Breaking Bad Boat: The Bryant's and Wilson's Epic Lake Powell Adventure
For years, our neighbors and BFF’s have talked about wanting to go to Lake Powell and do a family vacation renting a houseboat. Their close friends have done it a few times and the pictures looked amazing.
Lake Powell is located on the border of Arizona and Utah. You can fly into Phoenix (4.5 hour drive) or Las Vegas is about the same distance. The main town near Lake Powell is Page, Arizona.
The Bryants and Wilsons decided in October to book our trip. We all agreed that we didn’t want to be on the houseboat for more than four nights so we looked up the boat rentals. The higher end boats had a minimum of 5 nights. We were ok with going with a lower model for four nights because all of the boats have AC, fridge/freezers, bathrooms, etc.
Our plan was to fly from Houston to Phoenix. We would then rent a 12 passenger van and drive to Lake Powell. The first night we would stay at the Lake Powell Resort. We would then stay four nights on the houseboat, drive to Phoenix, and spend the last night at a hotel by the Phoenix airport. It would be a six night/seven day vacation.
Carrie and I searched for boats and ended up booking a boat that slept 12 and cost 3400 for four nights. Each family would half the expenses. The van rental was 1,000. The plane tickets were around $150.00 a person. Gas for the boat ended up being about $600.
Fast forward to Covid:
At the beginning of Covid, Lake Powell and all of the boats were shut down. After a month or so, it reopened. We felt thankful that we booked it because now lots of families wanted to book a vacation and the houseboat was a perfect socially distant vacation. Carrie’s friend said that the boats book up quickly during a normal time (usually a year in advance).
Paige ended up not being able to join us because of her new nursing job and the whole Covid thing. Allison didn’t join us because she is back in Alabama training for running at the University of Alabama. It would be myself, Brad, Charlotte, Will, Abbey, Casey, Carrie, Riley and Bentley. The 9 of us were ready for our vacation!
The flight to Phoenix was great and picked up our van and headed to the Lake Powell Resort. We went out to eat at their restaurant which was really nice and headed to bed.
At 6 AM, Abbey and Brad woke up to go on a 4 mile run. I decided to join them because it was 8 AM our normal time. We found a trail and went on the most beautiful run. Of course I couldn’t keep up with them so I was on my own. I ended up getting lost and did more than 4 miles (walking most of it:) This should have been a sign that the Skelly vacation curse was about to descend upon us.
Around 10 AM, the husbands headed to boat school while the rest of us headed to the Super Walmart in Page to get our supplies/food.
The Super Walmart in Page is basically the only place to get food/supplies. We were not happy when we had three carts of groceries and they didn't have one live cashier. Every lane that was open was self- check out. Of course every third item there was a problem and we had to wait for assistance. My ADD was going crazy and I could only think that if ANY company goes to Page, they would be their competition and easily put them out of business. I’m thinking Super Target.
We met the guys at the Marina to get on our boat. They have four wheelers with multiple trailers attached to load up suitcases and supplies to bring directly to the boats. The husbands were excited to see us but worried about all of our groceries and space. Carrie and I meal planned so we actually bought the perfect amount of stuff. They informed us that one of our refrigerators/freezers were broken (there were two) so their company was bringing us another cooler and ice to make up for that. The one that was working would take about six hours to get cool so we would need to keep our food in the regular cooler provided.
We were so excited to start our adventure! Both husbands worried because they worried that their boat class by a 20 year old didn’t provide enough information for them to fully be confident about
We got on the boat and the first thing we noticed was a huge hole in the vinyl of the floor. It was an area in the middle of the kitchen where it looked like it was duct taped to just ignore. In the two bathrooms there were two huge holes in the ceiling. These are stupid cosmetic things but ultimately it adds/subtyracts from the trip. We started to bring our stuff on board and noticed a huge ant infestation in the cushions in the kitchen area. Apparently the cleaning crew didn’t lift the cushions and there was food left over. There were ants everywhere. We asked the workers if we could have some ant spray and they immediately got us some.
