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Nylalany's Reviews Part 1 - Grand Riviera Princess resort and events (Riviera Maya)

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#1 nylalany

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  • 625 posts

    Posted 29 May 2008 - 05:44 PM

    Disclaimer: I did not get married at the Grand Riviera Princess in Riviera Maya. My wedding was at a separate venue from where my guests and I all stayed, so I am splitting up my review to make it easier for BDW gals considering each of the separate venues. I did have a few events planned at the Grand Riviera Princess in Riviera Maya, in addition to staying there with my husband and 100 guests, so hopefully this will be useful to you all. I'll be thorough in hopes of being helpful because I appreciate how much you all have done for me, and also because I want my own record of everything so I never forget. And I’ll include a few photos.

    I will review in this order (if you want to skip ahead) - check-in, rooms, platinum lounge, bars, restaurants, pools, beach, activities, gym, Salon Services, Public Events/Welcome Cocktails (that we didn’t pay for), Wedding/Event Coordinator, and Private Events/Rehearsal Dinner (that we did pay for).

    Before I start my review, let me explain why I did not pick the Grand Riviera Princess for my wedding venue, and why I did pick it for our stay. I always had a vision of an intimate, rustic-elegant-chic beach wedding, which requires a smaller venue. However, I have a large and very close extended family and set of friends, including young children, and thus many of the smaller hotels were either unable to accommodate a wedding group of that size either for housing or for the actual wedding. Slightly larger hotels that I liked did not offer sit-down dinners (vs. buffet) on the beach, or had rain-backups in conference rooms, which I refused to have as a location for my wedding reception. Lastly, many of the hotels with wedding services that I liked had rooms that were too pricey for many of my guests.

    I visited the Princess in late November 2007, 2 weeks before it opened. Besides not really being the type of place that met my vision, the wedding coordinator missed our appointment, which did not sit well with me. Also, I believe the beach dinner option was only buffet. So I knew I wouldn’t have my wedding there. However, although it was a lot bigger than the other hotels I was considering, it was architecturally tasteful and pleasing, white with palm fringed rooftops, with beautiful pools, wooden poolside beds, and a big, sandy beach and pretty sea. The rooms were (are) tastefully appointed and relatively large, and best of all, the price was amazing compared with everywhere else I was looking. The cheapest rooms were between $80 per person per night (for a double) and $130 per person per night (for a single). $160 for a room for 2 people, including tax, transfers, food, drink, etc, is pretty amazing! The nicest rooms, the Platinum, were $125 per person per night (for a double), so my husband and I paid $250 per night for our room. These prices are significantly less than hotels on the beach in Southern California (where we live and considered having the wedding), as well as many of the hotels I visited down there, so I thought that this would make the trip worthwhile for many of our guests, and encourage them to come to the wedding, and motivate them to stay longer. I also wouldn’t have to worry about the hotel being booked up with a short Save the Date to wedding time span, which with a huge guest-list, is an important factor. I waited 2 more weeks before sending out my Save the Date, so that I could read initial reviews, and the food reviews were pretty positive, so I took a chance. Ok, onwards…

    We arrived at the Grand Riviera Princess around 6 something and there was no line at the Platinum (nor the regular) check-in. We were greeted with some really delicious champagne. The check-in lady gave us our room number but claimed she had no idea if the room was ocean view or not, despite my attempt to reinforce my travel agent’s request for us.
    We decided to walk to our room since it was going to take the luggage a little while to get there, as an opportunity to move our legs a bit. The walk is about 10-15 minutes depending on your pace. Ours took about ½ hour because we ran into about 12 people we knew along the way!

    Click the image to open in full size.

    We finally arrived to our room to find it decorated with 2 towel swans kissing, flower petals, and confetti. We also had champagne and delicious chocolate covered fruit waiting for us. Unfortunately, all this was soured by the view:

    Click the image to open in full size.

    Basically, if I went out on the balcony I could see the ocean from the edge of it, but I could also see an ugly construction site underneath my balcony. I was in tears and furious that I brought over 100 guests to the hotel, was having my in-laws pay a lot for a rehearsal dinner and open bar even though it is an all-inclusive, and was essentially on my honeymoon (though I’m taking a real private one in the future), and they did not give me an ocean view room per my request.

