Last week we went on vacation to Aruba, booked through Delta Vacations, staying at the Divi Dutch Village in Aruba. This was all set to be a great week away with the family, and our first real getaway to an island together in ten years. At around 1:30am local time on Father’s day (just) my wife awoke to see a figure in our room before he realized he had disturbed her and ran! He got away with all our cash, cards, IDs, and some electronics. What I had thought the night before would be my best Father’s day ever quickly turned into the worst at the Divi Dutch Village in Aruba.
My wife and I have lived in the USA for over ten years now, and recently naturalized. We decided it would be great to celebrate the milestone by taking a vacation in the Caribbean. Just before moving to the US we went on a dive holiday to Curacao and Bonaire, and thought it might be fun to complete our collection of the island chain. After some searching we selected the Divi Dutch Village, and booked it through Delta Vacations. We wanted something simple, and decided to skip out on diving so that we could enjoy the beach with our two children.
The Night Before
We had stayed up pretty late on Friday, they had a disco for the little ones, and so we decided to have an early night on Saturday so that we could all be fresh and enjoy our last full day on the island. I think we got back to our room at around 8pm, maybe a little earlier, and were in bed by 9pm after watching a little TV with the kids. My FitBit shows I fell asleep at 9:49pm, looking forward to a great final day on the island, and was abruptly awoken by my wife at 1:35am on Father’s day (17 June).
My wife woke up saying she thought someone was in our room, we sleep with the lights off so she had only been able to make out a silhouette. We were staying in room 105 in the Divi Dutch Village in Aruba, in a second floor one bedroom apartment. The door was locked, with the deadbolt set from the inside, and the patio doors were locked leading out to the second floor balcony. Heart in my throat we walked through the apartment, checking our kids were OK sleeping just in front of the balcony doors in the sofa-bed, checking if the intruder was hiding.
I turned on the lights, and my eyes darted about the room as we checked. The door was still locked, bolted from the inside. We got to the patio doors and saw the curtains looked like they were moving in the wind. Pulling them to the side the fixed side of the door had been pried from the frame, and left open. Our kids were both fast asleep, unaware of the intruder who had crept past them, and into our room.
It was clear that someone had broken in, and as my wife tried to figure out what had been taken I called reception and asked for security to be sent to our room, and that there had been a break in to our room. As we waited we assessed what had been stolen, and it soon became clear the person had made off with all of our cash, credit/debit cards, driving licenses, a phone, some headphones, and my shorts that contained my wallet, glasses and a room key.
I think maybe five minutes passed and I called reception again to ask where security was. He assured me they had been sent, but they certainly didn’t seem to be in a hurry. A few more minutes and hotel security arrived, by that time I had gathered my senses a little, and assessed the situation. I asked that they call the police, when asked if I was sure I confirmed I most certainly was. We had been robbed, and they had gotten away with our valuables.
While we waited for the police the two people from hotel security asked us about what had been stolen, and asked us to list what items were missing and their approximate value. They looked at the door, and how it had been pried from the frame, I inquired a few times as to when the police would arrive. My wife was in the other room canceling our credit cards, and figuring out what else might be missing. Thankfully our passports were still there.
Two police men arrived, I think it was about 2am by that point. They both had Dutch accents, and commented on how rare room break ins were. We were both very shaken up, my wife was still working through the list of possible cards that were stolen, and canceling them with the different companies. I talked to the police, and they examined the scene. Amazingly through the whole thing our children managed to sleep despite the lights being on, the loud voices, and pacing past them. This made my wife and I realize how easily it could have been so much worse, and one (or both) of our children could have been kidnapped that night.
As I realized they had taken my shorts which had my wallet, glasses, and a room key I asked security if we could go somewhere safe after the police were done. They informed me we would have to wait until the morning, but that they would make sure our room keys were canceled. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed that they couldn’t get us somewhere safe as it was a little after 2:30am I think after they left.
The police and security looked at how the door was pried, where the intruder had jumped from the balcony, and had their fall broken by the plants below. It wasn’t clear how they had managed to climb to the second floor, nor was it clear why they had targeted our room. The balcony had nothing on it, all the lights were off as we slept, and the doors were locked. This troubled me, and I still wonder why a thief would climb to the second floor, with closed doors and pry open the patio door for what might have been a vacant unit.
The police took a list of all that had been taken, and told me to let them know if we noticed anything else was missing. They took my email address, passport number, and promised that they would update us, and issue a police report soon. They said I could contact them through the hotel, and that this would be handed over to a detective. Once they felt they were done they left us in our room, broken door and all. I heard them talking outside of the room, and they had said they would conduct an initial search.
