Suffering from major holiday blues, jet-lagged and adjusting to life far sooner than I want to be, editing my holiday pictures is making me jealous of the 10 days of amazing-ness I got to experience at the beginning of July. I am currently topping up the Mexican tan I have acquired that most would be envious of though, so life isn’t TOO bad.
It’s that time of year when everyone fortunate enough to not be tied down to travelling within the school summer holidays jets off to enjoy a break from reality and whatever constitutes normality. This year’s holiday of choice was a 10 day stay at the 5* all-inclusive Paradisus resort in Cancun, Mexico. We booked the holiday back in February and the 5 month wait felt like years. But as always, before we knew it, we were sat on a plane bracing ourselves for our imminent 10 and half hour flight. I was sat alongside my two best friends almost screaming with excitement for what was correctly anticipated to be the best holiday EVERH.
My first flying experience with Virgin Airways was seamless; flying for over 10 hours straight is never something one would look forward to, but the entertainment, seats and staff made the flight feel almost 1/2 of the time. ALMOST. A great choice of films, unlimited alcohol and the amount of food normally consumed over a 36 hour period, we landed in Cancun rested and very much in the holiday spirit (though the 4 double G&Ts I had on the plane may have played a part in that.)
We jumped in a taxi and checked in at the hotel. Cheekily, we asked if there were any upgrades going for free (or close to) and we were offered a deal we couldn’t refuse. Private butler, larger room, separate pool and cut-off beach area, we upgraded our standard lagoon view room to the Royal Service part of the hotel. It didn’t take too much convincing, the 4 free bottles of alcohol we were entitled to in our room per day didn’t even register to me, I was sold at the mention of a private butler!
The hotel itself is huge – it’s clear to see as you pull up to it by driving through the extravagant golf course that spans the width of the hotel and then the fountain that greets you as you get closer to the entrance. The layout of the hotel follows a pyramid theme whereby you have 5 central areas, each of which holds an elaborate display of plants, flowers and water features.
The Royal Service Experience
Obviously our experience of the hotel was very different to those staying in the regular part of the hotel so I can’t comment on how the hotel was otherwise. But there was only one restaurant exclusive to royal service members and all other 9 restaurants and 7 bars were open to all. La Palapa was the pool/beach side restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner exclusively to Royal Service members. We ate here for most breakfast and lunch time meals, choosing to dine here on our first night. We had checked in and unpacked and went for a bite to eat. By the time we’d finished our first course I couldn’t believe how relaxed we all were. We’d been awake and travelling for around 30 hours and yet the sea breeze, delightfully happy staff and holiday mode had us feeling so relaxed. We would have happily paid more just for that feeling.
On a day-to-day basis, we enjoyed added luxuries such as a much quieter pool, a choice of pool-side cabanas, and our personal butler service that the queen would be worthy of. Juan, our dedicated room butler (every day you have a pool/beach server allocated to you, too) was always happy to do anything and everything we asked – or didn’t ask – for. When we arrived he offered to unpack our suitcases, iron items of clothing every day, organise our restaurant reservations, escort us to dinner as well as providing general tips and advice on the excursions we had planned.
I never came across a rude member of staff, or someone unwilling to help in any way, but the treatment from staff in the Royal Service was clearly a standard above the standard part of the hotel. Tips were always appreciated and I never once saw a member of staff standing around aimlessly; they were always keeping busy and ensuring hotel guests were happy, fed and watered (cocktailed) at all times.
The layout of the hotel means that most rooms will either face the sea, or the lagoon, therefore either getting a sunrise view, or that of the sunset. I was quite content to be able to watch the stunning sunsets every evening as we were getting ready for that night’s activities.