    I spoke to 3 different people on the phone (since we were waiting for our luggage for nearly 2 hours). The first, when I tried to explain that I’m sure that if one of my guests got an ocean view I’m sure they’d be willing to switch, told me that all guests are treated equal. WTF?? The 2nd tried to get me to pay an extra $50 a night, claiming that was the price for ocean-view, even though I knew this not to be the case. The 3rd said there was nothing he could do and I started to cry. My hubby had to take the phone and I don’t think he really got anywhere.

    After our luggage finally arrived, my hubby convinced me that we need to eat and he and the friends we ran into walked back up to the main buffet and ate. Afterwards, we went to the main lobby to complain in person. The check-in woman promised us a room on Saturday (2 nights away, as we arrived on a Thursday), and told us to check back the next day. However, she wouldn’t give us anything in writing, she just claimed her star in their book was enough.

    I ran into my dad and tell him of my unhappiness, and I wrote my travel agent around 3 AM (as I was towards the end of putting together my programs and place cards, last minute, another long story, what a lovely night!) to complain to her too. The next morning I run into my dad at breakfast who tells me he has managed to get one of the very nice platinum concierges to hold an ocean view room from a check-out that day, and it turns out my travel agent had been in contact with the same concierge. We moved into the new room and it was PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Perfect view, great room.

    Here's the new view:
    Click the image to open in full size.

    So hmm – not sure here – mixed rating? Diana the Platinum concierge – Score: A+, the rest of the Grand Riviera Princess check-in (including Sandra the other concierge who tried to milk me for $) – Score: F. I figure it averages out at about a C.

    And FYI, some other folks, such as my parents and sister, also had problems with where they were put first, and had to move rooms - although their new rooms were great.

    ROOMS: A
    Ok, so this is based on my expectations of an AI (rather than a cute high-end boutique hotel, etc.), and it is also based on the hotel price I paid (which was great) compared with my rooms at other hotels in the area and their prices, etc. We stayed in a Platinum Suite on the Riviera side (north, slightly newer side (relative, since they are both new). Seems from the building layouts, you may have more of an opportunity to get an ocean view on the Sunset side. Also, I have friends who were in pool view suites and even regular junior suites on the 3rd floor who had views of the ocean on the Riviera side. I can try to find out room numbers if anyone cares. Our ocean view room was well appointed with dark wood furniture and architectural trim and marble floors, etc. There was a living “area” with a couch, a coffee table, 2 chairs, a mini-dining table. We had a relatively comfortable king bed, 2 nightstands, bureau with desk and minibar (but nowhere to unpack), wood bench, flat screen tv and dvd player (we never used due to lack of time), and large closet with a safe. The bathroom had a sliding wood and opaque glass window between the bathroom and the room, which we kept closed, a toilet stall with a door, a rain shower with a door, 2 above counter sinks, and a Jacuzzi tub. We never used the tub due to lack of time. The balcony was covered with the palm fringe, and had another Jacuzzi tub (we which also didn’t use), and 2 wicker style chairs. The air condition worked perfectly. The mini bar was always stocked with water, soda, beer, rum, and tequila. I saw photos of other people’s non-Platinum rooms, and they seemed pretty much on par, besides the Jacuzzi tubs. Pool towels in room. Lots of great little toiletries, including a wood hair-bush, mosquito repellant wipes, and a toothbrush, which was great since I forgot mine. Platinum rooms included free room service (which was slow, but good) and free wireless internet (which was spotty). I believe the Sunset side has lighter wood furniture.

    Click the image to open in full size.

    Click the image to open in full size.


    There are 2 Platinum lounges – one for Sunset and one for Riviera. They have lots of windows and comfy furniture. They have a full bar with top-shelf liquor all day/night. They also serve made to order coffee drinks of all kinds, various juices, cereal, fruit, and pastries in the morning, bite-size sandwiches at lunch, and nuts and olives the rest of the time. There are 2 computers you can access the internet through for free, and there isn’t usually much of a wait. You also can make your reservations for the a-la-carte restaurants with the Platinum concierge. A lot of the restaurants were “booked” even though they seemed empty when we looked, but we didn’t have much time to try all the a-la-cartes anyway, so we had reservations all of our free nights.

    BARS: B+

    There were plenty of bars to choose from, and you can definitely choose your liquor brand, top shelf, and so forth. Drinks were a little inconsistent in strength and quality, as with the real world. Lowering the score because the wine sucked and I’m a wine-drinker, but the champagne was very drinkable, so I had a lot of champagne and pina coladas all week.

    Platinum bars – These probably served the best quality drinks with the best service – including poolside servce.

    Lobby bars – I only had a couple drinks there but they were weak. They did offer a nice space to hang out.

