Arrival: Now before you read my review, I want you to know that we are NOT picky people and we are VERY accepting of other cultures. While I probably would not return to this particualr hotel for reasons which will become apparent (see food), we would recommend it as a good value for what you spend. We arrived rather late at the hotel, around 9:30 pm. We had our 5 year old daughter with us and because we were coming from Canada, we were quite hungry as the airlines only gave a small snack, not a meal. We began our travels at 3 am the night before. Check in was a complete nightmare. They had only one person on the desk and there was already a line up of 15 or so people when we arrived. After about 15 minutes of the one front desk guy dealing with the SAME person, another girl finally arrived and began check in for others. She was fast and efficient, but unfortunately for us, the restaurants all closed by the time we got through check in, around 10:30 or so. Yes, we stood in the lobby with out suitcases and our very hungry 5 year old daughter for over an hour only to be told that there was no food until 12:30 am when they would put out snacks in the lobby bar. We brought our bags up to our room and checked out the hotel a little before waitng and waiting and waiting some more (you get the idea) for the food to be brought out. It finally arrived some time after 1:00 am. Definitely not happy about this!
The food was buns, some cheese and cold cuts, pastries and the like. Not a buffet at all, and there was very little to it. We were lucky we were waiting when it arrived, because it disappeared in very short order. The next morning was better.
Rooms: Our room was very clean, but be advised. This hotel is OLD and it shows. We didn’t spend thousands to stay in our room, so this part of the resort was not as important to us. If you are the type of person that spend time in your room, then you should spend a few thousand more and go to another hotel. But why you would spend money to sit in a hotel room is beyond me! We did not have the water problems that others mentioned and indeed turned on the water and no brown came out. But it DID smell like the lagoon and the cold was not COLD like we’re used to. We did brush our teeth with the water, but just did not swallow it. Remember, the locals drink the water. It’s not poisoned or full of bacteria like you think. It’s just so high in mineral content (hence the smell) that our stomachs can’t handle it because we aren’t accustomed to it. If you get sick, and only brushed your teeth with the water or even only swallowed a small mouthful, be assured it’s NOT the water that made you sick. See above for FOOD POISONING possibilities. The drawers in the dresser were not aligned properly and so you needed to open some partially in order to open the ones below.
The beds themselves were amazing! They really did not cheap out on them and they were every bit as comfortable as our $5000 bed at home. Really! It was definitely a pleasant surprise to not have to wake up to a sore back every night, like we have in some other places we’ve stayed before. The room we got had a door to adjoin the next room. When you open the door from your side, you will see that the is NO LOCK preventing your neighbor from opening the door and entering your room. The only thing stopping them is the lack of a handle on your door. So really, all one would need is a credit card (room key, towel key, etc) to open the door. NOT COOL! I immediately went downstairs to complain and was told that all the rooms were like that. Being VERY tired and hungry, I did not press the issue and went back up to the room. We unplugged the TV and moved the whole armoir in front of the door to prevent anyone from entering (or at least make it clear to us if they tried or did gain entry). See the photo. We found out a few days later that all the rooms were NOT adjoining. We were lied to.
Room Noise: We had a balcony room which was nice, but if the wind picks up, it whistles and howls VERY loudly through the bottom of the door. The only way I found to solve this was to take the rubber bath mat, fold it in half, open the door, lay the mat down and close the door over it. It doesn’t stop the whistling and howling completely, but it helps. The rooms are not soundproof and you can sometimes hear other guests, particularly if they are parties. Which, By the way, I was rather diappointed in the fact that there were some spring breakers at our hotel since when I booked, it said "no spring breakers", particularly because we were awoken several times in the wee hours of the morning due to inconsiderate wasted partiers and also because one of the elevators was closed due to a partier "Up-chucking" in it. Impressive, to say the least. To that particular person: I hope you had fun, especially if your definition of fun includes messing up the elevator. Nice.
