A July 2004 trip
to Caye Caulker by carolbloom
Quote: Belize Odyssey Resort is located on a desolate patch of bare land bordering on an airstrip, a garbage dump and a cemetery, far from other habitations. This is only the beginning of its problems.
The rest are generated by the owner, Tony Vega, and other members of his family – one of the oldest, richest, and most detested by their fellow citizens on Caye Caulker. One might easily be taken in by his charm, intelligence, and good looks, as we were at first. He leads with what appears initially as generous hospitality. But we soon learned how superficial these qualities are. Three days into our planned and pre-paid three-week vacation, Tony disappeared without notifying us, knowing that we two women were the only guests on the property, with laborers working on the construction of his new luxury hotel, and without even a telephone to summon help in an emergency. The first night under these circumstances, a man waved to us from the roof of the unfinished building. Friend or foe, we had no way of knowing. We left a message on Tony’s voicemail to communicate our consternation over this situation, but there was no reply by messenger or note. The maid, a hard worker and kind person, was our only source of reassurance and information. We introduced ourselves to the night watchman and awaited Tony’s return on the following day, as both the guard and the housekeeper led us to expect.
By the third day under these circumstances, we were upset and angry about having been abandoned in this way. That evening we noticed Tony’s sister on the property. (We had been introduced to her and their elderly parents the night of our arrival at the Vega Inn, which they operate in town.) Finally it looked like we’d have an opportunity to express our dismay and to get information from a family member. Instead of receiving a sympathetic hearing and response, Maria dismissed our concerns in sarcastic terms and mocking gestures. No appeal to reason, common sense or empathy tempered her remarks or tone. Worst of all, when we referred to the maid’s understanding of our distress, she became enraged and threatened to fire her.
Tony returned the next day. We waited for an explanation or apology, but he made no reference to what had transpired and behaved with his customary charm. The next day the maid told us she’d been given notice of termination as of the end of our stay.
A couple of days later, Tony disappeared again with no notice. This time I reached him on his cell phone. He said that he was off the island, that someone (to whom we had not been introduced) would be on guard duty at night, declined to continue the conversation, and said we’d talk the next morning upon his return.
By then, at least half a dozen local people had recounted to us their own bad experiences with members of the family, especially Maria. Their reputation for contemptuous attitudes, misleading advertising, and mercenary business practices was well known. We decided to forfeit the money we’d paid for the remaining week (evidently, the highest price for lodging on the island) and move to another hotel. We, ourselves, would give the maid some kind of severance pay, as she would now be unemployed, cut our losses, and salvage our vacation. Tony was in his office when we went to inform him of our decision. No more "Mr. Nice Guy," he repeated his sister’s accusation that we were "paranoid," insisted that he owed us neither notification of his absences nor even any introduction to the night watchman, and denied any responsibility for our distress.
We moved to the Seaview Hotel on the beach. It had neither A/C nor TV, but unlike the Belize Odyssey Resort at more than twice the price, the room had chairs, hammocks on the deck, a garbage-free beach, and a host whose smile reflected a genuine interest in providing a safe, friendly, accommodating environment for her guests.
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