Don’t touch with a barge pole
We stayed in the Sierra Marina apartments at the Club La Costa resort near Fuengirola after receiving a “free” week at a sales presentation in Leeds. We were lucky to have a nice apartment with air conditioning with access to a quiet pool. We later discovered it is a bit of a lottery and many parts of the site are crowded and noisy and not all apartments have air conditioning.
We went to the 90-minute sales presentation which was part of the deal and it actually lasted from 11.00 am until 7.30 pm. I cannot put into words how much I regret that fact we did not just walk away at that stage! Unfortunately, we signed up for a trial membership for 34 months for £3,500 as we were told that we would be able to get cheap cruises, flights and small yacht cruises and the whole of the RCI catalogue in addition to the pick of the Club La Costa resorts on offer.
We would have to have a one week “prelude” holiday in Costa del Sol or Tenerife and then five further weeks of our choosing after that.
What we did not realise was that the contract only requires them to offer five weeks – not necessarily when we wanted them or at a resort of our choosing. In actual fact, the trial membership seems to be a way for CLC to get rid of last minute availability, and the deal they have with RCI for trial membership appears to be very restricted so only a handful of places seem to be on offer, and often not when you need to book your holiday.
We managed to book a week in Skiathos through RCI but we had to go at a different time to the week we wanted because nothing ( anywhere in the Mediterranean or Greece) was available on the dates in June we were free.
I costed out a cruise with them and it was £1000 more with them than booking through Thomas Cook. The small yacht holidays are not available and the cheap flights I costed with them were more expensive than I could get on the internet. It would seem that the trial membership is a way for CLC to get people into their least popular resorts.
Full members can book up to two years in advance while trial members only one year so it means that full members who can book a long way in advance get the best places. Also, it is very difficult to get through to the booking office with waits of up to one hour listening to recorded music and apologetic messages, and then the travel consultants are not always very helpful or intelligent. I started out asking for availability at individual resorts.
I would spend ages looking through the brochure or RCI website and then having chosen three resort centres would phone up to be told there was absolutely no availability during any school holiday 2008 at all. I then broadened my request to ” An apartment near a beach for 3 anywhere in the Mediterranean or Portugal in July or August 2008 ” and they still came back with “no availability”.
They said to keep trying as sometimes things became available nearer the time so I did keep phoning to ask the same question. Several times when asking this same question I was offered ridiculous alternatives such as Finland and Florida.
This was especially bad when I checked the Florida resorts I had been offered and discovered they were 50 miles from the sea. Anyway, in the end, we had to book our summer 2008 holiday and the cruise outside of CLC and we have tried to get our money back but because CLC has offered us holidays ( Finland and Florida etc and the Skiathos holiday we actually took ) even though they are not what or when we wanted they have fulfilled their contract .
The contract only says they have to offer us 5 weeks – not anything about resorts we choose or dates when we are available.
They have offered to upgrade our membership to full membership if we pay the difference but our experience with them has been so bad we now don’t believe anything they tell us and their promises that full membership will be great for us fall on deaf ears!
So my advice is – take the free holiday but don’t touch the trial membership!