Unfortunately we had ants almost the entire trip. We had our stuff in sealed containers but they were just passengers also on our BBB boat.
We headed out and were so excited to start our trip. We are novices so we didn’t understand that everyone who rents a houseboat also rents smaller boats and jet skis to pull behind. This allows you the option to venture off into smaller areas of the lake. We ended up securing a jet ski rental for day four of our boat rental. Had we been professional Lake Powell Houseboat rentals, we would have secured a boat or two jet skis five years in advance.
The boat travels at about ten miles an hour so it is super slow. We went for about two hours the first day when we found a beach area to dock for the rest of the day/night. The guys got out and had to use shovels to dig huge holes to put the anchors.
At about this time, we realized that the two lower bunk rooms started to take on lake water. All of Charlotte’s clothes that were on the floor were covered in water. We soon realized that the lower bunk rooms would not be usable at all during the trip (they slept 4). There was water which turned into mildew. Yuck! The kids and adults had a great time going down the water slide and hanging out in the water. Our intention was to buy water rafts when we got to the Page Walmart but they were all out. We were so lucky that a group leaving at the same time we were boarding gifted us a bunch of water rafts! They wouldn't accept any money because the rafts had been gifted to them so they told us to just give them to another group.
We had a great time hanging out in the lake. It was the most beautiful lake/scenery that we have ever been to. We were on Cloud 9 and this was the best vacation ever! As the day/night went on and we were parked, we couldn’t get the AC to work. We had a gnat infestation because one of the doors wouldn’t close. It was stuck. There were gnats everywhere. The “working fridge/freezer still was hot.” We had to take all of the mattresses to the top of the boat. The two state rooms that were not flooded in lake water were not livable for sleeping. There was no air flow because the AC didn’t work so that is why we all ended up on the top of the boat with our mattresses sleeping. I sleep walk and apparently I woke up and was sleep walking all over the top. Thank goodness I didn’t fall overboard but that really scared me the next morning. At the end of the night, we all agreed that we were taking the boat back and getting off the Breaking Bad Boat.
Fast forward to the next morning. Brad and I got up really early and figured out the AC. The working fridge/freezer was working super well. The gnats were gone because we finally fixed the broken door and it closed. The ants were gone. We agreed that not having access to the bottom bunks was not suitable, but we were tough! We wanted to explore Lake Powell and its beauty!
We headed out to another Marina on the lake. (Sidenote: The lake is beautiful but there are no restaurants, places to go. When you get on the boat, you understand that you cook everything and just park at night.) At the Marina, we were told to visit the Rainbow Bridge, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. This was super cool and fun. We ended up finding a place to dock that had a decent running area for Abbey to train. At night, it was still hot. The AC was half working. Half of the people stayed in the living room to sleep. It is interesting that we had four bedrooms and none of us slept one night in them! Brad, Will, Casey, and I spent another night upstairs on the top deck. William actually chose to sleep on lounge chair the entire time.
We decided that we were going to head back to the first marina so we could park fairly close and get to the marina at 8 am the following day where we would have the full day with the jet ski. By this time, we were noticing that there was something wrong with the toilets. Brad continued to follow the directions to pour solution in the toilets and a bucket of water. He had done this each morning but by this time. The smell was so disgusting. The seals on the toilets were obviously broken and the nasty bathroom smells were taking over the boat. As we were headed back, one of our engines broke. At this point, Carrie and I were soooo frustrated. We weren’t able to use the bathrooms because the smell was too bad. No one bathed on the boat. We took baths in the lake. The four adults regrouped and came up with a list of unacceptable things.
