By USCJLB, · 640 Views · 10 Comments
I found this website to be a tremendous help during my planning, especially all of the lovely brides in the 2012 brides thread. Now that I am on the other side, I wanted to share both my wedding experience and overall experience with the resort. In short, I LOVED IT!!!
Host Resort: Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
Room Block: Sunrise Side (Family Suite for three nights and Concierge Level 6 nights)
Wedding Date/Time: Friday, March 23, 2012 / 4:00pm
Miami Coordinator – Michelle Farinas, Ivis Hitchcock and Joannis
On-Site Wedding Coordinator – Valaria
Wedding Package – Ruby Collection / Symbolic
Number of Guests: 15, including Bride & Groom
Ceremony Site: Tucan Beach
Officiant: Jorge Pinto
Photographer: Juan Navarro
Cocktail Hour: Tucan Beach, 4:45-5:45pm
Reception Dinner: Arrefices, 6:00 - 8:30pm
Resort Check-In/transportation: A
We landed in Cancun at around 10:45 am on Tuesday, March 20th. We sailed through immigration and we all made it through customs on green lights! My wedding dress was stowed in the overhead bin on our first flight but they hung it up in a first class closet on our way to Cancun.
We didn’t pre-arrange transportation to the resort, so as instructed; we barreled out of the airport past all of the timeshare people and caught a cab to the hotel. It was an easy and smooth process and saved us a little money since the prearranged transport was more costly. The ride to the hotel is about 10 minutes from the airport and there is a check-in gate where we were required to provide our names before they would admit you onto the property.
Walking into the Sunrise lobby, all we could say was Wow! What an amazing place! From the moment that we arrived, everyone there was so helpful and accommodating. We were served some juice with champagne while they sorted out the check-in. While we were escorted to our family suite, the bellman told us all about the resort, how to cut through the buildings and all sorts of assorted Moon Palace facts. He went out of his way to make us feel welcome and at ease.
We stayed in a family suite in the Pina section of the Sunrise side during our first three nights at the resort (we have a 6 year old). The set-up was two identical rooms connected by a door (one with a king bed and one with two doubles). Our mini-bar was stocked with soda, juice, beer, wine, tonic and assorted liquors. The “kids” mini-bar was stocked with juice, snacks and soda. Both rooms had the hot tub and hammocks and had a view of the ocean.
Switching rooms on the morning of our wedding was a breeze (I had cleared it with the wedding planner first and she made it happen) and allowed me to get ready in our Concierge room while my husband got ready in the suite. The concierge rooms look exactly like the other rooms but come with some perks.you receive nightly chocolates delivered to your room at about 6:30 (it was usually chocolate covered strawberries and a chocolate mousse), you have access to a VIP area on the beach with loungers and its own bar, and it appeared that many hotel staff paid attention to the bracelet color when being attentive.
All of the rooms were beautiful, well maintained and cleaned promptly. I was told while I was there that they are going to begin a two year renovation to completely update the Sunrise and Nizuc rooms to look more like the rooms on the Moon grand side of the resort.
The one con that I had not heard mentioned previously were the noisy birds that congregate in the breezeways and on the balcony railings at stupid o’clock in the morning. They are very noisy and there is little way of blocking out the noise besides ear plugs.
If you have read anything on this blog, you will figure out quickly that everyone has issues with the Miami planners. They are absolutely useless in planning and cause a lot of panic where it is not warranted. I started with Michelle Farinas with planning and booking the date. She was initially fairly quick to respond and when I started to email her questions, her responses became less frequent. She frequently told me that the only way to receive the resort credits was to book directly through her and not through a travel agent. Thanks to this thread, I found the name of Teresa Stauring at Vacations for Less and she was AMAZING!! All stress disappeared with the booking and I could focus on logistic planning. In early January I was provided with Ivis Hitchcock as my Miami wedding coordinator. She emailed me promptly and requested that we set-up a call to discuss details. She called when she said she would and was very pleasant on the phone. Once we hung up, the communication was virtually non-existent and when she did respond, she often made errors or omitted responses. Four weeks from my wedding (after many snafu’s and backing out of a promise) she confirmed our locations and apparently left the company a few days later. I then worked with Joannis for about two weeks to sign the contract (signed on March 16th and flew out on the 20th). I don’t blame her as much since she was new and probably poorly trained, but she charged me for the spa appointments before I arrived, something I learned she should not have done and which caused me some headache on the other side.
