My wife and I just finished up a five-night stay at the new BlueBay Blue Diamond Adults-Only resort. We're doing a "his and hers" set of reviews, so that you can get both sets of opinions from us. Ladies first...
Strengths: Attentive, friendly and experienced staff. The grounds crew was also respectful. Follow through on requests was excellent and timely. Drinks were made with high-end alcohol. Gabriel, our pool angel, refreshed our drinks before the last one could get warm. Great breakfast and decent lunch/snacks. Rooms - We had the jr patio suite. It was very modern, clean, and spacious. We faced "the jungle", which was very private and had a view of a bayou (I call it that because it's a narrow and slow moving river, and I could have sworn I saw a gator!). Not buggy at all though! I absolutely loved the room and even turned down an upgrade to the palafino rooms. We received a fresh bottle of sparking wine daily after room service, which was always planned for when we were out - no noisy maids in the morning.
Weaknesses: dinner selection - when you are cooking for 12 guests (it seems it was a soft opening), I can see why having a small menu is a necessity. Only one restaurant was open. They focused on several course meals expected of multi-star restaurants (selection of 3 entrees). It made for a fancy, but sadly not great meal. There is two things that could have made the meals special. One is dessert, which was not memorable, and the other is wine, which was very memorable - for it's lack thereof. A selection of three reds which, based on price (too low) and lack of familiarity, we turned down. It's too bad, because they have an awesome (but empty) cellar at the entrance of the restaurant. For crying out loud, get a wine list!!! My final complaint, I swear it, was not knowing what all the amenities are. For example, we knew they did a free snorkeling trip, but other guests didn't, and other guests knew there was one on one (free) yoga instruction, and I didn't (and I had toured the spa! Which was very nice BTW). There was no guide in the room to reference...what you knew depended on who you asked.
Overall: I wanted to relax with pretty drinks by the pool - without fighting for beach chairs. That is exactly what I got! I wish I had come just a few weeks later - as the available amenities are changing day by day. I have my fingers crossed for the team at BlueDiamond that everything comes together!
Formerly the Mandarin Oriental (but now under new ownership), this long, narrow property weaves almost a mile back from the ocean through a tropical rainforest-like setting lush with beautiful plants, and complete with lagoons and a cenote. Originally built (as I understand it) in 2008 for Mandarin Oriental, the property is as beautiful as one might expect - lots of stone, marble, and natural wood throughout give it a all a very polished look and feel. (TIP: If you can still find the listing for Mandarin Oriental on TripAdvisor, you may want to read some of those reviews for some additional opinions - although recognizing the property is under new management now).
In the past, my wife and I have stayed at two other all-inclusives in the Cancun/Playa area -- Excellence Riviera, and Secrets Maroma. So, our review of BlueDiamond is with that in mind. Also, we were at the property for their "soft launch" period before their formal opening - so there were a few kinks they were still working out ... but nothing significant.
As we arrived at the property, the bellman took our bags, and we were promptly provided cool towels and refreshing drinks as we checked in. The registration desk is actually outdoors under a giant palapa roof, which gives it a very unique feel. Check-in didn't take more than a few minutes, and then we were shuttled by golf cart off to our room.
Arriving at our room, I have to say - this was by far the most beautiful room I've ever stayed in in Mexico. We have uploaded some of our photos here to TripAdvisor. I actually think we were upgraded to a better class room, as our initial request was for a Junior Cenote Suite - but we were not overlooking the Cenote. So, I can't tell you what class room we finally ended up in - but it was simply stunning inside. An ice-cold bottle of champagne was waiting for us when we first arrived ... and was provided every day for us in the afternoon without our asking. Everything in the mini-bar was free (as one would hope at an all-inclusive) and 1/2 liter bottles of a few liquors (rum, vodka, tequilla) were complimentary as well.
