Client review of El Dorado Casitas Royale

El Dorado Casitas Royale was absolutely amazing. From the moment we stepped into the lobby until the time we left we were constantly saying wow. I’ve never seen a more well maintained property and the best part was they maintained it without the use of tons of power equipment so there was no noise.

The staff were some of the best people I’ve ever come in contact with. Whether it be the gentleman watering the lawn or the bartender, or the waiter, they were all wonderful. You couldn’t walk past them without an “hola” coming from them before you could even form the word. Our favorite staff members were Enrica, our bartender, he was truly awesome and a lot of fun. Our beach butlers, Marecio and Ignunsio, were hilarious and kept us in whatever we needed so we could just lay there on the beach and relax. Our beach waiter, Cindy, worked extremely hard, she was quiet but remembered what drink you enjoyed. Every single waiter and hostess was great but I think my favorite hostess was at La Fondue. She was lively and having fun.

The food was simply amazing. We ate to our hearts content and our bellies were about to explode with joy. My favorite for breakfast was Cocotal. I never knew there could  be so many choices for breakfast! You could truly hurt yourself eating there every morning! The only questionable meal I had involved shrimp and the waiter was more than happy to rectify the situation. All I can here is be ready to try different foods and love them!

Casitas Swim Up PoolThe pool outside our room was great. We did have a little trouble one day when it became overrun with some folks from the Royale but that was taken care of and they didn’t come back. The pool was clean and the water was warm, it was great.

I loved the beach beds! My husband and I are somewhat fair skinned and burn easily but when we were tired of the sun but didn’t want to go in we just hit the beach bed. Next time I go I will take water shoes since it is a bit rocky.

I would most definitely recommend this resort and Berwick Travel to everyone I know. I would rather do El Dorado Casitas Royale than a cruise anytime.

Susan with Berwick Travel was wonderful at explaining everything to me and taking care of everything so that we felt comfortable. Thank you Susan!  This was most definitely a 10 on our vacation scale and we do plan on returning!

Thanks Wendy from NC, we appreciate the great comments!  -Steve


Playa Del Carmen Beaches

The beach is back in Playa Del Carmen! After several years of being hard hit by erosion and a handful of hurricanes, the beach along this picturesque stretch had all but disappeared. Unattractive sandbags dotted the view, trying vainly to keep Mother Nature at bay, but to no avail. Several hotels literally had waves crashing against their pool decks, and had essentially given up even putting beach chairs out.

All that has changed in the past few months. The Mexican government, as part of their tourism plan in Cancun & Riviera Maya, spent millions of dollars and months of time rebuilding the beaches. Dredges pulled up sand from hundreds of yards out in the ocean and pumped it from two foot wide pipes until the beach reemerged from the sea. When they finished, the hotels along the Playacar strip (including some of our most popular, such as the Riu Palace Mexico, Riu Palace Riviera Maya, Riu Playacar and Yucatan, the Iberostar Tucan & Quetzal, Sandos Playacar, and of course Royal Hideaway) had a brand new 200 feet wide beach with plenty of room for chairs, volleyball nets, palapas, and beach waiters!

The sand itself is a bit on the coarse side, and Mother Nature’s wrath can already be seen in the waves carving out a small ledge at the water’s edge (an indication she’s slowly taking back that sand the dredges borrowed from her), but the government has guaranteed the beaches in Playa Dal Carmen. This means that as the natural erosion progresses, the dredges will return, and the cycle will begin again. The beaches may grow and shrink depending on the time of year, but at least now we know the beaches are back for good.

We’ve got a handful of new beach pictures posted – check out that bright blue water!

Occidental Royal Hideaway Playacar Review

They call the Occidental Royal Hideaway Playacar “the evolution of the all inclusive resort”, and that’s a fairly good description of one of the finest and well-respected resorts in all of Mexico. Still the only AAA Five Diamond adults-only all-inclusive in Mexico, the Royal Hideaway Playacar features 200 luxurious rooms spread throughout gorgeous foliage and winding fountains and pools.

The hotel’s “all new” beach looks amazing – if you’ve ever seen pictures of the terrible erosion in Playacar over the past few years, it’s like night and day with close to 200 feet of white (albeit a little “shelly”) sand. Two “main” pools plus four smaller and secluded pool/jacuzzi combinations give a very relaxing alternative to the beach.

