The Occidental Grand is an excellent resort with a lot of character and appeal. There is plenty of sun and sea where families can play and relax together. I would recommend the resort to anyone who wanted a recommendation for Cozumel – and would consider going back. Many visitors were on there third or fourth visit – which speaks highly to the quality of the staff and the resort.
2111 + 2116
Despite arriving 90 minutes late (thanks to a Sun Wing plane blocking the gate for the Air Canada plane), we were easily escorted to a waiting taxi to take us to the Occidental Grand. I’m not sure why Air Canada Vacations doesn’t use a coach service rather than multiple taxis but it’s a minor issue. As we had upgraded to the Royal Club, upon arrival we were taken to the separate concierge, checked in and given a glass of champagne. Our luggage was delivered within minutes and we were given advice on where to get a late night snack (as it was past 9pm.)
Our rooms (we had two – one for children, one for adults); each was very large, especially the bathrooms which had a huge stand in shower and a small whirlpool bathtub. Each of the rooms had bathrobes, but surprisingly not slippers. This would be a good addition to consider. The towels and amenities in the bathrooms were great – and the beach towels were already in our room. We never had any problems changing beach on a daily basis, however, I did notice that people not staying in the Royal Club did have some challenges. Each room had a fridge complete with beer, soft drinks and plenty of water which you need, as you cannot drink the water from the taps. My husband was challenged in getting beer replaced in the fridge and ended up making a game of it by leaving an empty beer can on a US dollar – sometimes he was rewarded and sometimes not. The only negative I have about the room is the beds – they are extremely hard. I’d rather have the bed on the more solid side than lumpy but this was to the extreme and I still have a sore back. On the fun side, our maid left towel art almost every day – we had an elephant, a monkey, a dog, a cat and a pig. Also we had turn down service nightly and the list of daily activities plus a chocolate was left on the night stand.
Restaurants and Bars: As a Royal Club member for the week we had access to our own restaurant for all three meals or we could make use of the buffets and other restaurants. The buffet had a theme night every night – we went there on Sunday and it was Asian buffet (which I’m always skeptical of in the Caribbean); we all ordered the stirfry which was done on the grill – very fresh but extremely salty. After that, we went to an a la carte restaurant every night. The Mediterranean restaurant was excellent – quality service, nice house wine, the grouper was fabulous. The Mexican restaurant called La Sonora Grill was a real disappointment. If you are looking for an authentic Mexican meal, this is not the place. My two-chili chicken was basically two chicken breasts in the mildest salsa ever – nothing to write home about. We also had two dinners in our own restaurant where the beef tenderloin was excellent as was the pumpkin soup. An improvement could be made by offering more vegetables and ensuring the food is hot (it’s warm, but not hot). The most wonderful dinner we had was at the Beach Hut; we paid extra for it but it was worth every cent. On the night we arrived, we met the chef at the Beach Hut (which serves late night pizza -and it’s pretty good); he asked if we liked lobster and if we wanted to have a lobster dinner sometime during the week. We said yes and made reservations for our last evening. We had a potato soup, a fresh mango salad made at our table, a huge lobster tail and a huge serving of carotts, cauliflower, zucchini, ice cream and chocolate cream cake for dessert along with flaming coffees and a bottle of champagne – all for $30 a person – and it only cost us $90 for four as my eldest wanted a steak and William threw that into the deal. For breakfast it is the usual deal – eggs/omelets etc any way you want at the buffet grill, fresh fruit, cereal, breads, waffles, cheeses and so on. You cannot go hungry. For lunch the Beach Hut served burgers and hot dogs and had seafood paella one day – plus a decent salad bar, fruit, ice cream. We did half our lunches at the Beach Hut and half a the Royal Club restaurant where they served fresh grouper everyday and an outstanding club sandwich. There are several bars – one at the main activity pool which makes just about everything and one at the quiet pool (which does not make any blender drinks to keep things quiet); there is a sports bar which has a pool table and shows movies nightly and there is a lobby bar which unfortunately is not open air. We could also get drinks at the Royal Club restaurant.
The one comment about the restaurants and the bars – the staff work extremely hard to serve you the best they can but they are so thin on the ground; there just weren’t enough staff to deal with all the people vacationing on March break – that’s a management issue and not the servers fault (as it drives me crazy when guest are yelling at staff).
