Booked this resort on a lark from Expedia.ca and a bit of help from your website. Have never been on an AI before; similar experience to a cruise I presume, only alchohol included at the AI.
My wife has been to Cancun-Mayan Riviera several times in the past with AI’s at other resorts & was quite enthusiastic about going again. I must admit I am not much of a resort person, but was looking forward to getting away from the not particularly cold, but long winter this year in Canada.
Arrival: Read reviews of this resort & felt good about it, unlike some other newer 4 to 5 star resorts that other reviewers & some acquaintances had experienced in Mexico recently (eg. Grand Riviera Princess, H10). Took awhile to pick up our luggage at the airport, but once we did, the Air Canada Vacations people had us on the bus & leaving the airport less than 15 minutes later. Due to the proximity of the resort to the airport(one of the main reasons I booked the resort so as to avoid a lengthy bus ride further down the coastline), we arrived at the resort in 15 minutes. We first pulled up to the newer, larger Sunrise area of the resort, only to find out most of us were booked in the older, smaller Nizuc area of the resort. Initially disappointing, however after touring the resort complex over the next couple of days, we were quite happy to be in a quieter part of the resort away from the partying younger people and the noise.
Check-in, like most resorts, I believe in the middle of the afternoon, was a zoo. After waiting in line a few minutes at the unusually small reception area, a resort rep asked us to follow him to a larger, secondary reception area towards the back of the building to register; it was located in one of the meeting rooms where a larger number of resort reps were set up to handle the influx of bus & van loads of guests. Not a great first impression of the resort, but to its credit, the resort provided extra staff, seating, food & drink to the long lines of waiting guests to alleviate to stress & tedium of checking in. Once we reached the desk, we found our original room #6809(Deluxe Room, Ocean View) was not ready, so we were asked to take a seat, have something to eat & drink while another room was arranged. During the wait, another rep sat down with us & explained the details of our package & gently tried to book us on their 90 minute resort "tour", with no obligation & the offer of a free spa session for my wife and a free round of golf at the renowned Jack Nicklaus course located onsite for me. As tempting as the offer was, having been up at 3am to catch the 5:30am flight with connections in Calgary, we were extremely tired and just wanted to get to our room! We politely declined the offer & he was not pushy in the least, just reminding us to give him a call should we change our mind. During the 15 minute wait until we received our room keys to 7027, another guest was loudly complaining that for the $11,000 she was spending on rooms for their group, they should be getting the rooms they booked & paid for, not some alternatives further away from the main buildings, pool area, etc. She was so loud, demanding & annoying that even her companion left the desk in embarrassment; I have no doubt that alcohol was involved in the incident.
The resort complex is huge, with the newest Moon Grand area having just opened up & more construction going on; the grounds are beautifully manicured and well kept. Our building was a 2 minute walk from the main building, not beachfront as I had hoped, but quiet & secluded, which turned out to be better for us during the week given the amount of foot traffic in front of our original ground level beachfront room. Our room was on the top/3rd floor at the end/on the corner of the building, affording us the privacy we wanted, yet still with a decent view of the ocean. A nice bonus was our proximity/view of the outdoor wedding chapel/gazebo which was used extensively during the week! The room was clean, all marble, well stocked with quality products, with the exception of the unavailability of Corona beer & a dearth of quality TV channels eg. the Golf Channel, local weather information, TBS, TSN, good ESPN, & movie channels. More impressive was the private jacuzzi located in each & every room/suite, along with how well the buildings were maintained, with staff continually touching up paint around the door frames of the rooms, along the railings, etc. if the slightest hint of wear began to show.
Housekeeping was probably my biggest beef of the week, but it was probably just the particular staff assigned to clean our building, or floor. Even with daily tipping of $2-3 USD, it was crapshoot if your fridge was restocked completely, the proper # & type of towels were provided, soaps, lotions, etc. were replaced. One or more daily phone calls were required to rectify the problems, even after notes were left for housekeeping with the daily tip; by the 4th day, I just gave up calling. Funny thing was, when staff did finally arrive after much delay to correct any problems, we were guaranteed to receive one or more phone calls within minutes asking us if the problem was resolved. A secondary beef was how long it took to get our room made up each day; being on the top floor at the end of the building would make it the last room to be reached, naturally, but some days we left the room by 9am with the PLEASE MAKE UP THE ROOM sign on the door & most days the room wasn’t done until well after 4pm, once not until after 5pm with the two of us siitting on the balcony staying out of their way while the two ladies made up the room. Frustrating & unacceptable for a 5-star resort, even for the most relaxed person, wouldn’t any of you readers agree?
