Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't check into a smokers' paradise

If you are a reformed smoker or don't smoke at all, stay away from the RIU Montego Bay Hotel on the island of Jamaica, an all-inclusive hotel that allows smoking in guest rooms, at tables on terraces outside restaurants and just about everyplace else except for the dining rooms themselves.

Continental Airlines Vacations, which sold me a hotel-air package, never informed me the hotel allows smoking in all of its nearly 700 rooms.

When I checked in Aug. 24, I was given Room 5218, which reeked of smoke despite the application of a cosmetic spray. Coincidentally, I caught a cold in the plane on the way down and by the morning of my second day, I was coughing and wheezing, and my chest was congested, aggravating my chronic bronchitis. (I quit smoking more than 25 years ago.)

To make matters worse, each employee I spoke to recited a different version of the hotel's smoking policy. On my first day, I called the hotel operator and told him I didn't know there were smoking and non-smoking rooms, and could I get a non-smoking room. He insisted all rooms were non-smoking. I asked about the two ashtrays in the room; he said they must have been brought by guests.

In fact, housekeeping supplies ashtrays to every room, because the managers feel they can't enforce a no-smoking policy. Yet, the hotel refuses to set aside any no-smoking rooms, as do many hotels in the United States, or designate part of the terrace outside restaurants for non-smokers.

I was up at 4 a.m. Tuesday, gagging on the heavy smell of smoke, and went down to the lobby. The overnight clerk said, of course, the hotel has no-smoking rooms and he would get me one in the morning. I saw the hotel nurse at 7 a.m. and I was finally moved to Room 5121 at 3 that afternoon, but it was just another room with a faint smell of smoke, yet far more tolerable than the original.

If I had known the RIU Montego Bay Hotel was a smokers' paradise, I would have stayed elsewhere. This is one Spanish hotel company that is out of touch with the health concerns of many of its guests and refuses to yield to complaints. For all my trouble, the staff delivered a free fruit-and-cheese platter to my room one night. Big deal.

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