Hi I hope this is the right post for this. io have just come back from a ski trip and have had the most nightmarish of times. Owing to this I have typed this letter (6 pages long so sorry). Please could you give me any advice on where I stand.
Recently I organised a trip for a group of five to Borovets, Bulgaria staying in the Maline Village. This was to be our first skiing holiday and thus was recommended your company.
I found your prices very competitive and was comforted in the fact that your company is one of the largest Ski package tour operators in the UK.
On departure we were meet by a tour rep at Gatwick airport which I felt was a very encouraging start to the holiday. The outward flight went well and on arrival at Sofia we were meeting by a second rep who advised us which coach to board, which again left me feeling very positive for the onset of our holiday.
We arrived in Maline village in the evening and checked in, having been allocated chalet no.X. Initial internal/external impressions were good however approx 2 minutes later we began to identify serious flaws in the chalet.
On first examining the shower/toilet area I noticed that the door was made of wooden planks. Due to this a 2 cm gap had formed between the planks towards the upper parts of the door. We identified that whilst standing outside the bathroom area, anyone could see straight through into the bathroom without any hindrance.
I dismissed this problem as a one off and used the duck tape I carry on all holidays to seal up the gap (approx W60cm H2cm). A member of my group then attempted to use the toilet and discovered to everybody's sock and horror that it did not flush. Several attempts were made including pushing the solids using the toilet brush through the system to no avail. Due to the late hour at which the problem was discovered, we decided to address the issue in the morning.
We went to bed, 2 per a room and one in the living room bed (your winter ski brochure states that the chalet can accommodate up to 6 people) and on waking in the morning the person sleeping in the living room complained about the temperature in the living area throughout the night. I then attended the living room area and verified that this area was significantly colder then the rest of the chalet and not fit for sleeping in, let alone living in. (even though it was designed for 2 people to sleep in).
On Sunday morning I attended the reception area and informed the receptionist of both problems and she assured me that the engineer would address both before nightfall.
We went skiing and then to the "Meet and Greet" organised by the Bulgarian Reps at which they outlined the different activities we could participate in at a cost. They informed us that all the activities Inghams offered were at a discounted rate (up to 50% off) compared to what we would find at the ski resort ourselves and strongly advised us to participate. The Reps stated that they would take all kinds of payment and would provide us with a favourable exchange rates (during this I did notice that they were asking for payments in sterling even though the local currency was Lev).
We selected a few activities and our Rep requested we pay on Monday evening once he had sorted out the tickets.
advised me that no one was available to deal wi
Later on Sunday evening we returned to our chalet to find that neither problem had been fixed and that in fact the toilet base was now leaking water from where it joined the tiled floor. Due to the complete failure of this essential amenity I reattended the reception at approx 2200 hours and spoke to the receptionist who th the problem and advised that "someone would try to look at it in the morning". The receptionist also informed me that the previous 2 problems I had addressed had been repaired (which they had not been).
At this point I feel it's appropriate to mention that we had eaten out thus far and only two people had used the showering facilities.
On Monday morning all five of us decided to use the shower before we went skiing. After two people had used the shower we discovered to our dismay that the water went cold (Ice cold). While examining the shower I had the opportunity to discover that the shower curtain was hanging on for dear life (all but four of the holes remained connected to there hooks thus causing water to go everywhere. The other eight or so appeared to have torn away) and on further checks on the kitchen taps we identified that apparently the boiler had run out of hot water after about fifteen minutes of shower use.
We had no choice but to except these catastrophic failure in services and decided that we would address all of the issues when meeting with our Rep later in the evening.
Again we went skiing and returned very cold as the temperatures had been below -5 degrees. As expected the three problems identified had not been repaired. A temporary solution was devised for the identified problems, the duck tape remained on the door, I placed my bath towel around the base of the toilet to absorb the leaking liquids and we placed a bucket beside the toilet for the used tissue as we had no alterative other then to dig a hole.
I decided to prepare a hot snack whilst the other four members of my group attempted to have a shower. Your brochure stated that there were facilities for snack making however below is what I found;
3 pairs of eating knifes and forks
2 table spoons (not matching the above list cutlery)
2 pots (one pot unusable)
1 fry pan
2 bowls (both not matching)
2 tea cups
4 juice glasses (of which 2 were very dangerously cracked and binned immediately)
No cutting knifes
No chopping board or anything else you would expect.
During this discovery, at approx 1700 hours I was also informed that our chalet had lost all water pressure. We had lost both hot and cold water before I had obtained any for our snacks and during shower number one.
Considering we had only been in Borvets for only three days I was surprised at how much had already gone wrong.
We meet our rep at 1900 hours to pay for our activities and to raise the problems we had encountered thus far. First of all we elected to pay in Lev and he offered us the exchange rate of 2.85, whilst sitting beside the bureau de change which was offering 2.70. I queried why his rate was so high to which he replied his rate had been set by head office, which tried to favour all its customers. I then had to ask which customers it favoured as it wasn't any in Bulgaria paying in Lev's. The Rep of course had no response to this so we elected to pay in sterling even though we were in a foreign country with the national currency set in lev's (??).
Pavel was informed of all the problems we had encountered including snack making facilities to which he assured us that he would contact Maline village reception ASAP and address the problems.
We returned to our chalet and about 10 minutes later a member of staff knocked on the door with one very cheap eating knife which was completely blunt. I informed him of our requirements of a knife which could cut an onion, to which he informed me that they had none spare.
With the water down, unsatisfactory snack making facilities, leaking toilet which did not work, the gap in the bathroom door and the unforgiving draft in the living room, things were getting a bit much. I attended the reception area and address all theses issues again.
This time I was informed that no one knew why the water had stopped working for the past five hours but steps were underway to repair the problem. As for the problems around the chalet, the receptionist claimed that he knew nothing about them however would flag it for the engineer to look at in the morning. Finally in relation to the cutlery, or lack of it, the receptionist invited me into the store room where I only successfully managed to obtain two army bowls, now allowing us to all have soup together (one person eating out of the pot). I left the reception very unhappy, hoping that The Rep had not yet left so I could again speak to him again however he had gone by the time I reached.
The following morning the water was working again so we all pilled into the shower, again with the hot water running out after a mere 15 minutes at most. We went skiing and on return to our chalet, none of the problems we had addressed several times had been fixed. In the evening we attempted to cook dinner however when examined the inside of one of the cooking pots I noticed it appeared a bit rusty/flaky. I touched it to check whether it was dirt and received a very deep painful metal splinter in my left index finger. Being mindful that the metal in the bottom of the pot was specially coated I feared I may get an infection and owing to this spent the reminder of the evening trying to extract it (to no avail).
In the morning I attended the reception again as my finger had now become painful and requested a doctor. The receptionist and several people who I believe to be her friends laughed at me and began speaking in Bulgarian. The receptionist then removed a needle from a dirt tin, took my finger and removed part of the splinter without sterilising anything. The entire episode was very painful, however before leaving I pointed out all the problems in our chalet to which I was informed that no one is available to deal with them at present.
Later in the evening (26/01/2005) I attempted to readdress all the issues with The Rep however he failed to answer his mobile phone. By the time we return to Maline village he had left, and still none of the problems had been addressed.
At this point I should mention that we discovered that if we filled a large bucket with water and poured it in to the toilet, all the solids and waste would flush away. Although not everyone in my group agreed with having to do this and opted to use the toilet in the on site bar, some of us found that it's a means to an end.
On the evening of the 27/01/2005, during one of the organised activities I meet The Rep and informed him that none of the issues had been address which I raised with him on Monday to which he stated "Don't worry, I'll deal with it". On returning to the chalet, once again nothing had been repaired.
In the morning of the 28/01/2005 our chalet had once again lost both hot and cold water. I attended the reception to address this and ALL of the pervious listed problems to which the receptionist replied "What do you want me to do about it!". Fortunately we would only be in this country for another day, and it was painfully obvious that neither the village maintenance staff nor the Inghams reps were actually prepared to do anything, so I bit my tongue and left.
