Old Reviews – Ocean Maya

  Ocean Maya   Tracy ~ Ottawa, Canada

March 2009

Arrival: March 12th – March 19th
My mother,myself and my four year old daughter travelled to the Ocean Maya for the Spring Break. We arrived at 8:30 a.m on Thursdy March 12th 2009 – Check in was quick. We were only able to get our room at 3:00 so we changed and left our luggage in the store room. We had requested a room close to the water which never happened! However, I was not expecting them to accomodate this request but it was worth a try. The staff at the main desk were friendly and efficient but slow, again, not surprising and expected.

Instead of an ocean view room they did give us a junior suite which meant you had a little area with two couches and a table. The room was nice, very clean. There was no alcohol or soft drinks in the fridge, only water. There is also no bathtub just a shower stall. The room was nice and clean. We were on the ground floor which was great. We had to have someone come and fix the fridge which was not cold and fix the safe which did not work either. They did this within ten minutes of us telling the front desk..they were very efficient so it did not pose a problem.

Restaurants and Bars
We never tried the a la cartes as my daugther is a picky eater and the buffet was suitable! The food was good. There were theme nights and different foods all the time. We never waited more than a few minutes in the lines. The service was slow however, you had to wait for someone to bring drinks which sometimes happend at the end of the meal! We ate at the beach buffet often which was good. There were the same foods daily..the hot dogs were a hit! There was no alcohol served at that restaurant so if you wanted anything you had to go to the ONE pool bar that served the entire beach/pool. That was disappointing. There was only one place to get drinks for two pools and the beach. The line ups were long and I often would give up and not bother. they only had one bartender at all times so it was extremely slow. They need a second bar!!! or even a third!

The two pools were beautiful! My daughter had a blast in the kids area as its shallow andit was so warm! The biggest disappointment was the beach! There is no swimmable place to swim! Not one review mentioned this. The wall which I heard about is about 10 feet so you can not swim. They have about a hundred food stretch of beach that you could possibly swim at but there was so much black crud in it it looked like an oil spill. They had a nice spot with huts on the beach and loungers which was nice but if you wanted to swim in the ocean there was NO spot. How disappointing?? We would walk to the resort next to ours the Blue Bay to swim..but that mean hauling all our beach stuff. The ocean is not the beautiful turquois blue you imagine either..it was like a river or lake…We made the best of it but do not go here if you want to swim right in front of your resort..not going to happen. The resort pictures are very deceiving. The resort itself is gorgeous…the waterfalls and the flowers are nice. There are big iguanas everywhere which was really cool!!! They take great care of the landscaping and it is impressive.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
The entertainment staff are wonderful. The two staff at the kids club Alex and Adrianna were wonderful. They entertainment team was also the staff who did the shows at night. They were very talented. We went to Playa del Carmen to shop one day..we took the free shuttle. You have to book a day ahead.

Other Comments All in all it was a great trip! The only disappointment was the beach…Next time I go back to the Riviera I will make sure I stay on the other side of Playa del Carmen closer to Tulum where the ocean is turquoise blue and swimmable!!

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February 2009

This hotel used to be called H10 Hacienda Maya but is now part of the Ocean chain.

My husband and 8 year old spent a week here in January. We’ve travelled to this area 4 times as well as other parts of Mexico and the Carribean. Having booked a 50% off deal, we were a little hesitant based on some of the reviews but ended up extremely pleased by this resort. Very typical to all other resorts we have been at in the 4 to 4.5 star range. We prefer smaller hotels over the mega resorts and this fit the bill.

Check-in: a little slow but hey, its Mexico and the 2 guys were also having to answer a continually ringing phone. Front desk was always accomodating when we needed something/had a question.

Room/Grounds: beautiful and clean; look for the big iguana that suntans on the same rock by the waterfall everyday and 4 that suntan on the rocks behind the towel hut.

Beach/Pool: Never had to get up early for a chair by the pool or on the beach. Lots of beach palapas/shade if you’re not sun worshippers like we are. Yes, they had to build a wall after a hurricane wiped out substantial beach frontage … not picture perfect but what else could they do? Next to go would be both the pools …

We spent time in the small beach area there and it was quite fine. Most days it was crystal clear with no seaweed. Some days, the wind blew seaweed in. Not as beautiful a beach area as those further south (past Playa del Carmen) but it was quite adequate for what we wanted this trip. If you walk along the beach away from the resort, you will notice some of the more expensive resorts don’t even have swimmable beach areas because of tree trunks still underneath sandbags.

Buffet: Typical choices/quality of other resorts we have been at so were pleased. Only had to line up once to get a table and that was on “transition day” with a lot of new arrivals.

A la carte’s: Enjoyed Japanese most (book to sit where chef cooks for you) followed by Italian. Mexican had the most bland food ever … no flavour, no spices … they should change it to something else. We went instead for a real Mexican lunch in Playa del Carmen.

Basement: contains disco and is where most of the welcome briefings happen – beware though. I went into respiratory reaction during/after our briefing which I suspect was mold related (could smell mold/mildew – suspect from hurricane flooding); therefore, never braved the disco.

Overall: a great resort, great value and we really enjoyed the shorter drive to/from the airport than those resorts we have stayed at further south along the Mayan Riviera.

Feel free to contact at shaybaby@rogers.com

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April 2008

Items              Grade             Comments

Check-in            D                     Very Slow

Staff                   A                     Very Friendly

Cleanliness        A++                 Never saw any garbage and restrooms spotless all the time

Pool                   A+                   Two Large pools nice and clean  

Room                 B  (Standard)

 A++ room 1108 and 1107 A++ with VIP upgrade WELL WORTH IT!!

Restaurants       B+                   Japanese Restaurant very good if you sit at the cooking table.  Food was almost always available.  (unlike most resorts we have been to)

Entertainment     B                     Not the best but very friendly staff

Beach                B+                   The large wall is an eyesore but it keeps the beach free of seaweed.  Tranquil water due from corral reef.

Conclusion :   Very nice resort.  But painfully slow check in and check out.  We upgraded to VIP ($350 per couple )but still are unsure if it was worth it.  It gives you a $70 snorkel tour (VERY NICE) and premium drinks and a closer room to the ocean.  (Request 1107 or 1108 we had both and wow what a view!)  No room service.   But with vip you get a stocked fridge.  No coffee maker in rooms.    We would definitely go back to this resort.   Jose the pool bartender rocks!

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  H10 Hacienda Maya   Denise ~ Maple, ON

April 2008

We were a blended family of 8 ranging in ages from 13 – 77 and traveled the week of April 20-27, 2008. My husband and I travel frequently and are always looking for a "deal". We chose the H10 Ocean Maya because of the price, the size (smaller resort) and the previously posted reviews.

We are not picky people by any means and were pleasantly surprised with the hotel. Overall, the food was good (fresh veggies, salads and fruits, cooked meats and seafood, really good soups), the service in the buffet restaurant was great, the rooms were clean, the staff very friendly and helpful, the grounds immaculate and well kept. The beach does have a break wall but only because of the hurricane destruction two years prior and I personally don’t blame them for putting one up. It didn’t deter from our enjoyment at the beach. We had a couple of minor issues at the beginning which were straightened out immediately and our only major complaint was the lunch between Monday and Thursday. Because the resort was only 1/3 full they closed the buffet at lunch time and had the snack bar by the beach open only offering a small salad selection, hamburgers or hot dogs, fries and chicken nuggets.

We did 3 trips. Chitchen Itza, Xhel-Ha and a night trip to Playa del Carmen all by Taxi which is the cheaper way to go.

Overall we enjoy our holiday very much. The entertainment crew kept you busy or not, depending on what you want in a holiday and the shows and entertainment at night were just fine. The kids (13, 14, 15 and 17) were never bored. The hotel was recently renovated (2006) and has the big things right, perhaps maybe not the smaller things but overall, for the price, it was a great holiday. I have also attached a map of the hotel.

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  H10 Hacienda Maya   Lauren ~ Vancouver, BC

February 2008

Arrival – We arrived at the resort at about 6:30 along with a busload of other people. They had 3 people working the front desk at the time and it took a half an hour to register our group of 10. The staff at the front seemed friendly.

Rooms – We had contacted the resort the week before to request king/double beds in certain rooms and that we had the 5 rooms in our group close together, they managed to do a good job and put 3 in one villa and 2 in the one next door. Everyone got a room with the right beds in it. The decor in the rooms is a bit old but adequate enough. The beds are very hard compared to what we are used to. Our room had a couch and a table with 2 chairs. The toilet and shower were separate with the sink and vanity right out side. The fan in the bathroom did not work so it tended to steam up the entire room after a shower. The patio door was hard to lock as the additional lock did not line up on the door without a lot of fiddling and force. The fridge is refilled with water daily. The one thing lacking in the room was a coffee maker so we could sit on the patio and have our coffee first thing in the morning. Our room was on the ground floor, a couple of the others in the group were on the second floor which I would recommend as you get a better view of the grounds and such.

Restaurants –

Buffet- Our group found the food at the buffet to be very good. There was always variety so you didn’t have to have the same thing every night unless you were picky or didn’t venture from what you had the night before. They had a Mexican them on the Thursday night when were there. Not sure if they did other themed nights as we alternated the buffet with the other restaurants. The omelettes and breakfast were the best and the line was not usually too bad as the cook was very good at having a bunch of orders on the go at once. The ice cream that they had at the buffet was amazing!! They could use a bit more staff for clearing and getting coffee in the mornings.

Mexican- The food was OK. Was expecting a bit more of an authentic meal than what we received. The portion sizes at first seemed a bit small but in the end I decided they were just right as you had 3 courses and didn’t end up overly stuffed. They put on a great show making the Mexican coffees at the end of the meal. Service was a bit slow.

Japanese- Did the Tepanyaki option at this restaurant. It starts with an option of sushi which they say is raw but it is really just a couple cucumber maki rolls, California rolls and a couple that have a bit of raw tuna (I think it was tuna) so don’t be too worried about raw, you can avoid the raw stuff. The rolls were not bad for Mexico. The Tepanyaki cooking was good. You have an option of regular rice or fried, which the make on the grill, a variety of stir fried veggies and then they do chicken, beef, fish and shrimp. The Chicken and beef was a bit over done and tough but the fish and shrimp were very good! Dessert options that we went for was the cheese cake and tempura fried ice cream…which was ok but a bit too much deep fried.

Argentinean/Steak house – The location of this restaurant is wonderful, just off the beach. We were not overly impressed with this one. Service started off excellent but towards the end of dinner slumped of to almost nothing. We had ordered the lobster (for $45 US) and chicken which we split so we could both get a taste of the lobster. The lobster was overdone and had no flavour. I ordered mashed potatoes with the chicken and received maybe a tbsp of potato on some crisp thing. It looked pretty but was not enough as a side! We complained to the manager of this restaurant about how displeased we were with the quality of lobster for the price, in hopes that it would be reduced in price, but it was not. Though as we were heading back the main lobby, the manager, Roger, caught up to us an offered to make it up to us by cooking a shrimp flame the next night…we were leaving the next afternoon so we made it lunch instead. Turns out he was the manager of the resort and HE ended up cooking us a wonderful shrimp lunch in the buffet (right at a table that they had set up for us), we were served like in was a dinner at one of the a-le-cartes. The shrimp was amazing, done with garlic, red onion, brandy and white wine. We were impressed that he went to that to make it up for a bad dinner the night before.

Snack bar- It was the same everyday, burgers, hotdogs, fries, chicken nuggets and such….though for some reason we all just loved those burgers and went back every day for one. The chicken nuggets I would avoid but the burgers are good.

It would be nice if they had a small snack bar to grab nibbles late at night if you’re up partying as the buffet closes at 10 PM and you can get hungary at 2AM if you ate dinner at 7.

Bars – There are 3 main bars at the resort, the pool/beach bar with swim up for about 6 people, the lobby bar and the Disco. Our main complaints in regards to the bars are that they are sometimes under staffed and they are not open long enough. The pool bar in only open till 7 making the only option for the whole resort the lobby bar from 7 till 11 when the disco opens. The drinks served are pretty good but after a week I wanted something different. Depending on the time of day and the bartender the drinks could be weak or strong. The guys were getting a bit sick of the Corona by the end of the week. I was a bit disappointed that you had to pay for the premium alcohol, Would have been nice to be able to have some Bailey’s in the night coffee or have a Bacardi and coke for something different without having to fork over $4 for a shot

Beach and Pools – Pools were nice but a bit cold. The ocean was a nice temperature but due to the construction of a new resort to the north the water was fairly dirty for the first 20 ft out or so. (They are filling in the beach line with top soil making the water dirty).

Grounds – The grounds were beautiful, immaculately kept up, no complaints

Activities – There was always something going on at the pool on the afternoons. We didn’t really participate so can’t comment too much

Conclusion – For the price ($897/wk) it is a good resort. Not sure if we would return for more that what we paid unless they: have coffee makers in the room, include some premium alcohol during the week, stock the room fridge with beer and pops, have the pool bar open later. I would recommend it for a nice cheap get away.

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  H10 Hacienda Maya   Jean ~ Canada

January 2008

Arrival – We arrived on time (2:30) and there was no line up at that time. The person that met us told us that the restaurant would be closing at 3:00pm so we could go and get something to eat before checking in. We thought this was great but after we had something to eat and came back to the front desk there was a huge line-up and we ended up waiting for an hour before we were checked in.

Rooms – We had asked for 2 rooms together but one of the rooms had to have 2 single beds for our adult children. They told us that yes one of the rooms had 2 single beds but when we got there there was 1 king size bed and a chesterfield. Our son ended up sleeping on the chesterfield. We were not impressed. The rooms themselves were really nice and close to the beach and swimming pool.

Restaurants – The main restaurant was really good with a variety of different foods every day. The Mexican and Japanese restaurant were the pits. The food was not very appetising. The snack bar restaurant was also not very good. They quite often ran out of food so if you wanted a late snack there usually wasn’t enough food.

Bars – The main lobby bar was great. The bartendars were very friendly and made up drinks quickly even when it got busy.

Beach and Pools – Beach not the best but was good enough for us. Not many people went into the ocean because we seemed to have a red flag most of our stay. The pools were great.

Grounds – The grounds were a 5 out of 5. Beautiful gardens and very clean. However there is a spot on the pathway that stinks. The smell is like raw sewage. Once you get past that it doesn’t smell.

Tours – For the most part everyone enjoyed the tours. However we booked a tour to Tulum and ended up with a miserable tour guide that did not like English speaking tourists. He made the whole tour very uncomfortable for most of the people. I was hit by a bus and knocked down. This was the only tour that nowbody liked.

Conclusion – I would not come back to this hotel. We found the front counter staff very unfriendly. Although the grounds were very beautiful the rest was not.

