Well, a fellow YUMA volunteered to take a look at the place for us since we are abroad (and actually did it same day as she said she would, God bless her!!). She reports that La Calypso IS clean, but the place is old and the rooms are very small.
The place she suggested as an alternative, Alicia's Palace, told her $135 per night... but then told me when I called the typical response from all these places when I call "oh it's CAHNIVUL season?" and promptly jacked up the price to a CAHNIVUL PACKAGE that is twice or thrice the normal total and always for only 5, 6, or if you're lucky, 7 nights. Then you pay normal rate for the non-carnival nights.
Not me. $900 per room is what Alicia's tried to charge me for a mere 5 days. 5 days? As dem tun rung suh dem done! So their rooms have only 2 beds each and that means to compare 2 of their rooms to 2 of La Calypso's rooms means $1,800 for 2 rooms ($450 per person for the 4 that can fit in the room) and we still have not covered 2 people and 4 of the days. Versus La Calypso's $280 or less per person for all 6 for 2 rooms.
Alicia's Palace can keep their palace prices for when royalty visits, lol! No seriously though, since we were not expecting to go house-hunting, it is unusually imperative that I keep this cost low on all concerned, so this is not the year I can play around with the numbers at all because housing was suppose to equal $0!
Speaking of that $280, originally it was about $172 each, but the manager, Merle, told me yesterday that her front desk clerk Amanda made a mistake on the pricing for carnival. BEG PARDON? Keep in mind I have been talking to this Amanda for a couple DAYS now, more than once a day, and she had it broken down for me by room, and how much deposit, everything. So I raised the point that if their staff makes a mistake they should make an exception because that is not my fault and I already told my people the price. She now says she has to talk to the owners because she is just the manager...
I await the decision of the owners but I seriously see a difference in how Trinis treat tourists when they (the Trinis) make an error versus how Jamaicans treat tourists when they (the Jamaicans) make an error. In Jamaica when it comes to tourist business, if the business makes a mistake they swallow the error, especially if the customer indicates it is presenting a hardship to change the agreement. Trini businesses apparently think NOTHING of trying to make the customer digest THEIR errors. It's not that it's so expensive it's the principle behind the thing that made me look around for somewhere cheaper, but anywhere cheaper than their new price was FULLY booked already. It's still reasonable don't get me wrong, works out to about $31 per night per person at La Calypso, but when you make an error don't feel people budget can just absorb any new hits so easily...
Our YUMA friend is still on the hunt for us, but as I originally said, we don't need cable (which La Calypso does have, as well as the free wireless internet which is nice to have but not absolutely necessary), we don't need swimming pool...none a dat. If di bed dem clean an di bathroom dem clean WE GOOD! And that's been confirmed so I am quite alright if nothing in a newer building works out for the same price or less before deposit time! I already knew if I wanted frills I had to be booking earlier than this, this is actually plan B now on the housing since plan A fell through.
Lesson 1 to new masqueraders: book housing before any and everything else, and one year in advance is NOT too early!
Lesson 2 to new masqueraders: it takes a far, wide, and deep search and word of mouth if you have time for that to work its magic to get EITHER a nice place near all the action or a place that won't break your budget and is still near all the action. If you want BOTH, prepare to rent something out of the way that requires a rental car (we are trying to avoid that since we have heard the traffic in Port of Spain on a normal day is ridiculous and during carnival season is unmanageable...plus...who wants to be the designated driver?).
Lesson 3 to new masqueraders: don't expect the places with reasonable prices to be able to take your payment even over the phone, even though they know foreigners come to this thing every year... get ready to find a middleman in Trinidad to pick up wire transfers and walk your money around, or get ready to spend some money on FedEx. It's like the Stone Age with the technological capabilities of carnival-related businesses in Trinidad. Thank God the manager is willing to collect a wire straight to her, because the clerk had been telling me to send money down to someone and have them walk it in... and I am not used to having to find a middleman to do everything, and I really don't like not being able to handle my business myself at a time that is convenient to me, the paying customer. I mean, wow, carnival is clearly the main thing and no way to take the carnival money without inconveniencing the customer? Come on! So I will have to leave work tomorrow (hopefully she is available when I take lunch) and go wire the money...which will then require waiting on her to get back to office and draft up a receipt, which she can hopefully then either email to me or fax to me before that same day is out.
I wonder if these businesses in Trinidad realize they would not need to triple-charge people for carnival season and might actually get some customers some other time of year if they were a bit more ACCESSIBLE? Throw up a website or facebook/blog page... get a paypal account if you don't want to pay for a credit card machine... set up ONLINE payments on your site or even set up the ability to take payments online with a Facebook application that lets you operate the page like a storefront... I am sure there is at least one computer science major in all of Trinidad that could help them with this!
Can an entrepreneur down there please jump on this cause it is just weird to be so behind the times when the mas designs and production are so cutting edge!