Archive for October, 2010
My wife and I spent our first few days in Nassau relaxing. laying on the beach, and basically chilling out. We had planned on doing nothing for those first few days, and that is exactly what we did.
But our third day in Nassau would be different, a day we had looked forward to for ten months!
Last year we ate incredible seafood at Twin Brothers Seafood & Steakhouse at Arawak Cay. Arawak Cay, a,k,a, Fish Fry, is an area of seafood restaurants, one next to another. Some are nice with indoor seating, others are little more than a small kitchen with picnic tables in front. We ate at Twin Brothers last year and enjoyed it so much that we ate there three times in four days. We could hardly wait to return!
But there were some issues. Before we left on the trip I visited Trip Advisor to read recent reviews of Twin Brothers, and what I found was troubling. While some reviews were positive, others were horribly negative. Several reviews talked about how bad the food was, how poor the service was. One reviewer talked about how he did not enjoy the cockroach races! My wife and I talked about this and it made no sense to us, we loved the place! So, to heck with the reviews, we decided to go there and once again enjoy great food as we had done the previous year. Last year we ate there on my wife’s birthday; this year we’d be there for our wedding anniversary! It turned out to be a very bad decision on our part.
We arrived at Fish Fry and found that the two-story-tall Twin Brothers we ate at last year was closed for refurbishing; not a problem though, it had moved to a smaller location just a few doors away.
We went in and were seated at a booth. We looked at the menu, but really did not need to since we already knew what we wanted. I ordered conch fritters as an appetizer, then cracked conch with rice and plantain as my meal. My wife ordered lobster tail with rice and a baked potato. For our beverage we each ordered a piña colada/strawberry daiquiri.
Our first problem came when we got our drinks. Instead of getting the wonderful swirled drink we got last year (see the photo in my article from last year) we got a cup with piña colada on the bottom and strawberry on top. In other words we had a half glass of strawberry flavored beverage on top of a half glass piña colada. This was not what we expected but we were more hungry than we were thirsty, we knew our food would be great, so we did not say anything.
The waitress brought our conch fritter appetizer and it was wonderful! Sadly, everything went rapidly downhill after that.
My wife got her lobster tail and had an immediate problem. The lobster was so dry, so tough, that she could not cut it with her knife. She called over the waitress and said “This is so tough I can’t even cut it.” Without missing a beat the waitress replied “Okay, I’ll get you a sharper knife.” Wrong thing to say to my wife.
“This is lobster jerky! If this is so tough that I can’t even cut it with my knife there is no way I’ll be able to chew it, I want another one!” The waitress thought about it for a moment and agreed to get her another lobster tail.
In the meantime I tried my cracked conch. I hoped for the tasty treat I had the year before, but was sadly disappointed. This tasted as if it had been breaded in flour with no extra seasoning. I did not know conch could taste so bland, but this did.
They brought my wife another lobster tail and it was better; not good, but certainly better. At least she was able to cut this one with her knife.
Her steaming baked potato, wrapped in aluminum foil was her side dish. She sliced through it and then looked for the butter; there was none. She called the waitress and asked for the butter. In the States butter always comes with a baked potato. Does that not happen in the Bahamas or was this more bad service? We didn’t know but they did bring her the butter.
She spread it on the potato and tried to eat it. She found the center part of the potato was tender but the outer part was so tough that she could not cut it. Was it raw or burnt? We couldn’t tell, but the potato was terrible. It’s hard to ruin a baked potato!
While she was battling her food I tried my side dishes.
The rice was okay. Nothing special, but liked baked potato, it’s hard to ruin rice. The plantain however was so dry and tough that it was difficult to chew without slicing it into very small bites. Plantain should be moist, this certainly was not. While my wife had been served lobster jerky I had plantain jerky. I left most of it on the plate.
Our wedding anniversary dinner had turned into a disaster.
And then there were the roaches.
Early in the meal we saw a medium size roach run up the wall and quickly back down. This was daytime, roaches normally don’t come out unless it is dark, but this one did not seem to know that.
A few moments later we saw another roach, a smaller one run up the wall and back down.
And then the third roach was the smallest of all. But it was on my napkin! I quickly smashed it.
At this point I made a great mistake. I should have demanded to speak to the manager, but by now we were so disgusted by the bad food, bad service, and roaches that we just wanted to get out of there! We paid our bill and left.
We took the bus back to our hotel; when we boarded the gentleman in the seat across from us asked if we had liked our dinner at Fish Fry. We quickly let him know how miserable it was.
He took out his business card, wrote a phone number on the back, handed it to me, and said “I hate to hear that. It’s important to us that we take care of the tourists who are our guests. Call the number on my card; that is the Tourism Ministry. You won’t get an operator at that number, you’ll go straight through to someone who needs to hear this story.” We thanked him for that information.
He also recommended we come back to Fish Fry and eat at Goldie’s restaurant. We did that two nights later and had a wonderful meal; more about that in another post.
On Monday morning I called the Tourism Ministry and told the lady how bad our trip to Twin Brothers had been. She was shocked, apologized several times, and said that I would not only get a formal letter of apology from the Minister of Tourism, but that a ministry representative would come to our hotel the next day to apologize to us face-to-face. I thanked her, told her that was not really necessary, but that I hoped something could be done about the roach problem. “If you see three roaches, there are hundreds and hundreds more in the wall that you don’t see.”
She agreed and promised to send an environmental team to do an immediate inspection.
The next day was our last full day in Nassau and we spent most of it on the beach. When we got back to our room late that afternoon we had a message from the Tourism Ministry. I returned the call and spoke to another official. She also apologized, told us that an environmental inspection had been scheduled, and she hoped we’d return to the Bahamas. I thanked her for the call.
