Old Reviews – Sandos Playacar Beach Resort

  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   Ben ~ Colorado

April 2009

Arrival: April 9 – 14
Arrival was relatively pleasant. However, after a long day of traveling we had to listen to a staff member try to set us up for the presentation for the select member program.

Very nice room.

Restaurants and Bars
Good variety of restaurants, but not so much variety of food in the restaurants.

All very nice. It was a very long walk from the junior suites area to the beach.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
We went on a tour of Tulum. It was interesting, but very hot. Take H2O.

Other Comments Staff service at Sandos left something to be desired. We asked several times for the staff to come to our room to open our lock box – which was not working when we arrived. No one ever came to the room to assist us. Moreover, it was very difficult to get thru to room service/guest services. Overall, I would say that the staff was a bit unresponsive to our needs.

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   Doug & Jules ~ Belleville, Ontario, Canada

March 2009

We stayed at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa March 7-14 2009 and had an absolutely fantastic time and would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to anybody! We have traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and Cozumel and found the atmosphere and the staff at Sandos to be outstanding!!!!!!. The staff were extremely friendly throughout all of the resort and very helpful if you needed anything.

The hotel and grounds are beautiful and well maintained. Our room was bright, cheerful and spacious and we had an amazing view of the ocean and large activity pool. There is something for everyone at Sandos, whether you want the activity pool, quiet pool or adult only pool in the Riviera Section or of course the beach!.

The Web Relations Team, Michael Smith, Cinthia and Martina are a credit to the hotel and were so helpful with any requests and questions that we had prior to and during our stay. As were all of the staff at the Customer Service Desk in the beach section.

Hats off to Pablo, Victor and Myra of the Animation Team, we miss you already!!!!!!!. They and the rest of the team were fantastic and work so hard to make sure that you have a good time. It was nice to see that they get all age groups involved in their activities and we enjoyed participating very much. Thanks for wearing the crazy Canada Umbrella Hats that we gave you, you all looked great in them.

There are several A-La -Carte Restaurants, we did not try them all but Le Gourmet (French) and the Asian were our favourites. The filet mignon and crepes suzette in Le Gourmet was delicious and the T-Bone Steak in the Steakhouse was also very good. You cannot go hungry at Sandos!!!!!!.

The ocean is gorgeous, the colour is amazing, the only disappointment and it has nothing to do with the hotel is the erosion that has occurred with the hurricanes, but they are doing everything possible to save the beach and just to the right of Sandos when you walk on to the beach is a beautiful long stretch of beach that is perfect.

Dont be afraid to book at Sandos it is a great hotel we loved it and for the first time in all our travels are talking about returning to the same hotel for a second time, that say’s it all. We miss you all at Sandos and we hope to return again next year only this time for two weeks, one was not long enough!!!

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   Rosemary ~ Ottawa, Canada

February 2009

Arrival: Jan 31 to Feb 14
Arrival was fine – I booked with GoTravel and the rep was on the bus and was very helpful. They were also on the bus on the way back to airport and guided us in at the terminal for check in.

I stayed in the Riviera block of rooms which are number in the 8100s to the 9300s. This is the new part of the hotel. I had a junior suite (with a king bed) which was very large. Very clean, modern. Not musty at all. The bathroom was large with a separate shower, the toilet or wc was also separated from the rest of the bathroom with frosted glass doors. Two bowl sinks and a large whirlpool tub(which I didn’t use). Very nice but not sure it was worth the extra cost. The rooms closer to the beach were cheaper but older. Rooms were kept clean, with fresh supply of towels etc. One thing the shower could have used a shelf to put personal care products on it. Luckily I had small travel size shampoo and body wash which fit nicely on the soap dish. Towards the last few days of the stay, dispensers for shampoo and soap were installed in the shower but were never filled. Be careful with water on the floor as the marble floor can get very slippery. This block of rooms is the farthest from the beach. It was a good 5 min walk but you could take a golf cart to get you closer.

Restaurants and Bars
There were 4 or 5 a la carte restaurants. The Asian was the best. The food at the buffets was ok. Nothing stellar. The house wine was horrible. Our group ended up buying wine at the Walmart(yes I know!!) and had no problems bringing it to the restaurants and buffets. There is no shortage of bars on the resort. Mixed drinks for the most part were good. Don’t look too closely on how they clean the glasses at the Lobby Bar, but any alcohol in the drinks should kill anything off.

The grounds were well kept and clean. Staff was always picking up empty glasses. Three large pool areas; the one closest to the beach is where all the activities took place and it was quite busy. The Adult or quite pool near the Riviera buffet was quite and waiters would bring drinks to you. The other large pool near the 9000 block had the swim up pool bar with music and was fine. Lots of space to lounge. So there is choice for everyone. You could get a towel at the Adult pool and the pool with the bar without handing in your towel card. There ususally wasn’t anybody around and you could help yourself to towels. The beach was quite busy and crowded. I think partly because a lot of the beach was lost due to hurricanes. While I was there, the waves were pounding the beach and I’m sure a few feet were lost in a few days. There was about a 4 foot drop from the sand to the water. During the 2nd week, I noticed that more huge sandbags were inflated and sand was being pumped back onto the beach. If you wanted a bed closer to the water you need to get to the beach around 8 or 9. If you didn’t mind being in full sun, then the left side of the beach was fine. Lots of beds, closer to water and not so crowded. For those who paid a little extra there are these reserved areas on the beach and a separate pool area. I don’t think it was worth it. It was a hard beach to walk on since much of it has been washed away. But you could still walk on the water’s edge.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
In the open space near the Meeting Place, there was nightly entertaiment – live bands were great. The shows at the Theatre were what you would expect from these resorts. I booked a tour to Chichen Itza through the hotel. I didn’t go on the original day booked but was able without any problems go the next day. Just a phone call by the guy at the desk put me on the list for the next day. My tour guide was Sergio and he was really good. Someone from our group when the previous day and the guide was terrible – we didn’t see the same things. They $77 USD tour gets you the delux treatment with lost of drinks (water, pop, beer) and some sweet breads on the bus. So don’t book the $99 tour – not sure what the difference is. Also went to Tulum and Coba. Our smaller group arranged transportation through the hotel so you by passed any "tourist" stops. This worked out well – just make sure you pay for a tour guide once at the site. It makes a difference.

Other Comments The staff was very attentive – no real problems. One nice thing about the hotel is the location. Playacar is a gated community so you safely walk outside the hotel. It’s basically a residental area. So you can go on long walks. There’s a small shopping area about 15 minutes from the hotel for souviners, jewllery, a bank, drug stores and even a Starbuck’s coffee (I don’t drink coffee so I have no idea of the prices or the quality). You can easily walk to Playa del Carmen. We discovered a path off the sidewalk whick lead you through some ruins and to the beach in Playa del Carmen. Overall I had a great holiday. The 3 Mayan sites made it worth the trip. The hotel I think was expensive for what we got and the resort was a little too big for my liking. I was expecting better food from a 5 star and less crowding on the beach (not enough beach space and beds for the number of rooms/guests). Overall I would give this place a 6.5 out of 10.

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   Par ~ Canada

December 2008

Arrival: August 2008
We went to Sandos Playacar del Carmen resort-hotel for a 7 night all inclusive vacation. This trip turned into a nightmare when next day a swarm of timesharing resort staff spends over 6 hours pressuring us to buy Sandos Elite Vacation time sharing.

We were handsomely cheated by the Sandos Royal Elite hotel and resort vacation timesharing or vacation to the tune of $7600. After arriving at Playacar del Carmen Sandos resort, we were lured into their 90 minute presentation to sell us their vacation package. They talked and talked for 6 hours and offered us free drinks and finally we were so exhausted that we signed the package for first instalment of $7600. After reveiwing the package we went back to cancel it and they refused and offered to lower the next installment money. We had no choice and accepted. After returning to Canada, we went through the tons of useless paper they had given us and contacted their affliated travel agencies HSI and discovered that the whole thing is a big scam as one can obtain a much cheaper (by more than $2000) vacation package on the internet any time of the year. We again tried to cancel the contract and they refused and offered us another package called Sandos Royal Elite Vacactions valid for 8 years only. Recently, we asked the Sandos Royal Elite Vacations for room reservations in Europe for next July or August and we were told they cannot find any rooms for those dates without giving any more explanation. How can such scam cons and thieves operate legally in states and Mexico and steal miliions from unsuspecting people? I think people who have lost their savings to such con artists should launch a class action suit and bring these thieves to justice.

The room we got was not that good

Restaurants and Bars:
Were OK

was OK

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
There were little activity to talk about

Other Comments: We do not recommend this place to anyone

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   shroy

November 2008

I just returned and will never stay at that resort again nor will I travel through Sunwing.

Our flight was delayed 10 hrs of which I spent 13 hours in the airport because I wasn’t called like many others were. Arrived at the Cancun airport to chaos because so many flights had arrived at one. I was not on the Sunwing bus list for Sandos hotel drop off but managed to get a seat when I explained the delays and airport problems. We were offered beer for $3 during the bus ride. Arrived at the hotel 2 hours later and had time to change go down for 1 drink before the bar closed. So lost the first day of vacation to Sunwings delays and was suffering from sheer exhaustion which took another day to recover. Our room was nice but like other comments, no sink plugs, noicy glass doors to the toilet and shower and slippery floors. We had no coffee cups for 2 days, no towel art like the rest of our group got, no faces clothes and a tea pot that didn’t get picked up for two days. One day the room didn’t get cleaned. By Thurs this was all sorted out after complaining to staff however my check out was Sat 6 a.m.. Nightlife was next to non-existent and I can only guess was so that it would encourage the all-inclusive not to drink at the hotel but pay to take $35-$69 shuttles to downtown nightclubs and the price included drinks. The disc was also hidden away and the best kept secret, again, probably to discourage drinking. My nephew when at 11 one night and they were the only 2 in the place. The 2 nights shows we attended were very low quality and were a reflection of the hotel. The staff around the pool went to great lengths to sell. Especially off site packages for drinking. The rooms were clean, food was good and ala carte ok, all the wines were horrible. Trips as I later found out could have been done much less expensively by avoiding the package deals. The Sunwing rep was good at his job which seemed to be selling packages and keep the book updated. He did not however seem interested in talking about possible events unless they involved signing up for expensive outings. Shopping was expensive. Beaches were nice but staff seemed overworked and therefore didn’t look too happy although some were. I enjoyed the one pool by the bar.

