Peter and I recently returned from a six-night holiday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Playa del Carmen is located about an hour’s drive south of Cancun. This was our first all-inclusive holiday in approximately six years and we both wondered if, after traveling all over Europe and further afield, it would live up to our expectations and memories from years ago.
The short answer to that question is yes, we still enjoy all-inclusive resort getaways. The long answer to that question is that the all-inclusive resort we (I) chose, well, let’s just say there were issues.
We sent Dexter off to stay with a family we found on Rover.com. A couple of weeks prior to our trip, Dex and I had a meet-and-greet with the Rover family and he passed a battery of tests put forth by the family, including but not limited to:
- Not pissing or shitting in their family room
- Not attacking or attempting to eat their blind wiener dog
- Not pestering their young children while they dined on frozen pizza
- Not trampling their 10-month old baby as he crawled on the floor
We were sent daily photos and short updates of how Dexter was getting on with his new extended Swedish Rover family of five and all was good until day three when I received a message stating the following, “Dexter is suddenly no longer fond of the baby. He growls at him when he walks by.”
When I picked Dexter up, I asked for more details on Baby Growl 2016 and they explained that Dexter growled one time and now that they understand Dexter and how much he loves his sleep, they believe he was just grumpy from the baby waking him up from a deep sleep. (Dexter mimics his mum in this respect!)
The Rover family commented repeatedly about how Dexter is “such a good sleeper” and how he “really loves his sleep”. I asked if they would be willing to watch Dexter again and they said yes and I was shocked and then ran out the front door before they could change their minds.
I think this super senior canine missed his mum!
Now for the actual trip…
The travel time from Seattle to Playa del Carmen was a staggering 12 hours which made for a very long day. The resort, Paradisus Playa del Carmen, is split in half:
- Adults only = “La Perla”
- Families = “La Esmeralda”
Upon arrival, we were told that the adults only side was overbooked and that they did not have a room for us. The receptionist offered a room on the family side for our entire six-night stay plus a voucher for a free six-night stay on a return trip. We declined and stood there like creepy guests.
A few minutes later, the receptionist offered a room on the family side for two nights and then an upgraded room on the adults only side for four nights. We declined and stated that we needed a few minutes to research and discuss other resort options.
Also, no welcome drink at this point… or at any point.
We moved away from reception and started our research. Twenty minutes later, the receptionist approached us and explained that she spoke with her manager and that they had a room for us on the adults only side. Due to the long travel day, we accepted the offer and on we went to our pool view room.
Over the course of the following few days, we met several couples at the suffocating pool (more on that later) and found that they also fell victim to the overbooking fiasco and those couples knew of other couples and our best estimate is that there were 20 couples affected by overbooking.
Basically everyone who arrived from noon on Saturday through Sunday were told the adults only side of the resort was overbooked. Various alternatives and options were offered to affected guests. The root cause of the overbooking was because the resort accepted a late wedding booking and bumped everyone to accommodate the wedding party. This is shady. I do not like shady.
The room was extremely musty and the air conditioning could not keep up with the humidity and heat. It is the most musty room I have ever stayed in during my travels. We should have returned to reception and opted in for the two-night/four-night offer in hopes of getting less musty rooms.
The bathroom had almost no counter space and I wish resorts would stop installing giant bathtubs in the rooms! Who uses them? No one! The only purpose they serve is to hang wet swimwear over them to dry.
The restaurant food and service was better than average with the exception of one restaurant. Mole was great. The Market was awful. The breakfast buffet had a very large selection and hit the mark. The dinner buffet had about 25% of selection I’ve seen at other all-inclusive resorts and was disappointing. The hidden gem at this resort is M Bar which is located in the shared vestibule of Fuego and Passion restaurants.
Overall, this resort did not have a chair hoarding issue which was a blessing. We popped down to the pool around 9am and were able to get chairs in “our spot”.
Music was played one-hour per day (during the pool exercise hour) until our last day when music was played all day long. No music at the pool is a problemo.
The biggest problem at the pool (aside from no music) is that there is no view of the ocean from any pools at the resort and there is absolutely no breeze because of the overgrown mangroves (which protect the shore during storm surges). Sitting at the pools is like sitting in a greenhouse with no reprieve from the heat. With no view of the ocean, we may have as well been in Phoenix.
The poolside drinks were average and flowed at a rate directly related to tipping; the greater and more frequent the tip, the more frequent drinks were delivered.
I was shit on by a bird. I was standing in the pool with my forearms resting on the pool deck, enjoying a raspberry beret (a made-up drink name in memory of Prince which is raspberry vodka and Sprite) and talking to our pool friends when suddenly splatter hit my face. At first I was confused but then I saw the pinkish splat of fresh bird shit next to my beloved raspberry beret and it didn’t take long to piece together what had just happened. Some may be upset when they get shit on by a bird but this is a normal thing for me and I was happy it was not a direct hit on my head because bird shit in your hair is the absolute worst!
Only three more shits to complete the list!
We went on a catamaran ride for no good reason whatsoever. There was a group of six couples who we met on our first day and they invited us and another couple to join them on a catamaran snorkling trip two days later.
The other couple dropped out last minute (smart!) but we had already paid, so were stuck. We had not spoken or really seen the group of six couples since our first day at the resort and in retrospect, they were very, very, very strange people.
The excursion was uncomfortable because of the lack of conversation with these unknown six couples; the six couples did not even talk to each other. It was so very bizarre because they were very talkative and outgoing the day we met them and now no one was talking and I think that they were swingers and oh my god that excursion was a complete waste of time and money. Never again will I allow alcohol consumption to make me believe catamaran trips are a good idea mainly because I get incredibly sea sick and I don’t want to spend my holiday with a bunch of strangers.
Peter got extremely sunburnt whilst sitting under an umbrella and avoiding the sun at all costs. We still are not exactly sure how he got burnt because he never left the shade of the umbrella but his legs and feet were fried.
Peter has [somewhat] jokingly stated that he is going to invest in a full body rash guard for him to wear on our next beach vacation because nothing is creepier than a 44 year old chap lounging pool side drinking bottomless pina coladas looking fresh like this:
The lessons learned
- We will not vacation at a combo adults only/family resort again unless absolutely necessary.
- We will not vacation at a resort where there the ocean and beach are not visible from the pool
- We will not return to Paradisus La Perla.
- There is a difference between resorts that market themselves as “couples only” and resorts that market themselves as “adults only” and Peter and I fall somewhere in the middle. We don’t like the quietness of couples only but don’t like the full-on party that comes along with adults only.
- Sometime during the past six years, all-inclusive resorts have started offering food and beverages that are an up-charge to a guest’s all-inclusive package. For example, lobster dinners, bottles of wine, and some top-shelf liquors. This is stupid; please refrain from shoving an iPod loaded with the up-charge wine list bottle in my face when I sit down to dine.
- People are genuinely scared of the Zika virus, however unlike the “swine flu epidemic” of May 2009, the fear is not deterring people from traveling to Zika infected areas.
- Cancun is a bit too far from Seattle which is why Seattleites typically vacation in Hawaii (a five-hour direct flight from Seattle).
The burning question
Question: Does an all-inclusive getaway in Mexico meet or beat beach holidays in Greece and Croatia?
Answer: No. There is a sense of adventure in finding where to beach at and where to eat when not at an all-inclusive, however, it is also very nice to be at a resort and not have to gasp at the price of a renting beach lounge chairs and not have to research the hell out of everything and not have to figure out how to get to beaches and restaurants. Also, the color of the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia is unlike any color I have seen in my life. It’s amazeballs.