Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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TRIP REPORT 7/29/01 – 8/5/01 We booked our honeymoon through the Vacation Outlet located in the Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts. They were offering a tremendous special for 7 nights all-inclusive with airfare and based on brochures, it seemed nicer than other resorts that were comparable in rating and cost. We were not disappointed! We were scheduled to fly out of Boston at 8am on a North American airline charter flight. It was about an hour and fifteen minutes late departing, but because we have been so happy with previous flights on North American, we were pretty okay with the delay. We arrived in Montego Bay at about noon. Immigration and customs went quickly, despite the long lines. Areas were pretty well marked, and though the airport was busy, we had no problem getting around to be where we needed to be. We were booked through GWV and were thus met by their local representative after passing through immigration and customs. He directed us towards the Couples desk and that was essentially the extent of our involvement with GWV. Once we checked in at the Couples desk, we were told to wait until they had everyone and then we would be shown to the bus. That only took about 5 minutes and we were on our way. There were people offering to carry our bags, but they were friendly and agreeable when we declined, opting to carry our own. Once at the bus, a man came around collecting orders for Red Stripe and water while our bags were being loaded. Red Stripes were $2.50 a piece, and I don’t know how much the water was. Tipping was not expected – I presume we were considerably overcharged, but oh well, it was the beginning of our vacation. Speaking of tipping, Couples promotes “no tipping permitted.” We did arrive with plenty of American ones and probably went through 5 to 10 dollars by the time we got off the bus. The same guy that gets your beer goes around and collects tips for the young man that loads the bags, and then the bus driver also expects a tip. Again, we were prepared and not bothered at all considering the heat, and it was work we did not have to do – respect, Mon! The bus ride to the resort took about an hour and forty minutes. We did not think it was all that bad, other than being long. The road was in very bad condition, and at some points, we had to stop completely while a bulldozer cleared boulders from the center of the road. Some parts were kind of scary, such as the speed with which the driver took a lot of the blind corners, but the 6 pack of Red Stripe helped. Oh, and the goats and the cows really will move, even though it looks like they are about to be run down. When you are thinking about how much Red Stripe or water to buy for the ride, keep in mind the length of the ride and the fact that there is not a bathroom on the bus. Also, the bumpiness of the road has the potential to render one’s bladder more sensitive than usual. The driver will make a bathroom stop, but does not tell you that in order to use it, you must buy more beer as a courtesy. My husband ended up asking him (urgently, I might add) to pull over, which he did immediately without a problem. We arrived at Couples and were met by a quartet and Wayne. Wayne ushered us into the Piano Bar for a group registration. We had been given registration cards at the airport to fill out while we were waiting. We had filled ours out, but this did not make check- in any quicker considering they still had to take credit card imprints and not everyone else had filled out their cards. Wayne waited for everyone before taking them all to the front desk. While we waiting, we were served cold champagne and Wayne filled us in on the basics of the resort. About a half-hour after arriving, we were given a key to our room. Each couple was directed towards their room block and told to wait there, that luggage would be delivered within the hour. Our initial impression of the property was that it was better than the photos, lush, tastefully laid out, and well kept. We were not, however, too keen on the location of our room (#2308), at least not at first. The entrance to our room faced the back of one of the kitchens, which was neither quiet nor attractive to look at. We were also very close to the road and the airport across the street. The view from our balcony was considerably better, and looked down upon the ponds by the spa area. We could not hear the noise from the kitchen, and really did not notice the planes or car traffic, even though I am sure it was audible. While this particular block of rooms was not overly close to anything other than the spa, the property is laid out in such a way that everything is within comfortable walking distance. The room itself was exactly like in the brochure. It was spotlessly clean and included a CD player/radio, t.v. drawers for clothes, iron/ironing board, hair dryer (bring your own, as it did not have any oomph), and candle holders (bring your own votive). The bed is huge enough that some nights, we could not find each other and we both thought it was extremely comfy. The balcony was good sized with two chairs and a table. There is no clock, which severely annoyed my husband, who can never do without knowing what time it is. Patrick arrived within 15 minutes with our luggage and showed us the controls for the t.v. A/C, and ceiling fan. He also pointed out a book that explains the resort, restaurants, etc. We tipped him a couple of dollars, after which he gave us a complete tour of the room – totally unnecessary considering it is a basic room, but he must have felt obligated. He did point out that thing in the ceiling above the bed was a light to illuminate the tapestry and not a video camera. He did not seem amused at my suggestion. By this time, it was about 2:30pm. I hope that I have given you an idea of how long it took from landing in Montego Bay to arriving in our room. THE PEOPLE I put the people before all else because it was definitely the highlight of our trip – other guests at the resort as well as the Jamaicans that work there. It seemed as though every time we turned around, we were chatting with another couple on their vacation. I have traveled pretty extensively and have never encountered a friendlier group of guests – perhaps it is Jamaica that brings the friendliness out in people! The guests seemed mostly on the younger side, from mid-twenties to mid-thirties (we are late twenties), but there was quite a wide range overall. We also thought everyone who worked at the resort was extremely friendly and interesting to talk with, including the front desk staff. We watched many guests and staff members throughout the week, and it seems as though through our observations and experiences, it makes all the difference in the world if you are open and friendly. This seems like common sense, but I don’t think many guests understood the distinction between friendly and friendly demanding. For example, instead of just saying, “please may I have a Red Stripe” (friendly demand), try “how’s it going today? Do you think the sun will come out? When you get a chance, could I get a Red Stripe?” Tell the guy cleaning the pool that it looks great. Jamaicans have a wonderful sense of humor and seem to enjoy chatting. They take pride in their work and seem to genuinely care what you think of them, the work they do, and your impression of the island. When you’re there, be sure to say hello to Robert, Damion, and Kirkpatrick down at the pool bar, Wayne the lifeguard (very smart and interesting person to talk to – intrigued by the issue of race relations in the U.S.), Richard at water sports (had the unfortunate job the week we were there of scraping the seaweed), Jeffrey the watersports instructor, and Judy, the woman who works in the News Shop. If you get sunburned, Headley (one of the groundskeepers over near block 9) will pick you aloe. Most will be quick to remind you that when you go home, you cannot say you visited Jamaica, rather you visited Couples Negril – to them, there is a big distinction considering how far removed the resort is from the “real” Jamaica. However, getting to know the people that live there brings you that much closer. THE BARS/DRINKS Be sure to visit Robert at the pool bar (sometimes he works at the beach bar) and ask him to make you something special. Only do this if you have no problem with getting trashed and have no pressing events scheduled for the afternoon. You never quite know what you are getting, but the conversation is great and whatever it is, will be sure to knock you on your ass. The service at the bars overall was good. The only place where it was at all slow was the main bar located in the Cassava Terrace, but it seems as though the reason for this is they were also responsible for supplying the dining room with drinks. Also, if you choose to use red flag service on the beach (pick up your flag at watersports – stick it in the sand and someone will come take your order), be prepared to wait a long time. We found it easier to just go up and get the drinks ourselves. There is drink service at each of the dining areas for dinner, and the Cassava Terrace for lunch. I think I read somewhere that wine is only served with dinner, but you can get wine during the day too if you ask. Also, they will not just give you cans of beer (Miller Lite) – something to do with the management not wanting people to walk around with 6 packs of beers and leaving cans everywhere. Be sure to try a Flaming Bob Marley – not very tasty, but fun and you can walk away saying you did one. Miami Vice and BahamaMamas are also good drinks. Some people suggested bringing big insulated cups to use instead of the small plastic cups supplied by the resort – good idea, but we forgot ours. If you enjoy your drinks, consider it a priority. Also, consider investing in an inflatable “drink oasis.” Basically, it is a floatie with drink holders and a place in the middle to hold ice. We tied a string to ours, loaded it up with cocktails, and then brought it with us when “floating” in the ocean. It saved us from repeat trips to the bar, though greatly contributed to intoxication. We got ours at Linens ‘n Things. We did pass ours on to Richard, who