My family of four stayed here from 12.25.08 to 1.1.09.
Overall impression: A large middle-market property, lots of tattoos on women and pony-tailed men my age, beer pong at the pool, huge waistlines, guests are bobbing and weaving before noon. The topless scene at the beach gives the place that Euro flare; the bottomless dude is pushing the boundaries...
Rooms: Okay. Our “upgraded” rooms—on something called the Lazy River—are at the far end of the resort, but they’re quiet and we’re enjoying the walks to restaurants, the beach. We can hear the ocean. No internet access. Get to the bell desk at the entrance very early to get a copy of the Miami Herald. Water hammer is a problem I haven’t encountered in years. A slow-to-drain sink calls to mind the Motel 6 we stay at when visiting my wife’s kin in Kentucky. At the other end of the resort—literally and figuratively--are the “Casitas.” These certainly look more upscale, but guests there use the same eateries as us riff raff. We can move for a few extra bucks a day, but why on earth would we give these banditos any more money?
Food: Fortunately, I need to lose a few pounds and it won’t be hard to do here. This place fancies itself as a gourmet dining destination, but what was conceived in the executive chef’s kitchen has to be completely different from what’s presented tableside.
--Small portions of poorly-prepared, tasteless food—Friday night’s salmon (an ordering error to begin with) went back to the kitchen and replaced with an edible shrimp dish.
--Tuesday night’s deck-of-cards sized steak drizzled with a white chocolate mole: my wife and I played half the deck and folded.
--A ceasar salad at beachside Jo-Jo’s was a laughable attempt at minimalist deconstructionism—someone’s been watching The Food Channel.
--The Health Bar makes a mean smoothie, but a decent cup of decaf is near impossible to find.
--The pan-Asian Kampai is a Panda Express with linens and booze, but at least we got enough to eat.
--We’ve discovered that room service breakfasts are an okay alternative.
As the week has progressed, we’re increasingly grateful for the few decent meals we’ve had.
Service: Fair to poor with a notable exception or two. This is a big place with lots of guests at a busy time of year and the staff deals with it like that. The charming hospitality and well-trained staff we enjoyed at the Royal Hideaway are absent. The litmus test—it’s been difficult to find staff worthy of a tip. My efforts to speak to the property manager about the Christmas Day Flood in room 5202 - an inch of water throughout the suite - were blocked repeatedly; it wasn’t until I went to the front desk and insisted that I would wait indefinitely did he show up. Alejandro Lopez turned out to be a decent fellow and gave me the apology I was strangely obsessed with obtaining. Mauricio and Alex—our waiter and wine steward—at Friday night’s dinner were personable and helpful, particularly Alex, a French-Canadian with an impressive knowledge of the resort’s mostly overpriced wine list. “For New Year’s Eve, we’re offering a 10% discount on $900 bottles of Cristal.” Yes, really.
Amenities: Gym—too many out-of-service signs—lots of use and not much maintenance; the place is dirty. Did I mention towel cards—shades of Club Med! The amigo who restocks the fridge doesn’t take “no” for an answer—bounding in to carry out his duties while my wife’s in bed saying “Not now” and I’m out. I was able to stop the insecticide guy from spraying our rooms, only because we were in them when they began. The girls love the beach and not the Las Vegas-wannabe pool scene.
Property: The landscaping is lovely and well tended.
Transportation: During the day, the resort staff transports themselves in golf carts that “share” the 6’-10’ wide pedestrian paths. Guests quickly learn to walk on the edge of the walkway and to look carefully to the left and right before crossing. At night the carts run with no lights, which makes the sport even more entertaining.
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