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Hi ladies,

 

I just got back from my wedding site visit at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya.  I'm posting my review that I also just put up on Trip Advisor as I had a really hard time finding any information on a wedding review of this resort in particular before I visited.  I'd like to know if anyone is having the same experiences as I am or have had to this point.  Particularly with the home office in Miami.  I'm dealing with Andrea Perez and she's awful.  To be honest, if my deposit wasn't already paid to this resort and 40 guests room deposits already paid, I would probably move elsewhere.  Whilst the actual venues to get married are much nicer than other resorts and a bit more private (eg- the palapas over the water vs a gazebo right in the pool area), I'm not sure it's worth all of the aggrevation I am going through just trying to get finalized costs and a contract to sign to move this wedding forward!  We have guests attending from 4 different continents and that's stressful enough to deal with!  I don't need the added stress of problems occurring in the run up to my wedding or worse, day of!  I would also post pictures but unfortunately, my husband got into the hot tub with his iPhone in his bathing suit pocket and, well... good bye all pictures we had taken!  Even the rice bag trick didn't work.  The phone is fried.  :(

 

Thanks.

 

Here's my review...

 

We visited this resort for 4 nights just prior to Easter for our wedding site inspection.  We booked this resort for our wedding this coming July without having previously visited or seen the resort firsthand and went off pictures from the internet and the recommendation from a travel agent based on our needs/wants.  This resort needs to step it up in the service department majorly!  Across the board, the service we received at times was appalling and downright rude.  We're due to have our wedding here in July 2015 with approximately 40-50 guests in attendance and I wish I could change resorts.  But unfortunately, we're too far down the line with planning and room deposits to switch so we'll have to make do.  In comparison to our experience at this resort, prior to arriving at the Hard Rock, we spent 3 nights at the Excellence Riviera Cancun where the staff and service were, well... excellent!  It was such a let down to then arrive at the Hard Rock and to be let down from the get go. Here's our experience...
 
Check in:
We rented a car and drove ourselves to the resort.  The bell hops met us at our car and unloaded our luggage promptly and took the car via valet (free parking).  So far, so good.  We were offered a glass of some neon blue (non-alcoholic) drink as we walked in.  It's disgusting.  Took one sip and put it down.  In comparison, we were offered a glass of champagne AND a cold wash cloth at the Excellence.    The check in desk is chaos.  They don't have enough personnel behind the desk to keep up with guest demand at peak times.  We were about the 3rd group in line and waited about 30 minutes to get to the desk for our turn.  We were checked in, told our room wasn't ready but were being upgraded (score!) and to come back in about 15 minutes for our key.  Fine.  We were fitted with bracelets and given a photocopied map of the resort.  That was it.  No explanation of the map (which isn't very clear or big and a bit difficult to read), not direction to go to the bar up the hallway if we wanted a drink, nothing.  We felt a bit lost and were already feeling a bit put off given how well we were treated at the Excellence only 2 hours earlier.  We came back about 15 minutes later, got our key and room number but given no other information.  I had to ask what we were meant to do, if the bell hop was going to bring our bags up, if we had to go get the bags, etc.  It was all very confusing and annoying that the desk staff didn't seem to go out of their way to explain anything.  We also realized that we had different colored bracelets than most people and it was only after we met with our on-site wedding planner the next day, Natalia, that we found out these were VIP bracelets.  Wouldn't that be something the check in desk should have told us??  Weirdly, where our room was (8325), there wasn't an elevator located near by, but the stairs were right there.  So the bell hop wound up carrying all our bags up the flights of stairs.  It was all very strange.  
 
The room:
It was just okay.  The rooms are definitely on the small side.  It was nice to be upgraded from a garden room to a sky terrace room (which we've also booked for our wedding in July).  However, they gave us what I call a half terrace room in which it only has 2 chairs and a hot tub upstairs.  The other terrace rooms we saw across the way had a bathroom, 2 lounge chairs and an 8 person table and chairs in addition to the hot tub.  Not sure why they skimped and gave us a room that didn't have all the amenities they advertise for the sky terrace category??  
The mini bar was a bit of a let down.  The Excellence gave us bottles of wine, snacks such as Oreos and Snickers bars, etc.  The Hard Rock just gave the basics in terms of drinks (coke, diet coke, juice, water and beers).  Weirdly, they give 2 cans of Dos XX and 2 cans of Tecate light.  I was pretty surprised by the Tecate light as this is pretty cheap beer and I wouldn't think the Hard Rock, with the prices they charge, would cheap out on the mini bar and top it up with this cheap stuff.  In comparison, the Excellence gave us 4 nips bottles of Corona and 4 cans of Corona light.  On the 2nd day, the mini bar filler came around whilst we were still in the room.  He told my husband he would come back but when we came back after a long day at the beach, he never did.  We called to have the mini bar refilled (the book says you can call any time for a refill on the mini bar) and were given a bit of attitude by the operator who told us they had completed all of the mini bar refills for the day.  Eventually they came and refilled it that evening but not with everything we had used.
The coffee and coffee maker were fine.  Annoyingly, they never gave us any brown sugar which my husband likes.  I kept thinking they would fill it up each morning and include what was missing but they never did.  
The iron and ironing board were bad.  The ironing board cover was very worn and threadbare.  The iron barely worked and dripped hot water all over my husbands foot when he tried to use it.  We didn't try to use it again after that.
Bathroom toiletries were fine.  Basics were there.  What was nice at the Excellence is that they also offered a toothbrush travel size Colgate toothpaste which I thought was an extra nice touch that perhaps the Hard Rock could take on. 
We had an issue with the toilet in our room from day 1.  You would flush it but then the toilet would keep running.  We called maintenance who came up the next morning whilst we were out and 'fixed' it.  Unfortunately, it still wasn't fixed and required another call to maintenance.  We finally gave up after the third call and just gave the handle a jiggle to make it stop running.
Housekeeping was hit or miss.  They only give you the bare necessity number of towels.  So we only had 2 at any given time.  What was extra annoying was that we had the roof terrace with hot tub but were never given any towels for the hot tub!  We looked across at other similar rooms, all which had 2 rolled up towels next to the hot tub.  We called housekeeping who very rudely interrupted us when we were requesting towels to say that they should already be up there.  We told her there were none and we would like some but they never showed up.  Not at all during the 4 nights we stayed there.  We finally started getting them from the pool towel hut.
Beds were comfortable and pillows fine.  
 
Pools:
We didn't spend much time at the pools.  This is primarily because the hacienda side pool was teeming with children who weren't really being supervised by their parents and on the heaven side, I was taken back about 12 years to my college spring break days with booty dancing competitions, which wasn't really the atmosphere we were looking for either.  My husband walked through the Heaven pool side to go get us drinks and some drunk girl who was up dancing decided to slap him on the rear end as he walked by and then her equally drunk friend decided to slap him in the privates!  I mean, really out of control.  What is wrong with these people?!  And what is wrong with the bar staff that continue to serve them or the fact that none of the staff around the pool/DJ area said anything to these girls?!
 
Beach:
We spent most of our time at the VIP beach on the hacienda side.  Primarily because it actually had shade (the Hard Rock must want people to have heat stroke with the lack of shade/umbrellas they provide) and because it was less chaotic than the pools or regular beach.  The sand is pretty awful.  Rocky and can sometimes hurt your feet.  Not powdery at all.  The swimming was fine.  There was great snorkeling right in the protected coves off the beach.  We saw plenty of fish, including 2 resident barracudas and a baby barracuda.
 
The grounds:
Can be pretty appalling in some instances.  We were shocked at how poorly the grounds were made or put together in some places.  There is a giant pool that sticks up in the middle of the sidewalk in one area (not sure what it's purpose is), but someone ripped it out of the ground and threw it to the side.  That evening, we were walking to the Heaven side and I nearly broke my ankle because it was dark and I didn't see this 6 inch wide hole in the ground.  Another time, walking through this large courtyard area where they seem to hold concerts or team building exercises, we came across a giant pile of rusty screws.  Just lying there right in the middle of the walk way.  No idea how they got there or why.  I saw a spotlight type light, meant to illuminate a tree just ripped out of the ground and thrown to the side with the electrical wires still hanging out the bottom of it.  There also seemed to be quite a bit of trash thrown about.  Presumably by drunk guests who have no class and throw their garbage anywhere they like.  There were cracked tiles in some of the floor areas and the inside of the one elevator ride we did take was disgusting.  Fingerprints everywhere and the wallpaper like covering they had over the glass window side of the elevator was half ripped off and torn to shreds.  Really bad looking.
 
 
Bar/restaurants:
The restaurants on the heaven side are leaps and bounds better than on the Hacienda side.  The Brazilian on the Hacienda side was so so.  We found the cuts of meat were not the best and they were quite fatty with veins running through the meat.  We had a third plate on the table which we dedicated just for dumping fatty pieces of meat that we didn't want to eat.  By the end of our dinner, this plate was overflowing.  The Italian and French on the Heaven side were excellent, as was the service.  Really top notch.  The Mexican on the Heaven side was equally good.  The pool bar food on either side is disgusting.  Don't bother ordering chicken wings.  They are horrible and forget blue cheese.  I'm not really sure what they put on our plate.  It was white and very runny but really had no cheese.  The lunch is just so so.  No matter which restaurant you go to, it's primarily the same buffet food.  We had lunch at El Toro one day, and they'll put meat on the grill for you... don't bother with this.  The meat is cooked burnt on the outside and then raw on the inside.  What would be good is if there is somewhere you could go that just had plain salads or chicken wraps or club sandwiches.  These are all on the room service menu but annoyingly, you can't order it anywhere at the pools or restaurants for lunch.  The breakfast is decent.  Lots of choice, you won't go hungry.  We ate one morning in the Hacienda side Mexican restaurant which is reserved for VIP or timeshare sales.  You should avoid.  It's noisy and there's not enough room at the food station.  It's annoying listening to the reps constantly trying to sell other guests on these timeshares and the waiter service is crap.  We were nearly done with our breakfast before they came around offering coffee and practically left before they brought it to the table.  We watched other guests just get up and walk over to the coffee service station and serve themselves rather than wait.  In hindsight, we should have just done this.
The bar service at both pool bars is terrible.  Our first day, first drink we went to go get, we went to the Heaven pool bar.  It's chaotic and you're not really sure where to stand or where to order.  We finally, after 10 minutes, managed to get the bartenders attention to order our drinks.  He never said hello, never smiled.  In fact, he seemed downright annoyed we wanted to order drinks.  He started walking away before I had even finished telling him what we wanted.  I had to call him back over and then tried to hand him our 2 insulated mugs which he rudely just replied 'take off the covers'.  We stood there gobsmacked. The very first drink we try to order and this is how we're treated?!  So rude.  He couldn't have been less bothered to help us.  We found this to be the case most of the time at both pool bars on either side of the resort- chaotic, never know where to stand to order, and bad and sometimes downright rude service.  On the flip side, the 2 gentleman waiters who brought the food/drinks back and forth on the VIP beach Hacienda side were wonderful.  Energetic and always had a smile.  We didn't mind tipping them because they worked so hard and were very grateful.  
Overall in terms of service, with the exception of the VIP beach servers and the servers we had at the italian, french and Heaven side Mexican restaurants, the service is terrible at this resort.  Never smiled at, ignored most of the time and it almost seemed like they were annoyed when you would interrupt their casual conversation among each other if you needed anything.  As a comparison, at the Excellence, no matter which member of staff you passed walking by- a bartender, bell hop, chambermaid, someone changing a light bulb, they ALWAYS stopped what they were doing, looked at you and gave a friendly 'hola' with a smile,  Now that's the kind of service and staff I like to see!  Not these morbid mopes who look absolutely miserable.
 
Wedding on-site coordinator:
Natalia saved this trip for us.  She was great.  Met us in the hacienda lobby the 2nd morning we were there, gave us a tour of the entire resort, told us we had VIP bracelets, answered all of our questions, showed us all of the wedding venue options at the resort.  She is the only reason we are still having our wedding here.  She provided me with some reassurance that this wedding with my 40 guests won't be a complete disaster.  Especially as the service in the 'home office' in Miami is terrible.  Our contact in that office is horrific.  The information she provides and the quotes based on our requests are not organized, hard to follow and come in drips and drabs in different emails.  I've finally told my WOW (not sure what this stands for but these are travel agents who are Hard Rock specialists) wedding travel agent in NY to deal with her as I could no longer without losing my cool.  So I've basically cut off all communication with this woman in Miami which is not good considering this is the woman who needs to put my contract together and final costs before anything can move forward at the resort itself.  But honestly, I've given this woman everything she could possibly need to quote my wedding, including my own 20 page look book with picture examples of exactly what I want everything to look like from the flowers to the table setting to the papel picado hanging over the dance floor.  And she still tells me she doesn't know what I want.  It's unbelievable.  There are also fees for setting up in different locations, fees if you want them to place a program on each chair, fees for everything.  So she includes line items for set up fees in my quotes, but it's not clear to me what is included in these line items!  All very confusing.  We also found the Hard Rock contracted vendors to be wildly overpriced so we are actually bringing in outside vendors for multiple things such as the flowers, DJ, photographer, hair/make up, etc.  Even with the $500 outside vendor fee per vendor, it still works out cheaper.  Hard Rock needs to make their prices with their vendors more competitive if they want to retain the business!  Our budget for this wedding is about $15k and at least half of that is going to be with outside vendors, if not more.  Also incredibly annoying is that we're staying a total of 10 nights for our wedding.  We are getting 7 nights 'comped' due to our wedding guests, HOWEVER, we are paying a good sum of money to upgrade to the Sky Terrace Suite room (comped rooms only go up to platinum room category) and are paying full price for the last 3 nights.  Because of the 'comped' room rate for 7 nights, we only earn 3 nights worth of resort credit, which is $500.  The inflated prices they charge for the resort credit activities, we can hardly do anything, which really doesn't seem fair that we're the bride and groom and are bringing all of this business to the resort and we get the least amount of resort credit out of all our guests?  Just doesn't seem right.  We want to have as good a time as everyone else and we won't be able to do everything we want to because of this.  I can understand if we weren't paying to upgrade on those 7 nights, but we should at least earn something for the money we're paying above and beyond the comp rate.
 
