Before I traveled to the GR (March 17-23), I contacted many people via Trip Advisor about our upcoming trip. I appreciate all of the advice and tips that were given to me and it made for an awesome vacation. I tried to find out as much as possible before picking where I would stay. That is why this review will be COMPREHENSIVE. Before you make reservations at the GR, if your expecting a Four Seasons type hotel, go somewhere else and save yourself some grief. If you are the type of person who wants bang for your buck, read on.
CHECK-IN: First, get transportation to and from the hotel through your booking agency (Apple Vacations, Expedia, etc.) or the hotel itself when booking the trip. Cabs can get REALLY expensive so stay away if at all possible. Once you get to the hotel, you will check in at the front desk and may be asked if you would like your room upgraded. I did this for $30 dollars a night and it was money WELL spent. More about that later. In many reviews, I've read about how the front desk employees could be rude and unprofessional. This did not happen during our check-in but everybody's experience is different. Next, they will bring you a drink and you will sit down with a concierge to discuss the hotel's amenities, food service, entertainment schedule, etc. They will be very nice and near the end of your meeting will ask you to visit their sister resort for breakfast the next morning. They will offer you incentives (massages, upgrades, etc.) to attend the breakfast which is a time-share presentation. If you want to spend 3-4 hours doing this to receive possible extra incentives, by all means accept the invitation. I declined and he was persistent but I told him for the last time that we were not interested. He then walked us to the elevator and we were off to our room. SIDENOTE: This may not happen for all but we arrived at the hotel at 11:30 and were able to check in early. Don't know if this happens often but it did on this trip and the hotel was sold out.
THE ROOM: If you read the reviews, the walls are thin and you can hear some of what goes on in other rooms, but it was minimal. We were there during spring break and there were about 4 breakers in the room that adjoined ours and I heard them maybe 2-3 times. I thought the room was Awesome. Just like everybody said, the beds are a little firm, but that is how I liked it. I talked to others that were provided with a pillowtop mattress upon request and they said it made the bed much softer. The view was awesome, overlooking the pool and blue ocean. As I said before, an oceanfront room is highly suggested. Room had about a 40'' flat-screen with about 23 channels, 4-5 which were in English. Bathroom was spacious and tiled, and the hotel provides soap, shampoo, etc. if you haven't brought your own. Best part of the room......... MINIBAR. Stocked daily with Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Water, and of course beer. The beer is SOL and comes in 8oz bottles, perfect to get your morning started. Rooms were cleaned daily, and when I say cleaned it was swept, mopped, and wiped down to perfection. The cleaning staff also would leave towel animals which my wife became addicted to. She actually brought one home with us to show the kids. I TIPPED the cleaning crew $5 dollars a day (I left it on the dresser) and left a note asking them to leave extra beer and water. I was not disappointed. Also highly recommended.
FOOD and RESTAURANTS: If your looking for Taco Bell, Outback Steakhouse, or McDonald's, type food you will be disappointed. Beef in general is average at best. Think about it. The GR is very, very reasonably priced and you can't expect to get top quality steak cuts and lobster tail for dinner. Breakfast if you read the reviews is excellent. Have a waffle/pancake type bar and an omelet station (Very highly recommended). You can also get cereals, muffins, fresh fruit, breakfast nachos, beer, whatever. Lunch at Rosmarino's in my opinion was always good. Always an Italian station, Hibachi station, and other buffet type food. Deserts are good, no cheescake or apple pie but you would have to be really picky not to find something. If you are from America, especially the South, find the blackberry ice cream. VERY GOOD. If not from the America or the South, try it anyway. SNACK BAR: If you're out on the beach or sitting by the pool and just want to snack, go to the snack bar. Most days they have some type of wings, burgers, hot dogs, nachos and cheese, and other snack type foods. If you get a burger, go double cheese because the beef patty's need a little help.If you get nachos, the cheese taste a little different than in the states and is a little runny. Add toppings to the nachos and they will be just fine. There can be several options for dinner. #1 ROOM SERVICE: They provide a menu and deliver it within 30 minutes of your order every time. Although I did not do this, I talked to several people who did this more than half the time. #2 ROSMARINO'S: It will be open 2-3 times a week for dinner depending on the entertainment schedule. They will have a seafood and Italian night, buffet style. Both were very good. #3 BALLROOM BUFFET: Buffet will be set up in the entrance of the ballroom. Most are themed type buffets that may match the show (Mexican Night, American Night, etc.) Always have Italian Station and some type of Meat station featuring cuts of meat. Everything else will be buffet style. I always found good choices, especially if you like fish. When you get your food, you are seated in the ballroom at tables that hold 8-10 people. After dinner, the entertainment staff will put on a show. I thought the shows were excellent. Even if we didn't eat in the ballroom, we still attended the show. Shows that we saw: Mexican Night, American Night (dedicated to American Music) and The Michael Jackson Experience. Again, I couldn't believe how good the shows were. Not quite Vegas quality but these people work other jobs at the resort in the day, and perform shows at night. Couldn't believe how good they were. #4 MARCO POLO- Went to eat there one time and it was as advertised. Very good food, menu style. Each night is a different theme and the menu adjusts as such. It is true that you do have to sign up for reservations down at the restaurant's entrance starting at 8 a.m. If you can't get up or don't want to wait in line for 15 minutes, then eat somewhere else. If you want a more upscale dining experience, then get in line and get your reservation. If you're not taking in a show, eat at Rosmarino's or the ballroom buffet when they open at 6 and make reservations to eat at Marco Polo at 9:30. Eat twice in one night. More bang for your buck. DELI: Exactly what it sound like; Deli food. You get in from a late night, go to the deli because it is open til 6 a.m.
DRINKS: Any type of drink you want. The mixed fruity drinks were great, albeit they don't seem to have a lot of alcohol in them. I read a review where it said they were disappointed that they couldn't get a buzz from the frozen drinks. Idiot. If you want a buzz, take a shot of tequila or possibly order a shot of whiskey, bourbon, vodka, etc. If not this, then get a whiskey/bourbon coke or some other drink where you can tell them to add more alcohol. You do not get top shelf whiskey unless you are a member (Remember the timeshare presentation) but I didn't find that a problem. Whiskey: JB Bourbon: Jim Beam Tequila: Several kinds, I didn't drink much of that. Beer: SOL in the minibar Dos XX everywhere else. If you want a good buzz and can't get one, sorry to offend you, but you're an idiot.
BEACH AND POOLS:
Beach: When you walk down on the beach, there are about 10 straw umbrellas to the right that get taken pretty early in the morning. On the left, there is a lanai that you can put 10-15 chairs under for shade. The hotel will provide another 10 to 15 umbrellas on the beach if it is not too windy. We were down at the beach each day by 10:00 in the morning and had no problem finding shade if we needed it. Beach drink service is slow as there is one person cleaning up and taking orders. Water can get rough but is beautiful and clear. It may be a little cold at first but feels great after that. Beach vendors will come by throughout the trying to sell their merchandise. Some people get annoyed by this, but just say no thanks and they will be on their way.
POOLS: The main pool has chairs that go all the way around and there are several umbrellas that get taken pretty early in the morning by people laying their towels in the chairs. The hotel was sold out and on most days there were chairs to be had around the pool throughout the day. Of course if you want chairs by the action (the event staff), you probably need to get them early. The top part of the pool has an awesome swim up bar where the spring breakers congregated throughout the day. There were a core group of about 30 spring breakers but other than that, everybody else were either couples or family. And this was during peak spring break. Most of the time, they were fun to watch. The lower pool had more couples with families as there is a volleyball net across the pool and a water basketball goal. If I wasn't on the beach or at the swim up bar, I spent my time by the adult pool located below the main pool and separated by Rosmarino's and the Snack Bar. Even at peak activity time by the main pool, the adult pool is very quiet and relaxed. There are about 7-8 umbrellas to provide shade and a lanai that has another 10-12 chairs under it. There is also a hot tub area behind the pool that will hold about 8 people. The adult only pool was very relaxing. The drink service by the pools was also very good. The girls come by every 10-15 minutes asking if you need anything. Great service.
GYM: Small but adequate. A little outdated with three treadmill machines, a bike, several pulley machines and a few free weights. Not really impressive, but if your going to the gym other than to sweat out the alcohol from the night before, you need to remember you're on vacation.
EXCURSIONS: If you take the time to research what excursion you want to go on, you will save money. Use TripAdvisor to pick a company that will provide you with the best experience at the best price. If you can afford a private/semi-private tour guide to some of the Mayan ruins, then by all means set up the excursion. We chose Charlie Drew Tours and visited a cenote, Ek-Balam, and Chichen Itza. Ek-Balam was awesome. There was hardly anybody there and if you want to climb on the ruins, this is the place to go. If you do something like this, you will leave at about 7:15 in the morning and get back at about 7:30 p.m. It is a long day but well worth it. Go to the following link for more info via TripAdvisor:
You can use the hotel's tour service but it will cost you more.
FINALLY: Even though this is an all inclusive and doesn't require you tip, TIP! I budgeted $150 for tips to cover the whole week. That may be a little much, but I like to tip for good service. I tipped the cleaning crew in the room $5 a day and asked for extra in the minibar. It was ALWAYS there and then some. Each time I would get a drinks for my wife, myself, and others, I would tip about $2. At breakfast and lunch, I would tip the waiters about $3 and the cook who fixed my omelet or Italian at lunch $1 or $2 each time. Every dinner would be $5. If at any time throughout the day I thought I was getting superior service, I might tip an extra $5. If you will budget this into your trip and tip well like they deserve, they will remember you for the whole week and will go out of their way for you. Before you leave home, make sure you hit the bank and bring many $1's and other smaller bills. If you're on a tight budget, then bring about fifty dollars in $1's. Pesos will also work if you know the conversion rate. If you want to go into town, bus stops in front of hotel. For about $1 each way, you can get into shopping areas etc. EL RAY Mayan ruins are less than 5 minute walk from hotel. $3 per person and worth it, especially if you have kids. Tons of iguanas.
MOST IMPORTANT: Flaming Coffee in the main lobby from 4 to 6 p.m. You need a boost for the evening and something good to drink, check this out. Remember to TIP. That's my girl and she will take care of you. Bar in the evening is fun. Check it out after the shows if you're not going in town. ** Take an insulated mug/cup and get the staff to fill them up when you order your drinks, especially if you hang out on the beach. I bought one that held 36 oz and would fill it up with beer each time I hit the bar. It keeps drinks cold and you will not have to go up and get them as often. Probably one of the best decisions I made. Definitely make sure you tip if you do this. If you've got a specific question to ask me, feel free to contact me. I will answer any question you may have. Again, great service all around, small but family atmosphere, good food/drinks, and good accommodations. Bring plenty of sunscreen (it's expensive at the resort) and possibly a few light long sleeve shirts/pants if you get cold easily. Have a great trip!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.