This Guest Nearly Lost A Limb, But Marriott Says Their Warning In Spanish Was Enough

And you thought you have been Bonvoyed, I don’t know that there have been many Marriott stays worse than this one.

A guest at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa went to the ocean “for a midnight swim.” Nobody told her that this might dangerous.

A crocodile had “crawled onto the beach, grabbed her leg, and pulled her into the ocean” she says. She was “dragged under the water.” It finally released her after repeating hitting. Then it dragged her back under the water.

Eventually another group of guests heard her screams and helped her break free. It then took 45 minutes to summon an ambulance. She had to pay cash up front for treatment. She blames the hotel for failing to warn her that her midnight swim might be dangerous.

The woman who saved her gave the property a one star review:

According to Marriott,

The safety and security of our guests and associates are our top priority, and we can confirm that appropriate signage, as well as night patrolling and red flags were and are properly in place.

Perhaps she should use the law firm of Green & Fazio (“Let’s be frank, what does a ‘No Trespassing’ sign mean when you’re as drunk as I was?”).

What do you think, is the hotel liable for failure to warn a guest of dangers swimming at midnight in the ocean using a foreign language? Spanish is the official language where the hotel is located, but Marriott is an American chain and many of its guests are Americans. Or do you think that going into the water on your own in Mexico involves some amount of assumption of risk?

(HT: Paul H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Perhaps the US should adopt spanish as the official language, Marriott’s lobbyists could probably get behind that… (sigh)

  2. Who knows if the comments are accurate but some reviews on TripAdvisor provide information. Maybe the hotel is posting scam reviews since some of the ones that appear suspicious take the hotel’s side.

    Do we know if the hotel is managed by Marriott International? I have been in Puerto Vallarta before. I believe the Westin and Marriott, which are separated by a few blocks, are both Marriott-managed. I could be wrong, but I believe that to be the case. So, Marriott may not be dealing with an irresponsible Mexican operator or franchisee here. Unlike the JW Marriott Los Cabos, which is not managed by Marriott.

    I think the real issue is why does the hotel (or any hotel) have a beach in an area documented to have crocodiles or alligators? From a liability/risk management standpoint, even in a country like Mexico, you can’t monitor a beach in a situation such as this 24/7. People are going to assume if there’s a beach it’s safe to use. If I owned the hotel, I would close-off beach access and instead have the best hotel pool in Puerto Vallarta.

  3. You realize the hotel is in Mexico, where the official language is Spanish right?

  4. Read the other guest comments on there in defense of Marriott. When you’re in a foreign place especially near water use your brain people there are wildlife. Shark attacks aren’t blamed on owners of businesses so this shouldn’t be marriotts fault either when they do have a sign!

  5. as the others have said , this took m place in Mexico, thusly Mexican Law and not US Laws what is important. If Mexico doesnt have a requirement to have signage in any language other then Spanish, that ends that.

    Ive been to many beaches here in The US where the signage is only in English yet that resort area gets tons of Europeans from all around The EU as guests , sure they speak English (mostly) but that doesnt mean they read it why dont every place in The US have signs in English,French,German,Spanish etc, nor are the signs lit up at night.

    I put the blame on the woman who should have asked what if any dangers there is in swimming at night and ask if its even allowed

    Theres plenty to Dump on Marriott for, this isnt one of them

  6. I would not assume that it’s ever safe to go swimming at midnight on a foreign beach. I would ask my hotel for advice first. Also, this is in Mexico. Marriott is not only catering to Americans in Mexico. I guess they should have signs in German and French too.

  7. Holy shit. You go out of the country and signs are posted in the country’s language, not English. Grow the fk up Americans. Life is so much better without you whining bitches.

  8. Ridiculous to blame the hotel or Marriott here. It’s the ocean. Many things that don’t exist for the exclusive purpose of being helpful to privileged teenagers exist in the ocean.

    Glad she survived, but there was already plenty of legalese warning signs such as the red flags. Any more signs would have just been ignored.

  9. I am happy the young lady will be okay.

    Maybe, the next time she will visit the beach in daylight and read the signs.

    Or, just not go swimming at midnight on a beach in another country.

