Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ocean Maya Royale for the 3rd Time! Playa del Carmen, Mexico ~ July 4-18, 2015

Be Happy and Smile.

If you know us, then you know we love vacation and when we're on vacation, we're happy and we smile. Simple as that. We especially love a vacation where we can eat, drink and soak up the sun without a worry in the world. For the fifth straight year, we have done just that on the beaches (and pools) of Mexico. Each visit has been at adults-only, all-inclusive resorts in either Cancun or Playa del Carmen. During all of my extensive research, I've found we're limited in the number of adults-only resorts that fit into our budget, particularly for an extended period of time. In the end, Ocean Maya Royale has become our vacation mecca. For three straight years, we have visited for 15+ days. It checks off every box on our wish list and we have found every reason to return time and time again!

You can find a link to my 2014 OMR blog here and a link to my 2013 OMR blog here.

If you have spent any time with us or read this blog during the last four months, then you know that the NBA Playoffs took a lot out of us. Between Steve's work schedule and my (um...) social schedule, it was exhausting. I attended and Steve worked all 10 home games. I had a total blast, but it was time for a vacation.

Once again, we were joined by our friends Jean Marie and Ron from New Jersey for the last ten days of our trip. We met them at Live Aqua Cancun three years ago while they were on their honeymoon. This was the longest vacation they've ever taken, but after only seven days last year, they knew they just had to stay longer. As you'll see from our plethora of pictures (I narrowed 1445 down to 377!), we had so much fun! We also spent a lot of time with Dawn and Ken who we have seen during our past two visits to Ocean Maya. I've said it before and I'll say it again, in this big world, vacation seems to bring everyone together with a common goal…Have fun, relax and enjoy!

We left Cleveland on July 4th and with a 7:00 am departure time, we were up bright and early and our personal car service (Thanks Rich!) was there to drop us at the airport. From our door to the United Club, it took 35 minutes, so we had plenty of time for a celebratory 4th of July cocktail in the United Club.


We arrived at the Cancun airport at 9:45 am where we retrieved our transportation. We had one stop at another resort so the drive ended up to be about 45 minutes. Once you step onto the property, you immediately take notice of the layout of the resort. Rather than your typical “hotel” set-up, Ocean Maya has 320 rooms, including 33 eight-room villas and 56 rooms in the privilege building. We really love the layout and the grounds are always kept immaculate.












 The wildlife is very prevalent, especially the iguanas and coaties. They’re really harmless, but a sight to see. This year there was a family of deer as well.






When we checked in, we were so excited to receive a room in the same building as our two previous stays, which we already knew had some of the most spectacular views. Our first two years we were in room 1207 and this year we were moved to room 1208. Although the room is a little smaller, it still provided ample space and had great oceanfront views.





 


We also upgraded to the privilege package, but opted not to stay in the privilege suite. We chose not to stay in a privilege room simply because we prefer a room with an ocean view over a room with more square footage. None of the privilege rooms are oceanfront. We were checked in at an exclusive air conditioned privilege office. Since we had arrived so early our room was not ready so we opted to get lunch and returned to the privilege office around 3 pm when we were escorted to our room. When we arrived in our room, we were happy to see a pair of “welcome back” t-shirts in addition to a bottle of wine, chocolate covered strawberries, two fruit plates, a set of robes and slippers as well as our privilege towels.






With privilege status you receive access to an air-conditioned privilege lounge with a-la-carte breakfast, tapas lunch and dinner. You also have top-shelf liquor at the bars, access to a separate privilege beach with service, a privilege concierge, breakfast in bed, a romantic dinner, and the ability to make reservations at restaurants. We enjoyed the a-la-carte breakfast and tapas lunch the most followed by the top-shelf liquor at the bars. This year we also utilized the restaurant reservations since we were making reservations for four instead of two. The breakfast and lunch was nice and relaxed with a view of the beach. Most importantly, it was AIR-CONDITIONED. It was so nice to go there for a casual lunch after being in the heat all morning. We would sit there for a couple of hours and drink bottles of champagne. Yes, bottles :)





Regarding liquor, we mostly drank Ketel One vodka, 1800 Anejo tequila, Jim Beam and Crown Royal from the privilege options. If you’re a rum drinker, Bacardi is available without privilege.



Also as part of the privilege package, we received mini-bottles of liquor in our room, in addition to domestic beer, diet Pepsi, regular Pepsi, orange Fanta, club soda, juice and peanuts.


