After staying at a Mega Resort down the road twice , we decided to try something different and booked an all inclusive package at the Catalonia Yucatan in Puerto Aventuras at a very reasonable price through Transat / Nolitours. I was concerned that we might be
disapointed , but it turned out to better than we had expected it would be.
Honestly , it took us a couple of days to warm up to a resort experience different from what we are used to. By the end of our stay , we understood why many loyal guests go back time after time.
It has most of the same amenities as the big resorts , but compacted down to a smaller scale. The downside to that is that there seem to be more people per square meter , the upside is that trips back and forth to the room are quick as opposed to a long trek. More people seemed to add to the fun factor. Made the big resorts seem kind of boring in hindsight. Even though I didn't participate with the daytime activities , I did enjoy watching them.
We were 3 couples and booked the Yucatan section , but were given rooms in the Riviera Maya section which I think might be slightly nicer than the Yucatan. We booked a standard room , and that's what we got. Nothing wrong with it , but nothing too fancy. We had 2 double beds in our room , 1 King is the other option in a standard room. The short walk to the bars made the lack of a minibar fridge irrelevant to us. Paying for the safe was no biggie either. It was $3 per day , and we have paid $5 per day at other places. There is no safe key to carry around and loose , you program in a combination to use during your stay. I vote for increasing the room rate by $3 and giving the safe for "free". Paying extra for something , anything , at an "all inclusive" annoys people.
We were never pressured to upgrade , in fact it was never even mentioned. There were absolutely no time share promoters on the property. No annoying vendors out on the beach either. Vendors , artisans etc. set up tables around the courtyard in the evenings.
The resort , and the shops within , accepted Canadian cash or Peso's , but not US dollars. US was OK for tiping. The exchange rate when you paid in Canadian was 13.5 pesos per dollar , which I thought was pretty good. They were only paying 11 pesos per dollar at the on site cambio if you wanted to exchange Canadian or American for pesos. That was not such a great deal. There is an ATM on site that dispenses pesos at a good rate , but I haven't taken the time to figure out exactly what the rate was. There is a $3.50 transaction fee.
I used the Machine a few times. One time I got my money and walked out just as a security guard was walking in. I said good morning and then headed up to the lobby to break a 500 peso bill for smaller. While there , the security guard showed up with my bank card and a ATM receipt. I thanked him profusely for tracking me down. The next time I used the machine I was more careful , and much to my horror I realized that I had walked away the day before just as the machine was asking me if I wanted another transaction. ( I really should learn how to speak and read spanish ) For those of you wondering , a check of my bank account upon returning home showed no surprise transactions .
The resort staff (every single one of them ) were very friendly and accommodating. The front line staff for the most part were quite fluent in english , and also seem quite used to catering to French customers. The support staff , room cleaners that I met were not as good with english , but very friendly and did a great job. Service at the buffets , a la cartes , and bars was quick and very attentive . Waiters walk out to the pools and the beach to take drink orders and serve them to you. The coffee station that was set up near the lobbies each morning was removed around 7:00 am , a little too early in my opinion , after that you would have to go down to the restaurant to get your morning coffee.
2 weeks ago , we would not even have considered leaving our 4 year old daughter at a kids club in a resort , but after hearing good things from other guests we did. The ladies there ( Sharon and Xoana ) were awesome and we felt very comfortable leaving our daughter with them for a few hours. They really got to know each and every child that they cared for , and did scheduled daily activities in the mini club as well as out and about in the resort. Our Daughter actually asked to go to mini club on several days which gave us time to enjoy hanging with others from our party. Another bonus to it being a smaller resort is that we could actually see the mini club from the pool bar and wander over and peek in to see how our hard to entertain little girl was doing. You could see which kids were coming and going so you kind of knew when she was running out of little friends. IF there WAS actually any problem I am confident that one of the ladies would have come out and found us to let us know within just a few minutes.
We also had the pleasure of having dinner with 3 of the Managers at a meet and greet dinner for about 25 guests ( Trip Advisor junkies ).
It was a pleasure to meet Sylvia the General Manager , Joel the Food and Beverage Manager , and Ricky the Entertainment manager. All 3 are clearly passionate about their jobs. Throughout our stay , every time I met up with one of them , they stopped to chat with me.
The Beach itself was very nice , fine sand and a good number of palapas and beach loungers. The water entry was rocky at the southern end , but more sandy at the northern end. Getting in and out was not really a problem , you just have to go in at one of several good spots. A few feet out from shore it was nice sand. The lagoon was great for kids and first time snorkelers. Some pretty good snorkeling right in the bay in front of the hotel and less than 20 meters from shore. Water was shallow enough there to stand up. (please do not stand on top of the reef) If you were a bit more seaworthy , there are a couple of good spots out beyond the rocky breakwater in front of the lagoon.
The entertainment staff worked hard every day ( 12 hour shifts ? ) to keep things lively and provide fun. Same people also did the evening shows. Some shows were better than others. The Nightmare show was our favorite , maybe a bit much for very conservative folks.
The Lion King show was a big hit with our Daughter. Pita from the entertainment team was very good in the shows and seemed to have endless energy and enthusiasm keeping people smiling during the day. I wish I had paid more attention to some of the others' names so I could give them the credit due.
The food at the Buffets was quite good , and seemed to be replaced with fresh in a more timely manner than I was used to at other resorts. There was a line up at the buffet every morning , however only for a short time. It seemed like every one went for breakfast at the same time.
If you went slightly earlier , or slightly later , there was no line up. Hostess did have a counter in her hand , and controlled the number of guests in the restaurant at any given time. It may have been frustrating for some guests standing in line while looking at empty tables inside. I tottaly understand why this is done. If the restaurant was completely full , getting your food would be a gong show and waitstaff would be overwhelmed. Service level and customer satisfaction would definitely suffer.
The Meet and greet dinner at the Bambelo grill was absolutely perfect , both the food and service was top notch. Unfortunately , that was the highlight for me as far as a la cartes went. We did 3 a la cartes , the service was better than the food. I feel bad saying it , because I personally liked the resort , staff , and management , but this is an area with room for improvement. That was my personal experience and opinion , others I spoke to quite enjoyed the a la cartes.
We hit the creperie every evening. Sometime after dinner , sometimes before dinner , sometimes both. There was 1 waiter up there who had a great sense of humor and messed with our heads more than once. Lots of calories up there and lots of laughs.
And finally........ my only real "complaint" , and it is not about the Catalonia Specifically , but more about the Puerto Aventuras Marina tourism area in general. . . It is a 20 min walk out to the entrance. Many of the guests are there because the resort is more affordable than others down the highway. Guests traveling on a budget may want to take advantage of the Colectivo system , and paying for a taxi to take you to the bus stop just doesn't make sense. Ideally , there would be a tram going back and forth to the front gates on a schedule , and the cost of it could be shared by all of the accommodation providers within the gates.
In summation , we enjoyed our stay , and considering the price will likely return to the Catalonia. We would probably rent a car for the days we want to head out of the resort. The staff are the real stars here. The set up of the resort is particularly good for families with young children.
some of the rooms are very quiet and away from the pools and bars. If that is what you want , jus...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.