Beware of the Dreaded Resort Feeby david daly on 10/31/11
Even I, the Amazing Travel Concierge, occasionally screws up a vacation. Last night I surprised my husband with a night at the Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa on Islamorada in the Florida Keys to celebrate his birthday. I put my trust in Conde Nast Traveler Readers Survey which listed the Cheeca Lodge in the top 100 large resorts in the US:
I skipped all of my usual background checks on the resort (like tripadvisor.com) and scooped up a room on hotels.com for $189 which seemed like a great deal for a resort that hob nobs on a Top 100 list along with Ritz-Carletons and Four Seasons resorts. What a colossal mistake!
After a 2 hour drive along the mostly-tacky overseas highway from Miami, we were greeted with a check-in process reminiscent of filing taxes at H&R Block. Guests are invited to sit in desk chairs facing a receptionist behind a giant desk who embarks on an exhausting check-in process. Eventually, the receptionist gets to the unexpected surprise and the reason guests are asked to remain seated during this process: There is an additional $39 resort fee per room per night! She then shoves a sheet of paper in the guests face detailing a list of items included in the guest fee, all of which would be free at any respectable resort. Items include: self parking, in-room coffee, access to fitness center, and local phone calls.
My husband quickly put me in my straight jacket and wheeled me away like Hannibal Lecter so that I would not physically harm the receptionist. I was still clutching her sheet of resort-fee amenities and was in a state of shock that I had somehow missed the fine print while making the reservation. Now this $189 hotel room was actually going to cost $255.32 with taxes and the deceitful resort fee. Nonetheless, we were going to try to enjoy our night at Hotel de Nickel and Dime and somehow earn $39 worth of extra amenities. I kept a running tab of everything we did and applied an appropriate a la carte fee for the service, to see if we could win back the $39 I had mismanaged. Here is the breakdown of how we used our resort fee to the max:
$3 Had the bell boy drive us to our room on a golf cart
$1.50 Guzzled a free bottle of water immediately upon entering the room
$1.75 Cranked up the air conditioning to 60 degrees and left the balcony doors wide open so we could feel the cool air while enjoying wine (we brought ourselves) outside in the humid Florida Keys sun
$2 made a pot of coffee for a pre-dinner wake up jolt
$7 Had the Bell staff drive us to a restaurant (off-site of course, Hotel de Nickel and Dime was not getting another cent from me)
$1.50 bedtime bottle of water
$2 morning pot of in-room coffee with breakfast (purchased at a 7-11 on the way home from dinner the night prior)
$10 morning kayak along the coast to see the neighboring properties of Rip-Off Resort
$2 two cups of lobby coffee
$3 two more free bottles of water
$3 another golf cart ride back to the room in the pouring rain
$2.25 stole all of the Splenda and Sweet & Low in the room to take home
So we did it! We squeezed an extra $39 out of the sleezy Cheeca Lodge and recovered the equivalent of the detested resort fee. The real lesson learned, however, is to ALWAYS read the fine print and check some user reviews before booking a hotel. Almost every entry on Tripadvisor mentions the absurd resort fee at any resort that employs this deceitful method for increasing their margins and artificially discounting their nightly rate. Beware!