Family of four (Dad, Mom, boy 11 and girl 9) stayed at Grand Velas for spring break. I had read all of the reviews, but it was word of mouth from a colleague that led us to booking there.
Net net, I found the resort to be excellent, with generally excellent service. However, would I book there again? Probably not. And I don’t say/type that lightly. For what it costs, I would feel compelled to try another luxury property in the area.
Beautiful property, kept very clean, magnificent lobbies in both the Ambassador section and the Zen section. Check in was very smooth (though we arrived around 12:30 pm and the room wasn’t yet available). Room itself was large, though, for some reason, not as spacious as I had envisioned based on website pics and how big I believed 1,000 sq feet was. However, it was plenty big enough for a family of four for one week. Balcony was nice, overlooking the pool with the sea in the background. I had twice requested a fourth floor suite in the Ambassador section, but we were assigned a third floor suite overlooking, as noted, the pool. We checked in on a Friday and perhaps there were no fourth floor suites available, since most who left checked out the next day.
When you stay at a place for 8 nights, and an all-inclusive where you’re having all, or almost all, of your meals on property, you’re eventually going to have a disappointing service encounter. Over a full week, you have several hundred “service encounters”, and, if your antennae are up, you’re going to have at least a few that leave you scratching your head. It’s just not possible not to. We were no exception. A couple of times in Azul, it took “forever” to get someone to provide the beverage order after we were seated. We ate at Lucca (the Italian restaurant) twice --- first time the service was out of this world, the second time (different service team, obviously) the service was really poor. Not rude, just incompetent. As an example, the first night at Lucca, I wanted an after dinner drink. The server (whose name escapes me) wheeled the after dinner drink cart to the table and explained what was available (they had to actually carry the cart down a few steps to get it to the level of our table). The next time at Lucca, when I asked about after dinner drinks, the server (or his assistant) just came back with some unknown drink in a snifter. We hadn’t yet seen the cart or, more specifically, ordered anything. All we had done was inquire about getting an after dinner drink, assuming the cart would be brought over or they would re-explain what was on the menu. Maybe what we were served was the “drink for those who aren’t quite sure what they want”! Wiliam at Azul (spelled with only one “L”) was fantastic and took very good care of us. He knew I was experiencing a stomach bug and made a point of asking me three days in a row how I was feeling. Beyond even that, he was very attentive and had a very pleasant demeanor. There to take care of you, but not overly obtrusive.
Room service – both the food and the service – was generally excellent. We ate dinner from room service one night as a family (basketball game – Go Cardinals!), and our kids had room service dinner on the two nights that Mom and Dad dined at the adults only restaurants. Otherwise, we had room service breakfast three times, I think, and it was very well done.
Pool side service was generally good. Tayde, who covered us when we sat close to the entrance to Azul restaurant, was especially good. Nice fellow. A couple of others (I won’t name names, though I do remember…. ) weren’t so good. Maybe they were new, who knows. Just seemed a big disorganized, it would take 45 mins for a margarita to arrive, etc.
Like another resort or two I’ve been to, towel service wasn’t good. Not infrequently they would be out of towels. On one hand, I can understand, especially if a single person takes 3 or 4 towels just for themselves. Multiply that by 200 and I can see running short. However, it seemed to happen too frequently, such that they should plan for it better. I was intrigued by the letter that was by the phone on the day of check in, explaining that people should rely on the pool concierge to set their chairs up when, and only when, they were ready to use the pool. No reserving chairs ahead of time. I mentioned this to a lady sitting next to me at the pool on our day of arrival, and she guffawed and said “trust me, you need to reserve your chair yourself, because everyone else is doing it, and no one from the resort is prohibiting it”, or words to that effect. So, almost every morning I would stumble out of the room, magazine and/or books in hand, and reserve a couple of lounge chairs. Maybe we shouldn’t have, but we did. I will say, the one day that we weren’t there early (went swimming with dolphins – expensive but worth it!), we “lucked into” two open and available lounge chairs in a desirable section of the pool (facing the setting sun).
Regarding the restaurants, Azul was fine for breakfast and good for lunch. They truly had some “gourmet” type entrees on the buffet for lunch – lamb this, pork that. We did enjoy Lucca, the second night service mishaps notwithstanding. Sen Lin (Asian) was good, dined there twice. Piaf (adult only) was good, but not great. Didn’t live up to its own lofty expectations. Cocina de Autor just wasn’t our cup of tea. Set menu, and I prefer to make my own selections from a menu. Eight or nine course meal, really small portions (which was ok), just a little too “out there” for my tastes. Blame it on my backwards upbringing. We did enjoy Frida, in retrospect, wish we had eaten there more than once.
One of our biggest disappointments in the entire place was the kids’ club. Despite their best efforts to convince you that its an activity packed, creative imaginarium by showing you the hour by hour list of things going on, it’s really just a pen to house your kids so the parents can get some alone time. Even though the official schedule showed X Box time for only an hour per day (11 to noon, generally, I think) and movie time only at set times, almost every single time I walked by there, there were half a dozen kids lined up on cushions zoning out on the video games, and another group watching Wreck It, Ralph for the umpteenth time. I’m not necessarily blaming the girls working the place, because they seemed nice enough, but we’ve stayed at other places (Beaches in T&C, comes to mind) where the staff actually took the kids outside, into nature, even if only to organize soccer games, hunt for sea shells, etc. I never saw any craft activities going on, just video games and movies. I will say that there was a performer of some sort that was on the schedule every day, I think. The clown that performed on the Monday that were there was pretty good.
Finally, the big topic that a lot of people write about here….tipping. I agree, if you want to stand on principle, you would say “my goodness, for what this place costs, as an ALL-inclusive resort, I’m not going to tip. That’s what all inclusive means!” I understand that. However, the flip side to that is “for what this place costs, is tipping a couple of hundred bucks over the week really that big of a deal?” I concluded that I’d rather bring a pocket full of singles, fives and tens and help make people happy. And, by doing so, I make myself happy. The first service of the day at poolside got the server a $5. And more $5s or singles would follow for follow up service. If the service was good at breakfast, I left a $5. If it was good at lunch, I left a $10. If it was good for dinner, I left a $20. I didn’t try to calculate a percentage of the bill, in fact I never even looked at the bill, didn’t sign anything, etc. For the one night that we had poor dinner service, I left only $10, and for only one breakfast did I leave nothing, because the service was no mediocre. I thought that my approach was fair and evenhanded to all.
Again, all in all, it’s an excellent resort. It really is --- good to great food, good to great service, very nice infrastructure. In a vacuum, it’s excellent. However, given the price, I would likely try someplace else on our next visit to Riviera Maya.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Grand Velas Riviera Maya is one of the newest resorts to distinguish Riviera Maya as a premier vacation destination. The uniquely Mexican world-class hospitality we provide is "Beyond All Inclusive, Beyond All Compare", and we are proud to be the only family-friendly All Inclusive resort in the Mexican Caribbean to have been rated Five Diamonds by the AAA. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort, Riviera Maya Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Grand Velas All Suites And Spa Resort, Riviera Maya
- Grand Velas Hotel Riviera Maya
- Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico - Playa Del Carmen