Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hola Mexico!

For 4 nights in October, John and I vacationed at the Valentin Imperial Maya in Riviera Maya, Mexico (near Cancun). This was our first experience at an all-inclusive resort. After months of research and careful consideration, we selected the Valentin based on glowing reviews, cost, and the fact that it was adults only. I am obsessed with Trip Advisor. I don't book anything without checking it out on there first. I realize that you have to take the bad reviews with a grain of salt. Some of them knock perfectly good establishments for the littlest things. You'll quickly learn to ignore those reviews and focus on the better ones.

We arrived during a monsoon. A tropical system had settled over the Yucatan Peninsula a few days prior and though we contemplated cashing in the trip insurance and rescheduling, we went anyway and landed on, luckily, the last day of bad rain.

I got a little wet in the golf cart on the way to the room.

Upon check-in, we learned we were upgraded from a Deluxe Silver Suite to a Golden Swim-up room. Score!

This is the off-season for travel to Mexico so the resort was not at full capacity. I'm sure that's why we were upgraded. The room was spacious and as promised, had a pool right off the patio. The only rough part about being on the ground floor was the accessibility for bugs and other creepy crawlies (like geckos) who made their way into our room without invitation. The room had a stocked mini bar (also included), jetted tub, bidet (fancy!), and a separate seating area.

The resort boasts 11 restaurants including a breakfast and lunch buffet. The food was awesome, at times, and not so awesome at other times. We are pretty easy to please in the dining room but some of the dishes had no taste whatsoever. We found this incredibly odd. The guacamole, for instance, had zero taste. The best meal we had was at the French restaurant, L'Alsace. I was adventurous and ordered Chateau Briand. Delicieuse!

In the evening there was entertainment of the cheesy variety. The lip syncing was not so great, but the dancing was top notch. There was also a band in the main plaza that was very good. We sat and listened to them most nights. We also found the sports bar a great place to hang out at night. They had a variety of games on TV, you could always find a seat at the bar, and there were board games! We are board game people so this was very exciting.

During the day, when we had hoped to be soaking up the rays, clouds rolled in. Had it been a bit warmer, we could have enjoyed a large main pool with two swim up bars (plus very cold water) or of course, our own private pool. Finding a lounge chair was no problem but we tended to get there relatively early each day. We preferred the beach and its abundant palapas over the pool. The atmosphere was more relaxed and the ocean water was a touch warmer and much more pleasant. The cloudy skies, plus my 50 SPF, probably saved me from getting sunburned. But, they also prevented me from getting any color whatsoever.

There were many activities included for guests to partake in such as kayaking (which we did), bike riding (which we also did), zumba and fitness classes (that I could never get my act together to attend), Spanish lessons (conflicted with other activities) and more! We didn't plan any excursions but they were readily available as was a daily shuttle to Playa del Carmen, for those hoping to sample the local cuisine and shop!

The service could not have been better. All of the employees went out of their way to help you with a big smile. That was much appreciated. We tipped but never felt pressured to do so and felt badly when we didn't. They did just bring you a drink while you laid on your butt, right?

Sunrise on our last day

As a whole, we really enjoyed our first all-inclusive experience. I would return to the Valentin but probably not before trying some others just to compare. We still love cruising but the resort gives you a lot of bang for your buck! And, it was very nice not having a large bill upon check-out like you typically do on a cruise. Just turn in your keys and head back to reality!

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