    Riviera side:

    Click the image to open in full size.

    Sunset side:
    Click the image to open in full size.

    Courtyard bar – This was the place to be at night and the drinks were inconsistent – sometimes good, sometimes not, but it was fun.

    Click the image to open in full size.

    Swim-up bars – never tried, sadly.
    Click the image to open in full size.

    Beach bar – Weak drinks from the walk up bar, stronger drinks from the Platinum beach service. Sorry no pics of either!

    #2 nylalany

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      Posted 29 May 2008 - 05:53 PM


      Regular Buffet: B
      There are 2 buffet restaurants right off the main courtyard – the Sunset and the Riviera. I didn’t notice much of a difference in food quality. The service may have been a little better on the Sunset side, but I’m not sure really. We tried breakfast, lunch, and dinner at these buffets. There was never much variation in food style and choices between days, but since there are so many choices at the buffet to start, and the option to eat at a-la-carte restaurants at dinner, it didn’t really bother me that much. There were always meat, chicken, fish, and vegetarian protein options (such as lentils, beans, cheese, etc.), and plenty of vegetables at the salad bar, including 5 different types of lettuce. They had broccoli (my fave) and cauliflower every day. Fresh fruit at the dessert bar consistently. So you could eat healthy if you like. They also had chips and guacamole, great plantains, good bread, and various pasta and other types of foods.

      Platinum / Closer to Beach Buffet: A
      I don’t think this was actually restricted to Platinum, so I’m not sure why everyone at the resort didn’t choose to eat at these all the time. The quality of the breakfast food was a bit higher than that of the other buffet (with to-die for brioche French toast). They had a zillion different cheeses and salads and fruits and juices (including cucumber juice!). Salad bar available at breakfast. They made eggs and omelettes to order, as you would expect. They even had soy milk for your cereal! For lunch, there was a little variety each day, but generally they grilled meat, fish, chicken, etc. to order. Fresh grilled fish tacos some days. Lots of vegetables, etc. Some Mexican food options at all meals. More variety between days than the main buffet restaurants. Supposedly, according to some of my friends who took advantage of this, if you don’t like anything they actually had a menu you could order off as well. The food area is separate from the dining area, which is nice, and the whole place has glass windows overlooking the pools, in a sort of roundish shape. More pleasant than the other main buffet restaurants. These restaurants turn into a-la-cartes at dinner.

      The Grill (forgot name): B
      They were very strict about “long pants”. My hubby had ¾ length pants on, and they wouldn’t let him in, even though they let other people with jeans on (not even nice jeans), which in my opinion are less fancy. Weird. The atmosphere was ok, the service was not particularly friendly. The portions were small (like 1 piece of broccoli and 1 carrot, and a small piece of protein). I had salmon, which was delicious, and the only reason the score isn’t lower (score is an average of the experience). We were still hungry afterwards and found friends who also ate there and went down to the buffet for some vegetables and dessert.

      The French Restaurant (forgot name): B
      We had friends who had a great experience here (2 couples with young children), so I’m not sure what wrong for us. Nicer ambiance/design than the grill. However, we waited over an hour for our main course, and I didn’t order any other courses. I wanted to try 2 main dishes and they were annoyed with me I think. Several other tables were served before us, even though they came in after us, and they used the excuse that they were busy, even though only 1/3 of the tables were occupied. The portions were larger, and both fish dishes were delicious, so the score is an average.

      The Italian Restaurant (forgot name): B
      We had a reservation for a party of 10, and they split us into 2 tables of 4 and 6. Other than that, we had great service, and great attitude. I liked the food a little better at the other 2 restaurants, but the Italian was good. They should have been able to accommodate us all at one table though, thus the lower score.

      Room Service: B
      Food was very good, but they took over an hour, and forgot part of my order.

      Our friends and family had a better experience with the restaurants and room service than we did, fyi.

      Look for my food review for my rehearsal dinner later.

      #3 nylalany

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      • 625 posts

        Posted 29 May 2008 - 06:00 PM

        Pools: A-

        Beautiful pools, well designed throughout the resort so that you were always near one. There were specific areas including activity pool, swim up room pools, cold water Jacuzzis in pools, pools near Platinum buffets, pool areas with swim up bars, a separate very well filtered baby pool, and Platinum pools. All very nice, clean, varied in depth, good temperature, different levels of energy and sound, etc. Platinum pools had wood lounge chairs and beds around it, lots of shade, more private. The main pools had wood lounge beds and mesh lounge chairs. Lots of shade options and sun options. Never a problem finding a chair. Never felt crowded in the pools. We stayed away from the activity pool, which had louder music, but my friends took salsa lessons and played water games over there. They weren’t strict with the towels. All our guests enjoyed the pools (though my hubby and I mostly hung out at the beach).

