We stayed at Now Amber in March 2014 - went with my wife and two year old along with another couple who had a 6 and 8 year old.
We booked through booking.com via Transat vacations departing from Calgary.
Flight was great - first time I've flown through Transat and we upgraded to the option plus - and it was well worth it, getting to pick our seats close by our friends, and also getting the champagne, comfort kit, and also the shorter line at airport check in (that was almost worth it on its own, especially on the Mexico end)
We arrived through customs (that takes the longest and with a 2 year old in the heat after a long plane ride isn't the most ideal situation - so be ready for long lines)
Arrived at the resort and as with all resorts - nice cold drink waiting and helpful bell service. We did the preferred club upgrade and vs. our friends who opted not too - it seemed like our check-in was much more smooth than theirs. While walking to our side of the hotel, our guide showed us where everything was - our friends simply got a map. When we checked in it was very fast, no issues - the only thing is that when we were finished we were referred to the "vacation sales" person and you have to listen to what they have to say - they'll be persistent and call you - they kept playing off both couples - saying our friends were doing it. I never did it but our friends did and they had to sit through breakfast and talk to the person for an hour or so - they say it's not a timeshare, but it's the same idea. Our friends did get two passes for golf carts at the courses (more on golf later). They offer a ton of different things for your time, such as free romantic dinner packages or whatever, so up to you to determine what you want to get for your time.
Since the resort was built in 2012 - it's still very clean and new. It's really nice, well taken care of and clean. The lobby area was great - we spent a lot of time there just sitting on the couch, they often had live music. We'd look out at the ocean. On the Secrets side, they had a pool table which was nice and we went there once when we had no kids. The room on the preferred side was nice, we had a jacuzzi bath tub on the deck overlooking the pool - we gave our daughter baths in it and she really enjoyed it being able to look out at everything while still in the bath. Our room was roomy, clean, we had a separate shower and bath tub inside too. The lobby area of the preferred side always had food laid out that was appropriate for the time of day - and it was very handy because every time we walked by we were able to get some snacks for our daughter, whether it was fruit, veggies, or something else. The bar area is small and there is usually only one person working, but it's not busy so there are no issues getting a drink. The server/bartenders were all great and accommodating there. Nice thing about preferred is we were also able to book everything through them and didn't need to go to concierge at the main lobby.
Overall service was great, everyone is super friendly. We always tipped, a dollar or two with whatever we did but when we didn't have a chance to, it's not as if service suffered. I'd say that everyone there was friendly and seemed happy and it made for a very nice experience. We had no issues whatsoever.
The food is probably the best we've had on the pacific side of Mexico - we've been to El Cid and Crown - which aren't nearly as close in levels as this. In the end - it is still Mexican resort food - so if you're used to fine dining at home - don't expect it to be like that. But if you appreciate that it's a Mexican resort trying to make food that caters to travelers then it's pretty good vs. some of the other resorts we've stayed at. If you want authentic Mexican though, go into town, or a local side of the road kiosk, that's where the good food is. We had some of that, and it was great.
We really only spent time in the pool - they had 3 pools and it was great for the whole family. Clean, well taken care of - and plenty of chairs. We never really had an issue getting a spot to settle down, we'd usually go out at breakfast and reserve some chairs. The kids pool was great for the kids too, with the slide and pool depth that wasn't too deep. We went to a couple of night shows as well and they work hard and put in a good effort to entertain guests. Definitely entertaining and worth checking out since you're going to be there anyways! We went to the night club a few times and it was never busy but they had live music once and a DJ another time - either way - if you're going with family and friends you'll have a spot to listen to music, drink, and dance if you want. We didn't go to the beach often - it's hard sand and crushed coral on the feet so it's not as nice as the beaches on the Mayan side.
We golfed three times - even though golf is "included" you have to pay $45 for a cart per person - if you golf before 12, it was an additional $35. So the Vista Vallarta club which has a Nicklaus and Weiskopf designed courses we paid $80 each time to golf because we golfed early. It gets really hot - so depends on whether or not you can handle hot golf if you want to golf after noon. We golfed Marina Vallarta once and that was after 12. Vista courses are nice and well maintained. Marina is much more basic and not as well maintained. Cab ride to Marina was about $10 and Vista was $25 EACH WAY. So don't forget to take that into account. We brought our own clubs (Transat lets you take one bag per person and also golf clubs if you have it)
I would definitely go back to this resort if we went to Puerto Vallarta again. If we went to another area and they had the same chain, we'd definitely consider it as well. The price was definitely more than anything we paid before, but you get what you pay for. Was preferred club upgrade worth it at the resort? If we didn't, I don't think our trip would have been worse, but I would say that we got value out of the extra we paid. The readily available food in the lobby - the upgraded room, the privacy in the area was worth it.
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