Let me start off by telling you that we are a couple in our 30's with an 8 month old daughter. We are very honest about what we encounter on the multitude of trips we have made around the world. This was our first vacation traveling with the little one.....here we go.
The Grand Riviera and Grand Sunset Princess are one in the same hotel. I tell you this because the price to stay at the Riviera was less on many of the travel sites we checked prior to booking. Save yourself some money.
**THIS REVIEW WILL COVER THINGS THAT WE BELIEVE ARE MOST IMPORTANT ON A TRIP AND HAVE BEEN COMMENTED BY OTHERS ON TRIP ADVISOR. WE FEEL THAT OUR REVIEW WILL GIVE YOU A CLEAR AND HONEST IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECT HERE.
Check-in / Rooms: This was a yearly anniversary trip that I take my beautiful wife on each year. We got married at the Moon Palace and have stayed at several properties in the area, including the most amazing, Excellence Riviera Maya (highly recommended for adults only). Prior to arrival, I contacted concierge by phone to ask about upgrades to a platinum suite. I was told this would not be a problem at all because the hotel was only at 50% capacity and this was the low tourist season. I was told that upgrade costs would be 30 dollars per person per night. Upon arrival, I requested the upgrade. The young man checking us in said no platinum upgrades were available. We requested he check with a manager which he did and insisted that nothing was available. We were shown to our room, a standard junior sutie #7234. Upon arrival, we saw that the room was no more desireable than a standard room at a Holiday Inn. We do not nit pick but in this case, the furniture was in poor shape and shades and lamps (white) were visibly dirty. The room was not inviting at all and had a great view of the building behind it.
We ran to the internet and checked to see if platinum rooms were available. We checked several sites including the Princess site and saw that there were Platinum rooms available. I went back to check in and spoke to a platinum desk person. I basically told them that I could pay them directly to upgrade or go re-book my reservation and demand my room, which I knew was available. We were quickly given our upgraded room, #31233. Riviera Platinum rooms are in the front of the resort. Ours had a view of the jungle to the north and of the Platinum swim out pool below. We were just above a Platinum private bar as well. The room itself was far better than a standard junior suite, beginning with being very clean. The amenities were very nice, sheets clean, furniture nice and comfortable. Bed was nice. Nothing to complain about in the Platiunum suite.
Platinum suite comes with access to all hotel restaurants except the Chill Out which costs everyone extra. I will cover this further down.
The Platinum Lounge for the riviera side is located at the front of the property north of the main lobby. It has a private bar, free internet and snacks throughout the day. After 3 PM you will meet Eder the bartender who will fix you up some pretty amazing cocktails based on what type of alcohol you like.
There is another platinum lounge near the chill out bar on the opposite end of the property.
Las Olas - This was the first A la Carte dinner we had. Lets get right to the point here. The service was horrible but the food was great. It seemed as though the only person in the building that cared was the maitre'd. We had to ask for water, silverware and drinks several times before actually getting them. Let's put it this way, my wife had to get up to get a spoon so we could feed the baby. By the way, if you order the fried snapper, please keep in mind that it is the whole fish that has been fried and will be served on a plate. This is a mexican traditional dish and I saw several people making faces when it arrived at their table.
La Vaqueria - This restaurant was great. The service was amazing and the food perfect. Make sure you ask for a shot of their infused tequila after you are done with dinner. These are the bottles you see when you first walk into the restaurant.
La Hacienda - Again, awesome service and food was excellent.
ROMANTIC DINNER ON THE BEACH - EXTRA COST BUT WORTH EVERY PENNY!