Restaurants

There are four a-la-carte restaurants, one buffet restaurant and one privilege restaurant on the premises. We only ate at the buffet once this year for breakfast and lunch and found it to be satisfactory, but always ate at the a-la-carte's for dinner. Some people say portions are too big, others say they're too small. To be honest, we rarely finished a meal, not because we didn't like it or we were overly stuffed, but because we knew there was always another meal or another cocktail waiting on the horizon.


La Hacienda is the buffet restaurant which is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are so many options with many items changing daily. We skipped (missed?) breakfast a lot or ate in the privilege lounge. The fruit was fantastic every day and the bread and bagels were always fresh. They also have made-to-order omelets as well as traditional breakfast fare. This year they added a fresh smoothie bar in La Hacienda, which is a welcome addition. The self-serve mimosa, bloody Mary and screwdriver bar is also a nice touch!









Lunch at La Hacienda offers grilled meats and fish, cold cuts, cheese, salads, etc. We enjoyed making our own sandwiches with whatever ingredients were on hand. Once again, fruit was always a must-have! We opted out of the buffet for dinner, but checked it out and it offered a lot of variety.




 




El Charro is a smaller pool-side buffet at lunch and a Mexican restaurant at dinner. Many people opted for El Charro for lunch due to the convenience and while we dined there a few times, we typically enjoyed tapas in the privilege lounge. There is also a grill outside of El Charro every day with burgers and sometimes kabobs or tacos. We only ate appetizers here before eating dinner elsewhere. The food was good, but just a lot of the same…grilled meats, vegetables and tortillas. We love the chips, salsa and guacamole. Here we ordered the shrimp ceviche, beef tostada, nachos, and farmer salad. We ended up kind of eating them all together as a big plate of nachos. Pretty good! We finished with a Mexican coffee.







 





Yookoso is the Japanese restaurant and is only open for dinner and offers both hibachi and a-la-carte dining. We dined at Yookoso three times during our stay, including once at the hibachi table with seven other people. From the a-la-carte menu we ordered Philadelphia sushi rolls, Teriyaki, Tepanyaki and Chow Fan. The Chow Fan was our least favorite as it had very few vegetables. The hibachi was excellent and we much preferred it over the a-la-carte. They serve three courses: sushi, main and dessert, which ended up being a lot of food! It's nice to enjoy with other couples you know. Along with fried rice, you get shrimp, chicken, beef and vegetables.












La Dolce Vita was hands-down our favorite restaurant - every single year! We tried to keep track of how many times we visited, but it's impossible. We enjoyed it mostly because it offered the best variety. This menu changed quite a bit since last year and we enjoyed the new menu items. We tried a variety, but the bacon wrapped shrimp and lasagna were our go-to dishes and we always asked for extra Bolognese sauce. We also ordered the beef carpaccio, octopus carpaccio, antipasta, minestrone soup, toscana cream soup, pesto spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi, chicken pizzaiola, beef tenderloin and all of the desserts! We also liked to ask for freshly grated Parmesan with our bread. Yum! The service was excellent, primarily from Jesus.




















 









Blue Moon is considered the "fanciest" of all of the restaurants. Men are required to wear long pants and close-toed shoes, which we all knew in advance. We visited on three occasions and it was probably our least favorite of all the a-la-carte's. Each meal began with a "welcome" cocktail that was made in front of you. For appetizers, we had the escargot, oysters, Caribbean dreams salad and lobster cappuccino. From the entree selection, we tried the salmon, chicken and chef's special. Dessert consisted of creme brulee, white chocolate mousse and a passion fruit cake. On Thursday evening they have a special dinner which offered surf and turf (steak and prawns), tuna and lamb. The Mexican coffee is a neat presentation.


















The Privilege Lounge is the final restaurant and is only available to privilege guests. The service from Alfredo at breakfast and lunch is absolutely outstanding. It was so nice to see his smiling face every day and he learned very quickly that Steve and I liked our mimosas with grapefruit juice and our table of four could plow through several bottles of sparkling wine at lunch! Dinner at privilege fell short. The service was incredibly slow and the food was just ok.



For breakfast, we typically ordered fruit and yogurt. Depending on how we felt, we also ordered the occasional eggs and bacon, crepe, bagel, eggs Benedict, Nutella and pancakes or ham and cheese croissants.











We ordered tapas a lot during our stay. Like I said, it was really nice to sit in the air-conditioning and sip on sparkling wine. Although a limited menu and small portions, we thoroughly enjoyed this new addition to privilege. We tried everything on the menu, but always ordered the shrimp, potato aracini, beef mignonettes and the dessert trio. We also enjoyed the occasional chicken and beef specials. 