Also, they have nightly shows in the pool area, starting at 9:00pm and going until 11:00pm or so.. VERY LOUD and nothing you can do to quell the racket. All rooms face this way soundproofing was apparently not known about when this hotel was built. The exception was Tuesday, which was karaoke night, held in the lobby bar. Their book is VERY thin and includes English, Spanish, and Italian karaoke so there is very little to choose from. If you’re into Karaoke, remember to bring your own discs if you’re so inclined. I forgot mine. Also they don’t practice and form of regular rotation so be prepared to wait awhile while someone gets to sing twice before you go onece or perhaps do all your songs in short order if you put in more than one. The crowd was very supportive however and that was a definite bonus.
Water is NOT included with your stay. Go across the street to one of the little shops and buy bottled water there. Much cheaper.
Canadians! Use the bank machines to get pesos. Do NOT buy American thinking you’ll get a better deal. You won’t. If you use the bank machines that actually belong to the bank (not the ones in hotel lobbies!) you will get the bank rate of exchange.
The bus system is amazing. There are bus stops, but if you’re catching a bus, you don”t need to be at one. Just put your arm out and wave at it as it approaches and it will stop for you. If you are getting off, you will be dropped at the next stop. To tell the driver you want off, just call out "Alto" of find the orange or red button on the grab bar above the seats. the buttons are only generally near the rear of the bus. If you miss your bus, don’t worry. You won’t even have to wait 5 minutes for the next one. Cost is 6.5 pesos per person. For the Americans: If someone has told you that you can ride two people for one American dollar, you have been misled. You will need the equivalent of 30 more pesos or another American dollar. Don’t worry. You’ll get change back. Besides, you’re riding the bus for much less that $1.50 for two per trip. You can’t do THAT at home. Don’t be so cheap! LOL
Food: We arrived at the buffet restaurant early (good thing, too!) We were greeted at the door and seated by the hostess. Every time you arrive at the buffet restaurant, you are greeted and seated by the hostess. The food was adequate, but no bacon to be had except some already cooked in with the bin of scrambled eggs, which did not look appetizing at all. I chose the plain eggs and picked out some bacon pieces from the mixed eggs. McCain style potato patties were offered as hash browns. The whole time we were there, this was the ONLY kind of hashbrowns they offered. Bacon (on its own) was only ever offered for two days that we were there. Sausages could be had every day, but there were not that tasty and very greasy. My daughter, who loves sausages, would not eat them because of the spice in them. We settled on lots of fruit, cantalope, honeydew, watermelon, pineapple and the like with eggs and hasbrowns. There are two omelette stations which I highly recommend you use as often times the bulk scrambled eggs were not adaquatley cooked and were often slimey and raw in places. Lunch was little better, with many different meats being offered, but chicken, pork and beef being plainly fried on the grills with no spices or sauces and then dumped into the "bulk bins". Again, dinner was about the same. Green vegetables were few and far between and were oftentimes ruined with strange "cheese" type or tomato based sauces on them. Carrots were only offered twice during the week we were there. While there was lots of food, much of it was strange to us and did not look appetizing. We are adventurous (honest!) and did try some of the new items, but it quickly became apparent to us that that style of food did not appeal to us. Hence, it became quite difficult at times to find something other than salad and fruit to eat. A note about the grills: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU TAKE FROM THEM!!!! The first night we were there, we came upon the first grill and watched the girl frying plain chicken pieces on it. The chicken was obviously finished cooking and the girl used her spatula to push it to one side. She then used her hands and reached into a bowl of RAW chicken, grabbing a handful. She then put it onto the grill, passing OVER and DRIPPING ON the cooked chicken!. She then took the cooked chicken off the grill, without cooking further to ensure that the drips were not dangerous, and then dumped it all into the bulk bin. After that, we didn’t eat ANYTHING off that grill or out of the those bins. Near the last grill, they had roasts, and other things that were baked in the oven. On one of the nights, we were completely turned off ,as they has roast suckling pigs. The two baby pigs were left completely whole and roasted. My daughter did not see this, thankfully, as she would have been deeply disturbed by the sight. I might even say scarred! Her favorite animals are pigs so you can understand. It was I who spotted it first, and was able to get hubby to steer her clear. The sight also bothered me, as I am not into that "style" of cooking and sights like that bother us. You could say that we shouldn’t be so sensitive, and that’s where our food comes from, but we don’t like our food looking at us and that’s just the way we are. We know many others the same way.
