just to be sure. It is still a direct with no stops for now but as we all know, things can change really fast.

I feel for you steffij :frowning:

[quote=@steffiej]
Sadly, our here, we have pretty much lost easy access to Varadero out of Vancouver and I suspect there will be a drop in business. [/quote]

There has already been a huge drop in business with AT pulling out of the market. No need to wonder why thought because the AT flight times to Varadero were atrocious for the past few years and getting worse. A lot of people are not die-hard Cuba travellers, so they found other places to go that were more convenient and less expensive. I’ll bet same thing happens with the Sunwing offerings and their lousy flight times in another year or so.

Glad I’m not the only one who had a Sunquest vacation package cancelled at the last minute. Happened nine years ago when I did an early booking bonus to Cayo Coco at the end of August for a birthday celebration in February. Vacation was nixed by Sunquest one week before departure due to lack of “interest” for the destination but I could go to Varadero at a much inflated price. No thanks! I guess the wholesalers didn’t know that if you advertise the destination better, the response will be greater. Got a full refund and went elsewhere and haven’t booked with Sunquest since then. No more early bookings for us!

Do what I do, book within 24 hours of leaving and there’s not usually enough time for them to change their collective mind, let alone flights.

I’ve been told that this is no longer possible. We used to do that years ago but haven’t for the last 10 years.

Of course, flights can still get re-routed at the very last moment if they have a problem with another plane elsewhere.

Dax, you’re right (mostly).
You can’t book the day of the flight, but you can book up until midnight of the day before you leave. Make sure you print off ALL information from the booking site and take it with you to the airport. Confirmation number and flight and resort info.
My personal best was booking 6 hours in advance. I never had the guts to book from the airport.

Thanks for that update. I was told a full day in advance which I assumed was 24 hours.

The problem is that as a ‘price watch junkie’, I see prices swing wildly in either direction in the last week. It’s sorta like ebay, you need to set your limit and stick to it. That’s hard to do with the bags packed and a throat aching for rum! I’ve got to say that unless you insist upon one of the expensive, elite seats in the front of the plane, booking last minute is still saving you hundreds of dollars in many cases. Not a good option if you have no flexibility on dates or resorts.

I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that I paid 30-50% less than most others at the resort but I keep my mouth shut about it. People suddenly get mighty unfriendly over a glass of rum when they find out they paid too much. LOL

BTW, my worst booking to Cuba was our first in Varadero at Arenas Blancas. We had a room that got all the super loud disco noise bouncing off a wall until 3:00 am each night. They refused to allow us to change rooms, even though the place was half full and the only solution was to get stinking drunk every night and then the noise seemed to disappear.

Now, if I could write about non-Cuban disasters, that would be more interesting.

YVR, we have always felt that Cuba was the absolute cheapest island to visit. Can you tell us where it is cheaper for a holiday? Inquiring minds want to know! :wink:

Off topic, I know. Sorry, folks! ::slight_smile:

Cuba is certainly cheap from Ontario and Quebec, and by times from down east, but I believe from the “wet” coast it might be less expensive to go to Mexico.

On topic…not my “worst” booking issue, but I did book a resort a couple of years ago only to find it was going to be closed when I arrived and that we would be transferred to the higher starred resort next door. Might sound good to some people, but I wanted the resort I had booked, thank you very much! It was with Sunwing, and I had fortunately bought the “cancel for any reason” insurance, so I exercised my option, went somewhere else for that time period, and put off my original trip to a different date. Not super convenient, but it did work out for me.

Thanks, eeeefarm for pointing this out. I hadn’t thought of the Wet Coast factor. :wink: Unfortunately, that sounds like I think of COTU first, even though we have to drive many hours to get there! At least we can take advantage of the relatively ‘cheap’ options out of Pearson. I’m not complaining about that. ;D

We live in a nice neighbourhood about 10 minutes from down town and about 20 minutes from the airport.
There are “directs” from our airport as well as from Moncton (a 90 minute drive) and from Saint John (a 90 minute drive). We could also drive to Halifax in 5 hours.
Or we could drive to Bangor, Me, USA in 2 hours and hit DR or Florida.
We chose to take a commuter to YUL and a charter to CYO.
Strange, Eh?

No worries travelchick! Unless you live in a limited market, it really isn’t something you think about. The COTU advantage pertains to vacations in Cuba for sure.

Several destinations in Mexico are comparably priced from Vancouver to what Toronto pays for Cuba. Many more deals as well.

Having been to Mexico many times, I don’t find safety to be an issue in resort areas like Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco or the Mayan Riviera. Common sense goes a long way, no matter where you travel and we’ve met many Mexicans who are just as genuine and wonderful as the Cubans. Food in Mexico is better than in Cuba so that’s a bonus.

[quote author=yvrck board

Having been to Mexico many times, I don’t find safety to be an issue in resort areas like Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco or the Mayan Riviera. Common sense goes a long way, no matter where you travel and we’ve met many Mexicans who are just as genuine and wonderful as the Cubans. Food in Mexico is better than in Cuba so that’s a bonus.[/quote]

Having lived a month in Havana & traveled from Vinales to Baracoa, I must say I would take Puerta Vallarta over Cuba any day (except when there’s a bunch of cruise ships docked) for friendliness, safety, things to do & especially food.

*note lots of free breakfasts/nights free by playing the time share idiots.