We had 2 double beds, a sofa (Juan did ask if we would have preferred a sofa bed, but we were happy to share beds) and all of the amenities you would expect in a hotel room. The bathroom was spacious and had a lovely overhead shower as well as a handhold. The toilet was cut off behind a sliding door which was appreciated. The mini bar was replenished every day and an additional bottle of water was left for use in the Nespresso coffee machine, which had 2 different types of coffee ‘pods’, also replenished every day. As expected, the room was cleaned to a very high standard every day, with all amenities and Thierry Mugler products replaced. At around 7pm the maid would also knock at the door to ask if you require any more towels or bathing products, a lovely touch that we rarely required, but an example as to how the staff proved their ‘royal’ service.
We were surprised on two occasions by Juan when we arrived back to our room after a long and hard day of sunbathing. One of which was a bottle of champagne, the other was a rose petal filled bath. They were lovely touches which were much appreciated and made the experience that bit more personal.
Being part of the royal service, we had access to an exclusive restaurant called La Palapa. It was beside our exclusive pool and had stunning views of the sea. We ate here for most breakfast meals (changing between here and the buffet in the royal service lobby) but all of our lunch meals. I am not ashamed to admit that all lunch and dinner meals were 3 courses as the food was so good you couldn’t say no. The portions were also smaller than usual portions so at least 2 courses were required to fill you up (the third usually being dessert, and who can say no to free dessert?!).
The Royal Service lobby housed it’s own buffet and would lay on a spread at breakfast, with plenty of snacks and drinks available throughout the day and into the evening. Breakfast was a mix of continental and cooked foods, pastries, fruit, yogurts, freshly made juices and a variety of coffee. There was also bottled water and champagne available for guests to help themselves to.
We ate in the main hotel buffet on two occasions (we were either drunk or tired and couldn’t decide on a restaurant) where there was a very big selection of freshly cooked meats, fish, vegetables and salad. For dinner on the other evenings, it was one of the 8 themed restaurants; Chinese, Mexican, Sushi, Tapas, the list goes on. We ate at La Palapa and a different restaurant ever other night of our stay. The food was all delicious, with some restaurants providing nicer food than others, but if you were to eat at 9 different restaurants when not on holiday you would come to your own conclusions after comparing them all. The only ‘downside’ to going at a very busy time of the year is that you had to make reservations for restaurants at least a day in advance to ensure a table pre-9.30pm because they were always so busy so you had to plan your days in advance. Juan booked everything for us, we just told him what time and where we would like to eat and he organised everything.
The Pool & Beach
Our royal service entitled us to our own pool and section of the beach, allowing us to enjoy both without being surrounded by loads of people and, most importantly, screaming kids – is there anything worse?! The pool was a very generous size and was surrounded by cabanas, each with allocated sun beds, however there was always unreserved beds awaiting you whatever time you went to the pool – ah, unreserved sunbeds! You were entitled 3 cabanas during your stay, but Juan always offered to get us more; being on excursions so much we only used 2. The pool was maintained daily and wasn’t too chlorine-ey. There were always enough staff to keep your drinks coming throughout the day, and buckets of ice and bottles of water were provided to keep you hydrated in the blazing sun. You were allowed as many towels as you liked, and the hut where they were located also housed the free suntan lotion, after sun cream and a selection of books, which were all free for Royal Service guests to use at their pleasure.
The only ‘complaint’ we had about the pool was the fact it got so hot in the afternoon once the strong sun had heated it to bath water temperature – hardly a complaint, but just a tip to walk 30 seconds down to the sea for cooler water in the afternoon (#FirstWorldProblems eat your heart out).
The beach was a stunning stretch of soft white sand and undisturbed views of the sea which were beautiful shades of blue. The poolside butlers would venture down on to the beach to ensure you had all the drinks and food you could want at any time throughout the day. The snacks menu available pool and beach side throughout the day included nachos, spring rolls, chips, chicken wings and burger sliders. You could order as much and as often from the menu, obviously it all being included!
