The first season of The White Lotus was a wonderfully comedic fictional drama about the demands, inequities and inequalities of life in a luxury hotel in Hawaii (set in the thinly disguised Four Seasons in Maui, where it was filmed) . The most spectacular tantrums and shock moments will be familiar to anyone who has vacationed in similar five-star locations – populated by the so-called, but not quite the private jet set.
There were the spoiled temperamental teenagers, the drugs, the disgruntled newlyweds, the eccentric lone traveler…apart from the fatal stab wound in the finale, all commonplace for such places. The new series (featuring the return of camp goddess Jennifer Coolidge, alongside new characters played by F Murray Abraham and Tom Hollander), was filmed at the glorious San Domenico Palace, Taormina hotel in Sicily, also a Four Seasons.
Again, the drama promises to be a masterclass in how not to behave in hotels. I’ve probably seen it all before, and I don’t know who might need to hear this, but there are lessons to be learned…
Don’t turn the Pineapple Suite saga into an epic opera
In the first season of The White Lotus, the main story arc featured a honeymooning couple who didn’t get the suite they booked. It ends in murder. This is unlikely to happen in real life, but the point is, if you don’t like the room you’ve been assigned, explain your disappointment. Always specify what you expect from your room when booking. For years, every view I had of hotels in New York was of a brick wall a few feet away, before I realized I had to say in advance what I wanted to see when I looked through the window. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
If there is a Pineapple Suite incident, due to double booking, or if there is a strange smell or noise in your room, politely ask to be relocated, and if that is not possible, then ask for a Substantial price reduction. If it’s really bad, then leave. It’s your vacation. Take your things elsewhere. And if they don’t refund you the cost of the reservation, make sure all communication regarding the issue is via email with the manager and request a charge to your credit card. Spend your money elsewhere. But it’s not life or death.
Adopt the character of Jennifer Coolidge
Dress codes can be boring at resorts, and while I don’t agree with places requiring jackets, I also don’t think bare chests or vests at dinner are acceptable. But basically, someone else’s fashion sense is none of your business. I once stayed at a supreme luxury retreat in upstate New York and a Japanese gentleman was there alone (as he apparently does twice a year to live out his high fashion sartorial fantasies society) and dressed in women’s clothing at every meal. He changed often between classes. He had impeccable manners and was wildly chic. We bonded out of love for Lacroix and Guinness. If only every solo hotel guest brought that kind of glamor to the table — just like Jennifer Coolidge’s character, Tanya.
Stop the burglaries
The “something was stolen from my room” routine can seem like easy money to the amoral and cheeky. But have no illusions: hotels know everything. A friend who worked at a luxury hotel chain recalls a man who accused staff of stealing from his wife’s jewelry box and was escorted to a private room to see a video of someone one who was clearly not his wife (but was clearly paid by the hour) leaving his room, by his side, hours before, as his wife lay unconscious by the pool.
Do not be those people
Some people can’t stand kids on vacation (myself included) but far worse than toddlers going wild is the sight of parents getting lost at lunchtime and then deciding to play water polo in a pool that’s really meant for gentle reflection, a few laps and a glass of albariño while you read Cecil Beaton’s journals. I once had the extraordinary pleasure of watching a group of Americans get quieted passively and aggressively by the management of a swimming pool at a posh Marrakech hotel. You pay for your time there, but so does everyone else. Get an Airbnb if that’s what you want.
Save FaceTime for your bedroom
It’s a horrible modern phenomenon that some people have developed techno-sociopathy, believing that amplified conversation with someone on the other end of the line is appropriate for public spaces. I once had dinner at the fanciest Ritz Carlton restaurant in Puerto Rico, and the woman at the next table decided to vape, shouting, “Hi honey! Yeah, I’m having dinner at the hotel! to his daughter in Alabama on his iPhone. It wasn’t, I quickly realized, that it was going to be a quick call. I called a server and he moved us no questions asked to the furthest acceptable table and offered us a round of drinks.
Don’t be a fool for the staff
Just because someone brings you the margarita you ordered with mezcal instead of tequila, you’re no better than them. I’ve seen staff treated atrociously by guests, and while you have every right to complain about something (I sent many dishes back to the kitchen with a polite explanation of what was wrong), if you’re unnecessarily aggressive and want to show how “alpha” you are, you’ll 100% get what you expect.
These people control what you eat, bathe in and sleep in. To guarantee their anger, threaten a bad review on social media. This will absolutely get you unwanted ingredients in your main course.