We all agreed that we got a hoopty. We should have gotten a nicer boat but we didn’t understand that the bottom level boats were super old which can lead to more problems. We still paid good money for this vacation. We got our list together because we were going to the marina now and telling them about everything. The guys did not want Carrie or I being the representatives. Carrie got off the boat at the marina to be in a normal bathroom. I stayed on the deck and trusted the guys to sort us out. They got Ashton the manager on the boat. He brought his engineer onboard to address our concerns. Ashton agreed that the ants (they came back) were not acceptable and we would be refunded for a cleaning fee. The engineer fixed the broken second engine. The engineer agreed that downstairs was broken and not usable.
Poor Charlotte. I packed her ten pairs of underwear because she can’t sort herself out. We were saving money and I made her and Will share a big suitcase. At some point when we transferred her clothes over, all of her underwear disappeared (the story of Charlotte's life..lol). She had one pair of underwear that she was wearing. One day she had to wear my underwear (because I pack double or triple). We had a safety pin because my underwear are a lot larger than Charlotte. We rotated her bathing suit bottoms, her one pair of underwear she wore on the trip, and mine. Total Trainwreck
I was very good about keeping my mouth shut but Casey said to me “Christa, do you have anything to add?” I said “Yes. Women care about aesthetics. We are the ones planning the vacations. This huge hole in the floor is not ok, nor the two huge holes in the bathrooms. I said that is an easy fix. Ashton (who btw is super nice and professional) started to explain to me that it wasn’t that easy of a fix. I kept my mouth shut (I know the guys were very impressed with me not talking). I wanted to tell Ashton that not only did I renovate a Breaking Bad RV, I also was the general contractor of a new build and two remodels. I just kept my mouth shut and nodded that I understood that the vinyl flooring would be too hard to change out. He was very professional and was dealing with an old boat with lots of problems. It would be much easier to deal with a brand new boat.
Ashton said they have no other boats we can get so we were stuck with what we had. He said that we would be getting some money back.
We took the boat and headed for a little beach a few miles away. Brad, Will, Casey, and I spent the night on the top deck while the other were in the living room with the half working AC.
We woke up super early to go to the marina and get our jet ski. This is the day that the kids were most excited about. We asked the workers for extra toilet stuff because our boat stunk so much. They were great and provided us with extra stuff. The problem was, though, that the toilet seals were bad and all of the smell was everywhere.
The entire family loved, loved, loved the jet ski. It was amazing and they spent the entire day playing on it. Will and I didn’t get on it because we didn’t care about it and just chilled. As the day went on, the disgusting bathroom smell would not leave the boat. I couldn’t be in the cabin because it was so gross. Carrie said she was getting so over it. I was officially over it. We have said “we are not high maintenance people a million times”...BUT...at some point...you are on vacation...and when your house is a million times better than vacation...there is a problem.
I told Carrie that I couldn’t deal with being on this Breaking Bad Boat anymore and she agreed that it was not good. In my mind, we would return the jet ski and the Breaking Bad Boat, both at the same time and just our last night on board the boat.. Our 12 passenger van was in the marina parking lot and I looked up hotels in Page, Arizona and you could get a NICE one for 70.00 That was worth it for me to have a real shower and a real bathroom and not be another night on the stinky boat where we had to stay on the top deck with a mattress.
We returned the jet ski and the guys were ready to go out and find a beach for our last dock. I told Carrie I was OVER it. I couldn’t do it anymore. She said, ‘Let's take a vote.” Will said that if it were his choice, he would go to a hotel. Abbey said the same. I said that my cheap husband was not getting off the boat early so it was what it was...but I was SO mad. Brad knew how mad I was and that I wanted off of the boat that smelled of poo. So what does he decide to do?
He went to the marina store and bought a bunch of stuff. He bought me a t-shirt that had a built in bottle opener that said Lake Powell to make me happy. He spent over $50.00 on this crap and it put me over the edge. We were staying on the boat another night.
I went upstairs on the top deck with all of the mattresses and sheets and was so mad. I then put my bathing suit back on because I needed to pee and shower. So I went into the lake to do both. I then put my regular clothes back on and was just mad. In my head some things are just worth it and I felt like 70.00 wasn’t that much. We can afford it but Brad was taking a stand. I told him “Why? We are not going to earn an extra Boy Scout Badge for dealing with this. Why are we doing this?” Both Brad and Casey wanted to just return the boat on the regular date.