Royal Hideaway offers six gourmet a la carte restaurants including a sushi bar; the only buffet you’ll find here is an oceanview breakfast option, otherwise guests can order from a menu morning, noon, and night. A beachfront bar for the day and a relaxing evening main bar open until 1AM complete the dining experience.

Royal Hideaway truly shines when dealing with the staff. Top notch service, always there when needed with a smile, from the groundskeepers to the waiters to the head chef visiting the restaurants each night to mingle. The people are easily some of the best we’ve encountered, and make for a memorable stay.

Royal Hideaway is planning a multi-million dollar refurbishment later this year and will be adding flat screen televisions and radios with iPod docking stations, but will still be keeping that relaxed, luxurious Mexican feel they’re known for. Plenty of new Royal Hideaway pictures posted on our site, and they’re running a fantastic 30% off sale through the end of June for travel by December 23rd.

Occidental Grand Xcaret Review

We got a chance to visit an old friend this week, the unique and eco-friendly Occidental Grand Xcaret. Located just south of Playa Del Carmen (which makes for a very easy 5 minute taxi ride into town), and just over an hour from Cancun’s airport, the Grand Xcaret (pronounced with the Mayan “sh” for x, so “shcaret”) is a sprawling all-inclusive resort built right into the natural Yucatan landscape.

This 4+ star resort features 769 rooms (over 280 of them being connecting, great for larger families); 11 restaurants including Oriental, Italian, Mexican, Steak House, and Seafood; an impressive 10 bars; both standard and junior suites with in room minibars; a sheltered man-made beach that allows for very calm swimming and snorkeling (it’s quite common to see dozens of fish weaving between swimmers!); several onsite Mayan ruins; and the upscale hotel-within-a-hotel Royal Club, with its own pool and restaurant exclusively for Royal Club guests.

Guests staying a week can make four a la carte reservations for dining upon arrival; this doesn’t mean the other nights cannot be a la carte as other resorts may do, however. Guests can simply check at the restaurant that day to see if space is available. Royal Club guests have preferred reservations. The resort is very spread out, and even at maximum occupancy one would be hard pressed to find a crowded area. In the evenings, Grand Xcaret’s philosophy changes, as the restaurants, theater, sports bar, and nightclub are all in and around a central plaza, making for an enjoyable, higher-energy atmosphere.

One last note – the Occidental Grand Xcaret is adjacent to the Xcaret nature/water park, which is a eco-themed adventure destination with dolphin swims, snorkeling, and nighttime Mayan fire shows. Guests of the hotel are able to walk or take a small Mexican gondola along a stream into the Xcaret park, and instead of the normal $69 entry fee, only pay $49. Another great benefit – it’s just a five minute journey, so guests can enter in the morning, enjoy the park for a few hours, head back to the hotel for lunch (all inclusive remember!) and maybe a nap for the kids, and reenter the park late afternoon for more activities and the nightime show. No other resort has that!

We’ve got dozens of brand new Occidental Grand Xcaret pictures posted on our site. They are currently running a really aggressive 52% off sale through June 30th, plus 30% savings in the Royal Club, and kids 12 and under stay free. Rates start at $80 per person, per night (no airfare) for summer travel!

Occidental Allegro Playacar Review

If you’re in the market for a small inexpensive all-inclusive resort with the basic amenities and a location right outside of Playa Del Carmen, the Occidental Allegro Playacar may fit the bill. This was the first hotel built in Playacar (a private hotel and residence community within walking distance of Playa Del Carmen) and has a tremendous repeat guest ratio, so they must be doing something right!

The Allegro Playacar is consistently among the lowest cost all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya, but an important note: if you’re looking for junior suites, chandeliers, and a dozen fine dining restaurants, you may want to explore other alternatives (maybe our popular Grand Riviera Princess or Ocean Coral & Turquesa). The Allegro Playacar has small (quite small actually) rooms with very basic amenities, two pools, and just 3 restaurants. The rooms are arranged in small villas of 8 rooms each, only two stories, and are surrounded by beautiful landscaping – but again, very small and basic rooms.

