My husband and I just returned last night from our fourth visit to the Grand. This trip started out with some (needless) anxiety on my part, due to the knowledge of two large groups - one of which checked in on our arrival day, and sold out the resort for three of our five nights. Due to the groups, I had been in touch with the Grand ahead of time, and I was promised that I wouldn't notice any negative affects - and they were right. We did not.
The highlight for us this year - once again, were the wonderfully fantastic, well-trained staff, at not only the Grand - but every part of the Playa Paraiso complex we visited. The person who is in charge of training the Iberostar staff deserves cudos. They are absolutely incredible. It was such a shock to arrive back in Houston and not have everyone smiling at us, with a friendly greeting.
The number one negative this year, and the reason I'm not giving my review five stars, was the food. We've visited almost every year since the resort opened (and when I haven't been there, I've sent others), and by far, the food was the worst this time than it has ever been. I was so concerned about not getting reservations due to the groups, and I ended up ordering room service, eating at a different resort (Jambalaya at the Lindo, which was decent) and going to a buffet one night (Italian buffet - our best meal at the resort this trip), just to avoid it. Neither of us are hard to please, but it was quite a let down to dress up, be treated like queens and kings, and take that first bite and feel deflated.
We've always had the pleasure of being in an oceanfront room, and this year was no exception. We were checked in to our room, by our butler-in-training, Eduardo. We were in corner suite 7041, directly next to Las Brisas and over the suite we had last year. The view was the best yet. Absolutely breathtaking. The day we checked in, the sea was very calm and the colors were striking. We set up our own travel router, and had miserable reception with it. I do wish they'd add WiFi to the rooms. With so many people using tablets and iPhones now, they need to step it up in this area. Other than that, no complaints about the room.
Our first dinner was at Toni's. We got all dressed up, and were seated around people wearing t-shirts, jeans and flip flops. I was very surprised at how the dress code seemed to have been brushed to the wayside. Oh well... I'm here to eat, not be in a fashion show, so we ordered our steaks. Both were dry and tasteless. At one point the waiter came by and my husband asked him for some melted butter. Butter on steaks? Yes... they were that bad.
Was every meal bad? No. Breakfast and lunches were all decent, so we didn't starve, but the dinner at Toni's was the start of a trend that continued throughout our stay. To summarize, dinner the next night at Haiku wasn't much better, and they completely messed up my husband's order, which is pretty impressive, since they were cooking it directly in front of him. The other large group from Mexico City was in the restaurant that night, and I think the chefs were overwhelmed. Jambalaya at the Lindo was a pile of shrimp, next to a pile of rice. Neither tasted bad, but the shrimps had their tails still on them. Before we ate, we had to detail about 30 small shrimp. It was just silly to sit there and feel like only have the battle of cooking had been done for you.
The beach area remained about 1/2 occupied for the most part, during our entire stay. No need to rush out to get a palapa. Our only complaint? The cushions on the nicer, wicker chairs. You have two choices - remain rigid and your cushion will remain in place, or relax, and slide your way down to a catatonic position, in 1/4" increments. The cushions do stay put on the cheaper-looking white plastic chaises. Beach service was fantastic as usual. I noticed far more people selling (fake) Cuban cigars, hats, sunglasses and jewelry this time. They came in waves, no pun intended.
Speaking of waves... our first full day was glorious. We kayaked and enjoyed calm, beautiful seas. By that evening, the winds really picked up, to the point where we wondered just how bad does it have to get before they put the black flag out. The life guards were on high alert for the next three days, and many times we heard them forcing people out of the waves, with their whistles. It was the windiest, waviest, I've ever seen it. As luck would have it, it calmed down our last day. Unfortunately, this was the day we had to leave. I never said my luck was good.
My husband golfed twice, and both times the course kicked his rear. He doesn't get to play as often as he'd like, but he used to play on a team. I was the caddy, and he played with two men who work for El Dorado resorts. Both men know the area very well, and with the exception of one other course in the area, they both think the Playa Paraiso course is the nicest. They said that IB* has the best greens man around. The course is gorgeous.
We took a walk down the beach towards Maroma as usual, and this time turned around out of discomfort, due to a man standing in jeans, a jeans jacket, with a walkie talkie attached to the back of his pants, and binoculars around his neck. He was standing in an area near the mangroves, between the Grand and the Capella residences, near no buildings. This man was not a guard, and looked to be on the lookout for something. He made us feel very uncomfortable, and just watched us. I'm not sure what he was up to, and I didn't want to stick around for it. We walked past him, into the cove, and saw other people walking towards the Grand. We slowed down, and got behind them and walked back. Safety in numbers. This is the first time I've ever worried about my safety in Mexico; this guy made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. One other very, very important thing to note - my husband picked up a used syringe, with its cap on, from the shoreline. He threw it into the mangroves. So please watch where you're stepping. The beach in this area isn't groomed. Just remember, none of this has anything to do with the Grand - just something to mention.
Our days were filled with laying around, getting to know the wonderful Star Friends (Jesus is a sweetheart), playing the always fun Dutch Shuffleboard game (SO glad it's back!), and doing a whole bunch of nothing. We took walks through the other resorts a few times. The Beach and Del Mar are beautiful in their lushness. The Lindo is beautiful with its waterways. The Maya is gorgeous with its manicured grounds and interesting buildings. They're all worth exploring.
The big question, is will we be back? At this point, it's iffy. As we get older, I'm finding that what we're looking for is changing. I never considered myself someone who lived to eat, but the food was truly a let down this time. I felt unsatisfied almost every evening. We've seen all of the shows multiple times, and we only went to one. We found this it was perfectly okay for us to head back to the room after dinner. I am a snob when it comes to alcohol, but this time the bottle of Grey Goose and Don Julio that was brought to our room, remained unused. I was happy with the cheap wine and frozen drinks on the beach - that I'm sure were made with well liquor. And last, but not least, I am tired of reservations.
I can't imagine never going back to the Grand. The employees are like an addiction. They're that good. You want to have that great service again and again! However, next for us will probably be somewhere, where the emphasis is on food, staff and a beautiful, calm beach - without sacrificing a lovely resort setting. I sell travel for a living, and even I'm having a difficult time finding this in an adults-only all-inclusive. It may just be time for us to branch out and start looking into the alternatives out there.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.