Need Advice on how to salvage our Destination Wedding booked at the Now Larimar and Secrets RB May 6, 2015
We are having some serious issues with our current Travel Agent who has us booked through Transat Holidays.
In April of this year we contacted a TA to help us find our perfect Destination for a wedding in April or May. We asked for a group rate with a budget between $1500 - $1800 max, to the DR or Jamaica, and hopefully with a Karisma or AM Resort. We had just come from a 2 week vacation at the Generations Maya Riviera and absolutely loved the concept, however our number one priority, was an amazing beach to have a romantic wedding. We had been told the AM Resorts are equally as incredible, so we requested rates from both brands. Our TA responded by telling us there was nothing left to Dominican Republic and Jamaica would put us well over $2500. She did provide rates to the Hard Rock Cancun and it was her strong opinion that the rate at HRH Cancun was an unbelievable deal for the infamous Hard Rock Hotel. Her enthusiasm regarding the incentives was none other than highly recommending what an amazing deal it is. Additionally, she advised this deal would not be available for very long, nothing else will match it, flights accommodating a group will book up quickly leaving nothing to choose from, and the earlier we book, the better the rates. The $1800 credit per guest, the credit for 1 person’s trip for every 10 rooms booked (to a max of 3), and the wedding packages supported the added value and we reluctantly accepted the rate of $2200. We secured the booking with a deposit and began planning. We had 66 guests book and give a $150 deposit while some also upgraded air and room. Our guests agreed to terms of final payment in February 2015. We also had 6 people (2 groomsmen) find a package online to the HRH Cancun for the same dates at a lower rate, flying from their hometown, not a gateway, and our TA insisted she could not offer that rate. L
My fiancé and I went for a site visit to the Hard Rock Cancun in September and knew immediately it was not where we wanted to have our wedding. While it is not a venue for us, it definitely caters to a certain market wanting more of a party and public atmosphere, and with less than 30 guests. Our vision was a private romantic beach wedding ceremony with a reception and dance outdoors, while our guests also getting a relaxing resort vacation. Sadly, this was not the case as a 10pm curfew on anything outdoors (beach, terrace, or rooftop) meant we would need to move indoors to a banquet room, and the property is more of a hotel than a resort. The costs to set up 2 locations to have a wedding past 10 pm did not fit in our budget. There were several other reasons why we were not 100% sold on the HRH Cancun for a wedding or for our guests, however I must add that the WC Glendi and hotel staff were amazing. The service is top notch! The $1800 credit is an enticing incentive; however it wasn’t of great value to us once we were not happy with the hotel. I love the Hard Rock brand and my stays at Hard Rock Panama and Hard Rock Las Vegas were amazing, but as a “play hard” vacation, not my wedding.
So now onto our real issue…. While at a Wedding Trade Show in Edmonton, I ran into a few brides who informed me they are going to a Karisma or an AM Resort in April/May 2015 for rates well within our initial budget! I was very upset and knew I needed to react by doing my own due diligence. I contacted a TA that was referred to me by a trusted friend, as he specializes in Destination Weddings. His knowledge and service far exceeded my expectations while also answering my prayers that it was, and still is, possible to have our special day in the DR at the Now Larimar/Secrets RB at a reasonable rate. He also indicated that the rate at the Now Larimar should be lower than the Hard Rock Cancun and our booking of 30+rooms would be of value and embraced by the AM Resorts brand.
We contacted our current agent to request a transfer of venues and to get rates for the Now Larimar in May 2015. We also asked if our guest’s deposits could be transferred. Transat agreed to transfer the deposits to the Now Larimar/Secrets RB and Hard Rock Hotel Cancun accepted a cancellation. To add to our frustration we then received rates that were not in our budget, yet again, and higher than the HRH Cancun. We received rates for Land only and Air/Land package from Calgary and Edmonton. In order for our guests to have a lower price than the HRH Cancun, they are limited to the entry level Deluxe room, but only if paid by December 22, 2014. This is 3 months earlier than our previous booking terms to Cancun and has caused grief with some of our guests. We also have had a few of our guests tell us it is better for them to book online with another airline as it is at least $500 cheaper. Sadly we may be losing guests if we are not able to secure a rate that is in line with our budget and competitive. We have asked for our TA to release the file; however she is not willing to do so without us forfeiting all the guests’ deposits totaling $9600 stating that Transat will not transfer the deposits from one agent to another, and declaring deadlines imposed by Transat to make decisions within 48 hours. We spoke with Transat and another TA who confirm that the deposits definitely can be transferred but need the consent of the booking agent. We also have been informed that in many cases Transat will refund deposits 6-7 months out from booking, if the TA provides valid reasons why, and Transat has no reason to impose unrealistic deadlines threatening to lose deposit money other than at final payment dates = typically 90 days from booking.
I am having so much difficulty absorbing and processing exactly why our TA is not working with us to ensure we have our wedding and with 66+ guests? I am heartbroken, stressed, and yes angry now. I do not feel that a rate of $2452.25 per adult and $1726.25 for children aged 2, 6, & 8 in the entry level room for 1 week in May and in the Dominican is even close to our budget? Am I crazy? I ask very kindly for anyone booked at the Now Larimar for a group or wedding in April or May 2015 please personally message me to confirm they are also paying this rate. I am doing my absolute best to keep my fiancé from losing it any more than he already is, although I have agreed to his decision to seek further advise form our lawyer should we lose any deposit money or the file not be released. My nerves are shot as my relationship with the TA went from extremely positive, ecstatic, and appreciative to confused, frustrated, and disappointed. Not exactly how I expected this exciting time to turn out.
Desperately seeking advice….