        Activity pool & some swim up rooms:
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        Beds near pools:
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        Cold water Jacuzzi:
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        Platinum loungers:
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        Giving A- because no view of beach/ocean from pools.

        BEACH & OCEAN: B+

        This review is based on my visit to the various resort beaches and oceans in the Riviera Maya area, and the options available to me. Ok, so it isn’t Tulum, which is amazing. And it isn’t St. Lucia or Turks & Caicos or Fiji or anywhere that is more amazing that I’ve been lucky to visit. But comparing it with the options I had when visiting resorts in Riviera Maya, and figuring in resorts I didn’t get to visit which may get an A, I’m giving the beach and ocean experience an B+. The beach was relatively big, very soft with fluffy white sandy. Seaweed was raked off the beach, and there was only one day when the current brought it in a little more. You could walk for a while in either direction supposedly, although I didn’t get a chance to take any walks. They are building more onto the Princess to the north, but other than that, you don’t feel crowded by other buildings or anything. There were always chairs available in the regular and platinum areas of the beach (platinum had wood loungers). Plenty of palapas for shade. You could definitely go into the ocean without water shoes (although it was easier with, I only remembered to use them once). You just had to look down and walk around the rocks. It stayed shallow for a long time – so you could wade for quite a while before you had to tread water. The swimming area they sectioned off was very large and pretty discreet (in terms of seeing any rope). It was clear enough to see Cozumel in the distance too, which was neat. The water was pretty clear (enough to steer around rocks), and a pretty blue-ish green.

        Click the image to open in full size.

        Click the image to open in full size.

        Kayaks and catamarans are available for free use – our friends and families took advantage of this. They also joined in beach volleyball games and pool volleyball games, and participated in daily dance lessons by the pool. We saw the kids play area and archery area while on the little tram btwn the Platinum area and the lobby. We didn’t actually take advantage of any of these activities partially due to lack of time, and partially due to not knowing the schedule, which was not advertised anywhere. My cousin, who is resourceful, got some print out of the schedule from the regular concierge, so it is available – you just have to seek it out. I was happy it wasn’t like Club-Med where they are treating you like campers that have to do activities, but it would have been nice to have the activities publicly posted somewhere.

        Each evening there was either live music of fire dancer or something going on in the main courtyard, which was nice. Nothing incredible, but aok and entertaining (no firedancing compares to what I’ve seen at Burning Man). There were nightly shows too. I heard from our relatives and friends that one was really dumb, like a very bad attempt at Cirque-du-Soliel, and one was really good, an international dance show with dancers who obviously had classical training, but we didn’t actually make it to any of the shows.

        GYM: B+
        I’m a fitness fanatic and as it was too hot to run outside by the time I got up, and I was too busy to run in the evenings, I took advantage of the air conditioned gym almost every morning (including my wedding morning!) They had 4 elliptical machines, 4 treadmills, many spinning bikes, a large weight machine - the kind which has multiple seats, a bunch of free weights, and exercise mats and balls, etc. Again, no clearly publicized schedule, but I did happen upon a step class that I joined into one morning, and my cousin seemed to know about another one happening a few days later (she is resourceful!). Otherwise, I just used the elliptical and treadmill. My hubby complained that the free-weights weren’t heavy enough and that they didn’t have any larger type weights (I never remember what everything is called), but other than that, I think the gym was well equipped. I never had to wait for a machine, there were always towels and water available, etc. They played pretty good music, and there were a few tvs playing Spanish language channels. It was very clean and bright, with lots of windows. It doesn’t get a higher score b/c the equipment didn’t have personalized tvs on them.

        #4 nylalany

        • Member
        • 625 posts

          Posted 29 May 2008 - 06:11 PM

          SALON SERVICES – C
          Ok brides, here it is. The Salon is located off the main courtyard. The Salon is run by a European woman (I think German or Austrian) named Beate. My mother and I both had hair and makeup trials. There are 2 woman who do hair, and one that does makeup, as far as I can tell, so we couldn’t have multiple bridal party members getting done up at once. The women who do hair are Mexican and do not speak English. The woman who does makeup is Austrian I believe; she knew the manager and came over with her when the resort opened.

