Traveled to Cancun over Fall Break 2006 – Oct 6-11. Used Debbie’s Review site previously for vacations to other Caribbean, Mexican and Central American destinations. Had always found the information to be factual and helpful. Fully agree on previous write-ups on this hotel. Truly a five star experience. Used Best Buy Travel for $18 per person round trip to airport in airconditioned van. Very chatty driver gave us the grand tour on the way to the hotel. Traveling with wife and three teens – 20,18 and 16, so wanted something everyone would enjoy. Hotel is in a great location right in the heart of tourist areas. Lobby is beautiful and you are going to be greated by the neatest doorman – Marcos! Very friendly and an excellent first impression. The front desk staff is constantly busy, but very professional and quickly had us moving toward our rooms – 8th floor, no balcony – but since my reservation was marked "interline traveler" and I got a great deal, I wasn’t going to complain.
The pools, restaurants, public areas and rooms were IMMACULATELY clean. If you are an early riser you will see an ARMY of maids doing the lobby – really is amazing to watch them swarm!
The rooms are smallish, with two small double beds pushed close together to form a super king. They are very, VERY hard, so request the bed pad right away! We had a restless first night until we gave in. If there are more than two of you, some rooms have a pull-out couch or you can request a roll-away bed- which we did for the three teens. Gets a little crowded, but much more comfortable than sleeping in the crack! After the first night, we ran into the assistant manager (subdirector) Javier Ferrando. (He is connected to the Riu family in that he was born in the same locale and has worked with them since graduating from college. The Riu family is from Majorca, Spain.) After he asked about our rooms, I commented on the lack of balconies and he promptly moved us to two ajoining rooms on the 7th floor with a beautiful view of the beach and a balcony to enjoy playing cards on!
The whole staff was like Javier – very hands on and constantly visible around the hotel. There is a definite desire for the staff to connect with the guests IF the guests desire some form of relationship. No one is pushy or tries to invade your privacy, but is very willing to be familiar if you make the first move.
Food: The food was very good; plentiful at the buffet and beautifully prepared and presented at the specialty restaurants. The Brazilian steakhouse was good, but the quantity disappointed my two boys – 20 and 16. "Where’s the Beef?" was the refrain and they quickly learned to order more than a single entree or appetizer at subsequent restaurants. The staff was very willing to accomodate them and eventually even my 6’4" and my 6’1" boys were full and happy. We all enjoyed the outdoor steak restaurant – the weather is cool in the evening in October and since we are from Texas – it was pleasant to dine outdoors, even in long pants.
Our family favorite was Sir Arthur – not because of the food, but because the staff did such a great job – our waiter, Oscar and the Matri’d did a suberb job making us feel comfortable and relaxed. Although the hotel will not serve your minor children drinks if they are alone at the bar, they will allow them to have something if you are with them – so we were able to enjoy wine at dinner after we asked.
Beach: The beach at the Riu Cancun next door is nicer because of the playa huts where you can get out of the sun. It really helps after a few days, trust me! The snorkeling was good to great depending on the wave action – better in the morning if the water is calm. Lots and LOTS of fish – up to three feet and they are very comfortable with people. If you are able to take some bread from the morning buffet you will be rewarded with some great views!
The Hobi cats were a dismal failure. With shallow draft hulls and no dagger or keel boards, they tend to slide across the water and it was difficult to make any tacks into the wind. I have sailed quite a bit and gave up after two attempts on different days.
The work out room is basic – with only one elliptical, one treadmill, one stepper and a rowing machine. There was a good collection of cable machines and I was able to get a workout in every day along with pushups, situps and other body weight exercises on the gym balls.
We shopped on three days. Tried lots of Mercados, the Mexican Outlet (very expensive) and the nearby indoor mall. It was very reasonable, but there is no bargaining. If you absolutely have to get the best price, go to the Mercado area just past the Mexican Outlet- you can see the sign to the west of the hotel from the upper floors if you look out the windows in the elevator lobby.
I would suggest you take $1, $5 and some $10 bills with you. There is never change at the front desk, but as others on this site suggested, we came ready to tip. The results were amazing! We got even better service, more smiles and stronger drinks – – -if that was possible. The staff never made a big deal about it, but the smiles and welcome words showed their appreciation. I think this is a "must" in an all-inclusive and will continue this habit in the future.
Finally: My only "downs" were the lack of a library for paperback trading (I like to read on vacation), the cost to use the internet ($3 for 15 minutes) (although if you lug your computer down, you can use their wireless in the lobby and on the back porch if you sit close to the windows) and the restaurant reservation system. You stand in line before 5 PM at the restaurant you want to eat in to make a reservation for the following night. I didn’t mind the system, since I like to meet people and this was the place to visit and talk, but some folks who go on excursions miss their chance to reserve. I think there should be a different system for your visit and would hope that a hotel of this quality would work something out. Overall – this is an exceptional property with gifted management and a fine staff. You will do well to be outgoing and friendly and tip as you go – this was a great experience for my well-traveled family and we have it on our short list of "return" properties.
Hope this helps.