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  H10 Hacienda Maya   Debbie ~ British Columbia, Canada

December 2007

Arrival – Arrived on time in Cancun. Big lineup at the checkin at the H10. Not impressed with that part but that was the only thing not impressed with.

Rooms – Our room was overlooking the beach and was absolutely perfect. 9 foot ceilings, sparkling tile floor and great service

Restaurants – All food was excellent. so much choice and differant every night. All service staff far exceeds anywhere else we’ve been.

Bars – A sight to see the bartenders serving umpteen people all day long and still smiling and happy.

Beach and Pools – The beach was kept awsomely clean and neat. The pool sparkled and was great to swim in. Never crowded.

Grounds – Perfectly manicured grounds, as beautiful as any postcard presents. Easily maneuvered around.

Activities – All activities were fun and so many we never tried them all. Great staff making them available.

Tours – We did the tour to Chechinetza. It was fantastic. Never had a knowledgable tour guide like that before. Playa del Carmen was so much fun.

Conclusion – We are definately going back again. All inclusive is the only way to go. Our thanks to H10 for being everything they say they are.

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H10 Hacienda Maya Val and Jean ~ Ottawa, Canada

March 2007

Had the most wonderful holiday last week March 12-19. This is the most beautiful resort I have ever seen with the people being very friendly and the service is excellent.

Everything is immaculate, the food and restaurants are wonderful, the entertainment is constant as well as the night life. Always things going on.

The beach is beautiful and the villas are lovely as well as the well kept grounds around the resort. Come back to your room to find a heart shaped as a bird covered in flowers on your king size bed and fresh bottled water in the fridge all the time. Margarita’s start flowing from 10 a.m. and on as well as a list of what is going on in the resort is posted in the main lobby every day. Playa del Carmen is just 10 min away with the shuttle from the hotel.

Loved every minute will go back next year.

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H10 Hacienda Maya Ronald ~ Ottawa, Ontario

March 2007

Visited Dec. 06.

Hacienda Maya is a very attractive place, well kept, quiet, in a string of well-spaced resorts — we would definitely go back. (Formerly the El Mandarin). The hotel buildings are in excellent shape after the renovation, and staff keep them very clean. Accommodation in the big houses (8 rooms each) is a nice change from long corridors; rooms are large and modern. The buffet can appear boring possibly but is quite okay – too many dishes, so you just select 6 or 7 different ones each time. Nice fish and guacamole, desserts maybe weak/repetitive. Some dishes look recycled from before. The Japanese restaurant was not memorable, the Mexican one has quite adventurous (odd) dishes. Comments say the staff is not charming – not our feeling. Mexicans may be more reserved than Dominicans but we found them organized and pleasant and helpful.

It is rightly famous for its landscaping, colorful and neat, expertly done, a big factor for us. Sitting on your balcony (upstairs is better) is a pretty garden experience. Even the walk out to the highway has nice plants. There is a free shuttle to town at noon, back at 5.

The new swimming pool is big and impressive, gets rather busy at times. The beach is narrow, has gravel and rocks in parts, but there is a central part within the swimming area that is sandy, even sometimes fish come to be fed. (Only a handful of guests venture in.) Beach recliners can always be found free. Very nice pier is a bonus. Little room for beach walking in front, but you can walk miles on the nice beach coastline (with wider beach)

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H10 Hacienda Maya Cyndi ~ Canada

February 2007

This hotel has been completely revamped in 2006. We were there in Jan.2007,and this hotel is very nice,well kept,good location for getting into town,Tulum etc. The lobby and bar is very nice,brandied coffees served here late in the afternoon. Local vendors come by every other day in the evenings. There is some sort of live music,shows every day. The new pool has jacuzzi jet beds,you can rent jet skis,go on tours directly from hotel is you want. We took a taxi to Tulum,only becuz it is hard to see out the bus windows. Then bussed it back. Playa del Carmen is about 8km away. Busses run by every 10 min,13p. there is a bus stop right across the street on the highway. Food is great,lots of fresh choices,and lots of it available. Drinks are good,although if you want premium brands yo have to pay,but when it’s a mixed drink,who cares…unless,you like it really strong. there is also espresso available in the mornings. Keep in mind the minimum wage is till only $5US a day…all the employees get an A+ for effort here…tips not expected,but it helps them pay their bills!. I would recommend this resort to anyone wanting good value,service etc…

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H10 El Mandarin Wayne ~ Canada

May 2006

Enjoy the information provided in this program and will use it in the future. I find the information much more real than that of the tourist claims. My wife and I flew to Cancun in mid-Feb. for two weeks at El Mandarin. The flight there and back was provided by WestJet and was a great trip with lunches in route and good leg room.

The area that the resort was located is off a 4 lane hwy. about a mile from the beach where the resort was located. This trek made the prospect of leaving the resort grounds limited to a shuttle or taxi. It also is not easy to walk along the beach to other resorts as they are fairly far apart. Our furnishings were very spacious with a good working air conditioner. There was a small balcony which faced undeveloped swamp land and so was not used very much. Our room was one of 8 in a two-story building. We were on the second floor which entailed walking up two flights of stairs. This appeared to be more difficult with the 30 degree weather than back home in CB!!!

The main hotel/reception was 600 paces and 30 more stairs back towards the highway where there was a bar and two restaurants. Our room was approx. 200 paces to the waters edge with a swimming pool and bar in between.

The meals were fairly good but after two weeks everything began to get boring. There was a lot of Mexican food which did not look or taste all that appetizing as well as things such as roast beef, turkey, lamb, ham and whole fish available each evening.

The staff were very attentive and helpful although they could avoid eye contact at times. Mostly men clean the rooms and wait on tables. With the rooms there was usually at least two security guards in attendance as well. Despite this one chap from Quebec had a video camera stolen from his room. It is highly recommended and well worth renting the safe each room has for valuables.

The drinks appear to watered down or I have returned to being the young gun I once was when I was twenty!

In conclusion I would say that this resort is one to be recommended as it is less expensive than others in the area and the layout is very large and well laid out. On the other hand, since both my wife and I have physical problems with our knees and backs the distances to walk are very painful. ( 600 paces one way to and from breakfast, lunch and dinner=3600 paces) plus a lot of stairs moves me to advise older vacationers to find somewhere else to stay.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Anna ~ Canada

January 2006

We just stayed at this resort from January 14,2006 to January 21,2006. We had a wonderful time, everything was great. I was a little wary about going after reading some of the reviews, but I tried to keep an open mind, and we had a wonderful time. I would recommend this resort to anyone. The check-in took a little while because we came in really late, there was one person behind the check-in desk and of course there is a full busload of people checking in at one time, but hey, you’re on vacation, so what’s your rush?

The main building, the grounds, the beach and pool area are all gorgeous!!! Our rooms were nice, it’s nice that they’re setup as little villas, it’s a much nicer setup than an actual hotel. We never noticed any of our neighbours, we were in room 803 which was close to the pool and beach, which was really nice.

The pool and beach are really nice and very well kept, the animation crew is awesome, not very pushy but really friendly and very good at what they do. We went to three of the live shows in the evening and they were all done very well. A special shout out to "Cuco" from the animation team!!! The food was very good and plentiful, the drinks were awesome. I’ve read some reviews on how the resorts skimp on the alcohol, this resort did not, the drinks were quite strong and really good, even if you didn’t tip.

