A bit of background: we stayed at the Playacar Palace May 1-8, 2013. My wife and I have been Palace Premiere members since 2008. This was our ninth stay at a Palace Resort in the last four and a half years - the first time at Playacar Palace.
All of the positive comments you have read about Playacar Palace in other reviews are true. In summary, it has good food, excellent service and an outstanding location.
The negatives appear to stem more from Palace Resorts than from Playacar. Palace Resorts is currently spending millions to rehab and improve the Moon Palace, while letting Playacar crumble in the dust like a poor step sister. While Moon Palace gets a new nightclub and a wave riding pool, Playacar has seats in its main dining room (Café Del Mar) that are 80% brown upholstery and 20% yellow (flea market purchases?). Every single one of the brown chairs had torn or cracked upholstery. Since this is the restaurant where you start your day with breakfast, have lunch and possibly even a Mexican dinner, I can't understand why Palace won't invest some money to upgrade the shabby seating. The rooms also need rehab work although we did notice that as people checked out, a painting crew went to their room and began painting the walls. Unfortunately, it will take more that a coat of paint to hide the previous repairs that were made to the walls, ceilings, etc.
Cost cutting was also quite evident. Toiletry items have been changed to "Lavarino", which my wife tells me is a more inferior brand to the one used previously. More importantly, the size of the bottles has been reduced to slightly larger than what you would get at LaQuinta or Motel 8. We were also disappointed to hear that the "Romantic Dinner" which used to consist of lobster, filet and a bottle of champagne at each table, was now a steak and shrimp (they still call it surf and turf) with a waiter who will fill your glass from a central location. For the first time ever, we declined to sign up for a Romantic Dinner.
As you probably know, a couple of years ago Palace Resorts split into Palace Resorts and Hard Rock Resorts. Palace Resorts went from 12 resorts down to seven (Aventura Spa, Aventura Cove, Cancun Palace, Punta Cana and Valarta Palace all became Hard Rock). We have been to the Hard Rock at Punta Cana and it was the worst trip to a (formerly) Palace Resort we have ever experienced (see my review on Punta Cana). In our opinion a themed resort revolving around rock and roll doesn't lend itself to a beautiful tropical paradise like Mexico. Neon lit guitars, drums and saxophones along with displays which might include Ringo Starr's smelly boots from the Beatles first American tour are more at home in Las Vegas or downtown New York than here. Since our membership pre-dates the split up, we are grandfathered at both resort groups (not so for new members). Even so, we are still affected - no one can use their resort credits at the Playacar golf course as that was turned over to Hard Rock. Instead of walking to the course for free golf, you now need to take a 40 minute cab ride to Moon Palace to use your credits at their course.
As is always the case, upon checking in we were turned over to our "Vacation Planner", Jesus. He asked what we would like to do during our stay. We replied "not much, we've seen and done just about everything, but we have heard that there is a "Fiesta de la Santa Cruz" going on in Cozumel and since we had never been to a Mexican fiesta, we might like to go to that". Jesus said he had never heard of it but he started making phone calls and finally told us it was a very small fiesta and we probably wouldn't like it. Rather than suggesting other activities on Cozumel, he asked us what else we would like to do. We told him we would like to go to Xcaret as we had never been there. His eyes lit up and he told us that normally the admission fee is $129 per person but Palace Resorts was currently running a promotion and we could go for just $17 per person. He then added that it was contingent on us attending a sales meeting with HIM to upgrade our membership. This was the first time the Vacation Planner was also the Sales Rep. We told him we weren't interested because A) we were getting tired of Mexico and wanted to see other parts of the world. B) we were very disappointed in the Palace decision to spin off Hard Rock resorts and C) the only thing we might be interested in is the ability to book a Presidential Suite two or three times in our life and we had inquired about that and had been told we would have to upgrade our membership at a cost of $34,000. (We have since found you can buy weeks from VIP members on the internet for $250 each - buy two and you can book a Presidential Suite; $250 vs $34,000 - we stayed at a Moon Palace Presidential Suite last fall). When we rejected his offer, he suddenly became cold and broke off the meeting. As we walked away, we realized he hadn't suggested or booked us into anything!
We took a trip to Cozumel and visited the Cozumel Palace. The Vacation Planners there were very accommodating. They suggested they might be able to arrange a private cab tour around the island. We would be able to see the San Gervasio ruins and the east coast of the island where most tourists do not go. The Vacation Planner went out to the cab stand and had a driver call his office and then negotiated a half day tour for $120 dollars. A brand new cab with an English speaking driver was sent out. As we entered the cab, the Vacation Planner brought out Cozumel Palace towels in case we decided to do some swimming. We had a marvelous time - saw the ruins (more impressive than I thought they'd be, visited a tequila factory and had lunch on the beach at the Chen Rios restaurant (freshest tastiest snapper and shrimp we have ever had). When we returned to the Cozumel Palace and thanked them, they just said maybe someday we would honor them with a stay at their resort!
The bottom line is simply this: if you are considering a stay at Playacar Palace, by all means go - you will have a very enjoyable time. But if you are approached to buy a Palace membership, run as fast as you can - it is a sinking ship!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Playacar Palace, a trendy beachfront resort located steps away from Playa del Carmen's famous 5th Avenue and the Cozumel Ferry Dock. Our all-inclusive, luxury resort features 201 appointed rooms, 3 restaurants and 4 bars. This resort is considered the perfect spot to relax during the day and enjoy the nightlife and charms of "Playa" at night. Playacar Palace is perfect for families, couples, and group getaways. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Playacar Palace Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Playacar Palace Mexico
- Playacar Palace Resort
- Playacar Palace Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico