When Marc Jolibois, his wife and 14-year-old son took a trip to Cuba last month, they hoped for an escape from the Canadian winter and some relaxation. Instead, Jolibois returned to Canada with an acute case of salmonella poisoning and had to spend five days in hospital.
“When they told me I had salmonella, that’s when it hit me – it was pretty bad,” said Jolibois, who just returned to work this week after being released from Milton District Hospital in Milton, Ont.
His wife, Patricia Alonso, told Global News Jolibois’ symptoms got progressively more severe when they returned to Canada.
“Marc had shortness of breath, high blood pressure, accelerated heart rate and was going to the bathroom as much as three times per hour,” said Alonso.
“At this point, we clearly didn’t know what was going on and were beyond terrified.”
The family were guests at the Sol Rio de Luna y Mares resort in Holguin, Cuba. They booked the hotel through Air Canada Vacations, which lists the property as a four-star resort.
But the family said the condition of the resort fell far short of expectations from a safety perspective. They said they experienced several issues, such as a 220-volt electrical outlet becoming dislodged from a wall in a washroom (which was subsequently repaired) and observed ongoing issues with food handling in the resort’s restaurants.
“They pick up the meat and cook it pretty well but using the same utensils to pick up the raw meat and the cooked food,” said Jolibois. Utensils used to handle raw beef, chicken and pork should not also be used to serve cooked meat, according to food safety guidelines in Canada.
The Sol Rio de Luna y Mares is the same resort chosen by Sarah and John Wenham, of England, for their $40,000 (Cdn) destination wedding last August.
Sarah and John, both 35, say they were about to begin a meeting with hotel staff in the open air lobby to review details for their ceremony the next day. Suddenly, a drop ceiling above them gave way and came crashing down on the guests.
“There was so much blood I couldn’t see,” Sarah told Global News from their home in Norfleet, County Kent.
“I had bruising to the chest, whiplash, and ten stitches to the head,” said Sarah, who also suffered a deep laceration above her right eye.
“I found out I broke two ribs and damaged my spleen,” said John.
Two friends had their legs broken in the collapse.
The wedding went ahead the following day at another hotel.
They say their children also became ill during the vacation.
“Both suffered diarrhea and it continued at home, so we took them to doctors and they tested positive for salmonella,” said Sarah. The British couple are suing Thomas Cook Travel, their tour operator, for damages related to the injuries and illness in Cuba.
Jolibois and Alonso have written to Air Canada Vacations, which sold them the package vacation, urging the company to investigate.
“We continually evaluate all of our properties and we encourage and seriously consider all customer feedback,” said Air Canada spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick.
“We have been advised that upgrades are in progress at this particular facility,” he told Global News in an email.
Both groups of travellers say they want to alert other consumers to take extra care about choosing a resort destination, regardless of favourable online ratings.
“We would never want this to happen to anyone else,” said Sarah Wenham.”It wasn’t just a holiday for us. It was our wedding day.”