At no time did Sunwing or anyone else acknowledged of provide a sense of regret for the delays nor did they provide any reasonable compensation or even try to make it up in some other pleasant manner.

I do not see how this hotel could possibly be a 4 or 5 star. I would rate it a 3 star.

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   K. Carol ~ Gaithersburg, MD

October 2008

I have so many bad comments about this hotel that I don’t even know where to begin. But keep reading, I have wonderful comments for the hotel we moved to. I booked this trip with "Funjet Vacations". I can’t say enough good things about this travel agency. In the future, I will only use Funjet. We (my fiancee and myself) arrived on Sept. 27, 2008 and were scheduled to depart on Oct. 4, 2008. We spent one night there and that was too long. We arrived in Cancun at 10:30 a.m. – it was raining and continued all day and night. We tried to check in at 12:30 and our room was not ready. They told us to return @ 2:30 p.m. We went to eat lunch at the buffet, in the older section, which was the only restaurant open. We waited for the golf cart because it was pouring down rain. Keep in mind that the flooring in most of the hotels in Mexico are made of marble type material and very slippery. I almost fell at least 6 times before we even got to our room. I had flip flops on also, not heels.

The buffet in the new section was closed, I guess for the season. Also one of the restaurants in the new section was also closed. The pool in the new section was closed, which had the only swim up bar and 3 of the new buildings were also closed. Regardless, we really tried to have a good time.

I have been looking forward to this vacation for over 6 months. I booked this particular hotel because I knew that it was located on the best beach in Playa Del Carmen. I knew this because I was in PDC last year, same time and watched it being built. I was staying at the RIU Palace Riviera Maya, which had almost no beach at all, and we walked to the beach in front of Sandos almost every day to swim. BTW, it was a dangerous walk at times, most of the beach is gone in front of most of the hotels in that area. The whales are everywhere – but none can be seen after Sandos, which is nice.

When we finished eating/drinking we finally checked into our room @ 2:30. BTW, I had emailed the marketing person, Martina R., prior to our trip and requested a room that was in a quiet section, we are early risers. We spoke thru emails around 3-4 times. I had told her how excited I was about booking the Sandos and how I had watched the hotel being built, etc. I even spent an additional $40 to be in the new Riviera Section. She seemed very nice and seemed to want to honor my request. I also had signed up for the Sandos4U card, which didn’t do a thing for us. Anyway, we were given a room in the new section – 8000 building, overlooking the baby pool. At that time I didn’t know the pool was even closed. I did know that it would have been very noisy with kids below. We decided to go back to the lobby, in the rain, to ask for a different room. I mentioned that I had spoke to Martina R. thru emails, hoping that might help, it didn’t. I seem to remember him saying that she was in the office behind him and that was all he had to say about that. I was told that there were no other rooms available, with a king size bed in the new section. I said, I would take a room in the older section, but I didn’t want to a ground level room. After numerous trips back to the office located behind the check-in, he finally offered me a room in the 2100 building. We walked up one flight of steps, but the patio was on the ground level, guess it was built on a hill. The rain had made the entire patio so muddy that the mudd was bouncing off the sliding doors. We decided to just stay there. The next a.m. when we took our showers, the entire bathroom floor flooded out into the main entrance hall. After breakfast, we returned to the lobby to ask for another room and was told that there were no rooms AT ALL available. I again mentioned that I wanted to talk to Martina R. and was told that she was not there.

The staff at Sandos are not willing to go out of their way to help in any way, shape or form. The guy just didn’t care. OK – here we go, I finally got caught by the timeshare people. Next to the check in counter was a desk, where the timeshare people were sitting. They could see that I was very upset. I didn’t know at the time they were THE Timeshare people but he knew that I was upset and he offered to help me. He tried to get me another room, IF I went to see the timeshare deal. He even went to the check-in desk, like he had some kind of authority. Nice guy, but tricky! When I finally figured out who he was and what he was doing, I got even more mad. FunJet Vacations have in-house reps in Mexico under the name of Lomus – the same group that the shuttle from the airport to the hotel was. When I saw the Lomus person, Juan, I discussed my problems with him and I told him that I wanted to move to the hotel next door – "Iberostar". He told me to come back in 2 hours. He needed to check with FunJet and Iberostar to see the availability, etc. We walked next door to the Iberostar and immediately fell in love with this hotel. This particular Iberostar has two hotels in one. The restaurants, pool, show room are all shared the both hotels. The names are "Iberostar Tucan" and "Iberostar Quetzal". I was so excited with just the thought that we might be able to move that I didn’t even want to go back to Sandos to have Juan tell me that we could not move. We walked back within one hour and checked with Juan, he still didn’t have a answer. We decided to wait in the lobby and within 15 mins. he finally came and told us that he could move us for an additional $58, which we jumped at. He also informed us that the hotel was only 20% full – which means that the people at the front desk obviously didn’t really try to accomodate us at all when they told me two different times that they didn’t have another room for us. I have never packed so fast in my life. I couldn’t wait to get our room at Iberostar.

We took a taxi to go next door and checked in. We were given a room in the Quetzal section – one building away from the beachfront rooms. We couldn’t get any closer to beach unless we paid for a ocean front room. I was very happy now. If you are booked at Sandos and have time to change your hotel, you might want to think about it. I hope you will change to the Iberostar – it is a TOP Quality hotel. If you don’t know anything about this particular hotel, check it out. It’s like living in a jungle. There are monkeys in the trees, fountains, peacocks, flamingos, turtles, chickens, roosters, parrots and tucan birds. The restaurants have fountains/waterfalls around them. The two lobby’s are open air, beautiful and dimly lit at night, as well as the little paths that lead to the rooms, which are all thatched hut buildings. Actually all of the building within the entire resort are all thatched roofs. The beach is just as nice as the beach at Sandos. The people at the front desk were friendly and very helpful. Our Lomus rep at Iberostar, Joel, was just as helpful and friendly. Again, I want to thank Funjet Vacations for making it possible for us to change our hotel and for the great customer service that they provided to us as customers.

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   Suzy

June 2008

We just returned from a seven night trip to Sandos Playacar. I do not see us returning there any time soon.

Arrived on May 31, 2008. Booked Royal Club package at an additional cost of $460. Check in was relatively smooth. We were immediately escorted to the Royal Club Bar where we met a time share rep. We finally had to get rude with the man to get away from him.

Our rooms were ocean front, ground floor, room 2226. Refrigerator was stocked on arrival. Room was very clean. It was raining so we spent a good bit more time in the room the first two days than we normally would have spent. We could hear the guests above and every guest that walked by our room. There is little or no insulation from the noise outside your rooms.

Buffet was good. We enjoyed the ambience at the El Gourmet Restaurant, but there is not enough variety of entrees. The steak house was good, but the music was much too loud and it was too dark in there to really appreciate your meal. Over all the food was better than most resorts we have visited.

A group of teenagers arrived on Thursday with chaperones. They were, however, unchaperoned. They ran through the halls at night slamming doors, yelling, and being obnoxious drunks. We reported it to the concierge’s desk and were told that it was their vacation, too. This went on the last two nights we were at the resort so we had little sleep. Most of the people in the rooms around us were unhappy about the noise in the early hours and the lack of security dealing with the problem.

On our last night the grounds keepers ran a tiller through the sand outside our room from 11:00 pm until 1:30 am. It was impossible to sleep.

There was two metal rods sticking out of the grass outside our patio entrance. We kept banging our toes on them. We told five staff members about it. The rods were finally removed on our last day at the resort.

Our refrigerator was not restocked on Thursday and Friday, the last two days of our trip.

They have made many renovations to this resort since our trip there last year. The time share people are so demanding. I think they are under pressure to make their sales to help pay for the new additions and renovations. We had to get very rude with them many times until they finally left us alone.

This was our second consecutive trip to this resort. We enjoyed it very much last year, but did not have the same results this year. We will probably not return to this resort.

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  Sandos Playacar Beach Resort   Barry

April 2008

We stayed at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort from April 05-12, 2008. Our Skyservice jet arrived ½ hour late in Mexico. Clearing security and customs in Cancún was extremely quick. Fortunately, we had a van and not a bus to take us to the resort, so there was only one other stop. The next day our Signature rep was late and kept people waiting for his briefing due to the daylight savings time change (or so he said).

Check-in at the resort was fast and friendly and we found the staff there always helpful during our stay. Our room wasn’t ready as we arrived mid-morning, so we headed to the beach and were given a luggage claim ticket. Unbeknownst to us, our luggage and others sat by the front door all day instead of being put into a secured locked room.

Beach – Beach is nice with a turquoise colour but has rough coral and shellpieces in some spots. It is the widest beach left from hurricane Emily a couple of years ago compared to other resorts in Playacar. There are huge sandbags in the water, which are there to keep the sand from eroding the beach even further. The Mexican government spent over $20 million dollars shoring up the beaches. We noticed that people use to climb up and play on these sandbags all day long. All seven days were red flag days that halted motorized sports and sailing, but didn’t stop swimmers. Except for one day, the lifeguards were practically non-existent. Tons of chairs and palapas were always available, even in the afternoon. Many new chairs have been added, as evidenced by tags still hanging off them. There is a Mayan ruin near the beach, but we’re not sure it’s real. Still, it adds to the historical flavour of the area and is a favourite hangout for Iguanas.

Pools – The adult pool is very small and shallow. The larger pool is family-oriented and not really recommended if you want peace and quiet with no “flailing” children. Pool area has too few umbrellas but lots of chairs. You really get to know your poolside neighbour whether you like it or not, as chairs are very closely spaced. This pool is also smaller than we expected and shallow. There is a great poolside snack bar called “Ola-la”. A newer area of the resort has just opened and much larger pools are there, as well as a swim-up bar. Unfortunately, it is far from the other amenities but does have its own air-conditioned buffet restaurant called the “Riviera” and lobby bar (which we never visited).

Room – Room was basic but nice with two double beds in building number one. We were seconds from pool, beach and snack bar and close to buffet and lobby. Sink had no plug or soap dish so we used an ashtray for the soap. There was no tub but there was a sitting “bench” in the shower. The showerhead was detachable so infants could theoretically sit on the “bench” and be bathed. There were plenty of facecloths and towels but there weren’t enough towel bars. There is no pullout clothesline in the shower to dry swimsuits like some other resorts. Beds were firm but we’ve had harder ones. There is also a hairdryer in the bathroom. There is no iron but one can borrow one from guest services, though each room should have one of their own. Our fridge, unfortunately, didn’t keep refreshments very cold though it was stocked with plenty of soft drinks, beer and water. If you want extra, leave a note near the fridge. The room could also use more hangars in the closets.