The whole thing about the buffet, we felt, was that the Mexicans were trying to prepare the food American style, but that they forgot to consult with an American to check what that was! It was more like what the Mexicans THOUGHT was American style. A great example was their "cheescake". It looked normal enough. But it tasted like, well,….. cream cheese! Not exactly what I’m use to cheesecake tasting like! And much of the food was the same way, hence, by the time we left we had a VERY hard time finding anything to eat.
Food Continued: Please note, that were are NOT picky eaters and we often try new things and enjoy them, but at this place, it was difficult to create a meal that wasn’t all bread, fruit and salad. The bread, by the way, was fantastic! Try the brown breads even if they look hevay like rye. They’re not heavy at all and they taste great. Also, when they clear the tables, if there’s any silverware that looks like it hasn’t been used, they WILL re-use it and reset the tables with it! I watched them do it. So please! When you’re finished your meal, take all silverware and put it on your dirty plates in order to force them to take it away. The other thing I noticed was waiters handling dirty plates, wiping their hands on a napkin and then grabbing clean silverware and setting tables without washing their hands! BE CAREFUL! Yet another reason to get to the restaurants right when they open The last night, we finally were concerned enough for our daughter, who only ate fruit and some bread the whole time, to ask the waiter for a hamburger for her. They told us that hamburgers were for room service only. They finally brought three of them, but warned us not to tell anyone because then everyone would want the same! Maybe they should think of offering them! Shouldn’t you give your customers what they want?? On the hamburger note, we finally found the "beach" bar on the fourth day. There are no signs pointing you to any of the bars or restaurants, by the way, and you just have to wander around until you find them, if you’re lucky (never did find one of the a la carte restaurants or the gym). The hamburgers tatsed good and were much like their American counterpart, but they were VERY greasy and the fries were cold. The beach restaurant was never open again the whole time we were there. Very diappointing. Coffee in the morning was hard to get from the waiters and I poften spent 15 minutes or more waiting for them to return from whevere they were to get a cup. Refills were even harder to get. The same could be said about wine at dinner, particularly the red. GET THERE EARLY for dinner or you won’t get red. They were constantly running out of red wine even early on. This is probably because the white and the rose are terrible Now the buffet restaurant hours Breakfast 7:00 am -11:00 am Lunch 12:30pm 3:30 pm Dinner 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm To be blunt, the hours are terrible! If you want to sleep in, good luck getting breakfast. If you are used to have lunch at lunch hour (noon), be prepared to be hungry for a while And dinner at 5:00pm is obviously out of the question! And again, good luck getting something to eat during later hours if you are unlucky enough to have a late check in.
Also remember, that they operate on "Mexican time" which means give or take a half hour or more. It was always give. They NEVER once opened early or even on time.
Bars: I haven’t too much to say here except that I only ever found three of them, and one of them was for the "Grand" side, and every time I went by, it was either closed or empty. The pool/swim up bar was one that many used off the beach due to convenience. As someone else stated the swim up portion of the bar was never manned the whole time we were there. Probably because the pool was rarely use due to the cold temperature of the water. The ocean was MUCH warmer I must say that I only used this bar a few times because once, when I went to order, the bartender was pouring off a new keg and was using the blender to pour into. I am VIOLENTLY allergic to beer. I wanted a pina colada and asked the bartender to please rinse out the blender thoroughly because of my allergy. He got angry and I just walked away. I then used the lobby bar after that. The rum is VERY watered down. I could drink it all day long and never get a buzz. Vodka is not. By the way, they are pouring out of Bacardi and Smirnoff bottles, but they are NOT those brands. The rum tastes very "limey", not at all like Bacardi. I watch the bartender refill a Barcardi bottle from the gun, so you can be assured that they are other, cheaper brands. I can attest to it that the vodka tasted like a much cheaper brand than Smirnoff. Hubby says the Corona off the tap was great. I do know that it did not smell like it does here in BC (like pot, incidentally).
