I just got back from spending 3 nights and 4 days at two of Real Resorts all-inclusive resorts. The resorts are properly named “The Royal” because you are treated like royalty during your stay there. Thirteen journalist, including myself, were invited to Cancun by Mr. Fernando Garcia, Director General President of Real Resorts to, not only experience the Real Resorts properties, but to see for ourselves that Mexico is safe for tourist travel.
I enjoyed my stay so much that I am going to relive my great experience and I am going to take you with me. Open the doors to your imagination and go back with me to Cancun, Mexico. Picture sunshine, palm trees, smiling faces and it is HOT! Are you with me? Great!
Day One: After landing in Cancun and going through customs, I read my instructions and headed for the Best Day Travel Shuttle where I was escorted to an air conditioned van, given a cold bottle of water, told to relax and enjoy the ride to Playa del Carmen. Sounded like a great plan to me, so I took in the sights along the way. After about 50 minutes, the van pulled into the drive of this gorgeous hotel.
Now, take a deep breath I need you to really envision this experience with me.
The van pulled under a beautiful stained glass canopy. The door to the van opened and a young man stood there with his hand over his heart, a tilt of his head, and a great smile and said, ” Ola, Welcome to The Royal Playa del Carmen Hotel”. As he helped me out of the van, another gentleman handed me a cool towel and I was offered a glass of champagne and a bottle of water. Okay, I was hooked.
I was then met by my host for the trip, Gayle MacIntyre, and in a matter of minutes I was checked in, booked a spa appointment and was headed to my room. I can hear you saying, “Bonnie, you were on a press trip, of course, your check in would be easy.” In most cases yes, but I stepped back to watch the way other guests were being addressed and treated. There wasn’t any difference in treatment. The staff were all very pleasant and I got the feeling that they truly mean, “welcome”. A great thing about the Real Resorts is, you can pre-register for your room just like you can pre-check in for your flight. 48 hours before you are to arrive at a Real Resort, you can go on line and pick the room you would like, pre-register and when you get to the resort, you get our key and go to your room.
Okay, back on track. As I head to my room and look out over the lobby area, there isn’t a back wall so you can see straight out, over the grounds and there it is, the ocean. It was wonderful. I tear myself away from the view and head to my room. Every room is suite. When I open the door there is a short entrance, the armour with the 29″ flat screened satellite television and dvd/cd players with Bose speakers, the double jacuzzi, the royal bed with the pillow top mattress, and the sitting area. Did I mention the mini-bar that is stocked with snacks, water, beer, soft drinks and full bottle liquor cabinet? I stepped out on my balcony and I have the view of the pool and the ocean. Almost all of the balconies have a hammock that you can hook up, lie in and listen to the waves.
The resort has 6 restaurants not including 24 hour room service, 24 hour VIP lounge and the Royal Coffee house. We had our welcome group dinner at Asiana, the Asian fusion intimate dining experience. The food, atmosphere and service was fantastic.
I did notice that dinner is served rather late in Mexico. Our reservations were for 9 PM, you can imagine that after a full day of travel, after dinner I went straight to my room to lie on my pillow top mattress and between the fine high thread count linens. I was out like a light!
Day Two: I am refreshed, showered and ready for my 9 AM De-Tox Massage appointment, I head over to the resorts luxury spa named SPAzul. SPAzul is a eco-holistic Mayan-inspired, full service spa. I signed up for the De-Tox massage because I didn’t have a clue what the experience would be. My therapist was Lucia and she explained that the de–tox massage would consist of long, smooth strokes on the body. I laid down on the table and let Lucia work her magic. Those of you who get massages on a regular basis know that if the therapist is good at what he or she does, there comes a time during the massage your whole body just gives up the stress and relaxes. I can tell you the exact moment Lucia had my body so relaxed I didn’t want to get up from the table. It was a great experience.
The Royal resort is all-inclusive but SPAzul services are not included in the all-inclusive price.
At noon all the journalist met in the lobby of The Royal to go across the street to have lunch and tour the sister Real Resort property, The Gran Porto Real Resort and Spa. The Royal Resort is an Adult Only property. The guest must be 16 and up to stay there. The Gran Porto Real Resort is a family resort and welcomes families with children of all ages as well as couples and single travelers. The rooms range from standard to Jr. Suites to Gran Master Suites. The Gran Master top suites also offers full privileges at the Royal Resort.