Bars – We found the alcoholic drinks unpalatable. So we stuck to water and Dos Equis beer. We missed the slushy machines that bars had in Cuba and the Dominican for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink mixes. The so-called piano bar the staff and booklets refer to has no piano and the tables and chairs are moved out each night into the main courtyard where there is entertainment. Most times this bar is empty as there is an outside one next to it as well as three on the beach and the one in the snack bar itself. For the most part, there was little to do in the evening between dinner and the “show”.

Shops – There are only a couple of shops on the resort and are on the expensive side (to be expected at a resort) with the usual t-shirts, sombreros, silver jewelry etc. No booze, coffee or cigars. Your best bet for shopping is the small Plaza Playacar minutes from the resort or Playa del Carmen ($5.00 US taxi ride). There was an artisans market one day at the resort selling the usual t-shirts, bowls, paintings and jewelry as well as black coral, which customs will seize.

Restaurants – Excellent snack and lunch food can be had at “Ola-la” snack bar for pizza, hot dogs and great burgers and salads. The “Festival” buffet has reasonably good food and if you can’t find something you like, there’s something wrong with you. We ate at the “Ola-la” for supper when it turns into the “Mediterraneo” à la carte at night. The potato soup I had was bland, the ribeye steaks we requested tasted fried not grilled, were tough and full of gristle and the desserts we had were the same cakes offered for lunch. Coffee was the instant variety. The Italian à la carte restaurant is now a French restaurant though we never tried it. The Mexican à la carte was called “Alcatraces” and it was our favourite. All four courses were excellent and way too much food for the average person to consume. Coffee was instant though. Why they can’t brew fresh coffee is mind-boggling. In all restaurants the wait staff were all very friendly and efficient, bringing coffee and wine, setting tables and clearing tables – sometimes when you weren’t quite finished. We loved the soft ice cream machines that produced tasty treats in the buffet and snack bar. There is also one next outside to the popcorn machine by the adult pool.

Shows – As with most resorts we’ve been to in the Caribbean, the nightly shows are not like Las Vegas, but the staff does work hard. Oddly enough, we rarely heard Mexican music while there, with the exception of one Mariachi band one night in the courtyard. Mostly, we heard Muzak playing Beatles and American pop music unlike Cuba where we heard lots of Cuban Salsa and Meringue.

Staff – We found them to be very friendly and accommodating. They seem to appreciate you speaking a few Spanish words like hola and por favor. It shows them you try. After all you are in a Spanish-speaking country. We had a problem (of our own making) with the in-room safe and within 7 minutes of calling Guest Services, a repairman was at our door and fixed it. Five minutes after he left, Guest Services called back to see if the problem was fixed to our satisfaction. Very impressive! Although we weren’t members of the Royal Elite Club, one of its staff members, Adam (originally from Winnipeg), was very friendly and helpful to us. Security was very present but not overly so. They were also very friendly and reassuring. Vehicles arriving and leaving were logged whether it was a taxi or bus.

Disco – We stuck our heads into the disco around 12:45 am when we came back from a night in Playa del Carmen. There were two people in there. We immediately walked out and the staff literally chased us and wanted us to come back in. We declined.

General – The grounds were nicely maintained and clean. Litter was continuously picked up at the beach and pool areas. We even noticed the Sandos sun logo stamped into the sand-filled ashtrays each day. Also, take advantage of the bicycles and tour the grounds or go beyond the resort and explore the beautiful avenues. Bugs were practically non-existent though we did encounter a black scorpion on the sidewalk near the theatre. The iguanas were harmless. We also saw a harmless Agoutis or as they call them in Mexico, Sereque, which looks like a large tailless squirrel or rat wandering around.

Lost resort bracelets are $90.00 and lost towels are $20.00, so don’t loose them.

People aren’t supposed to wear shorts or sandals to dinner at the à la carte restaurants, but staff seemed to overlook it, unlike some resorts we’ve been to.

We requested 2 wake-up calls. The first one was for an excursion and was 10 minutes late. The second wake-up call was never received and that was to catch the 6 am transfer bus to the airport. Fortunately we didn’t trust the wake-up call and got up earlier than we planned.


Playa del Carmen is a vibrant place on Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) with tons of bars, restaurants and shops. Some of the side streets also have shops as well as a …gasp…Wal-mart. The “pedestrians only” avenue is a great place to people watch as well.

At the Siesta Fiesta Hotel restaurant we got “dinged” for a cover charge (which wasn’t posted) along with our meal and that was after some of the performers went around with a tip hat. Make sure the tip isn’t included in your bill before leaving one.

We also took in the fire show at the “Blue Parrot” at 11:00 pm Mexican time (closer to 11:30 pm) but nearly keeled over from the petrol fumes. Cover was $10.00 US and beer was $3.50 US. People come around insisting you drink a shot of a blue concoction then gouge you $3.50 US for it. We felt the “Blue Parrot” was over-hyped. On the other hand, we had a blast at “Carlos’ n’ Charlie’s” bar where the staff was energetic, engaging and fun. Drinks were reasonably priced and we highly recommend it, though we didn’t eat there.

Shopkeepers are not overly aggressive. Just say, “No gracias.” and keep walking.

We had lunch at “Senior Frogs” but a small plate of chicken wings; two bottled waters and one melon cocktail came to $32 US (including tip)!

Xel-Há/Tulum at $139.00 US + tax each was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been much cheaper to rent a car and pay the admission. Xel-Há was in the morning hours and there was a small-guided tour of Tulum in the afternoon.

Our tour guide mentioned you’d probably need a waterproof camera and eco-friendly sunscreen that they sell at the water park. Amazingly, he just happened to have both for sale onboard the bus for a discounted price as well as soft drinks, water and beer! The refreshments were needed in the 37 degree C heat. No one at Xel-Há checked to see if we actually had eco-friendly sunscreen at the park. Our guide also pushed some jewelry that they sold at Tulum with your personalized name in “Mayan letters” (hmm…can you say commission?).

Xel-Há, though enjoyable and picturesque, wasn’t as impressive as the videos and brochures would lead you to believe. Many things are extra like SNUBA and interacting with dolphins. Our meals, refreshments, lockers, snorkel equipment and towels were included with our particular package. By 10:00 am things get pretty crowded. Not as many colourful fish as we’d like and it was murky due to the fresh and saltwater mix, but that may vary depending upon the area. Lots of clean washrooms in the park and floating down the lazy river in an inner tube was rather relaxing.

As soon as you get off the bus at Tulum the vendors are on you like flies. It is wise to take the train to the ruins, because it is a very hot walk to get there. This should be included in the price of admission, but it is not ($2.00 US). The washrooms in the small shopping centre at the Tulum site as well as the ones in the visitor center near the ruins are quite disgusting. No toilet paper, few paper towels, often no seats, overflowing plugged toilets and disgusting smell. They are truly awful!

The ruins are impressive set against the turquoise sea and the beach is lovely. Many of the ruins are now roped off to prevent further decay. It was a long day from 7:30 am pick-up to drop off at 6:00 pm but we would have regretted not trying it.

Summary Overall we did enjoy the resort but we would recommend this resort to families or people who don’t mind lots of kids. The upside of having lots of kids, however, is that everyone went to bed early, so it wasn’t loud and you got a good night’s sleep! We would give this resort a rating of 3.5 out of 5.

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  Sandos Gala Playacar   Marie-Josee and Carl ~ Quebec, Canada

March 2008

We stayed at the sandos playacar from march 15th to 22th.

We were 4 with 1 person in a wheelchair.

It is a good 4 star hotel with very good service.

There is service at the beach, they bring you drinks to your chair.

The best beach in playacar.

Good drinks, good food in general.

The best a la carte restaurant is the Italian.

I did not like the steak at the mediteranean because of the big chunk of butter they put on it (it tastes like popcorn…) Otherwise it would have been very good.

The pancakes and French toast are really good.

The wine at the buffet is not really good, but it is at the a la carte restaurant and the bar. What we did is order our wine at the bar and then bring it at the buffet!

It is a small complex, so everything is near.

We left very early so we could not have breakfast but we saw someone with coffee, so I asked them and they simply asked for room service… So if you have to leave early, you can order your breakfast to your room.

We went to the Occident XCaret in 2003. I would go back to the Occidental XCaret which is bigger but better (nicer grounds, bars, restaurants, more choice and better quality)

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Sandos Gala Playacar M Tucker ~ New Mexico

June 2007

We traveled to Sandos Playacar on July 10, 2007, for a five night stay. My husband and I met my sister and her husband there. We flew out of DFW and landed in Cancun at 10:20 am. Customs was easy and we were at the resort (which is 40 miles from Cancun) within 1 1/2 hours. We booked the Royal Club package and non-stop transfers. Both options were well worth the additional expense.

Upon arrival, we checked in and were on the beach within minutes. Royal Club check-in is WONDERFUL! We ate at every restaurant and were so pleased with the menu selections. The buffet was typical of most all-inclusive resorts, but there was definitely a variety of choices for everyone. Breakfast omelets were excellent.

Our room was on the fourth floor overlooking the beach (again … go Royal Club!). Air conditioning worked great, room was clean and comfortable, refrigerator was well-stocked. Staff was friendly and professional.

The only warning I can give is to stay away from a bar on Fifth Street in Playa del Carmen. I looked for a name on the establishment, but couldn’t find one. It is a two story building with "Lager" on the awnings. Several television sets are on the bottom floor, poker on the top floor. We stopped in to have a drink while watching the Spurs play. The Malibu rum and diet cokes …. $12.00 US each. Needless to say, after my sister and I each had two drinks and got our bill, we were quite stunned and argued with the waiter. He did not budge on the price, we left without leaving a tip, and vowed to warn everyone we could not to go to this bar. My advice, if ordering a mixed drink, ask the price in advance.

Other than this one experience, our trip was so good. We are already planning a trip back to Playa del Carmen to the Sandos Playacar resort. I usually am ready to return to the States after five nights in Mexico. I could have stayed two weeks at this resort. A definite re-do.