For our anniversary, I booked the romantic dinner on the beach. This is done at one of three palapas at the Chill Out Lounge. There are two dinner menus available and can be reviewed prior to making your reservation. Our 5 course dinner was huge. It started with a ceviche salad in a pineapple which was amazing. It was followed up by shrimp which was cooked in what appeared to be tempura style with some amazing sauces. These were five large prawns, not your typical red lobster bay shrimp. Next was a bisque soup that was served in a very large bowl and consisted of two different varieties that you could mix together or eat seperately. The main course was a steak that was cooked to perfection and the dinner ended with a great dessert. The service is great and personal. The view is amazing. You can see Cozumel in the distance and the area was quiet and peaceful. On our night, there was a massive lightening storm in the distance that lit up the night while we dined under the stars and the moon. Unforgettable experience and again, worth every penny.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Buffets - Whoever said there is not any food at these buffets must have had their eyes closed or been in the wrong building. The food selection is plentiful. There is something to please everyones tastes. This includes a wide variety of hot and cold food to include fruits and salads. Here is the deal with comments made about food being old and cold. If you go to any buffett when they first open up, the food is hot, fresh and delicious. If you wait till it is about to close, food tends to be cold and may get a little rough. This was the case with the buffets at the Princess. Overall, we were very please with the buffets and never had a problem finding something good to eat.
Beach Restaurant for Lunch- Great Great Great!!! It is simple lunch. It consists of hot dogs,
hamburgers and Paella. I tried all three and the food was great. Burgers were well cooked and all the condiments were kept cool. I saw many people eating here and did not see anyone complaining. It was common to see the same people going back each day and taking their food in the to go containers back to the pool to have lunch.
**WORD OF ADVICE - don't leave any food laying around anywhere. Eat it or throw it away. If the coaties (raccoon type animals) don't get to it, the blackbirds will.
Beach - We walked to the beach on two occasions (its that far!!). Once to check it out and another time to take pictures. It was very clean. The comments about the beach view being blocked by venders is a little exagerated. You can see the water and nobody really seemed to be walking around bothering the guests. If you area platinum guest, you have a private area to the north side that is roped off and offers completely unobstructed views of the water. Sand was clean and water was clear.
Pools - All seemed to be pretty clean. We spent all of our pool time in the so called Party Pool. We liked it because of the music and activities being conducted by the Princess Animation Team. Hats off to these guys and gals. They can really entertain and it is not annoying at all. If anyone is annoying, its the guy with the funky accent that is selling tickets to Coco Bongo. Pool bar was good. Service was fairly quick. Drinks were good.
Photographs - You will see photographers walking the grounds most of the day. They offer pictures with a monkey, iguana, macaws and other animals. Additionally, you can set up a photo shoot at the location of your choice for 20 minutes with no obligation to buy. Just stop by the photo shop in the lower level of the lobby and set up the time. You then go back, view the photos and pick what you want or dont pick any at all. We took some great family pictures with the baby and ended up buying alot. When you compare it to what it costs back home to hire a photographer and get the same if not better quality pictures, we saved ourself a ton of money.Big thanks to our photographer Angel who did an outstanding job.
Bars - We only hit the pool bar, main lobby bar and the Riviera Platinum bar. Service at all three was great. Tips are what get you excellent service here. Most of the servers work other areas of the resort and if you tip them, they will invite you to the other areas (usually restaurants) they work at to provide you excellent service there too. Keep in mind that if you area platinum guest, you can get any alcohol they serve. In some cases, higher end liquors may cost you extra if you are not a platinum guest. For example, if you wanted a shot of Tradicional tequila at the lobby bar, you had to pay. If you are a platinum guest, you sign a slip that says you are platinum and the drink is free. If I had to complain about the bar it would be that they were lacking in the tequila department. We are tequila aficionados and know what good tequila is. This resort did not have any. Their idea of high end was Tradicional and Hornitos. This is not good tequila. Even places like the Grand Oasis in Cancun serve high end stuff such as Don Julio and Tres Generaciones Anejo.
Shows - We saw the International Show and the Mexican Show. Both were very good. The performers put alot of time and effort into their performances. You will be quite impressed by the drumming act in the International show. There is a bar in the theatre. Ladies may want to bring a wrap to keep warm as the air conditioning in this place works a little too well.
There was music nightly in the center plaza area. The music sounded great and people seemed to be having alot of fun. We did not partake due to the little ones bedtime.
Thursday Market - The hotel has vendors that set up a market on Thursday nights. You can by typical mexican souveniers and crafts. Prices are comparible to outside vendors in Playa. You can bargain with these vendors and bring the price down from what they originally tell you the price is. Remember, if the item has no price and there is no sign telling you what the price is, YOU CAN NEGOTIATE THE PRICE DOWNWARD.
