A pensioners’ family Christmas break turned into a nightmare after they discovered their hotel had been given just a few hours’ notice to prepare for their arrival.
Southsea pensioner Trecia Aspey decided it was high time she and her sisters and their partners got together to experience a relaxing, stress-free Christmas.
She spoke to Elsie and Pam, who agreed that, as they hadn’t had a family reunion in nearly 40 years, it would be great to spend Christmas together with their respective spouses.
They went online looking for suitable breaks and were attracted by a four-night Christmas In The Cotswolds holiday organised by coach travel specialists Diamond Holidays.
The itinerary promised festive activities including drinks, daily entertainment, festive buffet, Christmas cake, mince pies and all the seasonal trimmings.
It ticked all their boxes, so the party of six agreed to fork out £399 each to be whisked away on December 23 to enjoy all the promised fayre.
But Trecia claims the promise didn’t match the delivery and turned out to be an unforgettable disaster.
The first indication of what was to come was when they weren’t told where they would be staying until just four days before departure.
On arrival at the Ramada Warwick and after lugging their suitcases into the hotel, she says they soon became aware things weren’t right.
She says: ‘Right from the very start, as soon as we walked in the door and got booked in, the management looked blank at us when we said we believed we’d got a welcome drink and mince pies.
‘They said, ‘‘oh no, you’ve got tea and coffee in your rooms’’. Then we noticed the only Christmas decoration was a tree in the foyer, which was conveniently moved to where we had our meals on Christmas and Boxing Day.
‘It was more like a business hotel, there was nothing there, not even a billiard table.
‘The dining room wasn’t like a hotel dining room. It was more like a cafeteria with tables, and you had to go and help yourself from a buffet, even for main meals.
‘The only day we had anything served to us was Christmas lunch and even the tea and coffee we had to go and get from a machine.
Unsurprisingly, their dissatisfaction turned to fury when they discovered there was nowhere to get a late drink because the hotel was on a main road in the middle of nowhere.
Last orders were at 10 and, to add insult to injury, guests were promptly locked out of the lounge half-an-hour later and confined to seats in the hotel foyer.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, eagerly-anticipated evening entertainment was a no-show for the duration of their stay.
There was no advertised Christmas day festive buffet, no evening quiz – not even a slice of Christmas cake to brighten up their day.
To kill time before they went to bed, they ended up playing cards.
Far from a festive break, it was more like an endurance test and the group looked forward to boarding their return coach home.
But their high hopes of a stress-free return journey were soon to be dashed.
Turfed off the coach in Southampton, they discovered they’d been left stranded. The taxi firm engaged to get them back to the Portsmouth area had pulled out, leaving them to make their own way home.
Trecia says they just couldn’t believe they’d paid the Market Harborough-based firm nearly £2,400 for a holiday that turned out to be a five-day shambles.
Lead group member Elsie dashed off a furious letter of complaint to Diamond Holidays and, after some prompting, she eventually received a laughable offer of £70 in vouchers for another holiday.
In the meantime, distraught Trecia wrote to Streetwise and asked for our help.
We approached the firm’s managing director Kevin Riley and said there appeared to have been a catastrophic breach of contract.
The holiday break didn’t remotely begin to meet the group’s basic expectations.
Given the circumstances, trying to buy off the pensioner group with a measly £70 worth of vouchers wasn’t an appropriate remedy.
The response came within days and it was far better news.
They were offered a cash refund of 75 per cent of the cost of the holiday.
A company spokesperson said: ‘We were aware that the customer was not satisfied with our original compensation offer, as we received notification earlier this week, prior to receiving contact from the newspaper.
‘We have since been in contact with her again and can confirm the matter is now closed to both the customers’ and to our satisfaction.’
Trecia says the group remained philosophical about their experience with the firm and hoped it might act as a warning to others.
‘It doesn’t matter how much cash you get back, as it can never recompense you for such a bad experience.
‘But we really can’t thank you enough and really appreciate Streetwise taking it up for us.’