Many of my loyal readers may be wondering, “Seriously Keith, are you really going to post a review of a Panama City resort on a marketing blog?”

The answer is yes- and I am doing it for two very specific reasons.  I keep telling you how important monitoring your online reputation is for your business, and I was basically hustled by the assistant manager at the Shores of Panama resort in Panama City Beach earlier this week.  So this will be a great lesson for you to follow as I hold this company accountable for their actions.  Hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two.

So let’s get right down to it; here’s my Shores of Panama review from our stay on 6/12/15 to 6/16/15-

Shores of Panama Resort- Overview

Over the past five or six years, my family has made our way down to the Gulf Coast for its beautiful beaches and the laid-back atmosphere.  We chose the Shores of Panama in Panama City Beach because it was a newer property with the most amazing lagoon pool we’ve ever seen, spectacular ocean views from the room and simply a great place to stay.

Each mini-suite is basically set up like a condo with a full kitchen, a washer/dryer combo, bunk beds for the kids and a private master bedroom for my wife and I.  We’ve stayed in the one, two and three bedroom models over the years and they are always clean, well-furnished and comfortable; I really feel like I’m on vacation when we go there and the spectacular views make it one of the most relaxing places on Earth.

Shores of Panama Review- The Arrival

Well, making our way to Panama City Beach last Friday was a true nightmare.  We had made it maybe 30 miles total before hitting a huge accident on I-85 with an overturned semi, and that delayed us at least an hour.  Then downtown Atlanta was just as crazy, so we lost close to another hour in that stretch of the highway.  By that time we were half-starved, so we tried a Hardees right off the interstate in Alabama for a quick meal…and somehow that was almost 50 minutes all by itself.  The normal 8 hour drive took us right at 11:15 from start to finish.
So when we pulled up to our favorite Florida resort at 7:45 in the evening, the last thing I expected was to see a packed lobby with a ridiculous wait.  While there were four employees behind the counter, only one of them was actually helping guests…the other three were just hanging out and watching us wait.  It took us an additional 40 minutes just to speak to the lethargic receptionist who was clearly in no rush, and she placed us on the 19th floor…despite us requesting a lower level since we have a daughter that struggles with heights.

  • Forty minute average wait-time in lobby
  • Employees not in uniform
  • Most employees just standing around
  • Average 10 minute elevator wait time
  • Employees could not answer even basic questions

Now when I say “requested”, I mean that I called a full month in advance at the time of our booking to ensure that we’d have a room below the 10th floor.  They ensured me that it would not be a problem, but I typed it in the special instructions of the booking anyway and I called before 8 AM on the morning of our arrival.  So getting stuck on the 19th floor was something of a shock, but we decided to just deal with it since it was late and it took forever just to get there.  After all, it is the best resort in Florida right?  The room would surely make up for it.

Shores of Panama Review- The Room

When we walked into Shores of Panama room 1914, the first thing that stood out was that the light switches didn’t seem to work.  No front porch light, no living room lights, no bedroom lights…only the kitchen light and 2 of the bathroom lights worked.  Hey, no problem though, we will call maintenance and get some light bulbs changed.  The cable TV didn’t work either though, and that was a priority in my book.
Only the phone in our room didn’t work either, the Internet was down and there was no directory anywhere to be found.  In fact, there wasn’t even a little note card on the phone or anything at ll.  Crap, so back to the front desk I went…which was another 35 minute wait as the one blonde helped each customer and the two male employees flirted with very, very young teenage girls.  Seriously, all of us in line were just starting- are there not laws against this in Panama City Beach?  It seriously gave me the creeps since one of them had that predator look in his eyes…my daughters never got within 50 feet of him at any time during our stay.

  • Broken bunk bed frame
  • Broken telephone
  • Broken Internet router
  • Broken cable TV
  • Broken toaster
  • Broken blender
  • A/C frequently cut off
  • Only 3 of 14 lights worked
  • Vomit on balcony
  • Sand all over pull out couch
  • Very dirty floor in living room, bathroom
  • Stains on both comforters
  • Completely stripped walls (no art, etc. like most rooms)
  • No housekeeping
  • No maintenance

Anyway, back to the gal behind the desk.  After 35 minutes of waiting, she asks me if I tried to flip the light switches.  When I nodded yes, she suggested that I should try changing the light bulbs.  I just gave her a dirty look and walked off, all the while the two 20+ year old men told a trio of 13 year olds how beautiful they were.

And then the real problems started.  As I arrived back in the room, my daughter shows me how the bunk bed collapsed when she put her suitcase down on it.  So as I mentioned to them that they could sleep on the pull-out couch for the first night, I realized that it was absolutely jam-packed with sand.  There was literally a 1 inch layer everywhere…so that was out too.

Shores of Panama Review- The Management

Even though I had been at Shores of Panama for less than two hours and spent 100% of that time either waiting in line or trying to fix things that were broken in the room, I was headed off to the front desk for a third time.  At least the potential pedophiles were gone at that point though, and the front desk supervisor Donna Dybis personally asked if she could help me.  So I was thinking, finally…all of this ridiculousness is about to end.

When I told Donna that our room was essentially broken from floor to ceiling, she apologized and checked the computer to see if she could move us anywhere.  I guess there were no other 1 bedroom rooms with bunk beds available though, and she made it very clear that Shores of Panama does not even consider upgrades under any circumstances (she kept saying, “There is not any of your room type available” or “If I could place you in the same room type”).  She compromised though and said that we would be placed in room 213 on the second floor as soon as the guests checked out in the morning- Donna even said she would personally ensure it was the first room cleaned, and we could expect a call from her before noon.