I knew that for 70.00, (20.00 more than the gift store), I could be in a hotel room with a clean toilet, shower, etc).
Carrie was so low key and asked me if I wanted to play a card game. I said no and was just mad. I heard Charlotte having a melt down below and went downstairs. I told Brad that I was so mad.
Here is where I felt bad.
Our boat was parked on a beach and there was a large group next to us. I said it looked like a church group. I went to the back of the boat with Brad and went psycho. I know those poor church children heard me losing my mind. I had hit my tipping point when I had to put on my bathing suit to go to the bathroom and shower because we never could use the bathrooms on the boat or our rooms.
I threw a mini tranturm like a kid. I later apologized to my friends. We were all going through this but I was the one who couldn’t deal with the end. I just knew our 12 passenger van was in the parking lot and the nice hotels in Page were cheap. Why were we staying on this boat? The rest of the group were so good. We all ended up on the top deck to sleep for the last night. The gnats were all over and getting in our mouths. The poop smell in the main areas was so bad that everyone would rather be on the top deck.rather in the dining room. We could return the boat at 3 PM the next day but we were heading back at 8 AM. We were readying to get off of the BBB.
We asked for Ashton on checkout but he wasn’t there. The four adults got together and figured out what a “fair amount” to be given back for this trip. I will say that Casey came up with a very fair amount. He figured out that four places were not sleepable so he took the amount (about eight hours a day for four people) and came up with a fair amount. We decided that if they gave us at least 700 back from the BBB experience that would be acceptable but ultimately we felt that we wanted to give feedback to the company so they could make sure this doesn’t happen for another guest.
We understand this because we are in the hospitality industry with our vacation rentals. One of our rentals was built in 2017 so everything is fairly new. We don’t have that many issues because of the age. Our 55 year old houses are another story. We have issues with them all of the time. We were fortunate to let our friends stay there this past weekend and everything went wrong in these 55 year old houses. ( AC, Electrical, Plumbing, etc). We were thankful that they were our friends and understood that things happen.
Carrie and Casey get the Boy Scout Award. They were so low key and the best type of people to vacation with. Brad is super stubborn and would have stayed until the end no matter what. I am a problem solver and to me it was worth having an extra amazing night (OFF) of the boat on our vacation and only for a small amount of money.
We all agreed that we had the best vacation. The boat company did try to make things better and we appreciated that. We had the best views and still had an amazing time despite the boat issues. The people were amazing and we laughed a lot.
Returning the Boat
Ashton was busy so we got off the boat and headed to Phoenix. We stopped in Flagstaff so Abbey could run and we could have a nice meal. We pulled up to our Drury Inn Phoenix and we felt that we were in a 5 Star Hotel, definitely as good as the best compared to our boat. We actually really like the Drury Inn and have great stays in New Orleans and San Antonio. They have free happy hours and food. Everything felt so fancy compared to the BBB. We got our free drinks and headed out to the nicest place in Phoenix Airport we could find. We found an amazing Steak place.
In the end, Ashton and the Lake Powell Resorts (owned by Aramark) did a very good job compensating us. They didn’t have to do anything but they truly tried to make things right given our trip. This is why I would book with them again. They did give us more than $700. We weren’t looking for free money but we were happy to get something back given the circumstances of our trip/ boat.
Things We Learned:
Get the nicer boat even if it is a 5 night minimum. It is worth it because It is a vacation. You have to be in a nicer situation than your home for it to feel like a vacation.
Book the jet ski/ boats in advance because they book up extremely fast.
Pack enough underwear for the trip.
Pack little inner tubes to float on because the local store may be out of them and they were fun to have.
Very carefully plan your food/meals because you will be on the water with no stores available.
Every family should do this vacation at least once. Lake Powell is amazing.
My question for you: Who is ready to book this vacation?