 


 



Dinner at privilege was slow and it was always empty. It was an adequate alternative to the other restaurants, but has room for improvements. Here we tried the goat cheese mousse with nuts, ravioli, carpaccio, croquettes, cream of corn soup, rack of lamb, sea bass and salmon. We were also able to order from the menu at La Dolce since they share the same kitchen.













Bars

There are three bars at Ocean Maya. Modelo Light and Modelo Negro are available at the main bar and the pool bar. The beer upgrade (from Corono only) was a nice change since last year. There is a plethora of liquor available at all of the bars as well. Since we were privileged, we drank mostly top-shelf liquor such as Ketel One, 1800 Anejo, Jim Beam, Crown Royal and Campari. The house wine is not really palatable, so we always drank sparkling wine...with breakfast, lunch and dinner! We were often heard saying quattro champaƱa!


The lobby bar is where we had our post-dinner drinks that could take us late into the night. We did a lot of dancing in the adjacent courtyard and had a great time. Yovonnetti, Tila and Anna were exceptional in their service. They work so hard, while still remaining kind and eager to please. The bartenders are excellent as well. Eber remembered us from years past and was always on his "A" game.















 





We even pretended to smoke hookah!



The courtyard is where the live music took place and we (mostly Ron) were seen dancing...sometimes with strangers.











 

The pool bar is located in between the loud pool and the quiet pool, but also has a swim-up bar on the party pool side. Ana Iris was so efficient with her pool service and she took great care of us every day. On her day off, Anna and Yovonnetti filled in and never missed a beat.







The bar outside of El Charro also doubles as a smoothie bar during the day. Many people don’t know about it, but we sure did! If we missed breakfast or didn't feel like going to lunch, we would just get a smoothie (or two). They’re blended with fresh fruits and vegetables and made-to-order.




Mike’s Coffee Shop opens at 4 pm every day and serves delicious coffee drinks as well as a limited number of pastries and sandwiches. If you want coffee prior to 4 pm, you can simply visit the lobby bar and they have an espresso and cappuccino machine ready.



Entertainment

We didn't attend any shows this year, but we did participate in karaoke. The video of Jean and I singing "All About That Bass" did not make the cut for the blog. We'd hate to have recording artists knocking at our door...we're just not ready for the bright lights ;) We also enjoyed the live music and dancing and could be found dancing in the courtyard quite often. It seems like Ron did most of the dancing and Steve didn't do any!  The entertainment staff work very hard and very long hours, beginning at the pool and ending at the nightly shows.

Every Saturday they also had a foam party where a foam machine sent tons and tons of foam/bubbles into the party pool. This was the one time we had to be at the party pool. It was pretty funny and a great time. Jean and Ron brought their waterproof camera and we had a blast.








 






 








 Pools

There are two pools at Ocean Maya. Most people refer to them as the quiet (or big) and loud (or party or swim-up bar) pools. We spent every day at the quiet pool with the exception of the foam party!  There were often games going on with the entertainment staff. The quiet pool remained pretty quiet. We had 15 days of perfect weather and the heat was so intense that the pool was just perfect.










 

We spent an average of 5-6 hours at the pool every day. That is hard work! I had my perfect SPF application consisting of five different levels of SPF in order to obtain a perfectly even and dark tan without burning or peeling. I've had years of practice and have it mastered. Steve bought me a new float this year that he loved more than me, mostly because it was so unobtrusive and really easy to blow up. After two weeks of non-stop use, I had to retire the float and left it with the entertainment staff to use in the future. Jean and Ron brought a waterproof camera with them this year, which led to a lot more pictures at the pool. Great times!


 



  











 









 



Jean and I also participated in a poolside sushi-making class. Notice Steve making good use of my float :)




Pool chairs were a little hard to come by after 9 am, so as a team we agreed that the first person up in the morning would reserve four chairs and then send a text to the other party. It was pretty evenly distributed among the group and we even had our "can't miss" team t-shirts to mark our territory. It was a great feeling to wake up and see a text from Jean that Ron had already reserved the chairs!



Beach

There are two small beaches with plenty of chairs as well as a boardwalk with several more cabanas and chairs. Overall, during July, it’s just too hot for us to stay outside of the water, so we stayed at the pool.





  

 








 

  







  




 





 

During the first 11 days of our trip, the water was great and the beaches were clear of any sea grass. On the 12th day, something happened and the sea grass took over the beach. It was so sad. There were guys working from early morning into the night shoveling the grass into wheel barrows and then trucks would dump it elsewhere. Below are a few pictures where you can see the dramatic difference.