The resort is really lovely and being a single adult, I was afraid that I would be overwhelmed with children being underfoot. The atmosphere isn’t that way at all. There are lots of things for families to do as well as the single traveler. The children have Oki Kid Club for ages 4-12 where there are supervised activities and there is T-Zone club and video games for teenagers. They have babysitting services so mom and dad can have some time alone.
We had lunch at the Albatross restaurant which is a buffet. The food was very fresh and tasty. The desserts were really, really good.
We headed back across the street to The Royal, and discovered we had about 3 hours of free time before dinner. Yes, I know, we have been eating an awful lot. 3 other journalist, Kerry, Bob and Sandy, joined me for a quick walk along 5th Avenue. The town of Playa del Carmen is very quaint and inviting. You just walk out of the hotel and you are right in the heart of city. 5th Avenue is one block from the hotel and holds the pulse of Playa del Carmen. There are small shops, high end stores, restaurants, 7-11 stores, grocery stores, and Ja’Vonne will be happy to hear, a Starbucks. We had a great time just walking and taking things in. I noticed that the residents of the city that are selling their wares are not over bearing and I was quite comfortable walking the streets enjoying the experience.
It’s our last night at The Royal resort Playa del Carmen and we take our farewell meal at the restaurant Maria Maria which specializes in upscale Mexican-French fusion cuisine. The food was so good. We had lamb and lobster. I am not a lamb person so I traded my lamb with my new friend Kerry for her lobster. Great deal! The atmosphere of Maria Maria reminded me of what I envisioned a Mexican hacienda would look like. The service was the best. We were so comfortable, the food was so good and the wine was so smooth that we ended up closing the place.
Great way to say goodbye to one of my now favorite resorts of all time.
Day Three: I got up early and went to lay out on the beach. We were leaving at noon for Cancun and I wanted to worship the sun little before we left. I need your imagination again. Picture walking along a path of greenery blocking your view of the ocean. You hear the deep tones of the waves hitting the beach but you can’t see them. You walk the path and as it turns to the right you see the white caps of the waves coming in. You take off your shoes because you are now at the beach. The sand isn’t hot, it is warm and soft. It is light tan in color and feels so good between your toes. You lie on a beach lounge and feel the sun gently flowing across your body, sort of like a sheet with a 2000 thread count. You intend to turn your ipod on but the sound of the waves lulls you into a calm and secure place. That is the feeling I had on the beach that day. (sigh)
At noon we pack up in the Best Day shuttle to head for The Royal Resort in Cancun. Before the doors are shut we are offered a cool towel, bottle of water, and with hand over heart, tilt of the head and a big smile on his face, the doorman bids us a safe trip and ask us to hurry back to The Resort Playa del Carmen.
Could it get any better than this? The answer is yes!
The Royal Resort in Cancun has a more urban, open, light feel than in Playa del Carmen. It is the youngest of the properties being only 2 years old. The service is the same great service and the amenities are the same great amenities. It is good to know that when you travel from resort to resort of the same company, you can expect the same great experience, with it yet being different.
We only had one day and night in Cancun so we hit the ground running. We check in with ease and headed over to the sister property which is also a family property, Gran Caribe Cancun. It is has mostly the same all inclusive package as the Gran Porto Real in Playa del Carmen with fabulous suites, restaurants and things for kids, teens and adults to do. It has a more urban feel to the property and seems to have more water slides for the kids and bars for the adults. One thing it has that you won’t find on any of the other properties is a beautiful sanctioned Catholic Chapel that over looks the ocean.
My favorite and most memorable experience at The Royal Cancun was taking part in the traditional Mayan ritual of “Temazcal“. One of the journalist on the trip, Karen, talked me into going through this experience. Some people call it the “steam hut” and that is a very good name for it. At 5PM we met at the hut. Our guide, who is said to be of Mayan descent, was preparing the hut. Imagination time again. Take a deep breath in, hold it, let it out slowly.
