Friday, August 19, 2016

Ocean Maya Royale for the 5th Time! Playa del Carmen, Mexico ~ July 23-August 6, 2016

I have planned countless vacations. Not only is it one of my favorite things to do, but I’m also pretty good at it! Best of all, I get so much happiness out of the end result and they’re always some of the highlights of my life.
This trip was no different. Shortly after Steve and I returned from Ocean Maya last July, I booked two trips, which included a week-long stay in May 2016 with my mom and sister as well as a two-week stay for me and Steve in July 2016 ~ both at one of our favorite places on earth, Ocean Maya Royale. Steve and I have visited OMR together four times, each for 14+ days. As I write this, I reflect on the five times that I have visited OMR and in the end, Ocean Maya Royale has become our vacation mecca. It checks off every box on our wish list and we have found every reason to return time and time again! 
Let me first start by saying that if you have spent any time with us or read this blog during the last four months, then you know that we have been very busy. The NBA Playoffs took a lot out of us and celebrating our beloved Cleveland Cavalier Championship has had us on cloud nine. Between Steve's somewhat excruciating work schedule and my (um...) social schedule, it’s been fun, but exhausting. Combine that with the RNC in Cleveland and our work/play getaway to Las Vegas earlier in the week, we (mostly Steve) were ready for a real vacation.

Side note: You will see countless Cavs shirts between me, Steve and Ron in all of these pictures. I love it. Steve packed all of his work polos and soooo many Cavs t-shirts, while Ron packed every Cavs shirt we have ever sent him. So awesome.  Oh, and clearly I was the selfie queen this trip!

Once again, we were joined by our friends Jean and Ron from New Jersey for the last ten days of our trip. We met them at Live Aqua Cancun four years ago while they were on their honeymoon and have decided on this annual trip. As you'll see from our plethora of pictures (too many to count…), we had so much fun! 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!
Very little has changed since my stay in May 2016 so it may be a little redundant for some readers (except for all of the adorable pictures of us!) but I’ll continue with my full post for new viewers. Enjoy the recap of my previous trips by following these links to my May 2016 OMR, July 2015 OMR, July 2014 OMR and July 2013 OMR blogs!

We started our trip on a United non-stop flight from Cleveland and arrived at the Cancun airport at approximately 9:15 am. Having just celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary on July 21st, we decided to book first-class seats. We had upgraded to first class a handful of times, but had never actually booked the seats. I tend to think we might be spoiling ourselves a little bit because you better believe we took advantage of every last perk!

After customs, baggage and a quick 30 minute airport shuttle, we had arrived in paradise. Although we weren’t able to check into our room, we were able to enjoy the amenities, including a drink at the lobby bar.
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 everywhere!


We had previously stayed in building 12, but this year we were situated in a lower level room in building 9 - another stellar location with a slight ocean view. We also upgraded to the privilege package and were checked in at the exclusive air conditioned privilege office.


Ron and Jean were also in building 9, so we brought our chairs to their patio and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink together every night.

I’ll start with the food. There are five restaurants at OMR, including four a-la-carte and one buffet restaurant. Steve and I are usually very satisfied with the food at OMR, but after my trip in May, we were encouraged to eat more seafood because it’s the highlight of nearly every menu. Although we tried almost everything on every menu (two weeks will do that!), there were a few dishes that we couldn’t wait to try again. Everything was excellent.

La Hacienda is the buffet restaurant which is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are so many options with many items changing daily. For breakfast Steve and I always ate in the Privilege lounge, but Ron and Jean decided on La Hacienda a handful of times. 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 and a fresh smoothie bar. The self-serve mimosa, bloody Mary and screwdriver bar is also a nice touch!

None of us ate at La Hacienda for lunch or dinner simply because the food elsewhere was better and we don’t really enjoy buffets. I did stop in to snap a few pictures.

Historically, La Dolce Vita has been our favorite restaurant and this year Privilege dinner gave it a run for its money. In addition to the food variety, the atmosphere at La Dolce is what sets it above the rest. It's open air and right on the water which allows for a nice breeze in a comfortable setting. We lost count of how many times we ate dinner at La Dolce and we did a pretty good job of ordering almost every item on the menu. I also requested fresh Parmesan with my bread and oil. Our favorite items were the arugula salad, beef carpaccio, eggplant parmesan, salmon and lasagna and we occasionally asked for extra vegetables. You ask and you shall receive!


