April 3, 2016 at 6:22 pm #4685
For those that don’t wish to read a lengthy, almost 2000-word review, the “100 words or less” summary is as follows: Large resort that requires either lots of walking or the patience to wait for transportation, lots of options for food, drink, and entertainment, high marks for the customer service, buffet food, and mediocre marks for entertainment and a la carte meals. Overall, 4 stars out of 5 and I would return if the price was comparable to other 3-4 star resorts (this is not a resort that can compete from a quality perspective with 5 star resorts, but it doesn’t carry the price tag either).
Now, to the details:
Arrived on a Saturday and stayed for a week. We are a couple in our mid-40s (but younger at heart) with an energetic, 11-year-old daughter. Resort was completely booked, but check-in was still relatively simple and fast (we got to the resort around 6:45pm). We were in a junior suite in Kantenah, room 4807 (2nd floor, jungle view, king bed with pull out sofa). Room was a good size for 3 people – anything more than that may have been a bit cramped, the pull out sofa was small even for my 5-foot tall daughter, she slept diagonally on it.
Other thoughts on the room – refrigerator was cold (to the point where some of the beverages were frozen), shower pressure was excellent, the balcony wasn’t huge but could accommodate all three of us without difficulty, and we were able to adjust the room temperature to an appropriate level. The location was relatively quiet, though there seems to be some construction at the resort next door that you can hear when you were on the balcony during the day. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the room based on the needs of our family of 3.
Buffets – ate there every day for breakfast and lunch. Had to wait 10 minutes on average to be seated for breakfast (though we went at the peak times more often than not, which were 9am to 10am). Omelets were excellent (kudos to Nicolina at Tikal Buffet) and the selection was tremendous. Especially liked the healthy juice options. Didn’t have a bad item the entire week in either the breakfast or lunch buffets. For lunch, you could get made-to-order meats and fish such as pork chops, chicken, mahi mahi, or salmon. All were outstanding. Service was great just about every time. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the buffets (note that I didn’t eat there for dinner)
A la cartes – a bit of a disappointment. Most of the meals were mediocre and the portion size was small (actually had to stop at a buffet after one meal to get some supplementary food). Ratings for each restaurant that I frequented were as follows:
La Lola (tapas)- 3 out of 5 stars, nothing stood out as being exemplary though there wasn’t anything that was inedible either.
Punta Emilia (seafood) – 3.5 out of 5 stars, great location on the beach but didn’t enjoy my entrée (“A Banda Fish”, with rice, shrimp, and squid). A bit of a language struggle with the wait staff as well, one of the diners at our table didn’t get the right entrée. My wife’s grilled fish entrée, however, was terrific.
La Adelita (Mexican) – 3 out of 5 stars, food was a bit bland (I had chicken burritos) and the quantity was small. Even though I had a large salad and my entrée (plus dessert), I still was not full when I left.
Ribs and More (American) – 4.5 out of 5 stars, this was a bit of a pleasant surprise! Reviews that I had read hadn’t been too kind to this restaurant. I took a gamble and ordered a ribeye, and it was excellent! Quantities were large and service was great.
Mare Nostrum (Mediterranean) – 3 out of 5 stars, the biggest disappointment for me as I talked to many people that raved about this resort. They have an amazing salad bar, but my salmon entrée wasn’t very special (in fact, it was very similar to the salmon served at the lunch buffet) and my wife’s entrée was equally mediocre.
Sumptuori (Japanese) – 4.5 out of 5 stars, everything was great! They brought out a sushi appetizer with great, fresh quality, then the entrees (shrimp and vegetable tempura for my daughter, soba joma fillet for me) were equally good. Only minor complaint was that we were seated next to a hibachi table and for a 10-minute stretch, it was so loud at that table that I couldn’t hear my daughter. We went here on our last day and definitely would’ve liked to have tried it a second time (at the hibachi table instead of an individual table).
So overall, 3.5 out of 5 stars for the a la cartes as quality and quantity were both inconsistent. Also, wanted to eat at El Dorado but the lines were too long (one night, the wait was 2 hours even though we got there before 6pm!)
Pools – tons of choices! There’s 2 main pools with constant activities (one on the Colonial/Kantenah side, one on the White Sand/Riviera side), plus several adult/secret pools within each section of the resort, plus the unique salt water pool near the Riviera (more of an extension of the ocean than a pool – my daughter said that there’s some good snorkeling in that pool!). Note that after a few days of frustration with a large portion of chairs being saved but no people actually in those chairs (even though I was getting there at 10:30am right after breakfast), I violated my personal pool etiquette code and started saving a few chairs each day for the family. Water temperature was low 80s F, very comfortable (the water temps at the beach were similar, but we didn’t spend much time there due to above-average winds). We spent 5-6 hours per day at the pools (my daughter swam the entire time), and a few nights at the secret pool at Kantenah as well. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the pools (and 5 stars for the weather, sunny and mid-80s F for just about the entire week!).