Romantic Dinner

Included with the privilege package is a romantic dinner, which includes dinner at Blue Moon with a four-course lobster dinner; a change from last year's shrimp dinner poolside. You can upgrade to the beach for $20 (per person) and to a filet for $25 (per person). For my birthday, Jean and Ron paid for us to have a four-person dinner on the beach with three filets and one lobster. It was pretty hysterical...not sure how many four-tops they have on the beach! The meal was great and we had a fun time. We polished off several bottle of sparkling wine over the four-course meal.










Now that I've covered all of the essentials, I'd like to point out several other factors that contributed to making this another great trip!

Birthday Celebrations

I celebrated my 36th birthday on July 8th! Ron and Jean arrived with custom-made shirts, we enjoyed time at the pool and I was surprised to have a cake waiting for me in the room. We also enjoyed dinner at our favorite restaurant and had an overall good time. At the end of the night, the crowd at the bar sang happy birthday. My birthday is my favorite day of the year for all of the selfish reasons. This year, Steve had a little help in making it another fabulous celebration!









As many of you know, Steve and I are very proud Clevelanders and represent Cleveland well while we're on vacation. As you can see, we particularly represent GV Art and Design...


Vacation Friends

In addition to the staff, the people we meet on vacation are what keep us coming back for more. We have so much fun. Having met Jean Marie and Ron three years ago on vacation, who would have guessed we’d meet again in Mexico two more times?!? Although we weren't in the room next door, they were in the same building, just downstairs. Every night before dinner we enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails (always Bacardi and diet) on their patio along with a bag of pistachios. There was no ice in the rooms, so Ron would grab a bag of ice from the pool bar before close.
















Jean, Ron, Steve and I have known each other for three years and we've been on three vacations together. Who who have guessed that two sports nuts from Cleveland would meet up with two crazy kids from New Jersey? Taking a look at these pictures and I can say we haven't changed much!

2012 Live Aqua Cancun


2014 Ocean Maya Royale


2015 Ocean Maya Royale


Staff

Let me finish with the highlight of this resort: The Staff. From top to bottom, everyone treats you with genuine reverence and kindness and always eager to please. This year was our third visit and the staff remembered us from previous stays. Yovannetti even noted that I was wearing my hair down on our first night. That quickly changed for the rest of the stay as my hair cannot handle heat and humidity! She, Tila and Anna are the servers in the lobby bar and outdoor courtyard and work with diligence and speed. Alfredo in the privilege lounge was outstanding and we loved having conversations with him daily. Groundskeepers, housekeeping, bar staff, dining staff…I could go on forever about their seemingly genuine attempt to make every guest happy. Finally, Maria Lopez has been an enormous asset to the company. Unfortunately, I received an email from her shortly after our return home that she has accepted a new position at another resort. She will be sorely missed. Overall, the staff at Ocean Maya Royale is phenomenal and should be proud of what they bring to the H10 organization.


For our anniversary, Steve's parents upgraded us to first class for our flight home. We continued to sip on sparkling wine and it was the perfect ending to another perfect vacation.






Once home, we quickly dropped off our bags and headed to Louie's 2nd birthday party. He was born during our first visit to Ocean Maya and celebrated his first birthday while we were there last year. We were excited to see the family and see this adorable little two-year-old. Also, I knew I could count on my brother Sean to make me feel tan :)



In the end, I can say we had an exceptional vacation. We ate well, drank well, laughed well, relaxed well and had the time of our lives. 


Until next time...Enjoy this photo montage of our trip ;)

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4 comments:

Kacy said...

Great read!! Very informative! My hubby and I are traveling to OMR in three weeks to celebrate our 15 wedding anniversary! Looking forward to a relaxing, fun vacation without the kiddos!

Stephanie Moretti said...

Hi! My fiance and I are looking to book our honeymoon to OMR. Thank you so much for the blog post! I'm wondering about the privilege package. Are we able to add this on when we check in? We are planning to book via CheapCaribbean.com and I don't see that as an option.

Thanks so much!

Stephanie Moretti said...

Thanks so much for all of the info! My fiance and I are looking into booking this for our honeymoon. I'm booking through Cheap Caribbean and wanted to know about the privilege upgrade. Is that something you can do when you arrive? We would likely do the same as you and keep our room as is.

Shannon said...

Hi Stephanie - Yes, you can upgrade to privilege upon arrival. You can also try contacting the hotel directly prior to arrival. The guest services email address is rrpp3.hhm@h10hotels.com. We just retuned from another great visit and have recently updated this blog with a post from our 5th stay!! Enjoy!