Things you should know if you are going to or considering Lifestyle Holiday Vacation Resorts for your vacation getaway.
LHVR Members, Former Guests and others with questions or comments can use our comment form at the bottom of the page.
Linda & I have travelled to a number of resorts in the Caribbean and elsewhere over the years. In 2014, visited the Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Resorts' complex in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. We were impressed with the place and the treatment we received. We purchased a "Platinum Supreme" membership in the Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club. This gave us access with member perks and discounted rates to various accommodations at the Lifestyle Resorts in Puerto Plata and affiliated resorts across the Dominican Republic and Mexico. It also gave us the right to pass these benefits on to our friends and guests. With this in mind, we launched www.winsomegetaways.com to have some fun; and, perhaps, to supplement our retirement income.
Since the launch, we have returned to the Puerto Plata complex several times. We now know Lifestyle better. We can no longer, in good conscience, recommend and send anyone to Lifestyle resorts. It could negatively impact our reputations even though we have no control or even influence over what Lifestyle does or does not do. We have taken down winsomegetaways.com and have replaced it with this site to alert people to the problems we've encountered. We also recommend you stay away from any of the Lifestyle or its affiliated resorts. Also, do not purchase any of their club memberships, our biggest mistake.
We have been informed by Lifestyle that the Lifestyle Resorts and their affiliated clubs are separate corporate entities which are independent of one another. When deemed convenient, this was used as an argument to deflect responsibility from one corporate entity to another or from the whole. This is akin to saying your heart and lungs and are separate organs and act completely independently for their individual benefits rather than together for the benefit of the whole. It stretches credulity. For the sake of simplicity, we refer to the individual corporations and the whole entity as "Lifestyle".
We last vacationed at the Puerto Plata complex during March, 2017. Our daughter and her youngest children accompanied us. It was meant to be an opportunity to showcase Lifestyle to her. Unfortunately, it turned into the worst vacation we had ever taken. In fact, the only vacation we have not enjoyed. We spoke about our concerns with several Lifestyle employees, other LHVC members, a shareholder and guests and concluded there are Corporate Level issues which ought to be brought to the attention of senior management for their consideration. We did speak at length with one management person who did seem to "get it". He would not provide us with contact information for any top level manager but did offer to act as a conduit to the Lifestyle CEO, his immediate superior. During late March & early April, as agreed, we prepared and sent him two detailed e-mails, based on contemporaneous notes, outlining our concerns. We believe he did forward them as promised. Shortly thereafter, he terminated further contact. Whether or not any or all our concerns had merit, we actually thought they would be welcomed as an opportunity to improve guest\member experiences and allow us to continue with Winsome Getaways. DEAD SILENCE! Mid May, we notified their Accounting Department that we had cancelled our credit card used to make payments on our debt. Finally, we got some attention. Their Customer Services Department then contacted us. We only received a recitation of what their practices were, a statement to the effect that there would be no movement on their part and the matter would not be taken to the most senior management. Customer Services never engaged in a respectful, mutual discussion or negotiation in an effort at resolution. We believed all along, resolution of our corporate level issues would require the involvement of top senior management. Accordingly, we requested Customer Services move this issue to top senior management for consideration. They flatly replied "no" again. Now we're at this point... a place we never wanted to go.
We have a digital "paper" trail backing up this site's assertions. With one exception, Lifestyle never attempted to challenge the merits of the concerns we raised. The exception concerned their "Failure to Honor Booked Confirmations".
Here are a few of the concerns we raised...
This is the most egregious issue for us. We had a confirmed booking for a 2 BR Presidential Suite. It was booked through the Lifestyle Holidays Travel Club rather than the Vacation Club. A few days before departure, we received a phone call to advise us we were to be bumped from the Presidential Suites to three studios in Cofresi Palm. No choice or reason was given. At first, I thought it was an innocent, regrettable mistake which should never have happened. Since then I have come to believe it was a purposeful decision designed to improve revenue or to benefit someone else. See later in this section and following section regarding why this conclusion was drawn. If so, certainly a lack of integrity. We believe corrupt as well.
Getting bumped was especially problematic because it deeply impacted our ability to vacation as a family unit. We were travelling with two small children who due to their age, require constant care and supervision. These children go to bed early. As a result, our daughter had to remain in the room with them and go to bed herself far earlier than anticipated. Having accommodations at the Presidential Suites would have solved this issue. At the Presidential Suites, a living room would have been available for us to visit and vacation as a family. It would have provided our adult daughter with a space to read and stay awake with the lights on, enjoying adult alone time without compromise to her children's safety. To address this concern, we proactively requested our three suites at Cofresi to have adjoining doors between at least two of the rooms. We were assured, both before arrival and upon check-in, that this request would be honoured. We even explained at length upon check-in why this was so important and given that we had already had our experience and accommodations at your resort unexpectedly down-graded. Again, this was particularly egregious, given that we had received accommodation confirmation before the trip had commenced. Upon arriving at our suites, we discovered we were not given any rooms with an adjoining door between them. We called the front desk to have this fixed and were told this could not be fixed. Once again, we had been let down. What was said and agreed to by Lifestyle was not honoured and we were left to pay the price. This vacation was meant as an opportunity for our family to bond as a unit, only to have that deeply impaired by promises not kept through no fault of our own. We repeatedly communicated our requirements both well-in-advance and on check in; all, to no avail or positive consequence.
Lifestyle insists their Vacation Clubs and Travel Clubs are completely independent clubs while at the same time sharing personnel, not sure if this is a simultaneous sharing or not. Nevertheless, they share practices in common. We decided not to have further dealings with the Travel Club but were concerned the Vacation Club would do the same. We requested a written guarantee that the Vacation Club would absolutely honor our booked confirmations whether or not for ourselves or our guests. Here's their initial response copied and pasted from their e-mailed response...
No, there was no notification on their confirmation to us to the effect they reserve the right to relocate any confirmed member and/or guest. Nor do we recall any such notification of previous confirmations. Also, such notification is contrary to our membership agreement. See below. Note they claim this practice as a "right" with no limitations regarding reason(s) for the relocation. Apparently; in their opinion, it trumps our right to have our confirmed bookings honored. We disagree.
After further pushing, Lifestyle "clarified" their practice. Verbatim from their response (note these generalities generally reflect those in our membership agreement)...
Under the conditions described in this clarification, we take no issue with the relocation practice. These issues had nothing to do with their decision to relocate us. After further contacts, the Customer Service Manager sent us an e-mail (19 June) telling us the relocation was necessitated specifically by flooding of the Presidential Suites due to heavy rains. This was the first time we were given the "reason". The Presidential Suites are located at the top of a hill; certainly, not ocean front. We were immediately suspicious. We went on line and checked the daily\hourly weather history from the booking date (30 Dec 2016) to the check in date (13 Mar 2017). During this 2 1/2 month period, there were scattered showers and episodes of short duration light rain mostly during January. There was one 2 hr+/- hour thunderstorm on 9 Feb. We have no doubt their sudden advice regarding the "reason" was a deliberate attempt at deception. Relocation due to flooding would have been permitted by our membership agreement. I suspect she (Customer Services Manager) came to the realization their practice of relocating people from confirmed bookings without just cause as outlined in the agreement, is not permitted by the membership agreement after all.
During our discussions, we raised parallels with what United Airlines did regarding the elderly man who was physically forced off a flight earlier in the year. United experienced serious PR problems as a result. The Lifestyle Customer Service Manager opined the comparison was "far fetched". We acknowledge the details were different but the fundamental issue is basically identical. Consider... a big, callous, corporation (United or Lifestyle) takes your money and confirms your booking for a seat on a particular flight or a 2 B/R apartment at the Presidential Suites only later to renege on their confirmation or guarantee. You have no choice in the matter and there is next to no compensation. Looks like a pretty good parallel to us.
