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WS Suite Family trip DEC 2008 Travel w Children

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geochick
Destination Expert- Riviera Maya
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 4:02 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, UT

WS Suite Family trip DEC 2008 Travel w Children

Post by geochick »

Trip Report
White Sand Suite –family trip
12/1/2008 – 12/8/2008

A picture is worth a thousand words. Link to my photo album which includes a small fraction of my photos:
http://s213.photobucket.com/albums/cc82 ... =slideshow


I’ve decided to write a family-centered trip report since we took my 2 kids (ages 2 and 4) on this trip. That means we didn’t go to the disco, didn’t do many late-night activities, and spent a lot of time doing and eating kid stuff. We also traveled with my parents (ages 80 and 65). Dh and I are in our mid-30s. I know there are a lot of families traveling to GP in the coming months. Hopefully this will help answer some of your specific questions. Feel free to PM me if you’d like clarification on anything.

First – thanks to everyone on this site for helping to make our vacation the best yet. I, like many of you, am a compulsive planner. I was so prepared for this trip, and I have you all to thank for it. Now that we’re home and have shared pictures and stories, I have about 20 people lined up to go with us next time. Thanks!

We flew to Cancun direct from our home city. Fly direct if you can. It was so much easier than connecting and with dealing with naps on a plane or in an airport. We arrived at the Cancun airport in the afternoon. It’s a large, nice airport, and the humidity will hit you immediately if you’re not prepared for it. My 2 year old and my 80 year old father had a hard time with the heat and humidity as we waited to go through passport control at the airport. The line was long, but we managed. We had some snacks left from the plane trip, so I shoveled them into my 2 year old as fast as I could to keep her busy while we waited. We got our bags, found 2 free luggage carts, pressed the button and got a green light (my parents got red, and only one of their bags was checked…that took 5 minutes, max). Honestly, I was very nervous about being harassed in the Cancun airport by timeshare sales people. Would you believe I wasn’t spoken to by one of them? What’s my secret? I fixed my focus on the outside door straight ahead. I didn’t make eye contact. I acted like I knew what I was doing (ha ha ha) and I headed straight for that door…nothing got in my way. I wasn’t rude; I simply didn’t give them an opportunity to ask questions. My parents established eye contact and had to tell several of them, “No, gracias.” So, focus on your goal, don’t waiver, and you’ll be through the maze of sales people fast.

Once out that door, there was a semi-circle of shuttle drivers holding signs of all sorts. We had booked with AGI, and I had instructions from them to look for my name. Sure enough, straight ahead in the semi-circle stood a man with an AGI uniform holding a sign with my full name on it. Easy Peasy. I pointed at him and he took us to our driver and our very nice van. We were on our way less than 5 minutes after leaving the airport. That’s pretty amazing considering we had 9 checked bags and numerous carry ons between the 6 of us. The drive took us exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes (Monday afternoon). We didn’t stop anywhere along the way. It had been a long day, and I am SO happy we booked with AGI. They shaved hours off our transport day simply because they are so efficient and we didn’t have to wait for a bus to fill. We saw people filing onto those buses…and waiting and waiting as we drove away. We were delivered to the property, paid our round-trip fare ($140 for 6ppl r/t, +gratuity = bargain). We got our voucher for our return trip (we had to have our pick up time/date on the voucher, so memorize it if you don’t want to have to dig for it). On our departure day, the AGI van was there waiting for us early. Everything went smoothly, and they got us to the airport with plenty of time for snacks and a little shopping.

Check in was easy. I had requested a White Sand Suite in building 58 or 59. I also requested 3rd floor, ocean view if they had it. We got room 5819 (2nd floor, property view, building 58). My parents requested a Colonial Mayan Suite close to the lobby, and an accessible room since my dad was walking with a cane. They were given a main floor suite in building 31. The room was 3101. It is the PERFECT location for people with mobility issues. My dad was very comfortable and happy about the location. The suite is private, and close to the heart of the resort. After we checked in, the bell man called a golf cart large enough for us and our luggage. They carried it up to our room, and we were set to start our vacation.

This is a good place to briefly discuss tipping. I didn’t see ANYONE else tipping the entire week. Seriously, no one! We’re good tippers, and tips really seemed to be appreciated (even when it was a dollar for something). Tip if you can. I don’t know that our service was any better because of tipping, and I didn’t ever let anyone know ahead of time that we’d be tipping, but many of these workers bend over backwards to help you at this resort. Reward them however you can.
:23:
Food-
The buffets have oodles of assortment for even picky children (my 4 year old will only eat about 10 things, and he was fine). At breakfast there are at least 5 fresh fruits, and 5 kinds of juice. There’s also a smoothie bar where someone blends about 5 different smoothie blends. There are 4 or 5 kinds of cereal in boxes. I took a few boxes back to my room for snack time each day. My kids loved Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes best. They also had some chocolate cereal, and other boxed cereal that adults would like. The buffet had sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, an omelet station, cinnamon rolls, churros, milk, cheese, bread, butter, peanut butter, yogurt in about 5 flavors, cappuccino, oatmeal, pancakes, you name it. My kids loved breakfast and had no problems finding something they’d eat. I highly recommend the omelets. Have them make them the way your kids like them (just cheese for my kids).

The lunch buffets were fine too. They had okay pizza, French fries, burgers, hotdogs, freshly grilled salmon (my 2yo’s favorite)and mahi mahi, chicken, salad bar, dessert. My kids’ favorite place for lunch was the Punta Emilia Beach Bar. When looking at the map, it’s the beach bar closest to building 58 (my building, conveniently). My kids liked the cheese quesadillas with shredded chicken, nachos, hot dogs, fries. Mommy and Daddy liked the freshly brewed cappuccinos at this beach bar in the morning. I’d pop in for 2 to go, drop my towels on the chairs under a palapa nearest the beach bar, then head to breakfast. After breakfast, we’d set up camp on those chairs until nap time. This is a great spot because of the beach bar, the fresh water shower, the playground, and the painting shack all within 100 feet or so. The beach here is good for little kids too. The waves were NEVER higher than 6 inches. Kids should wear beach shoes, though, as there are some rocks a few feet out in the water. Other than that, it’s pure, white soft sand.

Anyway, back to the food. We ate at the dinner buffets once or twice when our 2yo was too tired for an ala carte restaurant. There’s a different theme every night, but we never had a hard time finding something they’d like. My 2yo could always eat fish, and my 4yo could always get fries. I am absolutely amazed at the number of people this resort has to cater to from every corner of the world. I don’t understand some of the reviews I’ve read (mostly on other sites) where people say the food is inedible. That’s simply not the case. Some of the food is unusual because it’s made to cater to someone from somewhere else. You’ll be amazed at the accents and languages you’ll hear at this resort. We didn’t eat everything at the buffet every day. Some of it was odd. Could we find something we’d like? Absolutely. People who complain about the food should remember that they aren’t in their hometown at this resort. If they are afraid of food and cultures, they shouldn’t travel. If something doesn’t look good to you, don’t eat it. Or, try it. You may like it. Enough said about that.

One thing, sometimes the service at the buffets was substandard in the mornings. At least half of the mornings we didn’t have a waiter ask if we wanted water in our glass or coffee in our cup. When that would happen we’d get up and solve the problem ourselves. There’s a bartender in the buffet. We’d go and ask him for those things. Did it ruin our vacation? No. Does Fiesta need to work on buffet service at breakfast? Yes. Dh and I love to eat and consider ourselves foodies. We were happy enough at this resort…we have cruised a lot and think the food at Palladium is better than cruise ship food.

