To start with, this is, indeed, one grand resort. It's beautifully run. Mostly. There are a few aspects which keep it from being an absolutely 5-star resort, yet there are many aspects of this resort which are 5-stars, top notch. While this resort isn't going to be for everyone, this resort is close to being one deserving of 5 stars. If you want a high end resort you can get lost in and be isolated from the real world, enjoy the hugeness of it, and if you don't care about the timeshare presentation, you'll likely come away from this having a 5-star experience. For us, we laughed off a bit of the timeshare experience, knowing that there was a lot of misinformation during the presentation (How about being told that our Hawaii timeshare isn't worth all that much because not many go to Hawaii anymore?), knowing it was going to take longer than they said, and in return, we got a 1500 pesos credit to the room and 10% off the bill for the two weeks we were there, not to mention find out more about the resort and its vacation program. The tours offered via the sales presentation? Not the same ones offered by the regular Mexican travel agency at the resort. The Tulum trip, for example, is half spent at a jewelry store specializing in silver. Some cool stuff there, but do you really want to spend 1 1/2 hours inside a jewelry store? Tulum is worth going to, but you feel like you want to spend more time there than the time allotted, and the guide provided was actually hard to understand due to his tortured attempt at English (He tried to pronounce every vowel, such "wahhteeer" and "waheelahidd" instead of 'water' and 'waylaid'. Props for trying, but not good if you don't understand his story of the history of Tulum.").
Another tour offered through the sales department was a 2-for-1 to Isla Mujeres, a combined boat trip to the island plus snorkeling. While not a great trip overall (Isla Mujeres has a fairly identical feel to Playa del Carmen and the snorkeling was weak - the reef near there quite dead), it wasn't the worst way to spend a day. But while the $85 Isla Mujeres tour trip through the resort's travel agency included transportation from the resort to Cancun where the boat picks you up, the tour (a slightly different tour selling for $90 per person) via the sales presentation did not include transportation. We were on the hook for $20 roundtrip to Cancun, meaning that tour cost us a total of $130. Compare that to the $170 we would have spent via the resort's regular travel agency. Not so 2-for-1. On top of that, someone on our boat who had booked the trip in Cancun paid $47 for it.
And you know what, even though many come away upset and feeling they had been misled about the presentation, many also come away buying, because they do have a great product here. Is that the price that Vidanta pays, an unhappy group being outweighed by purchasers?
The upsides to the resort: Restaurants are largely fantastic. We are foodies and gourmands, and we were even sometimes surprised with dishes that left are jaws dropped to the floor as to how good they were. Stick to the Caribbean and Mexican oriented authentic and fusion dishes and you'll likely be wowed. Hamburgers and BBQ ribs? Well, can't you get that at home?
The grounds are kept beautifully, whether it be the flora or the pools. Service people are eager to please, though their lack of understanding English well keeps them from being able to understand your needs well. For example, I had asked that a concrete tile that was dislodged next to the plunge pool on our balcony be put back in place. Calling housekeeping or the front desk about the dislodged concrete tile, they kept responding by asking me if I was having a problem with the plunge pool. Small problems like that were sometimes awkwardly dealt with due to the language problem. I wish my Spanish better (I learned a bit while I was at the resort, but it's still pretty non-existent).
The rooms, themselves, are really nice, well-appointed and decorated with contemporary Mexican and Caribbean themed art. They are very comfortable, large and feel spacious (The 1 BRs are about 1200 sq.feet, including the balcony.). The units at the Grand Mayan are all done up in marble (unlike at the Mayan Palace rooms, which have formica counters), including the floors, the counters, and the stand-up shower (there is also a large, squarish romantic tub in the bedroom). In contrast, the even more upscale residential areas, the Grand Bliss and Grand Luxxe, are more done up in contemporary European style. The units are slightly better furnished as well, with more complete kitchens such as a large broiler/toaster unit. But my goodness, if the feel of the location of the buildings is as isolating as they are, what about the completely European decor of the higher level residential resort units making you feel less like you're in Mexico. I prefer the decor of the Grand Mayan.
There is a resort store, Jade, which has sundries, both upscale clothing as well as t-shirts and swimsuits, a deli counter and a grocery. Honestly, while the prices are a little bit higher than the Walmart or Mega in Playa del Carmen, you can mostly get what you need there (butter, cereal, yoghurt and milk, juice, liquor, sausage for grilling, fruits and vegetables, eggs). We even bought some fois gras pate and a Late Harvest riesling to go with it there. Do you really want to spend the price of transportation and the time back and forth to Playa del Carmen to save on a few bucks when your time is at a premium here? I mean, time wasted is a reason some don't bother doing to the sales presentation, even though it can save them hundreds of dollars. Do yourself a favor, check out what they have a the grocery on premises before going to the Mega to see if they have enough of what you need. For example, a dozen eggs at the resort are about $3.25. At the Mega, they're about $2.40. The roundtrip transport through the resort is $5 per person each way. You do the math. Two people go to Playa and you're already $20 in the hole. Are you going to save any money?
If you're going to Playa del Carmen, make it a separate trip. The shopping isn't worth much - lower end tourist crap, for the most part. The food is no better and not much cheaper than the same food at the resort (and the guacamole we had at one bar in Playa was inferior). Sure, you could go to the store at the end of your trip to Playa, but you'll spend 45 minutes to an hour in there. Wouldn't you rather be outside and enjoy the beautiful weather?
The downsides? The design of the resort is that the main areas have a semi-enclosed, isolated feeling, particularly at the Grand Mayan pools area. Even at the much larger Mayan Palace pools area, you barely see the beach, if at all. While the pools and decor are large, lovely and well kept, they could be anywhere. In fact, seeing the model of a new Vidanta resort location just south of Arizona, it's a very similar setup -- in a desert. You might hardly know that there was a beach in the Riviera Maya location.
And it's at the beach where you appreciate that you are at a resort fronting the Caribbean waters. Yes, the beach area at the edge of the resort is filled with coral-lime formations, making it difficult to swim in unless you have reef shoes to get past the formations. A10 minute walk north or south, though, gets you to open and easy beach access. And if you bring snorkel equipment, perhaps 30 yards or so out will get you to some coral reef that will treat you to views of some very exotic fish. Yes, there are lounge chairs set up near and facing the beach at the resort, but the area seems more like an afterthought. There is one restaurant and bar overlooking the beach, Havana Moon, but it's not open for lunch. All the other restaurants are inside near the pool areas of the resort (except for the upscale Tramonto -- Italian and Steakhouse, Gong -- upscale Asian fusion, and The Wine Bar -- upscale wine and cocktails with live jazz, only open in the evening and which are located upstairs from the main store, Jade).
Another potential downside is that the resort can be a bit on the noisy side. Unlike in Hawaii, where rest, relaxation, and peace are some of the main goals, here it is to entertain and largely be upbeat. If you are in the Mayan Palace pools are, you'll hear upbeat dance music much of the day, with land or water based exercise classes going on. Not all day, mind you, but the feel is quite different than in Kauai, where our home base timeshare is located. The Grand Mayan pool area is quieter, but you'll still be "treated" to music coming out of the loudspeakers, largely Caribbeanized versions of pop hits (How about something as obscure as Dire Straits' "Once Upon A Time In The West" set to a lilting Caribbean beat with Mexican guitars? I kid you not."). Some areas also play smooth jazz type music.
Also, in opinion, stay away from the Mexican Fiesta night at the Del Lago. While the food buffet is fine (I'm not the biggest on buffets anyway, preferring made to order), it's the entertainment that is the big letdown, and the evening is quite expensive. The entertainment is, at best, mid-level Las Vegas or cruise ship. Starting with the master of ceremonies inviting children up to blast a pinata, then moving on to a Mariachi band (at least it was live music), but they were sometimes out of tune, and with some wretched harmony singing. Both my wife's and my jaw dropped at how poor they sometimes were (Perhaps their monitor setup to hear themselves isn't so good). Included in their set was the song New York, New York (pander much?). Their set finished and on came some other singers and dancers, all to canned backup music the rest of the way, including one singer doing Cielto Lindo to a disco beat. Oy vay, Frida is probably rolling over in her grave.
Contrast this with an absolutely stunning evening show at the theme park, XCaret. Even though the park is contrived, it's fun and worth a day there (though the food is mediocre). It's the evening show that is astonishingly good and worth the price of admission. I'd even say it's a must. It goes through the history of Mexico. Though entirely done in Spanish, it's easy enough to understand if you know some of Mexico's history such as the conquistadors and Zapata. The dozens and dozens of live musicians (NO canned backup music here), the terrific singers, the incredible costumes and the amazing choreography is all authentic, no pandering here. One set piece, for example, is an actual field hockey-like game that was played at night with a ball of fire. You have to see this to get the impact. Everything is done at such a high level that you want to stand and cheer at so many moments. My wife and I have high standards for entertainment (I'm a professional actor and musician) and this show was astounding. The musicianship, artistic level , execution and professionalism is as good as you'll get. Don't bother with the $80/head I recall the Fiesta show at the resort will run you. Put the money toward a day at XCaret.
Overall, however, this is a top notch resort. There are niggling things at the resort which could be improved such as one event, a night of skygazing every Thursday night was practically a waste of time. The skyviewing from the beach, in general, is pretty great, also taking account the strong trade winds that blow off of the water. We took that in almost every night. When we arrived for the Thursday night event, there were about 10 beanbag chairs set up along with two telescopes. The event started off with sci-fi trivia. Okay, but I really wanted to find out more about the skies. A half-hour later, my wife had won and received a certificate for a free dinner at Havana Moon for her efforts. Great, but I wanted to get into the meat of the evening. Both telescopes were malfunctioning, and the person leading the evening knew nothing about the stars, planets or constellations. Even my wife and I could pick out the Orion constellation and the planet Jupiter. That's a pretty pathetic event for what a resort that wants to be, I think, a 5 star resort.
I guess they'll settle for 4 stars, but let me tell you that there are some 5-star aspects to this place. I don't think you're going to come away disappointed unless you have expectations that your room will overlook the ocean and you'll feel the ocean breeze when you open up the doors onto your balcony. For couples, the resort's setup allows you to get away enough from children as you need or want to (there is even an enclosed play area where couples with children can dump their young kids.) Me? I prefer a resort a bit less isolated from the real world local feeling, but it was still a grand place to spend a couple of weeks.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- I am offering suites at The Vidanta Grand Mayan Riviera Maya resort, located on the Yucatan Peninsula. This resort has everything you could ever need to experience true happiness: JOYA, a resident Cirque du Soleil show; five luxury resort hotels; world-class restaurants; spectacular pools; shopping boutiques; a Jack Nicklaus golf course; indulgent spas and the most attentive staff in Mexico. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Grand Mayan Riviera Maya Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Grand Mayan Riviera Maya
- Wyndham Playa Del Carmen
- Playa Del Carmen Wyndham
- Grand Mayan Cancun
- Grand Mayan Playa Del Carmen
- The Grand Mayan Riviera Maya Playa Paraiso, Mexico