I only used the gym once during my stay – shocking, I know – but I never felt like I needed/wanted to. I went once at 6am on the first day after waking up jetlagged and watching the sunrise. It was, however, fully equipped with new machines, and plenty of them. The gym was open to all members of the hotel and was larger than I anticipated for a hotel gym. All cardio machines were stocked with a water bottle and small towel, which was a nice bonus, as well as the refreshing air con. In addition to a variety of weight and cardio machines, there was also a stretching/yoga area and a completely separate studio room with sound machine, yoga balls, mats, free and ball weights.
We had 3 excursions booked for the duration of our stay, each very different but all very enjoyable. The first was the Xenotes which was a trip to 4 different natural caves, each with a different activity. Zip lining, snorkeling, cliff jumping, kayaking, swimming in open water lakes and more zip lining. It was by far the most enjoyable day of the holiday and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to do a little something different during their trip to Mexico.
The second was a trip to Isla Majeres; the guy we booked it with messed up our booking so we ended up spending less time on Isla Majeres than we had wanted to, and as a result we were forced to spend 4 hours stuck on a Caribbean island which was just the WORST way to spend our afternoon.
NOTE: the sun had made us very delirious and we were in fact very happy with our ‘hold up’, laying in hammocks pool-side, eating ice-creams with stunning views of the sea while the rest of the group swam with dolphins. #FirstWorldProblems rears it’s head again.
Our last trip was a 2 and half drive to the see one of the modern 7 wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. Our tour guide, a man of Mayan descent called Frank, talked us through the main points for around 2 hours and then let us wonder around for an hour before we began the 2 and half hour drive back to our hotel. The 4.30am wake-up call was really worth avoiding the mammoth queues though, so I would advise anyone looking to do that trip to do the ‘express’ one and get in and out before the thousands of other tourist and the 35 degree heat.
Avenue bar was the main bar in the hotel; allocated on the opposite side of the lobby, it played music and had beds and sofas to enjoy the evening atmosphere and to relax with a drink (or 5). Next to this was an 18+ nightclub; it was all inclusive and open daily until 2am. It was a great place for a bit of more dancey music, and a feel of going out of the hotel without having to leave the resort. There was also a beach bar with Shisa, open until midnight daily.
We ventured to the strip on one of our nights which was a planned trip to Coco Bongo, one of the islands best and well-known clubs. We bought our VIP tickets from a seller within the hotel and jumped in a cab to the strip at around 9pm. VIP tickets granted free and express entry into the club, where you were shown to a balcony area in the club and all drinks throughout the night were included. It was by far the best night we had in Mexico, and trumps most nights I’ve had out in London, too! We went knowing that in between music, there were acrobatic and dance shows and at 3am when this finished, a DJ came out to do an hour long set. A couple we met in our hotel said they didn’t know the night was more of a show and so left; even if you weren’t expecting the shows, they were mind blowing so we had no idea how they could get up and leave.
The question I always get asked when I return from a holiday is “so, would you go back?” and 9 times out of 10 I say yes, simply because I’ve had a lovely holiday and would never say no to experiencing it again. However, a few moths later I get asked the same question by someone else and my answer always changes to “probably not”. Not because in the time difference in between I have found reasons to resent the holiday, but simply because I then adopt a ‘been there, done that’ attitude and want to discover new places when the time to book another holiday comes around. But in this case, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. It is a holiday destination that holds everything you could want from a holiday; you can make it 7 days of non-stop clubbing with visits to the strip every night, create a 2 week long ultimate relaxation break, or you could do a mix of both. We saw a completely varied mix of groups in the hotel; people visiting alone, couples, best friends, groups of couples, groups of friends, hen parties and wedding parties.
Now, while my tan may be fading, my memories of the incredible 10 days in paradise definitely will not. As well as my best friends, we also met a great group of people out there that only made our experience better. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy a holiday like this, which was only made so by the amazing company I had with me. I knew that going on holiday with friends you’ve known for 22 years was bound to be good, but THAT good? I could never have imagined.