The “sweating hut” is the size of what we would think an igloo would be. There is a whole in the top of the hut and inside the hut there is hole in the ground. The structure itself is made of a hard substance, concrete maybe, and is tan in color. 3 of us have committed to go on this journey and when we reach the hut our guide is on top of it preparing for the ceremony that is performed before we enter. He has invited 4 dancers in traditional Mayan dress to start us on our journey. Our guide prepares an offering in a cup that has smoke rising from it. He and the two male dancers stand atop the hut. They offer the smoking cup to the 4 doors asking permission to enter. One of the men blows the conch shell and they offer the cup to the North, East, South and West. Our guide then comes down from the top of the hut and he takes each of us individually, asks us to spread our arms and he chants and takes the smoking cup and moves it around our bodies. It is now time to open the door to the hut and go in. The whole in the top is now covered, so it is dark. We make an offering of a pinch of tobacco in a burning bowl before we enter. We go in and walk to the left to our places. We sit, the door closes, it is dark and smoke rises from the whole in the ground filled with hot coals and herbs. We went through four doors, earth, wind, air, and fire before we ended our experience. I won’t go into all that we did in that small, hot, hut but I can say when the door finally opened and we walked out, we had all released things that were holding us in a stagnant place. It was a wonderful experience. We all had to jump in a cold pool (IT WAS REALLY COLD!) to cool our bodies down.
We then went back to our rooms to get ready for the farewell dinner at Maria Maria’s at The Royal Cancun.
The farewell dinner was special because we came to Cancun as 13 journalist from all over the country to write our various stories on the Real Resorts and Mexico. We left with most of us forming real friendships that will last a very long time. I met my friend from New York, Kerry who loved lamb, shared stories, and love food. My Temazcal Sisters, Karen and Elisa. We are so different but shared an experience that will tie us together forever. My North Carolina buddy Ramsey who has a crazy sense of humor and lovable smile. Ms. Rona from Austin, Texas. A motorcycle riding, rock climbing, Spa Specialist who lives in the moment. My first made friends from New Jersey, Bob (not Robert) and his wife and partner of 44 years, Sandy. They are a couple who opened their hearts, arms, and friendship to me. And last but not least,Gayle, our host. She is truly the best of the best. Not only did she act in her role as our host and made sure our trip was what it should have been, she became a great friend. Gayle, I am coming to Atlanta so have them all lined up for me.
With all that, the real highlight was meeting the man who created Real Resorts, Mr. Fernando Garcia. Mr. Garcia sat down with us and told us his story after some coaxing from us and his staff. He went to school and became an Engineer but at that time he was a Scuba teacher back in the early 80’s and one day he was giving a tourist a lesson and the gentleman told him that he would love to go out and see the real Mexico but he didn’t want to take one of those crowded tours. He told Mr. Garcia that he would pay $150 for the day. Mr. Garcia, being an educated man and with $150 equaling two day’s pay, told the gentleman he would take him on a tour. After the day’s tour the gentleman paid him $170. A new business was formed. In 1984, Mr. Garcia founded Best Day Tours. He entered hotel management in 1993 and launched Real Resorts.
I told you early how wonderful the service is in the resorts. I have to clarify, the people working there are not subservient, you are treated with the courtesy of a guest in their home. I sat back and watched how the workers of the hotel reacted when they thought no one was watching. The same as when I was standing in their face. They even great each other with smiles and the hand over the heart. I had to ask Mr. Garcia how he obtained this attitude. He said, “My philosophy is to always do things with love and help create jobs.” He went on to say, “Do everything with love. Love to God, love to your family, to your hotel, to your co-workers, and love to tourists, it works!”
I hear the question in your minds, “All this is great but what about the Swine Flu? Is it safe to travel to Mexico?” I didn’t have any problems. The hotels are very, very clean and the country is doing everything to promote it is safe to travel there. Mr. Garcia did not close any of his resorts nor did he lay off any of his employee during the flu crisis. The loyalty level at his resorts is sky high. He has offered that anyone who visits his resorts and is diagnosed with Swine Flu within 10 days of their stay will receive complimentary, same as, vacation for three years. So far, no one has claimed the offer.
Day Four: It’s Friday, and my last day at The Royal Cancun. Today I am on the air live from the resort for our show The Traveling Eye. Ja’Vonne is in the Philippines and I am in Mexico. It is a first for us and I must say the show sounded great. I have to give big thanks to Jeannette Vasconcelos, Director of Marketing, for all her help making sure I was set up for the show and had all I needed to make it a success.
My transport for the hotel was at 1:45 and I was happy to see Rona was headed to the airport at the same time. As we pulled way from The Royal Cancun, the doorman had his hand over his heart, a tilt of the head and a smile on his face saying, “Come back and visit us soon.”
I had a great time and I can’t wait to go back again. The Royal Playa del Carmen is my favorite of the resorts with The Royal Cancun a close second. For more info on the Real Resorts you can check out their web site at www.realresorts.com
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!