Happy New Year! Here's my review of CAR. Hope the info helps.
Cabo Azul Resort (CAR)
CAR resort: Grade A+++
Beautiful! Itâ€™s even prettier in person than the fabulous photos on the website. We love this resort and would go back anytime. The current rooms are all villas-1, 2 or 3 bedrooms with impeccable dÃ©cor. Most units face the ocean/pool. It was totally our style, which is why we chose the resort.
The lobby/hotel side is still under construction and I doubt it will be competed anytime soon. Once the hotel side is complete, the villas will be used for the timeshare owners only-so hop on it soon to take advantage of the awesome villas.
The pool is fantastic- a 3 tier infinity pool with many jacuzzis, a swim up bar and ample lounge chairs w/waiter service for food/drinks. The food/drinks are served out of Flor de Noche the â€œsnackâ€ restaurant.
Food/drinks- Beware, as in most resorts in Cabo, it is pricy. But since the rooms are villas, you have a full kitchen. We stocked up on snacks, breakfast foods, beer and tequila at the Mega supermarket (about 5 min drive).
- Flor de Noche (see review below)-Mexican fare, lunch items, appetizers. Margaritas are ~$10 (but pretty strong) and the lunch entrees are $15-20.
- Javierâ€™s- main restaurant on the property (see review below). Serves upscale Mexican food. Delicious but pricey ($25-40/entrÃ©e). Wedding receptions are held on the patio of Javierâ€™s
- CafÃ©- there is a small cafÃ© on the property that serves coffee, sandwiches, gelato and small snacks. Also pricey $5/latte, $10/sandwich
- Grocery- a small, well stocked grocery store is next to the cafÃ©. Water, sodas, beer, wine, snacks, breakfast foods, candy, canned good, etc. Pricy but convenient. Case of water was $10.
Booking- Overall Grade: C
NOTE- Pacific Monarch Resorts (PMR) owns and operates Cabo Azul Resort. PMR is a timeshare company and also runs Monarch Grand Vacations. PMR is located in the US (Irvine, CA). When you book reservations at CAR (room reservations, wedding room blocks, initial wedding contact phone #/web contact), you are dealing with PMR directly, not the resort directly. When you are arranging the details of your wedding including setting the wedding date, you are dealing with the resort directly in Mexico (see below). [LIST]
PMR-Group/Wedding Accommodations Reservations
Grace Mura- Grade F
Contact with Grace
We made initial contact to PMR via phone and web in early March and finally heard from both Grace (I stalked her on the phone) and Sergio (via email at Graceâ€™s request) on March 30th . At that time, we were given a tentative wedding date but then never heard again. Finally on 4/17- we received a confirmed wedding date but no contract or room rates.
We were anxious to sign a contract-we didnâ€™t want to loose the venue or the date. Any venue in the US wants you to sign your life away and put a deposit down yesterday. In addition, almost a month has passed and we were anxious to get out save the dates, as well as travel/booking information to our guests (we only had 5 months until the wedding!).
After waiting another week we received the contract on 4/26 (after many phone calls to Grace and emails to Sergio. we waited almost a month for a contract. We couldnâ€™t believe that they were open for business and booking weddings without having contracts in place. This was 1 month wasted for wedding planning. This held up all other planning-travel arrangements, getting save the dates out, and setting up other vendors.
We found many problems with the group reservation/room block contract and Grace was unwilling to make any alterations to the contract (not sure if she didnâ€™t have the authority or just didnâ€™t know what to do- she seemed surprised that we wanted to negotiate).
At the time of our reservation the contract rates and conditions were as follows:
- â€œWeddingâ€ Room rates: $290/nt 1br, $440/nt 2br, $600/nt 3br, $1000/nt 3br penthouse.
- Rental Minimum of 15 rooms for 2 nights or charged chapel rental fee of $1000 and no upgrade to penthouse for wedding couple for wedding night.
