No royal treatment at Royalton?

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The disturbing reports have been making the rounds on social media. Seems, in its inordinate haste to meet an artificial and self-imposed deadline, the good folks at Royalton have screwed up royally. We will not regurgitate the sordid details but, but to an unsettling degree, many who have had the misfortune to be guests at the Royalton give the hotel an unambiguous “F.” The complaints range from inconveniences caused by ongoing construction and installations, to soiled linen, unavailable amenities, hot rooms and so on and so forth. Of course, perhaps the most damaging complaint has to do with the aggrieved guests being underwhelmed by their Royalton experience. According to them, the Royalton delivered significantly less than it promised. Ouch!

Here’s what was written about the Royalton back in April of this year, just before the pretentious grand opening: “On the first day of May we already have 60 rooms booked,” Christian Langlade (generalmanager) said. “We already have well over 100 rooms on arrival on the 4th of May; so we are looking for record occupancy of well over almost 4,000 room nights guaranteed for the month of May,” he continued. This is despite major challenges faced in December 2018 when foreign construction workers hired to speed up the multi-million-dollar facility reportedly returned home after complaining about low pay, poor living conditions and being duped by the managers. However, in preparation for their May opening, Langlade said the Royalton signed 400 new employees on Friday at the Multi-Purpose Cultural Centre, 99 percent of whom are from Antigua and Barbuda. “It’s almost exclusively Antiguan,” Langlade said as he expressed his desire to incorporate the local community in the operation of the beachfront hotel. According to Travel Weekly, Royalton’s portfolio will feature six one-bedroom bungalows that will include “butler service, personal fitness and yoga classes, an infinity plunge pool, a hammock, a living area, a bedroom and bath, entry from a private dock, and a glass floor. “Resort amenities for all guests include reservation-free a la carte dining at seven restaurants, five bars and a cafe, free calls to North America and most of Europe, 24-hour room service, mixology classes, dance lessons, a spa, a casino, a Clubhouse Kids Club and the Hangout Teen Lounge,” the magazine detailed. And just as extravagant as the hotel, are the nightly rates of US $1,800.” [THE DAILY OBSERVER]

All well and good! However, be that as it may, here’s what a Steven Monroig had to say of his Royalton experience: “Do not waste your money or your time! There was no entertainment, no parties, the place was like a dead zone, water damage, toilets were backed up and the wait for the food was more than 30 minutes at each restaurant. The food was served cold. There were flies all over the food. The hot tub was cold at all times! Room service sucked! The only good thing was the top-shelf liquor provided.” [TripAdvisor]  
       Jimmy Cummings was equally caustic in his commentary: “I was here last week! The first day the power went out and a couple got stuck on the elevator for 45 to 50 minutes. This resort is nowhere near ready or should not be open. If you like 2-3 hours to eat dinner and 30-45 minutes to just get a beer/ drink, this is your place! It’s a beautiful resort, but the staff has no idea what they are doing! The coffee shop ran out of vanilla and caramel flavouring? The resort ran out of bottled water, champagne, ice for drinks, chicken at the restaurants, towels for the pool… & more. When their own staff tells you to leave a restaurant and go to the buffet after waiting 50 minutes because you won’t get your food for another 45 that’s a problem. I would not recommend. Maybe in a few years when they get things figured out!” [TripAdvisor]  
        John Saint’s review was not much better: “Stay as far away as possible from Royalton Antigua. This is currently a 2-3-star max resort!!!! It may be a true 5-star hotel in 2 years. Do not be fooled by the stock, photo-shopped images of this place. The idiots that decided to open this resort to the public, did so for cash and test dummies. Everyone that is currently staying in this resort, including myself, have been duped into this hell hole. This hotel is still under major renovation and construction. The so-called diamond club is total BS and a huge waste of money. If you need images, please feel free to email me directly and I will gladly send you proof. Everyone that I have encountered here has been angry and frustrated with various issues, which considering the money we paid, it’s understandable. Do not book any weddings or vacations in this place for at least a year or more. We booked this vacation based on false stock images, had we actually seen the real images of this place, we would have never looked at it. It’s not even worthy of having the Royalton name. It seems like this place was opened in a rush, due to money shortages. It is far from being ready!!! Do yourself a huge favor and read the actual reviews on google.”  [TripAdvisor]Good grief!

Another annoyed guest had this to say: Though the hotel itself is located on an amazing side of Antigua, the hotel still has rooms being constructed, i.e. installing beds, televisions to walls, etc. The staff needs to be trained better. Additionally, staff will try to sell you a “time share.” Hmmmm!

       To be fair, all the reviews were not unflattering. For example, a visitor from Toronto, Canada wrote on the aforementioned, TripAdvisor, “[I] recently returned from a week vacation with my family. The beach is beautiful – no seaweed or large rocks. The water is unreal. The dining experience was slower than expected at the Italian. However, Hunters Steakhouse was an opposite experience. Ask for Jesse, he was quick …” Another visitor wrote, “The Royalton is a great resort in beautiful Antigua, British West Indies. All the people there are helpful, but there is one person who stands out and made our trip special. His name is John Dee. When my husband had a medical issue he came to [our assistance].” And yes, there were many other guests who spoke in glowing terms of their experience at Royalton, especially the warmth and friendliness of the staff (kudos to our Antiguan brothers and sisters there), and the beach (we already knew that Deep Bay is a helluva beach). Actually, overall, on TripAdvisor, the rooms got a rating of 2 stars out of 5, the location got 3 out of 5 and service and facilities got 3.7 out of 5. Not bad.

        Nonetheless, the general consensus is that the Royalton was not ready for opening in May of this year, and the grand opening ought not to have been rushed, perhaps to dovetail with the administration’s political agenda. Notwithstanding the inevitable hitches and glitches in a new enterprise of this magnitude, what many guests experienced was beyond the pale, and it gives the Royalton a bad (unfair?) reputation. It will certainly take a while for the Royalton to get over the initial hiccups and bad press and live up to its promise of a five-star hotel in its own right.

Of course, we are rooting for the Royalton. Four hundred employees (most of them local) is nothing to sneeze at. The success of Royalton is the success of our many families and the economy writ large. But the Royalton must get its act together as a matter of urgency. The drip, drip, drip of bad publicity is most unwelcome and unhelpful.

     We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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