For those who do not wish to read on... The current iteration of Secrets Aura has some work to do to reach the level of quality of a 5 star/6 Golden Apple resort. The good part? On site management is well aware of the shortcomings and is working diligently, daily, to resolve them, and provide the level of quality and service those who travel with Secrets/AMR expect and deserve.
For those that wish to read as I drone on... Enjoy!
I kept a blog on TA forums during our stay.Much of what your read here can be found there:
Pics can be found in my profile.
Our stay was January 13-20 2013
My wife and I booked Secrets Aura Cozumel, (SAC), through our local Apple Vacations Rep. We like to use Apple and mainly travel to Secrets, or AMR, (parent company), resorts. This was our 6th in the AMR brand, and 5th Secrets in the past three years. Needless to say, we have been quite pleased with Secrets and will continue to travel with them and Apple.
SAC is a new resort in the brand as of Dec 15th 2012. It, and it’s neighboring, sister resort, Sabor, were Windham properties. The official Sabor rebrand is expected later this year to the AMR, Sunscape. The former Aura used to be 90+ rooms with an ocean view. The Secrets rebrand, added the former Sabor Villas, “behind” these rooms. Thereby, doubling SAC capacity instantly. The doubled capacity for a resort designed around 90ish rooms is really the cause for most of the reviewed issues. SAC management is working to resolve this.
We arrived around 2pm and were not greeted with the normal Secrets welcome of a cold towel, and drink of the day. We were told our room was not ready. In the two weeks previous to our arrival, I was emailing the “econcierge”, (Eleazar from Facebook), and on site concierge, (Miguel), to note our arrival time and hopes of a ready room or, at the very least, a “hospitality” room to freshen up and change after our journey. The front desk associate, when asked for the hospitality room, directed us to the use of one of the bathrooms near the lobby. Not the warm welcome we’ve come to expect. We were given a pager and sent to Windows for lunch, told the room would be ready in 30 minutes. An hour later, we returned to the front desk and were told the room still wasn’t ready. We walked the grounds for about a half hour, pager never going off, and returned to the front desk to find our room was ready. Upgrades were not offered or discussed, (found later the resort was at capacity).
We were celebrating my birthday and our wedding anniversary. We made sure to note the occasions to the front desk associate. We did not receive the complementary celebration offerings until we met with the GM later during our stay.
The Bellman grabbed our bags and threw them into a golf cart. We took a ride to our room in the former Sabor Villas, now SAC pool view Jr. Suites. We arrived at the 43 building and was informed by the bellman that he would take to two large suitcases and I should grab the other two. There is no elevator in the Jr. Suites and our room was on the third floor. Not a big deal, but, again, not the level of service we’ve come to know from Secrets. He showed us the room and hung around, I believe expecting a tip. There’s no way I’m tipping after carrying my own bags up three floors.
The Jr. Suites are newly refurbished and NOT shown on any of the SAC website photos. You can tell some of the furniture was new, (DEFINATELY NOT the mattress), and the room overall, was “refreshed”. Of all the furniture, there were only two drawers in the nightstands. No other drawers to place clothing, only shelves and the closet. There was an odor when we entered. Sort of musty? I attributed it to the new chair and decided it not to be an issue. Although when we returned home, I could still clearly smell the room on our unworn clothing. There was a fridge that was stocked daily with Coke products, water, and the only beer on the resort, Dos X.
We started to unpack, and I remembered a number of reviews stating there was no hot water. I tried and found absolutely no hot water. A call to the front desk had a maintenance man there quickly. I used my best efforts in “resort Spanish” to relay the issue. After a couple hours and two service men, we had “acceptable” warm-very warm water. During this “repair” we called down and requested a room change due to the water issue and odor. We were told they were at capacity and had no rooms to move us to. This was verified by the GM who we met with later in the week.
The mattress in the room was quite old, tattered, and in MUCH need of replacement. I took a pic and you will agree. The mattress was hard, not firm, supportive, or any other words used to describe mattresses. IT WAS HARD, much like a plank of wood. After a week on it, I had a very sore back. I’m certain it’s in management’s plans to replace these worn pieces, but, with most things on an island in Mexico, it takes time.
A few days into our trip and after a couple very windy days, a sewage smell was emanating from the two drains in the bathroom, (one in the shower and one next to the toilet). Other guests in these suites noted to same thing. I called for maintenance twice and was told twice there was no issue found. While my knowledge of Mexican building codes is far from vast, I think it had something to do with the wind and the vent pipe. We decided we’d have to live with it. It was an easy fix. We placed our wet towels over the drains when we left for the day or evening.
The shower spews water outside of the stall, onto the bathroom floor, everywhere. This was the case even after a new shower head was installed. Make sure to have extra towels to cover the floor during your showers.
Maid service was at about the same time everyday and they did a good job. We had several days where the pillowcases were much smaller than the pillows. It took us three days of complaining to the front desk to finally get turndown service. This service is complementary and common in the AMR brands. Another missing normality was delivery of the “Sundial” every evening. The Sundial is a newsletter that is/should be delivered daily to note which restaurants were open, weather, activities and their times, drink of the day, and entertainment planned for the next day. We complained that we were not receiving it daily. We FINALLY received it on our last night. Many other guests in the Jr. Suites did not receive it either. A few guests we spoke to in the Ocean Views were receiving it along with turndown service. While this is not a huge issue to guests, it should be a huge issue to the resort itself. Daily, we’d see the Entertainment staff by themselves, between 9-11am, because no one knew they had activities planned. Thereby wasting hours of their day because most of the guests had no idea what was planned. One improvement we noted to the GM was adding the available restaurants at Sabor, (Secrets guests can use all of the Sabor/Sunscape facilities. Sabor/Sunscape guests cannot use Secrets facilities).There were times we’d ask the front desk about the Sabor restaurants and most of the time, they didn’t know what was available that night.
The balcony view was that of the pools with the slides and pool bar. The hammock in some of the pictures was not installed when we first arrived. However, they had it up within a day and my wife was VERY, VERY happy. We’d spend nights on the balcony reading, talking, or having a few drinks before bed.
We were usually out of the room by 9ish and back around 5-6ish. We never had an issue with noise being by the busy pool.
WiFi was available in the rooms and most other areas around the resort. Including the beach. There was no fee and I don’t know if they plan to charge in the future. AMR has charged for wifi at other resorts we’ve visited. It was usually good signal strength with a top speed of 2 meg down and 2 meg up. The only time we were unable to connect was during a rainstorm. I assumed most guest were hold up in their rooms surfing the net, playing hell with the resort’s router.
We spoke to several guests in the Ocean View Suites that stated the beds were amazing but some of the furniture was dated and in need of repair/replacement.
If you of means, by all means opt for the Ocean View Swimout in a warm season.
The resort as stated previously, used to be two. The Jr. Suites are connected to the main areas, (lobby/beach/restaurants), by the main road you enter on, and a path that opens to a new courtyard that contains Coco Cafe, a small shop, and the wedding office. This was being constructed during our stay. The Cafe and store opened the last day of our trip.
*Previous to our arrival, both concierges noted construction was finished, and all bars/restaurants were open. Not true*
From the courtyard, you walk by the Preferred Desk and Lounge, and Bordeaux.
The walk from the Jr.Suites to the lobby is about 3-5 minutes depending on your wife’s footwear ;). The walk from the Jr. Suites to the Sabor/Sunscape lobby is 7-10 minutes. You can call for the golf cart to take you if it is available. We used it once to get to Portofino, which is on the far side of Sabor. It’s not a troublesome walk either way.
The beach extends the length of both resorts, with the dock on the Secrets side.
The lobby area houses Windows and Rendezvous Bar. A short step further to the beach has Oceana, and 3 flights of stairs or a small elevator ride takes you to the Sky Bar.
All paths/walkways/roads were in very good to excellent condition. The landscaping was tended to daily and is beautifully lush. Never obstructive or intrusive. Just right.
The sand is a “crushed coral”, aragonite type that is not soft, but not at all harsh to walk on. It was never too hot to walk on and the sand easily washed or brushed off. I found the beaches at Silversands and Huatulco to be much less forgiving.
The entry to the water is rocky in most areas and rocky throughout. We brought water shoes but I only used them once. The roped off swim area has an amazing amount of fish, large and small, and some small reef areas. You can easily grab a mask and snorkel, (free), from the dive shop on the Sabor side and spend hours floating around. We found the most interesting and clear areas toward the rope and around the dock. Make note that the fish around the dock are used to humans, and humans feeding them. There are several larger species that linger and nip a little too close for some. Me!
During our 7 day stay, we always found a couple of lounge chairs or beds, anytime, at the beach. The resort was at capacity, but, there are a lot of guests going diving/snorkeling, or going into town. We never had an issue finding a spot. The lounges and beds themselves were in good condition. A few missing wheels and one I found that was about to break if a larger guest used it.
Finding shade, if needed, was not an issue either. The sun rises from the back of the resort and there is a mature line of palms where the beach meets the pool area. There was a good amount of clouds this time of year as well. They provided short breaks for those out in the sun. My shoulders and nose got a little too much sun the first day, and I didn’t have any other burns there after.
Drink service was hit or miss. SAC has one waiter for the entire beach and beachfront pool. It took 20-60 minutes for a drink. The waiter was hustling all day! Guests would be better served with an additional waiter. Wasn’t a big deal for us. I brought a “Bubba”mug just in case and had the Oceana Bar fill it with whatever I was drinking that day.
The Beachfront, Ocean View pool was very clean and well kept. However, IT WAS COLD!!!!!!!!!!! The pools are not heated and most of this pool is in the shade during the day. We rarely saw anyone in this pool for an extended period of time. Maybe it warms up later in the they year? SAC management would be doing future guests a GREAT service to invest in heating these pools. We were always able to find two lounge chairs and at least one float.
The Slide Pool with the pool bar is in “back” with the Jr.Suites. This is where most guests were found if not on the beach. The Entertainment staff also hold most of their activities in or near this pool. It too, is not heated, and, yes again, SAC could be doing future guests a great service by heating this pool. On the warmer, sunny days, you could find a lot of guests in the pool for an extended period of time. Most often they entered via one of the slides and exited because of the temperature.
Even at it’s most busy, we were able to find a couple of chairs and a float or two to use on the slides. The chairs and floats are in good to excellent condition. One day they were out of towels, but, a word to the bartender, had towels within 15 minutes.
The slides are quite fun and we devised a few games and ratings. They are best used with a float, however, there are two slides that, if used with a float, will result in you flying off and into, if you're lucky, vegetation. If unlucky, there is a concrete box housing something right in your exit path. It is the slide where two come into one. The other slides are more tame and two or even four up float rides are possible.
Drink service was not bad either. They had one waiter and one bartender and it took him 15-30 minutes to return with drinks. The waiter was also shared with the Preferred Lounge. If there were guests in there, he stayed to serve them. Again, another staff member would better serve the guests. The drinks are served from the “land” side of the bar and nothing from the pool side. Many guests found this strange. If SAC heats this pool and more guests find themselves in the water, longer, they will have to move things around.
The first couple days we noted a strong, sewage smell emanating from the pool side of the bar. Everyone noticed it, but, no one spoke up to get it resolved. I found a “white shirt”, (management), and noted the issue. He came back, took a whiff, made a horrid face, and got on the radio in a heightened tone requesting the area be serviced. He then spoke to the bartender, noting his displeasure for not reporting the issue. The next day, the area was rigorously scrubbed, and I did not smell anything bad for the rest of our stay. The “white shirt” turned out to be the General Manager. He found me the next day to apologize, noting his embarrassment, and assured us the issue would not return.
Food is always subjective. I can say that all our meals were good and some great. None were bad.
There have been many reviews, noting a long wait for food, especially at Windows for breakfast. This is true. Most Secrets have a Buffet open for breakfast and lunch. Given this resort’s small size and available floor plan, it seems that was not an option. Once seated we regularly waited 15-20 minutes for water and our order to be taken. We regularly experienced one hour plus wait times for our food. Some days were better, and the capacity of the restaurant was never full. The GM is well aware of this and has already taken measures, (after our stay), to help combat the wait. One is opening Bordeaux for breakfast. This should help out. He is desperately searching for staff. Given, this is an island, full of resorts, staff is hard to come by. When we spoke, he noted, SAC had people standing at the ferry docks with signs noting available employment.
The experience at Windows carries through to the rest of the SAC restaurants for the most part. We never experienced worse service, but, for the most part, is was far from on par with the other Secrets we’ve visited.
When we did receive food at Windows it was good. We ate there for lunch a couple times and once for dinner. Each time the food was very good, and the service got better each time. The dinner service and meal was fantastic!
We did have an issue, as some other guests did, with Windows one night. I checked the website for the dress code and it said casual. Just to be safe, I called the front desk and they said casual as well. So, shorts and a nice shirt it was! Arrived at Windows and the hostess refused to seat us as I had shorts on. I noted the website and front desk said casual, but, she held firm ground. Disappointed, I walked all the way back to the room to change and left it at that. The group of guests after did not. They caused a bit of a scene. I would say rightfully so, but, SAC MUST get their staff on the same page!
We had lunch a few times at Oceana and dinner once. Lunch was good with service being better than that of Windows. Oceana at other Secrets was a little more... refined. Here it serves as more of a beach grill. Dinner was okay, not bad, but not good either. Service was good.
We ate at Bordeaux twice. Food was better the first time and service was better the second. We ordered just about the same menu items each time.
Consistency played issue at all times during our stay.
We ate at El Patio twice on the Sabor side. It was our favorite meal of the trip, and the service... The service is what we’ve come to expect from Secrets. We were seated, given menus, water, and had drink orders taken. The “head” server would come by and introduce himself, then our server came by with the drinks and took our food order. Courses were timed perfectly and our server was ever vigilant with more drinks or whatever accoutrement. This level of service was consistent at the Sabor restaurants we visited.
Tried Portofino one night and while this is our second favorite at the other Secrets sites, the one at Sabor seemed lacking. Service was great and as listed above but the food... The food, while not bad, wasn’t great either. My wife really missed the Risotto, usually on the Portofino menus.
Because it was there, and, why not, we tried the “Pizza” place at Sabor one evening. I am a bit of a pizza snob, but, this place... This place right here... Has some explaining to do! I ordered what most Americans consider a Supreme, (pepperoni/onion/green pepper/mushroom/sausage), and what they delivered... Well, there is a pic. The dough is a thin crust, and wasn’t bad. The sauce, while not great, was not bad either. The cheese always tastes different in Mexico. Not bad, just different. Most of you will say, “HEY, this is Mexico, WHY are you ordering pizza?” And, rightfully so, but, to serve a pizza with hot dog slices instead of pepperoni and sausage, is... Well, it’s Sacrilege! And, being a Christian culture, they should know what that is. ;)
We ordered room service a few times. A couple in lieu of waiting at Windows and once VERY early as we left the resort at 5:30AM. Once because we had TOO much fun at Sky Bar and needed a late night snack. Each time it arrived within 30-40 minutes and was good. Not as good as sit down breakfast or lunch, but good. Because this was not a new Secrets build, one thing we missed was the “Secrets” door for room service.
One issue to note: Before we arrived, during my emails back and forth with the concierges, I made sure to ask for Jack Daniels and Grey Goose. These have always been available at other Secrets. I was told they were, and when we arrived, they had Jack, but no Goose. My wife was not pleased, but they did have Stoli.
As noted before, Coco Cafe was supposed to be open for our stay. It opened the very last day. While this was not the end all be all... I like to have a couple Espressos in the morning on vacation to get me going. I work a different shift than most and anything before 10am is usually a no go. I try to get up before 9 to enjoy the day on vacation. It was said via the Facebook page that Coco Cafe was closed for a few days due to lack of supplies. That was purely false. The week we were there, they were finishing the actual building and installing the cooler, machines, and tables/chairs.
Rendezvous is next to Windows and was always staffed, with the ability to walk right up and order.
The Oceana bar had little to no wait at any time of day.
The pool bar, considering it’s size, amount of guests, and one bartender had little wait. An issue here as well. I saw the bartender pouring Don Julio and Goose a few times. When I asked for it, he told me they didn’t have it. I argued, noting exactly where it was hidden behind the bar. He was held firm with that. Don’t know why this was, never saw large tips, but may be something to ask the GM next time we correspond.
The Sky Bar was always well serviced. We had a great couple nights up there and it was the spot to watch the sunset. It seemed a little out of hand one night while, my wife and a few other female patrons, were “guest” bartenders. I say “seemed” because the bartender always had the situation under control.
I think everyone had a great time that night. People found us the next two days to ask when she was tending bar again.
They had a pretty well known band from Mexico there one afternoon. I coined their sound, Mexico’s Coldplay.
The Sky Bar has a couple of hot tubs. They are in need of repair or replacement. One hardly has any water coming out of the jets and the other most of the jets missing or broken. You were also covered in a film when you exited. They were used quite heavily, especially during the sunsets.
There was also an enclosed space that didn’t get much use. It had a few little TVs, couches, and tables.
The Entertainment staff does a pretty good job of keeping things going through the day. We had a couple good volleyball games, and there is room for improvement with other games. They were good at leaving you alone if you chose to. We’ve experienced more interaction and better gameplay at other Secrets, but, still not bad. One item they could improve on is making sure the guests were aware of the nightly entertainment, whether SAC or the Sabor side. This was a constant at other Secrets we’ve visited.
We rarely knew what was going on at night. Since we didn’t receive the Sundial, we would have to pick one up from the front desk later in the day. Most of the larger events take place on the Sabor side. There were times the front desk told us incorrect info about the night’s events. My wife was displeased we missed “The Fiesta” due to incorrect info from the front desk and Sundial.
We attended the “Fire Show” one night and it was entertaining. I related it to 3 people dressed up like characters from Mortal Kombat throwing fire sticks around to the Mexican version of KMFDM, (electronic music).
Secrets does not have wristbands or towel cards. This is one of the reasons we like the brand. However, on a site with two separate resorts, they may want to look into something. Sabor guests cannot use the Secrets facilities, but, with no true way to designate, many spillover. All you need at the bars or restaurants is a room number. Something you can easily grab in passing. We ran into a few couples on the Sabor side that we saw or talked to on the Secrets side earlier. They knew they weren’t supposed to cross over, but readily admitted the liquor was better, there were no kids, and the pools were less crowded. We had a large, young, group take up territory next to us on the Secrets beach and gave the server a hard time because he questioned their rooms. One messed up and gave a Sabor number, and he asked them to leave, they refused and made a bit of a commotion. They eventually retreated back to Sabor to be served. What’s the solution? Not quite sure. Maybe bands for Sabor/Sunscape?
The Facebook page and Eleazar: Eleazar is not on site. I later found out he is a student in Mexico City that works for Secrets to drive up their Facebook presence and hype the resort. While in speaking with him, he seems to be a good hearted man with the best intentions, his information is sometimes not accurate. This is a miscommunication with him and the resort. One that can be resolved! One that will make for great asset to the resort. Of course, once only factual information is given. He is prompt with answers, and replies. The pictures posted are professional shots taken maybe months, if not years previously and do not reflect the daily look and operation of the resort.
Tipping: Tipping is as the website says, “gratuity included”. However, a couple bucks for good service is always appreciated. This resort, more than other Secrets we’ve visited, seemed tipping was expected. From the bellman to servers, it seemed a little extra was expected from us whether they provided a little extra or not.
The General Manager, Marco, and I sat down to go over some issues we experienced toward the end of our trip. I can’t urge future guests strongly enough... If you have an issue and are not getting anywhere with the staff, please ask to speak with him. Don’t just “live with it”, only to slam them in a review or to your friends. If they don’t know it’s broken, they can’t fix it. Marco and his staff want to fix it! He is truly open and welcoming to issues, opinions, and suggestions. He was already aware of most of the issues I discussed and took note of those he didn’t. He spoke about consistency, the lack thereof, and moving forward to achieve it. He apologized for some staff members that did not live up to the Secrets brand experience. We’ve been corresponding since our meet.
I firmly believe with a little more time, and a little more manpower, he, and his staff will have this resort running at or above their 5 star/6 Golden Apple rating.
Did the issues we experienced ruin our trip?
No. We had a great time! The resort and Cozumel are beautiful. We were displeased many times, but, still enjoyed our stay.
Am I too critical?
I don’t think so. I tried to give an accurate and descriptive review of our time at SAC. Balanced.
My wife and I love the Secrets Resorts. If anything, our time with them has “trained” us to expect more than we received this time around.
Should their rating be downgraded?
I received a couple IM’s from my thread, and our travel agent asked if she should get me in touch with Apple as to SAC current rating. I’m not going to swing that ax, but, our stay did not live up to 5star/6 Golden Apple ratings.
If I were running the resort, what would I do to resolve some of the issues?
Staff! We had nothing but outstanding service at Sabor. I know you don’t want to “steal” talent from one that’s working correctly, but, this seems to be the quickest, most logical way to shore up SAC’s number one issue.
Would we return?
Absolutely! Given some time for SAC to regroup and make this another gem in the Secrets brand.
Should you go?
Absolutely! Cozumel is beautiful and filled with friendly people. It is the worlds 2nd largest reef and the experience right off the beach and dock at the SAC rivals some excursions we’ve taken at other resorts.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In a perfect blend of luxury and excitement, Secrets Aura Cozumel is the ultimate adults-only, all-suite resort located on the island of Cozumel. Sitting just 12 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Secrets Aura has it all. Bask in a world of Unlimited-Luxury® while staying in one of 266 contemporary, stylish non-smoking suites complete with private terraces or swim-up access, stunning views, 24-hour room service, daily refreshed minibar and more. For added luxury, guests can upgrade to the Preferred Club and enjoy additional amenities and inclusions. The experience continues with limitless gourmet dining at gourmet restaurants plus 24-hour dining options allow guests to devour late night bites at the Coco Cafe or stay in and order room service all without reservations and top-shelf spirits at three bars and lounges throughout the resort. Light up the night with live nightly entertainment and activities. Or enjoy land and water sports, three sparkling pools, live entertainment with pool and beach wait service throughout the day. Dive into the Caribbean at nearby world-renowned dive sites; explore the natural wonders of the second largest coral reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Learn to dive deep with the help of the fullservice, on-site dive operator, Dive House. Indulge in specialty treatments at the Secrets Spa by Pevonia®, located right next door at Sunscape Sabor Cozumel, the most complete spa on the island, or simply spend time with the ones you love. Secrets Aura Cozumel – Light. Luxury. Love. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Aura Cozumel Grand Hotel Cozumel
- Wyndham Cozumel
- Cozumel Wyndham