For appetizers, at least one of us ordered the arugula salad and beef carpaccio every time! We also tried the eggplant parmesan.
For entrees, we tried all but two menu items, including the Valdostana style chicken breast, salmon, mahi-mahi, farfalle chicken with pesto, beef filet, mushroom risotto, lasagna, spinach and ricotta ravioli, fettuccine alfredo with broccoli and shrimp, pork roulade and lamb ossobuco.


Of course for dessert we had to order tiramisu with Bailey's.

We alternated La Dolce with Yookoso, Blue Moon, Privilege and El Charro, but decided not to eat at La Hacienda for dinner.

Yookoso is the Japanese restaurant and only open for dinner and offers both hibachi and a-la-carte dining. We dined at Yookoso once at the hibachi table with four other people. They serve sushi in addition to the main course of fried rice, shrimp, chicken, beef and vegetables.




Blue Moon is only open for dinner and is considered the most high-end of all of the restaurants. It is air-conditioned so there is no open air and you really have no idea that you're at the beach. Men are supposed to wear long pants and close-toed shoes, but we saw that rule broken on countless occasions. We decided to dine at Blue Moon one time during our stay. Although it's a nicely air conditioned and fairly romantic environment, we simply enjoyed eating dinner elsewhere near the water and beach.

For appetizers, we had the lettuce hearts & rose petal salad, warm beef salad and clam chowder.

From the entree selections we tried the beef short rib, sea bass, cornish game hen and pork medallion.

Dessert consisted of creme brulee, a small cake assortment and Mexican coffee.
El Charro is open as a small buffet for lunch and a-la-carte for dinner. In years past, we have shied away from El Charro because we didn’t consider the food authentic Mexican. The menu has changed a great deal since last year so we decided to eat at El Charro once for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised.
Our meal started with chips, guacamole, salsa and a strawberry margarita. For appetizers we tried the tortilla soup and peasant salad.
For our entrees we ordered the cochanita tacos, barbacoa tacos and the mixed grill molcajete.

We also enjoyed a snack and ice cream from the buffet at lunch a handful of times as well as tacos and (our favorite…haha) the bacon-wrapped hot dog from the outdoor grill. Although convenient, El Charro's lunch buffet did not offer the same variety as La Hacienda nor the ambiance of the Privilege lounge. Despite the occasional snack at El Charro, we ate lunch at Privilege every single day. No kidding.
The Privilege lounge is the final restaurant and only available to privilege guests. Steve and I ate breakfast in the Privilege lounge every chance we could. There were 2 or 3 times when we woke up too late and we had to opt for a (spiked) smoothie instead. Privilege offers a beautiful and relaxing setting with an a-la-carte menu.
We always ordered mimosas and fruit, in addition to either the yogurt fruit cup, eggs your choice, crepes, omelets (vegetarian egg whites or your choice) or eggs Benedict.


Although the fruit plate isn’t on the menu, Steve and I ordered it every day and they are happy to accommodate. The fruit selection varied by day, but it was always delicious.

For lunch we enjoyed Privilege tapas EVERY SINGLE DAY. Sure, the menu is limited, but you can't go wrong with sliders, fries and champagne!

The portions were small, but high-quality. We tried everything on the menu from the octopus with aioli to the Chilean sea bass stuffed piquilo pepper. The sliders, patatas bravas and cheese fondue were our favorites.

As the days went on, we would request mas patatas because four little French fries just wasn’t enough. Our server Manuel and the chef quickly caught on and knew the way to our hearts. Mas patatas and mucho salsa de tomate.
We enjoyed dinner at Privilege a few times (with excellent service from Alberto!) Similar to La Dolce, we tried nearly everything on the menu!

One option we took advantage of was the opportunity to order from the La Dolce menu while dining in Privilege. They share the same kitchen, so the menu was presented to us every night. We mostly took advantage of this for the arugula salad and beef carpaccio because they were our favorite go-to items at La Dolce. On one particular night Jean ordered two carpaccios and the tuna salad...she may have also had most of Ron's seafood carpaccio, all for her first course :) They were all perfectly light and delicious.
Clean plate club!

For appetizers we tried the goat cheese mousse salad, trio of croquettes salad, grilled scallop salad, tataki tuna salad, cream of corn soup and seafood carpaccio.
For our entrees, we had the sea bass, beef tenderloin, rack of lamb, grilled salmon, turkey cutlet and spinach and cheese ravioli.

For dessert we tried everything...balsamic vinegar mousse, chocolate duo and sweet dreams.

 We ordered room service on two occasions. The food is adequate and it's convenient when you're hungry and don't really feel like getting ready to eat elsewhere. The menu offers basic breakfast, lunch and dinner items. Breakfast is only available to privilege guests, but lunch and dinner are available to everyone. I called and ordered pancakes and an omelet and received two of each!

 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 (also has amazing air conditioning!) We stopped in often before dinner for a cappuccino, latte and espresso. If you want coffee prior to 4 pm, you can simply visit the lobby bar and they have an espresso and cappuccino machine ready.
 The romantic dinner on the beach is always one of our favorite experiences. Included with our privilege upgrade, last year we started enjoying dinner for four simply because it's a fun experience. Jean and Ron upgraded our menus to include lobster and steak instead of the standard shrimp option (Thanks Ron & Jean!)

The meal started with a dry vodka martini. While Ron and Jean don't drink martinis, I love martinis, but not I put on my big girl pants and drank my dry martini. Meanwhile, Steve was left drinking the rest. Just kidding. He only drank his...and maybe a few extra sips :)

Our first course was a tomato bisque soup followed by salads with and without shrimp.

Ron ordered lobster as his main course while Jean, Steve and I ordered the filet. All were excellent.

For dessert we had strawberry flan and a cream puff with vanilla ice cream.


 Our dinner on the beach was just another way to celebrate Ron and Jean's four-year anniversary and our 10-year anniversary. This picture is a not-so-shocking display of the Schurs' much more reserved personalities :)

Now on to the bar scene! There are two main bars at Ocean Maya in addition to a smaller bar outside of El Charro (also a smoothie bar). Dos Equis and Dos Equis Amber are available at the main bar and the pool bar. There is a plethora of liquor available at all of the bars as well. 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. Miguel and Ignacio were both phenomenal at the pool bar. They were efficient, kind and funny. Steve and I mostly drank Ketel One, Campari (or grapefruit) and soda, while Ron and Jean drank both traditional and strawberry mojitos. We also had the occasional Mexican Gatorade, mudslide (they'll fool you...just ask Ron!), dirty banana, purple rain (RIP Prince), margarita (Ignacio's top-shelf margarita will KNOCK YOU ON YOUR ASS!), Long-Island, Long Beach (will also KNOCK YOU ON YOUR ASS!)


 At dinner, Steve and I drank Rose wine, while Ron and Jean drank either red or Rose.  After dinner, we found ourselves at the main bar. The courtyard outside of the main lobby is where we spent every night. Yovonnetti, Tila and Ana were exceptional in their service. They work so hard, while still remaining kind, eager to please and always remembered our drinks from previous nights. They all remembered us from past visits and seemed genuinely happy to see us again. We watched the outdoor performances, danced and enjoyed cocktails such as Ketel One martinis (no vermouth!), Manhattans, 1800 Anejo, black Russians and amaretto, among other things!

Of course we had to have Steve sing karaoke and I'm always one to make new vacation friends...and take selfies with them (of course!)

We were also invited to the Chef's Cocktail Party where all of the restaurant chefs were introduced and prepared a sampling of appetizers and desserts.

There are two pools at Ocean Maya and most people refer to them as the quiet/relaxing (or big) and loud (or party or swim-up bar) pools. We spent all of our time at the quiet pool with the exception of the two foam parties (more on that later...)


Yes, Jean and I have matching rafts and we were the envy of many. Some rafts are so obtrusive and annoying, but these blended in perfectly. I had the same one last year and we both knew we had to get it again.

 This one is pretty good. Steve, Jean and Ron would often reprieve to the bridge for some shade, but we had to make sure I was in the sun!



Occasionally, pool chairs were a little hard to come by, so as a team we agreed that the first person up in the morning would reserve two chairs and then send a text to the other party. Several days, none of us were up early, but were able to drop our towels on the way to breakfast. It really wasn't a big deal and we were never without two pool chairs. We even had our "can't miss" t-shirts to mark our territory. GO CAVS!! NBA CHAMPIONS!!

