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RS Sicily Tour - First Hotel Nightmare

We made reservations for arriving at the first tour hotel, the Ambasciatori Hotel, the day before the tour started. We made this reservation the day after the hotel list was published. We requested a quiet room away from the street as we would be arriving late from another RS tour in Rome. When we checked in we were assigned Room #508 and I asked the desk clerk if this was a quiet room. He assured me that it was. We moved into the room and went to bed only to be immediately awakened by LOTS of noise outside our room. I got up and look out the door to find 6 or 8 people in a line talking VERY loud. Seems that they were lined up to use the only bathroom for the cafe and bar that was up one flight of stairs and had a common wall with our room. I called the front desk to complain and was told that the hotel was full so there was no place to move us that night but that they could move us the next day. The noise went on until at least 12:30 AM even though the front desk assured us that the bar would be closing at 11:00 PM. I can only assume that these folks were coming from the bar not the restaurant. The next morning I asked the desk clerk who had checked us in if he thought that Room #508 was a quiet room and he said that it was the only room left when we check in. I can only conclude that this hotel assigns rooms as folks check in with no regard for reservation requests. We were moved to a much more satisfactory room the next day. I have reported this event on my RS tour evaluation and I did mention it to our guide who said that the hotel had been told not to put any RS folks in Room 508.
I will be including this report on TripAdvisor as a warning to fellow travelers not to accept Room 508 when making reservations at this hotel.

Posted by
9592 posts

In most hotels, rooms get assigned to arriving guests the morning of their arrival.

When a room is reserved, the room type is blocked off but not a specific room. In the morning, rooms are then assigned. They try to honor requests but can't if they don't have what you want. It's possible that the only room available similar to the type you booked was 508.

A better room was available the next day and they moved you. This has happened to me a few times.

Posted by
1752 posts

Exactly why I’m nervous about tours.

Charlie, I know you have taken many RS tours before. Has this ever happened before?

Posted by
989 posts

This isn't really a tour issue--any hotel, even if you are traveling independently, could put you in a less desirable room and be unable to move you because they are full.

Annoying, yes, but nightmare seems a bit extreme.

Posted by
4533 posts

I can’t believe you’ve never had a noisy room before :). I call that good luck.

Posted by
79 posts

When we arrived early in Paris for our 14 day tour we had reservations for an upgraded room which we paid for but didn’t receive. After we complained and we finally received the correct room, which was frustrating for us. I guess they thought we wouldn’t notice.

Posted by
2266 posts

I would be hacked if the same desk clerk who assured me that Room 508 was a quiet room admitted the next morning that it was the only room available.

It sounds like it was their worst room and they gave it to the last party to check in. No problem with that if they're honest about it.

Posted by
104 posts

I was on a 10 day RS tour and all the rooms were very nice, except for one. This was in a historic hotel where all the rooms were different. I was a single and was assigned a tiny room with a single bed. There was barely room to turn around. The bathroom was bigger than the room. As a bonus, the room overlooked the all night bus stop. People screamed, yelled and sang all night long. I will NEVER again travel without earplugs. Live and learn.

Posted by
2876 posts

From my experience, hotel categories are guaranteed. But requests are just that, and can't be guaranteed, especially if you are arriving late in the evening. While they assign rooms early in the morning, they may have been reassigning some of those rooms during the day to accommodate requests by arriving guests. Annoying to get something other than what you asked for, yes. A nightmare? Really? At least you got an acceptable room after only one night. Not sure I would have gone to the extent of writing complaints to everyone I could think of.

Posted by
996 posts

I've had lousy hotel rooms around the world, just as I've had magnificent rooms.

One of the worst experiences we had was here in the States. We had a reservation. We checked into the hotel. We opened the door of our room, only to find it still occupied by somebody else. When we went downstairs to report this, the front desk didn't seem too concerned. I was disturbed enough that they had given me someone else's room key to make sure that I kept a chair shoved against the door all night...just in case they gave my room to somebody who arrived later!

OP - I know where your room must have been from the description. I would think it was probably noisy, given the location. And I do understand your frustration since you'd made a specific request, but hopefully the rest of your tour was fantastic!

Posted by
14267 posts

My experience with late arrivals at hotels is similar. The later you arrive, the more likely you are to get the dregs.

Posted by
2788 posts

I know that this reservation and its problems was not an issue that had anything to do with the RS tour other than when I made the reservation I stated that I would be staying at their hotel for the start of a RS tour and would like to be assigned a room that I could stay in during the RS tour stay. I have made similar requests numerous time over the last 15 RS tours (this Sicily tour being #16) and have never had a problem before. We have had several noisy rooms before and have always carried good ear plugs. When I take out my hearing aids and install ear plugs, I am almost deft. That was not the case in Room 508.

Posted by
153 posts

When we went on our last tour, we reserved an additional night before the tour started and requested the same room, if possible. Over the course of our trip we learned others did the same. The difference was they were told they "wanted" to move after the first night to a different room. The front desk didn't mention that to us at check in, and we remained in the same room thinking everyone had a room where you put your legs under the sink to sit on the toilet. One "less than desirable" room or hotel is easy to deal with and makes for a funny story, but when we get multiples on a tour, it starts to affect our overall tour evaluation.

Posted by
75 posts

Thanks for the warning about Room 508 !
I will be there in September and will try to avoid that room.
Liam

Posted by
646 posts

I've always wondered when I book a RS tour hotel for nights before the tour starts whether I get the room type I requested and pay for (usually standard double) or the type of room I will have on the tour (single). Seems like the double rooms I get are awfully small.

Posted by
31 posts

And this is why I travel with a white noise sound machine. Reminds me, I need to order another one.

Posted by
5880 posts

Eric, my understanding (based on what a couple of hotels told me) is that they assume that you want the same room as you'll have on the tour, so you don't have to change rooms. Maybe dont tell them you're with RS tour?

Posted by
8198 posts

@ Tony - see if a white noise app on your phone will work for you. I use it quite a bit in hotels but I don't have a white noise machine at home so not sure if it's the same quality of sound.

Posted by
377 posts

mnannie, I completely agree and understand when you said “and we remained in the same room thinking everyone had a room where you put your legs under the sink to sit on the toilet. One "less than desirable" room or hotel is easy to deal with and makes for a funny story, but when we get multiples on a tour, it starts to affect our overall tour evaluation.”
This is our quibble with the RS model. With every tour we take, the percentage of poor rooms increases. As a couple we are essentially paying double the usual rate for that room. ( I have priced this out using the hotels’ websites.) We are lucky that noise does not keep us awake, but a sagging mattress and bed too small for two people does. Without sound sleep you are not able to fully enjoy the tour. Slipping on steep stairs or a water-soaked floor exiting a high, sloped tub/ shower adds actual danger into the equation. Being upset about spending a lot of money for these type of amenities doesn’t make me a grump. Mold on the window sills and rodent droppings in the bathroom are not “quaint”. They are health hazards.
We like RS. We support his company because we agree with his politics and world view. We continue to take his tours and use his travel books. That does not mean we won’t call out undesirable situations. I believe the RS company is focused on always improving the experience for travelers. Without honest, specific feedback they can't do that.

Posted by
2788 posts

In the 16 RS tours we have taken, we have only had two bad rooms. So, I guess odds were that we were going to finally get another one. When we check out the room rates at hotels were we are going to stay, either before the tour or after the tour is over, we have always found that the rate they give us after mentioning we will be staying there for a RS tour is less than their advertised price on their web site. I would guess that the RS folks pay even less given that they are assuring the hotels that they will provided some many room-nights a year.

Posted by
2266 posts

I always use TripAdvisor to find hotels in Europe. I look for the highest ranked hotel in my price range in the location I want. I had one pissy desk clerk in Torino, but otherwise this approach has served me well.

I would think that the buying power of Rick Steves Europe would put its tour groups in better hotels.

Posted by
3457 posts

How do you calculate that you are paying double for the room when you take a tour as a couple? No where is there a breakout of what each component of the tour is what percentage of the total cost. And even carefully subtracting out the cost you would pay individually for all the other activities included with the tour you can't conclude what the rooms cost the tour operator because they most likely get a bulk discount anyway. Don't forget that the tour company does have a certain percentage of profit added into the price as well. This is the same with any tour company.

When a tour company prices their tour, the price of rooms is split in half so it takes two people to fully pay for the room rate of a regular double room. This is standard procedure for every packaged tour, cruise, or any other travel arrangements which include rooms. That is why single supplements exist (although you can argue that since you get a single room when you travel single in Europe that probably costs less than a double room, the supplement can seem unfair). I know you can take your chances hoping no other single tour member will be on the tour to share a double room with you and not pay the supplement on many tours, but my success with that is very low.

Are the RS hotel rooms falling in quality? Don't know. I haven't noticed so far. Maybe I have just been lucky. I do know when arriving early with reservations pre tour in the starting hotel, I have been given the room I will occupy for whatever nights the tour will be staying there. Some have been better than others, none have been unacceptable.

Posted by
46 posts

We have found a really good solution to noise problems in hotels, whether traveling in the U.S. or abroad. The iphone app called White Noise is fantastic for blocking out noise. We routinely use it in every hotel everywhere. We choose the "Heavy Rain Pouring" sound and it works beautifully to block out noise.