Customer service – from front desk staff, waiters and other restaurant staff, employees at the retail stores, guest relations, etc., we found everyone to be helpful and friendly. Even if they didn’t give you the answer that you wanted, they tried to find an alternative solution. Only negative experience was with the restaurant reservation one morning, there was advertisements around the resort for a Thursday BBQ at the beach, so I woke up early and stood in line for about 30 minutes on Wednesday morning, only to find out that the BBQ was cancelled for the day. Would’ve been nice to have a sign near the customer service line with this information. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the great staff.
Shows/entertainment – the best thing I can say about the entertainment is that the entertainment staff works very hard to put on a good show. And a few of the shows were OK. But there were a few that were downright embarrassing (the Monday magic show, in particular, was a complete waste of time). 3 stars out of 5, only because of the efforts of the staff (you WANTED to like the shows, and occasionally you did, but eventually we stopped going and went to the pool after dinner instead).
Bars – service was prompt and courteous. My wife and I mainly stuck to wine – both the house sparkling wine and the white wine were OK and the rose was not drinkable. Would like to see a slight upgrade in quality here, or at least a better alternative in Hemingway or Churchill that doesn’t have a charge (you can purchase some upgrade wines by the glass for an additional fee). Overall, 4 stars out of 5 for the bars.
Housekeeping – Nice job cleaning the room, but didn’t always get bottled water (had to call for it a few times) and never got gluten free beer even though we asked several times. 3.5 stars out of 5.
Ambiance/cleanliness – we loved the look and feel of the resort – it’s huge and requires either a lot of walking or a lot of waiting for the various trains and trams (we always walked – good way to burn some calories on vacation). My daughter enjoyed counting the number of iguanas that she saw (ended at 248 for the week) and there were various other creatures that were roaming the grounds. No issues with bugs/mosquitos even though it was hot each day and you’re in a jungle-like setting (guessing that mosquitos start to get bad around May once the humidity and rain increases). Free wifi was a bit spotty in places. 4.5 stars out of 5 for the ambiance/cleanliness – also worth noting that the other guests were a cross-section of ages and nationalities (though not a lot of Spring Break college and high school kids, perhaps due to the location away from the Hotel Zone), and most of the people were polite and festive.
Finally, a few other notes:
There’s a Segway tour of the resort 4 times a day, you can book at the Colonial pool. $40 USD per person, ages 10 and over are welcome. Great way to see the entire resort and it’s a ton of fun (and super easy to learn). We liked the tour so much that we did it twice! Kudos to Sergio for being a great tour guide both times. Segway Fun Tours is the name of the company.
We ordered room service (burgers and wings) once, came within 40 minutes as promised and was pretty good
We used US A Transfers to get to and from the Cancun airport, based on strong TripAdvisor reviews – $130 USD for 3 people in a private van (round trip), didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes to get picked up and it was just under an hour from airport to hotel. You can book in advance. Definitely would recommend them.
We were there on Easter Sunday and it was standing room only at the church. The entire service was in Spanish (other than one reading that was in English) so I was a bit lost. But I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
We brought chocolate eggs for housekeeping and they were very much appreciated (had read somewhere, perhaps in a note from Anne, that they are hard to find in Mexico).
We brought 2000 pesos (100 20-peso bills, about $130 in USD) and tipped bartenders, housekeeping, restaurant staff, bellmen, and anyone else that provided great service. The staff works long hours and wages are low, and everyone was very appreciative of even a small tip.
To conclude, we had a terrific week at the Grand Palladium. There were some imperfections but the beauty of the resort and the kindness of the staff left a favorable impression on our family. We would give the resort 4 stars out of 5 and would definitely consider a return if the price was right.
April 3, 2016 at 6:41 pm #4687
Thanks Jason Great balanced report. How did your daughtr enjoy herself?
Note to others on gluten free beer: I have personally worked with the resort to facilitate the availability of gluten free beer. It is not easy to find in Mexico but they found it! If you need it in your room fridge they will provide it. Best to get a manager’s email address from me and email them ahead.
On other fridge items best to leave a note (in Spanish if possible) requesting other items in the fridge. Sounds like maybe you had a “new” fridge Jason.
Agree. as a wine person (and though the wine is acceptable for an AI (I have had some undrinkables at AI) would ike to see it improved, even if it’s at Hemingways and Royal.
Funny Jason there was a time when the portions were so large that many of us requested smaller portions to avoid waste!
Thanks again. Great review.
April 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm #4690
April 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm #4691
April 3, 2016 at 9:32 pm #4692
Anne, my daughter had a blast! She’s never been one to go to the kids clubs (even though this one seems to get positive reviews) and she actually knew a good friend from her school that was at the resort, so they swam from 10:30 to 4:30 every day, stopping only for lunch at the buffet. She loved trying out her limited Spanish vocabulary with the staff (the staff were all extremely encouraging of her efforts). She did pottery painting at the beach, bought a few small gifts at the outdoor shopping area near the Colonial theatre, and LOVED the Segway tour and the foam party. She would go back there in a heartbeat, which will definitely influence any future travel decisions that we make.
summerlove, I will definitely be trying your idea next time!
Thanks all for the feedback.
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