Every vacation is what you make it. Our recent visit to Secrets Aura (April 13-20) was very relaxing and we came home rejuvenated. This is an honest review from the perspective of a travel agent who is well travelled.
We passed through immigration quickly but had to wait for the drug sniffing dogs to do their thing. There wasn’t too much of a hold up and we managed to get a shuttle right away…perhaps 45 minutes in total. We ignored the time share people and went straight to the shuttle counter to get our tickets.
We were one of two arrivals at the hotel so check in was quick and smooth. The only issue encountered was the inability to process American Express since the Amex machine was down…it was down during our entire stay. Luckily we have several credit cards but this could be a deal breaker for those that want to accumulate points attached to an Amex card.
We were given a penthouse suite 1430 with a fairly large rooftop pool, second bathroom and lovely ocean view. I have no complaints about the room or décor but the addition of a full length mirror and outdoor sun bed on the upper deck would be a good enhancement. There is a lot of wasted space on the rooftop deck and I couldn’t help feel that they could really make that the wow factor of the living space with some improvements. The bed was the most comfortable I’ve slept in while on holiday. I looked at two other rooms types – Ocean view junior suite preferred section (not swim up) but literally you open your door and you are on the beach. I also looked at one of the Junior Suites at the back of the resort. They have been completely remodeled and are very nicely decorated. I cannot vouch for the comfort of the bed but the room was nice with full length mirror, separate vanity table, small table and chairs on the deck along with a hammock. The maid service was consistent and we had no issues with our mini bar being refilled.
I will break this review down into the 1st half of our stay and the 2nd half.
1st half – Saturday to Wednesday
This is not 5-star cuisine, but very good by all inclusive standards. We ate dinner at the Oceana, Bordeaux, Beach Party, Windows and Oceana the first 5 nights of our stay. Overall, we enjoyed our dinners with the exception of Bordeaux being underwhelming...the service was very mechanical…no refill of wine, no interaction with the wait staff and the food was passable. The food at the beach party was not great but I’ve been to many events like this that tend to have standard fare in mass quantities buffet style. We enjoyed breakfast. The eggs benedict were served on an uncooked hamburger bun which turned quite mushy. I must commend Angel and Francisco for their exceptional service. We took turns at Windows and Oceana for lunch. There were some hits and misses with lunch but overall the food and service were very good. We did not encounter any excessive wait times for any of our meals in the first 5 days of our trip. We found the wait staff to be friendly and hard working. We are not heavy drinkers and had no issues by the pool or beach acquiring a drink when we wanted one. We tried room service only once and it was so bad on that occasion that we were afraid to try it again. I ordered Margarita Pizza and my husband beef pasta. The pizza dough was flat bread (uncooked) with no pizza sauce…a few tomatoes and melted cheese...I’ve never encountered a pizza that I could not stomach until now. The one lunch we had at the Market buffet next door at Sabor was equally bad. I’m not sure how the guests cope there for a week.
Most of the top shelf brands that we enjoy were available. The house wine was drinkable if you’re not a wine Connoisseur…we heard several people commenting on how bad it was…I’ve had much worse at other all inclusive resorts. The blended drinks were ok. We served ourselves at the preferred club when the bar tender was absent…and a few other guests that were waiting for drinks. No one seemed to mind as it appears unattended during the daytime hours.
The beach is lovely to look at. We brought water shoes knowing full well that it would be a little tricky to get in or out of the ocean by walking in. I didn’t think this would be such an issue for me but it was. I love swimming in the ocean and missed being able to walk in without stumbling around. I went off the wharf mostly but the boat traffic hampered my enjoyment a little. Walking the beach is a painful experience without water shoes. I broke my toe on a rock that was unexposed on my second last day walking back from the water sports centre next door. The snorkeling off the beach next door is not too bad on a clear calm day…two out of four attempts we were satisfied with the fish we saw. I would recommend a snorkel trip for better exposure to a real reef unless it is your first time snorkeling otherwise you may be disappointed. This really is a dive destination with dive boats coming and going all day. They have some fantastic sites offshore.
We spent all of our time at the beach area and beach pool as it was fairly quiet. The water in the pool was warmer than the ocean and we enjoyed the lazy river when you could manage to get a float. Some people hogged these even when they weren’t using them. There appeared to be no issue getting chairs at the beach or pool as long as you were up by 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. We are early risers so no problem for us. Some people put towels on the chairs and they would only use them for an hour or two in the afternoon…very inconsiderate. Do not use your float to go down the slides…there was a very serious accident just before we arrived. Some people are not thinking straight about personal safety when they attempt these silly child maneuvers.
The resort is very well kept and the grounds are lovely. The only beef I have is they allow smoking everywhere except the restaurants so there are cigarette butts strewn along the beach…sad since there appears to be more than enough ash trays around for use. I would prefer that they designate a smoking area as most resorts now do.
We were in full relaxation mode and did not partake in many activities. We enjoyed the guitar player and the sax player the two nights near Oceana. We also enjoyed the fire show from our seat while dining at Windows. We went to the Sky Bar once and it wasn’t our thing…we had the same view from our room and tended to watch the sunset from there. We dine fairly early, take a walk around the resort, have a nightcap and are usually ready to retire by 10:00 p.m. so no issue for us that there isn’t any later entertainment. We attended the cooking class which really isn’t a cooking class…they made guacamole served with chips. It was good but we had hoped to learn how to cook a Mexican dish.
We had considered a jeep tour but 8 hours seemed like an excessive duration. We also looked at renting a jeep but didn’t want the worry of finding our way around the island, gas fill up and driving a stick when my husband is used to automatic. We also wanted to stop for drinks at Coconuts on the east side of the island. We asked the tour desk and they indicated that hiring a taxi would be more than double cost of a tour. After talking to some other guests that hired a driver, we decided to approach the concierge on the preferred side to ask about this option. He knew of a relative of a co-worker that worked as a cab driver. We came to the agreement of US110.00 for 4 hours with the option to extend if needed. He took us to a tequila shop in town that offers a commentary, the ruins at San Gervasio, 2 stops on the east coast including Coconuts bar and the light house at Punta Sur on the southern tip. It was very hot and exhausting to walk the ruins in 36 degree weather. The ruins almost ruined me! I saw a very nice pair of earrings there but my Mastercard could not be processed so I had to pass…take lots of cash. I’ve never had so many issues with credit card payment. The cab driver only took cash and we had limited funds with us which we wanted to reserve for tipping the staff at Secrets. Finally, the cab driver charged us an extra 30.00 for the hour after he quoted 15.00 but we weren’t going to haggle so gladly paid him the US140.00 for 5 hours. I feel we were also overcharged for our cab back to the airport. Agree on a price before getting into the cab.
Last 2 days of our trip:
We had read reviews before we left about the slow service and we had thought that the reviewers must have been whiners or very hard to please. We had no indication of these issues in the first 5 days of our trip. Unfortunately, Thursday arrived and the hotel appeared to be at full capacity. It seemed very crowded around the pool, beach and restaurants. Wait service at the beach was almost nonexistent and drinks were forgotten on several occasions. Not a big deal for us…we can get up and get our own. Thursday evening we dined at Windows and the service was terrible (for us). There was a VIP sitting two tables ahead of us receiving personal service from the head waiter. The waiter was at their table no less than 25 times. We sat with empty water glasses and it took a long time for our food to come so our wine glass needed refilling. After 25 minutes, I got up and went to the bar in the lobby to get us wine. We did not see the waiter for another 15 minutes after that with our food and no apology for the delay.
The next day breakfast service was not quite as good as it had been but not terrible. We decided to give Bordeaux a second chance for our last night. The service started out very impersonal…no real greeting…menus given and no one returned to take a drink order or give us water. We ordered our food and wine at the same time. 20 minutes later our first course came out and we still didn’t have wine or water. I asked if we could please have some wine and water and a few minutes later they came to fill our glasses. We ate the first few courses and no one bothered to check on us to see if we needed anything else…water glass empty…wine glass empty. We waited about 25 minutes after our main course before getting up to leave since I think they forgot about us. The thing that compelled us to complain to the hostess on our way out, since we did not want to cause a scene in the restaurant was the wonderful service other people seem to be experiencing. We came dressed elegantly…we are polite Canadians…Gracia…por favor etc. and we were treated as if we were invisible. Other waiters were introducing themselves…can I get you something from the bar or wine?…Is there anything else I can get you for now?…how are you enjoying your meal?...can I interest you in desert?...we had none of that. We didn’t find out about the nightly special until we overheard another waiter telling someone else about it…after we finished our meal. Our waiter saw that we left and were talking to the hostess. He came out to see what was wrong. When he found out I was a Master Agent and would be writing a report to the hotel regarding my stay there…he was very sorry and wondered what he could do. It was our last night and it was a missed opportunity for Bordeaux to redeem my opinion. We went to Oceana for dessert where they welcomed us with open arms and gave us exceptional service. I will say that when we got back to the room there was sparkling wine and desserts waiting for us. It was a nice gesture but we can’t help feeling that it was a nice meal and good service that we deserved in the first place…rather than a dessert and wine that we could not enjoy at 10:00 p.m. prior to getting in bed.
I would say that I saw the staff working very hard and no one sits around idle doing nothing. I think it is a matter of being short staffed when at full capacity. Most of the staff was very friendly and we found that tipping certainly helped but did not seem to be expected. The resort has some improvements to make before I am ready to give my full stamp of approval to send our elite clientele to this location. They seem to be trying so I think it’s only a matter of time before it will be up to Secrets standards.
- 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