Date: March 2-9, 2004
We’ve just returned from a week at the RIU Cancun all-inclusive resort and we have a lot to share. As we relied on these reviews in planning our vacation, we’re happy to provide a lengthy review. The RIU Cancun is a 5-star property located in the Hotel strip area of Cancun at the "top corner of the seven". Our week there was everything we could have asked for and we would definitely return there or to another RIU property. So here we go:
Tour Operator: This tour was offered by Sunquest in Canada and we purchased our tickets through Anrose Travel in London. Jenny at Anrose was efficient and informative. Our tickets arrived a couple of weeks before we left and Jenny had us in and explained everything. We flew directly from London to Cancun on Skyservice on an Airbus 320. Good plane …. not a lot of legroom but apart from that a normal rather non-descript flight.
Upon arrival in Cancun, Sunquest representatives identified themselves and ushered us to air-conditioned tour busses for the trip to the hotel strip where passengers were dropped off at the door.
Check-in at the RIU Cancun was accompanied by a welcome cocktail. Check-in was handled quickly and efficiently. We had originally requested a room high up but were assigned 4th floor accommodation. A word with the check-in clerk and we were reassigned to an 11th floor room with no questions asked.
Rooms: Our room was immediately available following check-in which took place at about noon on the 2nd. The room was spacious, immaculately clean and had the following amenities: king-sized bed which was a bit hard, a fully stocked bar with 4 bottles of liquor, a mini fridge containing cerveza, bottled water and soft drinks which was replenished daily. The bathroom which was tiled contained a spacious tub/shower combination, a double sink, hair dryer, soaps and shampoos and plenty of towels. Every room in this property faces the ocean. The corridor leading to the rooms is glass-walled and faces the lagoon-side and the shopping area. Our room faced east and had a private balcony. There was some construction taking place at a new property immediately beside us but we did not find it to be intrusive … we were more captivated by the continuous and seductive sound of the waves on the beach (as we’re writing this and looking at the snow on our deck we only wish we were back there!) … anyway back to the present … The room was cleaned daily by "Maria" (go figure … a woman by the name of Maria in Mexico … who’d have guessed!!). We never really met Maria as we made a point of spending as little time in our room as possible. We did leave her a $1USD tip each day and had purchased some small lotions and such before our trip to leave her. The room was always immaculately clean. Again, the floors were tile throughout.
Due to the construction of this property, the rooms were extremely quiet. We never heard our neighbors or their TV. By the way the TV stations include Spanish language and English with Spanish sub-titles. Again, TV was not the reason we went to Mexico but it was nice before bed to check-in with the news. CNN and MSNBC were available.
The Property in General: This RIU property was just under a year old at the time we were there. It is an impressive property with a 15 story tower and another 6 story building. There are numerous pools, including 2 infinity-pools, outdoor bars and a swim-up bar. The main pool/bar area is lively and has a lot of poolside padded lounge chairs. The infinity pool area directly below our room is more secluded and away from the action, more suited to those seeking a quieter time. There are two "hot" tubs (tepid is more accurate) … one on the solarium that is atop the 6 story building and a larger one that is on the east (quiet) side. The Beach area contains beautiful fine white sand and is immaculately groomed early every morning by RIU staff who remove kelp and any other trash that has been left behind. There are padded lounge chairs and grass sun-shelters along the beach. The sand is deep and plentiful (as a point of comparison, we went for a walk one day up the beach past other properties. A couple of "doors" west of us there is a hotel with about 2 inches of sand on top of what is very obviously rock! That was one indication that our hotel was a cut above). The water at the beach contains a line of concrete blocks about 15-20 feet from shore, obviously placed there to prevent beach erosion. Watch out for these. There are a few spots where there is sufficient space between them that you can do some body-surfing without worry …. but like I said watch-it.
The grounds surrounding the pools and hotel are well-maintained and pleasant with grass, hedges and palm trees as well as good supply of comfortable, padded lounging chairs. A point of interest here is that on one occasion we witnessed a maintenance worker washing the leaves of the plants outside.