works at Water Sports – perhaps he will let you borrow it! Overall, the drinks are good, cold, and strong. FOOD/RESTAURANTS There are several restaurants from which to choose on the property. For breakfast, you have a choice of room service or the buffet at the Cassava Terrace. Most mornings, we chose room service and would eat out on our porch. Room service consisted of fresh baked pastries and breads, cereal, fruit, juice, and coffee. The first morning, my husband thought he would still be hungry, but found in the long run, it was plenty of food. Room service was prompt and we didn’t tip – the guys didn’t linger seeming to wait for one either. If you eat out on your porch, don’t leave it unattended because the birds will be right there eating off your plate. We also hit the buffet a couple of times. This was pretty standard breakfast fare, though they did have made to order omelets, pancakes, waffles, and fresh fruit smoothies. The coffee was good and our cups rarely hit empty before someone would be over filling them up again. Our only disappointment, we had read somewhere that they have self-serve mimosas and bloody marys, but not that we could find. For lunch, your choices are the Beach Grill or the buffet at the Cassava Terrace. We usually ate at the grill, just because it was convenient and we didn’t need shoes or a shirt/cover-up. I don’t know if there was an official dress code at the Terrace, but we felt as though shoes and shirts/cover-ups were appropriate. The food at the Grill was pretty good – the jerk chicken and chicken patties were excellent, and the rest was traditional grill fare. There was also a salad bar, self-serve nachos, soup, and self-serve ice cream. For dinner, the Beach Grill and the Cassava Terrace became a la carte (3 nights, the Cassava Terrace was buffet). You did not need reservations and they did display the menus ahead of time so you could make a decision. In regards to dress, we saw pretty much everything, though most cleaned up. We thought the food at the Beach Grill (at night it becomes the Pasta Bar) was better than the food at the Cassava Terrace, though we enjoyed listening to the house band that played during dinner at the Terrace. If you eat at the Pasta Bar, don’t sit near the far perimeter (near the foliage) because that’s the only place we experienced mosquitoes. Whatever you do, be sure to make a reservation for at least one night at OTAHEITE, the gourmet restaurant. The food, service, and atmosphere were all spectacular! We ate there twice, though the menu did not change throughout the week. Dinner consists of several small courses of some of the best food I have ever eaten. The service is top notch, and you really feel pampered. There is a dress code – long pants, collared shirts, and covered shoes for men, and dresses or pantsuits for women. We did see people turned away for inappropriate dress. Also, be sure you are on time because they will not seat you if you are late. You can make your reservation at the guest relations desk in the lobby. THE BEACH/POOL We spent most of our time at the beach, setting up around 8am and staying until the daily rain at about 2pm. The beach is absolutely gorgeous, white sand, wide, and very clean. There are plenty of trees that offer shade, though we dragged our chairs down to the water to be in the sun. We spent a lot of the afternoons in the hammocks, but be careful of falling almonds. We spent most of our time floating out in the water with our drink oasis, a wonderfully relaxing activity. We did go to the pool in the afternoon when we had enough of the beach. It was also remarkably clean and the water was on the warm side. We did not go to the nude beach, but there didn’t seem to be anyone there either. We did not see a single topless woman all week, something to consider if this is something you are looking for. Unlike our experience at other resorts, there were always plenty of chairs and floats at both the beach and the pool. You didn’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to reserve a good spot; in fact you could stroll out at 11am and still have your pick. We felt as though our personal items were safe when left for periods of time, though we kept our camera with us. There were people walking up and down the beach selling “ganja” and hair braiding, but they weren’t pushy and didn’t bother us at all. There is also a gentleman who walks the beach and will take your picture (his name is Smoky). He does not wear a resort shirt, but works for a company that contracts with the resort. There is no obligation to buy the photo, he simply takes it and then it will be displayed among others at the Photo Hut the next day for you to purchase if you so desire. We heard one woman be very rude to him, not believing that he worked for the resort. He’s actually very nice and polite, and will show you how to catch BIG sand crabs once you start talking to him. ACTIVITIES Overall, the resort was pretty quiet. There were no boisterous entertainment people dragging you to the pool for a game of volleyball. Most of the activities never even happened because people didn’t show up. If you do participate