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Sandos Gala Playacar Randy

April 2006

We arrived at around 12:00 noon on Saturday, March 25th, 2006 as part of a group of 3 families. Arriving at the airport was a little confusing. We booked through Apple Vacations, and were instructed to look for someone in a shirt similar to the pattern that was on our luggage tags that they had supplied. This was good to know, but as walked out of customs, we were approached by one person after another who would say things like “Oh, you are from Apple Tours, let me help you. “ We did not know if we should let them “help” us, or if we should have just kept moving out to the bus area and find the apple tours guy. In all honesty, we were smart enough to know that most of them were wanting to help us in order to get a tip. However, trying to have one person carry the bags of four people actually made things quite a bit slower and more confusing than just carrying them ourselves. We’ll know better next time.

Travel time quoted by Apple Vacations from the airport to the Gala was accurate. Unfortunately, it included five separate stops along the way, and driving into each of the hotels along the way took more time than the actual drive. It’s hard to complain about this, since it is not reasonable to expect the bus lines to take passengers from one hotel exclusively all the way from Cancun. It’s just all about expectations and being excited to arrive.

It was really nice to be able to check in right when we arrived. We were able to get our wrist bands, and begin enjoying the amenities of the resort right away. Our rooms were not ready, which was to be expected. We were told to come back at 3:00 in the afternoon to actually get the keys to our rooms, but were given everything else right away. We went back at 3:00 to get the keys, waited in line again for about twenty minutes, and were told that some of the rooms were ready, and some weren’t. This was still OK, except for the fact that the reception desk had no system for handling this scenario, really. When we went back the final time to get our keys, we had to wait in line again. It just got frustrating. One of the families had asked for and paid for two rooms. They asked for adjoining rooms, with two double beds in each room. This was probably my biggest complaint about the whole resort. They didn’t really respond to problems very well. Much of the reception staff seemed to act as though they didn’t speak English very well when they were confronted with a genuine problem. I actually speak Spanish quite well, and explained the entire situation, but got nothing more than enigmatic smiles in return for my efforts. This other family ended up sleeping in one room. They did not want to split up, since the children were of youngish ages. Adjoining rooms would have been perfect for them. They were never told that no adjoining rooms were available (they do have them at the resort), they were simply not given a complete answer, and finally gave up.

There were several “foreign” (German, French, and Italian) staff members. Each and every one of them I dealt with seemed to grasp the concept of customer service. The Mexicans who staffed the reception desk were certainly friendly enough, but made you work for anything that was out of the ordinary. One example was that we had some friends staying at a different resort who were going to come pick us up one day for some sight-seeing. I had to ask about this several times, and was given a slightly different answer each time. The answers ranged from—“This is not possible” to “This is not normal, but we may be able to allow it”, to, finally, “No problem-let me explain how we can do this for you”. This last answer came from a woman who was working at the resort, but originally from France. The other responses, all from Mexican staff members, gave me the feeling that if I greased their palm, they would be willing to take care of this for me. That might be an inaccurate interpretation, but it is how I felt.

The housekeeping staff was somewhat of a paradox. They did such an incredible job keeping the rooms clean, and even arranged our kids’ stuffed animals around the room each day. That was a nice touch. The mini bar in our room was kept well-stocked. On the flip side, on the day of arrival, I called and asked for two extra pillows and two extra blankets, since my son was going to sleep on the day bed. After an hour, I called again. After another hour, I called back and informed the person on the other end that we had been waiting for two hours. They said that housekeeping was on their way. After another half hour, housekeeping arrived with one pillow, and one blanket. One of the families in our group did not have their mini-bar restocked for two days running. After complaining, this was rectified.

The resort is gorgeous, and just the right size-not too big and not too small. The beach was beautiful & the best on this strip of resorts, judging by the walks that we took along the coast line. There was a restricted section that was only for Royal Club members. This was not a big deal, but it did limit the number of shady areas, if you wanted to find a way out of the sun each day.

Great. Well located with good hours of operation, and friendly service. They really added to the enjoyment.

A really nice addition to the resort. I did not go to many of the shows, but just the fact that they had them was neat. I went to the Mexican night, and that was really good. They also showed a movie in that same theater most afternoons, in case it was raining or you wanted to get out of the sun.

We tried the Mexican and Italian A La Carte restaurants. The Mexican restaurant had poor service, and even worse food. The Italian restaurant was exactly the opposite. Great service and great food. The buffets were plentiful, but got very monotonous. I don’t know how you can avoid this over the course of seven days, but I ate more hamburgers in this one week than I normally eat in two months. This was mostly because too much of the buffet food was too far out of the mainstream in terms of what I am used to.

SHOPPING: Playa del Carmen was fun. There was also a little smaller “mall” that was closer to the Gala. None of the merchandise was very overpriced.

OVERALL SATISFACTION This was a great vacation. The resort is definitely a good one. It is, however, not a five-star resort! The lack of organization of the reception staff and the concierge service, the inability to respond to real issues, and the lack of a genuine customer service attitude within parts of the staff, make it 3.5 or 4 stars, tops. Also, thought this is not the fault of the resort, is the entire culture of solicitation of tips. Tipping is common place in the service industry. It got very tiresome to be solicited at nearly every turn for tips, however. All-inclusive is supposed to mean all-inclusive, and I want to be comfortable that the staff is well-taken care of. If I receive exceptional service, which we did in some cases, I will offer an extra thank-you in the form a tip.

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Sandos Gala Playacar Aimee ~ Western Canada

March 2006

Absolutely gorgeous resort. My husband & I traveled with 2 other couples. We did not book the ROYAL club but one of the other couples we traveled with did. Upon arrival we received a welcome beverage (delicious) & we were booked in long before the ROYAL couple was, in fact we walked in and immediately checked in. We were immediately transferred to our Hacienda room (gorgeous – although located a few minute walk from pool & beach) via golf cart style transportation. The welcome crew was extremely friendly & informative. We had booked our package with Signature Vacations & were to have a standard room, the 1 additional couple had booked for the ROYAL club (we did not) we ended up with much superior accommodations. The Hacienda suite was gorgeous (sunken living room,King bed, balcony etc) & the private pool was a wonderful feature. The other couple ended up with a room overlooking the beach BUT the room was much smaller & we received all the benefits they did.

Housekeeping daily, although often not until mid afternoon. Mini fridge stocked daily. We requested coffee & breakfast a few mornings of our stay & it was delivered promptly each morning for the time we had requested.

We found the resort to be extremely clean & very beautiful. Grounds men were out every morning for maintenance & upkeep (absolutely no noise or distractions experienced from them working). The entire resort has bricked walkways and each Hacienda complex has a private pool (which is cleaned each morning). The beach was beautiful & the best on the strip. We found there was always lounge chairs available & did not find it necessary to “save” a bed each morning. The water was beautiful, just as anticipated. Even though we were not ROYAL members we did not have a problem getting towels each day, I even forgot one of my towels on the bench outside the main building & upon returning from my daily excursion the concierge was kind enough to get me back my towel card (so as to avoid having a fee). There was a separate section away from the larger pool that offered a smaller pool and was an “adult” only pool.

The resort had 1 beach bar, 1 pool bar & I bar located directly across from the Buffet restaurant. We frequented the beach bar mostly. The service here was quick, friendly & delicious. On a few days we even had service directly to our lounge chairs. Only a few times did we use the service of the pool bar (this is not a swim up bar) and each time we found it friendly, quick and just as delicious. As for the bar located across from the buffet, we found the service here to be a bit slower & eventually started to order 2 drinks each with every order. The atmosphere of this bar was lovely & busy each night.

Truly exceptional. Each night the resort hosted live entertainment & each night it ended with the entertainers socializing and dancing with the guests. Located just outside the main building was the disco bar. Although we did not attend, we did observe the nightly bustle of the disco.

The buffet offered a wonderful variety of foods…western & local cuisine. We found that each day offered a lot of the same BUT always had a nice new variety to choose from as well. As for the A’LA Cartes we were not a ROYAL club member BUT were able to enjoy each of the restaurants no problem. Our personal preference was for the buffet due to the variety BUT the service & food of the A’LA Cartes was very pleasing. The coffee of this resort was DELICIOUS!!!! One of the A’LA Carte restaurants did serve as a buffet during the day for breakfast & lunch should you choose to change up your routine.


SHOPPING: The resort offered only 1 small store. The store offered a variety of essentials as well as clothing, toys & souveniers. The service here was good, but being it was the only one on site it was generally busy. DAILY EXCURSIONS: As for excursion options, there was a tonne to pick from and the gentlemen working in the office there were EXCEPTIONAL. I was hoping to take one particular excursion near the end of our stay and the time spaces were not convenient for me, as I had another booked for later in the day. The gentlemen in the office went out of their way to get me a space that worked, and even went as far as calling the company to make arrangements. TRANSPORTATION: Taxis were always on site & if one was not available the concierge would immediately radio the front gates to have one brought in. The cost to travel to Playa del Carmen for a day of shopping was only $5.00. HOTEL BONUSES: I took in a massage one day, TRULY a wonderful experience. I was not able to have my massage on the beach as they were full…but was escorted to the spa and had it there. LOCATION: Within minutes of shopping at Playa Del Carmen (10-15 minutes walk should you choose) & minutes outside the resort was a smaller shopping complex with in the Playacar community.

OVERALL SATISFACTION My husband & I are exceptionally satisfied with our experience of this resort. We will return & look forward to enjoying our stay again in early 2007. I highly recommend trying this resort, I feel that it exceeded all our expectations and left us rested & relaxed. 5 ***** I must agree!!!! I would although liked to have seen a few more boutiques on site.

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Sandos Gala Playacar Ken ~ Canada

January 2006

This is a very nice spot for kid’s, great kid’s club and activities for them…but this is not a 5 star hotel (4 yes). The check in and check out reception was incredibly poor, so much so that I went and talked to my travel rep. about it. The rooms were very nice and we had a good time, but …THIS IS NOT A FIVE STAR, unless you pay to upgrade and get the gold bracelet the you can book all the "al la cart" restaurants you want and get to sit on the special section of the beach. I paid for a five star, why should I be paying to upgrade to a five star. Sorry Gala we won’t be back.

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Gala Resort – Playacar Jim & Leslie ~ Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

June 2005

We were at this resort from June 11, 2005 to June 18, 2005 and booked " Gala Royal Club ".

