Ok, I would like to preface this review with the fact that we had not stayed at the Aventura since prior to the split so we weren't exactly sure what to expect. Prior to the split a few years ago, this was probably our favorite Palace Resort... the one that caused us to purchase our VIP Membership, to be exact. So, much of the comparison and any complaints will likely come from that previous fond memory with the exception of one that existed both prior and now, unfortunately.
Also, much of this is from memory during a time when alcohol flows like water, so while dates and or times may not always be 100% accurate, I will report to the best of my recollection. :) I'll also try to avoid going into too much detail about the resort itself, I'm sure at this point everyone knows there is no real beach, the pools are huge, the resort large, etc etc. Just our overall experiences to the best I remember. I will say the staff that cleaned our room did a fantastic job, we tipped her a small amount daily and had no want for the towel animals etc, She even got Pleepleus involved with a couple. Also, our refridgerators were never empty. Noise was at a minimum the entire time (except at the pools etc where appropriate). Also, they did seem to be doing some exterior painting etc on the ASP side so I suspect it's ongoing- but I thought the resort overall looked very good and not "aged" as others have reported for the most part.
OK then, sit back and prepare for a long read....
We arrived on July 1st at the Aventura Spa, for a 9 night stay in a Presidential Suite along with another couple, good friends of ours. We usually travel the same time every year in July for our anniversary (July 4th) and this year the other couple were also celebrating a birthday on July 1st so it was a celebration all around. I had worked hard to secure the Presidential suite for the four of us for the full 9 nights and was happy to be accommodated and knew this in advance.
Check in went smoothly, no issues and soon we were on our way to our room. We also got the first choice of room locations I had requested, 2nd Floor in Arpa- which I would consider to be one of the best views of the entire resort. On the way to the room, I made note that much of the grounds were as well kept as ever, looking even better than the last time I'd visited actually since it was all back to normal (the year or two after Emily/Wilma hit). The room was exactly as I remembered it to be... and seemed quite vast in comparison to the Presidential Suites we'd gotten used to over the past few trips to the Sun Palace, which had taken the ASP's place as our "go to" Adults Only resort since the split.
Since we had a couple of hours of pool bar time remaining, we quickly changed and headed downstairs and over to the pool. There was enough people there to make it lively enough, but it was obvious the resort was nowhere near capacity. I'd estimate it somewhere around 30-40% full at that time based on what I saw. Good enough for me, no fighting for chairs throughout the week, waiting for seats at meals, etc. After a few Palomas (ok maybe more than a few) and a couple of shots we headed up to cleanup for dinner and prepared ourselves for our first venture over to the Cove side.
We went to my favorite restaurant in the entire resort, La Hacienda for dinner. Service was a little slow, but decent- and this was the first I'd noticed that the hotel, and especially the wait staff- seemed to be a little under staffed...but more on this later. Had some drinks with Pleepleus who accompanied us on our trip this year. The food was as good as I'd remembered, and we enjoyed a Mayan Coffee for dessert before we headed up to the Disco to check it out- only to find it mostly empty, and we hoped it wouldn't stay that way for the entire trip.
We soon left to head back over to the Spa side to check out the Martini bar, which I'd been excited to check out based on previous reviews. Once we discovered the pleasant bartender, Jose'- who's top notch service, manners and personality coupled with the nice breeze and decent music we knew this was likely going to be a nightly staple for us and we were correct. The Martini bar and Jose' in particular is one of my fondest memories of this trip, and sadly also taints my recollection of some of the other servers to an extent I'm sure. Oh, and Pleepleus enjoyed the first visit and Jose's excellent service as well.
Anyway, after a few drinks we headed up to crash after a long day and looked forward to our first full day at the resort on Saturday.
Saturday am, we awoke, dressed and headed down to Mo-Mo-Na-Ha-Na's for breakfast, and I enjoyed the omelet station like I'd been looking forward to. :) Again, I noticed that even with a far from capacity crowd, the staff seemed a little slow, bordering on un-attentive at times. Not horrifically so but enough to know it was not what I'd come to appreciate with Palace. We then went and booked some of our spa treatments for the following day, as well as tried to book one or two of our tours that we'd been interested in- Coba, which is a Thursday only trip, and Tulum.
Interesting to note here that prior to our arrival, I'd contacted the Palace Travel Planner to book some of these in advance and at that time also selected the Jungle tour and booked it after being told transportation was included- only to find out upon arrival that this wasn't the case and then had to cancel. This kind of sucked because it was one of the tours the other couple travelling with us was really looking forward to as they had also tried to book it the year before from the Sun Palace but found it booked up and therefore weren't able to do it then either.
Anyway, the guest services person we spoke with recommended we avoid booking with the online people in the future as they "didn't really know what they were doing even though they should have"... and noted the Jungle tour isn't even listed as an available tour on their literature at the hotel... so this might be worth remembering in the future.
After some back and forth confusion on who books what (seems they are trying to get guests for the most part to book tours and spa all from the main desk at what used to be the Spa services area however apparently some of the stuff is split between two different systems with neither Guest services or the Spa Services people having access to both) as well as some complications arising from our two initial reservations (split between our original Jacuzzi suite and Presidential reservations) we got everything under control and moved on to our main event of the day, lounging and enjoying various "refreshments" at the main pool area. This results in the next several hours being fuzzy, so we'll skip on to dinner. :)
Dinner was spent Saturday evening at Mo-Mo-No-Ha-Na's, which we found pleasant, quiet and the food pretty good as always. Service was better than what we'd experienced at breakfast which was a plus. Afterwards, we visited the Martini Bar and our friend Jose' for a couple of after dinner drinks (Martinis and Mojitos for the ladies and some Ron and/or Scotch for the men) then crashed early again, around 11pm after another long marathon of a day.
Sunday we got up, again enjoyed breakfast at Mo-Mo-No-Ha-Na's, enjoyed some pool time as well as some snorkeling in the lagoons and afterwards our first spa treatments of the trip that afternoon, massages etc. I had the deep tissue massage that I really enjoyed (although I was sore for about three days afterwards HA). Had a couple of drinks after our treatments at the lobby bar, then went upstairs to clean up for dinner. Sunday's dinner was slated for La Huerta, which was good food and service continued to improve... it was a tad warm temperature wise from what I recall, especially based on the lack of a crowd in for dinner- although I'm sure some of that was from the sun exposure we received earlier.
Afterwards we went back over to the Cove to watch the Michael Jackson show, which is always good fun. They had moved it into the disco, and this was the first time on our trip we'd seen it crowded during our trip; much of it from all the kids which was a bit of a let down- but was to be expected I suppose since it was on the family side. Afterwards we made a hasty exit back over to the adult side and again ended up visiting with Jose' at the Martini bar to finish up the day. He apologized for not having the JW Black Scotch for me as he was out, but supplied me with Chevas so I was ok with that. As long as it's not that James King swill they like to push off as drinkable I'm pretty much ok with any replacement. :)
Monday morning (our anniversary) we were scheduled to do some diving with our favorite local dive shop, Dive Aventuras- which was another highlight of our trip. Nils and his crew certainly have their operation down, and as has been our previous experiences with them we had a great couple of dives and a great time all round. Saw a couple of rays, a sea turtle, an eel or two, a large crab, lionfish, etc all sorts of aquatic delights!
We met up with our friends back at the resort, had lunch at the pool grill along with some snorkeling and pool time. It was also at this time we noticed them setting up some sort of check in area in the main patio/seating area of the lobby bar. Having stayed at the Aventura previously, we knew what this meant... and braced ourselves for the worst that we expected to see in the days ahead.
We then headed upstairs to get ready for our scheduled 8:00pm "Romantic Dinner" that we'd booked with our Palace Dollars for our anniversary dinner. I was doubtful this was going to be worth the $350 "cost" but was pleasantly surprised. It was on the patio at Greco, the weather that evening was superb and the food and Moet champagne was quite good. Note that steak dinners have never been what I would consider to be a strong point of ANY "all inclusive" resort, Palace or any others. But I can honestly say the steak included in this dinner was GOOD. Don't go into it expecting a 12oz tenderloin, but at least I was treated to a decent, flavorful and tender cut of meat cooked to my request. That is a win in my book. ;)
Afterwards, after a day’s worth of diving, swimming, and drinking, the wife acknowledged she was exhausted and the ladies returned to the room for some sleep, leaving the two men of the group to visit our good friend Jose' and his excellent service by ourselves.
Tuesday we had our scheduled excursion to Tulum, which we enjoyed although the weather was humid, cloudy and hot. The guide was very informative and we found him really into his subject matter which is always good.
Tulum is a shortened trip now, and no longer included a trip afterwards to Xpu-Ha for lunch and swimming, so upon our drop off back at the hotel, we decided to take a trip over to Xpu-Ha ourselves to check it out since we hadn't seen it at all in a few years... although we had seen it since the majority of the resort had been closed down and it had lost its fantastic beach area.
Once we arrived, we found it almost completely empty save for a few couples (and I mean a FEW- the first hour we were there I think we saw 5 people that weren't workers). We were excited to confirm that they had opened up part of the lagoon area there for kayaking and snorkeling, and we did go on a rather LONG snorkeling tour with a guide that we found entertaining and her personality top notch.
Be forewarned- probably about 75% of this VERY long snorkeling tour (one hour of near constant swimming) was against the current. The guide said we were lucky that day as the current was pretty light. We are all pretty fit and we all thought ourselves lucky to have made it back... so take that advisory for what it's worth. ;) After the snorkeling tour, we had no intent on staying around the near deserted resort and promptly headed back to the ASP... and our first bad experience, the one we knew was coming.
Immediately upon arrival we saw that the convention that had descended upon the resort- for Eli Lilly- was in full swing. The lobby full, the pool full, of loud conventioneers (their group marked with RED bracelets). We headed up to our room to clean up, with the intent of hitting dinner before it got too crowded. On plan for the evening was La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant, which previously had been another of our favorites.
When we arrived, it was crowded but we were excited to get seated immediately and counted ourselves lucky... unfortunately that feeling didn't last past the first 15 minutes. We got seated, placed our drink orders... once the initial drinks were served along with our bottle of wine we placed our food orders, and then our service came to a GRINDING halt.
During the initial period of things going smoothly, there were of course more people that continued to be seated both inside and outside, most of which all had the dreaded RED bracelets. Several tables around us, seated after us- included in that group. What we then noticed was any hustle and bustle coming from the wait staff was directed pretty much ONLY towards those tables. It was literally 45 minutes after placing our order before we received our appetizers... and during that same time the surrounding tables were served almost their full meals.
After our appetizers, it was probably another 30 minutes (and only after I complained to a manager about the sudden lack of service for anyone not a part of the Lilly group and that I wanted our food out in 5 minutes) that we received our entrees. Note, I normally hate to do this- the wait staff does what they are instructed to do typically... and by complaining about it all it serves to do is get the poor guy in trouble for something he was likely told to do by his superiors in the first place... but it couldn't be helped this time- well over an hour had passed from when we were first seated and we were still waiting for our food afterall. However, once it did arrive, we were all so pissed off about the situation that it had ruined the meal... and after poking around in our food for another 10 minutes, we got up and left.
And yes, we ended back at the Martini Bar... and our wonderful friend Jose'- and while it too was now getting more crowded, in fact overflowing with "Lilly" and poor Jose struggling to keep up- He apologized for not being as attentive as normal, and let us know the convention was only scheduled for a couple more days then things would return to normal... ended the evening on a good note regardless.
Wednesday was slated to be our trip to Cozumel, so we got up and waited for the room service order we'd placed the day before... and waited... and waited. Finally about 20 minutes late we called them to let them know we couldn't wait any longer and to please cancel the order. Ate quickly at Mo-Mo-No-Ha-Na's, then took the shuttle from the Aventura to the Playacar Palace, then from there we walked to the pier and took the ferry over.
Landed in Cozumel, walked from the pier around the shopping areas there after a quick trip to La Casa del Habano, then on to the Cozumel Palace and managed to get there right before it started raining (literally right before). Had a couple of drinks at the lobby bar there waiting for it to clear up, then went out for some snorkeling -which was great- and pool lounging there.
Had a good time and made a day of it, ate a late lunch there then headed back over to the pier, caught our return ferry home, walked back to the Playacar Palace where we then took note of the rather amazing beach there- the first time I'd seen it since the restoration- and all agreed we would have to make a visit back before our trip ended. Caught a taxi back to the ASP, then after our customary afternoon Hacienda shots at the lobby bar headed up to the room to clean up for dinner at Mundaca's.
Dinner at Mundaca's was ok, the restaurant was freaking packed with wedding parties and Lilly conventioneers and was hot as hades inside (the patios were booked for wedding receptions as well as the fact that the fire show was that evening on the lagoon area, and the patio here was an excellent viewing area). Also, The steak was a poor comparison to what we'd had a couple of days earlier at the Romantic Dinner. Fatty and generally overcooked. Service was again slow but not nearly as bad as La Trattoria... but you could tell the staff was buried under the weight of all the people that had descended upon the resorts. We made the best of it, went upstairs to their deck area and watched the show from there.
Enjoyed it while it lasted, then headed over to the disco figuring that if it was going to be crowded with ADULTS, then this would likely be one of the few times with the Lilly people around. It was pretty crowded, more like what I remembered, however couldn't help but notice there were teens in there that had obviously been drinking. To me, this is more the fault of the parents letting them go out to the disco by themselves than the resort... as I know I wouldn't want my daughter wandering around in that state around a bunch of strangers, much less conventioneers, many of which in their mid to late 20s... but to each his own I suppose.
After an hour or so there, we decided to head back to the room bypassing the Martini bar on what I believe was the one evening we did so after a long day.. and not wanting to deal with the same crowded loud group we'd had there the night before, coupled with what we knew would be a long hot day at Coba the next day thought it best to retire and get some sleep.
Thursday we got up, and had decided the night before to go ahead and give room service another go for breakfast, so waited... and waited... and finally it showed up, albeit without any condiments (jellys, syrup for the waffles, ketchup, etc etc) but we got it down anyway then headed out to meet the tour bus. Coba is a bit longer journey, about an hour and a half perhaps- extended further on the way down by a "shopping" stopover that is a useless money grab- but the tour itself was great. Again, LOTS of walking in the heat- and this was a cloudy day but still humid. But I found it very interesting.
Those accustomed to the relatively restored grounds at Chichen Itza may be a bit surprised by the current excavation state of Coba- it's almost like you walked into the jungle and find the various ruins by accident if the pathways weren't there- and in fact you will see ruins there still completely covered with vegetation, still uncovered in spots literally just steps away from those same pathways you travel upon. Very interesting, I'd say it's more interesting and very "Indiana Jones" in a way which made it entertaining. That being said, I don't think I would go back for at least several years, when hopefully they've made some additional progress as things are very spread out and isolated at the moment. But I'm glad we saw it in its current state and I look forward to that future return visit as well once things progress. We all agreed it was a worthwhile tour.
Once we returned to the Aventura Cove (all tours leave from there because of the kids), we enjoyed lunch - Pizza at Ventanas. Because the tour at Coba puts you back in kind of an "off" time, we managed to get there when it wasn't as crowded, I believe around 3:30. Service was good, food was good. Enjoyed it.
Headed back over the ASP for some pool time while it remained. Decided after a few hours to just eat at the grill for dinner since we were there. Were informed they had NO hot dog buns. NO fries. NO chips. AT THE POOL GRILL? LOL. All had run out from the crowds there earlier (LILLY). We complained enough until the waitress informed someone and managed to at least scrounge up some chips and fries for our burgers. By this time, we all had enough of the Lilly convention, and the seemingly VERY poor planning that had gone into staffing, lack of food preparation and now finally even the supply of food itself (we had also noticed that even the breakfast juices, normally VERY strong had been "watered down" since Lilly's arrival) something we had never experienced before. Made the best of our "meal" then went upstairs to clean up for the evening. Simply went out to enjoy the Martini bar again, then called it a night. We did notice as Jose had promised, it was less crowded. Lilly it seemed had a big shindig planned on their own that evening, so that at least kept them out of the way and corralled. Things were looking up.
Friday morning, we got up and decided it wasn't going to be a rush day, but we wanted to venture back over to the Playacar palace to spend a day at the beach there, as well as venture into town that evening for our last true "party night" as we wanted to be able to relax at our resort on our last full day there on Saturday. So, we had a late breakfast, had our mandatory before lunch Hacienda shots and quietly celebrated what looked to be the Lilly groups departure en masse, then headed via taxi to the Playacar Palace. Once we arrived, we checked with the front desk there and reserved a convenience suite for us all to shower and cleanup after our day at the beach- which I highly recommend making reservations for the room, it's free and VERY handy- then went out and enjoyed it greatly. Fantastic beach, beautiful water. Almost enough to make me consider staying there, so it will be a topic of discussion this next year. After a few hours of that, and Pleepleus deciding he'd caught enough rays for the day- we headed up to the pool to partake in the liquid festivities there... and there were many tequila shots... too many...oh my... but managed to grab a quick snack, survive and went inside to clean up, before heading over to 5th Ave, as I wanted to find the La Casa del Habano shop there and check it out the area in depth and have a good look around.
Now, I have been to Playa del Carmen a couple of times before, obviously. But I NEVER knew that the shopping and restaurant area there was as vast as it was. 5th avenue is freaking HUGE. Prior to this trip, I thought the only real shopping/entertainment area there was right around where the busses drop you off (that shopping square and where Senior Frogs and the other couple of clubs are there) but boy was I wrong. I couldn't believe it once we started walking. My wife and I both compared 5th avenue as very similar to New Orleans' Bourbon street in length as well as the restaurants and shops lining both sides of it (not quite in the chaos Dept however). So, this is another discovery we'd made, and now made the Playacar Palace a little more enticing, as next years destination of choice.
After a couple hours walking (and more drinking) we made it back over to the Playacar Palace, picked up the bags we'd left with the front desk after cleaning up, then took the taxi back to the ASP. Still decided on heading out to see Jose', although it was a short visit as we were all pretty tired at this point but had to visit none the less- then retired to the room soon after.
Unfortunately, while the day started off good on Saturday, the weather doomed our last full day. After the first couple of hours, while we were at breakfast, the clouds soon took over- then while we attempted to make the best of that, the first hard rain hit about 11am, and lasted a good 30 or 40 minutes or so. Sideways rain, not the typical shower. This drove us inside for an hour or two. Luckily we had the last massages and treatments already scheduled for that afternoon, so all wasn't lost. After our Spa visit, we went back to the bar for an hour or two, then went up for what would be our last dinner this trip, deciding to return to where we started, at La Hacienda. Service was a little slow, (again, back to where we started) but the overall traffic had died down, and we enjoyed our dinner.
Of course, we were all bummed this would be our last night there so things were winding down. Even Pleepleus seemed a bit sad. The food was good, the Mayan Coffee excellent as always as a way to top it off. Dinner ran a bit later than we expected, as we'd hoped to hit the disco to check out the "urban breakdance" show. As it was, we only caught the last few minutes of it. From what little we saw it looked great, so if we get a chance again will have to make it more promptly.
Afterwards, we headed over to the Martini bar for our last night's festivities. After a couple of hours, we let Jose' know we had a great time, and enjoyed his service greatly and would look forward to seeing him again next year should we decide to return (and if we can determine there are no conventions scheduled during our stay in advance, which is the only way my wife has said she will return- she was that irritated). Made sure we gave him a some extra for his troubles when we tipped out, then went upstairs.
Sunday came too soon. Time to pack up and leave. Of course, the weather was beautiful on the day we are scheduled to depart. Managed to get a couple hours by the pool after packing up, then showered and headed out. Even with a couple of extra days tacked on, the stay seemed too short. None of us were ready to go (including Pleepleus) but it was a must. Checked out, headed off to the airport and towards home.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip and would return in a heartbeat. My wife and I disagree on that point- but since we'd experienced the cluster**** that conventions can bring to the resort before I guess it didn't bother me as much as it did her. Of course, I see her point as you don't have that at the smaller Palace resorts, like the Sun Palace for example- because they aren't equipped for conventions there so it's not a worry. Granted, it was amplified to a degree this trip because it was painfully obvious the resort had cut back on staff, even before the Lilly debacle. Heck, we had waitresses telling us Lilly screwed everything up when they arrived. LOL!
So, all in all, I highly recommend the Aventura Spa Palace to those interested in going, and even the Aventura Cove for families interested. My initial worries about the "dividing" of the resorts, i.e. if it would actually be a firm split, etc. proved to be unfounded. The adult side is truly adult, and the family is TRULY family. As long as you know that, and can accept what that means- like all shows are on the Cove side... all tours leave from the Cove side due to the fact there are children participating in those events- you'll enjoy the stay.
My only negatives would be when they have conventions, prepare for those people to take priority, even over members- which is a big letdown when it hits in the middle of your vacation (but look... in all honesty- when a convention group takes your hotel from probably 30% full to probably over double that almost instantly- you're going to bend over backwards to make them happy or risk losing your job I'd imagine. I understand that, but it still BLOWS.). Outside of that, As others have mentioned it would be nice for them to put together adults only events over on the Spa side. Even if it was just live music/bands etc. in the patio area like they used to have. Just something for the grownups to do, for those that choose to vacation without their kids - or worse...other peoples :)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A blend of relaxation and adventure awaits you at this adults only retreat. Set in the Riviera Maya overlooking the aquamarine Caribbean Sea, enjoy 1,266 luxurious accommodations with double Jacuzzi, balcony (most with hammock), and 24 hr. room service. Among the facilities to highlight is the state-of-the-art spa offering a perfect day of pampering. Guests can also enjoy seven restaurants, several bars, a disco, outdoor/indoor pools, and unlimited tours as part of the all-inclusive package. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Aventura Hotel Palace
- Aventura Hotel Puerto Aventuras
- Mayan Riviera Palace
- Adventure Spa Palace
- Hotel Mayan Palace
- Adventura Spa Palace
- Aventura Palace Spa
- Aventura Spa Palace Riviera Maya
- Aventura Spa Palace Resort
- Aventura Spa Palace Mexico