First, let me say that everything worked out wonderfully. I’m glad I chose this resort, as they are great with groups and weddings. On the recommendation of BDW, I worked with Jill at Sand and Sun Vacations as my travel agent. We were there mid-July with a group of about 25 and used the Ultimate Package. I will detail each component:
Transfers: The flight into Cancun was easy. We had 17 in our group, and it still only took about an hour to get through immigration, customs, and baggage. I was expecting time-shares and chaos on the way outside, but it was easy and straightforward. American Express Travel met us there with a sign and had two buses for just our group within about 15 minutes. I would highly recommend American Express. They were helpful, English was pretty good, and prompt. It worked well both to and from the airport.
Check-In/Rooms: This was by far the worst part of the trip. There was no private check-in, which we were supposed to receive with our group booking. It took over an hour of standing in the lobby to get checked in. We were there around 12:30, so some of the rooms weren’t ready, but we had expected that. The frustrating part was that of ten rooms, only two were as requested. The king beds had doubles, and the doubles a king. None of the rooms had rollaway beds or cribs (although they were brought after several requests), and they were scattered all over the resort. One of the main reasons we chose to use a travel agent was to have the rooms blocked and grouped at least in the same general area of the resort and to reduce bedding issues. It took hours to sort out, and for most we were told to come back the next day. By that time, everyone was unpacked and didn’t want to take time from the vacation to change rooms. My parents ended up changing rooms for a king bed within our group, but then didn’t have an ocean view or preferred club like they’d requested. If you’re considering a travel agent for these reasons in particular, it’s probably not worth it. The agreements signed and back and forth communication probably took more time than if I’d set up transfers on my own, and the same rates were available at various sites online. Aside from the mix-ups, the rooms were beautiful. We were upgraded to a master suite, and it was great. I will say the only rooms with really great views are the ones on or near the end, and besides the suites, the location is not guaranteed. When booking, I wouldn’t pay more for ocean view. Several in our party had plunge pool rooms, and we did use them as the water was much cooler than in the big pools, and it was great for families who had little ones needing naps. Also, these rooms save a significant amount of time over levels four and five because you don’t have to wait on elevators or climb stairs. We even had a waiter come by with drinks a few times! One room lost air conditioning one night, but was fixed soon after they called. The in-room safes worked well, and the rooms were kept immaculate without any issues. Room service was great, although plan on 45 minutes to get it, and you have to ask to have the minibar refilled with extra waters. Cleaning staff was outstanding, always making sure we had plenty of towels.
Ana & Wedding: Ana was extremely tough to get in touch with before hand, and the information was often inaccurate. The appointment we had set up ahead of time she didn’t even have written down. However, she met with us the day we arrived, and from then on things were fabulous. When I first called, I was told only 10 AM on my date was available, and only the beach for an outdoor reception. A week before we left, I was told we could do 6:30 or 10:00. When we arrived, almost anything seemed possible. We moved the wedding to 5 at the gazebo, which was what I’d originally wanted. She gave us a tour and we chose the Jacuzzi for our cocktail hour and the pool terrace for our reception. It was all exactly what I wanted! My wedding was 5, cocktail 6, and reception 7. If I did it again, I’d put the cocktail an hour and a half after the wedding to leave time for starting a few minutes late, and pictures afterward. As for the ceremony, everything was beautiful. We brought everything to Ana, and it was all set up beautifully at both the ceremony and reception for no extra charge. I was missing a few chair sashes because of last minute guests, but Ana found matching ones to put on the extra chairs. We used our own minister, and the sand ceremony and everything was set up perfectly by Ana. The sound system technician did a great job, too. Our room was on the opposite side from the gazebo, so I had to walk around to get there, and he could see me well before I was on the aisle. I saw him well before he saw me, and it was fun to watch. It was not private at the gazebo, but it was kind of neat with all the well wishers around; it felt as though everyone was celebrating with us! We were congratulated for days as people recognized us around the resort. Altogether, the wedding was perfect. Just as tons of other brides have said, Ana pulls it off seamlessly in the end. I couldn’t have asked for a smoother, more beautiful wedding.
Photographer: We used Jorge of Adventure Photos. They are willing to take all the pictures you want throughout your stay, even. He was fabulous! He made it fun to take all those pictures, and you can see he really enjoys his job. Additionally, I’ve been told several times by friends that these are the best wedding pictures they’ve ever seen. He edited them quickly and was willing to get whatever shots we wanted, but for the most part, I went with his suggestions, and it worked great. There was no way to just choose 50 pictures, so we ended up paying $800 extra for the CD of all the “good” photos (he edits the eyes closed, and wardrobe issues, etc.) So we have the CD with about 300 pictures – a pretty good deal, I thought. I would recommend talking to them about having a photographer around throughout your trip, and you’ll get even more great pictures without additional cost. I was extremely impressed with Adventure Photos. You can see their slide show at http://talkington.adventurephotosmx.com/
Videographer: We also used the included videographer. Miguel from cancunweddingvideo.com. He did a great job, and we were really impressed that he kept the integrity of the ceremony while editing it so it was fun to watch. It’s a video we plan to watch every year on our anniversary! I’m hoping to have it posted at our shutterfly site in the next few days: http://johnandaubry.shutterfly.com
Caribbean Trio/Cocktail: We missed most of the cocktail, but everyone loved the Caribbean trio! They were even taking requests! The food was excellent, we had everyone sign our picture guestbook here, and Ana had it all set up. What food I got to try was excellent – we went with the Mexican option.
Reception: The location was beautiful and felt very private despite being in the middle of everything. The kids enjoyed playing in the nearby rock fountains, and the ocean view and sparkling lighted pool were gorgeous. Do remind your guests to bring bug spray, as we had mosquitoes right at sunset. The food was absolutely incredible, although it was a little slow. About midway through, we started dancing between courses. We did the Gold Menu #1, only substituting the chocolate timbale dessert. Everything was fantastic with great presentation, especially the soup. They were extremely helpful and even brought my brother a special salt free steak, as he is very limited due to extreme heart issues. We had the milk cake, and it was fabulous. We just a corsage on top and it was simple and pretty. The servers were working very hard and tried very hard to meet every need; we missed the soup while taking a few more pictures, but they brought it out to us later when requested.
Service: “It is a pleasure” We heard this phrase consistently throughout the resort. It’s almost a little joke now! Seriously, almost everyone tries to go above and beyond to serve and serve well. There are always a few who try harder than others, but we were very impressed and tried to tip especially those who went above and beyond.
Food: Phenomenal. I never made it to Bordeaux or Himitsu, but everything was always fantastic. I think I’m having Ceviche withdrawals! Even the Barefoot Grill and the paella were great, some in our part couldn’t get enough of their burgers. I prefer more gourmet, and enjoyed almost everything I ate. The portions at dinner especially, are very small so that you can order 4 or 5 courses. My husband made the mistake of only ordering an entrée, and when he ordered more, it took a very long time in Portofino. Definitely go to the preferred club if you like to try out more interesting drinks – our group enjoyed their patio, and they served a small birthday cake for us there, set up at the concierge. My kids loved the nonalcoholic drinks, and all the servers were very accommodating and good to them asking for “drink of the day” and “coconut smoothies”. Only a few in our party had any stomach issues, and I’m not sure it wasn’t from sun or alcohol or something caught at home. Regardless, none of the 6 kids in the party got sick and they were probably the most susceptible, drinking blended drinks and no alcohol.
Definitely take advantage of the romantic dinner. The food, of course, was excellent, but the service was outstanding. You have your own personal server, meeting every request in the most beautiful setting you can imagine. It was definitely a highlight for us.
Kids Club: The kids enjoyed the kids club, especially the ice cream eating contest. They had all sorts of activities that helped the kids want to go, and enjoy their time there. The staff was great.
Salon: Jessica did my hair and makeup for the wedding and she was outstanding. I have received so many complements on how the makeup wasn’t overdone or too unnatural, and I loved how she did my hair. I had forgotten my inspiration pictures but she had some books and did better than I could have hoped for. My only complaint was she tried so hard to please that I ran late. I had planned to do a French manicure so it would be fresh. Apparently, they don’t do a lot, as their two bottles of white were dry and sticky. After trying for thirty minutes, it looked terrible, so we removed it and went to hair and makeup. From then on, everything was perfect. I wanted both my veil and some small flowers, and she was fantastic!
Spa: I loved the spa. We did the couples massage and had Jessica and Claudia. Jessica gave me the best massage I’ve ever had – not too light, and not too much pressure, but still working out all the tough spots. Absolutely fantastic! We went back for the 25 minute massage and facial, and those were great, too. Save time for the hydrotherapy pools, as they were very nice.
Concierge: This was the one other area I wasn’t impressed with. I worked with Laura several times. She wasn’t ever rude, but each request seemed to take a half hour or more and she wasn’t very helpful or friendly. She completely messed up our romantic dinner, and it didn’t get scheduled with the service staff, so we had to wait an hour and a half to be seated after the couple left. Our server tried very hard to make up for it, but everything seemed difficult with the concierge. I would recommend setting up everything all at once, one of you check in while the other go to the concierge.
Travel Agent: Jill was quick to respond, helpful and attentive. However, when I contacted her, I’d already done tons of research and chosen a resort. Personally, I’m not sure I’d use a travel agent again in a similar situation. We booked our own flights, our own golf and our extra activities. I didn’t look into transfers on my own, but that seemed to be the greatest benefit. There was a required deposit and several agreements, and the paperwork seemed to be a little redundant after booking the flights – booking hotel and flights together seemed easier when I did it in the past. On some occasions she was able to get a response from Ana quicker than I was, but it was vice versa at other times. Jill did a great job, but I’m not sure the value added was that significant considering the room issues we had and all the information exchanged to try to avoid those very problems.
Beach: The beach is beautiful and kept very clean, although it’s sandy near the shore and rocky in several places. If you head north towards the piers, you can get in the water with fewer rocks. There is lots of seaweed, but they do keep it very clean. We never had any trouble finding chairs although the best locations are claimed by ten; you will need to have someone reserve a spot for larger groups. The beach volleyball was fun, and there’s a nice area for the kids to play. The pools can get warm like bath water, so the pleasantly cool ocean was nice in the late afternoon. We did go snorkeling, and it was fabulous. It did take a lot longer than expected on the morning we were leaving, but it was well worth it. You can also scuba without certification – the reef really is fantastic just off the hotel.
Overall: The resort was beautiful, from the lobby to the walkways to the rooms. You could see people everywhere constantly maintaining the resort. The swim up bar could get busy, but service never seemed to suffer too much. Activities were readily available and easily accessible without having pushy entertainment staff. Several from our family have stayed at Secrets Capri in the past, and Dreams seems to be a little less organized, as service seemed to be a bit slower and the layout not quite as good. However, for a family friendly place, the atmosphere was great for all ages of our group with plenty to entertain and do. We always felt safe and didn’t have any problems with cleanliness anywhere. We went to the Zoetry for our honeymoon, which I’ll also review, but we’re still considering taking advantage of our free nights for our anniversary. We would stay here again, especially with the kids.