This is a bit of a "forum manners" topic too. I have noticed several enquiries recently asking about villas. I tried to post this review on the TA site but was told that TA don't allow villa reviews, only hotels and restaurants and stuff. I think this is something of an oversight as lots of people book direct on the internet with villa owners or agencies these days, and the reason I like TA is the honesty and varied opinions of the contributors. Anyone else agree? Can we ask TA to reconsider its policy.
Anyway, in the meantime, here are my thought about the villa we stayed in recently (April/May 2007).
I am currently staying in this property and have a complaint about the way the property has been misrepresented on the website and about the attitude of its owner. First of all, let me say that I have stayed in hotels and villas in the Caribbean and Florida many times, so I know to make allowances for cultural differences and the effects of the climate.
However, in this case, we have been very disappointed and feel that we have been deceived. We booked the villa last June via the holiday-rentals website for a 3 week holiday for the duration of the cricket World Cup. The comments/review below are a copy of what I sent to the website and the points relate to the description on the website (hence the slightly odd order!).
1. The property is advertised as luxury. It isn't. The furnishings are worn and stained. The bedroom furniture consists mostly of cheap louvre door wardrobes. Only one bedroom has a "dressing table" with mirror and this is built from MDF with a drawer that is painted on the outside only and has plastic paper lining it.
2. The bathroom in the "Executive suite" has a loose toilet seat and
missing/broken light fittings. The vanity unit is actually rotten and is
crumbling. It has black mould all over the inside of the cupboards and smells terrible.
3. The towels are tatty and have bleach stains. They seem to be salon rejects.
4. The bedrooms are NOT large. They are just about big enough to contain the bed, a wadrobe and a drawer unit. One bedroom isn't big enough even for the drawer unit.
5. The "Bridal Suite" does have a big bedroom but it contains 2 bedside tables, a louvred door wardrobe, a coffee table, a chest, a running machine (!) and a travel cot which has tears in the fabric. The blanket for use instead of the duvet is stained. Also, it has no glass in the windows!! The windows are the same louvred doors as in the wardrobes but they don't open. Therefore, the room
is not secure against mosquitos or any other insect life which choose to wander in. We've had a couple of massive cockroaches but (and this is genuine) we had a couple of fireflies in one night which we enjoyed watching.
6. The "Bridal Suite" is not a suite at all. Its a seperate unit consisting of a bathroom at the other end of the hall (ie not ensuite - see above), a tiny double bedroom and a basic kitchen! It was clearly just intended as a seperate accomodation.
7. The kitchen in the villa is not actually the one pictured on the site!!The one here is very shabby with dirty and mismatched crockery, glasses and cutlery. The kitchen window has several of the louvred glass panes missing and the mosquito screen has become detatched and has fallen off. Birds get in every day and peck anything left out- they get as far as the lounge as there are no doors
between the kitchen and the lounge. The outer cover of the dishwasher was hanging off and it wasn't working. Someone fixed the cover but only the stuff on the bottom rack gets cleaned - and even then not very well. We took the filters etc out to clean them - they were solid with grease and food debris - but it
hasn't made much difference.
8. It says the house has a washing machine and dryer, but in fact, the appliances are shared with the owner and in a laundry room to which we don't have access. This wouldn't present too much of a problem because the maid is supposed to do it. However, apparently the people before us didn't leave her a tip so she told us she's not going to do the laundry unless we pay her. She said
she spoke to Harry Newitt (the owner) about how she is not happy about taking on the task of doing the laundry as well and he told her to get some money off us to do it!
8. One of the kitchen cupboards has a nest of electric wires in which don't look very safe to me. The kitchen light takes several seconds to come on, and sparks come off several plugs. I don't think the electrics are safe and up to standard.
9. The website says that the house has internet access. It doesn't.
10. The house is NOT wheelchair accessible. Thankfully this is not an issue for us but its another example of misrepresentation. The house is surrounded by rough gravel and is accessed by a single step approx 9 ins deep. It has no ramps. Also, I think the inner doors are probably too narrow for wheelchairs.
11. The airconditioning units are very temperamental and don't work very well. The vents and filters are all visibly dirty. We cleaned one of the filters ourselves to see if it worked better. It does work better but not to its full strength. The ceiling fan blades all have black dust/dirt on them.
12. The pool is not properly maintained. When we arrived (Monday) it was full of leaves and cloudy. The poolman arrived the next day (Tuesday) and the water improved but we could see that the pumps and filters were very weak. There are trees surrounding the property and lots of leaves blow in so we cleaned the main filter out ourselves every day and fished as many leaves out with the net
provided. After a week, the pump and filter packed up entirely and the water was so cloudy we couldn't see the bottom. We warned the owner on the Monday that we thought something was wrong, then again on the Tuesday when the water was really bad and the poolman turned up again on the Wednesday. The pump and filter were replaced and after a couple of days the pool was OK again. But, my issue here is that I've stayed in villas with pools in Florida and the poolman visits at least once a week. It seems that here, he only comes when there's a problem. I think this is sloppy and cheapskate maintenance and not what you'd expect in a luxury
13. The distance from the beach is completely wrong. Several times, it stresses that the house is "literally 3 minutes walk from the beach". Its nothing like that - it has to be at least 10 minutes! At 3 minutes, I was expecting to be able to take a beach chair or parasol with me, but its much too far to carry that sort of stuff in the Caribbean heat.
