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Hawaii 2010 – the good and the bad

Monday, July 19th, 2010

OK, I’m going to depart from my usual tech blogging to give my reviews on some businesses on my 2010 trip to Hawaii. My family and I head to Hawaii typically every two years, and we’ve been to a number of the islands, but this year was our first trip to Maui. Plus, it was our 10 year wedding anniversary, so we wanted a special trip.

We decided on booking the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, because it looked like a top level accommodation plus it had the best pool setup on the island which would be great for the kids.

Well, unfortunately we had more bad than good experiences with this hotel!

Now let me preface my comments with the statement that, in my opinion, one of Hawaii’s main attributes is its hospitality and friendly greetings. Where else is one greeted by friendly smiles, dancing, and neck wear? You sure as heck aren’t greeted like that when visiting France! But that’s a review for another time.

In addition, when I booked the trip, I did so direct with the hotel, and I told the booking person that it was our 10 year anniversary. I also inquired about a meal plan and they said I could either do it on the phone or at the hotel once there.

Here’s the BAD:

  • Upon arrival at the hotel, an attendant greeted us and asked if we were checking in. We said yes, and he took our bags away. We entered the hotel on our own, and there was no greeting. No smiling faces, no leis, no music. We checked in, told the person it was our 10th anniversary, and they did not know it — apparently the booking person on the phone did not make a note in the system. Did this person note anything special at this point? No, just checked us in.
  • We got to the room, and it was not in good shape. The beds were made poorly, there was dust and grime on both phones in the room and on a table, and when we walked out onto the balcony, my daughter asked, “Why do the other balconies have tables and we only have a chair?”
  • Once we called the front desk about this, we went out and 5 hours later nothing had changed. We had to go to the front desk, mention it again, and then people said they would call someone.
  • That night we needed an extra blanket, and called room service. The brought up a blanket that seriously looked 20 years old, was fraying on the edges, and looked like something you would pad your dogs bed with it.
  • The next day we were at the pool near the activities desk, and asked the guy working the desk there if we could use his phone to call housekeeping so they would know our room was empty and could clean while we were out. The guy, who was doing nothing and had no customers, said we can’t use the phone because it was for activities. Of course, it is the same phone as the one in our room (not as grimy though), and hooked into the hotel system. We asked him what phone we could use, and he said a house phone. We asked him where one was, and he said he didn’t know. That was it. He didn’t allow us to make a quick call to housekeeping (hotel call, not local or long distance), and didn’t offer to make the call for us, and did nothing to help us.
  • I let the day manager know that we were not having a good experience, and she was apologetic. I mentioned our 10 year anniversary again, and she congratulated us (more on this below in the GOOD experiences). I asked about meal plans, since we were using the breakfast buffet which is a bit expensive and we wanted to get a week or multi-day plan. She said it was a tricky thing to do, and I may have to cancel my entire reservation and re-book with a special meal plan. I told her the booking agent said I could just get on once on-site, and she said she would call up the chain and see what she could do. She got back to us and said they said nothing could be done and she couldn’t help us. Seriously? Nothing can be done? It’s a meal plan, for crying out loud.

Now, the GOOD:

  • The day manager I interacted with did her best to try and help us, but when we tried to get a breakfast buffet plan, she said the corporate people above her could not help her. Now, this doesn’t make much sense to me, why would they not allow her to provide a meal package I’m not sure. But she tried, and gave us meal passes for one morning. That was nice, but I’m wondering — if she has the ability to give us some free passes, how can she not have the ability to give us discounted passes, or ones for every other day or something like that?
  • The day manager sent us up a bottle of champagne and milk & cookies platter for the kids for our anniversary which was appreciated.
  • The bartenders were ALWAYS helpful.
  • We were at Longhi’s restaurant later that week and told the waitress of our experiences. She was shocked, and told us she used to bartend for the hotel company and apologized for them. Now, she was excellent with customer service, and frankly the hotel should hire her back in that sort of role.

Now, on the rest of the island, here are some excellent experiences we had with restaurants and activities:

Lahaina Pizza Company: This place, first of all, has the best deep dish pizza we’ve had in years! And their management is top notch. When we had an order get confused and the wrong pizza was delivered, the manager personally came over and apologized and offered us a desert on the house. And, he even officated our kids’ drawing contest and diplomatically declared both winners!

Zip-Line Adventure:  Well, the ziplines themselves were pretty short, around 30 seconds each on average. This pales in comparison to some Ziplines you’ll find in places like Costa Rica that can go for 3 minutes! But, they did a great job on the tour — our guide, David, was excellent and told us detailed stories about the island that we above the call of duty.

The Lahaina Grill:  This restaurant was constantly mentioned to us as a consistent award winner on the island, and sometimes when you hear that, it can be a tourist trap. But this place was fantastic. The food was amazing, the service was impressive, and when they knew it was our anniversary they took our picture and provided a nice desert. All in all, one of the best dining experiences we’ve had at any restaurant in the world.

So, what was our final opinion of Maui? Unfortunately, somewhat neutral. We’ve had more fun and better treatment on other islands, frankly, but we probably will go back one more time to see what we may have missed.