While we didn’t actually get the opportunity to stay at the Chrismar Hotel in Livingstone, I believe that my families experience this past New Years Eve is extremely relevant to anyone who is thinking about reserving a room there. Especially if you are travelling to Zambia from somewhere outside of Africa. This is going to be a somewhat lengthy post, so please bare with me.
My sister got married in Zimbabwe a few days after Christmas and since we had all heard how amazing Victoria Falls is, the family members that made it to Africa for the wedding decided to stay through New Years and visit the Falls.
We booked the rooms several months prior to New Years, and because there were not any suitable looking hotels on the Zimbabwe side of the Falls, we decided to stay at the Chrismar Hotel in Livingstone. It looked pretty nice, appeared to be safe, wasn’t outrageously priced, and most importantly was close to the Falls because we were only going to have 1 full day to tour around.
The major issue arose when we arrived at the hotel in on December 31st after catching a 7AM flight from Harare, Zimbabwe to ensure we landed with enough time to have a full day in and around Victoria Falls. When we finally got to the hotel, they no longer had the 4 rooms reserved for us that we had secured via our credit card. According to the front desk manager, Kathy, it is common practice for the Chrismar to allow the hotel to become overbooked and then use other inferior hotels in the area as their overflow locations. This honestly would not have been an issue for us because we were more concerned about just having a place to change and sleep for the one day we were in Zambia to explore Victoria Falls. The only problem was that because we did not respond to the hotel within 24 hours of them notifying us that they had found us an alternative location, they gave away the 4 rooms at the Courtyard Hotel that they had booked for us. Since we had all been in Zimbabwe prior to coming to Livingstone, none of us had readily available internet access and the location where the wedding occurred was out in the bush and had zero internet access whatsoever. “Unfortunately for us,” according to Kathy and the General Manager Robert McCarron, that is when the hotel decided to try and contact us.
The bottom line is that my entire family arrived in a foreign country 8,000 miles away from home to be told by hotel management that while they were “very sorry for the mix-up,” that it really wasn’t their problem because the reservation came through Orbitz and we should “try getting in touch with them.” You can imagine that this angered us greatly, as Kathy and later Robert just expected us to accept their heartfelt apology and go about finding our own hotel to stay at. After an immense amount of pleading by my sister (who was supposed to be happily enjoying her first day if marriage,) Kathy finally allowed us to sit with her in her office while she called “all” of the hotels in the area looking for rooms for us. Unfortunately, we soon figured out that she wasn’t calling all of the hotels in the area, just the ones priced at and below the Chrismar. After pulling out a laptop and conducting a search of our own, we found a hotel nearby that had 4 rooms available only it was more expensive than the rate we had booked at the Chrismar. We asked Robert the General Manager if they would simply be willing to split the difference with us and he laughed at us (over the phone because he wouldn't come and speak with us in person) and told us no chance. We asked if we could speak with the Director of the hotel (his boss) and he said that he didn’t think he would be able to reach him today because it was New Year’s Eve. They knew they could play hardball with us because we only had 1 day to see Victoria Falls and the last thing we wanted to do was sit around in a hotel lobby all day until they found us a place to stay – or until they didn’t.
If you are comfortable with a hotel giving away your hotel rooms and then stranding you in the middle of Zambia, go ahead and book at the Chrismar. If you want to make sure that your reservation is there when you arrive at the hotel, you should probably book elsewhere.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will gladly go into more detail about how Robert and Kathy treated us poorly and tried to ruin the first day of my sister’s marriage, my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary, and the last day of our African vacation.
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