          Anyhow, I ran out of time on Friday and had to push our trials to Saturday, before the rehearsal dinner. I really had wanted to wear my hair down with my rehearsal dinner dress, and was stupid to schedule the trial right before the dinner. I was rushing and forgot the photos I had brought in my room, which as I previously mentioned is about a 10-15 minute walk away, and thus would have taken up to a ½ hour to retrieve, which they discouraged. Well, I should have used that ½ hour. I communicated to Beate, the salon manager, that I wanted a natural, wavy, messy, curly, up-do, in which ALL of my hair looks wavy (including the top) and she claims she communicated this to the hairdresser. I know basic Spanish, and I feel like she did communicate it, but the woman started by blowing and ironing my hair straight, which seemed counterintuitive. I questioned her and she assured me this is what you must do.

          Well, after ironing it flat, and then pinning it up and curling it in these really artificial traditional bridal curls, I was nearly in tears. My cousin came by and she saw that this was obviously not what I wanted, and she called my room and had my hubby bring up my photos. The woman saw the photos and said OH and promised me that she would be able to do the correct hair-do the following day, and took the pins out of my hair. Meanwhile, my mom hated her hair, and ended up going back to the room to redo it (because she had time), as the woman hadn’t understood her either (and my mom speaks much better Spanish than I do).

          While dealing with my unhappiness with the hair, my makeup was done by the make-up artist. The salon area for makeup was really really poorly lit which sucked for makeup application. Additionally, the makeup artist had very little in the way of colors of lipstick and blushes and eyeshadows to choose from. I told her I didn’t want heavy makeup and she agreed – she actually only put a little concealer or foundation or whatever you call it on the T areas of the nose/forehead/cheek if you know what I mean. She was going to use sparkley eyeshadow and I told her no, it would not look good in photos, which I feel like she should have known, and so she managed to find something more neutral. She insisted that black mascara is a must, even though my natural eyelashes are already pretty spidery long, which is fine, except she didn’t declump them, so it looked horrible.

          Well I was running late, so my hubby brought up my dress. When I put it on, with my poofed out hair-sprayed stiffened, straightened hair, and too much eye makeup, he said I looked like a goth woman (my dress was black). So I wiped some eye makeup off, threw my hair back up into a messy bun, with overly straight bangs, and all my guests said I looked Asian-inspired.

          I wish I took some photos of the horror, but here is my attempt to make my hair look presentable:

          Click the image to open in full size.

          Because I was trusting, or who knows what I was thinking, I went back the next day for the real deal. This time, the hairdresser just curled my hair without straightening it. She then pinned it up into a “messy” up-do. It was a lot more promising than the day before, although it wasn’t as natural looking as I had hoped for. She assured me it would be once I got to the wedding. She was right – the minute I walked out of the salon the wind blew and it became very natural! In fact, many of the pins fell out and part of it came down before I even got back to my room to put on my dress.

          As for my makeup – I brought my own blush and lipstick and clear mascara for her to use. The makeup was very natural, so natural that I had to use my Mac powder every ½ hour to cover up my shine, and reapply my lipstick constantly until after the ceremony (at which point I promptly forgot about what I looked like and just had fun).

          From the photos, I don’t think it was the end of the world. I ended up with the look I wanted, or even more so, on the day of the wedding, and feel like I looked pretty for someone who is usually not photogenic, but I feel that the salon could have done a better job than they did – my hair should have at least stayed up - at least until the actual ceremony! - and my makeup could have lasted a little longer.

          My hair dresser, Amara, was definitely better than the other one, who did my sister and mom’s hair. My sister ended up going back to my room before the wedding and washing her hair, and my mom did both of their makeup in my room, so I was stuck getting myself ready while waiting for them to make themselves pretty.

          Here is my evidence of how the "up" part of the "messy up-do" didn't last long...
          Hair photos from day of wedding:

          In salon:
          Click the image to open in full size.

          Less than an hour later, after dressing and, before leaving resort to go to wedding:
          Click the image to open in full size.

          45 minutes later, when we reached Al Cielo, before the wedding:
          Click the image to open in full size.

          By end of evening (I’m on left):
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          The hair and makeup prices (for each session) were pretty reasonable I think – maybe $65 each? I skipped mani/pedi b/c that was overpriced ($65 I believe), and I had taken some of my bridesmaids to the nail salon the night before I left for Mexico. Beate allowed me to cancel my 2 of my bridesmaid’s hair appointments and my sister and mom’s makeup appointments after I expressed my discontent with my trial, though she made it clear she wasn’t happy about it and was doing me a favor.