Past trips to the Caribbean and how we would rate them in order of preference (best to worst) with our opinion of what the " Star " rating should be: * Iberostar Lindo – Mayan Riviera, Mexico – 2004 – 5 + * Iberostar Bavaro – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – 2001 – 5 * Iberostar Bavaro – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – 2003 – 5 * LTI Aventura (now Aventura Spa) – Mayan Riviera, Mexico – 1999 – 4 * Gala Beach Resort – Mayan Riviera, Mexico – 2005 – 4 * Almond Beach Club – Barbados – 1998 – 4

* Grand Oasis – Cancun, Mexico – 2000 – 3

Comment: In our opinion this is not a 5 Star resort as advertised. We were not impressed with this Resort and would not return, mostly due to problems with the food and the quality of the wine. If you want the details are below. The Playacar area and Playa Del Carmen are great to see. A new RIU resort is under construction and we believe it will be open prior to Christmas. It is huge, has a decent stretch of beach and hopefully will be very good as this will give RIU 5 Resorts in the Playacar area – business must be good.

Arrival: We traveled with Signature Vacations out of Toronto via Skyservice. The flight was about an hour late leaving Toronto due to problems retracting the enclosed walkway from the aircraft. However, arrival at Cancun airport was only about 10 – 15 minutes late. As this was our 4th time through Cancun Airport we were familiar with the process – get your luggage – pass through security (hopefully get a Green light) and go straight to the Signature bus for transfer to the Hotel. This went very smooth but unfortunately we wound up waiting for another 45 minutes to an hour while other’s got their act together around some baggage issue’s. Arrival and check-in at the Resort, at the separate " Gala Royal Club " desk was very good including a drink on arrival.

Room: We had a Gala Royal Club room on the 3rd Floor with a view of the beach, the Caribbean and Cozumel. These rooms were very plain and are in need of maintenance. The furniture is not what it should be – only one dresser with 3 drawers for clothes. There is a safe and the bathroom is fairly large with a large walk in shower. The fridge is stocked daily with water, juice & beer.

Beach: This is the best attribute of the resort and the Playacar area. The Gala Resort has the best beach frontage in this area. To the north, towards Playa Del Carmen, you can walk about 40 minutes on the beach until residential development starts to infringe on the beach right up to and into the water. The beach gradually narrows north of the Gala due mostly to washout damage. To the south of the Gala you can walk about 20 to 30 minutes on very nice beach (some washed up debris as this area is outside the developed area) before you get to an area with rock frontage on the water. This is the most interesting area of the beach with some nice quiet swimming areas, wildlife etc. We spend most our days on the beach and do not use the pool.

Restaurants & Food: Of the 3 " A la Carte " restaurants only 1 is really any good. The Italian was excellent for food quality, service and selection of beverages. The Mexican was not good in any respect, had a chicken dish here that was full of small bones, and when we pointed it out they did not seem to even care. I read that the fajitas were excellent so I tried them and they were good but not great and basically no fixings were supplied with them (no cheese, sour cream, guacamole etc). To our dismay the Mediterranean was closed for renovations during our stay. Closing 1 restaurant when only 3 restaurants are available and 1 of those is poor was annoying to say the least. The Buffet restaurant was good some times and poor other times – the wine was undrinkable, while a Lunch Barbeque setup on the Beach to try and replace the Mediterranean closure was very good but simple. Ordered room service for Breakfast 3 times and it arrived twice. This was the poorest part of our trip.

Service: In general the service was good – with special mention to service at the Gala Royal Club air-conditioned bar, and in the separate beach area that is set aside for Gala Royal guests.

Bars: All very good and stocked with a variety of drinks. Service with a smile – even on the beach.

Shopping: Trip into Playa Del Carmen – Fifth Avenue via taxi cost $5 American and is well worth taking. Some fun was had here driving a hard bargain with one of the collection of Silver stores on the price of a few pieces of silver jewelry. Suffice it to say – they will sell to you for 50 % of their asking price. There was also a very nice Mall area about a 15-minute walk north of the Gala resort, which contained around 30 stores.

Departure: Check out time is 12:00 noon. Our departure time was 3:30 p.m. and after a few discussions with the Gala Royal Club desk on getting a late check out for 3:00 as they advertise " may be available " we finally got a room for an hour from 2:00 to 3:00. This was quite a hassle as they kept putting us off and telling us to come back later, which we did 3 times. It was like pulling teeth to get a straight answer. If that option is not available they should remove it from their brochure.

If you want a true 5 Star resort this is not it. The Iberostar Lindo complex about 15 to 20 minutes north of Playacar and is far superior for approximately the same price. We were there in 2004 and plan to go back there next year. Jim & Leslie ~ Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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Gala Resort – Playacar D & R ~ Canada

April 2005

ARRIVAL – Traveled with Signature vacations from Toronto via Skyservice. Our kids (ages 1 1/2 and 3 1/2) were both fantastic on the plane both there and back, which we were VERY happy about. Moved through Cancun customs and immigration fairly fast (we arrived on a Friday morning at 9:30am), about 20 minutes. A monster mercedes bus was waiting for us outside the terminal, fully airconditioned with a bathroom and bar service which was extra money (beer $3, pop $2 and water $1). We arrived one hour later at the Gala Resort, we were the first passengers to be dropped off and then the bus was heading to the Grand Xcaret resort.

I was in contact with the hotel directly and had confirmed that our Hacienda room reservations were in order, I was told before coming to the hotel that we were in a Royal Club Hacienda room and would receive all the perks associated with that (I even printed off all the emails that had been exchanging back and forth between me and the hotel and brought them with me just in case), but on arrival I was quickly informed that we only had a junior suite in the hacienda section, they would not compensate us at all and just said "sorry, there was a mistake in reservations, you have to pay an extra $35 per person per day to have the royal gala service". I didn’t make a stink, just went with the flow…….checked in and our room was already ready (11:30am), room 6304

HACIENDA ROOM – Room was nice with two double beds and a pull out sofa bed, I also had a crib brought to the room for our little boy (free of charge) and quickly ordered room service, we were starving and very thirsty. We ordered BLT with potato chips, Subs, pastrami sandwiches, salads and chocolate cake, all were great and it usually takes between 30 – 45 minutes for rooms service to arrive. The bar was stocked with orange pop, two bottles of carbonated mineral water, diet coke (light), coke, sprite and three bottles of beer (called XX). Bathroom was a nice size with lots of towels, one large shower and a hairdryer that worked great. There was a dresser with six small drawers and more shelves in the closet, we really needed more space with 3 adults and 2 children in one room, but we managed ok. The TV had a disney channel, Fox news channel and a few other channels in spanish, but the kids didn’t care what language Bear in the big blue house was in or Rolie Polie Olie. Our room was always cleaned early in the morning and was turned down each night as well. Two nights we received kalua chocolates (pure alcohol in the middle, so don’t let the kids have any). The sheets were changed daily, we know because the kid’s washable markers got on the bed sheets a few times and there were always lots of crumbs from having breakfast in bed each day. We left our maid $2 or $3 each day on the pillow. Word of caution……we locked ourselves out the very first day because the patio door automatically locks when it’s closed, so either keep your room card on you at all times or leave your patio door open a crack when you are using the pool outside. The safe in the room is computerized and you get to choose your own combination. We could hear people coughing next door but it wasn’t that loud, I’m sure they heard out little guy crying at night. He got sick with pinkeye and a cold on Thursday before we departed, probably because his big brother had it the day we left home. Better to have a cold in Mexico than here in the cold. Our clothes all smelt musty by the end of the week, nothing really dries out completely and I was thankful that I brought an air freshner.

HACIENDA POOL – The Hacienda pool was fantastic. It was kept clean and I saw the staff adding chemicals to it one day. There was always a staff member skimming the water and filling the pool up. There’s steps going down into one side and a ledge that the children can walk around on two sides. Beware that the tiles surrounding the pool are VERY slippery and both of my kids went down hard twice and they weren’t running. I almost went down myself. The pool was used by others in the building but it was always empty when we wanted to use it. It was very warm and refreshing, we were lucky that ours had a big tree that shaded it somewhat.

BEACH – The sand is incredible, very deap and soft. The water is crystal clear and I could still see my toes and ankle braclet when I was standing with water up to my neck. Most days there were pretty big waves but on two days the water was very calm and you could see small silver fish swimming around you. One of the best beaches I’ve been to but, not the all-time best. I’ve also been to:

Club Oasis Akumal in (Jan 1995) – Fantastic beach with crystal clear water and no surf

Breezes Bahamas (March 2000)- clear water but sea weed close to shore, gentle surf

Sandals Antigua (Jan 99)- stirred up water but beautiful colour, I wouldn’t go into the water because I couldn’t see the bottom where I was walking.

St. Martin (August 2000) – the entire island has incredible water, completely clear and very calm…..except orient beach which was rough but still very clear.

Anguilla (2000) – Best water we’ve seen yet and very secluded beaches. We were the only people on several beaches. We rented a car and drove to many of the beaches to check them out.

Allegro Aruba (Dec 1999) – Stirred up water, I did take out a kayak with my husband one day and the water in front of the holiday inn looked more clear than ours a few doors down. Baby beach had incredibly clear and calm water, perfect for kids.

I’ve also been to Cuba and Dominican but they aren’t worth mentioning here.

My kids are young so they just sat by the surf and played in the sand. They were scared of the waves crashing but did they really enjoyed our day trip to Xcaret where the water was clear and calm like a pool. More on that later. Also the beach has a little drop to get down to the water, no big deal, but my little one needed help. It’s about 3 foot drop closer to the north end right at the volleyball courts. There was also two days of seaweed that washed up on shore but the staff quickly removed it each day. Never got a chance to walk the beach, I had every intention to do it but there was never a good opportunity.

We usually got to the beach between 8 and 9am, the palapas were always taken with towels or shoes, we still did get shade and chairs though. We liked the beach area to the far south, the best was right beside the hammock section. My 3 1/2 year old would lay in hammock and swing for most of the day, he really enjoyed them. The beach bar wasn’t far from us and there is also a little stone wall that the kids enjoyed walking on each day. It’s also easier to get to the bathroom at the Oh la la restaurant and we also discovered another bathroom in the sports building on the lefthand side. Never had a problem getting our towels, they were still warm when we picked them up, must have just came out of the dryer. We never used them to dry off but just to lay on the chairs. We brought our stoller to the beach each day loaded with sand toys. You can purchase toys at the hotel store but they are very expensive. I priced suntan lotion ($17 US) and Pantene Pro V Shampoo ($7 US), so that gives you an idea of the prices. T-shirts in the store were reasonable ($10-$15 US) and I bought a fridge magnet for $5. We also took out the bikes from the hotel one day and went to the shopping market in front of the Riu complex (5-10 min). There are lots of souveniers there and Xcaret had t-shirts for $5 US. Many of the bikes have child seats, but not all have safety straps. We were able to find two with safety straps and they also provided bike helmets. My 3 1/2 was a bit too big for the child seat but still enjoyed the ride alot. The bike path is on the far side of the road after you leave the Gala property. It’s a great bike path.

