If you have read my previous post, you will know that I had several misgivings about embarking on an all inclusive vacation. I believe the word 'trepidatious' was used at least once. I had a series of concerns about the nature of this vacation; firmly believing that we were probably going to be let down because we are not "All Inclusive" types, aaaaaaand because I obsessively read (and believed) every negative Trip Advisor review I could get my hands on. It didn't matter that the positive reviews outweighed the negative ones, it was the really nasty stuff that stuck out in my head and resulted in lowered expectations, which is probably why I ended up having a fantastic time. Lowered expectations = less chance of disappointment. This applies in almost every life situation, by the way. If you don't like the sound of lowered expectations, then refer to it as 'keeping an open mind'. Same same, really.
We flew to Cancun via Calgary, and our trip there was smooth as eggs. No delays, no hassles at the airport. When we pressed the dreaded customs button in Cancun, the three of us were allowed to pass without any further ado. We were immediately met by our shuttle which we had prearranged, and made it to the resort in less than 45 minutes. And, although it was too early for us to check into our rooms, we were given our wrist bands and allowed full access to the resort.
Is 8:30 am too early for a banana margarita? Didn't think so.
First impressions of the resort turned out to be a lasting impression. Yes, it's large. It's a rather grand entrance, with white marble everywhere. The staff are incredibly friendly, especially if you throw them a smile and an "ola!". The walk from the lobby to the beach is a pleasant 8 or so minutes, through perfectly manicured garden pathways, lined with Mayan sculptures. You can hear nothing but birds and frogs.....until you get to the party pool, where you will hear nothing but techno and drunk moms. But that's only one pool out of 13, and we quickly passed that by, making a mental note to avoid it.
The pools are gorgeous, and there is a one for every mood. We only hit up the pools twice, much preferring the beach and the warm ocean water. The beach was beautiful, though not the best I have been to. There are better areas than others for swimming and hanging out. Once you spend a few days there, you'll quickly figure out where the best swimming is, and you'll still get drink service to boot. Beach = awesome.
I think I was most concerned with the food. I am not super into buffets, and was definitely concerned it was going to be grossly inedible mass produced junk. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that unless you are the world's pickiest eater, you will be happy with what is provided. Which is...pretty much everything. At breakfast there was always eggs (scrambled, fried, frittata'd, or omelettes), cereal, granola, fruit, yogurt, salad, bacon, sausage, french toast, potatoes...whatever really. It was good. Not everything was amazing, but it was mostly good enough, some of it very delicious.
We tended to either not eat lunch at the resort due to large breakfasts, or being off the resort all together. On the weekends they do a beach BBQ, which had the dreaded hotdog/burger combo, but I was also pleased to find tacos and paella, both of which were good. Not the best, but good.
The dinner buffets were also nice - they usually had a theme night - Mexican, Seafood, Italian...whatever, and again, there was a lot of selection. I had very delicious tiger prawns and steaks, and salads, and desserts and am happy to report that my goal of eating Mexican food at every meal (if possible) was met. If I saw an empanada or a taco I ate it. And I put guacamole and pico de gallo on everything.
The a la carte restaurants we managed to book were also nice - we ate at the Mexican one, which had delicious tamales and sopes and empanadas. We ate at the Italian one, and I enjoyed my medium rare tuna steak immensely. We ate at the teppanyaki grill and enjoyed the show, as well as the food.
The drinks were all pretty amazing - fantastic mixed beach type drinks like the pina colada, or the bahama mama. I enjoyed the mojitos made with aged rum. We got involved in shots of tequila with sangrita chasers. I drank countless mimosas at breakfast, and countless glasses of champagne at night. You could request the top shelf liquor, and it was no problem, all included. The wine was god awful, but that's okay because I wasn't there for the wine. Thankfully, the champagne was delightful.
And, guess what? Nothing got stolen from our room. We used our safe every day for our money and iPhones and passports, and it was never tampered with. I left the maid a few bucks everyday on the pillow, and she was fantastic. I always made sure the patio doors were locked, and the room was secure, but I never ever felt like things were not safe.
Now that I've been to this resort myself, I cannot understand the negative reviews. Granted, my experience with all inclusives is limited to this and the one in the Bahamas, but people need to get real about the stuff they were complaining about. Because, when it comes down to it, your vacation is as good as YOU make it, especially at a beautiful 5 star resort in a developing country. People go with expectations that it will be just like home, in 'Murica, and are sorely disappointed when it's not. Those people need to stay home.
The purpose of our trip, the wedding of our friends, was beautifully done. They got married on the beach under the gazebo, and you couldn't ask for a more picturesque backdrop. We had drinks on the beach, and dinner at Miso, followed by a hilarious night out at Senor Frogs (which is super touristy and cheesy, but we had a blast).
All this being said, I would still rather rent an apartment. I don't need to eat or drink that much, and the resorts are so far out of town, that you don't really get to experience any real culture. We made the effort to leave the resort several times - we went into Playa and enjoyed a meal in a real authentically Mexican restaurant, where there were no tourists (or white people) in sight. Because we had taken Dukoral, we didn't need to worry about the ice in our batidos (smoothies), or the food we were eating (which was delicious). However, some members of our party did NOT take Dukoral, and as a result, Montezuma got his revenge and they ended up very very sick. So, if you're thinking of traveling to a developing country, just cough up the $$ for this treatment. It's worth it to not crap your pants on your flight home, amiright?
We went on a couple of excursions that we really enjoyed. And, as luck would have it, they happened to be on days that were overcast and perfect for doing things. We hit up the Mayan village of Pachen, for some zip lining, rappelling into a cenote, a shaman blessing, and the most amazing meal ever (I ate five empanadas). After our meal, we went to Coba, an ancient Mayan village, which once was home to 70,000 Mayan people. We got to climb Nuhoch Mul, and it was gorgeous. Bucket list for sure.
We also visited Tulum, home of Mayan royalty before the Spanish conquistadors came and ruined everything. It's beautiful there and you can see why they chose it as home. And after that, we snorkelled at Akumal, where we saw sea turtles and sting rays and all kinds of fish on the reef. A beautiful experience.
All in all, we had a fantastic time. My fears about this resort were unfounded. The staff, the grounds, the food....everything was great. It truly was relaxing, as you didn't need to worry about a thing. If I ever go back to Playa del Carmen, my hunch is that I will not go the all inclusive route again, but rather stay in town in a condo or something, but we really enjoyed our time in this beautiful all inclusive, and if it's your thing, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Grand Riviera Princess resort to you and your friends and family.
The only bad part of the trip was our return trip, which was horrible. We were delayed out of Cancun, which caused us to miss our connection (which was a HUGE snafu on the part of West Jet, as we actually could have been on that plane, no problem #FAIL), so we were put on a 10:30 pm flight, which flew ALL the way to Victoria, only to get turned around due to fog and head back to Calgary. So at 2 am, we found ourselves in a cab in our Mexico clothes, in -15, heading to a hotel for a couple of hours of sleep, and up again at 5 am to head back to the airport for to wait for another attempt at a flight home, which nearly didn't happen because of the damned fog. Thank God for that pilot's landing skills, as we were able to land on the second attempt. Ridiculous. We missed Monday at work because of this, and got $400 in West Jet flight credits, which at the time felt like not nearly enough (because I was super cranky at this point and REALLY mad we had gotten bumped from our original connecting flight for no reason), but I'm thankful for....because.....we just got invited to another wedding in Mexico in November!
And now....a photo montage!!!
|Coatie. My spirit animal.|
|My legs and the ocean.|
|Delicious authentic restaurant in Playa Del Carmen.|
|Our Junior Suite. Very nice.|
|Beach at the resort.|
|Zip lining at Pachen.|
|James and I at Coba, on top of Nohoch Mul.|
|Me at Tulum.|
|The beautiful Tulum!|