So that's it really.  Did we have the worst time?  No.  But would I return if I didn't have to for my wedding or another vacation?  No.  There are less expensive resorts that are much nicer and where the service is much better.  I think you're paying for the Hard Rock name here and it's just not worth it.

Sorry, one last thing... we are not going with a Colin Cowie set up for our wedding.  For the price they charge and the fact that you can't change a single thing about the design (even if you want to use real flowers vs fake flowers they have in some of the packages) it's simply not worth it.  This was confirmed when I saw the black and white themed set up on the beach.  It looked pathetic.  I felt so sorry for the bride and groom.  The chuppah looking thing with the crystals hanging down looked like it had seen better days.  It was rickety and cheap looking and looked like it was about to fall down.  The hooks with the glass balls of flowers lining the aisle looked drab.  Save your money on these Colin Cowie packages ladies and just go with the complimentary wedding and pay to customize.  You'll be much happier!  This way you can get the colors you want, the flowers you want and don't have tacky crystals hanging everywhere.

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Wow - I'm so sorry to hear that your experience hasn't been everything you wanted it to be! I don't know anything at all about Hard Rock resorts so thanks so much for the review!!

 

I truly hope things improve before your wedding in July! What about working with your TA to try to resolve some of your concerns? Is that a possibility, or for that matter what about the WC?

 

All the best!!

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God I hope we have a better experince .. we are getting married at the Vallarta location.

Make me worried after reading this!

 

We also have Andrea but she hasn't been too bad with us!

She calls me all the time to check in.

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Thanks for this info. I'm trying to plan a wedding to the hard rock Riviera for 2016 and have been having the hardest time getting thru to anyone. I didn't even know you could customize your own wedding - thought we had to choose from a Colin Cowie package. Any other advice or recommendations?