    Just saying….

  10. “What do you think, is the hotel liable for failure to warn a guest of dangers swimming at midnight in the ocean using a foreign language? ”

    i’ve been reading your blog for many years, gary, and this takes the cake for the number one most ignorant statement ever. i thought much more highly of you before.

    Spanish is not a foreign language in Mexico. English is. It is the American who is foreign anywhere in the world outside of the USA. Remember that.

  11. Click-bait title is misleading. Keep reading the twitter thread cited above. A user posts a clearer image of the sign. English is present, and is in fact used to warn people of wildlife in “natural areas”.

    Glad the girl is ok.

  12. So she basically got to reenact the opening scene of Jaws, just using local talent? Marriott should market this as a premium excursion.

  13. As bad as Marriott has been lately, we can hardly fault them for failing to prevent Darwin’s laws of natural selection from doing their thing. In this case, a young woman who does not appear to be particularly bright but who does appear to be particularly lucky. Perhaps this event will cause her to develop some common sense.

    And yes, the Marriott had a sign posted (in Spanish, because it’s Mexico) which she paid no attention to. Going for a “midnight swim” in tropical waters? Yeah, that’s when Darwin takes the stage…..

  14. First of all absolutely no liability. In the language of the country which is all that would be required. Secondly, REALLY?!! This was almost a Darwin Award winner. Forget any signage, the croc would be the least of my concerns during a midnight swim in the Pacific in Mexico. Crime is a major issue and late at night on a beach just isn’t safe. Then you have the major reason not to go in the ocean at night – sharks are more active then.

    In any event this was a bone headed move on her part. Glad she is OK but if she tries to sue (forget any issues with foreign country rules, likely franchisee from Mexico, fact Marriott Corp would likely get dropped from the suit, etc) then given her actions contributory negligence due to her stupid acts would likely eliminate any meaningful settlement.

    She should just happy to be alive.

  15. @bob baker – put that sentence in context with the next one, “Spanish is the official language where the hotel is located, but Marriott is an American chain and many of its guests are Americans.” And I’m not endorsing this view. What’s the sentence after that, “Or do you think that going into the water on your own in Mexico involves some amount of assumption of risk?”

    Indeed you can probably infer my view from the reference to Green & Fazio, no?

  16. @gary – yes, i understand the “in context” meaning and your other statements including the reference to Green & Fazio. As I said, i’ve been reading your blog for many years so I feel that I know where you’re coming from and I must agree with it for the most part since I continue to read your blog, no?

    my point is simply that context or no context, the statement “using a foreign language” is incorrect. I know you’re better than that and you’ve been around the block a time or two which is why i called you out on it. You could have said “in a language the woman didn’t speak” or “a language that was foreign to her” or many other ways that would convey the language barrier but not imply that Spanish was a “foreign” language in Mexico.

  17. I would say no legal culpability on Marriott’s part. But from a hospitality standpoint, it would behoove them to warn guests more clearly and have signage in English (and German, French etc. if necessary).

  18. @bob baker – my point was to frame the argument as someone claiming Marriott’s culpability might, which is to say that it’s a ‘foreign language’ for the guest and for the American company. Very open to the idea that I wasn’t clear in my writing, still not sure what I wrote was incorrect

  19. Not Marriotts Fault. Although as a side point. Normally staying at a Marriott will cost you an arm and a leg so she got off cheap.

  20. Not sure how many folks read through this whole thing. It’s one thing when the hospital requires up-front cash (def not the hotel’s fault), but delaying calling an ambulance for a guest that requests it is next-level gaslighting.

    Also, couldn’t the hotel have installed some nets for their section of the beach to keep out, you know, 12′ crocodiles? Not to mention the signage could be improved (as true here in the US in places as in the rest of the world).

    This girl is an idiot, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept the consequences of the ALSO poor choices of others (poor signage, building a resort in an area with crocs, not closing the beach, not blocking the crocs from the beach, etc – many opportunities to have prevented this). IDK about you all, but I’m an idiot sometimes, too, and I’d hate to die because of it.

  21. @CoLi

    “The drawing of the crocodile on the sign was also in Spanish.”