- Conditions- If fall below min room reservations, GUESTS will be charged regular rack rate ($350/nt 1br, $550/nt 2br)
We were estimating only 30-35 guests and probably wouldnâ€™t meet the minimum. We did not want our guests to be charged a higher fee at check in if we had flaky RSVPâ€™s. In addition, we were not interested in the upgrade for the wedding night (we didnâ€™t want to move room for 1 night and then back again). We asked them to waive the concessions in lieu of lower room rate (see room rate) and different penalty for not meeting the min room (charge us a %age fee as other resorts do). We pointed out that the â€œweddingâ€ rate was not the best rate as we found many packages with a room rate of $199/nt. They would not budge on any conditions.
Travel Zoo as well as CAR on their website, was offering a package deal consisting of 3 nights w/Thursday arrival including $75 restaurant voucher, airport transfers and tax for $599/nt with 2 additional nights added for $199/nt. In the end, all but 2 couples booked the package deal directly with PMR. We also booked the package deal for 5 nights and added 2 nights at the rack rate (which was also less than the â€œwedding rateâ€!)
Grace kept saying how busy they were that weekend and they couldnâ€™t accommodate a lower rate. In addition she told me that my guests couldnâ€™t use the package deal to stay at the hotel if they were attending our wedding. Whatever, I have no control over how my guests book their travel. In fact, my sister-in law found the package deal in the first place before we even got the accommodations contract from Grace.
In the end, we never signed the accommodations contract. We paid the chapel rental fee and our guests booked as I described.
o PMR- Reservations department- Quoc- Grade: A+
As stated, we booked a weekend package directly through PMR with Quoc. He was great in booking the rooms for us. We booked the 5 night package for $199/nt and added on 2 more nights at the rack rate (still lower than the â€œwedding rateâ€).
o CAR Onsite Wedding Coordinators: Overall Grade: C
Sergio Morales-Wedding Planner. Grade: F
I am so glad I took time to write this. Had it been a week after the wedding, this review of Sergio would be much harsher (time does wonders).
From the very beginning Sergio was difficult to work with. Emails were either unanswered or replied to after several weeks. We didnâ€™t meet Sergio at our site visit or even at the wedding. We finally met him the last day when we were settling up the bill (more on that later). There were many errors on our bill and rather than try to take care of us (you know-the customer is always right or even good customer service), he stood there laughing and shaking his head as though we were crazy to accuse them of making a mistake. He even walked out on my husband mid-sentence. Not cool.
He handed it off to Vanessa and left.
I know we are used to a different level of professionalism and customer service in the US, but this was as bad as it gets anywhere. I would not recommend working with Sergio based on all of our experiences as well as what we heard from others in the wedding industry in Cabo. Our opinion was not isolated. Itâ€™s too bad he is driving away business at CAR- itâ€™s a lovely venue and has much potential-with better management.
Vanessa Basurto-Assistant Wedding Planner. Grade: A-
Thank goodness for Vanessa or our wedding experience with CAR would have been a disaster. She pretty much dealt with the day to day wedding co-ordination and was present on the day of the wedding. She made sure everything went smoothly and most of our requests were honored. She was very pleasant to work with and was responsive to emails/requests for information.
We noticed that the soft drink and water tab was excessively high. No one from the welcome reception to the wedding reception and there was a huge discrepancy. They didnâ€™t believe us and said we couldnâ€™t compare one night to the other (same group of people, should be the same in our eyes).
As it turned out- we were overcharged for many items on the catering bill. We made it clear to our WC and Vanessa on all communications prior to the wedding and at the pre-wedding meeting that we did not want the waiters to pass wine at the table. Wine was to be served upon request only (to save on costs). This was not a problem and they were going to charge us per/glass vs. per bottle. Sure enough at the reception the waiters were passing wine around the table ALL NIGHT. I pointed this out to my WC, she was supposed to stop them, but she didnâ€™t (more on that later).
Vanessa brought us our bill on Monday and reviewed some items with me. When I noticed the wine charges, we ended up with a huge bill for the wine. I explained to Vanessa that this was their mistake (due to the waiters passing the wine vs. on request) and asked that they convert the per/glass charge to a bottle charge. She was going to get approval from Sergio. Turns out in the end, the adjusted the charges. GREAT.
Hereâ€™s where it gets bad.
- We asked for tap water to be served vs. bottled water (on request only). We were told, no problem. The water is safe to drink and we didnâ€™t want to pay $5/bottle for free water. At the wedding they were serving-bottled water! When I pointed this out to Vanessa she said that we were told that they only serve bottled water at weddings. Thatâ€™s their policy. Great policy for them to make more $. They serve tap water in the restaurant to restaurant guests. We were never told of that policy and were even told we could have tap water. We ended up with a $600 water bill.
- Next problem, we noticed that they charged us for 30 soft drinks. We just couldnâ€™t believe it. The night before we only had about 10. She said that the waiters donâ€™t make mistakes and that the bill is correct. We insisted on checking with the wait staff. Again they looked at us like we were crazy. I know it seems crazy, but when you are handed an enormous bill, you better believe we are going to check it with a fine tooth comb. After about an hour she gets the order slips from the reception.
We literally went through each one, slip by slip counting waters and sodas and guess what They totally over charged us for the soft drinks by half! Close to $150. Our estimations from the night before were totally on.
In addition, the waiters used tick marks for ever water order. But what does that mean? Every bottle they finish or every time they fill the glass? They were filling glasses from a large bottle around the table. We were charged for something like 50 big bottles of water (which came out to 3 small bottles of water per guest-I know it was hot, but come on! They all didnâ€™t drink 1 Â½ liters of water and all the booze). I think they ticked off every time they filled a glass and charged us for a bottle of water.
In the end, they only reversed the soda charges and did nothing about the water charges. I know it may seem insignificant, but we werenâ€™t trying to give them a hard time. We just didnâ€™t want to be taken advantage of and I still feel that we were.
I honestly hope that CAR has fine tuned their policies and practices so other couples do not have the same trouble we did. Going through order slips and counting drinks and arguing with Sergio was not the way I wanted to leave my wedding. Definitely left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Also, just learn from us, really look at that bill and donâ€™t be afraid to dispute any errors. I am so glad we did.
Downgraded score because of excessive charges, irrational policies and poor
â€¢ Reception at Javierâ€™s- A+
o Food- Grade A+
The food was absolutely delicious. I had a combo plate of pork tenderloin, lobster enchiladas and sea bass (all 3 menu choices). Each one was better than the other. The pork is outstanding! The food was served hot. No convention chicken here!
o Service- The wait staff was wonderful. Attentive to our needs. Meal service was a bit slow, but all food served was hot so I didnâ€™t mind.
o DÃ©cor- the reception is help on the outdoor patio. They set up a long table with chivari chairs. The dance floor was set to the side of the table near the fire pit. They did a great job folding the napkins with our menu and place cards. Only complaint- the DJ equipment was set up on the upper level of the patio which made it difficult for our cousin to get up there to change the music when needed (would have been better if the computer could have been set up closer to the table).
â€¢ Cake- Jennifer Hatton of Cabo Dessert Diva
Flash Intro Page
Grade: C for service
Grade: A for taste/appearance
We were forced to use Jennifer Hatton of Cabo Dessert Dive by CAR. She is their contracted cake baker. I would have liked to have more flexibility since the price was $9/slice!
The Good- the cake was super yummy!
The Bad- we had a really hard time working with Jennifer Hatton. We came up with a design for the cake only to be told we couldnâ€™t have fondant in the heat. No problem, since from her pictures, it looked like her fondant work wasnâ€™t that great anyway. The problem was, we gave her a picture for inspiration and she replied â€œwe canâ€™t do that, what other designs do you have?â€ WTF? Sheâ€™s the cake baker, how about telling us what you CAN do
I was so irritated with wedding planning at this point I let FI take this one. This dragged on for 3 weeks with no other suggestions from the cake baker. Our WC told us to pick a design or go without cake since they wouldnâ€™t be able to design on for us.
We ended up with a 2 tier, round, butter cream cake lined with ribbon I provided. It was very simple (we had our minds set on a fun â€œAce of Cakesâ€ cake) but not worth the cost or the hassle. The cake was pretty and very yummy- white cake with raspberry french cream with butter cream frosting.