It was my partner's birthday on the 10th of May so I thought what better surprise than to fly her to Rome for a few days.
We arrived in Rome just after 11 pm with just one hour until her 39th birthday. After waiting an hour for our transfer to the hotel, we arrived to find the doors locked and nobody on site. We phoned Secret Escapes only to be greeted by a voicemail explaining that the offices are closed and nobody will be available to take our call until 9 am, 10 am for us at the time in Italy. After trying the door continuously we began to attempt to phone all the numbers we could find for the hotel online. Only to get no answer. Eventually we gave up as we realised it was hopeless.
We ended up walking the streets of Rome with our luggage throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning looking for another hotel, only to find everywhere fully booked. Over the night we hailed several taxis and travelled to various hotels to find them all booked up. In total we spent over €200 on taxis and coffee and spent the night in the street.
A night experiencing homelessness in Italy’s capital, was not the desired birthday gift I intended to give her.
In the morning having found ourselves freezing cold, Angela’s feet with blisters, we got another taxi back to the hotel, and still no one there. We then phoned all the numbers for other hotels in the chain once again. Eventually, we got an answer. The lady said she would contact the owner and ring us back. We didn’t get a call, so I called her. She assured me the owner will ring me. He didn’t. So we went back to the hotel, and after buzzing the door several times we eventually got an answer. A gentleman buzzed us in, and after scaling the stairs with our luggage and explaining we have been out all night he said sorry it was his day off. He said he will call the owner. He called the owner who said the mix up was with Secret Escapes who canceled our booking. We were then told that they had no rooms available. At this point, we were stuck in Rome with no place to stay and return flights 36 hours away. On top of this we were supposed to be going on a Vatican and Sistine Chapel tour, also booked through Secret Escapes.
The owner and staff at the hotel were fantastic and managed to move things around to give us a room but it was three in the afternoon before it was available. Whilst waiting we met another couple who were in exactly the same situation. Again they had also booked through Secret Escapes.
Later we also discovered there was a third couple the day before. In their case the hotel managed to find them a room for one night and helped them find somewhere else to stay.
When Secret Escapes opened I eventually got through to their customer service team. At first they offered me £30 off my next booking with them. I tried as politely as possible to explain that having spent a night on the streets in Rome it was highly unlikely that I would book another holiday with them.
Eventually after speaking with her manager (who was too busy to speak to me directly), the lady offered me a refund for the one night hotel stay that we did not have. Eventually after some haggling they also offered to refund me for the excursion I paid for but was unable to attend.
Of course none of the above is compensation for ruining my girlfriends birthday. Neither does it compensate for spending a night in the streets of Rome with our luggage. However, Secret Escapes assured me they would be in contact to discuss further compensation. For now they assured me they will email to confirm everything discussed and action the agreed refunds immediately.
The reason I am making this public post is simple. Despite their promise, Secret Escapes failed to email me confirmation of the refunds they promised. They have also failed to make any refund into my account.
On a positive note, my partner did eventually have a good birthday despite Secret Escapes.
We managed to extend our flights directly with the airline and found another hotel to extend our stay. We then booked our own replacement excursions, however all in all the city break literally cost me twice as much. Not to mention the calls on my mobile to Secret Escapes 084 number. Having spent almost two hours holding and discussing this, I’m not looking forward to receiving my mobile bill.
I am so disappointed that not only have Secret Escapes failed to keep their word, they didn’t even have the decency to wish my partner a happy birthday and offer any gesture of goodwill.
As a small business owner myself, I find it inconceivable that an organisation the size of Secret Escapes can behave so unprofessionally.
Not only have they offered no compensation and no gesture of goodwill, they have also failed to provide a refund for a night in a hotel we did not receive and an excursion we were unable to attend through no fault of our own.
At this point in time, I would strongly advise anybody not to book a holiday through this organisation. I just thank god that this was a romantic break for two, and that we did not have the children with us.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend