We stayed at the Grand Velas with our 2 year old son for 5 nights/6 days, and had an unbelievably fantastic vacation. The resort was beyond our expectations.
1. All the pictures you see are true, it really is that beautiful! The property is only 4 years old and is immaculate. Rooms, grounds, pool area, restaurants, covered walk ways, all spotless.
2. Staff were uniformly friendly and in a genuine manner. Some people complained about tipping in their reviews here on TA. Disregard them. I brought $100 worth of $1s and $5s (still came home with about $30). Left $10 for dinners in the restaurants, $3 for room service, $2 for buffet breakfasts/lunches, and $1 for poolside drinks. Not a big deal. The tips were appreciated and it was excellent service. Come on, if you can afford to stay here, you can afford a few bucks a day for tips to genuinely nice people.
3. The food was AMAZING. The breakfast buffet at Azul was a daily event. We ate at Sin Lin 3 nights we loved it so much, and Freda once. (kids can only eat in Azul, Lucca, Chaka and Sin Lin; the others are for adult dining which I totally understand). The food and environments were on a par with any top restaurant in NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago. Quality of ingredients, creativity, flavors, preparation and presentation all top notch. The service, atmosphere and decor were exactly what you would expect of a 5-star hotel. They are a little picky about reservations, so make them in advance on-line at the hotel's web site. You can always change them once you get there which is what we did. Oh, one more thing. Adults can't wear shorts or flip flops in the nicer restaurants. So be sure to bring a pair of long pants. Jeans and sneakers passed their test just fine, dressier if you are so inclined.
4. Zen Garden vs. Ambassador - We stayed at the Zen Garden view, which was significantly less expensive than the Ambassador, almost $200/night less. True that the major pool (especially for 2-3 year olds) and beach are at the Ambassador, but the savings was well worth it. The rooms are the same (try to get a 2nd floor room as we had at the Zen, because they have cathedral ceilings due to the building's design and feel really large. Ambassador and Zen rooms are the same in terms of size and amenities, very large, with a huge bathroom and balcony on which you can enjoy room service. I was apprehensive when I read that there is a shuttle from Zen to Ambassador. Put your mind at ease. They are air conditioned small mini buses, they run constantly (we could not say about anything past 9:00 as the 2 year old doesn't let us out past then LOL). The ride is about 3 minutes long, and they don't wait for a full bus. If you are the only one there, they take you immediately. They are not running on a schedule such as every 15 minutes or something like that, because they just keep going in a circle back and forth between the two locations. In fact the 2 year old enjoyed the bus and kept asking for it. I was envisioning open trams like Disneyland that sat there until it was their time to leave. No such thing.
5. All inclusive means just that. All wine, beer, mixed drinks were included (some we were told are not, I think top shelf perhaps?). Sin Lin had a wine cart with about 15 selections, drink up! And you can eat as many times as you want. We ate very early dinner at 6:00 (that's when the restaurants open) and a couple nights had additional room service out on the balcony after our son went to sleep - all included.
6. Don't worry about the water. Bottled water is EVERYWHERE and included. We ate whatever we wanted, including fruits and salads and no one got even the slightest bit ill, even the baby.
7. Families - This is no Disney resort type place. Probably 75% no kids, 25% with kids but we all felt welcomed and there is a huge end of the pool at the Ambassador by the beach that is about 18 inches deep, perfect for toddlers. It was a perfect blend of family friendly and adult. We really enjoyed meeting other families at the pool.
8. Getting from and back to airport. Thank god the hotel was so fabulous, because after dealing with Cancun airport you'll need a drink and something beautiful to look at! It took us about 3.5 hours to fly from Philadelphia to Cancun. It took nearly 3 hours to get from the plane to the hotel (once on the road the hotel is 35 minutes from airport, absent traffic which we did not experience). Immigration and customs were chaotic with swirling, unmarked lines that Eurotrash kept cutting into. All this is unavoidable. We made the mistake of thinking we'd just get a taxi and take it to the hotel. Doesn't every airport you've ever been to have lines of taxis waiting? Not here. We paid $95 USD inside the airport for a cab. They don't tell you that you have to wait in line for 1/2 hour more for a cab. Every 5-10 minutes a single cab pulled up and took one party to their destination. We waited at least 1/2 hour. Sooooo, to come back to the airport we arranged at the hotel desk for a private minivan to get us back to the airport. They were there promptly at 11:00 a.m. and it only cost us $75. Next time and for all you who are going, my advice is to arrange with the hotel to have a private minivan meet you at the airport and don't take a taxi. That was our major lesson learned. BTW, it was easy to leave the Cancun airport. No real lines, as their security procedures are no where as onerous as ours are in the USA. Keep a few Pesos if you are eating there. You get ripped off if paying in USD. We paid $18 for one food-court Chinese platter since we had no Pesos left.
The best testament I can give is that we want to go back the same week next year. Jan-4-9. perfect weather too with low humidity and a breeze usually in low to mid 80s.
Request a top floor room for the cathedral ceilings they all have owing to the architectural design...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.