This is a 3/4 property that is completely ruined by the management (or I should say lack of management). The general experience here is that if things are going well, then its great, but if things aren't going well they CANNOT be fixed (unless you're willing to spend the entire day on it)...more details on this below.
My family visited this property the last two weeks of December. My parents had been before, but this was my first time. I was disappointed, and my parents felt that the quality of the property had gone down substantially since the last time they had been (about a year ago). (I blame the fact that my parents raved about it for my not checking the reviews beforehand...)
- The weather was great when we were there.
- The resort is large and has a very pleasant style. There's also a lot of places to explore on the resort. (Examples include the fitness trail, the rocks on the edge of the ocean, and the monkey walk).
- There is a lot to do around the area: scuba diving, dolphin swims, ziplines, cenote caves, etc.
- The spa is huge and has great facilities: On the women's side, there was a sauna, a cinnamon sauna, a steam room, 3 water pools (hot, warm, and cold) and a foot pool. Additionally, there is at least one person working just in the hydrotherapy part of the spa helping you go from one step to the next, etc. On the whole, the spa therapies (and the spa therapists) are also very good.
- The staff that are the "doers" are, on the whole, great. I want to particularly call out: Luis, who serves breakfast and lunch outside at El Greco, Paloma who serves dinner at the Italian restaurant, Daniel at the Asian restaurant, and Theresa, Coral, and Magdelena in the spa. However, as much as the staff tries, there are not enough people working - my parents mentioned that there was a sharp reduction in staff from the last time they were here. (For example, there used to be bellboys to clear the tables, etc. Now the waiters are expected to do everything - set the table, serve, and clear.) As a side note, I will say that we, on the whole, felt really bad for the working staff - these guys were running around like crazy but people were very rarely tipping - I think generally because people were frustrated with a number of issues and "taking it out" on the staff by not tipping.
- The $1500 resort credit + $165 tax buys ~7-8 activities. (The things for resort credit are over-priced - everything costs $200 in resort credit - but I still think that this is a great deal/perk.)
- If you are staying at a Palace resorts, you can go to (most) other Palace resorts. For example, we took a day trip to Cozumel and were able to use the Cozumel Palace. Additionally, the Palace resorts have a golf club in Playcar, which is quite good (though overpriced if you're not using resort credit).
- The alcohol is plentiful and, for an all-inclusive, of decent quality. (The food is also plentiful...but of less quality...more on this below.)
The mildly annoying:
- There is no beach on the resort. You can still swim in the ocean because they have a little cove, but there is no actual sand. (In addition to swimming, the resort also provides kayaks, but you can only use them in the cove. You can't take them into the ocean.)
- Things get delayed. (For example, I had multiple treatments at the spa start 30min+ late.)
- The timing of housekeeping can be sporadic.
- The wifi is sporadic, at best. It never worked in our room, and it would go in and out in the main areas.
- The linens and towels are incredibly warn (as in you can see the threads fraying) and are not changed often. For example, our sheets were not changed for 10 days (and were only changed after we complained). How did I know that our sheets weren't changed for 10 days...because they had some lovely distinctive black markings on them. Additionally, we were often only given one towel when the towels were changed.
- There are not enough towels, beach chairs, or umbrellas. If you want a beach chair, you must get up before 7am. Also, if you leave your chair for long, it may be taken. This is particularly annoying because there are actually a lot of unused, open areas of the resort where you could put more chairs and umbrellas but there are just no chairs or umbrellas there.
- While the food is plentiful, it is incredibly repetitive. The buffet has basically the same things every single day and the restaurants don't change their menus. (For example, the only fish on offer every single day was grouper.) Of the restaurants for dinner, my opinion was that the Italian, the Asian, and Mexican on the Cove side were the best.
- It is a 1-1.5hr wait to have dinner at any restaurant (and they don't take reservations).
- Access to Playacar (the resort in Playa del Carmen) was restricted indefinitely. This meant that we had no access to an actual beach. Additionally, this meant that there was only one day that the resort was providing transportation to Playa del Carmen. So, if you want to go to Playa del Carmen, you will need to pay the $40+ round-trip. (Note that, in this part of Mexico, prices are set so there are no negotiations around this.)
- Booking your services takes a really long time: for us, it was 1.5hr+ of waiting for someone to help us + 2hrs getting booked. And don't even think of changing anything. It's just not worth the hassle.
- There are very few ocean rooms and we did not get one though it was promised.
- We were told we would be in the Spa side...but we were actually put in a part of the hotel between the resorts that was actually made into Cove the second week...and was filled to the brim with children.
- Getting anything done involves a process that would make Kafka proud. Let's say, for example, that you left your hat in the restaurant and wanted to see if anyone had found it. You would then pick up the phone and call guest services...that would tell you to go talk to public relations in-person to describe the hat. You would then walk to public relations where you would describe the hat in detail after which point the public relations person would search a database for some amount of time before calling someone else to go look for your hat in the lost-and-found. Total time not to find hat: 1.5 hrs. The process to mention that there's anything wrong is 3x as long so it's better not to bother.
- The management team (and they will tell you that anyone who is front desk, guest services, or "public relations" is management) does not want to solve your problems. Instead, they are doing everything possible to get you to give up. After all, your three hours calling/being sent back-and-forth between departments are actually valuable to you. Thus, the longer it takes you to address the problem, the more likely you are to give up. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES will they actually go talk to the other department for you. That is your job. Even if they are putting you out, they will NOT help solve the problem. For example, we ended up sitting in the totally un-occupied section reserved for a special group...before it was reserved for the special group. Though there was not a single other person sitting in the 30+ chairs (because as the lady from that special group explained to me later in the spa, they actually wanted to sit by the pool), we were asked to leave by the staff member. When asked if she could help us find somewhere else to sit, she said no. We would have to go find someone else. For any problems, you will be sent back-and-forth (and back again) between the department and public relations. Also, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES will you be given any contact information for anyone who is actually management (not the management of the public relations department and certainly not the GM). And the public relations department (all of which who will tell you, we are management) will tell you that they can't solve the problem or as one gentlemen did memorably to me with a talk-to-the-hand-because-I-don't-want-to-hear-it gesture, simply walk away and refuse to address the problem.
- The staff regularly lies. For example, go to the spa and and ask for a massage on the XX. The spa scheduler will ask, does Y time work. If you say, would it be possible to get something in the afternoon, the staff person will often say, no, its booked. Go over to another person...miraculously multiple times in the afternoon open up. Another example: my parents bus was supposed to take them to the airport at 9.20am. Starting at 9.30am, the bellman assured my parents that the bus was 5 minutes away for the next hour. The bus actually left at 10.40am. Things happened (especially on New Year's Day; that's understandable but, if you provide the actual information, people can actually make decisions - like whether they should take a cab instead.
One other note on management: What does it tell you that the same complaints are being made over-and-over again over the period of months and not addressed? (I know that I will get a response to this post that says that my notes have been sent to the proper departments...but how many times does the given department need to be told about the linens and beach chairs for those issues to be addressed?)
All-in-all, I can't tell you either to go or not go. I would say if you're the type of person who doesn't care if things go wrong and plans to spend a lot of time off the resort, then you could probably get a good deal here and utilize the location/the credits. If you're someone who wants a relaxing and seamless experience, this is probably not the place for you.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.