There were some things that were not open due to the hurricane, but they were working on getting everything back up and running. The staff were all very friendly and knowledgeable, they were always so helpful if you needed anything. I would recommend this resort to anyone, we had a wonderful time and we would go back in a heartbeat.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Don and Irene ~ Canada

June 2005

If you are a “Customer Service” oriented traveller, do not go to Club El Mandarin Cancun Mexico. It is listed as a 4-star resort but in reality it’s a 2 ½ to 3-star. Although the grounds and main lobby/lounge, beach and pool area are beautiful. The rooms are in need of upgrading, especially the bathrooms. We had great difficulty in getting the 2 daily bottles of water we were entitled to have delivered to our room, until the 4th day. Our fridge was not operating until the 3rd day. The television was to say the least, unwatchable because of the poor quality of the reception. The food is plentiful but bland.

Our digital camera was stolen from it’s case, which was stored in our room in the back of our closet. While we were yards away at the beach they took the camera, closed the bag and put it back in the closet, hoping we wouldn’t notice for a while. Our neighbour’s digital camera and cell phone were stolen. Other neighbours units were entered and things were moved but nothing stolen (they didn’t have digital cameras in their rooms). All our other valuables and identification papers etc., were locked in the safe in the closet. There was no break-in evidence, indicating that the thief was a person with a key in a position of trust in the employ of the resort. There are security guards everywhere but they stand on the curb outside while the repair people and cleaning staff are in the rooms (not very effective).

We reported this theft to the hotel guest services. It was not well received. The representative suggested that this was not a common occurrence and this was more or less an isolated incident, which only added insult to injury. They did ask if we wanted to file a police report. They said it would take about 2 hours. We said we would as we would need a police report for our insurance claim. We asked if they would take us there and they said they would take us the next morning and that we would be accompanied by the guest services rep., and head of security. The next morning we also reported the theft to our “Air Transat Holiday” representative who works at the hotel, who merely stated “you are in Mexico”. We became really upset at this comment. We then said that we would be posting negative reviews to warn travellers about our misfortune at Club El Mandarin and lodging complaints to Air Transat Holidays about the lack of concern and sympathy we experienced from their rep.. At that point the representative back-peddled and feigned sympathy. Until then we hadn’t received any sense of support or sympathy from the resort representatives nor this Air Transat representative. None of them said they were sorry for our loss or inconvenience. I suggested that they should at least be emphasising to their clients/travellers, that all valuables including cameras and cell phones should be locked in the safe in their room.

The next morning the hotel rep., was more sympathetic and helped was helpful in filing the police report and translating etc.. The Air Transat rep., started sending notes to our room to ask if things were going well. Too little too late!!! We’ve travelled for years and this is the most negative experience we have had to date.

Thank you for posting this review in an effort to alert other trusting travellers.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Patti and Stew ~ Canada

May 2005

We had the pleasure of staying here for 1 week in April.

We had read everyone’s reviews and decided to keep an open mind with the goods and the bads. We had a fabulous time, but it just wasnt’ long enough…10 days would have been perfect.

We were in building 1602 which was half way between the lobby and then beach. And we only saw one of our neighbours once.

The beach was very nice, we didn’t have a problem with seaweed like other people did. At one point in the day, I was the only person floating in the ocean on one of the foam tubes from the pool shack. We took hobby cat lessons and then took it out on our own. The people working on the beach and cleaning up anything took their jobs very seriously. Lots of security guards around and they always had smiles on their faces. Vey friendly I might add. The food…well at first you were in awe of all the different choices there were. But then by the end of the week…omg! it was food overload. They had everything and anything. It was presented so nicely and it was GOOD ! Drinks were also brought out to the beach, which was nice.

All in all, the vacation was so relaxing for us and we had brought our 2 daughters aged 11 and 16. Not one complaint for either of them. We’d go there again if we had the chance.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin New Brunswick

May 2005

We are from N.B. and we spent a wonderful week at the El Mandarin in April. I don’t know how anyone can complain about this place ! We found everything to be absolutely top notch ! Everything was so clean, the grounds were really beautiful, the food was good and what a variety ! The people were all very friendly and helpful. They really know the meaning of the word ‘ service ‘. We had a beautiful room in a great location ( #2907 ). We attended every evening show and really enjoyed them. We thought it was a beautiful place and we definitely reccomend it very highly !

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Missy from Ottawa

April 2005

We have used this site extensively in recent year and found it a great help when planning our winter getaways. This was our first trip to Mexico and found lots of great tips as usual.

Getting there
We flew Air Transat out of Dorval. We could have flown directly out of Ottawa but my sister and her husband from Vermont were joining us for the first week so we agreed to meet in Dorval and fly together. We were to check in at 6am which we did but there were only 2 agents at the counter. Why DO the airlines do this?? The flight left Dorval on time and was overall a good experience. More leg room than Skyservice which is a BONUS. We’ve done many Sunquest/Skyservice holidays and always figured we could put up with 4 or 5 hours of cramped seating for a 2-week holiday. Air Transat was a pleasant surprise.

Arrival in Cancun
Like many Caribbean islands we always think their "system" seems confusing, but somehow it seems to work. We lined up under shelter from the sun for about 15 minutes. We were on an A330 with seating capacity over 300. So you can imagine how long the line was. It appears they wait for the lines at Immigration to lessen and then they let another flight in. Once inside we were through Immigration in no time, bags collected, and through Customs. They have the system there where you press the button. Green light means you’re out the door – red light means you get your bags searched. We zipped through with no trouble and found the Air Transat rep outside with a large sign. We were on the bus quickly and at our resort within an hour.

Arrival at the resort
We lined up yet again, albeit it briefly to check in. We received room keys and towel cards. They told us to come back for safe keys after 4:30 (it was then about 3pm) as it was too busy at that time. That is inconvenient as you start unpacking and want to hit the beach and you’ve still got all your valuables to carry around. They’ve done away with the combination safes as they said too many people forgot their combinations. So now you get a key and lock.

We opted to take our own bags to our rooms as we know sometimes it can be a long wait. We had requested 2 upper floor rooms (buildings are 2 story), center of the resort and that’s exactly what we got. Very spacious rooms – 2 double beds, ample storage, coffee maker, fridge (which they eventually replaced with a working one on day 6!), large bathroom and balcony. Very good maid service. I asked for an extra towel on our 2nd day there and she left one every single day of our stay. We left $2US dollars every other day but my sister and her husband didn’t leave anything until the last day and the service was the same – good. Our rooms were always made up before noon so you could have a nice cool siesta in the late afternoon without them knocking on your door. In the DR we have always taken little presents to leave with our tips. We didn’t do it here and I’m not sure if that was a good decision or not. In the DR you really get the feeling they appreciate the hair brush or pantyhose or toiletries. I’d be interested to hear what others say about this practice in Mexico.

The Beach
Very nice beach. Other people commented that the beach was never raked but every day we were there it was raked. The biggest problem is shade. As much as we love our winter getaways neither my husband or I can sit out in the direct sun for any length of time. For that reason we try to pick islands/resorts that have trees lining the beach so you don’t have to fight for palapas. (for instance the Dominican is great for this – St. Maarten is not) The resort was not full our first week there but my brother in-law still had to be on the beach by shortly after 6am to get 4 chairs under a palapas. The second week we just needed 2 chairs. Sure enough there are already towels on chairs by 6am and people don’t show up until afternoon. This in spite of signs stapled under each palapas saying that you can’t leave it unoccupied for more than 30 minutes or they will remove your belongings. Of course this never happens. I think this has to be the singlemost frustrating part of a winter holiday. Our travel agent said more and more people are concerned about shade for health reasons and certain resorts just can’t provide enough for all their guests.

