Author Archive | John Kucik

Buyer Beware of AmericanExpressTravel.com and Orbitz.com

I almost always book travel online through different sources. I have never encountered a problem until I decided to use some of my American Express points to book two reservations for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. It was a total disaster!

The day of my first booking I attempted to check in, and I was told that there wasn’t a reservation booked for me. I called AmericanExpressTravel.com and the desk clerk contacted the hotel reservations department. After I had spent more than a half hour trying to get the situation fixed, I asked the representative of AmericanExpressTravel.com powered by Orbitz.com if I could check in, personally pay for my room and deal with resolving the issue when I got home. He answered yes.

When I attempted to resolve it, I was told the reservation was nonrefundable. I attempted to reason with them explaining the situation. Bottom line was they would not correct the situation. Exasperated I said there was no reservation, there will be no billing from The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and you’re not willing to reimburse me?

american-express-travel.com

My next move was to contact American Express Rewards trying to get my miles reinstated. Agreeing with me, the representative credited me back the points. You might think that would be the end of the story, but no, AmericanExpressTravel.com billed my American Express card for the reservation that I was not able to use for $368.81!

I again tried to resolve it with AmericanExpressTravel.com and got the same answer as the first time – it was nonrefundable. My next move was to start a dispute with American Express. To my total surprise I was checking on the dispute online, and I could find anything about it. So I started a conversation with an online representative who informed me that the dispute had been closed. I had not received, and have yet to receive, anything in writing or by phone that I had opened or lost the dispute. The online representative reopened the dispute. I received a letter about that dispute being open.

Later I got another letter saying they had reinstated the charge to my account. In one paragraph they acknowledged the reason for my dispute, and in another paragraph they stated that AmericanExpressTravel.com stated the reservation was nonrefundable. They attached documents with the terms of service and a response saying that the reservation was there for me to use. Totally untrue – why would I pay on my own if there was a prepaid reservation I could have used? The whole point of using points is to not spend the cash.

I called American Express again, and I finally spoke to a supervisor named Jerry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who attempted to resolve the situation by getting me to call AmericanExpressTravel.com yet again. I saw no point to this and asked to speak to a higher ranking supervisor. I held for a while and was eventually disconnected. Jerry did call me back and left me a message saying someone would contact me within 24 hours. When this did not happen I called American Express again, and I was told the record said someone was supposed to call me within 48 hours. Surprise… I never heard from anyone.

I give up. I will pay the charge. On very few occasions as a card member for 26 years have I disputed charges, but when I did prior to this dispute, I had always won. In my opinion if the situation was with a company not affiliated with American Express I would have won the dispute.

If you will recall I said I had booked two reservations for The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. When I had the first problem I asked the front desk clerk to confirm my other reservation, which she did. I arrived at the hotel for my second reservation and attempted to check in, but the desk clerk informed me Orbitz had cancelled my reservation. I then inquired if they had any rooms available and the answer was no.

I got on the phone with AmericanExpressTravel.com attempting to resolve the situation. After approximately half an hour I decided to head back home. I was on the phone with a representative of AmericanExpressTravel.com for the hour and a half it took me to drive home. Shortly after I arrived home the representative from AmericanExpressTravel.com informed me the situation was corrected and they had a room for me. In this case when I told the representative I was home and was not willing to drive back, she did reimburse me for that reservation.

Needless to say I will never book a trip with AmericanExpressTravel.com or Orbitz.com. I have been an American Express card holder since 1989. My company Capone’s Dinner & Show has a corporate account, and I have accepted American Express as a business owner for over thirty years. I have already stopped accepting American Express as a payment option, cashed in nearly 900,000 miles on restaurant gift cards, will be closing my personal American Express and corporate account. I will be moving my business to my two thankyou PREFERRED Citi Cards.

After the problems I decided to compare American Express Rewards to Citi Cards Rewards, and I found out that on travel, my points went further with Citi and there is no annual fee. In the end, my issues with American Express opened my eyes and will eliminate the annual fees they charge. I also will benefit from my points going further with Citi Cards.

I urge you to check out your credit card reward programs and choose the one best suited to what you want to spend your rewards on. Also if you can avoid paying an annual fee, just do it!

Free Attractions in Kissimmee/St. Cloud

If you are like most people, you like getting something for free. If you are visiting the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area, you may not know that there are free attractions in this area. You could spend hundreds of dollars at the major theme parks, but there are some jewels to be found at the free attractions in Central Florida.

Free Attractions in the Heart of the Tourist Area

Right in the heart of tourism is one of the best local free attractions around. Old Town provides shopping, dining, and entertainment – with many free things to do! This is a fun and free attraction to people watch, enjoy nightly live music, and on weekends Old Town hosts classic car shows. Wild to mild carnival-style rides, go-carts and other amenities are all reasonably priced. Fast food and table service dining is available. Be sure to check out the shops for souvenirs, clothes, jewelry and more!  Visit myoldtownusa.com to learn more.

