We recently finished a five-night stay at Xaman Ek, and it was pretty disappointing. As some previews reviews have noted, the owner, Mike, is just a very strange person.
But Mike's biggest problem is that he just doesn't know what good is. This is a very small operation, with two full-time women who act as cooks, housekeepers, servers and gardeners. They aren't especially personable, and we usually felt uncomfortable when ordering breakfasts (which was free, but I'll touch on this later) because the women always acted as if we were bothering them. Also, Mike spent much of his time trying to convince us that the on-site restaurant had the best food on the island. The food is average at best, and it's overpriced. Two bland sandwiches cost $25 US, and breakfast each day was cooked poorly, with ingredients that seemed to come from a can. They also frequently ran out of key ingredients, such as tortillas and bananas. Still, Mike said again and again that there was really no point in going to another restaurant, in San Pedro Town or near the resort, because very few places matched up with his kitchen. This, of course, wasn't true; we found some terrific places (Rojo, Ak'bool in the north, and Jambel and Blue Iguana in town), and the restaurant at Xaman Ek was firmly in last place among the places we tried. That didn't stop Mike from his unusual sales pitch. He went so far as to insist that the neighboring restaurants have tried to poison his guests just to even the playing field. How do you respond to something like this?
Regardless, we experienced our share of issues over those five days. The first 24 hours, though, were the most interesting. Here's a list of things we experienced in our first day on Xaman Ek:
- A scorpion in the bathroom towels.
- A broken air conditioner in one of the bedrooms of our two-bedroom suite. It was about 90 degrees each day, so the AC was a must. We tried opening the windows, but ...
- The screens don't fit the windows, and mosquitoes come through the openings. So, sweat through the night or itch? What a debate to have at 4 a.m. We switched rooms on the second day, which was easy because we were the only guests at the property the entire time we were there.
- The electricity went off for most of an afternoon. This was a problem throughout the northern part of the island, but when we asked Mike what the issue was with the electricity, he replied with: "Well, it's off" and offered nothing else.
- When we insisted on going into San Pedro Town, Mike encouraged us to use his friend, Armando, for the 15-minute boat ride in. This was $30 US each way, which is very expensive, and Mike said it was much cheaper than the water taxi (This is true only if you're going to go into town once. A week-long pass would've saved us a good bit of money). Armando dropped us off, and we ate dinner, saying we'd call him when we were ready to head back to Xaman Ek. I called him, and he said to meet him at the boat in 15 minutes. When we reached the boat, Armando was gone, and in his place were two early-20s men, who appeared to be drinking alcohol when we reached the boat. They took us back to the resort, but not before some apprehension on the leap of faith we were giving these drinking strangers long after dark.
- Before we went into town, Mike warned us that we should be careful in San Pedro because tourists are frequently offered cocaine. He said that if we so much as expressed interest, we would be arrested. I assured him that this wouldn't be a problem, but he warned us anyway.
- After two of us ordered breakfast on our first morning, Mike insisted that breakfast was not included in our deal. He argued with us, saying it would be an additional cost, until I asked him to pull our reservation. Sure enough, it was included, and Mike backed off -- but not before that confrontation.
- When one of our friends received her huevos mexicanos, there were two rocks in the black beans. Rocks. Mike said he was embarrassed but that "things happen."
Remember, this is just in the first 24 hours! Things did improve slightly after we confronted Mike with a list of these concerns, but the service was still very poor. Neither Mike nor the staff ever asked if we needed anything or if there was anything they could do to make our stay more enjoyable.
Yes, there are a few good things here. Scuba Steve, the property's contracted dive and snorkel guide, is amazing. If he or someone like him were part of the full-time staff, this property would be much better. The location is terrific and quiet, if you can come to terms with the fact that you're a 15-minute boat ride from the center of town. It's close to the Mata Grande grocery store, and you can either walk the 15 minutes south along the beach to load up on beers and burritos, or email them for free delivery. Mike does keep the property fairly clean. It's not perfect, such as a rusted and old refrigerator, but it's fine. It's because of these things that we're giving Xaman Ek two stars.