We are all very responsible with our sunscreen and rarely get sunburnt. We bring PLENTY. I lower my SPF as the trip continues, so this is a pretty good indication of our daily application. From left to right...Shannon (4), Steve, (15) Jean (30), Ron (50) :)
Of course we couldn't miss the foam party at the party pool! Every Friday at 3 pm, the entertainment team hosted a foam party in the party pool. We enjoyed it twice during our stay and it was a lot of fun. Jean and I made great use of our waterproof cameras! The worst part is that it was a little difficult keeping our drinks foam-less. The entertainment team hosted several other activities throughout the days including, paella-making competition, sushi-making, sangria-making, guacamole-making, cards, water polo, volleyball, water aerobics, etc. etc.

There is also a small beach with plenty of chairs and a separate Privilege beach area.



Unlike all of our previous stays, we had a couple of nights of rain because tropical storm Earl was in the area. As a result, we were receiving a few random evening storms. Thankfully, it never altered our daytime/pool activities. On one particular night we were at the lobby bar having some drinks, but wanted to eat dinner near the beach. We decided to call a Mexican Uber! a.k.a. the hotel golf cart. We hopped in (champagne in hand!) and were dropped off at the restaurant doorstep. A+ service and a great story!

Once again, the service at OMR elevated our trip to another level. Every aspect and every person went out of their way to make our trip extra special.
Having just celebrated our 10-year and Ron and Jean their four-year anniversary, they had a nice rose petal display in our rooms after dinner one night. They even put our name in the Ocean Post!
The highlight of this resort and the #1 reason why we continue to return time and time again is the staff. From top to bottom, everyone treats you with genuine reverence and kindness and is always eager to please. Groundskeepers, housekeeping, bar staff, dining staff…I could go on forever about their seemingly genuine attempt to make every guest happy.

Two employees both went so far to each purchase a bottle of Liquor 43 for Ron off site. 43 is a drink that Ron and Jean enjoy immensely and it was not available at the resort. The day after this innocent request, both employees arrived in the Privilege lounge with a bottle for Ron. He was giddy. He obviously reimbursed them ++++, but it was such an unexpected an incredible gesture by both men. I can promise that both bottles were enjoyed in their entirety!
Thank you!

Although everyone went above and beyond, there were a few members of the staff who specifically impacted our trip. First, we want to extend a very special thank you to Manuel in Privilege breakfast and lunch. He was efficient, kind and personable. He always knew to bring us quatro champagne and mas patatas when we arrived for lunch. Victor from Privilege also provided stellar service and made sure all of our needs were met.
Alberto in Privilege and our romantic dinner server provided flawless service every night. He always had a smile on his face and went well out of his way to accommodate any request.
Oli, Eber, Yovonnetti, Tila and Ana from the lobby bar and courtyard have always stood out and remember us from previous stays. This trip was no different. They take excellent care in ensuring we are happy and our drinks are full and perfect!
Finally, Denise from guest services is a great asset to the h10 and OMR companies. During the several months leading up to my stay, she was quick to respond and accommodate every question and request. I can't thank her enough for helping to make this such a memorable trip for all of us! I am sad to hear she is leaving OMR, but excited for her opportunity at a much larger h10 resort in the Riviera Maya.

Overall, the staff at Ocean Maya Royale is phenomenal and should be proud of what they bring to the h10 organization. Manuel, Alberto, Victor, Yovanetti, Tila, Ana, Eber, Oli, Miguel, Ignacio, Daniela from the entertainment staff and Denise ALL truly made our trip memorable and an outstanding experience. I was excited to see Miguel Roman again and hear he is the new guest services manager. This was my 5th visit to Ocean Maya and the staff always exceeds our expectations. We are already planning out 6th and 7th visit to OMR for 2017. Thank you!

We returned on another non-stop first class flight and were thrilled to see a little reminder of our NBA Champion Cleveland if we'd forgotten!


In the end, we realize once again how much we appreciate, need and enjoy these vacations. We have a great time with our friends where we create memories to last a lifetime. Most importantly, we have the opportunity to spend this time together doing absolutely nothing but enjoy each other’s company. It is a time that is healthy and nurturing for our marriage and our friendship. We've been married 10 years and we continue to live the dream. You can't ask for much more than that.


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