We stayed at the Grand Palladium White Sand for two weeks in December 2012. We are a family of four, with two younger children. We stayed in an Imperial Suite. We have traveled to Mexico fairly extensively, and visited the Bahia Principe Akumal a few months prior to this trip. Before you start reading, I will provide the following: Despite a lot of little issues early in our stay, I would return to this resort because there is so much to do and keep you entertained, and the food and service was very good for the most part.
We arrived by private transfer, and nobody knew quite what to do with us when we walked up to the regular check-in area (Imperial Club guests are supposed to have their own check-in area). It took a few minutes to figure out where we were supposed to go, and for them to find someone to come check us in. The “private” check-in area is a sitting area to the left of the main check-in counter. I guess because we arrived before the tour company bus, they weren’t ready. We did not receive our “cool towel” or our “welcome drink.” Not a huge deal, but we were disappointed because we had been telling our kids how the pampering would get started as soon as we arrived. Check-in was relatively easy. Once we were given room cards and such, we were told a tram would arrive to take us to our room. After waiting far too long, we finally grabbed our bags and walked to our room ourselves (about a 5 minute walk).
The room was a nice size with two double beds, and one pull-out couch. We had already decided to put our children in the double beds, and my wife and I would take the “queen” pull-out bed. There were no sheets in the room for the pull-out bed, so we had to call down. They were delivered later in the afternoon (although we had to make the bed ourselves...not a big deal). As Imperial guests we were to have our beach towels in the room upon arrival, but they were not there, so we called down again. The person at the desk said they’d send some. By the next morning the towels still had not arrived, so I walked back up to reception where I had to argue with the front desk to either give me towels (they kept insisting they were in our room), or provide towel cards so I could go get them myself. They finally gave me the towel cards. What a headache.
The two double beds in our room were satisfactory, and the kids were fine sleeping on them. Beds are tricky because everyone likes something different. The pull-out bed was probably the hardest bed I’ve ever tried to sleep on, and when we come back to the resort with our kids in the future, we will be bringing an air-bed so nobody has to sleep on the pull-out couch (or we’ll splurge for an adjoining room). We called down to housekeeping to ask for a bed topper (available at other resorts we’ve stayed at), and they said they’d send one. It never arrived. The next day we went down to the front desk and were told they don’t have bed toppers. Later that evening we were back at reception dealing with an un-related issue, and one of the girls heard us complaining about the pull-out bed. She offered to send a mattress to go on top. We said sure, and went back to the room in hopes something would arrive. We were very impressed when a thick green foamy mattress was delivered to our room within about 30 minutes. The gentleman came in and set it all up, and even made the bed for us. I had planned to go back down to try and find out the name of the young lady who had ordered the new mattress for us, but we never made it. This is one of our few regrets from this trip, because she literally changed our whole feeling about the resort up to this point. It made the bed totally fine for us to sleep on for the rest of our trip. Again, that young lady at the front desk should be commended for the level of service she provided in successfully fixing the problem!
We found housekeeping to be very inconsistent. There were four of us in the room. When we arrived, there were only three bath towels. Of the 14 nights we were there, they didn’t put enough towels in our room for the four of us until about 4-days before we left when we finally emailed the Manager. We got so sick of having to call down and ask for more towels. They consistently only provided three towels in our room (one day only two towels), so we ended up having to share towels almost every day. Even when we called down to housekeeping and asked for more, they wouldn’t arrive in time for pre-dinner showers. We finally emailed the main manager, and he was extremely apologetic. For those last few days at the resort, we had four towels every day. Ironically, the first day or so, we left a $5USD tip for the cleaner and $5 for the beverage person. The next day was the day we only received two towels, and instead of four bottles of water, we were left with only three. We think our room was simply the last one they cleaned that day, and they ran out and didn’t go back to get more. After that, we stopped tipping our housekeeping staff. Normally we leave a few dollars every couple days and extra if they prepare towel animals (since the kids really like these). But we didn’t start getting towel animals until the last few days. When the turn-down lady came to the room, she only left two chocolates. Again, not a big deal...but just one more thing reminding us they didn’t remember that there were four of us in the room. We suggested to the manager that they always give their staff a list of how many people are in each room each night so they can ensure the room is prepared for that number of people. He definitely listened to us when we voiced our concerns, and was obviously eager to make them right. The manager clearly cared about the resort, and wanted to ensure they provided excellent service. My parents who stayed in another section of the resort, never had a single issue with their housekeeping staff who were always amazing, but then there were only the two of them in the room. I should also mention that we are not the kind of people who expect new towels each day, and are more than happy re-use to cut down on water consumption, but we do need enough for the people in our room. The room was however always spotless. On the rare occasions we used the air-conditioning it did a great job, and didn’t have the musty smell common in Caribbean AC units. Our tv was an old one, but that doesn’t really bother us as we’re not there to watch tv. There were plenty of hangers, and enough shelves, drawers, etc, to put all our clothes. There was a small table and two chairs in the room, and two plastic deck chairs on the deck.
We dined at every restaurant on the property except the Royal Suites restaurant (because you aren’t allowed unless you stay in the Royal section), and the Brazilian restaurant. We found them to be good to excellent, with most being very good. Our favourites were Bamboo, Sumptuori, Punta Emilia, and the steak house (they even had apple pie). We also enjoyed the beach BBQ. We ate breakfasts at Tikal and La Hacienda, and ate lunch wherever we found ourselves at the time. The buffets were always good/very good. We dined at the ala carte restaurants for supper each night at around 5:30pm and never had any issues getting a table promptly. Any nights we went later, we waited no more than 20 minutes. Service varied from restaurant to restaurant (as with anywhere else), but was generally very good with attentive staff. Those that provided excellent service, got excellent tips (just like at home). We also ate lunch at the restaurants by the pools which are also buffet style and they were usually quite good with a varied selection, and lots of salad items, etc. I think that this was one of the best resorts we’ve been to for overall food quality. This was my parents first all-inclusive (they usually cruise), and they were pleased with the quality of food.
Beach and Pools:
We spend most of our time at the beach when we travel, but do spend a bit of time at the pools as well. We usually went to the Colonial/Kantenah pool because my parents were staying in the Kantenah section and this area provided a great half-way point. We went to the White Sand pool a few times as well. I don’t think we had a preference of one over the other. The beach areas were amazing, with lots of chairs and space in both the sun, and in the shade. We usually found a spot that provided a bit of both. We did some snorkeling and you can see large fish in as little as 3’ of water. So for those who don’t want to go out too far, there’s usually still something to see. Some areas of the beach are fairly rocky, but we got to know how to look at the colour of the water to know where the best path was, and none of us had any issues with this. Most areas are just fine; it’s only a few areas with rocks. We didn’t bother with water shoes. We walked over to the salt-water pool area, and it was beautiful; definitely worth a visit. They always had lots of activities around the pool – dancing, fitness classes, yoga, etc. In the morning they usually had relaxing music playing, but the dance music started shortly after 10am if I remember correctly. We don’t really mind this too much either as it makes it feel festive, and if you wanted a quieter space, you just chose a chair on the opposite side of the pool (the area is huge).
Sports and Recreation:
They have a really good sports facility here, with many options. We played mini-golf a few times, and they had soccer fields, volleyball, etc. One day we went down to try their rifle range, but apparently the rifles (pellet guns actually), were all broken and they had no idea when they’d be back. So that was disappointing. Instead we were offered target practice with bow/arrow, which we thought sounded fun. There was however only one bow and a few arrows. We walked to the range and were each only able to shoot about 10 arrows because there were other people waiting who wanted a turn as well, and with only one bow and about 20 arrows, it turned into a very short and disappointing experience. We didn’t bother to go back there after that. But the facility was nice, and the mini-golf course provided lots of shade while playing. So that was fun. Their gym facility has lots of equipment, is clean, and is in excellent shape. There was almost nobody there. Overall, there is a ton of great recreational opportunities around this property!
Feeding the Animals:
Lots of people feed the animals, and most of the time it was in an area that had big signs up saying “Don’t Feed the Animals.” We did see one little girl get bit, and she had to go get a shot. This was because she was holding the food and the animals were taking it right out of her hand, so accidents happen. What really annoyed us is how many people feed the animal s chunks of white bread. I thought most people knew that all this does is expand in their stomach to make them feel fool, but it doesn’t provide the nutrition they need. But I guess some people don’t get it. If you’re going to feed them, at least give them a piece of fruit. One issue they have there is the number of people feeding the koi in the many ponds around the restaurants. People insist on giving them chunks of white bread, which bloats their stomachs, and they die. We saw several fish floating dead, and the staff explained this is why the fish die. The resort even provides boxes around the pond that hold the proper food for feeding the fish, and explain the proper feeding times and such...but many people still don’t get it, and they end up killing the beautiful fish.
This is probably the largest resort we’ve been to. We have been to other large resorts like this (Bahia Principe Akumal), and we like them because they provide a lot of variety, and new areas to explore. We walked around the entire resort daily while we were there, and always walked everywhere we went. We did not like their tram system, and the one time we got on the driver kept driving and wouldn’t stop at any of the stops despite us calling up to him in both English and Spanish. Even other guests were yelling for him to stop at various times, but he just kept driving. I guess he was behind schedule. We ended up twice as far from our destination than where we started from, and had to walk twice as far. So we didn’t waste our time with the trams anymore after that. My elderly parents used them in the Kantenah section, along with the private golf carts, and this worked well for them in that area. I think in general this is a good system, we just had a bad experience, and since we are very mobile, we just didn’t bother trying again.
Around the White Sand area, you can get on a boat that will take you around the “lake” there. We all really enjoyed this. The boat driver is a really great guy, and obviously loves his job! My parents went on the boat at least once every day. There is limited seating, but well worth it if you have to wait as it’s very relaxing to tootle around...helps you slow down (since you’re on vacation). The driver will take you to areas with lots of fish, and you can feed them, which the kids enjoyed.
Something we really liked about this resort is that most sections are an easy walk to the highway. We like taking Collectivo’s to Playa, Tulum, etc. So it’s nice to not have to walk too far to get to the highway. At the Bahia Principe it was quite a trek to get to the highway.
We took in a few of the shows, and they were very good. Staff try very hard, and put a lot of effort in. They offer quite a variety, so there’s something for everyone. Anytime our ladies got caught up in a show we didn’t want to see, the boys just headed next door and played some pool. So that was great.
Almost every interaction with staff was positive! Even passing the groups of cleaners as they deployed for their days work in the morning was met with friendly greetings. We were very impressed with all the staff we met.
We dealt with a few little annoying issues while at this resort. Would we go there again? Yes, without question. My parents are already planning their next trip to Mexico, and trying to get a group of people to go with them. The Grand Palladium will likely be the place they choose. We were concerned that two-weeks would be too much and we’d be bored, but we could easily go back for another two-weeks right now. It’s the sheer size and variety found at this resort that makes a longer stay an easy decision.
Be ready to explore and have fun!
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.