14. The barbecue was so covered in grease that only a third of the burners worked. I bought some cleaner and we cleaned the grills and the burners and now it works fine. But again - this isn't what I expected by something described so many times as "luxury".
15. Generally, the house is very grimy and in poor repair. It needs a really good clean (ceiling fans, aircon units, cupboards, wardrobes etc) and time spent on maintenance - none of the windows with glass louvres have a full set of panes, for instance. The bedlinen is generally old and often stained. The only good bedlinen are the sets that appear in the photos
To be fair to the owner, we listed our complaints within 2 days and he dealt with some of them.
1. The kettle was replaced (not with a new one but it was cleaner and less furred up than the one we had).
2. A hairdryer was provided. There were none in the house.
3. The poolman was summoned.
4. The dishwasher man was summoned though he only fixed the door on - the dishwasher still didn't work well (not at all for the upper basket).
5. The aircon man was summoned (twice) though at the time of writing we still have one unit in a bedroom out of action. (as at end of holiday, the aircon man never came back).
6. One set of new towels were provided - though, of course, we still have to use the towels with stains on when the good ones are in the laundry.
7. The black mould was cleaned off the inside of the bathroom cupboard.
One other thing in fairness - after I booked the villa, I found out that there was no internet connection when I emailed Mr Newitt and asked him directly if it was a wireless connection or not. That was just a few weeks ago and though I was disappointed because I had planned to work, I thought it was just one little thing and not worth making a fuss about.
I have asked Mr Newitt for a partial refund as I think we have been overcharged. He disagrees and won't refund. I will be taking the matter further with the Barbados Tourist Authority with whom all villa rental owners are supposed to be registered (so they told me) but Mr Newitt isn't.
We have, by the way, had a refund of the equivalent of 1.5days rental because we couldn't get into the villa at the time we booked. This refund was agreed before we had even seen Desert Rose. Originally, we wanted to book from 11th April to 2nd May. However, the villa wasn't available until 13th April, so Mr Newitt offered us the use of the adjoining cottage for 2 days instead. There are only 6
of us and despite the fact that the cottage has only 2 bedrooms (we booked last June and Mr Newitt said he would be building a 3rd bedroom over the winter), we thought it was worth it to have Desert Rose (which looked so nice!) for the rest of the holiday. I had some problem getting the address and directions out of Mr Newitt, until finally, the day before we left for Barbados, he emailed me to say
that they weren't going to move out of the cottage as planned (its where he lives with his wife) but that he had found us a "very nice apartment" in a complex with a pool and tennis court instead. We were a bit perturbed but thought "what the hell! Its only for 2 days and its got use of a pool". The apartment turned out to be VERY small with just 2 bedroom and a sofa bed. Only the bedrooms had aircon. We thought "OK, we've been suckered a bit here" but
again, for just 2 days, I thought I'd let it go.Then Harry and his wife came round on the Thursday afternoon with a z-bed (stained!!) and told us that we couldn't move into the villa until the following Monday because one of the children staying at the house had an ear infection and couldn't fly and the whole party had delayed their departure till Monday and would we mind staying where we were. We told him we had the booking and we wanted to move. The other
people undoubtedly would have insurance to take care of such an eventuality so it was up to them to sort it out. Unfortunately, Mr Newitt had already agreed everything with them before even asking us.!So we insisted that he find us somewhere else. He did find us a very nice villa as it happens with a pool, Sadly it was next to a building site which was why it was empty but it was a lot
better than the apartment! At this point, I negotiated the refund for the inconvenience etc. We subsequently found out (from the agency renting the villa) that the villa we were in (which we would call luxury) charges the same rate as Mr Newitt does for Desert Rose - and there really is no comparison. Something which Mr Newitt admitted when he took us to the substitute villa.
I'm sorry to have written such a lengthy review but there is so much that is wrong! We have photos to back all of this up, of course, and I can email them to anyone who wants to check the real picture before booking. The bottom line is that if the villa had been properly represented on the website, I would NOT have booked it. There are only 6 of us (me, husband, 4 teenage sons) so we didn't need 5 bedrooms and we booked it 11 months in advance so we did have other options.
Personally, I don't expect to rent a "luxury" villa and find the kitchen in the photo doesn't exist and that I have to start cleaning the place and making a list of maintenance jobs that need doing. That's too much like home for me!!
Additional note: the nice palce we stayed in next to the building site was Sugadadeze in the Suga Hill complex. Now that was what I call luxury - everything spick and span and working. To rub salt into the wound, despite the fact that Harry Newitt told us it had cost him 1200USD a night, we called the agents (West Coast Villas) to check and they told us it was available for 800USD a night - the same price we were paying for that heap Desert Rose!
The little 2 bedroom place was at Crystal Heights and we saw it advertised (or one in the same complex) at about 250USD a night. Its comfortable but not special.