The lobby bar has a window to the outside for beach/patio users to sit ot and / or order from and we mostly used this bar from the beach.
The beach was very nice looking, and even though there are a few large rocks (no big deal, really), you just go around them, and the sand in the water is great. The sand on the beach however is another story. I have never in my life seen so many cigarette butts. The beach is litterally covered in them. We could not get even ONE (I’m NOT exaggerating here!) handful of sand without having at least one, and more likely several, cigarette butts in it. Disgusting! But for that (pun intended) it would have got extremely high marks from me. Because of it, I give it about a 2 or 3 out of 10.
Beach Lounge Chairs: Ok, I’m going to talk a little about the "towel game" here. To all you people who take part in it, KNOCK IT OFF!!! If no one particpated in this silly "game", then there would be plently of chairs for all throughout the day. I watch one morning at 6:00 am as several people went out and proceeded to put towels on poolside and beach lounges, only to go back to bed and return several hours and in one case at the END of the day to claim "their" spots. The first day, hubbby, DD and I went out around 11: am to the beach. We chose a spot near the towel shack and two lounge chairs under a palapa with towels already on them. After waiting 2 HOURS with no sign of the "owners" I finally sat on one of them. About 15 minutes later, they showed up demanding their spots. They were a Quebecois couple in their thirties. I told them very politely that I wasn’t about to move as I had waited two hours before I moved in. The "chair woman" then told me how she had got up at 6am in order to save those chairs. I just told her she was silly for it and should have stayed sleeping. After much arguing on their part and consistenly polite refusals on mine she went to get a staff member. When the staff member arrived, I explained to her that we had waited over two hours before taking the chairs and that we had paid for their use, just as the other couple had. The "chair woman" had obviously not told her the whole story as the staff member looked quite surprised when I told her how long we had waited before taking the chairs. I even told the whole group that I could understand an half hour or even an hour to go for lunch, but two hours was excessive. The staff member agreed with me and told them in no uncertain terms that saving lounges was not allowed and that their check in literature and the signs near the pool and beach showers all clearly stated the policy. The "chair woman" then proceed to plead, saying it was her last day and to please not ruin their whole trip for them. Can we say "Diva"? When told no by the staff, she then said that she couldn’t be in the sun due to a medical conditon. My take on it? Go back to Canada then, What are you doing in Cancun, known for it’s SUN? In the end, the "chair guy" then said to me: "What’s to stop me from taking those chairs then?(pointing at another set that was obviously "saved"). I told him : "Nothing! Please do! I encourage you! If more pepople do it, then there wouldn’t be this problem!". Which they then did. LOL! After that, there were several others who witnessed what went on with the "chair couple" and the staff member who took part in the "Great Chair Saving Revolt". It was great to see
On our second to last day, we spent the whole day on the beach from early morning through to sunset on the beach and watched two chairs sit empty and unused all day due to towels sitting on them. The "owners" showed up 5 minutes before sunset, dumped a purse on one and proceeded to walk down the beach only to return 10 minutes later, gather their belonging and leave, never having once warmed the seat of the lounges with their butts! Rude, ignorant and selfish! So to all chair savers: KNOCK IT OFF!!! Just take an unused chair when you NEED it, not early in the morning when you won’t even be there and someone else could make good use of it for a few hours.
Concierge Desk: Concierge desk is a joke. What it REALLY is a couple of desks where the time share people can sit and try to con you into doing a time share presentation and wasting half one of your days or more on the promise of a "free" tour. They also offer you "free" breakfast at the other hotel. Remember, you get it free at your own hotel anyway. Better off to go across the street and book your tours, or, for an even better deal, head downtown,over to the Sobrianis Hotel/hostel and see Raphael and book your tours. To get there, take the #1 bus (any one) and get off at the first downtown stop. There is a brown supermarket with a curved facade across the street . Walk up the street past the supermarket and the hotel is on right. The deal he gives you will save you a bunch and while it may not be the absolute BEST deal (I saw one for $5 cheaper on the street), you WILL be guaranteed that he isn’t running away with your money and the tour bus WILL show up for you, even if on Mexcian time. Remember to bring your "Lonely Planet" book with your for more savings of 10% off. Or at least TELL him you have the book,but left it at home. You’ll still get the savings LOL.
