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Dreams Tulum Bride Moved to Secrets Maroma Beach - Detailed Wedding Review

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DREAMS TULUM BRIDE MOVED TO SECRETS MAROMA BEACH – DETAILED WEDDING REVIEW

 

Okay ladies, as I was one of around the first 20 brides to be married at Secrets Maroma Beach Resort (“Secretsâ€) and the first one to post a review of this wedding, I will attempt to be as detailed as possible.

 

Right off the start I should say that some things for my Secrets wedding are going to be different than those of you who have booked from the start directly with Secrets as I was originally booked and scheduled to be married at Dreams Tulum (“Dreamsâ€) for my November 5, 2008 wedding. In short, Dreams was shut down by the Government a little over a month before my wedding date and after a series of events, I chose another beautiful resort owned by AM Resorts in the same chain and hence ended up at Secrets. I had little time to plan my actual wedding at Secrets due to AM Resorts only confirming the change to the new resort of my choice (Secrets) only a little over a week before we left for Mexico. However, as this was the case I think it may help other ladies in knowing that a beautiful wedding CAN in fact be pulled together by the wedding coordinators at Secrets with little to no problems. I think the main difference that becomes obvious right off the bat is that I paid for a wedding package at Dreams and those charges and related services were transferred to my wedding held at Secrets so as to costs of anything done at Secret, I will have little information.

 

I have divided my review into sections so you can easily skip past the parts that do not interest you and zero in on the things that are most important for each individual. Thanks to SunBride as I borrowed her review format from her review of Dreams that I found very helpful in planning my wedding, up until it was moved two weeks before the actual event to Secrets.

 

PART 1 - BASIC INFORMATION

 

I went to this resort with my immediate family for my symbolic wedding November 1 – 8, 2008, actual wedding held Wednesday, November 5, 2008. We booked our airfare and stay at Dreams in February of 2008 (9 months prior) and were only confirmed with our move to Secrets about a week and a half before we left for Mexico. We booked our accommodations through Wedding Destinations and Planning | Destination Weddings .com and I would NOT recommend them again. More on that later in my review. We paid for a “Dreams Ocean Front†room at Dreams which is the highest room category below the Honeymoon and Presidential Suites.

 

We flew AirCanada business class, so airfare was approximately $2,100 CDN each for a direct flight from Vancouver, BC Canada to Cancun (economy fares on the same flight were $812 each and cheaper non-direct flights were available for $600 - $750). The Dreams room was originally $3,200 US for the both of us. The last minute transfer for me was very stressful but for my wedding guests an upgrade as Secrets is a pricier resort than my original booking at Dreams and neither my husband and I or our previously booked guests were required to pay anything additional for the move between resorts.

CIVIL CEREMONY AT AIRPORT

 

We conducted a civil ceremony at the Vancouver International Airport at 8:00 a.m. on November 1, 2008 and our plane left for Cancun at 10:15 a.m. on that same date. We telephoned the airport ahead of time to see if we would require a permit or special permission of any kind to be married anywhere on the airport grounds and we were advised that we did not. In fact, we were offered a chapel that was on site, if interested. However, as my husband and I are not religious folk, we opted to be married in a lovely brand new section of the airport that we had selected upon a previous visit.

 

We emailed all of our family and friends to advise them of the date/time/location and made it an open invitation for those interested in attending. Due to several of our wedding guests being booked on less expensive flights leaving the Airport around 6 am that morning, my parents, my husbandâ€s brother and friends who were not actually travelling to Mexico were in attendance for our lovely civil ceremony.

 

We booked a Justice of the Peace who was actually a friend of my motherâ€s and she charged us $75 for the fee, plus $0.40 per km for travel distance (she lived in a suburb not too close to the Airport), and parking for one hour. As we wanted the focus to be on our ceremony in Mexico, we had chosen not to write vows or influence the Justice of the Peace in her ceremony and accordingly it was much the surprise for us. It went off beautifully.

PLANNING & BOOKING

 

I had very little experience with booking travel plans and of course, none when it came to planning a destination wedding. Accordingly, I Googled “Destination Wedding†and found the online travel agency Wedding Destinations and Planning | Destination Weddings .com They charged us $50 US to research locations (originally we looked at Jamaica, the Bahamas and then eventually turned our heads to the Mayan Riviera) and book our accommodations (although not flights as they do not provide packages for Canadians) directly through them. Although their rates were competitive (I looked at other online search engines), I would NOT recommend them to anyone in future after all of our problems dealing with our agent, Karen Dorn, and the company they used for our booking, Apple Vacations. For ease of reference, I will just use Karenâ€s name when speaking about DestinationWeddings.com, but do know that my disapproval of how everything was handled is not only blamed on her alone, but the company that she is employed by also.

 

Specifically as to rates, after looking at many resorts and choosing Dreams as it was beautiful and allowed children (although as it turns out we had no children booked for our wedding and hence Secrets was chosen in the end) and was affordable for our guests due to them having a new accommodation building that was more expensive and an older building for those wanting a more cost-effective stay. We had 17 guests (including my husband and I) and about half booked through Karen and half booked on their own through other websites and travel agencies.

 

I almost always travel with Air Canada as their planes are more roomy and most importantly, their luggage allowance is very generous – with our business class tickets we were allowed 3 checked bags plus our carry-on! Most other charter flights only allow 44lbs total per person. This was a huge bonus for us because just the two of us had 4 large pieces of luggage, one box of wedding favors and a scuba bag, plus our carry-on bags (one each), the wedding dress and my husbandâ€s suit. I didnâ€t have to pay anything extra!

 

We had issues getting our proper transfers as although my husband and I had purchased direct private transfers, we were stuck waiting at the airport for other guests in a public transfer. We paid $150 each for the transfers originally when we were scheduled to be taken to Dreams (at the far end of the peninsula) and even though we were now going to be transported to Secrets (only 30 miles away from the airport), they were not willing to refund any difference. By the way, a taxi costs about $40 US from the airport to Secrets.

 

From the moment I started researching wedding destinations to the date I actually booked was very stressful, as we wanted to also have a few family and friends join us (17 came in all). It was difficult to plan for everyone, so I would recommend that you select a travel agent for everyone to use (Tammy from this site seems to be excellent and completely on the ball) and have your guests contact that agent directly. It is very time consuming and stressful to try and provide all possible guests with accommodation and flight information from various cities.

 

We originally wanted to extend an open invite to anyone who wished to attend our wedding in Mexico but in the end decided to only invite close friends and family. An important factor in this decision was that most resorts charge a larger fee for having a dinner / reception after the wedding ceremony even though itâ€s an all inclusive resort (they charge it as a service fee, and if it does make sense as itâ€s not easy serving a large group of people all at once) and as we chose a destination wedding in order to make our wedding a little more affordable for my husband and I. So for a $2,600 US wedding package, it included everything we required (plus $150 US for the sound system rental) for our wedding and 20 guests (including husband and wife).

 

TAXIS

Regarding taxiâ€s, something I would have found helpful to know ahead of time but only found out about half way through my stay is that there are set rates for traveling anywhere in the area. The doormen or conciergeâ€s have “fare cards†that specify how much it costs to go anywhere, i.e. another resort, XCaret, Xel Ha, Coba, etc. Ask to SEE the fare card before you get into a taxi going anywhere and do not take the doormanâ€s word for how much anything costs. Our doorman at Secrets charged us $60 US for a taxi to XCaret but we used the far card on the way home and it only cost us $35 for the taxi.

 

CHOOSING A RESORT

 

I did a lot of research to choose the right resort for my wedding, mainly using trip advisor. Through Karen and online searches, we contacted many hotels for information on their wedding packages.

 

The factors I considered when choosing Dreams were (more or less in order of importance): price for trip, star rating of resort, trip advisor reviews & overall rating, price of wedding package, being allowed to bring an outside local photographer (some resorts force you to use the resort photographer and in time I had arranged to “borrow†Alinâ€s wedding photographer for a TTD photo shoot), number of a-la-carte restaurants including a Japanese one (and whether there was a limit per week), and the use of a disco for after the reception itself.

 

Why we ended up choosing the Mayan Riviera:

 

1) Direct flight was available from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto (the cities of our wedding guests)

2) Lots of things to do besides attend the wedding and accordingly hopefully interest friends and family in attending not just the wedding itself but also making it a great vacation for all (Xel-Ha, Xcaret, scuba, ruins, etc.)

3) Lots of good reviews of the area/resort (Dreams)

4) Not crowded / party atmosphere like Cancun

 

Why I choose Dreams Tulum:

 

1) One of the less expensive 5 star resorts due to the two buildings available (Dreams and Hacienda)

2) Great wedding package which included all of our needs

3) Decent beach compared to some of the other affordable 5 star resorts

4) Good reviews on food, 6 a-la-carte restaurants (with no limit to number of visits per week)

5) Middle sized resort (I wrestled with the advantage of being able to have alone time versus it being easy to find my family when I wanted.

6) Wanted a wedding on the beach and Dreams had a beautiful gazebo for that

 

Why I later chose Secrets Maroma Beach:

 

1) Still affordable due to our guests having paid Dreams pricing and if any new guests wished to book, still within reach

2) Outstanding beach, best in the Mayan Riviera

3) Same restaurant choices/selection/names even as Dreams and accordingly I felt as though the quality would be the same as well (and in the end it was excellent), a-la-carte restaurants (with no limit to number of visits per week)

4) Mid-sized resort (just over 400 rooms)

5) Wanted a wedding on the beach and Secrets had a beautiful gazebo for that both on the beach and near the pool

 

CONTACTING DREAMS FOR WEDDING PLANNING

 

When I contacted Dreams Tulum during my planning they had limited availability for the different dates I was asking for as they were all within the same week and due to my work, we had no flexibility in the dates. We originally wished to be married in a civil ceremony on November 7/08 but were advised that both Nov 7 and also Nov. 6 were already taken. Due to my work only allowing me to be gone for the first two weeks of November and wanting a wedding week and honeymoon week in the area, if we wished to book at Dreams we were not able to do a legal ceremony in Mexico. Accordingly we decided to have a civil ceremony at home and a symbolic one in Mexico on Nov 5/08 (you have to be “resident†in Mexico for four business days in order to be married there and as we arrived on Nov. 1st, we couldnâ€t be legally married on Nov 5th, Sunday is not considered a business day).

 

In the end, this ended up being far less complicated anyway, having the civil and symbolic ceremony separate. A lot of hoops need to be jumped through to get married in Mexico (blood tests and other stuff), and as we were actually married at home, we didnâ€t have to worry about any of that.

 

I started with the wedding planning immediately after I selected the Dreams resort. I started e-mailing the wedding co-ordinator, first Sandra and then it was later changed to Landy, right away. I also researched plenty of stuff on this website and met my friend Alin who made a site visit to Dreams. I did extensive planning and organized it all in e-mails to the wedding coordintators. In the beginning, Sandra, the resortâ€s wedding coordinator, was pretty good at answering my questions about availability and other – I usually received a reply within 1-3 days.

However, as time went on and then leading eventually into the closure of Dreams, they did not get back to me very frequently. When Alin did a site visit, they had told her to contact them a month before our weddings to make detailed plans. Accordingly, I saved all the information I had gathered into a wedding planning binder and drafted up a detailed e-mail with all my questions to be sent one month before. When the resort was changed last minute, I simply sent the detailed e-mail to both Landy (Dreams co-ordinator who would also be assisting my wedding at Secrets) and to Cecilia, the wedding planner at Secrets. When I received no response I sent short direct and to the point emails with what I considered to be my most important questions. They did not get back to me other than to answer my question as to whether there were any other weddings being held at Secrets on the same day as me and to schedule and then re-schedule my meeting with Landy and Cecilia for the wedding planning upon my arrival. I was advised there were no other weddings that day although they will book 2 a day at Secrets. I believe Dreams had the same policy. I decided to give it a rest and figured that I had no control over anything so I would just let things happen as they did.

 

In the end, although I was scheduled to arrive on Saturday, November 1, 2008, a meeting with the wedding coordinators was arranged for Monday, November 3, 2008 in the afternoon at 5pm, only 2 days before my wedding.

 

In the attached photo, Landy is in the pink top and Cecilia (sorry it's only her back) is in the all tan outfit.

 

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WEDDING REQUIREMENTS & COSTS

 

For a civil (legal) wedding in Mexico you need to be “resident†in the area for 4 business days before getting married, not counting the day you arrive but counting the day of the wedding. A personal recommendation of mine is that the best day to arrive if you are doing a civil wedding is Monday, so that you can get married Friday, and have 2 full days after your wedding to relax. I would also recommend staying 10 days instead of just a week as a wedding can be very hectic and you donâ€t want to rush off afterwards back to work.

 

As I did the civil ceremony at home and only a symbolic in Mexico, I do not have any further information regarding this matter.

 

PHOTOGRAPHER / VIDEOGRAPHER

 

I had planned all along to use the resort photographer and videographer that was included in my wedding package (50 shots in an album with the option of purchasing a CD of photos for an additional cost) and a 30 minute video. I provided the videographer with the song I would like for background music and I am awaiting receipt of the photos and video from the wedding ceremony. As for the photographer, I had him come to my room a few minutes before I was ready to walk up the aisle and he took a few photos of me solo. I will post up more information on this as I get it but I donâ€t even remember his name now and I do not know if he was the Secrets photographer or Dreams photographer. I imagine when I receive something from him, I will know more.

 

As for his photos after the wedding (he stayed for about 45 minutes), he was not very imaginative with the picture taking and it was only after listening to suggestions from my friends and family about where to pose, how to stand, etc., that I think we got some nice shots. I hope they turn out, I will keep you posted.

PART 2 – SECRETS MAROMA BEACH 9/10

 

The resort was fabulous – the service was amazing, the food was delicious and everything was very new and clean. My only complaints about the resort revolve around the fact that it is so new and accordingly there is little shade (trees are new and small), the staff is just getting used to everything and there is little communication between the different departments, and the mosquitoes are horrible (bring bug spray from home!).

 

LOCATION 10/10

 

It took a little over a half hour to get to Secrets, this will depend on how fast your cabbie is as they are all different. Some putt putt along like they have all day and some speed way over the limit to get you there fast and move on to their next fare. Our driver on the way was a speed demon. Lol. The highway is fairly smooth except the speedbumbs every once in a while.

 

Once you arrive at the entrance to the resort, it gets very bumpy! As this resort is brand new, the private road into Maroma Beach is not paved yet and the road has lots of potholes. The road is about 5 minutes long and the speed limit is about 10 km/hr. Just be prepared to be led through a thick bush on a one way road… seems strange at the time but now you know ahead!

 

The location is perfect with the beautiful beach and itâ€s only a $20 US cab ride into Playa del Carmen for shopping (highly recommend as this town is HUGE with lots of great stuff to buy).

 

ROOMS AT SECRETS 10/10

 

My husband and I were booked for an “Ocean Front†room. Upon arrival we were advised that all the ocean front rooms were sold out. We were offered a swim up room in the 2400 building. We declined that room as I had read on TripAdvisor that the swim up rooms in the 2000â€s were cold (water) due to being in the shade all day and requested a room in the 1500â€s. We were put into a swim up room in the 1600 building and it was beautiful. My parents also paid $70 US a night for an upgrade (they were booked into Garden View at Dreams) and they were put in a 4th floor room in the 1600 bldg. 4th floor rooms have an outside tub on the balcony!

 

Note, this is very important!!! I did not read about this ahead of time but found out afterward as many of my guests were booked into the 2300 and 2400 bldg. The mosquitoes on the one side of the resort are TERRIBLE, although do know that the mosquitoes are pretty bad everywhere, just considerably worse on the one side. Bug spray was provided in my room (didnâ€t work well) but as I had read the mosquitoes in general could be a problem, we brought bug spray from home and were very thankful for it. I bought kidâ€s bug spray as it smelled nicer on my wedding day, etc. That is a helpful bit of info.

 

Anyhow, as for the rooms… DO NOT PAY EXTRA for a swim up or top floor suite. Every room in the whole resort is identical (except for honeymoon and presidential) and accordingly I would recommend you book garden view or whatever as youâ€ll be more than happy with the room. They all have double jacuuzi tubs in each room and everything is new and beautiful. The only IMPORTANT thing I would recommend you book ahead of time is a stay in the 1500, 1600, 1700 or 1800 bldg, not the 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300 or 2400 due to the mosquitoes (I think there is a swamp behind the property line on that side of the resort which causes them to be way worse).

 

As far as I am aware, nobody had any problems with their rooms except for my aunt and uncle who were in a 2300 room said that their water didnâ€t get very hot. I had other guests in the same building who had no problems. The beds were very comfortable, a little on the firm side, but honestly I think I liked it better than my own bed back at home! The toiletries are awesome!!! Haha, seriously! The body wash and conditioning shampoo smell like spa products and are lovely. I have a large stash that I brought home.

 

The safe worked fine and was large enough to fit our valuables. It has a punch code on the front for ease of use. Also, we brought a laptop laptop down with us and didnâ€t put it in the safe and it didnâ€t get stolen, nor did anything else… although I even locked up my iPod during the day just out of caution.

 

BEACH 9/10

 

I didnâ€t spend too much time on the beach and I regret that. It was hard to fit it in with everything we had planned. The powdery soft sand and clear blue water is beautiful, the best in the area (it canâ€t get any better than Maroma Beach). My only complaint was that there was little shade available. It was somewhat difficult to get a shaded chair on the beach but there were other lounges in the sun that could be used at any time, no problems with people taking up too much space with leaving towels out “reserving†the chairs.

 

Make sure you bring lots of sunscreen from home, you will need it and itâ€s pretty costly in the resortâ€s store.

 

FOOD / RESTAURANTS 9/10

 

The food everywhere was amazing and the service was great (they really tried hard). Even at the buffet (World Café Restaurant) they were good about refilling our coffee or juice and bringing us cutlery or taking away the dirty dishes.

 

One night we had supper at the World Café Restaurant buffet as a group (14 people) and as arranged for ahead of time (made reservation through our building concierge), we were off to the side in a section with nobody else, and it felt like eating at a nice a-la-carte because it was not too loud and we got great service from our waiter (drink orders, clearing plates, etc). The service at the a-la cartes was very very good!

 

Throughout the week we made reservations ahead of time for groups of around 10 people at the different restaurants. We ate as a larger group at the World Café Resturant often, at Portofino and Himitsu. The other option that was available everywhere was to arrive as a group right at the restaurantâ€s opening (6:30 pm) and it wasnâ€t a problem.

 

I only have two complaints about the food. We ordered room service twice and it came in about a half hour and it was never too warm. Room service was definitely not our favorite for the food EXCEPT for the coconut icecream. Very very good!

 

My review of the restaurants one by one:

 

World Café Restaurant aka buffet – Was GREAT for breakfast and OK for lunch and dinner, pretty standard buffet food. For breakfast though it was outstanding as you could choose from the normal breakfast stuff or have a fresh omelet, fruit crepe or smoothie made up on the spot. As I already said I found the service very good for a buffet restaurant.

 

Seaside Grill – sorry I didnâ€t eat there! My brother and his girlfriend did and said it was great though! They had an amazing steak there and were surprised at how good it was as the steak at the Japanese restaurant wasnâ€t as good they said.

 

El Patio – I had breakfast here twice and lunch twice. I would highly recommend the Mexican Breakfast and specifically the “Divorced Eggsâ€. Funny name, but it is delicious!! I ordered the divorced eggs from room service and they werenâ€t as good served luke warm. Make sure you order this item at El Patio for breakie. For lunch I liked the calamari and the chicken burger. My husband also liked the chicken wings.

 

Portofino - very good. I ordered a shrimp entrée at first which I didnâ€t like too much (but passed onto another family member that did) and then I ordered the lasagna. It was excellent! The service here was fabulous as they brought me a new entrée very quickly. Wine costs extra for bottles not included in the all inclusive. As I am not a wine drinker, my husbandâ€s comment was that the wine was quite overpriced and not worth the difference (in fact, he works for a wine company here at home).

 

Bordeau – sorry, didnâ€t eat there!

 

Himitsu (Japanese Resturant) – As major lovers of sushi, we at this restaurant four times. The sushi was terrific (Vancouverites are picky when it comes to their sushi) and the other Japanese items were also quite good. The waiter looked at us a bit like we were crazy when we just kept ordering more and more sushi and more and more ginger. They brought it though and we loved it. The desert here was delish also, deep fried ice-cream. Make sure you try that!

 

My one other complaint to do with the food involves this restaurant. One night we made reservations for 14 at Himitsu and were sat at the teppanyaki table. We did not know ahead of time that it was a set menu at those tables and being sushi lovers, I was quite upset with not being able to eat sushi like I had wanted. I excused myself from the table and asked the head waiter if I could order off of the regular menu and I was actually told no! This was Tuesday night, the day before my wedding and I was not impressed. I created a bit of a fuss and eventually the servers brought out a sushi appetizer for everyone. The teppanyaki dinner itself was OK, but not as good as Kobe back at home which offers the same thing. If you want to pick what you have for dinner at Himitsu off the menu, make sure youâ€re not seated at the teppanyaki table.

 

Despite that bad experience, Himitsu was my favorite restaurant and the service on the other nights was outstanding.

 

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Deep fried ice-cream at Himitsu:

 

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BAR SERVICE

 

The bar service was always good. We usually got our drinks from the beach waiters who come around frequently and are only too happy to serve you (they actually were disappointed the times we didnâ€t order anything). FYI with mixed drinks, they donâ€t make the drinks very strong because even after a few nobody felt any effect although a few times thought I did get a drink that was too strong and undrinkable for me. If you like your drinks strong just ask, and they will gladly make them stronger.

 

My favorite drink and the one I ended up choosing as my signature drink for my cocktail reception was the “Mango Tango.†If you like blended fruity drinks, this one is the best!!!

 

SPA

 

I cannot even begin to describe how beautiful the spa is at Secrets. It is truly gorgeous inside and the products they use are fantastic smelling to boot! I saw some ladies†comments about their gift certificate not being able to be used for the hairdressing part of the spa and I just want to let you know that this is the norm with most resorts. You can use them for massages, facials, wraps, etc. Youâ€re on a very special holiday, why not pamper yourself with a massage after the big day?

 

As for myself, my mother and I booked in for the “Welcome to Secrets†package. It was $320 each for both of us ($640 total) and worth every penny. It included a seaweed wrap/salt scrub, full body massage, and facial. I scheduled the wrap/scrub and massage for before the wedding (in order to be relaxed and look my best) and I had the facial a few days after (just in case my face didnâ€t like their products, you never know). Anyhow, all three of the services were honestly the BEST SPA EXPERIENCE I have ever had anywhere!! Also, you should know… I am quite the spa goer, so that is saying a lot!

 

The seaweed wrap and salt scrub was wonderfully relaxing, smelled wonderful and felt great. The massage was fantastic and as I see a massage therapist here back at home in Vancouver, I donâ€t usually enjoy spa massages as it doesnâ€t really accomplish a lot. The girl who did both my wrap/scrub and massage was “Lizette†and I would HIGHYLY recommend her if you want either. The facial also was fantastic and they even massaged my feet while the steam vapor was on my face… they treated us like royalty!

 

Please take some time to visit the spa, you wonâ€t regret it (I miss it already!!). As for pricing, it is pretty on par with most spas that I have been to in the past. Not the cheapest, nor the most expensive. Considering the quality of the services they performed for me, I would say itâ€s a bargain!

 

HOUSEKEEPING

 

Our room was well cleaned every day however oftentimes not until very late in the day. If you wanted your room cleaned sooner, all you had to do is call and request it.

 

ENTERTAINMENT / THINGS TO DO 10/10

 

Every night there is something planned for you to do! Shows and even a Monday night football are excellent! For Monday Night football, they set up a big screen on the beach (with beach chairs and have popcorn and the sound quality is good) as well as a show in the theatre, one night it was American Idol, one night a magic show, one night Mayan dancers, and one night fire dancers. They also had shows near El Patio and by the pools occasionally, i.e. big Mexican fiesta and a buffet outside. They also brought in some street vendors for shopping on the grounds two nights of the week.

 

All in all, the entertainment was the best Iâ€ve seen at any of the many resorts Iâ€ve been to. If you donâ€t have too high of expectations, you will love it. Weâ€re on vacation, just sit back and enjoy yourself!

 

There is a disco/sports bar and cigar room – I didnâ€t use any of these.

 

Nobody in our family did much of the daytime activities, although I did take part in the stretching class in the gazebo I was married in one morning. It was fun but not very informative. The setting though was beautiful and I will remember it always. I did watch a water aerobics class it the pool and thought it looked like a lot of fun. The pool bar was sometimes loud but not non-stop all day. If you are a bit down the beach then you are fine and itâ€s nice and quiet.

 

In terms of what to do off the resort, we went to Xel Ha and XCaret.

XEL-HA

 

Xel-Ha (pronounced Shell – Ha) is quite far, cost us $60 US for a taxi from the hotel. Entrance is 75$ all inclusive (food, snorkelling equipment included, but does not include snuba, scuba or dolphin swim). We purchased the extended dolphin swim for about $150 each and it was worth every penny. We also purchased the pictures and video of the dolphin swim and it wasnâ€t as worth it. I am having difficulty trying to copy the video from the CD to my computer (still trying) and the photos were expensive, especially considering all the great shots that my family took while watching my husband and I.

 

We were disappointed with the snorkeling at Xel-Ha. The water is very cloudy (Iâ€m told from the salt-water mixing with the fresh water) and the only place where we saw lots and lots of fish was near the little bridge where people can throw food in. We saw fish elsewhere but not huge groups of them. For people who havenâ€t snorkelled much youâ€ll probably love it but for people who have snorkelled lots you may not find it that great.

 

The lazy river ride is really really slow, takes half an hour to go down the river part but then you are still far from the main part of the park and it can take another hour or so to get back! So donâ€t bother unless you have lots of time.

 

Overall the park is really beautiful and I would recommend it slightly if youâ€ve never been although if in the area and needing to choose, XCaret is better in general than Xel-Ha.

 

And finally for the sunscreen, as most people know you need biodegreadable sunscreen. I left my sunscreen at home as I thought they might check bags and not allow it in, but they never did! I sprayed before we left the resort and wore a t-shirt all day, I didnâ€t get burnt.

 

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XCARET

 

XCaret (pronounced ESH-CERRAY) is closer than Xel-Ha and for the money, only $25 more for the all inclusive, is better bang for your dollar. Also if you wish to go two days (within the same week), you can buy a two day pass for one day regular price, second day half price. We took advantage of this option and went for two days. If you plan a long day ahead of time, you can really see everything in a day.

 

I enjoyed the snorkeling through the caves (although the water was quite cold) and although there werenâ€t fish until the very end of the ride, there was lots of beautiful scenery and stops for pictures with a waterproof camera.

 

I also enjoyed the butterfly exhibit as you could walk through an area sectioned off where they fly everywhere and the turtle exhibit where turtles are shown very close at all ages of their growing. I also liked seeing the wild cats and other animals.

 

Finally, if you donâ€t purchase the all inclusive package (which includes one dinner and drink tickets for water) and you want to eat in the park, I noticed a sign that said the buffet was $30 US if you didnâ€t purchase ahead of time. The food at the buffet was pretty good and I would say worth purchasing the package upon entering. The park is huge and you can spend the whole day there, opening until closing. The night show which started at 6pm (2 hours long) was amazing and a terrific end to the day.

 

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PART 3 - WEDDING 9.5/10

 

There was no other wedding on my day and the wedding itself was amazing. Although I had had some trouble getting answers to my questions by email, once I was so there Landy (and Cecilia a bit) were great. She had a book with all my emails I had sent printed out and a long list of questions to go through about my prefences and took notes of all my answers and all my special requests.

 

We used the $2,600 package which included flowers, hair & make-up, photography, cocktail hour with Carribean trio band, gazebo and reception decoration. Landy worked really hard to get the gazebo decorated the way I wanted (a bit different than the normal way) and to get me flowers I liked (I provided her with pictures of my requests for everything).

 

My family were all completely blown away by the service and how beautiful the wedding sites were (gazebo, cocktail hour patio and reception dinner). Where I put less than a 10/10, it was mainly because I had always pictured myself being married on the beach in the sand and at Secrets, the beach gazebo is a bit of a walk from the main walkway and there is no other entrance (trees and bushes in the way) and the mosquitoes are quite bad on the beach, I selected the gazebo by the pool. All in all though, it was absolutely beautiful and probably even more so than if I had been married on the beach. They did an amazing job!!!

 

My wedding was on November 5, 2008 and was supposed to start at 3:00 p.m. The Minister was late (got lost on the way) and accordingly, we didnâ€t start until after 3:30 p.m. I donâ€t know how long it took as we had wrote out our own ceremony and it was a little longer than the Spanish version, but the timing was perfect to get some photos done afterwards before the sun went down. We had a lovely sunset in the background for our cocktail hour. Near the end, when the sun sets the mosquitoes get really really bad, so we started our dinner at 6pm instead of 6:30 pm as planned, thankfully the staff was ready ahead of time and able to accommodate us moving indoors for the reception. Note, they do spray in certain areas for bugs, but I would highly recommend you have your reception indoors due to the bugs. Originally I had wanted it outside by the pool, but I changed my mind onsite.

 

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SPECIAL REQUESTS 10/10

 

I had emailed her in advance asking questions about what flowers were available, about shells or flowers to decorate the aisle, and about decorating the gazebo differently then itâ€s normally done (I had sent her pictures). I didnâ€t really get complete answers beforehand but we worked it all our when I arrived. She didnâ€t tell me that they didnâ€t have enough material to do what I wanted with the gazebo (as Secrets gazebo is bigger than Dreams Tulum I had planned for), yet they improvised and make it look absolutely stunning! I brought my blue tulle and they mixed it with the white on the gazebo.

 

As Sunbride had done, she put starfish on chair bows so I brought my own starfish to do this (packed a box of wedding favors, starfish, shells, blue tulle and blue table runners). I also brought two thin roles of tulle for bows and Landy used it (she said they didnâ€t have any bows the right color) to do the chair bows. It is hard for me to remember what the actual chairs look like as its all a blur right now, hopefully pictures received from family and friends shortly will fill in those blanks. They made a beautiful aisle with material and sprinkled rose petals on it as per my request and put stargazer lilies along the path also as shown in my inspiration photos.

 

For my cocktail hour, they used my blue tulle on each of the tables and a beautiful lantern. It looked very lovely and went well with my colours as they used my tulle in that location as well.

 

FLOWERS 10/10

 

The bouquet was beautiful and I loved it. I had provided several photos of bouquets that I loved and I asked for pink stargazer lilies and red and cream roses. However, it was only delivered (by Landy) one hour before the ceremony, so if I hadnâ€t liked it there would have been little time for a change (if even possible!). So I definitely recommend asking for your bouquet to come earlier!

 

The arrangements for our reception tables were also gorgeous as well as the flowers used on the gazebo. I canâ€t say enough about the flowers, pictures say it all. Bring photos of everything you want done and ask to have them duplicate it.

 

MUSIC 10/10

 

I booked the Caribbean Trio for my cocktail hour and they were fantastic. They played danceable music and my guests enjoyed the live band during our appies and cocktails, an hour before our reception dinner.

 

For the pre-ceremony music while guests were being seated, for during the dinner and reception dancing, we prepared lists on an iPod and rented the sound system. This worked out perfectly and I have no complaints! I had a friend operating the iPod for the entire time and we even had special music selected for our sand ceremony during the wedding ceremony. I believe that Landy would have operated the music for us if asked, but having a friend do it was perfect.

 

TRASH THE DRESS PHOTO SHOOT (no rating yet)

 

Originally when I had my wedding planned for Dreams I made friends with another member on this site, Alin. She was being married at Dreams the same week as me. She was also bringing a private photographer from Seattle to shoot her wedding. As a most generous personal favor to me and my husband, we arranged to borrow her photographer for a few hours the day after the wedding for a cost arranged directly with the photographer. He is Jean-Marcus Strole, also a member on this site. As was the Dreams policy, Secrets did not charge us anything for using an outside vendor so the cost for the TTD session was a few hours of Jean-Marcus†time and his taxi fare from Alinâ€s resort to mine.

 

We took all the photos in and around the resort (including the spa which we just walked into, didnâ€t ask), on the beach and in the swimming pool!!! Everyone watched (people we didnâ€t†know) but it was great fun and I believe the photos will be great!

 

I had sent Jean-Marcus (and brought with me) lots of inspiration photos. He also had lots of good ideas for poses and was welcome to suggestions from my husband and myself to make it more personal and more “usâ€. He gave lots of direction while taking the photos “1, 2, 3….1,2,3….look at me….look at each other….kissâ€) which was great because we have little experience with having our photos taken professional and donâ€t know what looks good and didnâ€t feel comfortable inventing our own poses. Jean-Marcus was very fun to work with and I can't wait to see how the photos turn out! Starting out that morning, being tired after the wedding day, I wasnâ€t looking forward to it much (after actually looking forward to it most of all before the wedding). However, after the amazingly fun time we had, I never wanted it to end!!! It was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I donâ€t think I genuinely laughed and smiled more than I did that day.

 

Iâ€ll post more about these once we get the photos.

 

HAIR AND MAKE-UP 9/10

 

I made my hair and make-up appointments by e-mail with Secrets a few days before our arrival at the resort. I later confirmed them after my meeting with the wedding coordinators and knowing that the timing of my wedding would go off as planned.

 

As hair and make-up were included in my wedding package, there was no cost except for the tip which I gave $20US to the girl who did both for me. She did a great job and I feel that $20 was a lot of money for her.

 

I had hair extensions added ahead of time in my room by my cousin (who is a hairdresser) and she was available as back-up in case I wasnâ€t happy with my hair and/or make-up done at the spa. I didnâ€t need her!!! 

 

After my cousin added my hair extensions, I made my way to the spa with photos in hand of how I wanted my hair and make-up done. The stylistâ€s name was “Adriana†and as she did such a great job, I made a note of her name to tell all you ladies so you can book her. They ushered me into a “Bridal Room†where she curled my hair and extensions and styled it like my photo. Note, she didnâ€t speak hardly any English at all, so my photos told the story and she understood it perfectly. I brought my own make-up and just used her expertise in applying it. She did a pretty good job with it, I was happy at the time, however the following day for my TTD shoot I had my cousin do it for me and I liked it more… so… I leave it up to you with that decision!

 

The appointments started right on time. We had planned 1.5-2 hours for the hair and make-up in case they were late and in case it took a long time. As per my cousinâ€s instructions, I asked Adriana to put lots of hairspray although unfortunately the curls started to fall out upon my return to my room to put on my dress. However, as the Minister was running late, I just pulled out my curling iron added more curles and spray sprayed again! It worked out just fine. The only problem was that my veil kept falling out when we were posing for pictures and I didnâ€t want to tell people over and over again to not touch it. Thankfully my cousin stepped in yet again to fix me up whenever needed.

 

I was very happy with my hair and I think it couldnâ€t have looked closer to my inspiration picture. As for my make-up, I did a bit of touching up on my own back in the room, provided a few more instructions actually at the spa, but in the end it looked nice. Just not as nice as my cousin did it the following day, so if you are good at doing your own make-up or have a wedding guest that could do it, maybe give that a try.

 

CLOTHES STEAMING / IRONING 9/10

 

The resort steamed my veil and dress and irnoned my husbandâ€s suit and shirt for free as part of our package. They picked the stuff up sometime the day before our wedding and brought it back that evening. The only problem with this is that they left my dress hanging on the bed in plain view of my then fiancé and Iâ€s return to the room!!! He caught a glimpse of it before I yelled at him to step back and turn his head. I thought they would have put it back in the wardrobe where they had retrieved it from and this was very careless for them to leave it out in plain view and not warn me about it ahead of time. Hubby said he didnâ€t see much but I was a bit ticked over this as I had gone through such an effort to not have him see it in the months leading up to the wedding.

 

TIMING OF THE DAY 10/10

 

I originally booked my ceremony time at 2pm as at Dreams, there was another wedding booked on my day already in the later time slot. This was later moved to 3pm at Secrets and that was the perfect time I had wanted. Sun sets at 5:30 pm around that time of year. I wanted 2 hours of good light after the ceremony for photos.

 

Here was my schedule for the day:

 

12 noon: hair and make-up appointment

2 pm: get dressed

3 pm: ceremony

3:30 pm – 4:30pm: group pictures

4:30pm – 6pm: cocktail hour with Carribean trio

6:30pm: dinner

 

The ceremony started a little over a half hour late so our cocktail hour started around 5pm and dinner was early (due to mosquitoes) at 6:00 pm.

 

3pm was a perfect ceremony time (based on 5:30pm sunset) because it gave us sufficient time for photos and it wasnâ€t too hot. The hottest time of day at the resort is from about 10am – 2pm. The sun cools down a lot around 3pm as itâ€s farther down in the sky.

 

CEREMONY 10/10

 

I had heard that the Spanish ceremony included the judge speaking in Spanish and Landy translating. We really wanted our ceremony to be more personal so after a tremendous amount of research on the net, I wrote our entire ceremony (with my hubby and I writing personal vows also). We provided the written ceremony to Landy and the Minister ahead of time and he just simply read it out loud. There was a microphone so everybody could hear. The ceremony only lasted about 25 minutes. The cutest thing of all was that the Minister had a hard time with some of the words I had written so he improvised for little parts and instead of saying “more†which I had written a few times, he actually used the Spanish word “muchoâ€. It was mucho sweet!!! I absolutely loved it and the fact that it wasnâ€t read perfectly word for word made it super charming and even better than if it had been perfect.

 

DINNER 10/10

 

After looking at all available locations, we scheduled our dinner for a marble ballroom just off the terrace and beside the disco. There were other adjoining ballrooms (decorated in greens that I thought were a bit tacky), but the room we picked was sort of the lobby to the ballrooms and was perfect. It was totally private and the tables were decorated beautifully like the photos I had brought and there was plenty of room for dancing. They meticulously set-up the table lining up each piece of silverware and all the glasses required (red wine, white wine, champagne, water), very elaborate and fancy! They set up a small table next to it with the cake and a memorium for my husbandâ€s parents who unfortunately had passed away some time ago.

 

The dinner and service was wonderful. We had all the choices I had made from the Dreams wedding brochure and nothing was changed at all! Everything was an artistic creation! We took pictures of all the courses with my husbandâ€s brotherâ€s camera and are awaiting the photos which I will post in time. They made special selections for my vegetarian guests even! We had three private servers and they were quick to deliver more beverages whenever they ran low.

 

My favorite dessert of the entire week was the wedding desert (and on top of that there was cake), it was a vanilla puff pastry with Kahlua sauce. OMG… so delicious! My guests said they loved the cake, couldnâ€t imagine it being better, but I found it over the top with the sugar. Way too sweet… personal preference I suppose! The cake itself was GINORMOUS and more than enough for my 17 guests, wonder what they do with such a huge cake and all the leftovers! 

 

DANCING

 

For $150 we rented the iPod sound system and plugged in our iPod brought from home with pre-planned wedding songs including dinner music, first dance, father/daughter dance, last dance and reception in general. My friend worked the iPod and it all went off without a hitch. The sound system they provide was perfect. My recommendation is donâ€t spend the money for a DJ if you can organize an Ipod to play what you want.

 

CONCLUSION

 

I think itâ€s pretty clear that I was very very happy with the resort and especially the wedding itself. Like I mention the only 2 big problems were the mosquitoes and the lack of shade.

 

My wedding day was so un-stressful it amazes me. When I went for my hair and make-up appointment I was so relaxed and I felt the same way throughout the day. In fact as we were having dinner I was hit with a feeling of "that's it?". I couldn't believe it was over. I felt like it might have been better to have been more excited or emotional. I almost cried walking down the aisle, but then when I got to the gazebo I was so relaxed. But I would definitely prefer too relaxed rather than stressful!

 

The weeks and days before leaving were sooooo stressful with the change of resorts and trying to get everything done, I think that once it was all underway I had just released all my tension and realized that everything would happen as it did and I had little control at that point. I didnâ€t need to worry though as everything was perfect!

 

Sorry that I do not have too many pictures yet... my father is apparently gathering everyone's photos to make one large CD/DVD. I will post up more as soon as I can!

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