My husband and I had a 7 night stay at the Grand Palladium. We stayed in a standard room in the Colonial side. This was our sixth trip to the Yucatan. We've stayed everywhere from Puerto Adventuras to Cancun to Cozumel over the last 15 years.
First, we fell in love with the Mayan Rivera during our first trip, but this was when Playa Del Carmen was only a few blocks in size and a great offbeat bohemian village. Now it has a Sams Club and drive-thru fast food. We knew this and although somewhat sad about it, we understand that those things represent a middle-class and that is a good thing for the region. Our taxi-driver that took us to Xel-Ha told us that the expansion of the region had brought electricity, sewage and water to the workers. That is a very good thing.
So this time, we chose to stay really far south at the Grand Palladium. We researched the resort and understood that it was a very large complex and a lot of walking would be required. That is true, but it is one of the resorts best features. It is pleasant and gives you plenty of quiet space. If you are not into walking, sometimes short distances in extreme heat, you should opt for somewhere else.
Getting there and check-in. It is a long bus ride to the resort from the airport. We booked through Apple and had no problems with the transportation. A/C and comfortable. Check-in was very quick and we were taken on a golf-cart to our room. We stayed in building 2 on the colonial side, second floor, and it was close to the lobby and the spa, which was really ideal for us.
Rooms. We had a standard with a king bed. The rooms were cold and we didn't have to keep a key in ours to keep the electricity on. It stayed cool enough for me and I like the air temp to be around 68 F. With the ceiling fan, it was pleasant. Also, the rooms were super clean. The quality of the room does a good deal of making and breaking a vacation for me.
The maid service was outstanding. The room was spotless. We tipped her $5 US dollars each day and she left us the cutest towel animals I've ever seen. Eagles, bears and swans and flowers tucked into towels folded like fans. And not a speck of sand anywhere.
Food. We found the food to be really good. We've stayed at a lot of AIs, including Secrets Excellence, and the food was just as good. The only improvement that they could make was offering more a la carte choices for a 7 night stay. You only get three. And that doesn't even allow you to try them all and repeat the ones you like best. We chose the Greek restaurant twice and the Japanese one for our last night there. We liked them both but the Greek one really hit home with me. I had the seafood special one night and the sirloin steak the next. The sushi at the Japanese restaurant was really amazing. The waitstaff and bartenders (esp Rudy) were absolutely wonderful to us. Try Rudy's famous Melon Sour and a Capriniah. Please tip your waitstaff and your bartenders. If you have any doubt as to why, look at the feet on the girls who seat you at the buffet. They are covered in band-aids. Just tip them please. And relax. They will come around.
The food was great. if you didn't like the buffet choices at the main dining area, there was a chef at the buffets ready to cook you something. We had a choice every night of grilled pork chop, veal, mahi-mahi, grouper, salmon and chicken, cooked right in front of us. Also, the pasta chef would mix you up whatever pasta, vegetables, meat and sauce you wanted. In the morning, they would cook you omelets to order and at night, crepes. You got the best selection of fresh juice this side of heaven and could even make your own mimosa at the juice bar. There was a family of cats (4 adults and 3 kittens) that lived right outside of the buffet (smart cats) and we took them food twice a day from the buffet. We were discreet about it and no one seem to mind. The kittens were so friendly, I'm sure they were very used to being picked up and I liked the fact that the hotel didn't remove them. I hope that remains the case.
Prior to this trip, I have gotten sick in Mexico, most of the time - just a little for a short period of time. Twice, I have gotten so ill that I've had to spend time in the hospital upon returning to the states. So I am the worlds best critic when it comes to food-that-will-make-you-sick-in-Mexico. The answer, not here at this resort. The food is great. If you get sick, it will mostly likely be due to the Cancun airport, or anything you eat at one of the excursions. If you want to play it safe, don't eat anything - ANYTHING - outside the resort. Not at Tulum, Xel-Ha, the airport, Cozumel, Playa, none of it. Don't drink anything at these places with ice in it either. Drink only beer or water or soda from the bottle or can. At the resort, close your mouth when you shower and don't even brush your teeth in the water in the sink. Use the bottled water for everything. I came away fine for the first time.
Eco-Friendly. The way the hotel is structured, it makes you feel as if you are part of the natural surroundings. There are many paths to walk down and as you do, various plants and animals are described on signs. There is a mangrove forest and cenote on site. Fish ponds are everywhere. Also, along the beach, there are protected areas for the turtles and they even enforce the nighttime ban of walking on the beach because it can be harmful to the turtles. If you have a guide, you can go, but you can't alone. One morning, we walking from the beach to the El Dorado Resort and we saw turtle tracks everywhere! It was amazing.
The beach is a mix of coral and sand. It isn't deep and it is very calm. The beach of the Rivera side is really rocky. We can't imagine coming to a place as beautiful as a coral shore with white sand and swimming at the pool, so I can't review the swimming pools - I didn't touch one for 7 days. We stayed on the beach. And we didn't get up at 6 and rudely "reserve" a tiki with our towels and rocks. Most days we didn't get out there until 11 am or so and we never had a problem finding shade. There were times when we had to walk toward the Kantenah side a bit to find one, but there was always one available.
We spent one day at the Renova Spa getting massages and pedicures and manicures. This place is amazing! Even if you don't get any treatments, you should go and sit. It is so relaxing. And try the hydrotherapy room. It is included in the room price. The cold plunge pool is worth the walk over - just to stick your weary feet in some ice-cold water (that is about as much as I could stand - ankle deep :). My husband used the gym every morning and said it was fantastic.
We caught 3 of the 7 shows, two were by the same professional dance troupe and one was by the staff (the Disney show). I think we liked the Disney one the best. The dancing might not have been "professional", but the costumes were beautiful and overall, it was very well done. Some of the shows were at 9:30 and some were at 10:30. We found it difficult to find enough to do between dinner and the show that most times, we just went back to the room and didn't go out again. It would have been nice to have more choices of entertaining activities that were in an air-conditioned room (it is very humid at night). There was only two pool tables and they were always extremely busy. Adding more of these, along with some darts, indoor boccie ball and things of that nature would have been most welcome.
We've been to all the local attractions in our prior visits, and only wanted to return to Xel-Ha for the snorkeling this time. We did that on a Monday, catching a taxi to the park. The prices were normally $33 US dollars to get in. Based on the fact that we were going on a Sunday, it was only $22 each. it was only $9.50 10 years ago. My, how things change. And there were hardly any fish left. Can't say I blame them for leaving with a thousand people in the water with vile sunscreen on. (They say they have a rule against it and you need to wear t-shirts instead of SPF 50, but people were putting it on all around us.
Overall, if we decide to ever go back to the Mayan Rivera (which is doubtful now that it is so densely packed with people), we would stay at the Grand Palladium again. But I would bring a LOT of books to read. Which is ideal way to vacation, IMHO.
I have lots of pictures and will answer any questions about the resort and our experience - just let me know!
Thanks for reading!