I'm a couple of days fresh off my "free" Caribbean Cruise Line cruise (with accompanying timeshare presentation) and wanted to chime in with a review of my overall *lovely* (re: horrendous) experience.
THE CALL & THE SETUP
Like so many, I received a phone call from the company "Caribbean Cruise Lines". Congratulations!!! I've won a 3 day 2 night cruise to the Bahamas (…which first of all, let's be honest, it's only 1 1/2 day, 2 night). I must be the luckiest man alive! I spend a while talking to a nice guy trying to tack on everything under the sun, moon, and stars to my "vacation package" but after over an hour on the phone (and being transferred to 3 separate people), I finally was settled on JUST the cruise. I was insistent on not wanting to attend the timeshare presentation, which he finally agreed to - citing I would have to drive an hour South of the port to Ft.Lauderdale's "Welcome Center" to pick up our cruise tickets. This wasn't in my initial trip plans, but fine - I worked around it. They tried to spook us about the 'Welcome Center' citing we'd be waiting in like for 2-3 hours. (Later discussions with people on the boat cited it was more like 2-3 minutes…)
Over the next few weeks, I received two separate phone calls from people wanting me to change my booking to attend a 90 MINUTE PRESENTATION only a few miles from the port. We were offered 2 free Orlando amusement park tickets, 2 free hotel nights, free meals, etc. Sweet deal, right?!?! Finally, I caved figuring the amount of time I'd spend driving down there would be equal to or more than my just sitting through a silly presentation. Fair enough. I'd honestly never been to a timeshare presentation anyway. Big mistake, should have stuck with the original plan. The guy I spoke to said he'd have my "tickets waiting for me at the Palm Beach Shores Resort where the presentation will be at." We received a letter in the mail a couple of weeks beforehand outlining all of this (including "90 MINUTE TIMESHARE PRESENTATION").
TIMESHARE - ARRIVAL 9:30AM
My wife, kid, and I arrived on time Sunday morning for our 9:30AM appointment and were met by our salesperson, "Karen". Oooooh, the things we could say about Karen (though she did turn in to the punchline for every joke made for the next 2 days). Within literally the first 60 seconds of being in her presence, she was already telling us some story about how she "never lies to customers in this business". I give my wife a look. "It's going to be a long 90 minutes, isn't it?" heh
TIMESHARE - BREAKFAST 9:30AM-10:15AM
Part of the deal was a free breakfast! Alright, so we go to breakfast … with Karen. Hmm.. Alright, not what I was expecting - but whatever! I will give the Palm Beach Shores restaurant credit as it was pretty decent food. We spent a half hour of her making small talk while we ate breakfast. She then whips our a survey and starts asking us all sorts of questions about our vacation habits. We answer honestly, including the part about whether we'd ever been to a timeshare presentation before. As soon as we said no, she started pushing us otherwise until finally after a minute or so we conjure up a fictitious story about a presentation we went to in Miami just so she'd stop badgering us. She finishes taking her notes, and finally gets up to "go to the bathroom before we go". I put this in quotes only because we then watched her wander around talking to people for a good 5-7 minutes while we waited for her to return. No no Karen, it's cool. Take your time, we'll wait here… :-) Before we left, we were asked to leave a tip for the waiter… Huh. O.K., I mean - I didn't mind honestly, though I'm taken out to lunches by vendors literally every week and have never once been asked to leave a tip (usually I perceive that as YOUR job as the sales person). But seriously, it wasn't a big deal - just felt a bit tacky… No biggie, moving on!
TIMESHARE - THE MARINA (A.K.A. KAREN'S SMOKE BREAK) 10:15AM-12:00PM
O.K. So as we're leaving the restaurant she tells us that she's taking us to the Marina to kill time so "we don't have to watch the video", citing she hates "the video". O.K., whatever. So we take some shuttle bus over to a Marina a mile or so away. Now, I should go ahead and specify that by "don't want to watch the video," Karen meant, "so I can smoke for the next hour and some change." As soon as we're there, she starts smoking. She explains that APPARENTLY she's not supposed to be smoking over there. O.K., fine, I could care less! Do your thing, Karen. So, we're walking over near the docks when some people start walking by and she shoves her cigarette toward my wife saying, "Hold this… Hold this, I'm not supposed to be smoking…" and gets my wife to hold her cigarette while some employees walk by. Now, as I stood there in awe, I couldn't help but wonder, "…is this just some not-so-impressive theatrics to build a false sense of camaraderie akin to being BFF's in high school, or are you ACTUALLY not supposed to be smoking over here?" Either way, it was kind of tacky and unprofessional in my eyes. But, again, whatever.
By about an hour in to wandering around the Marina, literally just sitting on the dock of the bay wasting time (…see what I did there?), we were pretty bored. We were forced to wander around in gift shops, listen to Karen take a semi-lengthy phone call her from her son, and naturally - allow for more of Karen's smoke breaks while we waited around wondering, "…exactly what relevance does this play whatsoever to the presentation?" We eventually made it back to the shuttle bus which went back to the Palm Beach Shores Resort area. She started walking us around neighboring shops. Fine, STILL not the resort - but at least this felt like it held MINOR relevance. She took us to some restaurant and showed us some shark hanging from the ceiling, telling us it was the original shark used in the movie JAWS and that the studios wanted to buy it back for 100k but the owner just wouldn't sell it. Unfortunately for Karen, my wife is about as fanatical about JAWS as a human being could get and immediately cited to me, "That is not Bruce!!!" (Bruce was the name of the 3 mechanical sharks used in filming of the movies). No, no this definitely wasn't. This wasn't even a decent passable replica…
Thankfully, it started raining so we FINALLY made our way back to the actual resort...
TIMESHARE - THE SALESROOM 12:00PM-12:30PM
We sit down, and Karen starts breaking out a bunch of books. I'm honestly genuinely curious as this point. Perhaps that was the intended sales tactic? Bore me with so many other unrelated things that by the time we start to talk about what we came for - suddenly timeshares seem more interesting by comparison? :-) ..and yet, when she opens up the books - they're only a bunch of photos of her family on vacation. Oh - my - god, I was nearly grinding my teeth at this point. There wasn't really a polite way I could think of to say, "..We have nothing in common… Zero… I don't care about you and your family, I care about me and MY family.. Could we talk about the timeshare now, please?" She gets up and wanders off (I honestly can't remember why this time.) Comes back.. Finally after about 10-15 minutes, she gets to talking about how timeshare swapping and such works, going in to the network company, "RCI (Resort Condominiums International)" , etc etc etc. Actually sounded kind of interesting, to be honest. Then she breaks out a booklet of "RCI destinations," gets up - and leaves…
O.K. It's about this point that I've lost my patience. We arrived about 3 hours previous and had yet to actually take one look at what we would inevitably be purchasing. I didn't want to look at a booklet of other resorts. I don't travel to visit resorts, I travel to visit destinations - spending little time in the hotels themselves. We end up pulling out our phones and start doing our thing. I was really growing tired of this whole disappearing act of hers. Sales tactic, or your nicotine habit, she was wasting our time. A few minutes later she comes over and says, "Please get off your phones, I don't want to get in trouble." I look at her and flatly say, "…you keep disappearing? I'll get off my phone when you stop disappearing…"
..It was at about this point that her entire demeanor changed and things went to hell pretty fast…
TIMESHARE - WALKING OUT (12:30PM-12:35PM)
