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To Hell and Back KOA Campgrounds

Author: Robert H.
Date of Trip: July 2009

Any KOA can be a wonderful place for camping. Well, if it is managed correctly. The KOA in Cherokee North Carolina is one that is very poorly operated. The staff appears friendly and smile well. On the other hand there is a predominant “we don’t care” attitude. it’s as though they smile as long as they get your money, but the specifics and happiness of any one camper is none of their concern.

My wife and I planned our trip to KOA in Cherokee months ago. The pictures on the site really look great. However, as many know, a picture does not always say a thousand words but, actions speak volumes.

We were very specific when we reserved our cabin. My wife’s 88 year old grandmother wanted to join us. We clearly stated that we would need a cabin close to the bath house due to toileting needs of her grandmother. We were assured they would do everything they could to accommodate us. Remember our reservations were made months in advance.

When we arrived at our campsite we were greeted with cabins quite away from the bath house. In fact we even had to cross a small bridge to get to the bath house. So we ended up using a portable toilet for Granny and had to dump it and clean it every day. Furthermore, our firepit was loaded with trash including half eaten food. The icing on the cake, almost literal in a way, was the blue tarp on the top of our cabin. We were to discover at 2am that it leaked and it leaked right onto our heads. This was replaced the next morning with a larger green tarp and they refused to move us despite the fact that there were numerous cabins near the store, and consequently right beside a bathouse, that were all empty and remained empty the length of our trip. We were assured that all of those cabins were reserved.

On our first day my 10 year old daughter wanted to go to the bouncing pillow. She was given permission and ran off excitedly. Ten minutes later she returned and asked for money. We found out the hard way that they charge for the use of the bounce pillow and to play putt-putt golf. This was disappointing to say the least. On the KOA website the picture of the kids enjoying the amenities does not include the faces of the disgruntled parents who found out that it would cost them dearly to have their children play. Remember what I said about pictures and actions.

Finally, the overall incompetence of the management and staff was shown on the day I decided to access the internet from my cabin by paying for Wifi at my cabin. They advertise free Wifi however, they don’t tell you that it is only by the main building and not at your site. In any event, I paid the fee for one day through paypal. Then I found that the internet does not work, except to allow you to pay for service. When I went to the store and explained my problem to the management I was told that I should have paid for a code at the office as paying through paypal always results in nonfunctioning service(there is no sign anywhere that explains this. Of course, they absolutely would not give me a refund as paypal was through corporate. When I asked the KOA corporate office for a refund they directed me back to the management at the KOA in Cherokee. All of this is an example of a poorly managed KOA and a corporate office that obviously does not care.

In contrast, we stayed at a KOA in Rodanthe, NC. This was a wonderful experience which we were a little apprehensive about when we reserved the cabin.

To our surprise we were in a clean comfortable cabin that provided a spigot right outside the cabin to clean dishes or anything else. The firepit was empty and there was a clean picnic table and a swing on the front porch.

My then 9 year old daughter had a blast. Not only did she play Putt-Putt golf for free and jump on the bouncing pillow at no charge, but the teenagers there actually engaged the younger children. The management provided kids handfuls of waterballoons to use at the launchers. All of this was no charge. My daughter rented banana bike without some exhorbitant deposit and it was inexpensive.

The staff was knowledgeable about the area and presented a genuine warm friendliness. As a matter of fact, they provided an actual outdoor movie (the Cherokee KOA claims to do one nightly, they did one when we were there and it was inside). The staff actually stayed around during the movie and interacted with the campers – young and old.

The KOA at Cherokee and KOA’s corporate executives should learn from the people who do things right. KOA on the Outer Banks in North Carolina Knows how to treat their customers. I guess this review should have been entitled from Heaven to Hell in KOA.

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