Finally it was Saturday the 29/01/2005, we never thought we would be so relived to leave any holiday but we were. I waited patiently beside the coach when at approx 1530 Hours a female rep approached us and informed us that there was a problem with our plane and that there was a high chance that we would have to use a airport near the Black sea.
As far as my group were concerned, as long as we had a working toilet, we were happy to go anywhere. For some unknown reason we were still taken to Sofia Airport arriving at approx 1700 hours. We all passed through security and waited patiently beside gate 3 as shown for our 1930 hours flight back to Gatwick. 1930 (hours) came and passed without a single word from anyone employed by the airport or agent reps. Tempers began to boil as not only were adults waiting, but also in excess of at least 100 children. We along with other passengers began to gather at the security check point demanding an explanation of what was going on. The airport police shouted at us to get back as if we were in a riot situation and made no attempt's to inform us of what was going on.
Shockingly we then noticed the airport staff INCLUDING the Reps cowering behind the far side of the airport watching us (about 100 metres behind the security guard) and as we shouted out to them for some assistance they walked away.
At this point a number of passengers were becoming very drunk as duty free along with a bar were still open. This was followed by loutish behaviour, and as the entire terminal had been evacuated of all staff, these people had free access to the computers and announcement system.
Shortly afterward followed announcements by the drunks and hooligans who were shouting and swearing over the speaker system. I could also see a number of passenger's playing card games on the terminal computer systems.
It felt like the May Day riot, and the most shocking, the most disgusting thing about all of this was that our Rep's was still cowering behind the security guard and could clearly hear all of us shouting at them for information. This continued up until about 0100 hours when an announcement was made that our flight had been cancelled and that we were all to be moved to a hotel. At approx 0130 Hours we left the boarding area and met our Rep who appeared very pale. Several requests very made for food and water for the young which all fell on deaf ears. We were then advised that the passengers staying in the Rila hotel will be moved first (to a high class hotel) and then the rest of us would be accommodated.
For the next hour or so we waited for more news whilst The Rep sat and waited in the warm security office.
At about 0230 Hours we removed our luggage ourselves, which by now was wet due to the length of time it had been exposed to the snow. We were then conveyed to Parks Hotel where The Rep had ordered pizza. Unfortunately he had not ordered enough for everybody and the delivery man was stormed by hungry passengers causing him to surrender the pizza which was still not enough to feed all the children let alone adults.
We made our way to our allocated rooms (three rooms for my party) and found that in every room the bath rooms was absolutely disgusting (see enclosed pictures). In one of our rooms the crack between the wall and window was so wide that snow had gathered on the inside window ledge. All of the rooms had dysfunctional heating and due to this, we requested a room change at about 0400 hours in the morning which was refused on the basis that no rooms were apparently available.
We bedded down for the reminder of the night, sleeping through breakfast. We went to lunch at 1230 hours and found that all the food had already been put out, however due to our hungry we sat and attempted to eat the barley warm food. Whilst at the dinning table I had an opportunity to take a picture of food laid on a table for almost 20 minutes before anyone was seated.
After lunch we found out that our flight was leaving at 2350 hours (even though First Choice had there customers out by the morning) and that no further meals were to be provided. I had no money and the hotel money exchange desk was closed. At 1630 hours I contacted The Rep who advised me that they have liaised with head office in London and have been advised that no further meals or anything else was to be offered. Owing to this we had to borrow money to eat.
We finally flew out an hour late and arrived in the UK at approx 0230 hours (GMT). Due to the late hour we then had to take cabs home at our own expense, as nothing had been arranged by your company.
I wish we could show you how bad we were treated. We feel that these words barley touch the surface and also strongly feel that our entire holiday was wreaked. To add to this, we all suffered substantial financial loss due to the loss of earnings and other expenses sustained. We believe that your comapny systemically failed in its responsibilities towards us from the on set. For such a large company, procedures and re-active plans should have been in place for occurrences such as the ones we experienced however it is all too evident that this was not the case.
Due to our completely ruined holiday owing to your company, I have taken advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, and am submitting this letter which in the 28 day period of requirement.
I would suggest you contact Ros Fernihough 01922 621114 who is a travel law solicitor as she will give you free advice regarding your complaint.
Let us know how you get on and good luck.
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