El Dorado Royale Resort and Spa
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Resort / Wedding Overview (A):
Our wedding was absolutely amazing and we were so glad that we chose to have a destination wedding and had it at the El Dorado Royale. The grounds were breathtaking. Even though we had heard how beautiful and clean the resort was, we were still amazed at how well kept everything was! And we loved seeing the peacock (which seemed quite passive), the iguanas, sand crabs, and birds! I was pleased with how nice and accommodating everyone was. Our family and friends had a PHENOMENAL time! They absolutely loved the resort - we received several compliments from them saying that this was the best resort they had ever been to. One of my aunts told me that if she never goes on another vacation again, she will die happy because of the amazing time that she and her husband had at EDR! My Dad said that this event will be hard to top and he went on and on about how proud he was of us and the wedding we had. Both of my parents were skeptical of the whole destination wedding idea at first, but now they are true believers. My Dad told me that if anyone else has a destination wedding, he'll be the first to sign up. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll ever have another one of my own destination weddings again (weâ€™re exhausted!), but I will happily go to whoever else has one in the future!
Wedding Planning Meeting and Wedding Coordinators (A+):Gloria (our wedding coordinator) was awesome and so, so very sweet. DH and I both loved her. And DH was surprised at how smoothly the wedding planning went. The wedding planning meeting ran like clockwork and everything fell into place nicely. There were a few minor incorrect details that we had to correct (I think because they couldnâ€™t read the spreadsheet since some items had gotten cut off), but they were remedied right away because I had my own spreadsheet on hand and checked everything off as we went and we got everything that we had wanted. The key thing is to be organized. Take your planning spreadsheets and any email confirmation back-up. We didnâ€™t need any back-up because everything went so smoothly, but we took it just in case. We didn't receive any hidden charges of which we didn't know about, so we were very pleased about that. (When we checked out, I was worried that we were going to get charged for a bunch of unknown / hidden charges. The only charge we received was the pressing of my dress and DHâ€™s tuxedo (which I knew that I had to pay for and that turned out to be cheap â€“ less than $25.00, if Iâ€™m remembering correctly)! Everything else had been paid for up front before we had even arrived, so I was very pleased to see that we didnâ€™t need to pay for anything else. None of our guests were surprised with any hidden charges, either.)
We had already worked out the whole $500 photographer fee and day pass issue several weeks prior to our arrival, so that all went smoothly, too. Gloria and her team did a phenomenal job with the flowers, decorations, and set-ups for all of our events. They took all of the stuff we had (programs, candles, CDs, tea lights, signature guest book platter, etc.) at the planning meeting and had everything in place at the right times. We didnâ€™t need to worry about a thing! I honestly canâ€™t stress enough how terrific of a job Gloria and her team did! At one point, I was on my way to a spa appointment and I got lostâ€¦I ran into Gloria and her golf cart and asked her where the spa was. She picked me up and took me there and then she picked me up from the spa after I got my hair done and took me to the casita (not because she was scheduled to, but she saw me waiting in front of the spa for a golf cart)!
The Spa (A):The spa services were great. I and several of our guests took advantage of the spa services and no one had any complaints. My guests got various massages, facials, and hair styles and they were all happy with their services. I received and was very happy with the following services:
â€¢Shampoo and Style (for the Welcome Reception)
â€¢Pearl Sensation (absolutely amazing facial and body wrap
â€¢Bridal Style (note that this does not include getting your hair washed)
I had taken a photo of the up-do I had in mind for my wedding day and the stylist replicated it perfectly. My hair couldnâ€™t have turned out any better. I was a bit nervous about my make-up because of former reviews I had heard and because I didnâ€™t take a picture of how I wanted it done, but it turned out beautifully. It is true that the spa has a limited selection of make-up, but what they have is decent. They had Dior make-up, which is what Nordstrom uses for make-up trials. They didnâ€™t have a wide selection of foundation and primers and stuff like that, but what they had worked well.
Welcome Reception â€“ Tucanes (A):
The wedding coordinators did a great job setting up the welcome reception. We had selected 9 horâ€™doerves, which our guests raved about. We also hired a 9 person mariachi band that played for 45 minutes and hired one of the donkeys to wear a sombrero and carry some beer. I felt bad for the donkey because I think I remember someone telling me that he was blind. And he had fleas â€“ my DH learned that out when we posed for a picture and put the sombreros on our heads. Yikes! Everything at the Welcome Reception went smoothly and I liked the location of Tucanes â€“ itâ€™s centrally located, so people had a chance to get acquainted with the basic layout of the resort. The bartenders did a good job of trying to keep everyone entertained. They walked around with shots on their head, got everyone to do shots (and did that weird thing where they shake your head around after having done one), and tried to get people to do that train dance.
Wedding Ceremony â€“ Chapel (A):The wedding ceremony was great. I was a bit late in getting there because of a miscommunication problem with DH. I had told him that the boutonnieres were going to be delivered to his room before the ceremony, but Gloria was actually going to give them to him and the men at the chapel. She then came to pick me up. Another item to note â€“ my dress got dirty prior to the wedding. I think that it picked up some dirt from the golf cart â€“ so be careful of that! I was so calm, cool, and collected right before the ceremony, though, that it didnâ€™t really phase me and we just went with it. Even though we hadnâ€™t rehearsed anything, the ceremony itself went well. The minister (Alina) coached us through it the whole time. One humorous part happened during the lighting of the unity candle and signing the marriage certificate. One person started to open his bag of rose petals that everyone received to throw at us, but it sounded like a bag of chips being opened. Since everyone else decided to open their bags at that point, it sounded like a choir of chip bags exploding in the chapel! DH and I laughed and turned around and put our fingers to our lips to â€œshushâ€ everyone, but we really got a kick out of it.
Wedding Dinner â€“ El Cocotal (A-):The dinner went very well. The food was pretty good and I was very pleased with how the EDR staff had set up our private party. The wedding coordinators had taken some of our flowers from the chapel and set them up at the dinner tables. We had a group of 26 people and we were seated at three large tables. My mom had also brought a bunch of tea candles and the wedding coordinators had set those up at the tables and didnâ€™t charge us for doing that! The restaurant was pretty empty all evening, so we really felt as though our reception was private. The only problem with the dinner was that it took so long, which brings me to my only other frustration with the week. DH and I were about 15 minutes late to dinner because our photo shoot went over by a little bit. Dinner didn't end until about 9:30 pm. We understand that meals in Mexico take longer (which I truly appreciated); however, we had our private party at Gaviotas scheduled from 9:00 pm â€“ 11:00 pmâ€¦â€¦
Wedding Reception â€“ Gaviotas (:The main disappointment of our week was our reception at Gaviotas after the wedding dinner at El Cocotal. Since dinner at El Cocotal didnâ€™t end until 9:30 pm, people weren't able to get to Gaviotas until 9:45 pm. Gloria and her team did a great job setting everything up. However, as DH and I approached the bar, we heard our wedding CD already being played. . Kevin and I had put a lot of planning into that reception. We had made two CDs with carefully selected music for two hours and we were really excited to play all of the songs we had specifically chosen. Anyway, when Kevin and I got to Gaviotas at 9:45 pm, I talked to the bartenders and asked if we could keep things going until 11:45 pm (since we had paid for a two hour private reception). They said that they couldn't - that it had to end at 11:00 pm. I asked them to contact Gloria to get authorization from her, but she and her team had already left for the evening (which is understandable). Anyway, we ended up just having the party until 11:00 pm and were disappointed since we had things planned for a two hour period. Not only that, but we had paid extra for this and even though this was a "private party", there were other vacationers at that bar. Apparently, it's not a totally private party. Again, we understand that things run slowly in Mexico - but we would have just appreciated to have had the full two hours for our party since it wasn't our fault that the dinner ran over by 45 minutes. Other than the time issue and feeling as though we had to cram everything into a short period, everything else was great. The cake was surprisingly good (however, it had started to melt by the time we got there), yet we only ate about ¼ of it! We should have gotten a smaller cake, but that was ok since the staff got to eat the rest of it the next day.