This is not a large resort nor is the beach area that large. That said it’s difficult to get away from the music by the pool. It’s peaceful and quiet until about 10am when the first water activity starts. From then until late afternoon the music is booming. I’m not sure why resorts think the louder the music the better the time people are having.

The animation team comes around every day trying to recruit people for various activities. Very low key – if you don’t want to join it’s no problem. We are not pool people so never used it. My sister and her husband used it several times and didn’t find the water as cold as some people had previously mentioned. They were very through in the cleaning of the pool and it’s certainly big. We’ve been to resorts with the swim-up bar where you see the same people in it drinking and smoking for hours on end. NOT too hygienic.

The Food
As much as we always say these all-inclusive resorts have such a wide variety in the buffets you can never get tired of it – we did at this resort. There is a different theme every night. The only REAL difference seemed to be the decor – except on Mexican night when the food was definitely more Mexican.

The ala carte restaurant upstairs no longer takes reservations. They have this strange system that you line up outside the door and when the doors open at 6:30 you may or may not get in. Of course people start hovering around the lobby near the door about 6pm. We ate there twice and didn’t find the food anything special. But it WAS nice to sit down and be served.

Evening Shows
In 2 weeks we never went to one. When you’re on the beach before 7am every day (due to above mentioned shade problem) it’s hard to stay awake until 9:45 most nights. Resorts could really take a page from the cruise ships here – offer an early and later show.

Our main reason for going to this part of Mexico was to see the Mayan Ruins. Unfortunately we were daunted by the thought of a 3-hour bus ride (each way) to Chichen Itza so we didn’t take that tour. We opted for a combo tour to Xel-Ha and Tulum. Xel-Ha is about 50 miles minutes south of Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya. It’s a recreational site where visitors can see a lot of natural wonders including a labrynth of waterways and paths through the tropical jungle, lagoons of beautiful turquoise water, inlets and coves, cenotes (fresh water sinkholes or natural wells), a river which flows through a mangrove forest, multicolored fish, and a verdant lush jungle have undoubtedly made this park one of the most popular tours in the region. Our excursion price was "all-inclusive" meaning we got lockers, towels, snorkels, masks and fins, and lunch at one of several restaurants. The first problem was that you line up to GET all these things. So of the 5 hours we were there we probably spent an hour in various lines. Beautiful spot though. We were to leave there at 2:30 for the 15 minute drive to Tulum which was on time. Upon arrival at Tulum our guide got our entrance tickets and provided about 45 minutes of information/history on Tulum and the Mayan culture. You can imagine how hot it was at 3-3:30 in the afternoon. Unfortunately by the time he finished talking he said "and be back on the bus in 35 minutes". It was impossible to look around and really absorb what you were seeing and then get back to the bus in 35 minutes. In hindsight we should have taken just a Tulum tour.

The hotel offers a shuttle service to Playa del Carmen. We used this once each week as the internet was much cheaper there than at the resort. 5th Ave is a great place to souvenir shop!! But take water and a hat with you. It is unbelievably hot wandering around there.

Tour Rep
We have had good and not so good experiences with these folks. With the exception of Tanya (Sunquest) at the RIU Taino in Punta Cana most are only interested in talking to you if you’re purchasing a tour from them. I inquired about taking the ferry to Cozumel. The Transat Rep said I shouldn’t do it unless I was taking a tour and would "see" something. Now why can’t they just say "ok, if you want to go on your own I recommend you do…………..". I know these companies are all about booking tours and making money and are not really in the customer service business. Too bad really because they can make you decide whether to stick with a tour company or not for future trips.

Final Thoughts We wouldn’t go back to this resort. Not necessarily because of the resort itself – we don’t tend to go back to the same place twice. But this resort just seemed to be missing "something"!!! We stayed at RUI resorts and found them to be topnotch. Not the case with this one which is part of the Altamarea chain of hotels and resorts.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Shelby ~ Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

April 2005

My family and I just returned from 2 weeks at the El Mandarin. We stayed from March 27-April 10. I am 13, writing from a kids point of view, I have to say: Its awesome! Families, if you’re worried that you children won’t have a good time, don’t be.

I’ll start with the food:
Buffet: Very nice! Especially Mexico night. Don’t be afraid to try new things! It may look nasty, but its actually really good. The food is mostly the same every night, just a few items on the menu are different. The ice cream and desserts are probably the best things to get. Cream puffs shaped like swans, strawberries, cakes… it was just good. The Service is friendly and fast. All of the waiters always had a smile on their face, especially Manuel. If you speak mostly english, like my family, you may have trouble communicating with them, but a smile when you come in and a gracias when they take your plate goes a long way. For people who don’t like to be in the lime light, don’t go for dinner right at 6:30. At that time they have all of their waiters standing at the door clapping as you come in. If you wait, outside there is drinks, popcorn, and home made chips. the BBQ are very spicy, so be warned. Breakfast was good, coa-coa pebbles for kids, fresh fruit, sausages, bacon, pancakes… the perfect breakfast! Sorry, I didnt go to the buffet for lunch. Mexican Beach Side restarant: Has less food for breakfast then the buffet… if you have a choice, I think you should choose the buffet. Lunch is great! Hamburgers, cheese burgers, and hot dogs. Very good lunch.

Fancy restaurant: Wow! Better then any of the food in edmonton! I strongly reccomend going here! 3 courses, english speaking waiters, just very fancy. They played some strange piano music, but apparently thats what they play at places like that. Men must wear pants, so pack a pair or two.

The rooms:
Nice. The beds are a little small so if you have older, bigger children, or you are bigger people, I’d recomend getting two rooms. It wasn’t very roomy with two teenage girls in the bed, so you can tell they arent too big. They do not have cotts! if your travel agent says they do, they lied. Lots of storage, clean washroom, nice tall shower. The TV doesnt have a lot of english channels, but if your thinking of watching TV you are stupid, I mean come on! Your in Mexico! Always impecably clean. They wash the windows daily! Thats how efficient they are. Cleaning staff come 8:30 in the morning, or 4:30 at night. Or at least they did in the 800 building. Sandra was especially good

The beach:
Very nice. People say you need to tip, but not really. I got great service without tipping. (Not saying you shouldn’t because its a very nice thought)

The animation crew were so great! They always tried to get you involved. I especially like water arobics! I thought, ew thats for old ladies, but its not! I got a shoulder muscle from after two weeks! In the morning its in the pool, in the afternoon, its in the ocean (My families idea to have it in the ocean). There was also pool volleyball, meringae, salsa lessons, spanish lessons, water polo, daily contests; there is always lots to do. You can also just sit and relax. The animation crew does come around and ask you if you want to join. If you don’t just say no, and after a little nagging they go away. Everyone was so nice. You may at first think the crew is sort of creepy, but don’t judge to quickly! Once you get to know them, you realize they are just being friendly. Erik, Manolo, Isreal, and Rolando were especially great! Always very friendly and very funny.

The pool was nice and big, and had a great ledge to sit on. Yes there was no pool bar, but its not that hard to walk five steps up to the bar right? Volleyball net, basketball hoop, water polo net. Nice shallow end, and the deep end isnt too deep. There is a small area which has booies marking the diving area. That is very deep. I’m 5’11, standing flat foot on the floor or the tank with my arm up, my fingers barely reached the surface. So beginner swimmers may want to stay away from there.

The beach was nice, lots of palapa’s, but you still have to get up early to get them. Water was nice, not so clear. The hotel staff worker hard every day clearing weed off the beach. If you bring bread out into the water on calmer days you can feed the fish. Its very cool, but also scary because they touch you, which in my case caused me to scream.