RESTAURANTS – There are two buffets to choose from, I enjoyed both equally. Breakfast included omelet stations, french toast, waffles, pancakes, fruit, fruit juices, pastries, eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and so much more. Lunch included pizza, pasta, fries, cheese sticks, nachoes and cheese, fried chicken, fried fish, rice, seafood salads, fruit, fresh fruit juices, lots of desserts, ice cream bar (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, lemon, and capaccino), milkshakes (made from ice cream mentioned), hamburgers, hotdogs and more. Dinner had a larger selection of meats like beef, veal, pork, chicken but still had rice, veggies, pasta’s (you get to add your own ingredients to the sauce ie/ ham, onions etc). I saw lots of shrimps, octopus and crab meat, I don’t like it but my Father-in-law loved all the seafood.

ITALIAN – our favorite dinner restaurant. The antipasto bar was nice, we ordered cheese canolloni, ravioli, hawaiian pizza and a seafood dish (fried fish with capers). Dessert we had ice cream, tirimisu, and praline ice cream cake. The only thing we wish we could change at any of the a la cartes is the speed of service. We always booked dinner for 6pm and were not out until 8pm, with two small kids it would have been much easier to eat buffet and be done in 1/2 hour or less. We only ate once here and tried again but was booked up two days because of two weddings. Wish they would have told me earlier in the week because I would have ate here on the days there was no wedding. I always booked by 9am for the a la cartes at the concierge desk beside the check in, only had a problem with people budding in line to make the reservations! I also looked at all the menus before going to get an idea of what I wanted to have before I got in. HINT: book as soon as you get in the hotel because you can only book once per day and I waited till the next day to start booking. You can book for anyday you’d like, it doesn’t have to be the day that you are actually doing the booking.

MEXICAN – I also enjoyed this place. They have great chicken faj itas, quesadillas and chicken stuffed with jaleopena peppers. For dessert we had crepes wth caramel and vanilla ice cream and creme caramel. They have an appetizer area that you can help yourself to before your meal arrives. The kids enjoyed the cheese quesadillas, fruit and there was plenty of other tasty treats too. I noticed a large group of guest ordering margarita’s, their specialty. Remember to bring a camera here, they have huge sombrero’s that make funny pics.

MEDITERRIAN – this is the Oh la la buffet restaurant that turns into a sit down meal for dinner. HINT: this is a seafood restaurant, the only thing we ate was the chicken skewers and flank steak, both of them were yummy and served with rice and baked potato. My father in law had fish (the head and tail was still attached) and he loved it. I was so happy with the bread and spread they left on the table, it was awesome (feta cheese, onions, peppers), the best I’ve ever had. Service was very slow here, I had to leave with the youngest and take the dessert back to our room. It’s hard for young children to sit still for over 2 hours, this place opens at 7pm, the other’s open at 6pm.

The Dinner buffet actually opens at 6:30pm, our room information said 7pm, so go at 6:30pm when it’s not busy.

DRINKS – my kids woke up saying "pop"? They loved the drinks here. Coke, sprite, ice tea, pina colada’s, bahama mama, beer (on tap at the beach), strawberry smoothies (diaquiri’s), you name it and they’ll make it. We always ordered the drinks "without" alcohol, that is the way I liked them. HINT: The Oh la la buffet at breakfast has health shakes that I didn’t know of till day 3. They have about 12 different varieties, I tried the cancun that has strawberries, banana and other fruit. There is a bar at the main pool which always had a line up (5-10 minute wait) and the beach bar (another 5-10 minute wait). I LOVED that they serve you right on your beach lounge. Our attendant asked us about 3 times a day and if you tipped they’d be back even more often but we never needed to drink that much. I did notice ALOT of people with huge insulated mugs getting refills, that is a great idea, I’ll remember next time. The beach bar doesn’t give out straws with drinks so we’d always bring some with us in our beach bag because the kids would actually wear the drink by the time they were done and the strawberry smoothies stained their little faces like go-tees (I don’t know how to spell it!). It made for some cute photo’s.

TOUR TO XCARET – The park opens at 8:30 am, we arrived a few minutes after it opened which is a fantastic idea. Bought the tickets at the hotel for $49 US per adult and both of my kids were free. Took a taxi from the lobby (just ask the bell boy to get you one) and it cost us $10 US each way. It was cheaper for us to buy our tickets and take a taxi because the tour package price was $65 US. We liked the idea of just leaving whenever we wanted from Xcaret, and the taxi’s are just waiting to take guests back to their hotel in the parking lot. I took one stroller but my 3 1/2 year old still likes to be pushed around so I rented a large stroller for him, it cost $12 US and you need to leave a $30 US deposit. The stollers were awesome with 3 huge rubber tires that would run over anything. My kids did love to walk around too, but be very very careful, there are some spots that they could fall into water (ie/ the turtle area and manatee lagoon), I was surprise not to see someone fall down in there, it’s easy to get bumped. The beach area was deserted early in the morning and we had any choice of spot to pick, we chose some chairs in the shade and played in the water. This is the perfect place for young children to play in the water. It’s really like a large swimming pool with little fish the kids can chase. My kids didn’t want to leave after hours of playing. My husband and father in law put on the lifevests and floated/swam down the underground river……they had a great time. There is also a boat that you can take down a river for those of you who don’t want to get wet or for young kids. I would recommend this excursion to anyone, they even had wheel chairs to rent, the pathways are easy to get around and early in the morning wasn’t busy. We left the park around 3pm. I also packed up our drinks from the minibar and made the kids jelly sandwiches at the buffet before we left, Xcaret charges $2.50 US per pop and hotdogs were $4.90 US, so I was glad to have packed up lots of water, pop and food. We left around 3pm after doing some t-shirt shopping (only $5 US), it’s less than 10 minutes from the resort. I’ve been to Mexico before and had already done Xelha and Tulum, I knew the kids would enjoy Xcaret and we also enjoyed going for a second time. My father in law said it was "awesome".

Here’s just a few more points that I would like to say:

1. I loved having 24 hour room service and bar service at the beach 2. I only saw one beach vendor the entire time I was there and he stayed down by the first row of beach chairs. 3. There are many massage attendants asking if you’d like a massage on the beach, it was $39 for 25 minutes, but they have lots of packages that included manicures and pedicures. 4. I personally didn’t care for the long walk to the room in the hacienda section each day, I was usually carrying the 1 1/2 year old so we used the golf cart service ALOT, plus the kids really enjoyed the ride. The walk isn’t so bad if you don’t forget something in the room and have to go back. I’d say it took me just over 7 minutes to get to the beach, but nothing like 15 minutes…….not unless I let the kids walk then it would take me closer to an hour after they investigated everything. 5. Our hacienda was at the front gate (6304) and we heard alot of traffic, even at 2am, it really was no big deal, but if you are a light sleeper you may ask to have a room in a building away from the main entrance. 6. I hate cigarette smoke and there are smokers everywhere, my father in law smokes, but never did around us. It was nice to have a ground floor hacienda so he could have his coffee and cigaretter outside on the patio – with the door closed of course. You can smell smoke all day on the beach, yuk! Two of the restaurants (Italian and Mexican) are none smoking, so if you are like me and hate smoke, try and eat there. Nothing worse than trying to have a meal with your family and smelling that stuff.

7. Room service menu consists of salads (5 different kinds), soup, sub, pastrami sandwich, tuna croissant, BLT, lasagna, chicken wrap with mushrooms and white sauce, chocolate cake and drinks. You can fill out a card at night and place it on your door by 3am for breakfast service. It’s nice to have a fruit plate, assorted pastries and fresh juice (watermelon, orange, pineapple) to start the day. The service begins at 7am.

I could go on and on. My family had a very nice vacation. Next time I will try and get a beach that is calmer, I know that the beach at Club Oasis Akumal is calm, been there before but it’s only a 3 star. I wouldn’t rate this hotel a 5 star in my opinion, but it’s worth 4 to 4 1/2. The highlight of my entire holiday was seeing how much my children enjoyed themselves.

KIDS CLUB – never used it because I wasn’t allowed to stay with them. My kids are always with me (Stay at home mom) and I really enjoyed having them with me all the time. It did have a nice playground area and two pools. I liked the teen area with ping-pong, pool, and air hockey tables, they also had juice fountains for the kids there too.

LAST DAY – on our last day our flight didn’t leave Cancun until 9:20pm so we were at the resort till 5:15pm. I’d like to thank the staff for letting us use the air conditioned Royal club room, located behind guest services, so my kids could watch a movie to pass the time away while we waited. It’s a very nice room with a DVD player, newspapers, fully stocked bar, premium liquor, food and a personal attendant to get you whatever you want. My kids thought it was great.

If anyone has any questions, just post a thread to nantucket on the forum. I’ll post some photo’s when I figure out how to get them on here.

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Gala Resort – Playacar Ellen ~ USA

February 2005

The resort: Gala Resort is everything our travel agent said it would be. It was not quite as fancy as the Iberostar, but very, very nice. It was perfect for children – especially children ages 1 – 12. Gala is much smaller than some of the resorts, something we really liked. There were no long walks anywhere. Everything was right there. The beach was magnificent- the best beach I’ve seen in Playacar. It was homey – as you got to know people. The food was very mediocre – not unlike other all-inclusives. The only restaurant we really liked was the Mexican (for dinner). Breakfast – I really liked the fruit drinks at the Ola la cafe by the pool. I preferred to drink my lunch (pina coladas were terrific!) The staff was delightful. At check -in, we were disappointed to find that we had a room with 2 double beds. The front desk offered us a new room the next day. The king room was MUCH nicer. The bartenders and waitresses were terrific. Everyone works very hard and with a huge smile. Kids camp was awesome. Zoe loved going there. There were always other children around. Zac preferred to find friends around the pool (great pool for kids). Luckily for adults without kids, there is also an adult only pool.