Onsite Wedding Planner-A++
I didn’t speak with any onsite wedding coordinator prior to my arrival in Cancun although they say you will about 30 days out. I knew I had Valaria and I had heard such positive reviews that I decided to let it go and roll with it once I got there.
I met with Valaria on Wednesday, March 21st (FYI their offices are just off the left hand side of the Nizuc lobby) for about an hour. She was amazing from the outset, totally together and ready to go! She walked through everything and we gave her the VERY FEW items that we brought for the ceremony/reception. It was such a relief to know that everything would work out just the way that I envisioned it.
It had been very windy on Tuesday and Wednesday and I had envisioned my reception on the beach. Valaria asked if I was sure that I wanted that, given that food and wind don’t mix. When she saw the disappointment in my face she goes, “let’s play it by ear and if it isn’t windy, we will leave the set-up on the beach. If it is windy, we will move it to the terrace or gazebo.” I appreciated her concern for my day and in the end the wind died down and we had the reception on the beach!
We had an issue with Joannis having charged me for the spa appointments in advance and Valaria told me she would take care of it and it was promptly addressed and adjusted for on my bill. I would recommend her to anyone planning a wedding at Moon Palace.
Spa and Ceremony Prep- A
A few weeks prior to our departure for Cancun, I scheduled a trial run of my hair with a local salon and took pictures to have the Moon Palace stylist replicate the design. I had Silvinia for both hair and makeup and she FAR exceeded my expectations and the trial hair photos that I had brought. She did an amazing job and I was very pleased with the way things turned out.
Alberto did my Mom’s hair and he was very quiet and reserved, which worried her. Once again, there was no need to worry, he did an excellent job! The design was amazing. He could have used a little more spray and pins however, because her hair began to fall at dinner.
Just to add more about how amazing the staff were at Moon Palace, the golf cart driver that shuttled us between the Spa on the Golf course side and the Sunrise lobby drove extra slow while transporting us, not because we asked but because he saw that we had fancy hair and he did his part to make us beautiful and stay beautiful that day.
Ceremony-Beyond my Dreams!
We chose the Ruby collection that was an option when we signed our contract in September of 2011. I loved the way that the red contrasted with the blue ocean and to be honest, I wanted a destination wedding so I didn’t have to plan much. This package offered all that we wanted (except the photographer, which I will address later).
Valaria arrived about 20 minutes before the ceremony with my bouquet. She whisked me off to the carriage and we went for an amazing ride all around the property. All the cars stopped for us and people waved, I felt so much like a princess! The ride is a must do! It gave me time to take in the moment and the day for what it stood for and meant in my life…greatest 20 minutes!
I originally thought that we only needed three songs for the ceremony, but Valaria stated that 5 was best. The carriage came in to Love of My Life by Dave Matthews and Carlos Santana, our son and I walked into a song called Montanara that originated in the Italian village my husband’s father grew up in, we signed and kissed to Someone Like You by Van Morrison and we exited to When I’m 64 by the Beatles.
The ceremony was beautiful and it was more than I could have ever dreamed of! We had written our own vows and Jorge was jovial and worked our vows into his script. It was great!
After the ceremony, they wait staff brought champagne for everyone and made sure to bring our engraved flutes out to the beach to toast with everyone. We had the superior hors d’oeurves and everyone said they were delicious. We only stayed about 5 minutes and then went off to take pictures.
Due to the size of the group, we didn’t hire a DJ or music for the cocktail reception. What worked for us was a compact speaker we bought at Brookstone before we left, hooked up to an ipod shuffle. The music was loud enough to provide some background noise but not loud enough to detract from conversation.
I was very reluctant to schedule a dinner reservation after finding out that I could not use the Caribbean terrace. I settled on Arrefices after much deliberation and I was surprised by both how amazing the food was and the atmosphere that they created on the terrace of the restaurant for our group. Luis was the manager on duty and he went out of his way, above and beyond to make our dinner special and beautiful.
We cut our cake at the reception and they had put it up until we were ready since it was humid outside and they didn’t want the fondant to sweat or collapse. When served, the cake was beautiful and DELICIOUS! We had lemon flavored cake for the top layer and chocolate for the bottom. Both were excellent!
The only con to using this restaurant was that there were quite a few kids on Spring break from college at the resort and they planned activities and concerts for them while they were there. Towards the end of the night, the music from the sound stage got loud and a little annoying, but we found that it tended to be noisy most of the time on that side of the resort.
When dinner finished we went to Andromeda, the night club on the Sunrise side but it was closed. We headed over to the swing bar and there were so many 18 to 20 year olds it was a little overwhelming. We found a table off to the side and sat there until about midnight. I wore my dress the whole time!
Photographer: Juan Navarro-A+
We initially were going to use the Smile Market folks at Moon Palace, and they still photographed and provided video for the ceremony because it was included in the package. After reviewing in the Smile Market portfolio, I thought I may want to use another photographer. We went with Juan Navarro and he was absolutely fantastic! We are still waiting on all of the pictures on a CD but he posted several on his website a few days after the wedding. Everyone has talked about what an amazing job he did and I couldn’t agree more. After reading on the blog all of the miscues about outside vendors and fee’s at Moon Palace, we simply bought he and his assistant a room night and we had no issues. I really wanted to just try the day pass but was reluctant in the end to have any issues on the day of my wedding.
The Smile Market folks were very nice and it was nice to have some pictures while we were still there. We received about 25 printed pictures of the ceremony in our package and the DVD added a really special touch. I am very glad that I used them for the video and Juan for the photos. We are already planning on ways to go back and have him photograph a “forgot to trash the dress session.”
Restaurant Review: In order of preference
El Caribeno (Moon Grande)-This was the only restaurant where we ate twice. The atmosphere and food are terrific! The first time we were there I had seafood ceviche for an appetizer that was to die for and I had tender, delicious lamb chops for an entrée. The second time I had squid and mango salad for an appetizer, coconut grouper for an entrée and chocolate banana charlotte for dessert. It was all super delicious. Afterwards we walked straight upstairs to the Caribbean Terrace for a fee drinks. It was fabulous! It is very quiet and adult oriented on that side of the resort. The Mayan coffee experience here was very nice (they also did it at Manglar).
Los Tacos (Moon Grande)- most amazing tacos and baked potatoes I have ever had. There is a very small pool over there where we spent one of our “childless” days and it was honestly the most relaxing day. The pool is very warm, the service is fantastic and then they bring you amazing food…excellent place and well worth the walk/ride over to the Moon grande side.
Bambu (Golf Course Side)- we initially wanted to go to La Trattoria but both times we tried there was over and hour and a half wait (we went at 7 one night and 8:30 the next). Bambu is directly across from La Trattoria and the food was excellent. Between us we had spring rolls and a lot of sushi. It was delicious!
Arrefices (Nizuc Side)- the food that I had was delicious but I honestly didn’t eat that much because it was my wedding dinner and there were a lot of distractions. I sampled a lot of the meats and they were delicious…especially the pichana.
Bugambilias (Sunrise Side)- it isn’t really fair to place this in this order since this was only a place that we ate breakfast. In fact, it was so good we ate breakfast there every single morning we were in Cancun. They have something for EVERYONE…oatmeal, fruit, hashbrowns, eggs, cereal, omelette stations, waffle, etc. If you go there you MUST try the green juice, trust me, it is delicious!
Manglar (Nizuc Side)- This is where we had our honeymoon dinner and it was the sweetest set-up! They had made us a special menu and the food was superb. We had creamed spinach and carrot soup that was excellent, steak and shrimp that was cooked perfectly and some cheesecake. They light candles and make it very intimate and sweet. We didn’t have the normal buffet there so I can’t review anything other than our honeymoon meal.
Mo Mo No Ha Na (Sunrise Side)- I was extremely disappointed in the food here. After all the excellent reviews, I recommended to my guest prior to arrival that they should stop in there…well that became the joke of the trip. The food was abysmal! We all went on separate nights and everyone felt the food was not good. We had sushi that tasted like rice cakes and some teriyaki. I wouldn’t recommend this one high on this list.
Caporales (Nizuc Side)- this was another restaurant that came highly recommended and was a real disappointment. I can’t really rate the food because after waiting for 45 minutes we had no food and only one drink to speak of (we were a group of 6, not huge). We were all tired and frustrated and left before the food came.
We had lunch most days at Palapa Fragata by the sunrise pool. We also tried Barracuda and the sweet shop for lunches and all provide standard lunch fare…sandwiches, burgers, guacamole and salsa with chips, etc. I did learn that many of the “pool side” restaurants become waiter serviced restaurants at night but we just didn’t have the time to try them all.
The wood fired pizza oven and the paella served from the Thomas the train engine are musts! They were delicious!
Excursions: we really wished that we had had more time to take some excursions but with the wedding and wanting some time with our friends, we only made it to the Dolphin swim at wet-n-wild. It was fantastic! We didn’t use resort credits for the swim since we used them all between the wedding package and the spa, so it was $129 pp and the transportation was included. The shuttle leaves at 12, 2 and 5 to go to/return from Wet –n-Wild, Sun Palace and Beach Palace. The trip was only 15 minutes and we were able to ride some slides and relax before the dolphin swim. Wet-n-Wild is all-inclusive for palace resort guests with the exception of locker rentals. I highly recommend the dolphin swim if you are a fan of animals, it was a priceless experience.
Final Tips and Lessons Learned:
- The resort is quite large and finding people can be a real problem. We had initially told our guests that we would meet them around the Sunrise pool but it would likely take us 20 minutes just to walk around the entire pool to look for people. We sent our guests an email after figuring this out and told them to meet us by the kid’s area of the sunrise pool. It worked perfectly as a meeting place for everyone each day and if anyone wanted to go elsewhere they could. Since we have a child it was also nice because he could play in more shallow water with lots of other kids. It wasn’t that noisy and we had the wonderful experience of having a woman named Olivia who brought us our drinks. We tipped her well early and she was great to us the rest of the day. Beside the kids pool is also a swim up bar, the restrooms and palapa fragata for food. It worked well for us.
- Although the resort is large, it is very walkable (except for the gold course side). We walked from one end to the other several times…in heels. I didn’t think it was bad at all. The lobby to lobby shuttle is a large bus, not a golf cart, so you had to wait awhile for the bus to get semi-full. The trip from the sunrise lobby to the golf course is via golf cart.
- We had completely stocked up on bug spray for mosquitoes and didn’t see or get bitten by the first one.
- Make sure to bring enough sunscreen, the standard Coppertone and Hawaiian tropic in the store is $22 a bottle. We had enough but a lady gave us hers as she was checking out because she had had to buy the biodegradable kind for one of the excursions and she was appalled by the price.
- The ocean water is beautiful to look at and is great for pictures, it is not great for swimming however. We ventured out one day and there are lots of rocks and almost all of us got hit by jellyfish (we learned later the barracuda were pushing them inland). We were more interested in the pools anyway so we went back and ordered a margarita and soaked in the pool.
- Have fun, relax and know that you will have an amazing vacation and wedding. It was worth all of the planning, all of the hassles and we are plotting and planning a way to return there next year for our anniversary!