  • Supervisor Donna Dybis lied to us 17 times total
  • Site manager was never available
  • Dybis had no control over any staff members
  • Very poorly trained staff

So the next morning, my wife and I re-pack everything so we can move and get on with our vacation.  Only Donna didn’t call us before noon, or at 1 or 2 PM either.  I called her at 2:30 and she said the room should be ready any moment, so I sent my family off to the pool and sat on the sand-covered couch waiting.  The time kept ticking by though- 3PM, 5PM, 7PM…somehow the room still wasn’t ready.

At 7:45, my wife called the front desk from her cell phone and completely went off on Donna for wasting our entire day, then announced that we were going out to dinner and we would stay in the broken room another night.  She also mentioned that housekeeping or maintenance never showed up either, and someone could at least change the light bulbs so we could see in our $300 a night suite.  Donna promised to get right on it…but no light bulbs were changed.  The bed was never fixed, nor was the room phone, the cable TV, or anything else.

So we spent a total of $1289.55 (with taxes, resort fees) for four nights of kids sleeping on a dirty pull-out couch and not having TV, internet or phone.  It was the worst room my wife and I have ever stayed in together…and we stayed in our fair share of dumps after we first got married.

Shores of Panama Review- The Resort

In case you haven’t caught on by now, my family and I must really love the Shores of Panama to book our 5th trip there in 5 years.  The pool area is awesome.  The beach is pristine.  It has great amenities and plenty of things for the kids to do- or at least it used to.  On this particular trip, the indoor pool was “Closed for Maintenance”, but the stench coming from that area said that it hadn’t been opened for months.

  • World-class lagoon pool outdoor area
  • Comfortable beach chairs
  • Amazing views throughout resort
  • Dirty stairwells/hallways
  • Apparently no maintenance on site
  • Very poor housekeeping
  • Indoor pool looked/smelled like a swamp

This really didn’t matter though since the weather is always awesome
in Panama City and people go there to be outdoors.  And when you’re sitting poolside, it feels like a luxury tropical resort.  Of course, I wasn’t poolside because once we hit day 3 without a room change, maintenance or housekeeping, I realized that I would have to call the hotel’s tech-support and try to get the Internet up.  Of course, this is an off-site company that the staff refused to call on their own, so I was given the phone number and told good luck.

Since it quickly got old waiting 10+ minutes on the elevators to stop by the 19th floor, I got tech support on the phone and spent over two hours troubleshooting the system.  We finally discovered that the firmware and the drivers were two years outdated and the current network couldn’t even access my modem, and this was the same for 74 other rooms in my section of the resort.  This means that guests haven’t been able to get online for over a full year now…how ridiculous is that?

One other quick note- I also noticed that the pool water was not crystal clear like it usually is and most of the fountains were not turned on.  The pool area was still gorgeous but this really took away from the overall experience we’ve grown to love.  Also, they never did the outdoor movies, games or kids activities like they had in years past.  My children were really looking forward to making another tie-dyed tee shirt by the pool but it wasn’t offered.

Shores of Panama Review- The Checkout

Throughout the four days that we stayed in Shores of Panama room 1917, Donna repeatedly told us that the main manager would be in contact with us to make things right.  We were expecting a full refund at the very least and possibly some extras thrown in for the level of incompetence that we faced, yet the main manager was never available to talk to us.  So when I went to check out at the desk (which was really just a formality since we pre-paid and had no room charges), I demanded to speak to the site manager to get things straightened out.  At this point, however, Donna informed me that the manager was having pregnancy complications and she hadn’t been to work all week long.

  • No in-room checkout (phone didn’t work)
  • Supervisor promised to “make things right” at least a dozen times
  • Was billed full price, despite deplorable conditions
  • Site manager never contacted us

Now, I don’t want to sound insensitive here, but I could care less what excuse the manager may have had for making us stay in a room with no phone, internet, TV, bunk beds, lights, or the dozens of other issues we faced…there is simply no excuse for dragging us along for five straight days.  Of the three full days we were there, I spent two of them either doing Donna’s job or waiting on her to follow through on her promises, and that should never happen in the hospitality industry…even at a $29 a night flea-bag hotel.

Donna did promise me that the manager would be in at 4PM that afternoon and she would call me immediately, but by that time I stopped listening to anything that this person said.  Honestly, I would have trusted the guy that appeared to be a possible pedophile over her at that point.  Needless to say, it’s been five additional days and we still haven’t heard a word from Donna or anyone else.  We were flat-out scammed.

Shores of Panama Review- The Conclusion

Unfortunately, the Shores of Panama resort in Panama City Beach that I know and love has ceased to exist, and a decaying, poorly staffed hotel is all that remains.  I didn’t even tell you about dried vomit on the balcony, the broken toaster, the stains on the comforters, the overcrowded parking garage or dozens of other issues that seemed petty in the grand scheme of things, yet they all added up to an absolutely miserable experience.

Unless this property switches management companies and makes some serious investments in quality control, I cannot see ever returning.  The worst part is that I had planned on talking to a local real estate agent about purchasing a condo there during our visit, so this may have been the most disappointing vacation that I’ve ever taken with my family.  And honestly, I don’t know which was worse; the deplorable conditions of the resort or being continually lied to by the staff.

There was one silver lining though- my kids still had an amazing time at the pool and in the ocean.  Likewise, my wife and I fell in love with the views on the 19th floor, and that really came in handy since I spent so much time in the room waiting on the supervisor to do what she promised.  So in a sad way, it’s still paradise…as long as you’re not the one paying for it.

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