Since this forum was so helpful to us in deciding which AI to choose in Cozumel, I promisied myself I would write a post after we returned from Coz to help others... so here goes:
We stayed in Cozumel from August 5 to August 12, 2005... and the Cozumel Palace was INCREDIBLE!!! My wife and I have traveled abroad a pretty good bit, and have been blessed to stay in several very nice resorts, but none were finer than the Cozumel Palace! We were originally booked at the Grand Cozumel (pre-Emily), and had to make some very quick decisions two weeks before we left, as Emily's eyewall passed directly over the Grand Coz 22 days before we were scheduled to depart. Even though the folks at Grand Coz were saying they would be reopened by the time of our trip, we decided to opt for another resort. We are very fond of the beach, and were very sorry that the Grand was so badly damaged; so when we looked at the online pics of Coz Palace, and we didn't see a wide beach area, we were skeptical. But the pool was so beautiful, the snorkeling so unbelievable and the rooms so luxurious, we truly didn't miss the beach (Coz Palace has no beach, just a couple areas with white sand and loungers; these areas are above the water level, separated by a retaining wall- kinda hard to explain...the online photos are very accurate). The resort staff was extraordinary, and this was a truly ALL-INCLUSIVE resort - I put my billfold in the safe when we arrived, and did not get it out (except when we ferried over to Playa and Cancun) til we left!! And our 'Worry-Free Vacations' rep was terrific! I could go on for a week, so let me just share with you a few things about our trip which may be helpful:
Resort - right on the main drag of San Miquel, Cozumel. Only 5 blocks (easy walk) from the downtown area (shopping, eats, ferry, etc). When the taxi dropped us off at the resort, we walked off the street through the door and were transported into the opulence of the Palace! it was spectacular, and they greeted us like royalty; we were treated like that our entire stay! we saw no nudity, and there was no riff-raff during our whole stay! the place is small, but I cannot imagine a more beautiful resort!
Accomodations - the rooms (renovated 2005, when Palace Resorts bought the place) were spectacular! Ours is a family of 5 (me, my wife, and 3 daughters - 16, 13, and 7), and almost every resort room (anywhere in the world) is set up for 4, so we had to get two rooms. (Keep in mind - we asked and asked and asked for any type of accomodations to suit 5 people, and were told we HAD to get two rooms). This meant a much greater expense, and posed a challenge: we needed the rooms to be adjoining; we were assured they would be, but learned upon our arrival that the resort did not even HAVE adjoining rooms (not our travel agent's fault, she was being told this by the tour company - Worry-Free)... so our rooms were a few doors down from each other, but that was OK; we requested to be relocated as soon as feasible, and the staff was very understanding and very accomodating. The second day we were there, we met two families whose grown kids were staying in a 'mezzanine' room - a two story sort of Townhouse which would suit our family perfectly!!! So we asked and were moved to one of these rooms (no extra cost), and it was wonderful!!! The thing is, the front desk folks would never have thought of this had I not asked directly about it! (my point by saying this is not to complain, but to tell you that you are responsible for your own vacation, so be curious and ask!) Anyhow, it is a small resort (170 rooms?) and very very nice; every room has the full ocean view, and it is simply breathtaking! This was our first intl trip as a family, and we felt very very safe!
Restaurants - there are three (Mexican, Italian, and Chinese), and all are very very good! We were there 7 nights and ate at each one twice (went to Cancun one day and ate there); there is no limit to the number of times you can dine at each, as is the case at some resorts, and there is not a tired, repetitive buffet; the dress code is very casual - we wore cargo shorts and t-shirts, mostly (no bathing suits), but it is FINE dining! the service is impeccable, and the food is very good. They don't take reservations, and the Mexican restaurant is too small, so there was a pretty good wait to be seated there. The poolside snack bar was very good, and their nachos and cheeseburgers were incredible! unlimited drinks! (we don't drink alcohol, but we wore them out on the virgin drinks!!!) Breakfast was excellent, with a buffet AND a grill area where they would make whatever you wanted while you watched (eggs, waffles, omellettes extraordinaire!)
Pool - beautiful multilevel pool with activities all day and plenty of loungers (tip: go down at 9 am and check out pool towels and place them on the loungers you want, if you want a particular area - like, with an umbrella!). the towels are big and fluffy, the snorkeling gear is checked out free!
Snorkeling - there are two places just off the pool deck - where you just descend the stairs into the beautiful Caribbean Sea to snorkel (a family we met paid to go on a snorkeling excursion, and came back to say the free snorkeling just off the pool deck was better than what they paid for!) It was the highlight of our trip! My 7-year old and I snorkeled two or three times every day!
Excursions - we did not take any 'organized' excursions, but we did a couple things on our own. We took the ferry ($9 US per person one way) across to Playa, and a bus to Cancun ($3 US per person one way) to eat at the big Hard Rock Cafe, which was awesome! It was a long hot day, but worth it... note: the bus ride is about an hour, and the cab to downtown in Cancun (from the bus station) is about $8 and 12 minutes... but all worth it! Point is, it's an all day deal, and can be tiring for younger children! We also rented one of those silly looking electric powered 4 seater golf carts, and the kids loved it! (I was a little concerned because the batteries did not last very long, and we had to recharge a couple times during the half day rental); but we rode around the island and had a great time seeing the other sites, and we saw a lot of damage! We drove by the Grand Coz (where we were originally booked), and were very very glad we had rebooked! I could not believe it when the guy at the gate told me they were receiving guests!
Worry-Free - I would probably feel pretty good about traveliing without using a 'vacation-booking' company if it were just me and my wife, but I really enjoyed using one with the kids along! Worry-Free was wonderful! they took all the stress out of the travel! At the airport as we were preparing to depart, we discovered my wife had forgotten her birth certificate, and the worry-free guy took her to a notary (at the airport) and got the proper documentation so we could continue (just before my wife was about to pass out :-)); we did not even lose our place in line!!! note: after december, 2005, birth certificates will not suffice - you must have a passport! anyhow, they were lifesavers! and they were simply terrific throughout the whole trip!
Recommendation: Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend the Cozumel Palace! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our family, though I hope to take them again sometime!