In a pissy tone, she told us, "..if you don't want to be here, you can leave right now…" There was a mild tone of cockiness to her voice. in that short sentence, she might as well have said, "…but we both know that if you leave right now, you're not getting any of the free stuff we promised you, so you'd better look at the booklet…" Well, I don't take well to attitudes like this. I dropped all patience and finally flat out said, "..Listen, you guys said it was a 90 minute presentation. We've been here over 3 hours now and…" (she interrupts me) "..It didn't include breakfast…" to which I point out, "Fine. Take out breakfast and we're still looking at about 2 1/2 hours…" She begins defending, "..We never said 90 minutes, some other company did that and we don't have control over…" (I interrupt her) "…So, what you're saying is that you don't take any responsibility for the actions of the companies in which you choose to do business with?" She again says we can leave right now, and (HERE'S THE BEST PART) "…your cruise tickets are already at the Port…"
..all of this time, all the run around, and when we arrived at the dock - our names were simply on a big long list. There were no "tickets" needed… heh Well played, timeshare people… Well played…
ANYWAY. A little taken aback, I say, "…aren't you even going to tell us how much these things cost? I want a price…" to which she actually says no. She says, "..you haven't even seen the resort yet." Well no Karen, we haven't. We've been screwing around for 3 hours so you could take smoke breaks! I ask her how much longer the presentation is going to be, and she says about an HOUR AND A HALF… O.K., correct me if my math is off here, but I'm fairly certain that totals up to 270 minutes (…a bit more than 90). Apparently her time is more valuable than ours. I looked at my wife, stood up, said, "I think we're done," extended my hand for a shake to which she just sort of stared at it for a good 4-5 seconds before finally shaking it.
TIMESHARE - FINAL SUMMATION
***WE LEFT AFTER 3 HOURS WITH NOTHING THAT WAS ACTUALLY PROMISED TO US*** We were a bit irritated. Hell, we never even saw the resort or got a price!!! The ultimate irony here is that I must confess that throughout the discussion about how the whole timeshare swap thing worked - I did grow a bit of moderate interest & curiosity about it. Later on the boat, we talked with some people about what prices they were offered. Apparently they started up around $35k and dropped down to $18k, $15k, and eventually down to something actually fairly small like $4400. I got to see the entire package or do the math myself, though on a long enough time line, if you're serious about investing in 'vacationing', $4400 once, $700/year, and $200/trip for ANYWHERE might not actually work out to be a horrible deal. I dunno, I never got to actually work the math out to see where the break-even point was… Doesn't matter… I suppose I have Karen to thank for screwing that one up…
How was the actual cruise? Well, that one is much easier to sum up. For the price of taxes, fees, and tips? Still unfortunately not sure it was worth it. Perhaps this is only when put in comparison against previous Carnival cruises. Do not get me wrong, there was nothing overtly WRONG with it - but it's definitely summed up by, "You get what you pay for…" The staff were overall pretty good. There were less activities and "stuff" going on than a Carnival cruise, but you're only on there for a day and a half, so perhaps that's "ok"… The rooms were AMAZINGLY small. All we could do was laugh. Our room shower had no hot water. Oh, and no towel animals (Carnival cruisers "get it". hahahaha) With the amount of money we ended up spending, I really kinda wish we'd just booked another 3-5 day Carnival one. Perhaps this would be a good cruise for a Florida resident where it's easier for them to get to / fro. Again, not horrible, but very "eh…" at best.
In this process, you're really dealing with 3 separate companies, Celebration Cruise Line (which isn't a cruise line at all, but a vacation package wholesaler), Palm Beach Shores Resort (…or their parent company, whomever is selling the timeshare), and Celebration Cruise Line (whom owns the Bahamas Celebration). None of these 3 companies hold any accountability for one another. We got nothing that was promised despite waiting through "Karen's Smoke Breaks" for 3+ hours, and never even got a price on the vacation investment.
If you want a positive experience for you and your family, just splurge for one of Carnival's cheaper 3-5 day cruises (I also hear Royal Caribbean is nice). Forget the timeshare scam (yes, I used that word accurately - as I just outlined previously). It's not worth your time…