Other food stuff…I brought a few snacks from home that I knew my kids might like from time to time. I am so glad I did. That period after nap when my kids get cranky is a beast. I’d pull out some of their usual pre-packaged snacks and let them watch cartoons (Channel 9 has Cartoon Network in English). I highly recommend bringing a few packages of your kid’s fav snacks to get through the down times in the room. We bought some things from the little store in the lobby a few times, but sometimes my kids didn’t like their usual favorites. For example, Mexican Cheetos taste a little like taco spice. My kids didn’t like that at all since they are used to “dangerously cheesy.” My kids love water, and didn’t have any problem drinking the bottled water from the mini-refrig. It tastes great. If your kid needs milk or juice, bring a few sippy cups from home. Fill them up each day at the breakfast buffet, and store them in your mini-refrig.

We ate at the ala carte restaurants about 5 times (favorites were Brazilian and Italian). The kids menu is the same at each ala carte, so by the end of the week, we didn’t need to look at it at all. My 2yo always ordered off the main menu. She loved everything. I just asked them to make her a smaller portion. My 4yo liked spaghetti and French fries. Each ala carte has a salad bar, so I could always get them some fruit or cheese to go with their dinner. We were always the first people in the door at 530 for the ala carte dinners. The buffet doesn’t open until 6, and my kids go to bed by 730, so eating early was important to us. We never had to wait for a table, and even when we left the dinner at 630 or 700, there was no wait for those just arriving. We always took an activity to the dinner for our kids to work on. Sometimes the service is really slow. That’s okay since we’re on vacation, and we’re kind of slow too, but our kids had a hard time sitting. The best solution I found was to bring our portable dvd player to dinner, and 2 pairs of headphones. There was no noise, and the kids behaved beautifully during the waiting times. Bring activities to the ala cartes.

Take Bubba Kegs! I bought my cute pink Bubbas at Target. I also found some cute decals (flip flops) in the automotive section of Target. I applied the decals to my Bubba so my mom and I could keep ours straight. My Bubba could keep a pina colada cold for many, many hours (if it lasted that long).
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Entertainment-
Palladium is perfect for entertaining kids and adults, alike. The Kids Club was fun, but whenever we went to do an activity that started on the hour, they weren’t ready for us when we arrived on time. I’d have my kids all pumped about making, say, necklaces, we’d get to the Club, and nothing would be set up. My kids didn’t see what they were expecting, so they were bummed, and didn’t feel like just playing for a while since the activity wasn’t ready. We ended up taking our 2 clingy kids away from the Club w/o staying at all because the activity wasn’t ready quite frequently. We never did get to do the necklaces on necklace day. I think Carnival Cruise Line runs a much more organized Club for kids. I couldn’t get my 4yo out of there last time. If you plan to use the Club, don’t get your child’s expectations up before arriving. Be flexible and remember you’re in a laid back place. We ended up entertaining our kids a lot on our own, or staying with them as they played on the play equipment a lot. Luckily, kids love to play in the water and in the sand at the beach. At the Kids Club, there is a separate building within the Club for babies. My 2 and 4yos wouldn’t have been together for anything. That was a problem for my 2yo, so she didn’t ever stay at all. There are so many pieces of playground equipment inside the Club. There’s even a full size trampoline! My kids loved the swings and slides and climbing things most. The Club will also let you check out one of those little push cars for wee-ones for the time you’re at the resort. If you don’t check it back in, they charge you $80, so don’t lose it! There are bathrooms right inside the Club. Security at the Club is minimal. They ask you at initial check in if your kid can come and go on his/her own. I was never asked for ID or a signature when I came to get my kid. Perhaps they remembered me. Again, the cruise lines have better security in their Clubs. I would have felt better if I had been asked to sign my kid out each time!

One night we stumbled upon the Disney Princess and Mickey Mouse show (Colonial Theatre, I think). We were there about 30 minutes before it started. There were some fun kid games for 30 minutes, then a PERFECT show for little kids (my 2 and 4yos LOVED it!!!). If you are going with little kids, make sure you see this show. I really wish there had been an early show for kids…even one in the later afternoon.

Other stuff that kept my kids entertained:
o The beach! The Kids Club had beach toys, but I didn’t check them out. I brought my own and I’m glad I did…I didn’t want to have to be responsible for little shovels and buckets that could have easily been misplaced. The waves at the beach are 6” high at best (early December). It’s the absolute best baby beach I have EVER been to. If you have small kids, you’ll be thrilled! My kids needed water shoes, but only when they were out a few feet into the water. There was no need for water shoes in the powder-like sand at the shoreline. My 2yo really loved hammock life. She viewed it as a swing, and nearly fell asleep in it once!

o Train rides and boat rides. When we were there, the red train was out of commission, so the green train was going between lobbies only. The long golf-cart-trains were going through the resort. My kids didn’t notice a difference, and loved them all! The pontoon ride is a great way to chill out and see some of the resort.

o Crocs and flamingos.

o Music. There is music all over the place. My kids love to dance, so they had a blast. There’s music by the pools (day and night), and in the lobbies.

o Iguanas. You will quickly learn where the iguanas hang out. There was one rock in front of building 20 or 21 that always had at least 2 large iguanas on it, especially in the morning. My kids LOVED the iguanas! I wish the gift shop had had more iguana toys. My kids each wanted iguana toys.

o Shopping. Each lobby has a shop with souvenirs, toiletries, snacks, etc. I bribed my kids a lot and told them we could go to the shop a lot. It’s expensive, and they take pesos, dollars, or credit.

o POTTERY! We spent so much time at the painting shack (Florencio’s???) at Punta Emilia. Whenever my kids would need something new, we’d head down there to paint. Small pieces (that fit nicely in my carry-on (rabbit, turtle, sun, …)) cost me $7-$10 ea (tell him you’re from Palladium Addict). They were always ready the next day, and Florencio did a great job making my kids’ art look GREAT (an amazing accomplishment, really!!!) Those pieces are truly my favorite souvenirs. Take a painting shirt for your kids. We ruined more than one rash guard swim shirt with the paint. This is by far my kids’ favorite activity at the resort.

o Swimming.

o Walks with the stroller and push car from the Kids Club. Sometimes dh and I wanted to get some exercise, but the kids were wiped out. We’d take one in the stroller, and the other in the push car and walk around the Colonial/Kantenah areas. The bridges on the other side of the resort make walks this way difficult, but once you learn your way around, you can even take a stroller to the White Sand/Riviera area. Just head to the lobby first, avoiding the bridges. I am so glad we took the stroller for our youngest. We found we could even push it on parts of the beach (the area at the Punta Emilia beach farthest from the water has really packed sand!). We had to carry it up and down the stairs, but we considered it part of our daily workout.
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Pools-
Sure, the pools are REALLY deep in the middle, but both main pools had a zero/gradual-entry area large enough for young kids to play in safely. I was never concerned about my kids falling in deep water. There are plenty of towel huts, so definitely don’t bring swim towels from home. You’ll get towel cards at check-in. Exchange them at the huts for towels. Get fresh towels whenever you want to exchange. Exchange the towels for cards before you check out. I took several pool toys, and I’m glad I did.
:7:
Beach-
We traveled during the slow season, but still had no problems getting good beach chairs under a palapa each morning. At 945am I was still able to get good spots near my favorite area (Punta Emilia). Since our room was so close, I often dropped off our stuff at 900 on a good beach chair before heading to breakfast. I had to be in the area for fresh cappuccino anyway, so it wasn’t hard to reserve a good palapa while we ate breakfast at the buffet. Punta Emilia was my favorite area for many of the aforementioned reasons, but also because there’s a playground there, bathrooms, great food, and a shower. If you ever find yourself without a beach chair, head towards the Kantenah section on the beach. There are some beautiful areas there, and not nearly the number of people. The Kantenah beach section is my second favorite area of the beach.

It’s true that a lot of people go topless at the beach. My kids didn’t even notice. If they had, I would have told them that some people in the world dress like that at the beach, and we don’t stare. That would have been the end of it. Just be prepared for it. I think it’s cool to take my kids on vacations where they learn that kind of sunbathing can be normal. It’s all about diversity and harmless exposure. My 80 year old father couldn’t be dragged away from the beach…I have my suspicions as to why… 
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Room-
We had a suite in White Sand Villa 58. When we go back, I will ask for building 58 or 59 again! They enter the sidewalk at the same spot, so they are functionally equivalent. I had asked for a top floor suite, but got 2nd floor. I WISH I had made the 3rd floor the main request. Whoever was staying above us liked to rearrange furniture all day and all night. Try getting kids to nap when the wooden furniture above their heads is being rearranged and dragged along the marble floors above. “Screeeeetccccch, Screeeeetccccch” is a tough sound for a 2 year old to nap to. Ugh! Next time, I’ll do whatever I can to get on the top floor. The stairs were no big deal. Dh and I would carry the stroller up the stairs. The bell boys carried our luggage up, so that was a non-issue. I loved the location of building 58! The wooden boardwalk next to it lead me directly to my morning cappuccino at Punta Emilia Beach Bar. That’s also where my kids liked to eat lunch, and where the best pottery guy is. The location is ideal for both lobbies, and we could easily walk to either lobby in the morning, with 2 little kids in tow, in 5 minutes or less. My 80 year old father had a harder time walking, but it didn’t take him too long to get around either.

My 2yo slept on an inflatable Aero Bed for Toddlers. It worked out fine. We brought her her own pillow, and I’m glad we did. We called for extra sheets and blankets when we first arrived. They were there within 10 minutes. My 4yo slept on the fold out couch, but it was so deep, we didn’t need to fold it out. The king bed in the bedroom came with what I called, “petrified chicken nugget pillows.” They are little, flat, hard, square-ish pillows that were kind of hard to sleep on. Next time, I plan to call for standard rectangle pillows early in the week. Chicken nugget pillows take some getting used to. I know they have standard rectangular pillows because the extra pillow in our closet was that size. My 4yo got that one. I did some furniture rearranging, myself. I slid the couch bed out from its position against the wall. This created a little area just for my 2 year old. She had the wall next to the side of her little bed, and the back of the couch at her head. I think it helped her feel like she does at home where she sleeps in a toddler bed with walls.

The suite was perfect for traveling with kids! Dh and I had our own balcony, and a door with a lock between us and the living room and bathroom. One of us could sneak out and be entertained at night (or do work in the lobby via Wi-fi), while the other parent babysat in the room while the kids slept). Having the space of a suite is awesome, and we’ll definitely book one next time.

When you first walk into the room, you enter the corner of the suite’s living room. Straight ahead is the balcony for the living room. The living room has a TV stand with a refrigerator and ice bucket inside the cabinet. There’s a desk, a couch-bed, and a chair in this room. As you continue down the hall, you see a closet. Inside the closet are an iron and board, a safe, and a few shelves for clothes. There’s also a rack for hanging stuff up. The safe held our 14” laptop, passports, cell phones, sunglasses, walkie talkies (these were really handy, and they weren’t confiscated when we entered Mexico…but they sucked up batteries!!!), and piles of $1 bills we had for tips. A laptop larger than 14” wouldn’t have fit in the safe. After the closet, you could enter the bathroom on the opposite side of the hall or enter the bedroom at the end of the hall. The bathroom had a huge shower stall (which could easily hold 2), a toilet area, a large sink area, and a big tub. The tub was very large, and at one point my 2 kids and I were in there at the same time rinsing off after the ocean. My kids loved the Jacuzzi feature, and the extendable shower head that could be used to rinse hair (or play waterfall if you’re 4 years old) while in the tub. Sometimes we’d kill 30 minutes and just let them play in the fun bath tub. The bedroom of the suite had a bed, a desk, 2 night stands, a TV, a balcony, and some drawers in the TV stand. It also had a little luggage shelf. The balcony was on a different side of the building from the living room’s balcony, so there was some privacy there.

