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Labor Day Weekend Trip to Mexico

Old Sep 5th, 2014, 07:19 AM
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Labor Day Weekend Trip to Mexico

After much debate over the possible inclement weather, DH and I decided we would rather be in Mexico with rain than at home over the long weekend. So, off we went to Grand Riviera Princess, which is a few miles north of Playa Del Carmen, August 29-September 1. This trip report will also cover our excursion to the ruins at Tulum and our adventure at Xel Ha park.

Our day began at at 3:35 am on Friday. DH and I woke, dressed and left for the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport at 4:30 am to catch a 6:00 am flight to Atlanta. From Atlanta, we flew nonstop to Cancun, arriving at 11:15 am. DH and I spent our honeymoon in Cancun in 2005, and we had long, slow moving lines through customs and immigration. However, on this trip, the lines moved extremely quickly. We were out of the airport in less than 15 minutes. We found our driver, and only had to wait 5 minutes before we departed for the hotel. We were the only passengers in our van. We arrived at the GRP around 12:40. I knew we might not be able to get into our room, but we were able to check-in and get our wrist band, which allowed us to eat at one of the buffet restaurants. The check-in person told us to return at 3:00, but we came back at 2:00 and were able to get into our room.

DH and I had been to the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton in Jamaica a few years ago, and stayed at a villa with an outdoor shower. DH LOVED the ourdoor shower, so I searched high and low to find an All Incusive in the Riviera Maya area with an outdoor shower. We were able to get that with the Laguna Villa (LV) level at the GRP. Our room was identical in layout and amenties to the GP in Jamaica.

The GRP is a large resort, and alhtough there is a trolley, we rarely saw it and only used it once. After we had lunch the first day, we decided to kill time before our room was ready by catching the trolley. It only goes in certain areas. When our room was ready, the bell man carried our two small pices of luggage and walked us to our room.

Our room has a slightly musty smell, but I expected that, having read well over 100 reviews of the GRP on TripAdvisor. Our view was of a shallow, man made lagoon - not very scenic but not ugly.

A few of the perks of having the LV -- we had a private concierge who was dedicated to the guests of the 24 villas. In order to reach her, we had to walk a very short distance to the LV pool, which is accessible only to LV guests. When we met with her, she had already booked dinners for two nights at the two most popular restaurants on the property - the steakhouse and the Italian place. We also ate at the Japanese restaurant, having a hibachi type meal with 12 other diners. For the most part, the food was very good, but not what I would call fine dining. The service at the ala cart restaurants was very good. We had breakfast and lunch at the buffet restaurant. I didn't care for the selections very much, but I won't say that the food was terrible.

Our concierge booked a 55 minute swedish massage for me in the Spa. LV guests received a 50% discount if we booked a spa treatment within the first 24 hours. I think the massage was aout $65.00 U.S, with the discount applied. It was a very professional and relaxing experience.

The Beach -- my greatest disappointment. I guess I am spolied because I live in Northwest Florida withn 10 miles of our fine, white powder beaches and emerald green, clear water. This sand was not as white nor as fine, and the water, while green, was very cloudy. You may wonder why, if we live so near a beautiful beach, we would come to Mexico. Well, we wanted to get away and stay at an all-inclusive. Because of DH's job, he cannot take more than a long weekend, so we only had three nights. If we had had an entire week, we would have not chosen an All iIclusive. But, since we had only a long weekend, we didn't want to spend our time looking for restaurants. We just wanted to relax and chill out.

It was very hot during our visit, but we are used to hot, humid summers in Northwest Florida. There was a cool breeze on the beach, and we were able to find shaded lounges in the roped off section for LV guests. We also had a waitress take our bar orders.We had no trouble finding lounge chairs in the shade at 11:00 am.

To Be Continued
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Old Sep 5th, 2014, 08:32 PM
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Next time go to Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Absolutely nothing is overlooked there. Every restaurant is 4 star and 3 of them are 5 star, esp Cocina de Artur, a stellar experience rivaling NYC's finest. Much better beach than what you describe. Excellent pool and great swim up bar. All the top shelf liquor (375 ml bottles) are included in your stay. Spa is off the charts- all services include a 12 part water circuit which is beyond phenomenal.

I don't think anyone could find any fault at all with Grand Velas, not even a small fault.

Oh, but wait, they don't have outdoor showers with the rooms. Damn.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 05:52 AM
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Those. 375 bottles of top shelf liquor are the ones in your minibar. Like Milagro tequila...
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 07:54 AM
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gracie, Thanks for posting. I love trip reports for Mexico. I think it's great you made the trip even for a short stay and even with the weather as it can be this time of year there (hot and humid for sure with or without rain). Looking forward to hearing more!

(I wonder if the ocean was cloudy because of the time of year?)
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 10:44 AM
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My husband was at our place in Playa this past week and the water was clear and that famous turquoise blue. He said could see his feet and toes while out up to his waist in the water. And the sand is pure white there.

I thought maybe the problem with the GRP resort being reviewed here could be that there is a rock shelf just offshore, as that situation ca affect the clarity of the water. But other reviews of this same resort in the past two weeks online say the beach water was clear and the sand was fine and white.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 06:21 AM
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Part Two
We went back to our room after dinner the first night to freshen up, and intended to head to the plaza or theatre to check out the night life. Unfortunately, we both fell asleep, as we had been up since 3:35 am.