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is outstanding – you can walk for miles in either direction and despite some concern about security in Mexico it appeared to be very safe during the day; people were out walking the beach all the time. There are huts and chairs on the beach but the usually warning follows – he who snoozes, loses. If you aren’t at the beach by 7:00 a.m claiming your chair you are out of luck. The water is beautiful and the sunsets fabulous. You can use snorkel equipment for three hours and there is a lot to look at – particularly the one barricuda that seems to hang out just by the swimming ropes. Someone named him Oscar. The activity pool is aptly named – lots going on, aqua gym, water polo, scuba diving lessons and so on. There is also beach volleyball and it’s very easy to transition between the activity pool and the beach. The quiet pool is just that – very quiet – but there is an amazing attraction hanging out at the quiet pool – a four foot orange Iguana. Yes, he’s a bit startling when you first see him, but he’s harmless and seems rather used to the constant paparazzi taking pictures of him. My youngest son named him Sylvestre.There is also a cute little black and white cat that hangs around – he’s a bit shy but will eventually let you pet him. We named him Leonard. And between the quiet pool and the activity pool you have to cross a mangrove swamp which a protected area full of birds and turtles. The Royal Club has a small pool only for Royal Club guests- so if you want to get away from the noise of the activity pool, it’s a good place to hide out.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Air Canada Vacations offered several excursions – we took advantage of two. We went on a three hour cruise (sounds like Giligan’s Island) where we were taken to three separate reefs to snorkle. It was just the four of us on the boat – which we accessed right at the resort’s dock (that was great – not having to take a bus to get on an excursion). We saw numerous tropical fish, barricuda, grouper, picked up star fish, saw sea turtles, lobster and lots of plant life. Simply awesome. We also went on a four hour dune buggy tour where my husband and I each drove a dune buggy (also let the 17 year old do it on the back roads); we went to a local market, saw some Mayan ruins, and then went to Playa Sur which is an environmentally protected area. We saw the crocodile lagoon and a few crocs, climbed the lighthouse tower and then we went to the beach and did a 45 minute snorkle with our guide. It was a perfect day! However, if scuba diving or snorkling are not your thing, there is horseback riding, parasailing, shopping tours, zip lining – and all kinds of things that you can do – you can never be bored even if all you want to do is lie in the sun!
There are shows in the plaza every night. To me, most of them were meh – but the fire show was excellent! If you have younger children who are participating in the kids club, they put on a show for parents every night. Mine are just a bit older so that had no appeal for them.
Other Comments: I would highly recommend this resort – it is safe, secure, clean, friendly with a lot of opportunities to engage with the staff and sit back and relax. Two things happened that prevented me from giving this resort a five – first, the Austin High School senior trip – a group of students from this high school decided this was going to be their opportunity to get as drunk and obnoxious as they possibly could. On the first night they came storming into the lobby bar, yelling, screaming, taking over the bar and being so annoying that most of the guests left; on their third night some of them went on a rampage, throwing beach chairs into the mangrove swamp (a protected area full of wildlife), threw a beer keg into the swamp, ripped off the volleyball net at the pool, three more chairs into the activity pool and threw over most of the chairs on the beach front. Everyone was talking about how disgusted they were – and I plan on writing the principal of the school a letter about this disgusting behaviour.
The second issue was the night we were planning to leave (Saturday, March 17), our flight was cancelled; I’m sure it’s not the first time the resort has experienced this but the approach was quite disorganized and most of us were able to find out more information on what was going on via the internet than we could from hotel staff. Finally, as we had all checked out of our rooms and packed our bags, we were transported to another hotel a the opposite end of Cozumel (the Cozumeleon) which was nowhere near the standards of the Occidental Grand. In fact, it was quite unnerving the lack of security, receiving a door key (not a key card) that had the name of your room on it, not having access to a safe nor a dead bolt on the door. I didn’t sleep well despite the bed being softer! We did receive a buffet dinner and breakfast but the food was quite bad compared to the Occidental Grand and we were all hopeful it wouldn’t be too many nights we’d be camped out at this hotel. We were taken to the airport after breakfast and at the end of the day, the plane left approximately 18 hours after we were originally leaving.