We sat at anchor for a month before deciding on a marina to sit in to get some work done and while Jennie went home to Vancouver for 6 weeks. We had sat at the anchorage just outside Bocas Marina and we really liked the marina, however Red Frog Marina has great beaches just a walk away to take Dexter for a run. Right from the begining we heard stories about bad things happening to dogs, poor customer service, bad facilities (other than the docks), and how they cater to a couple mega yachts before the majority of the cruisers. All that aside, easy access for Dexter to run was top on the list; I mean how bad could it really be.
I want to mention I was really not wanting to write this, I really wanted our experience to be different, to be positive. We are very dissapointed that these roumors are true and I feel we owe it to othe cruisers who come down to Bocas del Toro to know that there is a reason why the two other marinas are full and Red Frog is not.
The dog issue was the first rumour to be supported by our experience. Dogs are not welcome here, sure they say they are, but the general attitude is very different. We always clean up after Dexter, once in a while we might have been a few minutes late to clean up the deed, but we are resonsible owners and it gets cleaned asap. Well that didn't stop us from getting comments and critism, not from fellow cruisers, but from the livaboard workers and management. I guarantee you the patch of dock in front of Cypraea is the cleanest in the marina, never the less someone always seemed to be spying on our every move. Late night drinks with friends at a table on the dock we might let Dex walk around and get pets, but only if we know people are ok with it. Never lie to a dog owner about how comfortable you are around dogs. Red Frog Marina is a tough place to have a dog on your boat, but you do get to run them on the beach which is a bonus.
Now the story of how Red Frog Marina got the nickname "Dead Dog Marina". One of the owners of the Red Frog Resort and Development was annoyed with the local dogs. He went and fed them rat poison and killed them. We thought this was a joke, until everyone who was here affirmed it. The owner of the development even owned up to it without remorse. Maybe that sort of thing goes in Panama, but where I come from and most of Red Frog's clients that is disgusting.
Enough about the dog issue. The Office has been encredibly unhelpful and could use a course in customer service. First off they have no one who speaks spanish and english. So when we had to call the dentist and the receptionist only spoke Spanish, Red Frog's response was, "good luck with that." Umm, thanks? Then they make you use their "vetted" employees (I will discuss this issue in detail further). Well they just give you the number and don't facilitate anything than charge 10% on the bill. I am a firm belive that money should be earned, and this just seems like a extra tax on top of keeping your boat in their marina. We used their people and that was fine with us, we had to hassle them for months just to get the work done, and it still isn't finished. So obviously the good workers go to the marina's that don't charge them and are way easier to get to (it is a 15 minute panga ride opposed to a 1 minute ride to the other marinas). Everyone know the jurisdiction that charges more tax attracts less business and less quality businesses.
Jennie and I met a nice crew of a mega yacht that came in to the dock. They were chill and we got along. The Captain said hey if you want some work, I can get you to do some stuff around the boat. Cool, bonus for us. So we are working on their boat, and the manager comes up. Red frog had just hired a new managing couple (the 5th in 3 years), I thought cool maybe these guys won't be so bad at customer service...WRONG!!!!! It is worse than before.
The manager, who told me a few weeks before he knew he got the job that he doesn't pay the marina the 10% all the time, came up to me with a tone of militaristic authority and explains "The Rules" and how he'd let it slide a bit. Nicce guy eh? Well a few days later we do a bit more work, he come up to me the next morning while I'm running to the bathroom (broken head), and started giving me the third degree like I'm some kind of child. I explained that he needs to talk to the captain of the boat he has issue with. Then he went off on how Red Frog is in the "Money Making Business" I trold him thnat I am a customer and comments like that make me want to take my boat somewhere else. The response was, I shouldn't have gone there. Well I'm on a fixed budget and when someone wants to take my earned money for no reason I put up a fight. I keep working on the yacht, and then I run into the washroom to have a shower this morning, and he is cleaning all 5 and wasn't going to let me have a quick shower, I was feeling really greasy. Great customer service. Then he told me that I need to have a meeting with him by days end. As a customer I prefer to be asked to have a meeting, maybe send me and email, not told like I am a child. I told him to talk to the captain of the boat he has issue with and sent it in email form, as the rest is just hearsay Plus I know what contract I signed, and I have not broken it, but I have no idea what contract the mega yacht signed. The new manager talked to the captain, I am going to sign the papers and the captain is going to pay them the $10 a day or what ever, for a couple days. The Captain is returning the expensive golf cart that cost much more...... So the outcome is two pissed off clients (over a stupid rule) and a loss of $25 per day. Oh and an acurate review on the marina being posted on the internet for people to read, which no one has done in the past 3 years.
Red Frog is a horrible place to leave your boat, all the boats left here have ripped tarps which the marina doesn't replace, and they only wash your boat before you get back, not every month or two.
The management will not tell you about the great restaurants and bars around, outside of the poorly run resort ones. We tell people about Los Secretos and Palmar, because they are great places to spend an afternoon, and have great service. One is a 5 minute dinghy ride away with a magical view, and the other is a 5 minute walk and has a great beach bar vibe.
All in all the possitives are consistent electricitry, new docks (not a good communal hang out for sundowners though), new showers (laundry doesn't get your clothes clean though and for $4, 50 cents more a girl does it in town and they come out really clean), they have good internet ussually, and it is a short walk to the beach.
The real question is would we come here again and pay a premium over the other marinas for it. Absolutely NOT. We are going to get back on anchor asap. Jennie and I both worked in customer service, and the customer sevice here sucks. I wrote this because i don't want others to be douped by the nice docks. Go to Bocas Marina or Carenero Marina, our experiences and what we have heard from "resident" cruisers has been nothing but good.
Sorry about the rant, but people here are afraid of being "kicked out" for speaking up. We are not afraid of being kicked out for having an opinion.