I had a hard time finding just the right temperature in the suite. There are 2 thermostats (one for the bedroom, one for the living room). I was either too hot and muggy, or freezing cold. I had a hard time finding a middle ground on the thermostats. My kids sleep best when they are cold, so we opted for cold. I’m glad I brought long-sleeved pjs with pants for them since it was pretty cold at night.

The bathroom was great. I loved the large window! We had to adjust to the fact that washcloths are hard to come by at this resort. We got 2 washcloths all week. The day after we got the washcloths, I wrote a note for housekeeping, and left my usual tip next to it. The note asked for washcloths, and it had an arrow pointing to my used washcloth next to the note. Instead of new washcloths, they left us 12!!!! bottles of bath/shower gel. I got the message…we don’t have many washcloths, but we do have plenty of shower gel. Luckily I had packed some Huggies baby washcloths that are pre-soaped and dry. They were easy to pack. All 4 of us used those little baby washcloths for everything. They are great make-up removers. I always stop at the Dollar Store before we travel and pick up an over the door shoe organizer for $1. I hang it over the door in our room or cabin to keep little things organized (sun lotion, insect repellent, combs, bows, toothbrushes, makeup, etc. It keeps the counter clutter free. I really loved it on this trip since there wasn’t a ton of space to store the bathroom essentials of 4 people. It hooks over the door, but still allows the bathroom door to be closed. It only costs $1, so if you leave it behind, so be it.

I wish we would have taken the line-out jacks for our portable DVD player. The TVs in our suite had A/V inputs, so we could have plugged my kids’ portable DVD player directly into the TV. That way, they wouldn’t have had to crowd around each other at night when they were watching their movies before bed. My 4yo also liked to play his Leapster under the palapas, in the room, and in the dining room (with headphones, of course). I’m glad we took it.

The resort had delivered a crib to our room, probably because they knew I was bringing a 2yo, but we didn’t use it. My 2 year old is tall for her age, and only 2 and a half years old, but there’s no way she would have been able to sleep in that little crib. I’m glad we had the Aero Bed for her (she never fell out). The slats on the crib had about 3.5-4” between them.

Both rooms in the suite had ceiling fans.

We took our baby monitor since we’d be separated by a door and a hall. I’m glad we did. We didn’t get any interference, and I used it to hear my 2 year old crying in the night several times. This was necessary, because we also used a travel fan to provide white noise to help her sleep—it’s hard to hear her crying over the white noise without the monitor.

My kids are used to sleeping in fairly dark rooms. The bright sun would come creeping under and between the room darkening shades in their room each morning, so I had to block the 3” gap at the bottom of the drapes with suitcases, cushions, and pillows from the chair and couch. We got more sleep in the morning when it stayed dark in their room.

I packed an extension cord, and a 3 outlet extender I found at Walmart. This was a good move since there aren’t many outlets in the room, and they aren’t always where you want them. DEFINITELY pack this.

Mosquitoes-
We were traveling with my parents. Of the 6 of us, about half were bothered by mosquitoes. We were only bothered at night, and it was worse on the boardwalks over the swampy areas. I got more bites than anyone, and I was the one who religiously used one of each bug repellent (I took 3 kinds, all that I had read about on this forum). It wasn’t horrible, and in the end, I think I am only scratching about 5 big bites after a week. DH won’t touch repellant and he had zero bites for the week.
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Weather-
We traveled in early December. The daytime highs were in the mid-80s. At night, we all needed a light jacket. My kids wore sweatshirts and pants at night. I had only packed them a few pants, and I am glad I did. Next time, I’ll pack several more sweaters and pants for December travel.

I hope this was helpful, and didn’t bore you. I am so grateful that I stumbled onto this site. We’ll be traveling back next year, so I’ll be around. Thanks to those of you who spend so much time here helping those of us who are new to this resort. It’s a real gem, and I am literally counting the minutes until we can go again…this time with many more family and friends.

Thank you, and happy travels.
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