          My sister got a beach massage and a salon massage and said both were mediocre, but a guest of mine had 3 massages b/c he thought they were great (including a chocolate massage), so I guess it is based on your taste and experience. The rest of the salon seemed well appointed and nice.

          #5 nylalany

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          • 625 posts

            Posted 29 May 2008 - 06:23 PM


            We held our welcome cocktails on Friday night at 8:30 at the courtyard bar, as we figured it would be the easiest, most centralized place for people to find us. It turned out to be a good spot b/c there were fire-dancers, reasonable amount of seating, etc. It did get a little hot b/c we stayed too close to the bar, vs. hanging out further in the main courtyard area.

            Photo of the area during the day:
            Click the image to open in full size.

            (btw, the 2 main buffets are on either side of the space, and 4 of the a-la-carte restaurants are upstairs from it)

            The larger area around it:
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            The nearby jetty lounges if you want some quieter space:
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            This is the dress I wore:
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            Or at the actual cocktails - my hair looks bad b/c I put it up while it was still wet b/c I was so hot. I don’t have many photos – this one is with my mom’s cousins:
            Click the image to open in full size.

            We gave out our welcome bags, which everyone loved.

            OOT bags w/contents minus chocolate:
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            They especially loved the canvas tote bags themselves, which they used all week for the beach and elsewhere (some even brought them to the wedding instead of purses!). They liked my self-designed logo, which if any of you remember, I freaked about the colors of after the screen-printing process.

            Click the image to open in full size.

            The bags included:

            -Mini-bound welcome booklets –
            thanks PaulaVfor the design inspiration! Everyone was impressed, which is good b/c I put a TON of time into them. The personal crossword I designed was way too hard, so I ended up putting the answer key on our wedding website.

            -Maraca fiesta pens –
            Everyone got a kick out of them, to my surprise!

            -2 different Vista-Print postcards I designed -
            Some folks planned on keeping the postcards as souvenirs rather than sending them, which is sweet. I used a shot I had taken at Al Cielo, and a shot of my hubby and my footprints in the sand, both of which I had used on our wedding website, so the guests recognized the images.

            -Vanilla travel candles –
            Many “smells good” and “cute design” comments (I created sticker labels corresponding to the welcome booklet logo I created).

            -Hand-made chocolate from “Ah Cacao” in Playa del Carmen -
            The only disappointment – they were reliable, delivered for free, and the packaging was great, but the chocolate itself was only ok, not so good, at least to my tastebuds, and that of my sister, cousin, and aunt (tho we’re all chocolate snobs).

            Click the image to open in full size.

            Everyone drank a ton of cocktails (free for us!) and got to know each other. Our friends became friends with each other and our families – all ages mixed, drank, and danced in the courtyard. Some of us, including my mom, ended up in the cheesy discoteca after and continued the party! It was a ton of fun, and everyone was hanging out with new friends the next day, as if they were old friends. How amazing!!!

            Budget brides – on other nights we saw brides who must not have had a private reception, dancing to the live music in the courtyard with their guests, just to give you an idea of options, if you are trying to save money and don’t care about mingling with hotel guests and being a spectacle.

            #6 nylalany

            • Member
            • 625 posts

              Posted 29 May 2008 - 06:41 PM


              This is difficult, as I believe a lot of the problem is with the management, as is evident with the other service problems at the resort, and with Damarys being new and overworked.

              • Tried to negotiate the menu for us.
              • Collected my chocolates when they were delivered a day early and held them in her office.

              • Completely ignored most of my emails and phone calls.
              • Missed my 1st meeting (and only) on-site meeting with her when I visited in November
              • Continued to ignore most of my emails even after we committed to holding a private rehearsal dinner at the resort. My in-laws even visited the resort to look at the dinner spaces, and she continued to ignore my emails.
              • Did not provide menus options and pricing to us until exactly 1 month before the wedding even though it was clear that the resort had held weddings there since February, and did not provide a finalized menu until 1 week before the event.
              • Did not provide menus options and pricing to us until exactly 1 month before the wedding even though it was clear that the resort had held weddings there since February, and did not provide a finalized menu until 1 week before the event.
              • Failed to communicate what she needed from me to make sure the event ran smoothly.
              • Made excuses and did not help out when I complained during the dinner about the bar not being in the conference room.

              REHEARSAL DINNER: C-

              My in-laws paid for a private rehearsal dinner for our entire group of guests (100 people) because unless we all ate at the buffet, there was no other option for a group dinner, and my family is accustom to rehearsal dinners for out of town guests. Looking back, I might consider going off-property or doing a sunset cruise or something instead, although this was certainly more convenient for my guests.

              I’ll talk about the positives 1st:
              • Appetizer, Salad, and Main Course were very good
              • They supposedly made the tortilla soup vegetarian and non-dairy per my request (though tasters were skeptical)
              • Menus were included on the plates, which was a nice touch I was surprised by
              • A welcome mango margarita drink, also a surprise, was waiting in the hallway outside the conference room, and it was delicious (though they ran out so only ¾ of our guests could have one, and my hubby never got one)
              • The dinner allowed the opportunity for our 4 pre-assigned toast givers to give their toasts, and the toasts were so amazing (better than our actual wedding day toasts). The toasts gave our guests some insight into us from sweet and funny perspectives, or reinforced their knowledge of us. People commented after about our wonderful friends and their toasts.
              • We had a chance to more formally say hello to everyone, though we did manage to catch most folks the night before.

              The negatives:
              • We did not get the menu options until a month before the event
              • We had to negotiate for the next 3 weeks because they were unwilling to offer a choice btwn meat or fish for our guests, and several of us only eat fish (such as me) and several only eat meat (such as my hubby). We finally agreed on a “brochette” of chicken and vegetables and a “brochette” of fish and vegetables on the same plate (shish-kebab) as at least they are easily separated and shared.
              • I gave the wedding coordinator the number of vegetarians in advance, per her request, but she didn’t ask for the actual names of the vegetarians until the day before the rehearsal dinner, and she never asked me directly even though I saw her AND was in email contact with her – she just gave someone a message that was supposed to be passed on to me. Well it wasn’t (thanks hubby) and when I go to the rehearsal dinner, without my computer obviously, she demands to know the vegetarians. So instead of saying hello to my guests, I have to freak out trying to remember our 13 vegetarians. I could only remember 8. Luckily, my sister came to my aid and walked around asking everyone she thought might be one, but it just seemed so disorganized and un-classy.
              • We negotiated for International/Premium open bar to be included in the cost of the meal for the first hour (it is usually national). The cost of the meals per person ranged from $35 to $85. Since we were staying away from the more exotic menus of lobster or deer loin, and because of our negotiations, we ended up with a mid-range priced meal. My inlaws paid for international/premium open bar for the 2nd hour. The charge for the open bar was $20 per person for the 2nd hour. We decided not to have a 3rd hour because of the steep price, considering everyone was already a guest of the hotel. WELL – there was NO bar actually IN the room. The waiters were only pouring red and white wine, which as I mentioned previously, was bad. Someone at my table went out of the room to the nearest bar to get champagne, and that was when I realized that the guests didn’t realize they could order other drinks. When my hubby and I thanked everyone for being there, I mentioned that they should feel free to ask the waiters for drinks. WELL, my hubby ordered a rum and coke and I ordered champagne, and by the time we got served and had a waiter come by again so that we could ask for a refill, the 2nd hour of bar was closed! So basically we were ripped off, and I’m not sure how we could have gotten around it (should we have told people to go outside and upstairs to the lobby bar to get drinks?), but it was basically $2000 down the drain.
              • Because we didn’t pay for a 3rd hour of open bar, the wait staff was only paid for 2 hours, and thus they totally rushed us through the meal. Several people’s plates were taken away before they were finished, including my salad.
              • Portions were really small.
              • The “music” that they played over the speaker system was musak, and all static, so we ended up turning it off and dining without music, even though we paid to rent the microphone/speaker system.
              • They served 2 different desserts, so that 4 people at a table would get one, and 4 people at a table would get another, and in theory, if people were nice, they would share. Well, apparently, 8 people at my dad’s table got the same dessert, and it was really bad (fake mint-syrup in disgusting sorbet, I tried it, inedible), and he asked for the other dessert (a chocolate mousse) and the waiter said, “No.” Talk about stingy! I mean, we’re overpaying as guests who are already at an All-Inclusive and they can’t bring him one measly chocolate mousse?
              • Kind of minor, but they spelled my hubby’s name wrong, and some other things wrong, on the event sign they put up to direct people to the event, and the put the sign next to the door of the conference room, which if you found the conference room, you’d already know you were there, instead of by the main lobby stairway, which would have been more helpful.
              • We had the event in the Jalisco conference room near the main Riviera Lobby stairs, behind the gift shop. It was hard to find, they said it was off the main courtyard, which it wasn’t. My in-laws liked it b/c of its size and maybe b/c they hadn’t been to any real nice weddings any time in the past 30 years, but it wouldn’t have been my choice if I had had the chance to pick (I figured I’d trust them). It was a conference room with weird carpet and lighting. The set up was ok – round tables for 8 with white chair covers with white ties around them. I would have preferred another space if possible – renting out a restaurant would be a better option as they have nicer designs. I’m not sure why they didn’t go for that.

              Here are the only photos that kind of show the conference room. You’ll also see my dress.:

              Click the image to open in full size.

              Click the image to open in full size.

              All in all everyone had fun at the rehearsal dinner, thought the food was good, and appreciated the toasts and the chance to see us at yet another organized event, and in a way, it was nice that it in NO WAY overshadowed the actual wedding, but my horrible experience with the overpriced and extremely poor service that didn’t deliver as promised leads me to have problems recommending the Grand Riviera Princess for your wedding if you plan to have a private sit-down dinner.

              IF you plan to have a buffet dinner, I did witness a few weddings on the beach. They had the same basic set-up as the beach parties thrown on other nights - we had gone to one beach party and actually saw a bride and her small group of guest enjoying a free beach dinner with the rest of the hotel guests, which is one way to save costs if you must.) Pretty basic - buffet tables with food, and the same round tables with chairs with white chair covers and ties. The bar they use is the beach bar. We peeked over on our way back to our room and some guest invited us to crash the party – but as I wouldn’t want someone to crash mine, I didn’t feel comfortable crashing someone else’s. There was a dance floor which seemed pretty well lit, and the DJ was playing the typical cheesy yet danceable wedding songs. Everyone seemed like they were having fun, so if you want to go that route, it seems like a better option. I believe the cost of a private beach part is $60 per person + 15% service, though I don’t know if that includes bar, since bar is still listed separately at btwn $15 and $20 per person per hour. I have the whole price list if anyone wants (bar, DJ, cake, etc.) - some items seem pretty pricey, especially for an AI, and especially for a big AI with pretty poor service.


              So basically, I’m not so sure I’d recommend this resort for your wedding, unless you have different needs or expectations from mine. However, the resort was GREAT for my group to stay at – very reasonably priced, lovely rooms and grounds, good food for an AI, and SO MUCH FUN with 100 of your closest friends and family around. Of course it would have been nice to be at a slightly smaller resort, but considering the factors, we were very happy. Guests were already thanking us for having a destination wedding on Friday at our welcome cocktails. They’ve all traveled a lot, but few had been to an AI. Many folks have mentioned wanting to take a group anniversary trip ha ha! Some said it was like leaving summer camp and all your new and old friends. Everyone said they had an amazing time. But the best part was the wedding at Al Cielo, which I’ll get to in Part 2.

              #7 Alyssa

              • Sr. Member
              • 11,793 posts

                Posted 29 May 2008 - 07:50 PM

                Wow! this is seriously the most detailed review I have ever seen - and we haven't even gotten to the wedding yet. I am blown away - this info is going to be priceless for other brides down the line.

                thank you so much for posting this all!!!!

                #8 nylalany

                • Member
                • 625 posts

                  Posted 29 May 2008 - 08:01 PM

                  Yeah, I'm kind of a detail freak - my guests noted this when they read my wedding website :). One of the groomsmen even printed it out and brought it with him, which was so sweet! I figure people can skim if they don't want every detail! Seriously though, the gals of BDW helped me SO MUCH over the past 3/4 of a year - I just want to give back as much as possible!

                  #9 Alyssa

                  • Sr. Member
                  • 11,793 posts

                    Posted 29 May 2008 - 08:03 PM

                    OMG I love the pic of you guys on the chairs - did you have the Hora playing or was it live? that is a great photo :)

                    #10 nylalany

                    • Member
                    • 625 posts

                      Posted 29 May 2008 - 08:52 PM

                      As I'll talk about in my review of Al Cielo (sorry, I'm not quite done with it so it may take a little bit to post), the Jazz Band we hired for part of the evening refused to learn a new song, even though they were talented enough that they could have played anything! Thus, I simply made a CD of about 5 good Jewish wedding songs and had the DJ (which we had for the rest of the time) play them. Everyone totally danced the Hora so it worked out fine.

                      And this photo is one of my guests' shots. I received a ton of amazing photos from them, which only raises my expectations for my professional photos haha (poor Elizabeth!). I'm glad you like it too!

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