Regarding the outdoor shower -- I won't book another resort just based on the availability of the outdoor shower. I was so proud of the fact that I had found a resort with this feature for DH. Turns out he really didn't care anymore and that he would have been fine with a regular shower. I wish I had known that, as there would have been many more options available. As it was, I only found three or four resorts in The Riviera Maya with the outdoor shower feature -- El Dorado, Grand Palladium, and one other I can recall off the top of my head.

We booked an excursion for the ruins at Tulum and Xel Ha through the Vacation Express rep who sits in the lobby area of the resort. We were picked up at 7:30 am by a bus, and returned at 7:00 pm. It made for a very long day. The skies were dark and threatening as we made our way to Tulum, and we had a little rain. When we arrived at Tulum, the vendors tried to sell us ponchos, but I had a mini umbrellas and felt that was enough, and it was. It was very, very windy at Tulum, and we had a few sprinkles, but the bottom never fell out, so to speak. Actually, the wind and clouds made it quite comfortable. Our guide took us through the ruins for about 40 minutes, then we were on our own for another 40 minutes. The ruins were amazing and our guide very informative. The Gulf was really churned up below the ruins that day. If I can figure out how to post photographs here, I will.

Next, the bus took us to Xel Ha. I brought an underwater camera with us, but it would not keep a charge, so I just left it in one of the lockers you can rent at Xel Ha. One of the first exhibits we passed as we walked through the park was the swim with Dolphins. This was an added cost, and I never saw anyone participating.

DH and I had lunch at one of the restaurants and it was surprisingly good.The buffet was even better, IMHO, than the buffet at the GRP.

DH and I walked more, then took a shuttle bus up to the head of the river to get floats and do the Lazy River ride. We got individual floats. DH could not get situated in his float, and looked miserable. He said his butt was too large to fit into the hole. These are not the inner tubes of yesterday, but what looks like half of a lounge chair. You can't really recline-- you are sort of positioned where you sit up. And, it you can't get your butt in the hole, you are left sitting where you are lurching forward the entire time. I wanted to help him, but he resisted any offers of help and that made me feel bad. Some of those snorkeling were inconsiderate. They would swim right into us or swim across our path. We didn't have a lot of control in a float, but the swimmers did. The rude ones just seemed oblivious. As we got in the open water, the wind became very strong, blowing against us. We were no longer floating downstream, and had to fight to paddle downstream with our hands and feet. At one point on the river, there were a few activities for the adventures, such as a rope bridge, a short zip line right over the river, and a place where you could jump from a high ledge. I wanted to do some of the things, but DH looked miserable, so we got out of the water at a landing about midway down. Although there were cenotes in this park, we never made it to any. We walked some more, then found some comfortable chairs were we sat and people watched and napped for about 40 minutes.

to be continued
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Old Sep 8th, 2014, 09:06 AM
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Part Three -- the final chapter.

I left off with our nap at Xel Ha. We walked a bit more, watched the dolphins again, the stingray, and ate another meal. We still had two hours to kill before the bus departed. So, we showered and changed into our dry clothes and walked some more. We walked back to the bus area and waited another hour for departure. Naturally, there were stragglers, so we were 30 minutes late leaving the park. We finally arrived back at our hotel about 7:00. We quickly changed and made it to the Italian restaurant. We weren't even hungry, but we had made reservations, and did want to try to food. I had grilled tuna and DH had a very meaty, cheesey lasagna. Both were very good. After dinner, we went back to the room and DH and I changed into more comfortable clothes, as it was very warm. (DH had to wear long pants for dinner in the ala carte restaurants.)

I tried to print our boarding passes in the Platinum lounge, but the concierge in there told me the printer was not working, and directed me to the concierge in the main lobby. He, too tried to help me, but couldn't get the printer at his deck to work. He then took me into a private office, and after several minutes, the passes were printed. Throughout, the employee was very apologetic and very courteous.

Next, we sat in the plaza and listened to a singer until a short rain caused her to pack it in. We wondered around the lobby and had a drink at the lobby bar until it was time for the theatre.

I didn't have any idea what the entertainment would be. I think I read on another trip report on TA that the production was called "Horrow Show." It began with a large cast singing some Adamms Family Song. I realized the music was prerecorded, and the singers were lip synching. There was even a canned laugh track. The other numbers were songs/dances from other horrow movies/videos, such as Thriller, Ghostbusters, Rocky Horror and Phantom of the Opera. At first I thought it was pretty tacky, and some folks did get up and leave, but I settled in and enjoyed the show. The dancers were very good.

We had breakfast in the buffet the next morning, and that was the only time we had poor service. The wait staff passed our table several times without removing our used plates, or offering more coffee.

Our pick up time for the airport through Vacation Express was 10:50 am. We got to the lobby about 10:15, and it was very warm and humid. I began having a hot flash, and walked into the air conditioned platinum lounge. About 10:25, DH hurried in and said the driver was ready for us. I guess the driver wanted to leave early as there was one other couple sharing the van. I double checked our documents and our departure time was 10:50. So, we got to the airport about 11:30 and our flight didn't depart until 2:00 pm.

Not sure if I had mentioned this, but customs in Mexico and Atlanta were both very smooth adn efficient, unlike previous trips.

We had a very good trip, but I don't think we will return to Mexico. Although I loved the area, DH prefers to go elsewhere.
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