Here is a link to pictures.

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Gala Resort – Playacar Vickie ~ Canada

January 2005

My husband, myself and two other couples from Vancouver visited the Gala. I have traveled extensively throughout Mexico, staying at All inclusives and many non inclusives.

The hotel itself is situated about a 25 min drive from the airport, and 5 minutes from either La Crucecita or Santa Cruz. The hotel is on a beautiful bay called Tangolunda and there are six hotels that share this beach.

The hotel is very well maintained and staff work around the clock to keep it tip top. It sometimes felt that there were more staff than guests.

All 3 couples booked under one reservation and all requested a king bed, in a quiet area, with no adjoining rooms. This information was on our documents from Signature; however the hotel never received any of this information. One couple was given an adjoining room, they switched right away to a very nice room. One couple was given just what they wanted, and then there was us. We received a room on the fifth floor facing the show stage, and all we could hear was the blower fans from the Barcelo next door, the room also had two double beds. We quickly went down to the desk and asked for a different room. We were told we would have to wait two days as they were booked solid. We changed rooms two days later to a Gala Royal Room (for which guest usually pay more for, we didn’t) that was on the 4th floor, right about the lobby bar. Which is open from 5 pm, to 12 am and put it this way, that night was karaoke night and we could of participated – from our room. It also was an adjoining room, we could hear the people snore next door. We stayed there one night, and changed again. We couldn’t get a king bed, but we settled on two doubles on the first floor right near the tennis courts facing the archery. It was quiet, and very little foot traffic during the day. Our group was spread out throughout the hotel, but it was an easy walk to each others rooms.

Rooms: Rooms are very clean, sheets are changed daily, and the cover blanket is changed and washed after new guest (trust me this isn’t always true at other hotels). There were only 4 drawers (minimal for 2 people for 2 weeks), ample closet space and lots of storage in the closet. There is a desk and a table in all the rooms. The bathrooms had ample room to lay out all your toiletries and then some. We always had ample towels and soap, etc. The rooms all have a small fridge that is loaded with 3 cokes, 2 sprites, 1 mineral water, 3 bottled waters and 3 Coronas. If you catch the guy who fills the fridge, he will be happy to give you more or switch things, say all you want is coke, it will be done. There is a nice terrace on each room with 2 chairs and a table. Some rooms have very large terraces. Our friends had those large patios, and we always gathered on them. The Gala Royal Rooms are exactly the same except they also have more toilitires (mouthwash, lotion etc.), ironing board and iron, 2 housecoats (both were in bad shape), chocolates at night and more of a selection of drinks in your bar fridge. They also have access to a separate pool and area on the beach. Save your money, it isn’t worth it.

The Resort: The hotel is just the right size, not too big and not too small. You can easily walk everywhere. There is a gym, internet room, tennis courts, archery, craft area, kids club, theatre for evening shows, disco (totally enclosed), 2 a la carte restaurants inside (Italian and Mexican), and one a la carte outside (Mediterranean), a store (expensive), five pools (one for Gala Royal only), massage hut, many bars and the main restaurant. There is a large beach area with palapas for shade with beach chairs and loungers.

Restaurants and Food: Well put it this way, we didn’t starve! Food here is similar in style to other resorts we visited but better. There was always a large selection of dishes and food was always hot. For dinner there was a salad bar (would of liked this area expanded), around six or seven hot dishes (usually one or two items prepared by a chef at a different station), and a dessert section (with around 8 different desserts). There was also a kids section that served hot dogs, chicken fingers, pancakes, etc. For breakfast you had the option of eating in the main restaurant or by the beach, both were great but I preferred the main restaurant as it had more selection. Lunch was the same, two areas to choose from. Again large selection and we especially enjoyed all the fresh fruit. Remember ice cream is served at 2 pm in the main restaurant. There was also room service. We only ordered tea one night, and it arrived within 10 min. The a la carte restaurants were all great and everyone went away full.

Bars: They are very willing to try and make anything you ask for. Often drinks were a little to strong, but I learned to let the ice melt and it was much better. Remember too many Pina Coladas and you will be suffering with the trots the next day. We especially loved the wait staff around the pools and beach, it was a real treat not having to leave the sun to get a beverage. The lobby bar was usually packed every night, it gets very noisy, and hard to carry on a conversation with people at your table. I would of loved to have seen a quiet bar where you could go after dinner to talk.

We visited the area extensively. A taxi to La Crucecita or Santa Cruz is only 25 pesos, but hold on. We visited both areas extensively. I highly recommend that you visit La Crucecita at night it is a totally different place, and much cooler. Shops are usually open late and the restaurants are a great place to have a drink or meal and people watch. I highly recommend the Terra Cotta Restaurant located just to the right of the main square in a beautiful white Spanish looking building the holds the Mision de los Arcos hotel. The restaurant is very nice, good selection of food, the staff are eager to please, and their ice cream is to die for. We dinned about 4 times in town and not one meal was bad. Spanish helps a bit, but it is always interesting to see what you get if your aren’t sure of the translation.

There is some shopping, but most retailers didn’t really bargain too much. If we felt the price was fair, we paid, if we didn’t, we bargained and if we got the price we wanted great, if not we walked. I recommend a visit to the textile store where you can see them weaving blankets and table clothes and more. The store has a wide variety of products to choose from.

We didn’t take any organized tours through the resort or through Signature. We did however take a bay tour through Valentino (carries a white Frisbee on the beach). He had come highly recommended and he didn’t disappoint. The bay tour is a must for each visitor, you really get to see the beauty of this area. We wanted to visit Puerto Escondido and looked into a car and driver through Signature. They quoted us $2600 pesos, we quickly checked with the bell hop stand/taxi stand right at the hotel. They called someone and we were given a price of $1600 pesos for a driver and a vehicle that could accommodate all six of us. We were gone from 9 – 6, the hotel provided us with a cooler and ice and we brought are own drinks. Fernando, our driver knew all the places to take us and we weren’t disappointed. Be warned the drive to Puerto Escondido is about 2.5 hours. We also hired Fernando again the following week to take us to Pochutla and Puerto Angel. This time the price was a little lower as it was closer, again we were gone from 9 – 5. Be warned the road is very windey and if you’re a prone to car sickness come prepared. We wanted to visit Pochutla on the Monday as this is the day of the local market and we can’t say enough about how great it was. We then went to Playa La Ventanilla and visited the lagoon, for $40 pesos you are taken on a boat through a lagoon. The wildlife is outstanding… not to mention quite a few crocodiles. We then traveled to Mazunte and the then onto Playa Zipolite, the nude beach, Puerto Angel was our next stop where we had lunch and a swim.

My husband golfed three times and loved the course. The cost is as follows: green fee $725, golf cart $340, caddy $200, equipment $225, pull cart $115. The hotel offers a 20% discount. Remember your bug spray and camera, lots of different birds and flowers. Even though most people recommend golfing first thing, it is busier at that time. I recommend golfing later around 10 am as this is when a breeze usually kicked up and much quieter. Even if you don’t golf you can walk near the course and down through the RV park to the beach and see many different species of birds. We say a group of about 50 parrots, and another couple saw a monkey.

Negatives about the Gala: Not many – if you are there for two weeks the food gets repetitive. Get up early to reserve your spot around the pool or beach, this is a big problem. The hotel doesn’t have a spa, would of loved a manicure/pedicure this is something the hotel could really benefit with and make some extra money. Would of liked more events at night, not much to do after dinner and the show except wait for the disco to open at 11:30. The a la carte restaurants state that they are for adults only in the hotel flyer you receive upon check in; however there were lots of kids there.

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Gala Resort – Playacar The Paluzzi Family

August 2004

We returned from Gala Resort Playacar on Aug 10. We where their for 7 days. This was our second time at the resort and the 3rd time in Playacar. The last time at Gala was 3 years ago. My wife and son age 16 all went. My son actually suggested the resort because he enjoyed himself so much last time.

We arrived at Cancun Airport on time from Newark, NJ but it took 1.5 hrs. to clear customs. We finally arrived at the hotel at 12:30 PM. The check-in was quick an easy. I had e-mailed prior to departure requesting a room with either a pool or beach view so I was eager to find out if my request was received. When we arrived to our room #1427 our request was received and it was better than what we expected. We had a view of the pool and the beach. It was definitely the best view we have had in all our trips. The a/c worked very well just like last time. It kept the room cool and there was no smell of dampness.

The last time we where at Gala I also wrote a review of the Resort. At that time I wrote that the food was sub-par. It lacked flavor so when we went to eat we where concerned. To our great satisfaction the food had improved. It actually tasted like it’s supposed to. The desert not only looked good but actually tasted good. They had a lot of choice at the buffet restaurant. We had breakfast at the buffet every morning and whatever we ate was good. The pancakes, egg and omelets all where tasty. At lunch we ate at the restaurant near the beach called "ola la." It was convenient and good. The hamburgers and fries where good. Stay away from the "steak" it was to thin and overcooked. They had plenty of fruit all tasted good. For diner we ate once at the Mexican and once at the Italian Restaurant. As like last time the Mexican food was good but the Italian was terrible. Out of the 3 dishes we ordered only one was edible.

The pool water was warm but the beach was beautiful and the water was clear and clean. No seaweed to be seen. We did have to get up at 7:30 to reserve a palapa but it was worth it. The weather was perfect. Sunny everyday and hot. We took one trip to Isla Mujeres. We have seen most of the other sites. The trip was nice but not worth the time. The dolphins were great but there wasn’t much else to do. The shops had nothing unusual. Stuff you can find anywhere else in Cancun. There are better trips.

If you unfortunate to have bad weather you are out of luck as far as shows on tv. The channels are few and have nothing on. No major network stations.

My son had a great time again and he met teenagers his age and younger. Would we go back again? Having been there twice already maybe not but not because we did not like it. We will definitely return to Playacar someday. I would recommend Playacar and Gala Resort in particular to anyone.

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Gala Resort – Playacar The Stone’s

August 2004

My husband and I and our 5 year old daughter just returned from the Gala and we all wish we were still there.