After our concierge showed us around our room and placed out suitcases in the walk-in closet, we were ready to hit the pool. We called for a cart to come pick us up, and within a few minutes we were on our way down to the main pool area. All in all, this isn't a large property - it's only about 120 rooms from what I understand - so there's only two main pools, right next to each other. There were always plenty of lounge chairs and beds available while we were there, by both the pools and the beach. Gabriel was our bartender at the pool that day, and never ever let our drink glasses go empty - always showing up with a new beer or cocktail just as we were finishing ours up.
Speaking of the beach, it is a nice section of beach that they have, and the staff was dutifully out cleaning off the seaweed every morning we were there. However, the tide/surf was pretty rough most days (not something I can really blame on the resort) so we didn't go into the ocean at all while we were there. There is a dock/pier that extends into the ocean, but it appears to have been damaged in some hurricane along the way, and was roped off to prevent guests from using it. There was also complimentary snorkeling excursions provided by BlueBay's water activities team, but we didn't take advantage of this.
After a day at the pool - it was time to go back to our room, and get ready for dinner. So - we called another golf cart. You may be noticing a theme here -- to get around the property, you pretty much have to rely on the carts to take you around. Initially I wasn't terribly keen on this, and just wanted to walk to where we needed to go (as my wife and I are still young enough we can get around just fine) but ultimately you do really need to use the carts. I measured the property from one end to the other on Google Earth, and it's 3/4ths of a mile ... so if you're not using the carts, you're going to spend about 10 minutes walking from your room to the pool. At first, I felt a bit annoyed by this - having to always depend on a cart to drive me around. But by the end of our stay, I didn't really care ... the drivers and staff are all awesome and wanted to do everything they could to help. I also understand that once they get fully operational, they will be boating guests from some areas on the property to others (some of the rooms are right on the lagoon).
After a quick cleanup, we headed over to dinner in one of the two restaurants on the property that serves dinner. Again, since this is a small property with only ~120 rooms, it's not like others that will have 5-7 restaurants operating, each with different themes and cuisine types. Since we were there during the soft-launch, and there were only about a dozen other guests on the property at the same time, they only opened one restaurant per evening. Not a big deal - it would be silly to open and operate both every night when you have just a handful of guests.
Given that BlueDiamond only has two dinner restaurants, I think they try to compete with other all-inclusives that have various cuisine styles - i.e.: the "French restaurant", the "Asian restaurant", the "Mexican restaurant" - by having various international "themes" to their menu each night. Each nights' menu was a small appetizer, 2-3 choices for salads, 2-3 choices for soups, and then a choice of one of three entrees. That's it. If none of the entrees grabbed your fancy, or if the "international theme" for that evening didn't suit your fancy ... you were out of luck. Here is where, unfortunately, I hit my first real disappointment in the property.
I don't remember which "international theme" it was the first night we were there for dinner - but I remember the main entree that both my wife and I ordered ... a steak with a roquefort sauce. Not being a big fan of roquefort or bleu cheese, I removed most of it from my steak when it arrived - and it became abundantly obvious why they put it on in the first place. The steak was amazingly bland. I wouldn't say the meat quality was bad, I just don't think they really knew what to do with it to give it flavor - so they drowned it in roquefort dressing. Strike one for dinner. I'm not necessarily expecting five-star dining when I'm in Mexico at an all-inclusive, but I would at least expect my dinner to at least be on-par or a bit more inspiring than an Outback steakhouse franchise.
The second evening, we decided to stay in and order room service. The menu is a bit more expansive at least than the regular dinner menu. But the food was again, pretty underwhelming. On top of that - for room service, you'll pay a $20 service charge. Huh?? It's an all-inclusive, and you're not doing much more to prep my meal than if I was having dinner in the restaurant. Admittedly, it's a small thing, but I found that a bit annoying.