Negligence and Improperly Secured External Door
Hotel security took photos, and so did I. Despite having a second floor balcony I have always been paranoid about people sneaking in through them. I had ensured each time we left, or before going to sleep that the doors were secure. They locked in the center, and slid outward. The two outer panes were fixed to the frame, and supposedly static. It is the negligent way in which they were secured that was used by the thief to silently break in.
Looking at them with security, the police, and after they left it was clear that there was a single attachment point, with two screws that had only plastic to secure them. You can clearly see in the photos the sheared plastic, and imagine how little noise that made. It stinks of negligence, and of inside knowledge, especially considering the climb necessary to get to the second floor balcony. I also pointed this out to the assistant manager the next day. Really look at the lack of anything but plastic holding the static side of the door in place below!
With our room broken into, and realizing how little we had we began searching. First searching for possible avenues of assistance from Delta Vacations, my credit card companies, etc. Delta Vacations informed us they were very sorry, but that there was nothing they could do to assist us. My Capital One Venture card informed us they could get a card to us in two business days, but since it was early morning Sunday, and we flew out on Monday afternoon there was in fact nothing they could do. Similar or worse stories from other cards, and things were looking bleak.
We were lucky we had our passports, but without any access to cash/cards getting home would be tough. We knew we would at least be able to eat on the Divi resort as we were all-inclusive, but once we started heading home things got more complicated. It looked pretty hopeless, and we came up blank on any kind of cash advance, or card getting to us but Capital One offered the possibility of voice authorization as we apparently already had a replacement card number.
Once we exhausted all avenues I decided to head out and see if the thief had discarded anything as they fled the scene. I followed the two obvious escape routes, at first not seeing anything until I got to the end of an alley at the side of our building with a high fence at the end. The thief had discarded my shorts, but all they had in was the key card that was in the back pocket. It was pretty disappointing the police and security had missed this in such an obvious place, so close to the escape point. I scanned the vegetation with the torch in my phone, looking for any signs of anything else the thief may have discarded.
I walked around to the other side of the fence, and started looking there, widening my search pattern. I was asked by the hotel staff if I was OK, and explained I was looking for any sign of discarded items after a room robbery. They began looking, and a couple of them using larger torches searched the area. They found my glasses, which was a small relief, but nothing else showed up.
We walked along a path towards the downtown area/beach, and I was giving up hope when one of them called me over. They had found the case for the missing phone, but the phone had been removed along with the cards stored in it. We fanned out, and searched for maybe another forty or fifty minutes, but it became clear we were unlikely to find much else. Especially in the dark, and I wanted to get back and make sure my family were OK.
As I got back we chatted, everyone was tired, but there was still hours until staff would return to the hotel. I couldn’t sleep a wink as I knew the patio door the thief broke in to was still unsecured, and it wasn’t unheard of for thieves to return to the scene. I stayed up scanning the scene, trying to figure out how we might get home, and what we could do on the last day. I decided that we would pack our things, put them in our cases, and go to the hotel reception as soon as we thought people would return. We didn’t feel safe, and would not let them leave us in that insecure room.
To our horror, when my wife tried the recovered door key it still worked and opened our door! We couldn’t believe it, but had taken the precaution of using the internal deadbolt. We were growing increasingly concerned that the Divi Resort staff would be dismissive, and resolved to make whatever scene necessary to get some help. I was horrified, I have traveled extensively and never had an incident but thought any reputable hotel would be more help in such a terrible situation, especially where small children were concerned.
My wife wanted to try the key card later in the morning, and to our horror it still worked. Not only had they not got us into a safe room, they hadn’t even deactivated the card. The deadbolt was on, the patio door was still insecure, and so functionally not much worse. At this point we were feeling very disappointed with the way it had been handled, and worried that they would be dismissive of what had happened. We packed our stuff, got the kids together, and walked to the Divi Dutch Village reception…
Father’s Day Morning
I went to the front desk, and told the person at reception I needed to speak with a manager immediately. Despite all that had happened through the night he seemed entirely unaware of any issue, but after holding firm he looked up a number and started calling through. Eventually he put me on the phone, and I talked with the assistant general manager of the Divi Resort complex (Carol). I was angry at how we had been treated, and wanted to get us in a room where we might sleep.