The Evening show:
Ah, the evening show. I personally loved these but my family wasn’t as impressed. All done by the animation team. The lead guy, Mr. Benjamin, ‘s intro was very funny, or at least I thought it was. Always said they same thing. Get used to cheering when they say " all the people from _____!" They do that a lot there. Cheer loud because these guys and girls work their butts off to keep you entertained.

Sunday: Comedy show. This switches every two weeks. On our first day we saw one… very bad. Involved Cris, one of the animation team wearing a dress and jumping into Rolando’s arms. If that is how the show starts get out while you still can!

The second sunday however was very funny, and I enjoyed it a lot. We were with some people that hadn’t been as impressed with the shows, and even they admitted how funny it was.

Monday: Blues Brothers. If you’ve seen the movie you will like this more. Pretty good none the less.

Tuesday: Miss Mandarin/ Perfect couples show. They need adult volunteers. Do not bring young children to these shows!!! Nothing too bad, just a lot of "suggestive" content. Volunteer if you are a couple away from your kids! Its all in good fun. Remember: What happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico.

Wednesday: Movie star. They need only 2 or three volunteers to be some famous person and to introduce the winner of the grammy. Nothing embarassing. The show was funny and Rolando was great as Danny from greese. This was also a dance show, but non-dancers will still be entertained. The animation do their best impression of the certain star, and it is very funny.

Thursday: Mexico Night. They bring in professionals for this, very cool!

Friday: They get really hyped up about this one. Disco night! They need volunteers to dance onstage for a little between costume changes! Dont be shy and volunteer. What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico! You don’t know anyone, so who cares if you look like a complete goof! It was really fun and I’m glad that I did. For tall ladies, you may want to wear one of the dresses, because the pants are short. If you don’t feel like volunteering, go anyways. Its a great show and it will remind you oldies of back in the good ol days of studio 54.

Saturday: Carribean night. This one I thought was great. Edgar, in charge of water sports did some fire twirling, it was very cool! This is a dance show. As a dancer I can say, the dance is average. You have to remember though, most of the animation team had never danced before they came to work at El Mandarin. Some were very good. Isreal definately had the best technique, but they all tried and kept a smile on their faces.

Disco: I never went to this but my friend, Theo, who came two weeks before I did said it was really fun. Boys that are teenagers: This resort is great for you too, theo says so.

Lots of positives as you can tell, but some negatives:

We had some issues with the front desk, and getting rooms to be near eachother. The family we were with had got two rooms, one for their daughters, one for themselves. They had sent an email in advance to have them near eachother. Then we get to the resort they found all three of our rooms are on opposite ends of the resort. After some finagling they had it so our room was beside their girls, and they were in the building beside us, and they were told that they would try to find a room in the same building for them. That night they talked to our neighbors from Nova Scotia who said they were leaving on Thursday. They went to the front desk and set the move up. If they hadn’t found that out they wouldn’t have moved rooms. They filled out a negative review stating their problems which was submitted to the front desk. That night they were phoned and were asked to come to the lobby. Expecting an appoligy they went before dinner to talk to the reseptionist. That appology didn’t come. The lady that worked their was mad saying that they had gotten her in trouble! No appology! No nothing! The least they could have said was I’m sorry for the mix up. But nothing. They sent the email requesting three rooms together at least 3 months in advance, and thats what happens. it was just all very silly, and I am glad it worked out in the end.

Not all of the front desk people were as silly as this one woman. They were very polite and answered any questions you had.

Another complaint: Anita from the animation crew was very scary and had no sence of humor.

At night there is a small band that comes in and plays music. They are very good. Also every second night, shops come in. There are good prices, and don’t be afraid to haggle.

If you don’t want to be dissapointed, don’t have your expectations too high. Yes, it was so great! But by no means was it 5 star. If you complain the whole time and pick apart the resort, the only thing you are doing is ruining your good time. Look on the bright side and you will have a great time.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Gord and Cheryle ~ Canada

March 2005

Just returned from a great 7 days at this resort. (March 19 to 26) It started with check-in late on the 19th. Our flight was late and all the restaurants were closed when we got there. The staff were very friendly and helpful getting us settled. They showed us to our room and 10 minutes later the luggage came with plate of sandwiches. After that we had a few cervasas in the bar and turned in for the night. Each room is part of a separate, small unit with 8 rooms and a small patio/balcony. Basically, you never see your neighbours. The rooms were clean and neat. In fact the entire place was the cleanest I have ever seen. Someone was always cleaning or washing something. The gardens and the grounds are amazing. Beautiful and well kept. Beautiful pool with deep and shallow areas suitable for small kids. The beach is very nice…the seaweed always cleaned up by about 8:30 and none in the water during the day. Lots of shade on the beach as well. Quite windy so it feels comfortable as it is quite hot there. Lots of water sports. They have several nice Hobbies in good shape. They were under used and I had no trouble arranging to take one out for a sail whenever I wanted. I sailed about 3 hrs a day which was fine with me. Several times a day staff walked down the beach with trays of drinks and fruit. First time I have seen that anywhere. The restaurants were good with a lot of variety. Each night was a "Theme" night. Like anyplace though you don’t want to try everything everytime or you will be sick of it by Wed or Thursday. It would have been nicer if all the huge doors surrounding the main restaurant had been opened to the outside. We found it depressing to be eating inside all the time. We had a light lunch in the pool restaurant each day….salads etc. Although the resort was full, it never seemed that busy except for the bar in the main building. The bartenders, run off their feet, did not really have time to mix drinks properly and I had a couple of pretty bad margaritas as a result. The "Animation Team" worked hard but they really need to do something about the quality of the shows they put on in the evening. Pretty bad. Maybe it was just not our thing but I have seen much, much better other places. Over-all; beach good, accomodations good, food good, activities good, beer good, sailing good. We would go there again.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin Karin ~ USA

March 2005

We went for nine days and were very happy. Our experience with the front desk was 180 degree different than on of the reviewers. They bent over backwards to help us and were very friendly, very patient, and accommodating.

The place is very clean – rooms, grounds, beach, pool. Our room was more than adequate and we enjoyed our little patio. We were quite close to the beach and that suited us. There are many common areas that were relaxing and pleasant — the lobby is very large, there is an area outside with entertainment in the evening, plus a bar area in the lobby.

The beach does have sea weed but they clean it all the time. We enjoyed a side trip to Playa del Carmen on the free shuttle. Get there early to book it. It’s not expensive if you miss the free travel, only about $6 round trip per person vs $20 round trip for a cab.

The entertainment at night was terrible in the theater. The musical groups were good.

We were very happy.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin – Playa Del Carmen Carla & Darryl ~ Manitoba

March 2005

We have just recently spent the week of Feb. 19th to 26th at this resort. Although the grounds were spotless and rooms were neat and clean for the most part, I would probably not recommend this resort to anyone that I was friends with…

We traveled in a group of 17 ages 7mths to 60 years old and although everyone stayed healthy and not so much as a tummy rumble – in my fifteen years of traveling the Caribbean this would have to be my least favorite spot so far. I would not rate this property any higher than a 3.75 to 4 tops….

I am not one to normally complain or voice an opinion to quickly when I don’t like something…but the staff at the front desk from the second we walked in was plain rude.

ARRIVAL…We had arrived early for check-in and were sent off to eat…the Guest Service mgr. told us he could not wait for our group to settle in and that we would have to move our bags down to the disco to be tagged ourselves. Then at 3pm when we went back to get our rooms, as we were standing there another bus pulled in and the guy behind the desk was going to check them in instead of us. When I questioned him, he pretty much threw the keys across the desk to us and no one explained how to get around the place or where our rooms were.