Third evening, I honestly can't remember what we had for dinner - but it was the fourth evening that finally pushed me over the edge. "Lebanese night" -- really? Yep -- hummus, cous cous, etc. For our main entree that evening, my wife and I both had the chicken kabobs. Now, I live in DC, and the $10 kabob shop next to my office that I go to for lunch, served a better chicken kabob than BlueDiamond did. After that meal, I told my wife that I wasn't eating another dinner at the property for the remainder of our trip - so for our fifth and final evening, we took a taxi in to Playa Del Carmen and had a great meal on 5th Avenue.
Having said all of that, let me say this -- the service staff at dinner? Top notch. We were never waiting for anything, the staff was always taking care of everything we needed. So they were awesome. It was just the food that seemed to need some help.
Breakfasts at BlueDiamond were another story. Generally, I found those to be quite good - it was the one meal of the day that I would eat all of it. Lunches were ok. But the dinner menu, needs some serious work. Again, it's not the food quality that's the problem - it's that they just don't seem to know how to cook it to make it more inspiring than an average weeknight at a TGI Friday's in the US. With only 2 restaurants, they need to have a much broader dinner menu than just 3 entrees. Hopefully this will change once they get past their soft launch period. Hopefully other reviewers in the future can note whether the dinner menu has improved.
After dinners, we went to the rooftop "M-Bar" to have some after dinner drinks, and relax in the ocean breeze. Some cool music was playing in the background, and it was a really nice environment to chill out after a long day of laying by the pool, and figuring out what to do for the next day.
Most of our stay revolved around the pool. We didn't do any excursions, as they didn't have their excursions desk set up yet (although they did offer to taxi us over to the BlueBay Grand Esmerelda next door on their tab, to arrange something with their excursion desk). We taxi'd in to Playa Del Carmen twice during our stay, and the staff there was happy to arrange a local taxi for us at whatever time we wanted.
My wife used the spa and gym one morning. The spa looked gorgeous, although we didn't use it. My wife liked the workout equipment that they had in the gym.
Most of the time we weren't at the pool, at dinner, or in Playa - we were on our back patio looking over the lagoon, and enjoying the shade (and privacy) of all the tropical trees surrounding us. Having that chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us in our room every evening was awesome - we had champagne every evening, enjoying our surroundings.
Finally, the staff. In a word - awesome. Admittedly, they had only been open a month, and the resort wasn't terribly full - but every single staff member we met wanted to do anything and everything they could to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. If we said we were going back to our room in the afternoon, and we wanted to get a taxi at 6PM to go into Playa -- without our even asking, they'd be back at our room at 5:45pm with the golf cart to pick us up, and the taxi would be waiting for us at the main entrance. And sometimes, it was the little things too -- one evening after coming back from dinner, I noticed that one of my room keys wasn't working (fortunately I always carry both keys any time I'm in a hotel). I tried it a couple times, no luck. So, I simply used the other one to get into our room, and then we retired for the evening. The next morning, the cart driver that picked us up for breakfast had a new room key for us - without my even asking.
It's those nice little touches that go a long way, and demonstrate they really do want to take good care of their guests. There were so many staff members that made our stay as wonderful as possible - Hugo, Gabriel, Darwin, Roman, Sergio, and Omar were the ones that we interacted the most with during our time there, but across-the-board ... all the staff we met there was wonderful.
In conclusion - it's a great new resort, with a ton of potential. I'm not sure why Mandarin pulled out of the property, but it is getting off to a good start so far. My one and only real disappointment - the dinner menu - is ultimately "fixable" if management chooses to do so, and would make the property even better. It would be interesting to go there a year from now, and see how far they've come along.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- On the pristine coast of the world famous Riviera Maya, Blue Diamond Riviera Maya is a sanctuary of breathtaking beauty and peace, surrounded by nature mixed with luxury. This exclusive hideaway is set in 36 acres of lush tropical jungle, well manicured gardens and a spectacular palm filled white sandy beaches along the turquoise – colored Caribbean Sea, offering unparalleled pampering and rejuvenation. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Blue Diamond Riviera Maya By BlueBay Playa Del Carmen, Mexico