The S.O. & I have just returned from an eight day stay at the Riu Caribe via Air Canada Vacations, 02/08/04 – 02/16/04, and I would have to say we’re somewhat disappointed considering this is now a Riu chain hotel. It is not up to the standards of the other Riu properties we have stayed at. (Riu Jallisco, Riu Palace in Mexico and the Riu Bachata in the Dominican) Here are some of the reasons.
Check in is supposed to be at 3:00pm. We arrived at the hotel right at 2:45 and there was already quite a crowd at front desk. When my turn finally came, I was told that the room would not be available till 4:00 pm or later, but they took our information and issued us the all-inclusive wristbands and pointed us in the direction of the lobby bar. The staff seemed overworked and unable to cope with the sudden influx of guests. At all the other Riu hotels, most of the check in procedure were done on the bus to the resort, so all that was left was picking up the room & safe keys. At 4:00 I went back to check again, and was told there would be a further delay. After some conversation and a $20 gratuity, a room suddenly became available, eight floor and ocean view, no less. Exactly as I had requested, and was promised, in the email I sent to the hotel several weeks earlier.
I have never slept (or tried to sleep) on a harder bed in my life. Previous reviews are quite correct in this respect. The bed was as hard as the marble floor. Pillows were as flat as pancakes and offered no support to your head and neck. The bathroom featured a sunken tub, but the water pressure and temperature was so low at certain times of the day (5-7pm was the worst) that taking a bath or shower was quite an adventure. The soaps were more like soap chips and the shampoo packets barely held enough shampoo to wash your hair twice. On a positive note the air conditioning was extremely efficient, almost too much so, as it dropped the temperature of the room so quickly that it never really de-humidified the room, so it was cold and damp, instead of cool and dry. It was more like refrigeration than air conditioning. The S.O complained the first night we could have hung meat in the room.
The restaurants were really hit & miss here, both the buffet and the one ala carte (there are usually two ala cartes) but one was closed for renovations. I had some reservations about the food on the buffet as hot food is supposed to be hot and cold food cold, so I tried to confine my choices to food I saw being brought out fresh from the kitchen, or eating from one of the food preparation stations. The ala carte’s food was suspiciously like the buffet food by times, but the service in the restaurant was fine and the presentation of the plates excellent.
I found that the mixed drinks were prepared much stronger in the lobby bar than around the pool. I think the reason is that management wants you pace yourself somewhat, not pass out, or puke in the pool. Works for me. Those who want to get drunk can chase each mixed drink or beer with a tequila shot to achieve the desired effect (much to my chagrin and headache the morning after the night before!!) Also, there are bar staff taking drink orders around the pool and beach area, a service not in effect at the other Riu’s.
Was better than any other Riu I have stayed at. Very professional shows. Not Vegas, but what is?
Pool area and Beach: I found the pool and ocean temperature a bit chilly for the time of year, I expected much warmer. The pool has a swim-up bar, but it’s in the shade, and a little cool to sit at for long. The pool also has a ledge which extends out about 6 feet all around it, with a water depth of about 1.5 feet, and then it abruptly drops off to 5 feet. There are steps on one side, but no hand rail to hang onto as you’re walking in. There are the usual early-bird lounger hogs here, who must run down at 5:00am to reserve their all-important seats right next to the bar with their towels, a practice I find pathetic. The other Riu resorts I have stayed at do not tolerate this, and signs are prominently displayed to that effect, and it always seems everybody gets a seat and a fair shot at whatever chair they want once the towel hut opens. The beach is very nice, although the first day we got there, there was a lot of seaweed washed up, I think, due to some bad weather at sea that had the ocean all stirred up. Not the resort’s fault, and they worked endlessly to clean up the seaweed.
I must, at this point in the review, make special mention of one of the front desk staff. Lizbeth. What a sweetheart!! When she found out that it was the S.O.’s birthday, she recommended Lorenzillos’s, which is the most terrific seafood restaurant in Cancun. Beautiful place, excellent food & service, we ate right out on a dock on the water. She made the reservations for me, and made sure that the restaurant knew it was for a special occasion. She also waited till we were out for the day, and had a beautiful birthday cake sent up to our room, along with plates, cutlery, napkins and flowers. Next morning she gave us a big hug, asked us how we enjoyed ourselves, and I practically had to force a tip on her in appreciation of her efforts. Riu management – pay attention!!! This girl is a keeper and a shining example of terrific customer service.
As above, Lorenzillo’s was terrific, Tony Roma’s was just ok, and Carlos & Charlie’s was poor.
As this was our “lazy” vacation(unlike last fall’s Las Vegas excursion), we didn’t do much in the way of day trips, so we confined ourselves to shopping at the various markets, and yes, even the Wal-Mart got a visit. We rode the bus, one of the truly great bargains in Cancun. Easy to use, cheap, and a great way to sightsee up and down the strip. Mercado 28 was lots of fun, but watch out for the Coral Negro market. The vendors are so aggressive there that two of them had me by both arms, screaming at each other in broken Spanish that “I saw him first” to get me into their shops. Not really pleasant, and probably a little scary for a first time visitor to Mexico. I haggled the vendors down to what I thought was some great bargains on silver and turquoise jewelry, leather sandals, and of course, tee-shirts. Probably still paid too much, but had fun.
We went to Fat Tuesday’s and Senor Frog’s. I can’t see quite what all the fuss is about, but of course, I’m not 20 anymore, and their aimed at the younger crowd. Actually, both were a bit dumpy, but I guess that once tequila is applied they look better and are lots of fun.
Topless women: Got your attention? Well, the only topless women I saw was the S.O. Resort was way too family oriented for that, and the guest of European heritage seemed to be the minority there, mostly prudish Canadian and American guests.
All too soon, our vacation came to an end. We had beautiful weather 6 out of the 8 days, and ok weather for the other 2. Would we go back to the Riu Caribe? No….not until I hear some changes have been made, or until Riu fully takes over the hotel. Would I go back to Cancun? Maybe….it’s a little pricey for what you get. Would I go back to Mexico? That was our third visit, so I think it’s time to go somewhere else, but overall, I have enjoyed it every time, and my Spanish is getting better bit by bit.