Bugs- This is a humid and jungle type area. There are lots of mosquitos and other insects. Are you going to get bit....maybe. My wife got attacked. Our little one and I did not get touched. I told me wife it was because she was sweeter than my daughter and I. Take the bug spray just in case.
PROPERTY SIZE - The resort is very big. You will do alot of walking. Unfortunately, walking in the hot sun will tire you out and really take it out of you. The other down side for us is that although the property itself is very clean and well kept, you cannot see or hear the ocean unless you are at or very near the beach. Every hotel we have ever stayed at in Cancun/Playa has always had an ocean view and we would wake up to the sound of the water. Not so at this property. There are very few rooms that face the water at this location. In our case, pushing around the little one in her stroller was fairly easy because most areas are flat. There are elevators in the main lobby area that allowed us to get up to the third floor room without having to carry the stroller up the stairs. If you were coming from the pool or beach area however, we preferred to carry the stroller up the three flights of stairs and not have to walk all the way to the lobby and then all the way back to our room.
TIPS - I know that they say tips are included and not required but c'mon people. A few dollars here and there will get you a lot of extras. The buffet servers will remember you and make sure you always have water, coffee, juice, etc. Your maid will leave you extra towels and other amenities. By the way, we got a fruite platter and a bottle of tequila in our room on day two. Your a la carte restaurant staff (except for Las Olas) will be well deserving of the extra bucks. Bartenders will definately take care of you if you drop some singles here and there.
SECURITY - We felt very safe at this resort. There was only one time where we saw a male on the property that obviosly did not belong. Being in law enforcement, I wondered why nobody was stopping the guy and questioning him. This guy was filthy, sweaty, looked like he was on something and did not have a wristband like all the other people on the property. As for the rooms, the safe deposit box in your room seems to work pretty well. It is a standard box that fits a laptop computer and allows you to enter your own digital code.
OVERALL - First impressions mean alot to us. There was no welcome drink or cool towel upon arrival as we have expreienced at every single hotel we have ever stayed at in this area. As previously mentioned, we did not believe we had to go out of our way to get an upgraded room and this just added to the horrible first impression. Our first dinner at Las Olas added even more to the horrible service and first impression. The Grand Riviera/Sunset Princess was saved by "the little people." I am talking about the maids, groundcrews, bartenders, restaurant personnel, animation crew, etc. These individuals made our stay enjoyable and made up somewhat for that horrible first impression.
MESSAGE FOR THE MANAGEMENT - My wife and I came from the Public Relations field earlier in our careers. At one point, each member of the management staff was introduced at the Party Pool and guests were told that they could speak to them if they had any questions or concerns they wanted to share. I give you credit for taking the initiative but respectfully inform you that you have failed on your goal or trying to make yourself available to your guests. As soon as you were introduced, all but two of you walked away and were never to be seen again. The two persons that remained were the head of security and the head chef. These were not the people that we wanted to speak with. Take the time to walk around the pool and say hello. Take in any comments you can get and don't just try to make yourself look good by distributing free drinks (which are already free anyway) and free sandwiches and fingerfoods. You will never get better if you don't take in the feedback.
CONCLUSION: Although this property ended up being what we consider to be 4 stars, we respectfully would NOT recommend this location to any of our friends. Cancun/Playa del Carmen, are about the beach and relaxing. You will not get the beach at this location without a hike. Yes, you can relax at the pool, but you can also do this back home. We have stayed at several properties in this area and have always had a flawless experience. It is our belief that this place is simply too big for the staff to handle. Although the staff really seem to go out of their way to do their best for you, sometimes they are just overwhelmed. We saw this at the buffet almost daily. The front staff, based on prior comments and personal experience, has seemed to take on a robotic approach of just checking people in and not listening to their requests and trying to accomodate them, especially when it can be done. Again, we believe this is the case due to the large amount of people checking in at any given time.
The property is beautiful but Cancun and Playa del Carmen have a multitude of properties that are both less expensive and more expensive that have alot more to offer, especially the beach/ocean views that one comes to expect in this area.
Feel free to email us with any questions.
There are platinum rooms on both ends of the property. Swim up rooms are available if you do not hav...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.