FOOD… although very tasty; it was very repetitious in the buffet area. There was not very much variety nightly as the salad bar stayed the same, vegetables were always steamed and fish (which was very good) every night. There was no fabulous seafood (ie. Lobster/shrimp) of any sort (other than seafood soups or squid/octopuses, scallops, etc. steamed on the grills). The desert bar was very tasty and had many choices; the coconut ice cream was really awesome. Coffee and cups most mornings was a scarce commodity in the buffet room. At times there would be twenty of us standing in line waiting for coffee to be brought out or we would be searching for coffee cups or utensils for the tables.

The upstairs restaurant was over-rated as suggested by people in our party. The portions were small, food was cold, and service rushed you out for the next group even though they were not extremely busy.

ROOMS…were clean and neat and they did put us relatively close to the pool; so with the kids that did work well. Maid service was good and if you tipped you usually got flowers or a fancy towel shape of some sort. Our power in our building did go out one night as we were getting ready for supper. Guests with us did have the toilet back up twice and a tub that would not drain…and our maid service did accidentally take our sons bears with the sheets to the laundry(what a night…)

SERVICE…overall it really sucked- there really isn’t enough staff. They definitely do not have enough staff to service the amount of clientele they have in at peak times. This is something that the hotel chain should definitely fix if they want to keep on having people visit or return to their resort. The staff that was there was definitely run off their feet and seemed like the same people were there from 6am till 11pm. Nora at the beach bar was great – she even walked the beach to hand out drinks to the guests when she had time.

BEACH- was not great but sufficient in front of the resort; the down side is that it was murky for the most part because of the waves rolling in the sand and they never seemed to clean up the weeds in the mornings. The kids had a blast in it so that is all that counts. We would take them on a walk down the beach about 10 minutes south and the water was fabulous. It was crystal clear there and you could see the bottom and bounce around in the waves. Everyone did have fun with the beach volleyball, jet skis, water polo, etc. If you want a spot around the pool or on the beach make sure you have your towels out by 7am or you may not get a chair.

BAR- in the lobby was always busy. The one around the pool was good but ran out of fruits by mid day to make any of the fruit drinks. This would be an ideal area to have opened in the evenings with some music around for guest to sit outside and relax…unfortunately they do not use this to its full potential. The lobby bar did have a band in the patio in the evenings playing until 9:30 before the shows or when there was no flee market – evenings got very quiet quickly here.

This was an ok holiday with some positive moments, just not great or what I had hoped for. I will not recommend or be back…..

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Bravo Club El Mandarin – Playa Del Carmen N. Bourque ~ New Brunswick

February 2005

Went to El Mandarin week of Feb 10 – 17th. There were 96 of us! Enjoyed the resort very much, while the beach wasn’t the nicest we’ve been to the rest of the resort made up for it. The staff were wonderful, the food good and the weather fabulous, what more could we want.

I would definately recommend this resort. FYI…we went on the aquatic adventure, had a great time and would recommend it highly for the swimmers, not the best trip for the faint of heart, some parts took a little courage.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin – Playa Del Carmen Rich and Sue from Madison, WI

February 2005

Just got back from a lovely week’s stay at Mandarin. We had an excellent trip–very relaxing. The Resort definitely stacks up to 5 Apple Ratings of places we’ve stayed at in Ixtapa. Each place is unique and wonderful in it’s own way. What I really liked about El Mandarin was the beach, the food was good–the was fresh grilled fish was to die for. Grilled Grouper I can’t quit thinking about. Have Corona, red & white wine on tap and many other tasty drinks. Caiprinia was the best!

Room was nicest we’ve had when staying in Mexico. We were in Building 6, Room 620 and it was very centrally located. Tons of hot water & pressure.

As others indicate the grounds are truly beautiful & the place is spotless. I didn’t see a mark on the wall. Constantly polishing the floors. Staff was extremely pleasant and helpful–especially Antonio and Nora at the pool bar. Didn’t see a lot of tipping. We tipped room service and bartenders frequently.

4 shops on premise, as well as an internet store. In the beauty salon, I had a massage, which was great. $60US for 1 Hr.

Would definitely go back or recommend Mandarin to anyone. Very diverse group of guests–Canadian, French, Italian, German & American. Guests pleasant but not overly friendly. Most were traveling in groups. It is quiet hotel–mostly family & couple oriented. Definitely not one of the mega resorts. I think Mandarin has about 200 rooms–which is nice sized. It never felt crowded, although I believe the hotel was full. If want specific beach/pool loungers, you will need to do the towel run & reserve in am before going to breakfast.

If single & wanting some excitement, this wouldn’t be the place–but we’re past that point so everything suited us just fine.

Tip: Do bring insulated cups.

1) No swimup bar, and 2) the pool water was so cold that not many people used the pool. There is a smaller jetted pool, but I wouldn’t say it is a "hot" tub, as the water is not heated. Even so, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Unique Qualities: Good Walking Beach

Beautiful Grounds

Comparative Price: less expensive than average

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Bravo Club El Mandarin – Playa Del Carmen Canada

January 2005

We just returned from 2 lovely weeks at the El Mandarin. We were there from January 1 -15th, 2005. Overall we were very pleased with the resort.

Grounds – gorgeous! The upkeep on the gardens is incredible! We liked the layout of the buildings throughout the gardens. Nowhere is really too far from anywhere.

Pool – never seemed crowded, although the hotel was full. It is not huge, or overly fancy, but it served the purpose. The shallow end has a ledge around it, so if you wish to relax in a little water to cool off, you can. Also great for little ones. There are only 4 Palapas around the pool. We never had trouble getting one, though. Always enough loungers. I witnessed the pool being "vacuumed" twice during our stay, as well as the daily removal of leaves. I definitely didn’t think it was dirty as someone else mentioned. The jacuzzi is not hot, just jetted water. It is drained and refilled daily.

Activities – Water Polo, Water Basketball, Water Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Beach Football, Bocce Ball, Water Aerobics, Stretching, Walking, Yoga, Ping Pong, Billiards, Gym, Catamarans, Windsurfing, Kayaks, Tennis, Salsa & Merengue Dance Lessons, Spanish Lessons, etc. Then the occasional contest – Belly Flop, Beer Drinking, Relaxing, etc. You can be as busy or as lazy as you want! We didn’t have kids with us, but the kids who were there seemed to enjoy the kids club.

Food – The buffet had the best selection of any all-inclusive that we have been to so far. There was definitely something for everyone. We ate fish every day. It was wonderful! Different theme each night with decorations. Coconut ice-cream was to die for! If you have food allergies, are watching your weight, or are a picky eater, there was plenty to choose from. Good salad bar, and everyday there was a selection of plain steamed rice, steamed vegetables, etc. The restaurant upstairs was pretty good. Fairly small portions, but that was a good thing, as we were eating way too much. The Caesar salad was wonderful. The Mexican restaurant which is by the pool was okay. It doubled as the pool-side restaurant during the day. We often relaxed by the pool in the morning then ate a light breakfast at 10:00 at the poolside restaurant. You can book as many times as you want for the two a la cartes, but can only book a maximum of one day in advance. You have to line up in the lobby about 8:00 am. We only ate at the a la carte restaurants once each.