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Hi Tania- You can basically do whatever you want for your wedding, it really just depends on your budget.  From what my wedding planner in NY has told me, I'm not a typical destination bride.  Seems most brides when they have a destination wedding are fine to go with whatever comes in the package that the resort offers whereas I am very particular and had a certain vision in my head about the colors and flowers, etc.  She basically told me I didn't want a destination wedding but rather a NY wedding in Mexico.  LOL  But I'm fine with that, so long as I get the wedding of my dreams.  :)  Don't be fooled by the Colin Cowie thing.  Although they do the hard sell on these packages, they just don't seem worth it for what you get.  And honestly, after seeing a few of the set ups when I was down there, it convinced me even more they're not worth the money.  The look very worn and not of the best quality.  The fact that you cannot change a single thing about them, even down to the type of flower, is very annoying.  You can, if you want, just purchase the tables and their set up.  But again, if the linens and stuff don't match your color scheme, not sure if this is the road to really go down?  I'm not sure how you've been going about trying to get in contact with someone.  I assume this is in the home office in Miami?  They do not have the best track record with returning messages or emails, but I assume this is probably due to the number of brides trying to get in contact and the number of staff they have.  I would recommend searching online for a 'WOW' specialist (hard rock travel agent specialist) who can assist you.  This is what I did and all my communications basically go through her to Andrea in the home office.  I can give you the contact of my planner if you like?  You have to give her a small deposit which can then go to the cost of your trip at the end, but if you only use her for literally the booking of the rooms and not necessarily the 'planning' and sourcing of local vendors for the wedding, there is really no fee involved.  Again, it depends on the type of wedding you want and your budget.  I'm literally outsourcing my entire wedding to local vendors that my planner has previously worked with and has good relationships with.  They are much cheaper than the Hard Rock vendors, even with the $500 outside vendor fee the hotel charges.  I've outsourced the light up dance floor, DJ, mariachi band, photographers (Pixan photography), hair/make up (Yucatan hair) especially as the resort doesn't offer airbrush make up in their salon, florist (I'm also having them provide the candles and the papel picado and lights I want strung up) and the desserts (the desserts at Hard Rock are disgusting.  The all look really nice but taste like lard.  So disappointing).  The Hard Rock only has 1 contracted photographer, 1 contracted florist, etc.  So you're kind of stuck paying their ridiculous prices unless you source your own vendors which again, I would then highly recommend a planner as they can help guide you, negotiate on costs, etc.  If you do (finally) get in contact with the home office, I would recommend putting your own 'look book' together.  This is the easiest way to help explain your vision to them.  Mine included color schemes, center piece examples, table settings, different tables and signs I wanted hung up or displaying certain items (eg- tequila shot seating assignment).  When I finally did get in touch with Andrea, my home office contact, she found it helpful.  You should also be aware that if you are having an outdoor reception (I assume you are) that all outside activities need to be completed by 10pm.  There are also 'difficult area set up fees' associated with some of the outdoor ceremony or reception locations.  I think this is $12 per person.  There are fees associated with every little thing to be honest.  We qualified for the unlimited free private events while we're there (which you qualify for if your party has booked 75 or more room nights) BUT this is only for 3 hours per day.  So because I'm having a 1 hour cocktail hour and 5 hour reception, I'm paying an additional $6 per person, per hour for the additional 3 hours on the day of my wedding.  I mentioned earlier that there is a $500 outside vendor fee.  This is per vendor.  Luckily my planner was able to group some of the vendors under a single vendor/tax code so I'm only paying $1500 in these fees, otherwise it could have been much worse.  We're bringing in the hair/make up under 'day passes' which are $100 per day per person.  If you're planning on having more than 32 guests (which is the number they include in all of their package pricing), then it's an additional $6 per chair to be able to have your guests have seats (they actually tried to tell me that some brides just let those 'overflow' guests stand instead of paying for additional chairs).  Let me know if you have any more questions that I can answer.  I'm happy to help.  Plus, I'm sure my husband (we're technically already married but got married at town hall last year with no family present) would love the fact that I have others to have 'wedding chat' with besides him.  lol  I also have all of the PDF documents that the Hard Rock set me with respect to the different packages, vendors, food options, etc that I'm happy to share if you send your email address.  If I'm being honest though, if I wasn't this close to my wedding date (less than 2 months out now and STILL no finalized costs on everything- unreal!) I probably would switch resorts.  Even my planner is shocked by how disorganized they are.  

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Thanks for your review. Hard to find bride posts about the place.

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    • Congratulations to Wedding Planners and Families of Bride and Groom. Cheapfaremart, an Orlando based Online Travel Agency offers Cheap Group Flights for Wedding Group also.
    • Thanks! I would love to get quotes from a TA but as I said I have a hard time finding a specialized one in Canada. I hope someone can point me to the right direction. 
    • The use of TA is instrumental in booking a destination wedding for several reasons: Namely, TAs have special rates and promos they can offer you, including perks of complimentary rooms and upgrades. Wright Travel actually has a Bride & Groom Fly Free Promo, which gives couples up to $1,000 cash back. These are perks you can take advantage of by working with a TA. Also, most agencies also do not charge any service fee, so you are essentially having the expertise and convenience of a travel agent without paying a dime. Experienced agents will also have valuable insight into the best property to host your wedding, and if they are familiar with your resort, they can also offer you and your guests tips on how to make your stay even better. Good TAs will also have close connections wiht the wedding department, essentially benefiting you throughout the planning process. Securing a room block is also important to ensure your resort does not run out of rooms and also to secure a group rate. Lastly, having a travel agent handle you and your guests travel plans is vital so that you don't have to deal with it. Anything can happen when it comes to travel and if you don't have an agent, your guests will turn to you for help. As a former destination wedding bride, I did not work with a TA and I regretted it. Having to answer a million questions from guests on where to stay, where to book, where to go, drove me nuts. When it comes down to the final stretch of the wedding, it was the last thing I wanted to do when I already had a million things on my plate wedding wise.  Here's a more in depth article regarding the benefits of using a TA.  https://www.bestdestinationwedding.com/wedding-tips/c/planning/10-reasons-why-you-should-use-wright-travel-agency-for-your-destination-wedding-r2439/  
    • We actually did our legal wedding at home -- a quick and easy ceremony at the local courthouse about a week before our destination wedding. Afterwards, we just went to lunch and shared a few celebratory cocktails 😊We did this so we didn't have to deal with the legal requirements (arriving early, blood test, etc.) you must abide by in Mexico. For us it worked out perfectly and our ceremony in Mexico was our official wedding with all our family and friends. 
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