This was our 11th trip to an all inclusive resort in the Mayan Riviera but the first to the Catalonia Royal Tulum. We have previously stayed at the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo and del Mar, Rio Palace Mexico, Barcelo, Palladium, and Gran Bahia Principe. We were at the CRT from October 6 – 13. We made our reservations through Orbitz, using a $200 off promotion code I found on TripAdvisor, and flew non-stop on Frontier from Denver to Cancun. We got a red light at customs but this only delayed us by 3 minutes. Our USA Transfers van got us to the resort in 55 minutes.
Check in - Brenda greeted us at the check in counter with cold wash clothes and fruit drinks. We previously emailed the resort with our room request but had not received a reply. She told us that she had our request and all our wishes were granted – building 5, top floor, and 2 beds. We reserved a standard room and Brenda did not try to upsell us into a junior suite. She said that the resort would be 65% full this week. We walked to our building and the bellman was waiting for us with our luggage when we got to the room.
Room – Our room was large and appeared to be recently remodeled. The beds were the most comfortable we’ve had in Mexico. Our fridge contained cans of Dos Equis, sodas, water, and wafer cookies. We had robes and slippers in the closet and a bathroom scale in the bathroom. Our bathroom had a large marble lined shower but no tub. We had a small, very old television but it was replaced by a new flat screen TV during our stay. Our room also contained 2 large beach towels - unlike at other resorts, you do not need a towel card but you can exchange your wet towels for clean ones at a place by the pool.
Our balcony was large and overlooked trees. We could see the top of building 6 but that’s about it. There was no place to hang clothes to dry on the balcony but we brought along bungee cords for that. Our air conditioning worked perfectly, there were no insects, and the room was very soundproof. We usually returned to our room by 5 PM and it was always cleaned. We always had some kind of towel animal or towel art on the bed, we had curtain art a couple of days, and bed spread art one day. Our beds were turned down on only one night. However, on the other evenings, it was obvious that a housekeeper had been in our room and there would be some small brown towels on the floor between our beds (I have no idea why). Our fridge was usually restocked but we had no beer one day and no water on another day - we found a housekeeper who got us some bottles of water from a supply closet in the building. The ice maker had been removed from our building but we usually had our bubba mugs filled with ice at a bar before we came to our room.
Food – We were very impressed with the food. We usually went to breakfast early (before 8:00 AM) and the buffet was usually empty. Service was over the top and we were always greeted by a server who would pull our chairs out for us and ask if we wanted coffee, water, juice, champagne, or a bloody mary. Food trays were always full and the food hot. I especially liked the chilaquilas, churros with hot chocolate sauce, refried beans, thick bacon, and papaya.
We ordered room service breakfast on our last day and it arrived in about 30 minutes. Our Americano and Mexican breakfasts were very good and we were given enough food to feed us for a week.
We usually ate lunch in the La Palapa restaurant and the same servers from breakfast were there. On our last day it was raining hard and the lunch buffet was moved from the La Palapa restaurant to the La Selva restaurant by the lobby. Like breakfast, the buffet was usually empty, food trays were full and the food was hot, and service was over the top. The cream soups were outstanding – I especially liked the poblano cream soup that they had one day. We had ceviche nearly every day - excellent. There was a grill where you could order mahi mahi, small steaks, and hamburgers. Other items on the buffet changed every day. We would always have wonderful ice cream for dessert – very creamy and great. They had coconut ice cream one day and it was to die for.
We also had snacks at the “delly” by the Tequila bar – usually some great guacamole with pico de gallo and chips or a piece of pizza. We didn’t think the pizza was all that great but we couldn’t resist picking up a piece whenever we walked by. Their hamburgers were very good.
Our favorite place for dinner was at the Royal Grill (also known as La Palapa). The flank steak was the best I have ever eaten. We also liked the prime rib and beef tenderloin. The onion soup was outstanding. One evening, our seats faced the beach and we ate while watching the full moon rise from the ocean – nice!! We also liked the Italian restaurant and especially enjoyed the lasagna and mussels (the mussels were on the soup menu at the restaurant). At the Mexican restaurant, we enjoyed the shrimp, flank steak, and an appetizer that had a combination of several small items. The pumpkin soup was good but very sweet and rich – the lime soup was much better. We ate at the tapas restaurant one night and really liked the appetizers – you order them in groups of 3 and they have several choices. But we were disappointed in the main entrees – we had calamari and a pork dish. Desserts are ordered by world region and include about 3 or 4 items per order – they were good. The ambiance at the tapas restaurant was its strong point – open air next to a cenote (and no mosquitoes when we were there).
Drinks – Looking back on our week, it’s a wonder we still have our livers. You can get champagne, bloody marys, and screwdrivers for breakfast in the buffet. The main bars in the lobby and by the pool have some decent brands such as Don Julio Reposato tequila, Havana Club rum, probably 10 varieties of vodka (but no Gray Goose), Tanqueray gin, Baileys, etc. They have drink menus but will make anything you want. Beer was on tap – Dos Equis dark and clara. The bars always had fresh mint and make great mojitos. Most of the restaurants also have full bars but we usually had house wine – both the red and white were excellent. Drink service was fantastic. We never waited more than a minute for a drink at a bar but usually a cocktail server would come by to take our order before we even got to the bar. Wait service at the beach, by the pool, in the lobby, and in the theater was by far the best I have seen at any resort. The only negative thing I can say about drinks is that there is no coffee available at or near the beach early in the morning. I, and a lot of other people, love to get to the beach at around 6:00 AM to watch the sunrise – magnificent!! But a cup of coffee would really be nice. I know – I can make coffee in the room or get a cup at the lobby but I’m just too lazy to do that.
Entertainment – We didn’t take part in any organized activities during the day but a very energetic lady (I think her name was Suzy) would always come by to tell us about yoga, Spanish lessons, water volleyball, or something else. Most of the entertainment staff were from the Italian tour company, Veraclub, but entertainment was open to all guests. Evening entertainment in the theater usually started at 9:30 and was very good. One evening it started an hour late because the entertainers were late in getting to the resort – don’t know where they came from. On three occasions, they had entertainment in the lobby starting at about 7:30 – a couple of singers on two nights and a trio another evening. Twice, they had a pool party, scheduled to start at 9:30. One evening, we left after 10:30 when nothing was happening. On the other evening, they had colored lights set up around the pool, floaties in the water, and Suzy was coming around with tequila. We went to our room to change into our swim suits but went to bed instead – we were too tired to party. There is a disco on the floor above the lobby bar but we have no idea what it’s like - we were usually in bed by the time the disco opened at 10:30.
The beach – This was the nicest beach we have seen anywhere in the world. Soft sand, no rocks, clear water, and you can walk for about 20 minutes either north or south of the resort and still be on a beautiful, clean beach. Leave your water shoes at home. The area to the north was especially great – when you get to the end of the beach near a rocky point, you will find the prettiest cove with mirror calm water. We would usually spend an hour or two each morning here pushing each other around on a floatie, snorkeling, or swimming. We had the area to ourselves. However, there is a deserted resort here (I think it was part of the Xpu Ha Palace before a hurricane destroyed it a few years ago) with a couple of guards and a very large Rottweiler just to make sure no one ventures inland onto the resort property. South of the CRT, there is a beach bar and restaurant with a souvenir shop, some older homes, and finally the remnants of the old Robinson Club Tulum resort. Some of the beach is a little rockier but still nice and walkable. The beach at the CRT is very small – about a 1 minute walk from end to end. And it is totally packed with loungers. There are rows of up to 20 loungers pushed together everywhere and it would be impossible to have any privacy if all the loungers were occupied. Fortunately, it was low season and I doubt if ¼ of the loungers were occupied at any given time. Most people, including us, would move several loungers out of the way in order to have only 2 or 3 together without neighbors moving in on top of you. We usually got to the beach early, by 8:00 AM, and never had a problem in finding a prime place – we normally sat just south of the massage building (which was never used during our stay).
Pool – We didn’t spend much time at the pool but it is large and loungers were available throughout the day. Most of the daily entertainment and activities took place at or in the pool.
Other guests – About 75% of the guests were Italian but we easily found other English speaking people to visit with – mostly from the US but a few from the UK and Canada. We also heard people speaking Spanish, French, German, and what sounded like Russian. Although many Europeans smoke, we never found that to be a problem. Smoking is not permitted in the restaurants and the breeze dissipated the smoke in the outside areas. Most people were also very considerate and used ashtrays at the beach instead of throwing their butts on the sand. In spite of the large number of Europeans at the resort, we only saw 3 topless ladies the whole week – this could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. Topless or not, there was a lot of nice eye-candy on the beach. The average age was 30-ish.
Grounds – The CRT does not have extensive manicured grounds but is mostly jungle. The main path from the beach to the lobby runs through the jungle and you can usually see several coatimundi and agouti as well as a variety of beautiful birds. Unlike at other resorts, we only saw 2 iguanas the entire week. We were very impressed by the cleanliness of the place. We rarely saw a straw or drink cup lying around.
Lobby area – The lobby is beautiful and was usually empty during most of the day. There is a money exchange booth next to reception (11 pesos per US dollar) and a gift shop on the other side (with a section selling adult toys). We weren’t able to take a seat in the lobby without a nice cocktail server asking if we would like a drink.
That’s about all – We were very apprehensive about coming to the CRT after reading some of the negative comments in TripAdvisor’s reviews and forums sections. We love the Palladium and were planning to return there but thought we would like to try an adult only resort and a smaller place for a change. We’re glad we tried the CRT. We loved the smallness of the resort as well as it’s being adults only. We will certainly return but would be concerned about going during peak season. The lack of crowds and fantastic service were great but I just wonder what things would be like in a more popular time of the year. We also plan to go back to the Palladium in the near future. The two resorts are fantastic but very different.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.