Resort Review - Grand Riviera/Sunset Princess All Suites Resort & Spa

So once again I find myself enjoying the comforts of an all inclusive luxury resort on the Caribbean.

Like many of the Resorts along the Caribbean the resorts are large and usually have two sides with slightly different names.  The sides are marketed differently, although you can access the services of either side as long as they are within your buy in tier.  There are usually differing levels of purchase, which grant you not only upgraded rooms, but also access and privileges different than other levels.

A week ago we heard from a long time Colorado friend that he, girlfriend and their  respective teenage daughters were going to be at the Grand Sunset Princess Resort  just North of Playa del Carmen.  So taking a few days to rearrange a few things, line up pet-sitting etc, we made a reservation.  No easy feat I might add - I like a bargain, no I need a bargain, or at least to think I'm getting a bargain, or at least some small discount -  all inclusives are no bargain.  I started researching, using search engines etc. I then resorted to, of all things, actually calling the resort, who by the way has the absolute highest prices, they quoted me 200usd per person, per night.  Uh, no thanks!  But we want to see our friend, back to the internet.   Finally after much trying, and being tried, we managed a one night rate of 270usd.  Good frickin grief!  However, to add insult to injury, every web site is saying 2-night minimum. We don't have 2 nights, and we don't want to intrude that much on their vacation

But, we want to see our friend!  Finally, after much trial and error, Tom manages a one night stay through    Tom  registers our stay, pays online, and prints out our confirmation. We are set!

So Sunday am we set off - we arrived at the Resort  about 12:45, approach the registration desk, and wait.  Checkins take a while.   When it is finally our turn we show our confirmation, our prepaid confirmation, and after must fudgeting around we are informed that they can't find our registration.  After a bit more fudgeting and checking we are again informed our registration can't be found.  We are then asked to fill out a check in card, show id, and provide a credit card.  We are issued wristbands and advised to come back after 3pm for our room assignment.    Ok, no problem. 

I inquired about the access code for the internet and am told it will cost 20 usd for 24 hours, I am flabbergasted, gob-smacked, and quite incredulous, I mean a place that costs this much, charging for wifi service.
The clerk says to me, didn't you travel agent explain this to you?  Well no!  

Tom comments to me as we are leaving on the desk clerks attitude....I try to be neutral, although I admit I was put off as well. He was a bit condescending and discourteous. He did point out and circle on the site map where the lunch buffet was, which building our friends were in, and which building we would be in based on our level of purchase.  There is a lot of obviously visible distinguish between what level you bought in as.  No mention to us about activities, evening entertainments, how or where to make reservations for specialty restaurants, where are the spas, how to make appts for spa services, or that, as we found out later, there is a full Resort orientation offered.  Well, we don't actually have a room, so maybe that's why.

after the drive up portico this is the entry
bar on the left, registration on the right

registration desk, always seemed to have a line.
from inside the property looking back at the main building

Off we go to look for our friends - this property is huge, I mean HUGE!  They provide golf cart rides from the front of the resort via a wide lane that runs along the outside rim of the resort. This is also how they move around luggage and services as well.  This ring road would also be great for runners and walkers to maintain their exercise regimens. 

the wide ring road that circles the property
the walkways are all lined with these gorgeous sculptures
which really help you remember what building your room is in!

We decided to stop in at the lunch buffet since we were both quite hungry, having had nothing but coffee prior to leaving the house.   The majority of the restaurants are located at the large complex at the head of the property, which is located the farthest from the beach. 

The lunch buffet room is large, dimly illuminated, not so as to be dark, but just dim.   Lots n lots of tables, and quite cool, as in a/c.   The buffet stations offered a large variety of salad options, there was a station with all sorts of salsa, sauces, pickled veggies, and chiles.  There were of course a large variety of postres/desserts,  2 soups urns, breads, chips, beverages, and fresh fruits. The hot buffet offered a large selection of meat choices, and a variety of rice concoctions, as well as a make your own pasta dish station.   Overall I'd give this buffet 3 stars.  The food was just ok; the salad selections were abundant, fresh, and  good, Tom said the several meat items he tried were ok, but he pushed them aside and ate mostly salads, the pescado tikinxic I tried was quite un-palatable.  The staff was very good, pleasant, attentive, etc.  my biggest complaint is that since they allow wet swimsuits in they shouldn't have upholstered chairs,  I sat down, only to jump up as my seat was soaked.  I tried a sauvignon blanc, and could barely tell that I was drinking a wine product.

So off again to find our friends, which we did.  We sat with them out at the beach and had a nice visit.    The 2 daughters were along as their high school graduation gift - sweet!

There is no beach service, unless you are in high pricepoint purchase, and then you get to go in to a 'special' separate beach area. So for drinks in our area you must queue up and order from the bar. There is a food station on the beach where you can get grilled burgers and hotdogs, there was a huge paella, there were chips with pico de gallo, and guacamole.

There are pool/ lounging areas for whatever you are in the mood - conscientious adults (reading, resting, visiting with friends), young adults drinking too much and being very loud at a swim up bar with loud music, family areas, private pool / lounge areas if you are in the proper buyin tier, and at the beach there are ropes delineating service areas, again based on buy in tier.    

you can select rooms with swim in/ out balcony!
these pools were very quiet,
but seemed to be a favorite among families with  kids along.

On the beach there are cabanas where you can get massage, there are also cabanas of vendors, unfortunately blocking quite a  bit of the view, and only in the lower tier areas, the Platinum beach had neither vendors, nor cabanas blocking the view, and they had beach service staff.

About 5:30 we decide to go see if we have a room and make a plan to meet up at 7:30 for an 8:15 dinner res at the specialty Italian restaurant Mamma Mia.  

So back at reception - the clerk we started with is gone, so we try explaining again what had transpired earlier in the day.  This guy doesn't actually listen, but assumes he knows what is going on.  Whatever!  He couldn't find the checkin card from before, whatever - We get a room assignment! Tom retrieves our bag which has been sitting out on the front stoop since we got there and we head off to our room. We just have one small bag so  taking it with us is no issue, although no bell service was offered.

Our  Junior Suite room (7122) is nice; large comfy king bed, sofa, 2 chairs, there is a spacious safe, an ironing board but you must call for an iron, and there is a hairdryer and a makeup mirror...  There were some sticky can rings on the counter, and a leaf behind the door in the shower.  The bathroom is quite large and very pretty.  But something I found quite odd, the toiletries were all from Dreams, which is another big resort chain.  The standard stuff - shampoo, conditioner, soap, comb, shower cap, but no lotion.  The mini-bar has water, a few sodas, and some beer  -  There is mention of neither price, nor free, so we risked it and used the waters - there was no charge for these when we checked out so one must assume the mini bar is free.  Although oddly, there is a sticker with mini-bar hours?????  My only  room complaint is the pillows - They are quite thick and very firm, not to my taste, and unlike other resorts to which I've been, there were no options for different pillows.

The balcony has two chairs and a table, we look out to the outside ring of the resort property to the East.  The grounds are lovely.  We can see the 'Kids Club' from our room, and the hammock area.  

So, Mamma Mia - first, men must wear long pants, women can have their cootchies hanging out, but men must wear long pants. The color scheme is sort of purpuly, it's cute but looks more french bistro than italian.  Service was fine, food was fine, nothing mind blowing, 3 1/2 stars.
If you purchase a bottle of wine you will enjoy is far more than the really bad house wine they will pour, which I suspect has been watered down.

there are lots of interesting seating spaces to visit with friends, share a drink, or read a book!

At night there is a large seating area where a band plays, there is also a theatre with evening entertainment, but we never saw a schedule of what was  happening...

cool outdoor space for evening entertainment and dancing

Although we didn't use any of the spa services we did walk in and look around!  The spa areas are beautiful, the individual service rooms are huge, there is even a temazcal, and maya healing space.

the temazcal

inside the spa area

Thank goodness check out went fairly smoothly - theyhad found our original prepaid reservation - so when  I asked for the receipt where they had imprinted our card, and had us sign, I was told they couldn't give that to me but the clerk tore it in to bits in front of me?????  I used a Mexican bank debit card to pay for our incidental expenses because the exchange rate they give is really bad.

So overall, this is a nice resort, beautifully kept and maintained. Staff and organization could use some tweaking.   

But  seriously, at this price point, and we were in the cheapest level room, at 280USD per night, and they ding you 20USD FOR INTERNET!    based on that alone I would not recommend this resort - I mean really, even budget hotels in the region offer free wifi in their public spaces.