in an activity, you get fake money to spend at the auction where you can purchase Tia Maria, t-shirts, etc. We did play bingo a couple of times because it rained in the afternoon. My husband took advantage of the tennis lessons and feels as though his game greatly improved under the direction of Devon and the visiting pro. He also tried the water skiing, which was great because the water is very calm. We both took out the hobie cats, kayaks, and paddleboats. Feeding the goldfish in the ponds by the spa was a nice calming activity – there are so many of them, it’s kind of fun to watch. We did go on the catamaran cruise, which we just thought was okay, but it was cut short because of a thunderstorm. We took the snorkeling trip, which was fun, but the snorkeling is not as good as other places we have been. Bring a bagel with you to feed the fish. We went to the Piano Bar one night but no one was there and the piano player did not show up. The bare foot beach party on Monday nights is pretty fun, with lots of corny games that you otherwise would never find yourself playing. Most nights, we were in bed by 9pm. We still cannot get over how quiet the resort was. Some mornings we would walk out around 8am for breakfast and it was like a ghost town. However, contrary to other reports, there was music throughout the day, and the areas around the bars could get kind of rowdy. We brought our own travel games and would set up at either the beach or pool bar to sit out the thunderstorms. They have a game room with a t.v. card tables, ping pong table, and pool table but it was always so smoky, we avoided it. The fitness area is top notch, which we did take advantage of. We did not use the spa services and regret it. By the time we got around to making an appointment for our massage, we could not get an appointment. We did not go on the shopping trip or to Rick’s Café. My husband did go on the golfing trip, which ended up being very expensive. The resort covers the transfer and the green fees, but a caddy is mandatory, club rentals were $18 and then you also must buy your own balls ($1 each) and tees. There are no water fountains on the course so you are expected to buy water for yourself and the caddy. My husband spent close to $60 by the end of the day. DEPARTING The night before your departure, you will receive a flight confirmation and the time that you should meet the bus. You leave your luggage outside your room 1-hour before the bus leaves. Checkout went quickly and all our bags were on the bus by the time we arrived to leave. Once again, things at the airport went quickly, though it is an interesting set-up. You wait for your flight to be called before you go to your gate, so everyone is in the same waiting area. We walked all the way to our gate and then were escorted back by security. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation
For a day we had explored Oaxaca, capital of the Mexican state with the same name, glorying in its Zapotec heritage which saturated all facets of life from dress and cuisine to language and ages-old artisan products. Now, on a bus tour, we were on our way to Monte Albán, the main ruin of the 8000 archaeological sites left by these Indians who once had a flourishing civilization in this part of Mexico. Turning a corner, my heart jumped. We had barely missed a coming auto. Diego, our guide of pure Zapotec descent, seeing the look of shock on the faces of some of his flock, smiled, 'No cop! No stop!" Our near accident was soon forgotten as our mini-bus wound its way to Monte Albán, some 10 km (6 mi) from the heart of Oaxaca. During our way upward, Diego talked with enthusiasm, relating with pride the history of his ancestors and their achievements. One of the many pre-Columbian Indian kingdoms in Mexico, the Zapotec nation founded a rich flourishing culture unique to their region of the country. Thousands of years ago they built impressive cities and established a way of life that has come down to our times. We tumbled out of our bus at the entrance to the ruins of Monte Albán - once called the 'city of the gods'. It was, for centuries, the capital of the Zapotecs, who in their days of glory were known as the 'people of the clouds'. The centre of their culture and a privileged place of worship, it was inhabited by astronomers, nobles, priests and wise men. Standing on the edge of the of the ruins, built atop a mountain whose peak had literally been cut off to create a plateau for the city, I heard Diego tell one of our group, "Look! Have you ever seen such a breathtaking view? Look at the grandeur around you! The Zapotecs knew where to build their city." Well did our guide have a point. The vista was stunning. Monte Albán with its imposing and majestic structures, appearing to sprout from the clouds, dominated the city of Oaxaca and the immense flat valley - in reality three valleys abutting each other - below. >>From its eyrie setting, towering 400 m (1,312 ft) above the city, the ruins beset by clouds hovering over the surrounding mountains created a dramatic scene of seducing colours. Resting on a man-made platform, Monte Albán is said to be