Of the 13 restaurants, we tried about half of them in both the Nizuc & Sunrise complexes, we never made it to the one restaurant in the newest Moon Grand complex only because we never felt like Caribbean cuisine. If we ever go to the Moon Palace again, I would like to try the Moon Grand rooms because they are the newest & it looks from walking by them that they are more well appointed, if that could possibly be, and the buildings are a more modern design; the only downside would be a further distance from some of the main activities & restaurants, but a good walk to burn off the endless amounts of food one eats at these AI’s is good for all of us. Our favorites were the Italian restaurant @Nizuc(buffet), Oriental @Golf Course Clubhouse(a la carte), and Mexican @Sunrise(buffet). The "steakhouse" & "sushi" restaurants by the pools @Nizuc were good, but it was so windy it was uncomfortable to eat & your food cooled off too quickly. We never tried the seafood restaurant @Sunrise because of it being outdoors, cool & too windy for dinner that particular evening.
The beach & pools were beautiful; pool @Nizuc much smaller but quieter, one @Sunrise amazing & would have been more fun it we’d brought our eleven year old daughter along on the trip. More activities at the Sunrise pools, especially for the young US college students on their break, but "been there, done that" decades ago, so now quiet & relaxing is more our speed. We found also that finding chairs poolside or on the beach is very difficult unless you get there early; people are not supposed to save them but that rule is ignored. I am not justifying it, but we as with many others, would rise early in the morning, go & place some of our belongings on the chairs we wanted by 7am each morning, then wash up & have breakfast before heading out to our chairs usually by 9am. When we did not do that in the first couple of days, we were forced to sit on the grass, lay on towels in the sand, etc. and make do. Beach was kept clean with regular daily cleaning, and the sand is definitely nicer than beaches on the Pacific side of Mexico. The weather was cool & windy the first couple of days, but warmed up to the high 20’s with lots of sun for the rest of the week. Mini golf was fun, even at night. There are many other activities & amenities one can check out on the resort website, but I will not go into detail here as we did not partake of most of them. In retrospect, I wish I would have tried to play golf on the Nicklaus designed course, even just once. Not having played since September, I thought golf would be a waste of time & not enjoyable for the cost, but once I saw the clubhouse, its amenities & the course, I thought it would have been very challenging & a lot of fun. Next time we’ll book a golf holiday in particular at Moon Palace & stay at one of the golf suites.
Words of praise for the staff. Everyone is so polite, each one of them responded with "its a pleasure to serve you" anytime you thanked them, smiles & "Hola" were everywhere and the staff at the restaurants we frequented were so kind to wish us a safe trip home and looked forward to serving us again next time. Their sentiments were genuine, not forced & we have found this to be the way of the Mexican people each & every time we have visited Mexico. Outside of the resorts, we are struck by the poverty that pervades the country & the people, yet they have a genuine optimism, happiness & friendliness to them that we have found in few places in our travels around the world. Considering some of the spoiled, difficult tourists that they have to deal with on a regular basis, my hats go off to the staff at these resorts.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We ventured outside the resort only once for a day trip to Playa Del Carmen. The concierge summoned a taxi, our driver took us to Playa & offered to wait for us while we shopped/toured, telling us it was no problem & that we didn’t need to pay him until we returned to the hotel. His name is Balthazar Baeza Baeza, his taxi #2919, and he is a real professional. After 3 hours of shopping/touring in Playa, he picked us up at a pre-arranged location in Playa, but at no time did we worry or feel threatened that we may be on a ride to who knows where & be robbed or worse. When we returned to the hotel, he was exceedingly polite, courteous & very grateful for the generous tip we gave him. Having worked in the restaurant/service industry myself, I recognize that these people work very hard & deserve to be tipped well for service above & beyond the call of duty. Try getting that kind of service from a taxi in New York, Hong Kong, Toronto, etc.
Check-out/Conclusion: Our trip sadly ended too soon. Checking out mid morning for a 2:45pm flight was much easier than checking in, however, we found that the pre-arranged time for the bus to take us back to the airport could have been earlier. We arrived at the airport about 3 hours before flight time, but the lineups & lack of Air Canada staff at the small Air Canada counter area meant shuffling in a huge line for MORE than an hour before we finally reached the counter. A conspicuous lack of signs also made it difficult to find the counter area with the huge numbers of tourists all fighting to find the right area to check in for their flights. As a result, got stuck at the back of the plane. In future, I would probably spend a few extra bucks, get Mr. Baeza in taxi #2919 to drive us the 10 minutes to the airport earlier so we could check in stress free & avoid the huge lineups that developed about the time our bus arrived with many others at the airport, and get a better seat on the plane.
When we left Cancun, I thought that my first AI experience was less than fulfilling. Upon further reflection & discussion with my wife, a veteran of many AI’s, we thought Moon Palace was an excellent winter vacation, and we would definitely return when we decide on the Cancun/Mayan Riviera area of Mexico. Our only regret was not to have gone earlier in the winter, say late January – early February when it was much colder at home. As it was, Easter long weekend was beautiful at home & almost worth staying home for. I would not hesitate recommending Moon Palace to anyone looking for an all-inclusive type vacation. I don’t believe anyone could complain about the number & quality of the available amenities & activities; with such a large resort and well over 2,000 rooms, the staff do a pretty good job taking care of so many people. It is a thankless job, if you think about being in their shoes, but they do the job pretty well and are genuinely happy to be at your service. We look forward to returning to Moon Palace in the near future.