Drinks – Very good selection, and they will make something different for you if you ask. Miami Vice is not on the drink menu, but very good. The Cabanas were excellent as well. Peach Coolers, also not on the menu were very refreshing – white wine, peach schnapps & 7-Up. You can get as much bottled water from the lobby bar as you like, you just have to ask for it. They are quite large bottles as well, so good for taking on tours. Strangely enough, Kahlua is an extra charge liqueur!!! However, they make brown cows with another coffee liqueur which is good. Cappuccinos are good, but the machine was unpredictable. Bring insulated mugs with a big enough hole for a straw to go through. The sun melts the drinks quickly, so the mug keeps it cold, and keeps the sand out as well.

Entertainment – The animation staff work very hard leading the activities around the resort all day long. They are also responsible for most of the evening entertainment. Some of it was quite good, while some was not so great. However, they all get an "A" for effort! They work such long hours, and were always cheerful & energetic. Twice they brought in outside entertainment which was very good. Several times they had a band come in and play on the outside patio in the evenings. We enjoyed listening to them, and they were quite good. There was a disco which opened after the nightly show, but we never attended, so we can’t comment. There is nowhere else nearby to go out to a club or anything, so if you like all-night entertainment, this is not the resort for you.

Shopping – There are a few gift shops in the lobby. As well, several nights a week select vendors are brought in to set up their wares on the outside patio. This is convenient if you do not wish to leave the resort to shop. You may also take the shuttle to Playa Del Carmen, about 15 minutes away. The shuttle is free at Noon and 1:00 to go, and 4:30 & 5:30 to return. You do have to sign up the day before or day you want to go. There are only 12 spots on each shuttle. However, you can also pay to take the shuttle there and back – $3.00 per person each way. We heard some people complaining about not being able to get on the free shuttle, but we took it twice and paid for it twice. There never seemed to be a problem with space on the paying shuttle. Both days we went an hour or less ahead to reserve our spots, and the one day we were the only two going there, and the only two coming back. You can also take a taxi. Standard rate is $10 US each way, so if you share with another couple, it is cheaper than the shuttle. Shopping is good on fifth avenue. It is lovely in the evening. The temperature is cooler, and all the lights in the restaurants & shops look lovely. Beware the time share & tour gurus on every corner. A simple No, Gracias & walk by works just fine.

Beach – The beach is fine. Lots of Palapas palm trees & lounge chairs. The ocean itself is not wonderful here. The waves bring in a fair amount of seaweed, and churn up the sand so it looks murky. Didn’t stop me from going in though. The odd rock on the bottom, but not too bad. If you are looking for turquoise, clear, calm water, this is not the place to go. Wasn’t a big issue for us. Definitely better than the beach at the Capri Secrets next door. They had large stumps sticking out of the sand at the water’s edge & lots of rocks. Twice when the water was fairly calm, we took bread & stood in thigh-deep water throwing bread to some fish. They darted about through your legs. It felt weird, as the water was murky, so you could only really see them when they came to the surface to eat the bread!! Very cool! There are three hammocks to relax in as well.

Staff – Were excellent. Very friendly and helpful. We tried to tip the young man who brought us to our room, and explained everything to us, but he was gone before we could do so. Most spoke English quite well, but appreciated any effort made to speak Spanish.

Rooms – spacious. We had a room with a king bed & couch. Lots of storage in the closet, drawers, etc. Blow driers worked excellently – and the sink area is separate from the rest of the bathroom, so makes it easier to get two people ready at a time. Bathroom had a bidet as well. Soap, Bath Gel, and Shampoo provided. In-room safes were $2.00/day. We heard however, that they ran out of locks for the safes, so one couple we spoke to were keeping their documents in a friend’s safe. Mini fridge in the room with bottled water. Air conditioning worked well with a remote control. Canadians & Americans do not need to bring converters for electricity. Our maids kept our room spotless. We came in one day while they were cleaning, and they had the bed pulled away from the wall, and were mopping underneath. In some countries, facecloths are not provided. We did not have facecloths the first couple of days, but then we had one left. I got out my Spanish dictionary & left a note for the maid thanking her, and asked for a facecloth to be left everyday. No problem. They didn’t leave us bath towels one day, so we called for some to be brought. We waited about 1/2 hour, and had to call again. The brought us some shortly, and they were hot out of the drier, so I don’t think they took their time bringing them, they just couldn’t as they weren’t dry. We found if we left the air conditioning off at night, we could hear the TV in the next room. If we were too cold, we just turned the air temperature warmer, and had the background noise of the fan to drown out the other sounds.

Maintenance – They were always fixing or trimming or cleaning something. They were just repainting the outsides of some of the buildings while we were there. They work hard to keep the place looking great.

Internet – Three computers on site to keep in touch with home. $3.50 US for 15 minutes.

Tours – Too many to choose from. We did a Tulum – Xel-Ha Combo, Coba Ruins/Mayan Village, and a Catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres. We decided 1/2 a day at Xel-Ha wasn’t enough, so we went back for a full day. We brought our own snorkel equipment, as have had some pretty lousy & unsanitary equipment provided in the past in Dominican & Cuba. Not the case here. You get your own brand new snorkel to take home with you, decent equipment, and life jackets. Depending on how many people are with you, some trips work out better to share a cab with another couple & pay admission to the attraction. Worth checking out. The cab fairs are pretty standardized, but you should always check before getting into the cab. If you want to take the Jeep tour on the Island of Cozumel, remember to bring your driver’s license. Driving here is not scary like the Dominican Republic! Bring your own beach towel, as some excursions require you to bring you own, and you don’t want to lose a hotel towel & have to pay for it.

Airport – Beware – when you get off your plane, and get through customs, people try to get you to buy transportation to your resort. Most All-inclusives have your transfers included, even if it doesn’t state that on your vouture. Claim your luggage, and proceed outside, where your tour company will have someone with a sign directing you to the bus to your resort.

Would we go back to the Mayan Riviera – Yes! There is so much to see and do there. Would we recommend this resort? Definitely! Would we return to the El Mandarin? Possibly, but we like to try out different places. We felt it was a very good value for the money spent, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We wondered if two weeks would be too long, but it wasn’t.

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Bravo Club El Mandarin – Playa Del Carmen Susan and Nick

January 2005

Just got back yesterday January 7th 2005 from a week’s stay. It was our first time to Mexico and we are in our early 50’s, no kids. This resort is definitely for families and couples and not those wanting the party scene. We had a great time and really had no complaints – food was excellent – I brought home 4 excess pounds on my midriff! Staff tried extremely hard to please, and did so, drinks were fine esp. margarittas on the rocks, our room was better than expected (#3040).

We met wonderful people and I really enjoyed the ocean and sandy beach – the sea was much warmer than the pool and even if murky, very enjoyable. The winds were very cooling but churned up the waves and therefore the sand.

The best thing was that the resort and surrounding area were not overrun with tourists and the grounds were worthy of a garden tour. If I don’t go back, it is simply because I would like to see something different.

The key I believe, is to decide what you want – we don’t normally take organised inclusive holidays and never a cruise so have little to compare it with. We are easy to please and if the room is clean, food is good, weather warm, nice people, no crime etc, we’re happy. We certainly got our money’s worth – in fact our expectations were well exceeded.

The only thing we didn’t like was the hawking of wares in Playa del Carmen and Cozumel – many of the wares were tacky and it became a nuisance to have people continually trying to get you into their shop, flog you a knick-knack or timeshare. There was none of this at the Mandarin and it was a peaceful oasis to return to. For this reason alone, I would probably choose somewhere less touristy next time I go to Mexico.

Hi to all I met.

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