the most impressive and fascinating pre-Columbian archaeological treasure in the whole of Meso-America. On the ceremonial flattened mountain top, the Zapotecs raised their holy city in order to be closer to their gods. Judging from its building stones, archaeologists believe that the first structure was erected around 700 B.C. Our knowledge of that early period, up to 300 B.C., is from the carved stone slabs found in the Temple of the Dancers, the oldest structure in the city. The temple is covered with what was long believed to be dancers in grotesque poses and idiotic grins. However, today, many archaeologists think that the temple was a hospital and the figures are sick people in postures of agony. The bars and dots, accompanying the figures, are thought to be a system of numbering borrowed from the neighbouring Mayans. Between 300 B.C. and 250 A.D., 90 temples were built, some showing Mayan influences. During this period, scientific knowledge among the Zapotecs reached glittering heights. They believed that the earth was round and their scientists knew the magnetic north. Uncovered skulls indicate that surgeons operated on brain tumors, using obsidian instruments and an aesthetic derived from coca leaves. The city reached its peak between 300 and 700 A.D. when it became the centre of a highly organized, priest-dominated society. According to Diego, the clerics manipulated the people by magic, through secret tunnels and knowledge of the movement of the sun, moon and stars. After 700 A.D., the secrets of the priests were discovered. Hence, they were unable to control the population. Shortly thereafter, the city went into decline, with military leaders replacing the clerics. Somewhere around 1000 A.D., Monte Albán was occupied by the Mixtecs, another Indian people, who, by the year 1200, turned it into a 'city of the dead* and it became a massive cemetery of lavish crypts where important priests and nobles were buried with their treasures. Two hundred of these tombs have to date been uncovered, the most important known as tomb number 7 which contained nine skeletons - a high priest and what are believed to be members of his family or servants. It was to become one of the richest archaeological finds ever unearthed, yielding a fabulous collection of solid gold breast plates and masks, gold and silver jewellery, carved alabaster, crystal, jade and obsidian, pearls as large as pigeon eggs and much more. All the 500 items found are now on exhibit in the Regional Museum of Oaxaca. The heart of the Monte Albán ruins is a great rectangular plaza 366 m (1,200 ft) long and 200 m (656 ft) wide, bounded by four huge ceremonial platforms. All around and in its centre are pyramids, palaces, sculptures, steles, staircases, terraces, tombs, an observatory, a sun dial and a ball court, where a game was played for pleasure - unlike in the Mayan lands where the losers were sacrificed. The observatory, located in the group of buildings in the centre of the square, breaks the symmetry of the rest of the structures, built on a grid system. Not in line with the axis of the other buildings, it is set at 45 degrees east, precisely toward where five of the 25 brightest stars in this part of the sky may be best observed. From studying the stars, the priests set the dates for feasting, planting and harvesting. As we left the ruins, I sat back in the bus and relaxed. My mind went back to the Zapotecs whose descendants, with their customs and traditions, still dominate the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The charm of Oaxaca today is in the foods, handicrafts and festivals inherited from their ancestor*s days of grandeur. In the words of Diego, "Even though the Spanish missionaries preached for a hundred years that we had no soul or spirit, we remain today the backbone of this state, proud of our Zapotec heritage."
The following contains our complete trip report to the Copacabana Resort, Xpu-Ha, Mx.; April 28- May 5, 2001. Please keep in mind while reading this commentary we have traveled the Mexican Suncoast (we call it Playa Del Carmen area) at least once if not more every year for the last five years. We also have stayed at 2 other all- inclusive properties, the Reef Club and the RIU Yucatan, as well as rented condos in Akumal. We will use those as benchmarks and make the occasional comparisons. I will try to review those areas of interest that are most requested! If you would like a report with more general information about the area from other trip, especially about the RIU Yucatan, please email me at Contract73@aol.com. We are in our later 30's w/o kids (so far) and look for interesting destinations and relaxation as opposed to nightlife-orientated activities. Reservations/Information We found the resort through http://www.locogringo.com, who we have used before (Thanks Karla!). This hotel is also offered through Apple/Funjet and also has its own website at http://www.hotelcopacabana.com/). The advertisement they ran on the website was accurate, and honest. The rate they offered was excellent and we secured the dates through them. As always they shared as much info as they could, and