Food: The food was, as far as we are concerned, excellent. Some reviewers have identified that the food at all-inclusives can get to be the same after a while. We can understand that criticism but c’mon they are feeding 2000 people every day. We think they did a great job of preparing a wide variety of foods that were delicious and consistently of fine quality. An effort was made each day to offer some unique variety and a different theme in addition to the standard fare. Standard fare included a pasta bar, Mexican food bar, grilled meats, salads, cold meats, fish, a variety of potatoes, rice, vegetables etc. Fresh fruit was always available morning and night, Breakfasts included again a Mexican food bar, breads, cereals, eggs of various incarnations, meats, etc. If we could say 1 meal was least impressive, it would be lunch. Worst-case description would be mundane, but that’s it.
The staff at the RIU were wonderful. Without exception all were pleasant and friendly and always with an "hola" or "buenos dias" for you. If you make the effort to learn a few Spanish phrases and use them consistently with the staff, not only do they obviously appreciate it but will take the time to try and teach you some more Spanish if you’re inclined. Not everyone could speak English well but those whose job was direct customer service were well-spoken in English. The rest had basic English.
Entertainment: The RIU Cancun has its own theatre and there was nightly entertainment in the theatre provided by either the RIU’s own sports and entertainment crew or on certain nights, by entertainment troupes that were brought in. Entertainment starts at 9:45 pm but the place fills up quickly so you should get into a seat between 9:15 and 9:30. It’s a gas so you shouldn’t miss it.
Each evening there are also vendors and artisans who set up stands outside the main dining area to sell there wares. We found them to be more expensive than vendors in the numerous flea-markets in the area.
There’s lots of shopping in the area and you should come prepared to dicker over prices. There are flea-markets galore where you can get Mexican silver, shells, ornaments, t-shirts, souvenirs etc. etc. Don’t pay the asking price. The culture there is to expect to negotiate prices. Our experience is to expect to pay 30 to 50% of the asking price. Get used to hearing "… give just me a Mexican minute senor …" or " … it’s my turn now senor …". If you go with the attitude that this kind of thing is pushy and intrusive … then don’t go to the flea markets. If you look at it as entertainment and a chance to speak with the locals, you’ll have a blast. The people are indeed warm and friendly … but not unwilling to take your shirt in a negotiation if you let them! As for Mexican silver … you can get some great deals but watch for this: silver in Mexico is regulated by the government and legitimate pieces of solid pure silver are marked. Look for 2 markings which are a "must" and one other optionally. The first two are the word "Mexico" and the quality of the silver … either 925 or 950. Optionally you will also see the jeweler’s licence number, but not always. "925 silver" is what you will see the most and is kind of like 10kt gold. "950 silver" is like 14kt gold and in the rare instance you find "975 silver" it’s like 18kt gold … higher levels of purity. If you buy silver without these markings you’re probably getting ripped off and are buying silver-plate. Oh yeah … in old Cancun you can find a Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club to satisfy your need to shop more conventionally. >:-)
You can easily move around the Cancun area using the public transit system busses that are continuously driving around the hotel strip and into old Cancun where the locals live. Cost is 6 pesos … about 60 cents. Busses are not air conditioned and drivers are aggressive on the road. Using this mode of transport will let you taste the local flavour but if you prefer to stay above it all you can take a taxi … but be prepared to pay. Again you should negotiate the price with the driver before you hire him. We can’t advise you any more on this as we used the busses.
While we weren’t paranoid about the water and although we had been advised that the water in Cancun was fine, we did exercise caution nonetheless. We drank only bottled water which we also used for brushing our teeth. We did not avoid salads that might have been washed in local water although we did not eat a lot of them either. Ice cubes, we assume, came from a filtered source as we could see the dual filter system behind the ice machine on our floor.
Conclusion: That’s about all we can report except to say that the vacation was outstanding. There were no major surprises and we were not disappointed that we selected this property. We would definitely return here or search out other RIU properties for a future vacation. Best of luck in your own search.