Photography (A+):We had hired Claudia Rodriguez as our photographer and Miguel Cantarell as our videographer. I can not stress how much I enjoyed having them record our wedding memories! They are both extremely pleasant and kind and seemed to really know what they were doing! Claudia even helped me to get in my dress before the ceremony since my aunt was running late! I canâ€™t wait to get the pictures and video and will post them as soon as I get them! Even though I havenâ€™t seen my pictures, I would recommend Claudia Rodriguez and her team to any destination wedding bride - not only are their pictures wonderful (from other samples I have seen), but they are very, very nice people. Itâ€™s true that Claudia had experienced a bit of difficulty responding to a few people via email (sheâ€™s been experiencing internet difficulties), but she does get back to you and has it all together. I had no worries whatsoever with her and her team.
Our Casita (:
I hate to say this, but we were a bit disappointed with our casita. We were put into casita # 2607 (a second floor casita that was located in front of La Fondue). The room was one of the older ones. The casitas up at the other end (in the 2800s and above) seemed to be cleaner and in better condition. Even though we had requested a second floor casita (which I was happy that we chose that and would have chosen a second floor one again in the future), it didn't have a lazy river in front of it. The pool was not as nice as the ones in the newer casita sections and the water and colors at our end were not as vibrant. Also, the bartenders at our pool weren't very friendly. They made us feel kind of uncomfortable. Later in the week, we asked them to play our CD of music (which we hadn't been able to play during our reception - I'll explain more later) and they said they couldn't do it because it wasn't Karisma approved music that they were required to play. We stumbled upon a pool w/ a lazy river at the end of our vacation (Saturday) and we LOVED that pool. The bartenders there were great - fun, interactive, and friendly. AND they played a CD that was not the "Karisma" approved music. We didn't ask them to play our CD, but we have a feeling that those bartenders would have.
Other minor issues included the following:
â€¢We had some ants and gnats throughout our casita. However, once I told the concierge of this, they did spray and it seemed to be ok after that. I do understand that we were in the middle of the jungle, though, so that was to be expected.
â€¢The temperature of our in-room shower also fluctuated very poorly. It went from scalding to freezing very quickly. We would have used the outdoor shower more than the one time that my DH tried it, but it didn't seem to be a functional one because of the way the water came out.
â€¢We didn't get the aromatherapy in our room every night. I think that one of the turn-down staff (who we ended up meeting and thought she was so sweet) did a full-blown â€œtreatmentâ€ of our room (extra towels, aromatherapy, and towel art) for the turn-down on the nights that she worked, but another cleaning lady only gave us new towels and turned down the bed - that was it. So, we only got the aromatherpy (which was necessary because of the mangrove (sulfur) smell and full-blown turn-down treatment about 3 of the 7 nights.
Other than my hopefully limited frustrations stated above, our casita itself was beautiful. The bed was comfortable (I wish I had more time to sleep in it!) and I liked that the cleaning ladies came twice a day. The mini-bar was stocked with water, soda, beer, and juice each day except for one and I never felt as though we did not have enough water to drink and brush our teeth with.
Guest Rooms â€“ Jacuzzi Jr. Suites (A):All of our guests thoroughly loved their rooms! We thought that we should have gotten a swim-up Jacuzzi junior suite instead of our casita because we didnâ€™t notice too many perks that justified such a difference in price between the junior suites and the casitas. Our guests loved the Jacuzzis in their rooms, the marble floors, and the towel art. Their bathrooms even seemed nicer than ours. They had a really nice step in shower, while our indoor shower was set up like a standard tub / shower combination. The lazy river in front of the newer
The Resort Staff (A+):
Pretty much each member of the EDR staff could not have been any more helpful and friendlier. Our favorite staff were:
â€¢Alfredo (server who worked at El Cocotal for breakfast and at Jo Joâ€™s for lunch) â€“ From our very first meal, he made us feel special. He created a little tree for me out of a wine bottle cork and paper and then gave me other little gifts throughout the week. He made us feel like VIPs every time we saw him. He always had a smile on his face and was so incredibly gracious. If future EDR brides meet him, please tell him Jennifer and Kevin Kennedy say hello!
â€¢Tom¡s (â€œshuttleâ€ driver)
â€¢Karen (front desk receptionist)
â€¢Jesºs (server who worked at Dâ€™Italia)
â€¢Ladies at the spa (all of them from whom I received treatments)
Food and Restaurants:
I wonâ€™t go into too much detail about the restaurants since peopleâ€™s tastes are so different, but here is list of our favorite restaurants:
â€¢Jo Joâ€™s (for lunch and dinner)!
â€¢Cabana (for lunch â€“ great stop for awesome nachos and pizza)
â€¢Fuentes (for dinner) â€“ this was also a great place to accommodate larger groups â€“ we got a group of 10 in at 7:00 pm.
â€¢Dâ€™Italia (this is a tough place to get into unless you go really early or really late). But the wait is worth it. The service and food are outstanding!
â€¢El Cocotal (for breakfast)
My family and I went to Kampai on the first night they arrived at the resort. The food there was ok. I was surprised that it wasnâ€™t better considering the rave reviews I had heard about it. I honestly like Benihana, PF Changâ€™s or other Asian chain restaurants more than Kampai. We didnâ€™t try out La Fondue, but thatâ€™s because weâ€™re not big fondue eaters. We ended up getting the two person fondue menu for our honeymoon candlelight dinner on the beach and it was just ok. Even though I wasnâ€™t crazy about the food at the candlelight dinner, you should still do it because I loved the atmosphere!! That alone was worth it â€“ oh, and the dessert was to die for, though!! We also got the honeymoon â€œbreakfast in bed.â€ That was ok â€“ it was a bit too fancy for our tastes, though. But again, it was nice to be able to eat outside on our patio as just the two of us since there was so much hoopla during the week! One thing we learned â€“ casita guests CAN make reservations; however, you need to make them before 4:30 pm. If you donâ€™t have reservations and want to take a larger group, go to Fuentes or El Cocotal and arrive by 7:00 pm.
American Express Representative, Excursions, and EDR Activities(A):
Hern¡n, our American Express representative was awesome. We met with him several times to check in on when our guests would be arriving, if their flights were delayed, and what the status of their arrivals and departures were. Some of our guests ended up purchasing excursions through him and they were very pleased with the excursions. I believe that my family went to the Tulum ruins and shopped (on our wedding day) and also scheduled a deep sea fishing trip through him. Other family members scheduled a golf outing, a snorkeling, and a zip line excursion. Another set of friends scheduled a trip to XCaret one day (they got rooked in the at the airport â€“ donâ€™t do that!), but they had a phenomenal time there, too. All raved about how great the excursions were. If we return, weâ€™d like to try out the excursions and actually see Mexico! My in-laws and a few other family members tried the parasailing (that you can access directly from the resort for a fee) and had a really good time (well, the guys did â€“ the ladies said the parasailing was a bit too much for them).
Even though DH and I didnâ€™t do any excursions, we did go snorkeling (and he went kayaking) at the resort. Surprisingly, the â€œfreeâ€ snorkeling at EDR is amazing! DH and some of our friends told me that they had gone snorkeling to other locations in the Caribbean and the snorkeling at the reef at the resort topped all of those experiences! We were amazed at how many fish, shells, and sea urchins we saw! We also ended up playing ping-pong, which was fun.
Arrival at Cancun Airport (B+):
The immigration and customs process was a breeze. We, nor any of our guests, had to stop at customs to have their luggage checked. The only difficulty we had was finding our transportation to the hotel. Our travel agent had us booked through American Express Travel and there were no American Express drivers nor representatives at the airport to pick us up. After about an hour of waiting, someone took us to the resort (and took our American Express vouchers). None of our guests had any difficulties, though (which was more important than us having issues)!