I remained calm, but told her what my concerns were, and what we needed. She offered to bring us over to the Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort, in the central complex where we could talk in person, and they would get us a new room in a more secure location. They ordered one of their golf carts, and took us over. We had a chat, and she was able to get some cash to me after I explained our lack of any access, store our bags, and promised to work on a centrally located room on the 5th floor. Feeling rattled, and tired we took it. On asking about the police, she promised to update them, and work on getting the police report we had been promised.
Tired, and exhausted we decided to put our trust in her, and try to make the best of our final day. Our vacation ruined, and little hope of coming back refreshed we hoped to at least feel reasonably safe and get home without further incident. I pointed out the negligence in the installation of the patio door, and the ease with which it was forced. She promised to look into it, and agreed it wasn’t acceptable. We let her know we had photos documenting it, but promised she would investigate and was already in touch with the Divi Resorts headquarters in North Carolina.
When we returned at about 2pm she had new room keys sorted, and got us in a one bedroom penthouse as it was described, it was nice enough, and it was on a high floor giving us some faith that no one would be able to climb to the balcony. After years of traveling, it was horrifying to see how negligently installed the outside door was, and how easily a thief was able to break in as we slept.
Our airport connection was prepaid, we decided to leave early. We met with Carol in the morning, and were assured everything was in hand, and that she understood our concerns. We asked what they were going to do to make it right, and she assured us that head office was very concerned, and would be in touch soon. We asked her to please get us the police report once it was ready, and to email it across. I also asked her to update them on the glasses that were recovered, and some electronics that were stolen that we hadn’t initially noticed.
We went to the airport, and prepared to get home. Shaken, and hoping that the valet would give us our car despite only having our passports and no valet ticket. Flew back, couldn’t even grab a drink on the plane as Delta only takes cards now, but made it back to JFK. The trip back was fairly uneventful, the small amount of cash we obtained from the hotel let us buy a little food, and top up the gas so that we could make it back home by about midnight on Monday. Since then we have had one email from Carol, nothing from Divi Resorts, or the Aruba police.
Nearly a Week Later
So here we are, just about over the shock and nearly a week later. I am shocked that we have had no real contact from the Divi Resorts head office, and we have tried calling the police a few times in Aruba. The last call seemed to suggest that if we didn’t sign anything, then we didn’t in fact file a report. Despite having two police officers take statements, and look over the scene. I am hoping that is a misunderstanding, but we are left with many doubts now. The more disappointing thing is that despite having our contact details there has been no contact from Divi Resorts, no offers of compensation for their negligence, or apology.
Another thing we are left wondering is whether this was an inside job. The fact we went to sleep so early, everything locked from the inside, all the lights off, nothing on the balcony and a thief climbed to the second floor on the off chance he could force the exterior balcony door and steal valuables as we slept. It seems like a stretch, if all the doors have weak seals then why not just break into a ground floor property? If it was just ours would you chance it on a seemingly vacant property, or wait until you knew it was occupied.
Replacement Cards, ID
We spent most of Tuesday at the DMV getting replacement ID, registration for my motorcycle, and of course going to get more documents as we had to prove things due to having no license… We were also pleased to get replacement credit cards from Capital One, the others started tricking in yesterday (Friday). I don’t know if that is because Capital One is a better company, or further proof that you get what you pay for (it is the only card we have with an annual fee). It will be a couple more weeks before our replacement driving licenses arrive, and despite being way over 21 there are still many that want to verify my ability to buy alcohol!
Maybe it was bad luck, and we know it could have been far worse. We are glad that our passports weren’t stolen, and that we could get home. We are left feeling like the company isn’t interested in making this right, and would rather see if they can ignore it. They were negligent, but we are also having trouble communicating with the police, and it has been suggested that without having signed something the officers who came out did not properly report the crime.
I am not sure what other avenues we have open to us. I am posting this in hopes that others might have suggestions, and if nothing else you can learn from what happened to us. Hopefully Google will index this should you be searching for similar crimes in the future. Hopefully the Divi Resort company will compensate us, and apologize for their negligence in keeping me and my family safe. Hopefully the person answering the phone at the police station was mistaken, and the promised police report will be sent onto us soon.
Be careful out there, I never planned for the possibility of anyone breaking into our room as we slept, and hadn’t really secured anything overnight. We could have spread our cards and cash around a little, but at some point you have to place your trust in others, and hope that things turn out alright. It could have been far worse, they didn’t get away with much, and we made it home. We are all pretty shaken, and having spent all our vacation budget on our worst vacation ever.
We are feeling sad to have been the victim of such a crime that leaves you feeling violated and unsafe. We are also feeling grateful to be home, and have everyone safe.