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Meeting Sam & Ella in Rhodes

A pretty gruesome story has come to light here in Iceland this past week or so involving a group of friends who travelled to Rhodes last month and contacted salmonella poisoning. YT has been following the story with substantial interest because it involves the same travel agency as is handling our upcoming Croatia trip.

It started with a report in the paper about this group of ten or so guys – friends around 17 or 18 years old who went to Rhodes on a holiday and all got sick with food poisoning. They were staying at a hotel called Forum Beach and had bought an all-inclusive package, meaning they got all their meals at the hotel. By all reports it was a horrific experience. They’d only been there for a few days when they fell ill and they spent the remainder of their vacation being sick as dogs up in their hotel rooms, trying to support one another the best they could. One of the guys happens to be the son of one of EPI’s colleagues and he described how awful it was to be at home, getting regular updates by phone, yet powerless to do anything – something most parents will be able to relate to. Apparently the rep from the travel agency who was supposed to be assisting the kids was completely ineffective.

So they come back home two weeks later and according to EPI’s colleague it was horrible to see them arrive at the airport, looking gaunt and sickly and some of them still shaking. [Anyone who has ever had food poisoning will know what I mean.] A couple of them reportedly went straight to hospital and some are still sick, with no way of knowing when, or if, they will fully recover.

The story hit the papers and included the information that a group of Swedish tourists who were staying at the same hotel had also returned home with salmonella poisoning. The travel agency was contacted and the paper ran a few quotes with their director, who claimed to be flabbergasted and said that they had never heard anything untoward about this hotel until now, nobody had ever complained and that had been under the impression that they were selling a quality product.

Two days later there was another report in the paper – an interview with a young woman who had stayed at the Forum Beach Hotel in June and had also contacted salmonella. She had become sick as a dog, had a very serious strain of the disease, was still sick, and doctors had told her that she had months of recovery ahead of her. She had been in touch with the travel agency about this, so their claims that ‘no one has ever complained’ was bullsh*t.

A couple of days after that there was another interview, with a man who had complained to the travel agency about the Forum Beach Hotel last year. His complaints were numerous, including that there was open sewage on the premises and there was concern that the handling of food was not sanitary. The travel agency had actually offered him and his travel companions compensation in the form of an ISK 20,000 credit [about USD 227 / EUR 159] towards their next trip with the company. So, in other words their claims that ‘no one has ever complained’ was double bullsh*t.

Like I said, EPI and I have been slightly preoccupied with this; however I’m not too concerned that we’ll have the same situation, for one very good reason: I never go on trips any more without looking up the hotels being offered on the TripAdvisor site. Which brings me to the main point of this post: making you, dear readers, aware of this invaluable resource – if you aren’t already. TripAdvisor is a website where real travellers post their experiences, photos, etc. of the places they stay at and ever since I started using it I’ve found it excellent in terms of providing sound and accurate advice about accommodation. They also have excellent forums for advice, questions, etc.

Of course when I read reviews of places like Forum Beach that are overwhelmingly positive I tend to get suspicious … the proprietors can always write something themselves under an assumed alias; however the negative reviews presumably will at least give people pause. Indeed, I wish I’d known about TripAdvisor when I stayed at this hellhole in London … but the fact that I did not led me to discovering this fabulous site, which is is the only silver lining in that entire icky experience.

IT’S AWFUL BLUSTERY OUT THERE RIGHT NOW

It’s windy and rainy and the leaves are turning yellow on the bushes outside. Pretty soon they’ll be flying off in this kind of weather. Isn’t this just the time to be going on holiday in the sun? Methinks it is. 12°C right now [54F], sunrise was at 6:28 am and sunset is due for 8:21 pm.

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  • pierre l September 7, 2008, 4:38 pm

    I followed the link to the review of the London hotel; the fascinating bit is that it’s number 135 of 204 in the popularity rating. I wonder what number 204 is like.
    I would have hoped that the sort of misrepresentation you mention would have been sufficient to get the travel agency prosecuted.
    I hope your trip to Croatia goes well.

  • hildigunnur September 7, 2008, 7:17 pm

    Oh, I wish I had known of TripAdvisor when we travelled to Italy, last year, would never have stayed here had I checked in advance. Never again. I even wrote a review on the hotel, when the pages were pointed out to me.

  • Professor Batty September 7, 2008, 9:11 pm

    I’ve used and even contributed to Trip Advisor (Embassy Luxury Apartments in Rekjavík) , what a great service! It really makes a difference in the planning of your trips, especially if you want something a little different than a standard room.

  • Karen* September 8, 2008, 1:01 am

    That reminds me – I still need to get around to make reports on the places I stayed in May. It was hard to find info on the two places we decided on in Iceland – there aren’t a lot of reports to go on.

  • alda September 8, 2008, 10:50 pm

    pierre – gah! I don’t want to know. *shudder*

    Hildigunnur – look at it this way: it’s like a rite of passage. Everyone has to have a horrid hotel experience at least once.

    Professor – Very good. We approve. It should be everyone’s civil duty to contribute. 🙂

    Karen – see above. 🙂

  • hildigunnur September 8, 2008, 11:50 pm

    hehe, I’ve had mine, then 😀

  • caroline September 9, 2008, 6:14 am

    Alda, be very cautious when using TripAdvisor. There don’t seem to be any controls nor independent reviews to prevent malicious and false reports. For example, one of the restaurants at which I work in the resort area near where I live has an horrifically negative report by someone posted on TA. The state that they got food poisoning there in February of a certain year. Alda, that restaurant has NEVER been open in February. And that’s just one example among many. So as with much on the web, proceed with caution and re-verify independently if at all possible. That said, your booking agency seems to be unscrupulous at best. I hope those horribly affected people go after that agency big time.

  • alda September 9, 2008, 10:36 am

    Caroline – very interesting point. Thank you.

    However, as I recall from when I’ve contributed, there are some controls – i.e. someone reviews the post before it is put up. So it’s not quite true that there are no independent controls. However, I don’t know what kind of criteria they use.

    I guess the best thing is to use one’s own judgement and discretion. Say, if a restaurant or hotel has received loads of bad reviews then you might presume that ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’, but when there’s only one, but lots of favourable reviews, then that will tell you something, also.

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