We arrived at the Gala via our travel agency courtsey van around 1:30-1:45 and the bell boy was right at the door waiting to take our luggage. When we explained to him that our luggage was in flight somewhere since our original flight had been cancelled and we drove to a neighboring city to take another flight, he assured us that he would be on top of getting our luggage to us. We did have to wait about 15 minutes for our room to be available, but the boutique in the resort lobby provided us with something to do while we waited. We were impressed with the items in the boutique and the prices were not too high. The resort had a money exchange booth right in the lobby (although we found that you don’t really even need to exchange money as every place we went to took US dollars) there was also a booth that had information about available tours, costs for taxi’s to different places, the concerige desk and a desk for the Gala Royale Club (which I didn’t ask about).

Our room was nice, not real large, but big enough for the three of us to be comfortable in. Who spends time in their room here anyways? The bathroom was nice sized and the shower worked out well for our 5 year old who prefers a bath as it had a hand held shower head in addition to the mounted one. She could hold it herself and wash up. The retractable clothes line in the shower was nice for wet suits. Towels were plentiful everyday and of course the washcloths and toilet paper were folded into designs each day. The houskeepers kept the room very clean. We did leave a couple dollars each day on the bed for her services. Around 5:00, I believe, the beds were turned down and the pillows were arranged neatly on the bed. The refrigerator was stocked daily with sodas and beer. We did have to ask for bottled water one day. The safe in the room is very nice and handy. The room had a nice big closet that accomodated clothes and suitcases. The sofa/bed was a nice touch to the room. Our room was facing the pool but we did have a small view of the ocean. It was the 1200 block of rooms.

The pool was very nice, although we did not spend much time in it because the beach was awesome. They did have aeorbics daily at the pool and this was fun to do and watch. They also played basketball and water polo. We missed not having a swim up bar, but the bar was very close to the pool. We did not spend any time at the adults only pool but it also looked nice. Both pool areas were very clean.

The best part was the beach. We did go down early and put our towel under one the the shade huts. No one bothered your towels or things all day. The beach was very clean and I was up at the beach very early and the staff was putting the chairs back out,(they pick them up each night.) The sand was very clean, we had a hard time finding shells to collect to take home. There was volleyball and soccer on the beach as well. There were boogie boards available and the water trampoline was fun. I think the cost for it was $10.00 for an hour. We asked if we could do it for 1/2 for $5.00 as we knew our daughter wouldn’t last an hour and they agreed. In fact, the staff member didn’t have change for us so he let her and my husband go out free. That was nice, because she only lasted about 10 minutes. We were able to walk down the beach and check out some of the other resorts which was nice. Just by what I could see, I prefer the Gala’s set up. It is a smaller resort, but everything is so close to each other (unless you are in the Hacienda’s) and we liked this with having a small child. Plus, I liked that the rooms were so close to the beach. I want to see beach from my room. The water was beautiful and the weather was great. It is warm but you don’t notice it while you are in the water.

The food was pretty good. You definitely need to be a person that is willing to try different foods to really enjoy the food. We ate at the Mexican restaurant. We thought that was good. We mostly ate at the buffet which worked well for our daughter. We had breakfast and lunch at the O La La and that was good. We did not eat dinner there as it was all seafood. The beverages had somewhat of a different taste at the restaurants, especially the milk, but hey, we were in a different country. We were probably overly cautious about not drinking the water, but I heard from a couple people who had been there before that they have drank the water and not gotten sick. By the way, none of us did get sick.

The staff was wonderful. Very friendly and helpful. The bellboy did follow up on our luggage, as did we, and we did receive it by 9:30 that night. Word of advice, make sure you put your suits in your carry on. Had we not done this, we would have been very sad, because as soon as we checked in, we hit the beach. We did not have any trouble communicating with the staff as mostly everyone spoke fairly good English. I noticed that the staff are very hard workers and it seemed like we saw some same staff morning, noon and night. We had several staff members who called us by our last name which I thought was nice.

We did go into Playa and the cab ride was $ 4>00 each way. The shopping was plentiful and you could bargain. We did not stop at the small shops just down from the resort. One taxi driver told us that they were pricey. The neighborhood was nice and I ran it in the morings and felt very safe. You could walk to Playa but we did not. We did want to try to ride the bikes that the resort has, but they stopped letting the bikes go at 5:00pm which I thought was a bit early. But when you see how fast the taxi’s go, maybe it’s best not to be on the streets on a bike at night.

We also took the fairy to Cozumel, around $18.00 round trip per person. I think our daugher was 1/2 price. We took a taxi to Chaunkabb and did the Dolphin Encounter. Well worth the money. It was easy to find a taxi there and back.

We did watch a show at the Gala one night, it was ok. I am not sure if you want a lively nightlife, that you would be satisfied staying there at night. The sports bar looked busy every night, we did not sit at it. Honestly, we were tired from all of our swimming and louging in the hammocks that we went to bed by 9:30-10:00pm.. Get up early one morning and watch the sunrise on the beach….BEAUTIFUL.

Our daughter did not attend the Kids Club, but I always saw the staff doing stuff with them. I did met another Mom who said she wasn’t thrilled with it.

Our travel agent had not been to the Gala or to Playa del Carmen before but she said if you want a beautiful sandy beach with blue water and a relaxing resort then she heard the Gala was the place to go. I agree. If you are looking for a more lively party atmosphere, I don’t think the Gala is the place but if you are looking for a nice quiet resort for your family then I would recommend the Gala. We are already talking about next year’s trip. I loved it.

Anything I would do differently….. I would bring a blow up float for the ocean, I would bring less clothes as we wore our suits most of the day, and I would have taken more pictures. Loved Mexico and loved the Gala.

email us with questions: sknstone@mtco.com

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Gala Resort – Playacar Joe

July 2004

My wife and I and our two boys, ages 12 and 15 years, stayed at Gala Playacar for 12 days through mid-July. We had a great time.

Arrival: We landed in Cancun at 1:20 PM and were checked in to Gala by 3, at the pool by 4. The ride from the airport is about 45 minutes but note that Gala is the last resort on the Playacar strip so your transport may drop you off last, which could increase your ride to 90 minutes to 2 hours. With a little negotiation and cooperation from our tour company, they put us in a van with a family going to Tulum, further south, so we were dropped off first. They did the same on the way back, so it was much appreciated.

Service: Check in was fast. We were in a Hacienda Suite, and had asked for one close to the lobby in advance, which we received. It’s not as far a walk as some reviews say unless you’re way in the back perhaps. Anyway there are the trams for transport. In making reservations for the a la carte restaurants, the concierge was pleasant and helpful. Sometimes you have to go early (7AM) to make these for the Mexican and Italian, but the Mediterranean (OLALA) is not as hard to get. We had no trouble getting reservations but ate mostly in the buffet because my kids preferred it or they wanted to be in the pool or at the beach as late as possible so the buffet was more flexible.

The cleaning staff are unbelievable. Please tip them, they work so hard. (We had two intense rains one morning, and after it stopped, a man came to our Hacienda with a squeegee and cleaned all the water of the patio tables and chairs.) Bar service at the main bar could be better; nothing wrong with the bartenders but the line can build a bit during peak hours with only one bartender. You can avoid this by using the waitresses who come around regularly, or by using the small beach bar which is rarely crowded. Drinks vary like everywhere, some are strong, some are weak. If you’re determined to be sure of a strong drink, ask for a double. They’re very accommodating.

Staff: The activities staff are great. There were things going on all day. The staff are friendly and helpful, especially Jessica, Camille, Carmellina, Martina, Antonella and Augusto. The Teens Club needs some work. We went to the Robinson Club last year and the teen activities were much better organized. But there are plenty of things for teens to do all day as part of the general activities: contests, water volleyball and polo, beach volleyball, tennis, beach soccer and so on. Our kids were never bored.

Beach: The beach is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful sandy beach, no coral. Gala is the last on the Playacar strip so you can walk south for miles without any resorts until you come to Xcaret. There are kayaks, catamarrans, boogie boards, all free; many other activities for a fee as well, like jet skis.

Pool: The pool is nice, was never too crowded. They have an adults only pool so you can escape all the kids if you want. You do need to go early to the pool and beach with your towels to reserve chairs. It’s unfortunate but it seems to be that way everywhere so just deal with it.

Food: We weren’t that thrilled with the Mexican restaurant (Las Alcatraces) but it wasn’t bad. The Italian – Le Broccolino – was great, as was the Mediterranean – O- La -La, but keep in mind the Mediterranean is mostly seafood – we had chicken skewers and they were very good. The Mexican and Italian are air-conditioned. The buffets (there are 2 for breakfast and lunch, and then the one turns into the Mediterranean for dinner) were standard buffet, not fantastic but fine, you could always find something good to eat and my kids loved it. In the Grand Buffett, in the morning, there is a woman who cooks omelets, eggs, pancakes and French toast, often all at the same time, who is fantastic. Room service was excellent but does take awhile (about 45 minutes)

Touring: We didn’t do any this year; there’s a great place to get maps and ideas, reviews on the internet at www.cancunmap.com. You can walk to Playa del Carmen (about 2 miles) or taxi for about 450 pesos ($4). The resort has a dive shop which offers various activities

Water: Your room should have water, soda and beer in the mini fridge; ask the person who does your room (not at the desk) to replenish it. (leave empties outside your door). We never had a problem with this and never bought water at the gift shop. You also can easily get cups of ice water at the bars or the buffets if you want to.

Weather: We had gorgeous weather but be prepared; it is quite hot. It was steadily in the mid 90’s with the heat index probably about ten degrees hotter; Use lots of sun block frequently. Jellyfish do appear occasionally in these waters. Safeseas sun block will provide some protection against certain types, according to product claims.

The Shows: We found the shows disappointing; one or two were OK but the rest were mediocre, especially after the high quality of the shows last year at the Robinson Club Tulum. It was unfortunate because the staff worked so hard on them; you could always see them practicing during the day, in that heat. But certainly not a deal breaker since they didn’t begin until 9:30 PM, so we would just look at the stars on the beach, hang out at the sports bar, or at our Hacienda pool.

Would we go back? We’ve been to the Riviera Maya the past two years so maybe someplace different next year but Gala is a wonderful place, with many things to recommend it. It is very family-oriented (lots of kids) so be aware of that. Don’t take the negative reviews too seriously. Be nice, be polite, be on vacation. Take some time to figure out the schedules and work around them. Tip the bartenders, the maid, the waitresses, the person who restocks the minifridge, the tram guys who take your luggage, the busboys who clean the tables and will get you drinks at the buffets. And you will love your stay at Gala.

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