My wife & I visited the "Tower" in hopes of finding someone with whom to discuss these problems. We were scooped up by the very salesman who had sold us the Vacation Club membership. Between him and his boss, their solution would be for us to spend another US$27,500 to have a Business Package added to our Supreme membership. The price was dropped to US$13,500 when they realized no sale at the original price. Still, no sale. Among other so called "benefits", this would ensure our previously confirmed bookings would be honored. No one should have to pay you to honor their own commitments. We call this extortion. What would you call it?
In addition to having our confirmed bookings removed from the list of bookings which can be "played with" (Salesman's words), the upgrade would enable us to lower our accommodations rates while increasing the "All In" per diem rates a bit to compensate. Apparently, there's some mechanism to send members the increase in per diems on check in. If available to one member, this option should be available to all members at no extra cost. After all, it doesn't cost Lifestyle anything. We have since concluded this could cost member guests more in the event the guest does not include the total cost of per diems in their assessment.
Another thing I dislike about the upgrade offered is the need for us to take money from our registered savings plan to fund this, lose investment income and likely bump us up to a higher income bracket (increased taxes). All this so Lifestyle can use our money to "give" us $5,000 in year 1, another $5,000 in year 2, all depending on sales volume and on a "use it or lose it" basis. Other funds to be provided us as well; but, all originally from our own pockets methinks. Sweet deal for Lifestyle, not at all for us.
The sales people basically admitted bumping in favor of the Chairman's Circle members or others takes place with a "That's business" comment. REALLY! At Lifestyle anyway.
The next time we visited the Tower for another purpose, we were intercepted by a staff member previously unknown to us. We ended up mentioning the "relocation" issue to him. We got the sense he was genuinely attempting to address our concerns and took us to the "Dome" to meet the person he identified as the Quality Control Manager. The Manager listened politely; but, unfortunately, did not even attempt to address our concerns. Instead of dealing with our issues, he started to promote an upgrade to the Chairman's Circle. Incredible! We explained we wanted to be able to send guests to the resort to our mutual benefit; and, this issue and other issues needed to be addressed first. We told him repeatedly that it is highly unlikely a member would entertain an upgrade while his immediate concerns are not being addressed properly. We left that meeting with nothing achieved, just aggravated. None of this makes sense. Perhaps, the staff member who delivered us to the Dome did not understand the role of this Manager. Maybe he knew full well and just seized an opportunity to get us in front of another sales person. We'll never know for sure.
We've been to quite a few resorts. Most, if not all, resorts will try to sell you something like a club membership or a timeshare. Lifestyle's sales efforts are far more aggressive and consistent than anything we've experienced elsewhere. They amount to harassment and don't stop once you buy a membership. The sales efforts start at check in and continue basically throughout your stay. They have honed their tactics to get you in front of a sales person. They'll tell you anything except their true intent. You can even tell them not to put you in front of a sales person and they'll tell you it's not a sales effort. BUT IT IS! These people seem to be everywhere. It eventually sours your vacation experience.
There are two natural streams emptying into the ocean. One is near the Serenity Beach. The other, near NV beach. In past years we weren't overly concerned since they ran reasonably clean. We did note a hint of odor which we attributed to natural bog source. This year, we noticed the NV Beach stream ran black with an odor unmistakably sewage. Yuch! One Manager we spoke with admitted both streams were sewers. He also told us they were untreated, municipal sewers and out of Lifestyle's control. True or not, it's still a health issue for resort guests. Perhaps, the resort should help the impoverished local community put in sewage treatment including tertiary (sterilization) facilities. Probably, too socially progressive for Lifestyle.
A sudden, brief discharge of black, stinking sewage suggests an operational upset of a sewage treatment system. Something the manager indicated doesn't exist; at least, not one operated by the local community. One does have to wonder just where the Resorts sewage does discharge, etc. The resorts' sewage volume would likely dwarf that from the surrounding community.
In our experience, Lifestyle's dispute resolution techniques can be summarized as follows...
Tell you like it is. Tell you it not going to be changed. Tell you to get lost.
There are other issues as well. We won't provide details. Here's a few.....