This resort would be a great choice for a budget-minded traveler who plans to spend time outside the resort (excursions, Playa Del Carmen, golfing, etc.) and the price is nearly impossible to beat. The Allegro Playacar has summer rates using their 58% off sale from $55 per person per night (no airfare). Yes, that’s $385 per person for a week’s stay, all inclusive!

Xplor Excursion Review

It’s not often we’re able to participate in some of the incredible off-site excursions and activities (we do actually work when we visit, the destinations!), but this trip we were fortunate enough to join our great friends at Funjet Vacations as their ground transportation company (Lomas Travel) took us to one of the newest (and most active) options, Xplor.

Xplor, which is owned by the same company that owns Xcaret and Xel-Ha parks, is a high-energy day with four of the most popular activities all included in one entry (not to mention food, drinks, and lockers).

Start your day with one of two zip-line courses running between 60-75 foot tall towers over the park. Xplor has what we called “zip lines for dummies”; a two-wire system with guides on each tower that start and stop the guests, meaning no need to hold the line to slow down. Just sit and enjoy the view! If you chose the Jaguar course (no actual jaguars, we assure you) you’ll ride the high lines (taller towers of the two courses); if you choose the Deer course, you’ll splash down into cool fresh water cenotes on a couple of runs, plus take a waterslide ride.

After de-harnessing, head over to the rafts, where you’ll hand paddle one or two person rafts through an underground river system that weaves its way through stalactites and stalagmites in lit caverns. Since you just sat in a wet raft, might as well make your way to the river swim, where guests don a lifejacket and swim/walk through another underground river, this one with more picturesque scenery (or maybe it just appears to be, since you we so busy trying to paddle your raft accurately, you missed that scenery).

Time to grab lunch – very large buffet with hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta, salads, and more (oddly enough, it wasn’t very Mexican…) where all the food and drink are included. Back to the lockers (no charge) to put on shorts and a t-shirt, and off to the amphibious vehicles, where guests drive a four wheel drive buggy through a winding 4 kilometer course surround by trees, and through underground caves (some with a couple of feet of water – hence the amphibious!)

Finish the day by doing the other zip-line run, and take the air-conditioned Lomas Travel van back to your resort. Very fun day, although Xplor is much less “authentic” than their two sister parks (one of our party remarked the raft ride felt like a log flume at Disney with the loading and unloading area). The park is located just south of Playa Del Carmen, and rates are $129/adult, half price for kids under 12. Contact your Travel Consultant to book ahead of time, Xplor and have fun!

Musings at 30,000 Feet

Well, here we are…30,000 feet up, and fully connected to the Interwebs. We’re headed to Royal Hideaway for a business conference with our great partners at Funjet Vacations, and lo and behold, our timing was perfect to enjoy a free trial of GoGo Inflight internet access on our USAirways A321.

How convenient is this? I’m able to check emails (and clear my Inbox before hitting the beach…er, attending my first meeting), adjust our online advertising for the weekend, log into Instant Messaging to stay in touch with the office for a few extra hours, and even upload web page updates showing new resort sales. All from the comfort of coach (OK, comfort in coach is a bit of an oxymoron, but cattle pen didn’t sound nearly as exciting).

Very impressive service they have going on here…very fast speeds (150 kB/sec downloads, which is on par with any Panera/Barnes & Noble locations), the ability to log in on multiple devices (I’m logged in on my laptop and iPhone separately), and different rate plans depending on length of flight and device (less expensive for the iPhone than for full laptop connect).

Tried a few experiments – most websites loaded without a hitch (including Facebook and Twitter for all of you addicted to updating your status), email loaded and sent flawlessly including attachments, online storage sites (we use DropBox – fantastic free online backup and file sharing service) performed exactly as expected. One non-starter – Skype doesn’t function, although I believe this is on purpose (in-flight systems aren’t allowing for VOIP calls yet – here’s hoping they don’t, as listening to the businessman next to you prattle on and on about his next big deal for 3 hours could be a bit tedious).

All in all, extremely impressive and useful. USAirways only has it on A321s right now, and disappointingly enough our return flight is a Boeing 757, but it shouldn’t be long before we’re all connected 24/7, no matter where we are. I’m already looking forward to my first mojito by the pool, using Royal Hideaway’s wifi, and really getting to work…