I don’t know what happened after that, if the inspection took place or what the results were. I do know this however; you need to STAY AWAY FROM TWIN BROTHERS!
Last year my wife and I had a wonderful eight-day trip to Nassau in the Bahamas; we liked it so much that we agreed to return this year. And return we did for another eight days.
We planned the same trip as last year: fly to Nassau on American Airlines/American Eagle, and stay at the Sheraton Cable Beach resort.
We flew from Austin to DFW, then connected to our Miami flight. That flight went smoothly until the pilot announced that a thunderstorm had shut the Miami airport and we would land 20 minutes late. The good news was that the weather had cleared by the time we landed; the bad news was that it had made a total mess of all departures for the rest of the afternoon.
We got off our AA flight and walked to the American Eagle departure area. And walked, and walked and walked. AE was at the far end of the terminal from where we had arrived, leaving us a very long 15-20 minute walk to get there. Once we did I saw that some outbound flights had been delayed by as much as three hours; then we sat down to rest after our absurdly long walk from our AA arrival gate.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 4 p.m. At 4:05 the flight originally scheduled for 1:10 departed, so things did not look good for us. Thankfully we started to board our flight shortly before 5 and were on the ground in Nassau by 6. After a short taxi ride we were in our room at the Sheraton by 6:30.
Sheraton upgraded us to a “junior suite,” so we had a spacious room. It was similar to the one we had last year but was higher up (6th floor) giving us a wonderful view from our balcony.
We were tired from the trip and called it an early night. When we woke up the next morning it was raining so hard that we couldn’t even see the beach. But storms don’t last long in that area and it quickly cleared giving us the chance to get some sun.
Once we got to the beach I noticed one thing: it was virtually deserted. I counted less than three dozen people on the entire beach. This being hurricane season many people stay away from the Bahamas, so many that the Wyndham hotel and casino next door shut down for the entire month. We had no problem with this, we were glad to be away from the crowds.
We rested on the beach, enjoying the warm weather and sunny skies. We had several events planned for the trip, including eating some great seafood, swimming with the dolphins, and visiting the Atlantis resort. More on those in the next post. But on our first two days, we were happy just to lay on the beach and relax.
Everyone knows that airport security has increased dramatically since the 9/11 attacks, and things that we could once take on an airplane, such as a six-ounce bottle of mouthwash, are no longer allowed. My wife and I were surprised though to find that she had something in her carry-on bag would cause such a stir that she would be detained until the explosives experts could investigate!
We were flying home from Chicago Sunday after attending a two-day FlyerTalk seminar on mileage runs, hotel loyalty programs, etc.
My wife had an ACE™ bandage in her bag. You’ve probably seen these for sale at your local drugstore. They are made by 3M and are a reusable cold compress that can help any part of the body that needs cold therapy. Suffice to say, they are pretty innocuous, or so we thought.
We were going through the TSA security check-in at O’Hare: this was my first opportunity to go through the full body scan X-ray machine. Mrs. Happyflier went through first and I noticed they they had pulled her over to the side and were examining her with the wand. Then they had a female agent give her a pat-down search. Very odd!
And then the female agent called for a supervisor. Now I was puzzled and wondering what the heck was going on. I was surprised to find out what the problem was.
She had an ACE bandage in her carry-on and there is apparently something in that product that looks very troubling to the TSA staff. They had my wife set it on the counter, ran it through one of their machines, and then announced that could not release my wife until they had called in the explosives experts came to examine it further.
Explosives experts for a cold compress? Yes.
So we stood there for 10 minutes and finally the men from the bomb squad arrived. Thankfully they were not dressed like the soldiers in the movie The Hurt Locker. Instead they were wearing slack and shirts that said “Explosives Expert” on the front.
They spoke with the supervisor, then put on plastic gloves and carefully started to examine the compress. They read all of the writing on it, terrifying phrases like “Helps stop pain and swelling.” They carefully pinched it. They gently poked at it. They finally picked it up and, with great care, gave it a squeeze.
And then they called for the supervisor. He showed them the two printouts from the machine that had initially examined the bandage. They read them with great care, pointing out various numbers that were right on the edge of the allowable limits. This went on for several minutes.
Then they called the supervisor again and spoke with him in whispered tones. After a minute of this, the senior explosives person said, “We have no problem releasing her with this if this was the only item that caused an alarm.” Thankfully, it was.
They wished us a nice day, and released my wife and her bandage. I must say the TSA staff was very courteous, very professional; apparently an ACE Bandage is a threat, but not a big enough threat to cause a lock-down or have have her removed and taken to a private area.
Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? Yes. Don’t bring an ACE Bandage or similar items in your carry-on bag the next time you fly.
You’re getting ready to make your hotel reservations for your trip. You’ve always enjoyed a nice view from your room, and wish there was a way to know in advance what the view from the hotel was like. The Starwood group (Sheraton, Westin, W hotels, Four Points, St. Regis, Le Meridien, and aLoft hotels) has a solution.
Their Room With a View website offers real-time webcam views from many of their hotels around the world. Some of the views are pretty dramatic:
- The Westin New York At Times Square offers a wonderful view of the Empire State Building.
- The Grand Mauritian shows their beautiful property.
- The Sheraton Park Tower, London provides a view of the London skyline including Big Ben and the gigantic London Eye Ferris Wheel
- The Cervo Hotel, Costa Smeralda Resort in Sardinia, Italy has a great view of the luxury yachts at the Piazzetta
- Few views can be as dramatic as the view of the Mirabell Palace from the Sheraton Salzburg Hotel in Austria
Note all of the webcams are up and running; many of the sites give a “Coming Soon” message.
As more sites come online, the Room with A View product can only get better. This is a concept whose time has come. Bravo to Starwood for putting it in place!