    Best comment I’ve read in a year… ROFL.

    Glad the girl is ok. I don’t think I’ll swim there next time I visit.

  22. Sure, enter the ocean at midnight, then blame the hotel. I agree with Rog, the hotel should warn guests at check-in … who would expect a crocodile at the beach? But blaming someone else for your stupidity is a non-starter. Did this girl have parents or a guardian? She needs one or the other.

  23. Again I get always kind of laugh at these because the people involved, including this unfortunate young lady, go after Marriott, who as Gary has explained so many times it’s rote, that Marriott is little more than a booking/marketing agent for most hotels.

    Marriott likely has zero liability in this incident. The individual hotel might have a little more. I hope she ends up being ok and learns to stay out of “dark waters”

  24. @gary – i totally understand what you’re saying; that Spanish is a foreign language “to the guest.” i simply, and respectfully i hope, disagree. that’s all. It is the guest who is foreign and speaks a foreign language. That is a fact that cannot be disputed.
    And just to be clear, I don’t absolve the hotel from liability. I possibly wouldn’t have had any idea that crocodiles were a threat at the hotel. I also feel that signs should be posted in multiple languages with a big graphic crocodile biting the leg of a human.
    I simply disagree with the term “foreign language” being used for the official language of that country whether is be used in context or not.

  25. Someone always trying to blame another for their stupidity. Don’t swim in the dark

  26. Marriott has restored elite benefits and offers free breakfast to all Titanium Crocodiles

  27. Typical arrogant, entitled Ugly American behaving stupidly and looking to blame someone else.

  28. There’s a reason why some entrepreneur made a lot of money selling “Sh*t happens” bumper stickers. Because sh*t does happen, and quite often, it is no one’s fault (or the fault of the “victim.”

    There’s a sign in the native language of the country. And the property is in compliance with the laws of the City of Puerto Vallarta, State of Jalisco, and the Country of Mexico. Whether or not she might have a case here in California had something like this happened here, she doesn’t have one under Mexican law.

    From a guest service perspective, the hotel perhaps could have done better (more signage, more proactive warnings, quicker response), but that doesn’t rise to an actionable complaint.

  29. Interesting how Americans scream “My Freedom” when it comes to masks and vaccinations but when something goes wrong they always look for an attorney. Take responsibilities you losers.

  30. Stayed at the Marriott many time, there are a LOT of signs telling you to stay off the beach at night. In ENGLISH. The pictures are good for all languages. A drunk 18 yr old. New generation, it is everyones fault but their own. Hope she heals and learns something, but from her and her familys reaction, blame everyone from the hotel to the ambulance to the hospital, I doubt they did.

    I work in a hotel. We tell guests at check in things like check out time, wifi code, where the ice machine is, etc. 90% of the time they call looking for this information. People are stupid. They do not listen, or only hear what they want to hear. Seriously, what kind of moron goes swimming in the ocean at night in any freaking country. Or a lake. Or a river.

  31. Just to add….The crocs only come out at night. They go upriver during the day to get away from stupid humans. Have swam at the beach there dozens of times. Will do it again. Should every hotel in Florida warn people that they might get eaten by a shark?

  32. It sounded like she was by herself so besides swimming in the ocean at night and crime anything can happen. She should of used better judgement for her safety.

  33. Another irresponsible American trying to blame someone else for their stupidity. Common sense tells you not to go in the ocean at night. Seems no pare tsk supervision was there on the trip. She is obviously looking to cash in well young ladybyou are in Mexico, Spanish is their language. The sign also shows English on it. You are responsible to read it not the hotel. People like her give Americans a bad rap. Grow the f up and accept your irresponsible behavior. You are lucky you got a few bites

  34. Marriott and the hotel have absolutely no responsibility here.
    Going into the ocean would always come with a certain risk. The sea is full of animals, some of them beging aggressive, poisonous or dangerous to humans. A late night swim in the ocean in the dark is extremly careless, most sea animals are active by night.
    Do we really want to have signs in all kind of languages on every beach? I don’t. Do some research first and educate your children that the sea is not a pool.
    Do we want to have a sign before every kind of risk in our lives?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *