Friday, July 26, 2013

Ocean Maya Royale ~ Playa del Carmen, Mexico July, 2013

Life is pretty good.
From July 4-21 (essentially much of the month of July) Steve and I had the luxury of taking an 18-day vacation to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where we stayed at Ocean Maya Royale, an adults-only all-inclusive resort. I found a steal of a deal through United Vacations back in December and we anxiously anticipated the vacation for the next seven months.

Rich was kind enough to pick us up at 4:15 am for airport drop-off. Check-in and security were quick, so we made our way to the United Club for a light breakfast. We had a layover at the Dulles airport where we enjoyed another trip to the much larger United Club.

We finally arrived at the Cancun airport at 11:30 CST where they whisked us away in a private shuttle and by 1:00 pm, we were stepping onto the resort. Once we arrived, we navigated our way through the beautiful grounds and found our way to the room. The villa (vs. hotel) set-up gave the resort a very comfortable, personal and private feel.

There was wildlife on the premises who made themselves very comfortable. We saw a deer and her fawn, coaties, raccoons and lots and lots of iguanas. The raccoons freaked me out a little bit, but the rest were harmless and have clearly made a home at Ocean Maya.

We were VERY pleasantly surprised with our upper level oceanfront room (room 1207). As you can see from the layout of the grounds, these rooms are difficult to come by and it was a welcomed surprise. The rooms were a nice size with a king sized bed, sitting area and large balcony.


Also in our room was a personalized note, chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of red wine.

On Friday night we were thrown right into the fun when Steve participated in karaoke. Shortly after he was done singing the very popular “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, he was solicited to sing in Saturday’s Ocean Idol competition. If you know Steve (even a little bit) then you know he wanted absolutely nothing to do with performing in Ocean Idol, but with a few twists of his arm and batting my eyelashes, he caved and agreed to participate. He dedicated me as his “handler” to ensure he arrived at rehearsals and the performance on time and sober :)

Prior to the show, he had his make-up done and the opportunity to wear a costume and wigs. I thought it was hilarious and they actually penciled in some eyebrows! He was a good sport and knew it was all for fun.

As always, his “At This Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters was excellent and received a great reaction from the crowd. We are all very lucky to have a video of it too :)

On July 8th, we celebrated my 34th birthday in the best way possible…at the pool doing nothing! I was surprised with a cake, champagne and balloons in the room.

They even put my name in The Ocean Post!

Prior to our departure, Steve had given me a bottle of CLEVELAND Whiskey, along with a nice t-shirt and rocks glasses. Steve I love to represent Cleveland when we vacation, so I was happy to drink a Manhattan while wearing my new shirt.


There were two different pools at Ocean Maya, a quiet pool and a party pool. We spent every day at the quiet pool, but watched and sometimes participated in the games and activities being played in the party pool.

The party pool had a swim-up bar that opened at 10 am daily. They played several games throughout the day and although loud, the vast majority of people were just having fun with friends and were not rude or obnoxious. Our room overlooked the party pool so we did some great people-watching!


We found the beaches where we stayed (7 miles north of Playa del Carmen) to be less than stellar compared to the beaches of Cancun, although there were a few days when the water was crystal clear and resembled those in Cancun. Ocean Maya has two small beaches that are well-maintained. In the middle of the resort’s beach is a boardwalk with bali beds for guests. We walked a mile+ in either direction from our resort and the beaches at Ocean Maya FAR surpass those at other resorts. We walked past water that you wouldn’t want to step a foot into.


We had heard about a lagoon that was a 15-20 minute walk from the resort. We attempted to walk there by ourselves (which many others have done) but came across a desolate and precarious area, so opted to turn around. The following week, we joined an organized tour through the resort and walked with a group of people. Although Steve and I were the only guests who didn’t swim/walk in the lagoon, we found it quite beautiful.


There were three a-la-carte restaurants and one buffet restaurant on the premises. We found the buffet to be adequate, but preferred the al-la-carte’s for dinner every night. Staying somewhere for 18 days forces you to be inventive, so I was very lucky to have Steve in my company. He is very inventive with food and opens my eyes to more variety.

La Hacienda was the buffet restaurant which was available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were so many options with many items changing daily. We skipped breakfast a lot, but when we did eat, La Hacienda was the only option for the average guest. The fruit was fantastic every day, but we also enjoyed bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and hash browns. The bread and bagels were always fresh and the self-serve mimosas, Bloody Mary's and screwdrivers were a welcomed treat. They also had pastries, made-to-order omelets as well as traditional breakfast fare.