Additionally, historic and charming downtown Kissimmee offers a fun-tastick variety of free things to do! Visit www.kissimmeemainstreet and discover the Monument of States, a delightful lakefront park, restaurants and an eclectic mix of shopping.  Numerous festivals are held throughout the year too. You can also experience a self-guided tour and other tours at this free attraction in Kissimmee.

Similarly, the City of Celebration was developed by the Walt Disney Company and is a mixed-use development anchored by a mix of houses, condominiums, and apartments. Celebration is nostalgically designed in an old Florida style with a downtown district featuring retail and dining. This attraction is always a great choice for outdoor events, including a farmer’s market, free concerts and festivals. Learn more at celebrationtowncenter.com.

Free and Worth the Drive

Do you like to hike? If you are a person who likes to explore, a free attraction south of Kissimmee (located in Poinciana) allows you to hike on elevated boardwalks over swamplands and see wildlife. There are many trails to choose from and a wide variety of environmental choices to observe. Open to the public on weekends, you are sure to enjoy this free attraction. For more information visit floridahikes.com.

St. Cloud Hotel - a free attraction

The St. Cloud Hotel (1922 postcard rendition) was first built in 1909. The hotel burned and was rebuilt with fireproof walls in 1910.

Downtown St. Cloud is a top spot for antique shopping and is home to the St. Cloud Hotel a designated historic landmark. It is a beautiful free attraction in St. Cloud.  While visiting this small quaint town, be sure to dine at Chimento’s Spaghetti House my personal favorite St. Cloud Restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Another mainstay of dining is The Catfish Place which has been around since I can remember.  A short stroll takes you to Lakefront Park, walking trails on the lakefront and boat ramps. Enjoy cooking on grills, free parking, a covered pavilion, picnic area, playgrounds, and more!  And the best thing is it is a FREE attraction!

In conclusion, hit the expensive theme parks in Central Florida if you want. Just know that there are many options for free attractions in the Kissimmee area. You are bound to find something your entire group will enjoy, especially at this price – FREE!

Remember, Capone’s Dinner Show offers a buy one, get one free for every ticket purchased online. It is a fun dinner attraction the entire family will enjoy!

Capone’s Announces Five New Vacation Home Rental Companies We Recommend!

Vacation home rentals are a great way to get the best bang for your vacation dollar. Never rented a house or condo for a vacation? Try it on your next trip and discover a different kind of vacation.  All the homes have fully equipped kitchens saving you money by not having to always go to restaurants. Most homes have private pools or a community pool. You can rest easy no loud hotel rooms and vacation home rentals are safer then large hotels.  Many homes require as little as a four night stay. Please check out our new partners and see what homes will work best for your Central Florida Vacation. Most of the vacation homes are about 15 minutes to Legoland’s new theme park in Winter Haven.  You will also be just minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort, Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista. Universal Studios and Sea World, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Wet-N-Wild are all less than an hour away.

Blue Sky Home Management
Blue Sky offers three to six bedroom homes all with private pools in the Kissimmee area.  They are a family run company. Blue Sky strives for guest satisfaction and provides personal attention to their guests. Visit them online www.blueskyhome.net or you can call them at 407-433-5018. Blue Sky Vacation homes start at $90.00+tax to $200.00+tax per night.

Hayes Vacation Homes:
Hayes Vacation Homes located in the Kissimmee and Davenport areas recently celebrated their twenty first anniversary of pleasing home owners and guests. With three, four, five and six bedroom pool homes they have the perfect home for you.  Visit them online www.hayesvacationrentals.com or you can call the at 407-932-0388 or toll free for US and Canada 1-800-847-8110

Jeeves Holiday Homes:
Jeeves Holiday Homes takes great pride for providing a wide range of services for home owners and short term vacation guests. Soon to be celebrating a decade of service Jeeves Holiday Homes strives to provide legendary service, honesty and attention to detail. Offering eighty seven homes ranging from only $95.00 to $1,450.00 per night plus tax (depending on season and home selected for your perfect vacation home)  Visit them on the web at www.JeevesFloridaRentals.com , Facebook  www.facebook.com/pages/Jeeves-Holiday-Homes/132392743477026 and follow them on Twitter www.twitter.com/JeevesHolidays. You can also call them at 407-704-8986.

Lowery’s Vacation Homes:
Lowery’s offers 115 choices of condos, townhomes and pool homes with two to seven bedrooms. Resort style amenities are available at many of its rentals including spas, exercise rooms, wireless internet and so much more. They have vacation homes in Orange, Osceola, Lake and Polk Counties giving you the widest choices of locations. Visit them on the web at www.moremouse.com or call them at 407-397-0088 toll free from US, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean 1-800-LOWERYS (800-563-3545).

