As a seasoned mas player in Toronto (this year will be my 10th year in a row playing), I had a growing desire to experience what has been called by many The Greatest Show on Earth: Trinidad Carnival. Attending in 2013 would be the icing on the cake to a successful year in 2012, as it was the first time in a long time that I did not have any school commitments. After two long years of hard work, and no summers-off, this trip was important to me because I planned to use it to celebrate my graduation from my Masters program. Let’s just say I was way overdue for a vacation and more importantly some fun in the sun!
The first thing I set out to do in planning for this trip was secure accommodation and a flight. After reading blogs like Lehwego.com and the Carnival Connection page, I became aware that doing this sooner rather than later was important, especially with respect to cost effectiveness (Though not in my case). After contacting a few carnival “concierge” type business that were offering carnival packages, I had noticed TruDynasty, a local Toronto mas band, was advertising a trip to Trinidad. This was great news, as I was familiar with this band and aware that they previously organized group trips to other carnival abroad. There was an added sense of intrigue, when I read the description of the trip where the accommodation would be at the Hyatt Regency hotel. The pictures alone of the infinity pool, waterfront and rooms, in addition to the inclusion of the breakfast buffet and wi-fi access within the hotel, had me sold on the package.
At the time I had first inquired about TruDynasty’s flight and hotel package, I was informed the trip was at capacity and that I would be contacted if additional space became available. Being that I was eager in wanting to secure a place to stay, after a couple of weeks I decided to book a reservation with the Kapok hotel. I put down a $320 deposit and went and booked a flight through cheap-o-air. In hind sight, I wish I would have waited and not completed either of these transactions. I received an update a week or so later that space was available for the package deal, in addition notification that there is a hotel only option for people who have already booked a flight. Adding more salt to the wound, WestJet announced that they would be commencing flights to Trinidad. After spending nearly $900 on a flight I booked in August, I was hearing my friends and acquaintances getting flights for $600-$700!
My experience with cheap-o-air wasn’t a positive one, not only because of the price, but also because they notified me of a change to my flight a week or so before I was supposed to fly out. Such changes which had the potential to fog up my plans with my ride from the airport and potentially meant me leaving a day earlier or a day later, which according to them is something I should be flexible or open to do, since the change was made by the airline and not them. In the end, my flight got sorted out, and I had the time of my life (more on this in a future post.) I did however learn an important lesson, which though recommended highly by a friend to use third party travel agencies, based on my experience I doubt I will ever book a flight this way again. Primarily because I found there was a lack accountability in resolving issues, and also it being more difficult to make revisions to the flight. Next year I’m going to book with the airline direct (oh yes, I am already planning/thinking about next year and WestJet I have my eye on you)
Back to the hotel situation, I was torn between staying at the Kapok, or doing the hotel only option at the Hyatt. I heard great things about the Kapok hotel from my cousins who have stayed there a few times, however being that I had originally wanted to stay at the Hyatt, and considering the fact at the time I thought I would traveling alone (which ended up not being the case, as I had both family and friends in Trinidad for carnival this year), I reasoned doing a group trip with people from Toronto would be the best option. The down side however was I had already paid the deposit with the Kapok and on their reservation request form it states the deposit was non-refundable. Since I was cancelling my reservation in September and with carnival being all the way in February, I still inquired about a refund in hopes that they would have enough time to find someone to replace my reservation. The customer service woman was very nice, and advised that the best that could be done would be a portion could be refunded if the room was booked before December 1st. Fingers crossed, I hoped that would be the case (Long story short, it wasn’t and I lost that deposit. Womp womp). Fortunately, my experience at the Hyatt was phenomenal!
Stay tuned for more on my Trinidad Carnival Experience.
More to come on the Hyatt Regency hotel, Caesar’s Army AMBUSH, Scorch and Carnival Monday and Tuesday with Bliss