Lunch at La Hacienda offered grilled meats and fish, pasta, cold cuts, cheese, salads, etc. They also had a variety of made-to-order bruschetta, sushi and Panini sandwiches.

Dinner offered a different theme every night, such as Mayan, Mexican, Cowboy, International and Mediterranean. Freshly grilled fish was abundant, along with a pasta station, countless salads, hot items and desserts.

On some days they had grills set-up outside of the restaurant when you could get fresh tacos, along with chips, salsa and guacamole.

El Charro was a smaller pool-side buffet at lunch and a Mexican restaurant at dinner. We ate there for lunch a handful of times because it was so convenient to the pool. We only ate dinner here twice because it was our least favorite a-la-carte. The food was good and their salads were very fresh, but just a lot of the same…grilled meats, cheese and tortillas.


Yookoso was the Japanese restaurant, which was only open for dinner and offered both teppanyaki and a-la-carte dining. We dined at Yookoso several times (I actually lost count) during our stay, including once at the teppanyaki table with two couples we met. They served four courses…sushi course, tempura course, main course and dessert course…which ended up being too much food! We quickly learned to only ask for one appetizer.



Similar to El Charro, Yookoso had a lot of redundancy…grilled meats, noodles and veggies :) The teppanyaki was excellent with tender meats and lots of vegetables. The fried ice cream and tempura fried bananas were delicious!

La Dolce Vita was hands-down our favorite restaurant. We enjoyed it mostly because it offered the best variety. They had soups, sandwiches, pizza, chicken, fish, beef and pasta.



The chicken was great and the lasagna was surprisingly delicious. We always asked for extra Bolognese and arribiatta sauces. The service was excellent.


The pizza was terrible, but we gave it a try just because we could. It was the food we missed most during our trip and the first thing we ate when we got home. We were disappointed to learn La Dolce Vita was closed for a private reception on our last night, but we have more than made up for it since we got home!


I was lucky to win a poolside romantic dinner in an afternoon raffle drawing. We enjoyed a four-course meal with tiki-torches alongside the pool with Daniel as our server.


We also had the opportunity to eat at the manager’s dinner with 19 other guests on Thursday night. Steve was the only person taking pictures! Haha. The food was the best we had during our time, especially the bacon-wrapped shrimp! The dinner was hosted by General Manager Giovanni Gil along with the rest of the resort’s managerial staff. Each manager served a course and/or poured the wine. There was no catch and no timeshare presentation, just a nice dinner with very hospitable people.


There were three different bars available. Corona was the only beer available and we never drank a drop! We stuck mostly with Svedka Raspberry and soda (or water) during the day and Lemoncello, Bailey's and milk, sparkling wine and Manhattan's at night...along with the occasional shot of tequila.

The pool bar was located at the party pool and had a swim-up bar. This is where most of the pool servers retrieved their drinks, but instead of waiting around, we always just walked the few steps to get our own drinks. Service was always good, with the exception of a few guests who enjoyed bullying their way to the front.

The main lobby bar is where we spent most of our nights. Eber, Jairo, Gildardo, Jacobo and Yovonnetti were phenomenal. We saw Eber, Jairo and Yovonnetti nearly every night. They work so hard, while still managing to remain friendly and personable. We laughed with them a lot. Yovonnetti and a few other girls are the table servers inside and outside and likely walks 10+ miles a day. It was a real bonus that the Eber really knew how to make a great Manhattan!!

The bar outside of El Charro doubled as a smoothie bar during the day. On days when we didn’t eat breakfast, we enjoyed one of their delicious smoothies…maybe with a little rum added :)

Mike’s Coffee Shop opened at 4 pm every day and served fantastic latte’s and cappuccino’s, along with some pastries and sandwiches.


I have never seen so many bug bites in my life!!! It was unbelievable. I had read online about the tremendous amount of bugs in the area because it’s jungle-like. As a result, I packed 3 cans of bug spray (+1 pocket-sized spray) in addition to 20 citronella bracelets, anti-itch cream and allergy medicine. Each bracelet was advertised to last 200 hours! Ever since I can remember, I have been prone to bites. They’re miserable and ugly. I’ve recently read that type-O blood is more prone to bites (that’s me!), but who knows? In addition to sprays and citronella, we drank Campari and soda at the Italian restaurant. Rumor says that the bitter Campari keeps the bugs away. It’s worth a try!

Anyway, Steve thought I was totally insane, overreacting and over packing. He won’t deny that. After Day 2, a handful of bites and seeing 1000’s of bugs, Steve decided it was in my best interest for him to suspend all bug spray use. He would also use my “leftover” citronella bands and would run around me as I sprayed every square inch of my body. He’s such a great husband :) I used a new band every day (mostly at night and in bed) and some nights we’d both put on two bands. On the balcony? We both put on four! We met Dawn and Ken after I overheard them talking about their bug bites, so I actually brought four bands to their room. We saw countless people with 100’s of bites on their legs and felt so badly for them. We heard that several guests visited the doctor for creams and antihistamines. Next year I’ll bring 100 bands and be the resident Mother Theresa…or I could be an entrepreneur and sell bands to people in the lobby because a can of spray would cost you $16 in the gift shop.

Steve survived with one single bite, which he might have actually received in Cleveland. I had bites, but nothing that all of my treatments couldn’t handle. I did have two gigantic bites on my arm. Not sure if they’re spider bites, but they left me tired and feeling a little loopy for a day.


We’ve never been to an all-inclusive with this much entertainment. Granted, we always stay at very relaxed adults-only resorts, but at OMR there was daily entertainment at the pool, including trivia, water polo, volleyball, soccer, etc. There was a different show in the theatre every night varying from King of Pop, Grease, Caribbean, Mayan Dancing, etc. as well as a live saxophonist at breakfast and in the courtyard at night. The entertainment staff was never pushy for participants and always friendly to all guests. David engaged in conversation with us almost daily and truly made us feel at home.

On Day 16 of our trip, I convinced Steve to sing karaoke again, then David solicited him to participate in Saturday’s Ocean Idol show :) He tried to fight it (again) but David wasn’t hearing it and signed him up. Steve wasn’t quite so nervous the second time around when he performed Piano Man. Sorry, no video this time!

Following his performance, we celebrated at the bar on our final night and Giovanni and David posed for a picture with us.


I could go on forever about all of the staff who were always looking for another way to please you. We tipped often and it never went unnoticed. A lot of people never or barely tipped, but it didn’t change service from person to person. We tipped because it’s what we’re used to doing at home and it is very deserving.


Steve and I keep a pretty private life and when we’re on vacation, we relax and enjoy our time together. We also enjoy meeting new people from all over the world during our travels. Sure, we stay at resorts so outside of the staff, we’re meeting other vacationers, but that’s good enough for us and we always have fun. We learn about different parts of the U.S. and different parts of the world, while also learning about other people’s lives and travels. Here are just a few of the friends we met this year…

Dawn, Ken, Jean and Gary from Milwaukee, WI

Steve & Debbie from Doncaster, England…also the photo bomber from Texas :)

Norfolk, VA

Brooklyn, NY


On Sunday, we celebrated our seven-year wedding anniversary with a first-class ticket home. It was relaxing, comfortable and enjoyable. We were excited to get home and see the newest addition to our family.


My brother Sean and sister-in-law Alex became very proud parents on July 17th, when they welcomed Louis into the world via a fast and unexpected delivery. We had the opportunity to meet him upon our return and couldn’t resist the tiny sombrero.

Well, there you have it! 18 days...we did it once and we can't wait to do it again. It's never enough time and no time is too long. Cheers! 


Anonymous said...

We are heading there in Sept! Your blog has been the most helpful! THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog, love your comments and beautiful PICTURES... and your tips (esp @ the bugs and spray!!). THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

Anonymous said...

thank for the lovely blog and pictures, heading there in October, looking very forward to this trip. We have stayed at H10 resort in Cuba twice now and third trip is booked for Dec. Will be great to see the difference between them. Pnce again Thank You

Gina said...

What a fantastic post, we booked for Dec. and can't wait. Thanks for the menu's, first person I've seen post them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post. Extremely helpful. My daughter and I are heading down there in Nov from the great state of Okla!

Anonymous said...

I also thank you especially for the menus! I also love hearing what foods you enjoyed as we always try to make the best of our vacation by trying to eat the foods that are recommended by many (such as the lasagna!). I knew bugs were an issue, but you really clarified how MUCH of an issue haha thanks for the blog, its most helpful in my planning for our trip in December :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great information and pictures! Wish there was a blog this good for every resort I want to visit!

Shannon said...

I'm glad you found it helpful! I wrote another OMR post in 2014 and am finishing up the post from our recent stay at the beginning of July 2015. Enjoy!