If it were based on service alone, it would be much worse. We enjoyed our time on Ambergris Caye, but only after we resigned ourselves to the fact that Xaman Ek wouldn't be the curve we graded it on.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
10 August 2010
We are very sorry that these guests did not enjoy their stay. The reason was they wanted to be closer to town and made the wrong choice of hotel and have chosen to lie about their stay because i did not refund their money.
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I picked them up in town and they checked in in the early afternoon. The electricity went off for about 2 hours in the afternoon. I explained to them how the remote location lead to power outages and the crews immediately went out looking for the fault but there was no way to know for sure the duration as we did not know the cause but usually the outages were corrected in a few hours at most. I also gave them a battery lantern in case they came home from town and it was still off. Fortunately it came back on before they left for town. It was not at all as they represented.
They, two couples, wanted to go to town as do some of my guests. On the first night I told them that most of my guests did not go to town that much and the $75 gold card was only worthwhile if you intended to go to town a lot. At their request I sent them to town the first night with Armando and told them that after they had seen the town they would know if they intended to go to town frequently or not. I told them they could return that evening on Coastal Express and if they wanted to buy gold cards they could at that time. They chose not to.
Regardless of what they say Armando was and is the best deal for 4 persons at $30 US each way and its an anytime charter.. They continued to request his services. One trip he was not available and I could find no one cheaper than $35 US and I will assure you his staff does not drink and drive.
The restaurant advice I gave was accurate but not as they stated, I referred them to several restaurants as its fun to eat at different places when you are on vacation. I never claimed that other restaurants poisoned my guests, that is ridiculous as they are all my friends and we do spa services for our neighboring resorts as well.
The first night they were here they went to town and did not return till late. The next morning they approached me in a very offended fashion and said the AC had failed in the night and the screens were allowing mosquitoes in and they had seen a scorpion on the floor of the bathroom and they wanted their money back. I told them I would have the AC repaired by afternoon and they said that was not good enough so I changed them immediately to another room where they stayed inside with the AC going for most of their stay.
From the first day they brought in their groceries as do some and did not use the restaurant at all except for the breakfast that is included in their room rate. When they checked in I mistakenly told them it was not included as I did not remember the rate they had paid. When they asked about it in the next morning I checked my records and confirmed that breakfast was included, took about 30 seconds. There was no confrontation or argument of any kind.They never ate lunch or dinner in the restaurant ever. They also never ate at Rojo's as the claimed. North Ambergris Caye is not the best place for a budget traveler. Usually my guests let me know if something is wrong and I fix it, as I did with these guests. They emailed me to mail eye glasses they left and told me how much they enjoyed their stay. The old rusty refrig is also not so.
Bessie has been with me for 10 years, long before I bought this place and Miriam for over a year. Bessie is an excellent well trained cook. They are very nice gentle people that have a lot of pride in their work as do I. The guests did find 2 rocks in the beans as the girls had missed them and they were very embarrassed at their mistake. Fortunately the rocks were very large and no one bit them. The stuff about poorly cooked food out of a can is just not true we make all our bread and tortillas and make ever order fresh with no prepared ingredients at all. After the first day they complimented me on Bessie's cooking. The girls do not do the gardening but do pick fresh flowers for the rooms everyday.
We happily dealt with their few complaints but they showed no signs of wanting to socialize. They simply chose the wrong place, they needed to be in town where the action is and not relaxing on a private beach, which they never did.
We could never understand why they had picked us, they stayed inside with the AC running for most of their stay and we are a very outdoors place with lots of wildlife and snorkeling etc. They refused to turn off their AC's when they left which was also a bit off by our standards as we are environmentally very aware. We try to respond to our guests needs and desires and leave them alone if they want to be left alone, which seemed to be the case this time. It is summer and we do have high humidity and 90 degree weather which made them very uncomfortable.
I am in the hospitality industry by choice, I like meeting all the new people and like helping them come to love Belize as I do. I don't drink and never go to bars. I am very active in our politics and environmental and conservation issues both locally and on the national level and appear on national TV and radio every two weeks discussing issues in Belize so not everyone shares their personal opinion of me.
As our website accurately depicts the place and location I am not sure how they made the mistake they did. We treated them in a professional and courteous manner at all times.
We are a small family here and take great pride in helping our guests have the best time we can and were saddened to read such a distorted review.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC