I will try to give an honest review, I am not a complainer but did find a couple things that doesn't get this hotel a 5 star. I think a resort that gets a 5 is the best of the best. This hotel gets a solid 4.5 from me. It is better than a 4 but you can't score in half increments. I am 38 and my wife it 30, we stayed 4 days and 3 nights from May 18th to the 21st. We have been to Mexico and the Caribbean about 15 times at various all inclusive resorts from good to great. We booked through Apple Vacations, which owns this hotel as well as Secrets and Dreams resorts. We decided on Now Amber due to the price. We normally go to Cancun or the Riviera Maya since trips are usually inexpensive from Chicago but for some reason this short trip to Puerto Vallarta was cheaper. Now Amber / Secrets, two hotels on one property is less than a year old. The left side upon entering is Secrets and the right side is Now Amber. Secrets is adults only and per Apple it was only $22 per night more to stay there. I can't stress this enough, upgrade if you are a couple and not wanting to deal with kids. We asked about and upgrade and it was $100 per night once we got there. They said I could use the resort coupons you get through the year 2013 and get the price down to $50 a night. We decided not to since the resort slowed down Sunday through the end of our trip. The pool on the Secrets side was not busy at all and was much more relaxed than the Now side. You can use all the Now amenities if you stay at Secrets including the restaurants. Adults at Now can use the Restaurants at Secrets after 6pm. Again, I stress that you upgrade prior to getting there to not incur the large upgrade fee. I even offered the guy at the front desk $20 to see what he could do and he wouldn't swing anything. Very honest, I will give him that.
Quick things I liked about the hotel and different from typical all inclusive hotels" No wristbands, no towel cards and unlimited use of them, no reservations for ala carte restaurants except the Japanese entertainment option.
Food: This is one of the best all inclusive resorts I have been to for food. The quality was great. Breakfast wasn't anything too special but all was decent and plenty of choices. For lunch you have a ala carte by the beach or the buffet again. You also have a small grill by the pool for burgers etc. For dinner we went to Capers the Italian and the Japanese. Both were excellent. My wife had the filet and I had the NY strip at the Italian. Hers was great, my was decent. We would have paid about $100 for this meal in the States. The Japanese was the best Mexican attempt at Asian food as we have experienced. Many hotels try but "Now" got it right. You have to make reservations to sit at one of the cooking show grills and I recommend you do this. Jesus was the cook and put on a good show. He would be hired immediately at our local Hibachi grill. The Sushi was excellent and it would have given true Japanese grills a run for their money. We met a couple from Seattle and they said they went to Oceana and had great steaks. I also heard the other restaurants were very good too. Absolutely no complaints from me on food. If you haven't been to many all inclusive resorts you might not completely agree with me but my wife and I have been to 10 plus and this resort was one of the best.
Room: We were in room 2161 on the 11th floor. See my pictures for the view. It was a great room. Nice size but nothing huge and all stone surfaces. We liked the open concept into the bathroom. The TV is nice since it is a new resort and you get plenty of channels considering you are in Mexico. One thing we loved was that there were screens on the patio doors so you could leave your doors open and keep the bugs out. The ocean could be heard easily from the height of our room, very relaxing. We did this every night. The mini fridge has 5, 7 ounce Corona's, two Cokes in a bottle, and some other pop, also a couple waters and juice. The bed was very nice for a Mexican hotel. I have stayed at some hotels where the bed made a big difference in the stay, this bed was soft, very nice!!!!!!!!!! The water closet was kinda of small and in the dark was a little difficult to find your way and shut the door without any problems. Oh well, you are on vacation!!!! The shower was good size and plenty of hot water. We didn't use the Jacuzzi tub but it looked night. The double sinks are also nice.
Cleanliness: For the most part this hotel is really clean. The only odd part of this top notch hotel is their timeliness of picking up rooms service. When we arrived the first day at our room a coke bottle, plate and glass sat outside our room. They stayed there for at least 24 hrs. I didn't care, just found it very odd. Two days later I had a couple of coronas, the maid took them out of the trash and put them outside our door. The room was very clean and she did a nice job but the bottles sat there for about 36 hrs. The only reason I can think of is that she doesn't take glass in her trash and there is someone else that does room service pick up. This isn't a huge thing, but one of the little things that doesn't make it a 5 star!
Unlimited Club: This is not a timeshare but similar. It is a program to get discounts all all there resorts. I wasn't pressed by anyone to listen to their presentation like other reviews have eluded to. I was asked by Rachel, one of the VIP desk representatives if I would be interested when I picked up my resort coupons. I could have said no really easy but she offered me $150 in resort credit and $100 spa credit so I said, "what the heck". It is only for married couples and you have to show ID and a credit card to be taken seriously. Our sales person was Oriana and she was very nice. Not overly a hard seller but I did not expect the extremely high price for just a program versus a resell-able asset timeshare. I like Secrets/Dreams resorts, which the program works with. The programs we looked at was almost $19,000. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!!! Tough to pull the trigger without being able to do your research. We were pressured but nothing I couldn't handle and politely declined. We were walked out and they gave us the coupons we were promised. If you don't mind giving up 2 solid hours for the sales pitch, it might be worth it for you to get the discounts. I don't regret it and if the program would have been more reasonable, I might have been interested.
Beach: I am not a huge beach guy and it won't make or break my trip. I do like a nice view and that's about it. The beach here isn't the greatest at the point you enter the water. Many rocks so bring your water shoes. The sand is great but at the water line it transitions to rocks, seems smooth like river rocks. The water front isn't overly huge but adequate to get your beach fix. They have kayaks and a life guard on watch. They put a trampoline and rock climbing wall out and anchor it in the water, nice touch. There are some vendors on the beach but they don't hassle you too much if you are nice and say, "no gracias". We ended up buying some great carvings and negotiated a fair deal. Don't settle for their first prices or you will be ripped off.
Pools: there are many pools for each age group, again we wished we were on the Secrets side on Saturday when it was crowded. On Sun, Mon, and Tuesday the Now side was fine. The pool bar was a little small and took a little time to get a drink when busy. We tipped our waiter and he came back more than enough times. They play games throughout the day and give T-shirts as gifts. The entertainment staff is very nice and they don't pressure you to play. We show rifles up by the tennis courts on the Secrets side, very fun. They also have a batting cage and archery up there.
Spa: My wife did a body wrap with her discount. The Spa is very nice! The prices however are very high and even higher than spas in Chicago. The wrap was $139 for 50 minutes but included an hour in the hydrotherapy circuit. 50 minute massages and 80 minute were pricey at $149 and $179, I think. Many reviews suggest Heavenly Hands, right outside the resort. I would have gone there if I had had more time.
Sorry for the long review but I rely on TripAdvisor to make my vacation choices so I try to give back a little bit. Feel free to e-mail me with any specific questions. I recommend this hotel for the price it is at right now. You shouldn't be worried one bit if it will be a good hotel or not.
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