NOTE: When you go off resort, make sure you bring toilet paper with you and be prepared to have to use a toilet with no seat. Many don’t have seats and toilet paper is not to be had. Sometimes you may get "lucky" and girl will hand you some before you go in and a paper towel when you come out, but she also expects a tip for the "service". Sometimes the just sit there and gove you nothing, but they still expect the tip! In fact, everyone expects a tip and it almost seems like they want a tip just for looking at you
Isla Mujeres: Do NOT pay the $60 US per person to take the tour of the Isla. Do it on your own and save a bundleI highly recommend you go. The beaches (all public) are pristine with NO cigarrette butts or pices of shell or coral like in the hotel zone. Amazing!! The best way to go is to go to the Puerto Juarez ferry. NOT from the hotel zone ferry. The Hotel zone ferry will cost you $15 US return per person, regardless of age. They would have charged our 5 year old! Instead, we took the #1 bus to Puerto Juarez. Just remember to take the #1 but it MUST have the sign "Puerto Juarez" in the window. There is more than one #1, and if you take the one without the sign, you will get dropped off too far away from the ferry. The correct bus will drop you at the end of the line right at the ferry depot. Walk through to the ticket booth. Make sure you go INSIDE to buy your tickets. There are "information" guides outside who will sell you tickets at an inflated price (usually 100 pesos). Cut the middleman and get them inside at the real price of 70 pesos return each. Our daughter was free. This is the EXACT SAME type of ferry that you will catch in the hotel zone, so why not save yourself nearly two thirds of the cost? Besides, you will get to drive through downtown Cancun and see a bit of it on the way. Not really much to see, as someone else said, but at least you see it first hand.
When you get off the ferry, you can rent a golfcart for the day, until 5pm for $50US. Don’t bother to look around for a better deal. You won’t get one. They are ALL the same price and will NOT negotiate. Just make sure you get a cart that works well and responds as it should when you turn and step on the gas. If not, return it immediately and ask for another. If the next one is the same or worse, insist on getting your money back and go to another rental place.
Staff: We found the staff to be generally adequate at what they did, with some exceptions. The cleaning staff were amazing! They did a great job and even though we left out valuables at times, nothing went missing. The wait staff in the buffet retaurant were sub-par as far as I was concerned and the lack of organization was apparent. The hostess often sat people at tables that were not yet reset and the people setting tables were not efficient in this regard. They had trouble setting tables in a timely manner and we and others were often sat at tables with no cutlery or napkins and had to wait to eat our meals while the wait staff gathered up cutlery for us. As stated previously, we had a hard time getting beverages and we often observed the wait staff handling dirty dishes and then clean cutlery without washing. We also observed re-use of cutlery if it looked like it wasn’t used. A big no-no where I’m from. The bartending staff, with the exception of the one who became angry at me for asking him to rinse the blender before using it for my drink, were fine and did their jobs efficiently and and were generally good at mixing drinks. The front desk staff were generall ok as well with the exception of the slow man at checkin and the one who lied to me about the adjoining rooms.
I found that while the staff were not overtly UNfriendly, I did not find them to be overtly friendly either. When I noticed this was on the fourth day, while waiting for the elevator, a room cleaner came by, gave myself and my daughter a huge smile, said, "Hola! Buenos Dias!" (Hello, good day) and carried on. She left me with such a warm and happy feeling that I immediately noticed that this kind of treatment had been missing up until then. It was also the only time, during our whole trip that someone had been overtly friendly, and genuinely happy to see us. We were never greeted like that again. Sad, really, because such a simple thing could make you WANT to tip them and really makes your day.