Oasis Vacation Homes:
Oasis Vacation Homes offers a total of ninety three condos, townhomes and villas in three communities: Windsor Palms, Windsor Hills and Emerald Isles. Rates start as low as $90.00 to $250.00 per night plus tax. Oasis can also save you money on tickets to the Walt Disney World Resort. Because of their commitment to satisfying guests they enjoy a good reputation with the B.B.B. so visit them on the web at www.OasisVacationHomes.com or call them at 407-944-9398.

No matter the size of your group you can experience personal attention to detail, friendly service and trip planning assistance from any one of these great vacation home rental companies.

When planning your Central Florida vacation we hope you will save a night for Capone’s Dinner & Show. It’s a blast from the past! Visit www.alcapones.com for our 50% off all tickets coupon.

Fall is the Best Time of the Year to Visit the Orlando Area

Enjoy smaller crowds, usually pleasant weather and the best deals of the year!

Major attractions offer their best deals of the year from Labor Day through mid December with some blackout dates. Thinking about staying at the Walt Disney World Resort? They are offering free meal plans now as an incentive to book. Interested in Sea World? Buy tickets and stay in a partner hotel and get one night free.  If you cannot find discounts on the web sites call or email attractions asking about discounts offered such as Florida resident’s specials, AAA offers, senior discount or fall specials.

Look for great Fall deals on www.VisitOrlando.com and www.VisitKissimmee.com you will find loads of discounts on either of these two sites. The key is to look for deals because they are plentiful. Stay at a very nice hotel for what a moderate hotel/motel charges during high season or save more money at moderate hotels/motels; they also lower rates during the slow season.

If you are flying to Orlando you will also find great deals on flights during this period. Airlines have a lot of flights to Orlando. If you find a fare on one of the travel web sites that looks good, check the airline’s web site; they may offer the same or lower rate. In my opinion it is better to book with the airline directly. You can earn miles and sometimes have better options should something go wrong on your trip.

I once booked a hotel in New York on a travel web site. There were problems with the hotel which had signs up offering a free night if you were not satisfied. On two days of our stay the maid did not knock – she just came in and it was early in the morning. When we arrived at the hotel the lobby was very nice. The next day it was a maze, because they were remodeling the lobby and had most of it closed. It made for fun times (not) trying to get in and out of the massive hotel. The hotel would not guarantee anything, because they said the site I booked on was responsible. Another reason to book direct! Find a deal and call the hotel or chain reservation center and they may match or beat the rate. Then the hotel has no one to defer responsibility to, and they are happy that they are not getting a lower wholesale rate from the travel web site. Often the cancellation policies, when you book direct, are much better, and you most likely will not have to pre pay your stay. Ask the desk clerk when you check in if they can upgrade you to a better room, however, if you booked on a travel web site your chance of an upgrade is slim.

I hope if you visit the Orlando/Disney/Kissimmee area that you save a night for Capone’s Dinner & Show and save 50% on tickets this fall.

 

Vacation Rental Homes are a GREAT option to consider when planning your Central Florida vacation

The average Disney/Orlando area vacation home is located in a quiet residential neighborhood and some are in resort style condominiums. Many homes are eight miles or less from the Walt Disney World Resort and within thirty minutes of the new LegoLand theme park (opening October 2011).  Vacation Homes are great for family holidays and student groups. Huge selections of floor plans are available to meet your needs and sleep up to 12 people.   Many of the homes have private pools and others offer community pools.  All homes have fully equipped kitchens so you can save money by not eating out all the time.  Check out the Central Florida Vacation Rentals Management Association @ www.cfvrma.com  an alliance of vacation home rental management companies that represents over ten thousand homes.

Quality levels of the homes can vary so I suggest checking TripAvisor.com for independent reviews. If there are good reviews or no reviews of your Disney area vacation home rental company then you are probably safe. Someone who is not satisfied with the experience is more likely to post a review then those that are satisfied. The larger companies offer a variety of quality levels; for instance www.Sunsplash.com offer  Disney area vacation home rentals offer three quality levels standard, moderate and superior in three to five bedroom pool homes.

Vacation homes often offer swimming poolsVacationing in a home as opposed to a hotel offers many advantages and with a typical minimum stay of only four nights it is great for Florida residents too. We are developing listings for different Central Florida Vacation Home Rental Companies so check back soon!

Ten reasons to choose a vacation home rental over a hotel!

  1. Privacy
  2. Noise (hotels can be noisy)
  3. Free and easy parking
  4. More space to spread out in
  5. Washer and dryer
  6. Full kitchens
  7. No elevators
  8. Reduce vacation stress
  9. Superior value
  10. More family fun