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Arrival day: We love that we can basically gain a day on our vacation with our early arrival. Arrived around 11AM, checked in, showered and changed in the Royal lobby facilities, had lunch, and spent the next few hours at the pool. Left the bags in the lobby, valuables in a safe in the lobby, and come back after 3PM to get into the room, perfect.
Our room wasn’t ready at 3pm and I was initially a little disappointed in the wait – it was strange because the person in the lobby kept radioing someone and then giving us little updates like “almost ready,” and “just a few minutes.” Well, when we eventually got to the room, I realized what all the mystery was about: They had decorated the room for my birthday! Balloons everywhere, flowers, champagne and a cake – it was such a fantastic surprise! I don’t know how they knew; My partner swears she didn’t say anything, so they must have noted it from something in the reservation or my birthdate on some document. Anyway, it was a really fantastic surprise – one of those things that’s unreasonable to expect, but when it happens you treasure it . We made quick work of the cake (who says you can’t have dessert first) and some champagne while we unpacked and got ready for dinner.
The Royal rooms definitely got a facelift this year. While it wasn’t a full demo/remodel (still the same tile/bath area/vanity area/fixtures/etc.), the updated paint, linens and décor are really nice.
Our week can really be summed up in two halves:
Part one of our week: Too cold/windy to sit on the beach, too cold to get in the cold pools. Seriously, nobody was in a pool, I’d never seen anything like it. On the beach it was a sand storm. Not the fault of the resort, of course – just something that happened. We tried to enjoy some time at the pools and did a lot of reading. Fine by me.
Part two of our week: Something we would sort of like to forget. My partner got violently ill and spent 3 days stuck in the room. She tried to come out to the pool a couple of times on the last day, but mostly she was too weak and sick to do anything. I spent those slightly warmer days sticking close to the Royal pool so I would be close by, and I ate alone for breakfast and dinner at El Jardin for 3 days. We were concerned if she’d be able to make it on the plane on Saturday – and of course we got to the airport to find our plane was delayed by several hours. We eventually got home, but she felt bad enough that she went to an urgent care and stayed home from work for another couple of days the following week.
I initially didn’t want to mention sickness here, because I know people read it and instantly think it was food poisoning or some sort of negative comment on the resort. But we know it could have been anything – it could have been food, it also could have been some virus picked up from a set of tongs or a door handle or a handshake. Who knows. All I do know is you spend so much time looking forward to this big, expensive trip and weather and sickness come along and try to ruin it. So what do you do - stop traveling? Stop going to this resort? No. We just hope it doesn’t happen again and will AVENGE THE BAD DAYS BY GOING BACK! Don't get mad, get even! We’re planning our next trip for the first week of January 2014 and will cross fingers and toes for the best weather and circumstances possible.
A couple of random experiences to mention from our week:
El Jardin: Food is great, just like all the other food locations on the resort, having this location for breakfast and dinner is a real perk. But good gravy, it is still slow as molasses. I see some people say it’s not or that they've never had that experience – I’d like to know what you have to do to have your experience! Slow service, slow food, just a really drawn out meal. Also lots of travel club meetings in the mornings – sometimes more of them than Royal diners. We don’t like it. We watched several mornings and saw that without fail, the TC groups received better, faster, more attentive service. There were mornings when nobody ever came to our table - I would get up and get our drinks, nobody ever asked if they could get us anything, but the wait staff was standing right next to me, pouring drinks to take to the travel club people at the next table. I do like having that smaller restaurant available to us, but between the service and the TC, it’s just not as enjoyable as we would like. I will say they were very helpful and let me take crackers, a banana, etc., back to the room a couple of times for the sicky.
Addicts: Had a great evening with other Addicts at a get together and carried over late into the night with another couple in one of the lobbies. Even if you don’t go to an “official” meet up, do reach out to some strangers while you are there! It’s the greatest thing to hear people compare their travel experiences, resort experiences and other locations.
Monkeys: On what was to be our last day of wellness (although we didn’t know it at the time), we had reservations at The Jungle Place spider monkey sanctuary. I loved the entire experience. My partner was a trooper, but she did not enjoy it as much as I did – she didn’t like the experience of them climbing on her or pulling on her hair. Read all the Trip Advisor reviews to see if this location is right for you. And for anyone that has been there and knows Luna, the ornery spider monkey – she bit me! I was just sitting there, and she decided I needed to be taught a lesson of some sort. It hurt. I didn't panic, and I lived :). But now I know where the line in Talladega Nights came from (“I’m gonna come at you like a spider monkey!”). The story of the place and what they are doing there is part inspirational, part sacrifice, part heart breaking, but fully thought provoking.
AGI: We used AGI for the first time on this trip. Our transfer was good, had a bit of a hard time finding our contact, but once we connected, he was eventually able to call the driver and the van arrived a few minutes later. We also used AGI to get us back and forth to The Jungle Place. When I booked the trip, I booked it for several hours, and I asked that we also get to do something else – take us to Akumal or a cenote or something. But the driver didn’t know anything about that part 2 of the trip and planned to just take us back to the resort. At that point, Crystal was starting to not feel good and we were thinking of going back to the resort, anyway, so I didn't pursue the issue. But I definitely think we paid too much for what we ended up doing. Just be really specific about what it is you are doing for the price.
Red Flags: We like the beach, we like to paddle around and snorkel in calm water. Those activities are best carried out under yellow flag beach conditions. We haven’t seen a yellow flag since the first three days of our trip in 2010. We’re giving this winter trip one more shot for good luck in the water department, but if it doesn’t work out, I think we just need to give up on taking our winter trips here. Stay tuned for Trip Report #4 later in 2014 to see how it worked out for us!
2017 ETA: We did take our January 2014 trip, and unfortunately, the weather was even worse. It rained the entire time and was cold - it was warmer in Ohio than it was for most of the week at the resort. We had one perfectly awesome day - the final day of the trip - which at least cheered us before we had to leave. So we are officially done with winter trips for now. It's now 2017, and we decided to try again in the summer instead, 10 days in June. I can't imagine it can get cold in June in Mexico.....but I also couldn't imagine our new president so.......