were wonderful to work with; prompt, courteous, and fair. Car Rental We rent a car 90% of the time. Thrifty offered the best rate and accepted my MasterCard as the collision insurance. Saved $15 a day! Note that this resort is not located close to anything. It is a decent cab ride or if you have the time, bus from the front of the hotel. You can rent cars daily at the resort. Or take the tours offered, but we prefer to do it ourselves. Air Like previous trips for which we did not take a full package, we found the best rate (R/T Chicago) using Funjet Travel on one of their ATA charter flights. We often base our dates of travel around the air availability/price. Flights were as expected, a little like a cattle call airline, but what do you expect? They were even 20 early on the return flight!!! And less that half the price of American. Arrival After spending a quick night in Playa del Carmen, we arrived at the resort about 10am. We had no problem checking in immediately, except we only had the choice of a room in those numbered in 1000's. It was farthest from the beach but closest to dinner and breakfast. To get the room we said fine, why waste good beach time? The lobby building holds the small shops, dinner and breakfast restaurants, as well as the theater/bar #2 facility. The lobby was similar to other quality properties; waterfall, open, tall ceiling, marble floors, very clean (the resort was only 5 months old), beautiful and inviting. Upon the rather quick check-in they took us to our room by golf cart! The property was laid out with 3-4 large buildings (with nice decorations and wall paintings) on each side consisting of the guest rooms lining of the property (total 8). It was narrower and longer than many (similar to the Reef Club), with all activities at either end. Rooms This was very surprising. The rooms (at least ours) were very large in comparison to other resorts. Marble floors, king bed, TV, small stocked fridge (beer, soda, water), electronic safe (nice touch), good a/c, ceiling fan, balcony (nice size), phone, towels, everything. The marble shower (no tub) had room for about six! We were lucky to get an end unit on the second floor. We could see over the trees/jungle-landscaping motif that ran through the entire center of the property. The only think I can report interesting is that the toilet seat was broken! I called the front desk from a pool phone that afternoon and when we returned to the room several hours later the seat was fixed. Room service cleaned the rooms once daily, pretty much by noon by occasionally as late as 2pm, but always left them immaculate. Grounds This resort is located on Xpu-ha one of the most beautiful beaches on the Mex, Caribbean coast. If offers a nice walk about a mile or more either way to the new Xpu-Ha Palace resort to the North or the Robinson Club to the south. I cannot complete this review without saying I hope this is the end to the construction of resorts in this area. I would hate to see it disappear like other little hidden paradise beaches that are disappearing along the coast. Not to mention the destruction to the wildlife. As I mentioned it has a jungle/mangrove motif running through the center. The walkways are all of landscaping stone with bridges and benches along the way. If you don't like the walkway (?) you can get anywhere by using the paved utility roads that run behind the rooms, the entire length of the property. Various wildlife makes its residence here, fun for the kiddies. One night a frog choir serenaded us! Except near the lobby buildings area, it was a fairly quiet resort and never had a "crowded" or extensive "party" atmosphere. Walking the entire length of the resort might be difficult for those with challenges, but I don't want to make assumptions if they had other provisions. One had to decide which end (beach/pool/lunch vs. dinner/breakfast) they would want to be closer to. We didn't care. Beach/Activity Area/Services This is where you find yourself spending most of the day. The pool is large, plenty of paplyas for shade, well laid out and, well, best if you look at the pictures on the Internet. We are beach folk so we only spend about 15% of the time by the pool. Surround the pool is the activities cabanas; workout room, pool bar (no swim-up L) aerobics room, kiddies pool, large buffet lunch hall, towel/water activity, small store, craft room, day-care/kids activities. Also are 3 rather long hot/whirlpool tubs/pools that have a nice view of the beach. All activities are rather close and convenient. The condition of the beach was one of the best we have had. Large and open. Plenty of shallow water for kids, and for those who don't like the deep water. It is groomed often and in great condition. The shade is limited so be ready to go out early and reserve your spot (this common for all you new folks). You can try to get on of the payplas or under the yet to grow trees. Even though we arrived later (11am), one of the employees offered us our own umbrella!! We choose this route every day. They did seem to run out by the end of the week (hint: Copa, buy more!). The chairs are standard plastic issue lounge chairs, but the pool chairs had that nice nylon webbing over them. Note that there is not drink service on the beach (common). And yes, it has the traditional topless sunbathing option. The standard A-I activities are available, see list that can be found on the websites. Please note that private vendors down the beach (south) have Wave runners, diving and snorkeling trips if you do not choose those offered by the resort. Also offered are messages and paint on tattoos. We had fun wearing what they claim will last 2 weeks but in essence they barely lasted a week. The message was very good but I did receive and great message from the little hotel Villas Del Caribe just north, lined up next to the property. They have a small restaurant/bar and you can ask there. For the Kiddies Available is a nanny/baby sitting service that other guest claimed was wonderful. It appeared to us she was a "trained" child attendant and was taking the kids around pool area doing various whatever. They also offered various activities for the young ones. The small shallow kids pool is a nice touch. See the website for more info. Food This is always a dangerous subject to evaluate since I have seen so many differing views of what to expect at an A-I resort. I am a former musician happy with truck stop grub at 4am and my wife enjoys luxury cruise food, so you figure out where we are coming from. Nonetheless, we found the food B+ in quality and variety. For the buffets: Breakfast offers a variety of choices, which are standard in A-I, omelets, eggs, doughy items, and sweets. (of course beer is always available). Lunch was the average grill fare, but the custom pasta bar was a plus. Dinner had a good variety. Desserts were better than most we found in Mexico, and the Cappuccino bar for breakfast and dinner was well received by all. By and large it was better that Reef Club but not the quality of the RIU. This should not be a surprise based on price range! One point we would like to make is they made every effort to keep the buffet areas clean and well stocked! I went to the lunch buffet with sand filled flip-flops and the cleaning person followed me around! The reservations-only restaurant we found to be not very impressive. Don't get me wrong; it was delightful, but not several notches up from the buffets. We have found this true of most A-I's. If you have to be served or pampered, then this is for you. Worth one visit. Bar OK kids, here's the important data. The bars were overall very good. The lobby bar was excellent, so was the theater bar. They both offered a huge drink variety. The theater bar at times got overwhelmed if many attended the evening festivities. The pool bar often was understaffed between 11am – 3pm. They did not have the drink variety of the other bars but keep most happy (plenty of shots). One disappointment is they had a frozen coffee and lemon drink machine that worked only the first day. I enjoyed putting a shot of Kailua in the coffee option. PS, try the Mexican Sombrero. My conclusion is if they could keep the number of Canadians that were there happy, they did all right! Entertainment I really don't know what to expect, most of these A-I theater shows are weak, but these where so tongue and cheek, it was great!! A little more biting than any other I have seen. I think they are aware they utilize a little more of an adult slant, which was great, and maybe it's why they had them start at 9pm. Since the makeup of the guest population is primarily non-American, I know this is not a problem. Ten times out of ten usually it's the Americans (which we are if you didn't get the drift) who get a little (over) uptight if their little "Buffy or Chad" hears something a little risqué. It was all in fun though. They play disco music after the show in lieu of the uncompleted disco room. People/Guests A wonderful mix of European, Latin American and this time, Canadian guests. About 10% US. The Canadians where some of the friendliest people we have met. Service A general comment on the service, I do think they were making every effort to please the guests. The Currency exchange rate is not as high as those available in Playa Del Carmen or the airport. The only difficulty we experienced is when we decided to stay an extra night, we asked, and were told; at the time of the reservation we could have the same rate. At checkout, it required a 25min discussion to not be charged $40 more. But eventually this was worked out. Snorkeling A quick note since we have done most of the snorkel spots in the area. There is fairly good snorkeling just south of the resort about 800 ft out. But, it does not compare to the lagoons or the Akumal area. Conclusions Overall, this resort was a wonderful experience, idllyic, and comes highly recommend by us. There has never been even the most expensive resort that someone does not have some small complaint about. If you want perfection, stay in Toledo. (Sorry, very bad analogy) The resort for the price and location is going to be very successful, and will probably get better after a few of the growing pains are calmed. Enjoy….
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