March 19-26... and then the 27th and then the 28th and finally home on the 29th, 2011
Since these pages are really my version of a personal photo album, I've decided to set the width to 1680 pixels
The view of the Kura Hulanda resort from the dive boat Sea Lion. The ocean front rooms are on the left, the public beach is in the middle with restaurants and pool area above. The dive operation (Ocean Encounters West) is on the right.
Hart's Curaçao Pictures
Underwater Pictures in Landscape Format
Underwater Pictures in Portrait Format
|Getting from the LA area to Curcao and back is a
pain. We left our home in Santa Ana before 3 in the morning
and arrived at the resort about 9 pm. Because of the long
travel time, we had opted to go Saturday to Saturday instead of
Sunday to Sunday as our friends from Toronto were doing (5 hour
direct flight!). Our friends, Hart and Rayanne, were using the
Canadian travel agency Squba Holidays so I opted to use them too.
They did have a dynamite room rate for the Ocean View rooms (about
$1600/person including diving), but my experience with Squba
Holidays was painful, and that's being kind.
After first arranging the trip I would go several days or even weeks with no word on whether the flights or resort was booked. Finally, everything was booked (and my credit card charged me an additional 3% foreign transaction fee) and all seemed good. Upon arrival at the resort, we discovered that Squba Holidays had forgotten to notify the resort that we were arriving on Saturday instead of Sunday. They had notified the airport shuttle and the dive operator, but not the resort. Fortunately, Kura Hulanda had a garden view room available and we went there for the night. Having experienced both the garden view and ocean view, the price delta is worth every penny to stay in the ocean view.
My experience getting a refund from Squba Holidays for the 1 night in the down graded room was not so pleasant either. After being assured that they would take care of the price delta, I had to remind them a couple of weeks after I returned. It sure would have been nice if the check was waiting for me when I returned. Then, for some reason, they wouldn't tell me in the email how much they were sending. I'm an engineer. I knew when I was in Curacao how much they owed me. Since I had been given quotes for both rooms I knew the price delta for two people was about $85 USD. So why did they send me a check for $68? Well, they refunded the delta in THEIR rate, not what they charged me. What a great business model. Charge retail, refund wholesale and pocket the difference. Another email by me citing the price quotes and asking why the $20 error in their favor and I'm told the cheque is in the mail.
At the end of my stay, the excitement continued. The pre-arranged shuttle was going to pick us up for the 45 minute ride to the airport only 2 hours before departure time. As we were calling them to get picked up earlier, we discovered that the flight had been canceled due to a fire at the Miami airport. You know how everyone says it's best to have a travel agent when things go bad? I couldn't tell the difference. There was nobody in the office on weekends and when I did talk to Squba Holidays their only suggestion was to hold on to the receipts. The resort was fully booked and even though we had been erroneously booked through Sunday, the resort now insisted they had no rooms and we had to go. Again, I got no help from anyone. Just another reason I never use travel agents. There's just no pay back.
I eventually activated Skype and rebooked my flight and arranged a hotel in Miami. I again had a problem with the shuttle picking me up early enough (two days of flights had been canceled and I had no seat assignments so I wanted to get to the airport early). Negotiations with Squba Holidays and the shuttle company went nowhere so I booked another shuttle with someone else. I'm happy I did.The diving was way better than I expected. The resort was very good. We all had a great time and I'm glad I did it. Best employee at KHL has to be Harol (sp?) the bartender from Columbia. He was a hoot and exactly what I needed there! Bryan at Oceans Encounters West was awesome. I enjoyed every conversation with him. He was also the best dive master (nice and slow) although Dirk was his equal. When Dirk was on the boat, we knew we'd be pampered with drinks and eats. On the days when Steve & Pol (and no Toeki) were on the boat, we would sometimes have to change our own tanks and the food or water would be brought around once. Toeki always made sure to change the tanks.
The staff at KHL were, for the most part, incompetent. They tried to be nice but were totally incapable of resolving any issue. For instance: When we checked in it took maybe 15 minutes for them to discover my reservations started the following day. Seems like a long time. No problem. We were then sent to our "temporary" room... without so much as even a key to enter with. We then went back, got the key and ate dinner. We got a call after dinner where they said since we were not "checked-in" I needed to go back to the restaurant and pay the tab with a CC. I went back to the front desk and asked what it meant that we were not checked in. After a lot of waffling, he said it was because we'd be in a different room the following day. Based on what I had seen with other guests, I asked if I had received EVERYTHING that a new guest should receive. He assured me over and over that I had. The next day after our move to the new room, I received the "new guest" package which included some ID cards and other things. To me, this meant I had NOT received everything and something the previous night was "hokey".
I went to the same guy later in the week and said I had apparently left my card key on the dive boat and could he let me in the room. After several minutes he apologized and said that there were no porters available and so he could not let me in my room. I told him to forget it, I'd climb in through a window. Unknown to me was that my wife had grabbed the extra key and I was able to let myself in. The previous day, my friend Hart had forgotten his key and the front desk just called the cleaning woman on her phone who let him in. In my case, he could have made a new room key and handed it to me.
When I was trying to find out how the refund would be handled for the night we spent in a garden view room, I asked the front desk. I was referred to Philip. I tried to meet with Philip but couldn't seem to hook up. I went to the front desk & asked for Philip. The nice young lady said she could handle whatever I needed. I explained everything to her and as she was writing it down I asked what she thought. She said she would send Philip an email and he would get back to me. Yep... what I said when I started talking to her.
The single 110 volt outlet in the room didn't work. Fortunately, I brought an adapter and a cord with multiple outlets.
Wireless was spotty. It had worked great in my garden room. We went a few nights without it at all in the ocean front rooms before my friend Rayanne complained and they power-cycled the router. Hart brought a cable for wired internet and couldn't get that to work either. Power-cycling the router worked sometimes. Other times I'd just go to the lobby for a connection. It remained a problem the whole trip.
The service in the Watamula restaurant was horrible. Rayanne and I ordered Eggs Benedict. I think it took 40 minutes to get them. Other times I'd have to get up and find a server to get us something.
When our flight was canceled, I think Philip could have done more to help us find accommodations. I felt like I was in a bar at closing time. It's time to go, I don't care where you go, you just can't stay here. I mentioned the apartments behind KHL (Nos Krusero) and his reply was essentially that Abraham is the competition and he doesn't send business there. He would only talk about KH in town and the All West Apts. What's it to him? He's sold out and at this point he should want to keep me happy so I will come back. He didn't do that. I only knew of the apartments because we had run into two unfortunate guys on the street behind KHL who had arrived on Curacao only to discover that Habitat had closed. Their travel agent put them in Nos Krusero. If I hadn't met them and known it was open for business (it's under construction) I wouldn't have enjoyed the rest of my stay as much. I wound up directly behind the dive operation and able to easily get together with Hart and Rayanne.
So, with all this you'd think I was unhappy. Not at all. I think I'm pretty easy going and it was an adventure. I doubt Kim & I would return to KHL just because we've done that resort. I'm not a resort person (only my 2nd resort... countless liveaboards and other dive trips). But I would recommend KHL and the Dive Operation in a second. If I were to go back, I'd seriously consider staying at All West Apts or Nos Krusero and opt for the drive and dive package from OEW à la Bonaire. I will undoubtedly remember this trip for the adventure and how easy it was to resolve.