Warning!: Honeymoon of a life time turned worst travel experience of a life time
This is the story of how we had our Honeymoon turned into a stress-filled few weeks by a company claiming to offer premium travel. BE WARNED.
We found Cascada travel after doing some research and they seemed to get good reviews.
After some correspondence with Fernanda, she provided various tour options we could do. During this process Fernanda was polite, helpful, answering our questions quickly.
We decided on two trips - Ecocamp wildlife safari and the Stella Australis cruise.
We chose the ecocamp 5 day safari which totalled more than US$4000 (superior dome).
Unfortunately this did not turn out as we hoped and we felt was a waste of money, terrible service and we did not receive what was promised.
We left for our honeymoon in Dec and while travelling between Chile and Argentina we received an email from Cascada on 29th Dec advising us that because of the dreadful forest fires inside Torres del Paine national park (that had started on 27th Dec) the ecocamp was still open but on alert, that they hoped things would improve so they didn’t have to evacuate the park but would update us as and when they knew more.
We sent Fernanda and the Cascada 24hr emergency team an email asking what this meant for us. Specifically, if the park was closed what options would we be given and could we claim a refund for our unused trip. They responded by saying “... wait till monday and see how the situation is doing and see if it well-worth to stick or not to the plan. The alternative is to cancel the trip and get in contact with Travel Insurancyour e and request for full refund due to this force majeure event at Torres del Paine NP.”
Our first clue something wasnt right...usually a cancellation by the company is the responsibility of their insurance, not ours.
On 30th Dec we received another email advising us that the park was being shut but they hoped it would be open by 3rd Jan so we could get in as per our booking. We asked what alternative options we had in case our trip was cancelled as we had also paid for a semi-private transfer with them to take us eventually to Punta Arenas to catch the cruise. They suggested other areas we could visit and that we had to make our own arrangements to get from El Calafate to Punta Arenas for our cruise. They again quoted the line that we should speak to our travel insurance company to claim the costs. We had numerous emails with them about this as this was not acceptable to leave us stranded when we had paid for the transfer services.
Take note that we still hadn’t arrived or received any of the services of ecocamp (already paid over US$4000) and the US$240 semi-private transfer, which they were now saying they would not provide!
On 3rd Jan 2012 we tried numerous times to call the various telephone numbers they had given us (none worked) so we could find out what was going on. Finally we got in touch and spoke to one of the Cascada staff who advised us that they would pick us up early the following morning from our hotel in El Calafate for the semi-private transfer to ecocamp. The driver arrived on time and we crossed the border without any problems. This is a service they outsource to another company.
To be clear, we were told we would be ON OUR OWN if the park was closed with NO options for travel to our next destination (booked with Cascada!) and when they did decide to honour their obligations for transfer they NEVER TOLD US! If we hadn’t found a local travel agent who kindly sent Cascada a text message we would NOT have known about the transfer at all!
When we arrived at the ecocamp office in Puerto Natales we met some of the staff who explained the current situation in the park. We plus approximately 30 other guests (who arrived soon after) were taken to a restaurant next door for lunch that they paid for.
We then found out that the park would not open until 4th Jan so we would all be put in a hotel overnight. We stayed in the “If hotel” US$100 per room for one night including breakfast. Cascada provided dinner at a local restaurant which was less than mediocre and offered no options - Remember we are paying $1000/night for these excursions so a 3rd rate dinner is not acceptable!
We finally got into the park on 4th Jan leaving us with 3nights (instead of 4) at the ecocamp. We lost over US$1,000 for the 1 night we didn’t stay in the ecocamp.
After an uninspired 3 days in the ecocamp (please read my other review on this – do not spend money to stay at the ecocamp) we finally left. Cascada drove us to the cruise ship’s office in Punta Arenas.
Since returning home we have spoken to our insurance company and, as we suspected, we are not covered for this sort of situation. They say that this type of claim is typically handled by the insurance of the vendor, not by private insurance so be warned when booking with Cascada as you may not be covered.
The hotel we were put in, the lunch and dinner they provided were not to the standard you expect for the thousands of $$ we spent. And worst of all the terrible customer service we received from the various Cascada staff was unacceptable. They were difficult to deal with, were not willing to compromise or offer alternatives and have stated to many other guests that they will not refund any of of us.
We learned by speaking to some insiders that it appears they do not have any insurance and are therefore deceiving innocent people who have saved for what was meant to be a great trip.
Be warned: Cascada is great at getting your money but then customer service is far from what you would expect for the money. They treated us (and other guests) with no care.
Please also read my review on the ecocamp before you book any trips using Cascada or stay at the ecocamp. Ecocamp is not worth the money. Save your money and stay somewhere with better value and staff that care.
(You can book the Stella Australis cruise directly with the company and this was one of the highlights - highly recommended! - just don’t bother booking via Cascada).