I’ve been to dozens and dozens of luxury resorts over the years, and every now and then, I’m awed by something new on my radar screen. I’ve already been to Cancun twice in the past two years – staying at top-notch, elegant resorts: Club Med and Le Blanc.
Yup, I was wowed there at both resorts. But the minute I entered Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach resort, and started to get a taste of the luxury that I was about to experience, I have to say I was very impressed initially, and throughout my stay. As with any resort, it’s not perfect (more on this later) – but in the world of luxury and in the world of all-inclusives where you expect to receive an added level of service and quality for the premium amount that you typically pay at an all-inclusive – this posh, all-inclusive property is hard to beat. This is especially true in the current inflationary environment in the States, where everything nowadays costs more. Especially travel.
Upon arrival, my husband Bill and I were were extremely impressed at the front lobby entrance: Fresh roses of all colors, asymmetrically displayed in the style of the famous florist Jeff Leatham, graced the entire spacious area, which was beautifully appointed with appealing artwork and natural lighting. That natural lighting comes from a number of different angles, but the most impressive is the massive stained-glass ceiling above. Truly, a work of art.
Immediately upon arrival, my husband Bill and I were not checked in at the Front Desk, but instead taken up to the Infinite Club Lounge on Floor Eleven, a private setting inside the hotel, where we were checked in by a dedicated concierge. This was because we were booked on the “Infinite Club” level, which is essentially a Club Floor. This elegant enclave hosts three special meal presentations throughout the day, and they are appealing from the word “Go.” I like to call it Delicacies Central – upon arrival, famished after a day of air travel from Boston, we noshed on fresh watermelon, tabouli, grilled chicken skewers, and all kinds of other goodies. This is where we took care of registration and financial matters, and learned all about the Infinite Club Lounge and all the extras that come with it.
Of course, special treatment such as this costs a little extra, as do most all hotel Club Floors. We were there in low/shoulder season, where room rates start at about $665 per night. This price includes your room, all top-shelf alcohol and spirits; all your meals; gratuity (even though we also tipped a lot); a wealth of wonderful snacks; watersports of all kinds, and a lot more great experiences.
An Infinite Club room was priced at about $1,178 per night for the week we were there in early October– and it provided a lot more great experiences than just the beautifully-appointed room and equally stunning view of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Your extra “Memorable Experiences” might be a spa dinner an elegant dinner in Le Basilic, or a visit to the Gem Spa.
One day I took advantage of a sybaritic spa treatment at the Gem Spa – a chocolate body scrub, and I must say, by the end of it I was officially Hershey’s. No, make that even better – Toblerone. The spa itself is a 40,000-square-foot facility. My therapist, aptly named Sugar, administered a very sweet cocoa treatment that included not only a scrub, but a massage as well, and it was heavenly. After I was completely buffed and sloughed, she massaged a chocolate body oil into my skin, and it was wonderfully relaxing. (Yawn…Oh sorry, I dozed off there for a minute.) The cost of this treatment was $3750 pesos – about $187, and the price includes taxes and the service charge. I also had a $40 hair blowout, and I was really impressed as well. The salon uses first-class, luxury Kerastase products from France.
Before all of the above, it was a treat to experience the Gem Spa’s Hydrotherapy Ritual. It included an application of clay to my arms and legs, and sitting for about 10 minutes in a dark heated room to let it sink in. After rinsing it off, I took a sauna for about 10 minutes, then indulged in the various water treatments designed to soothe your body and soul. The sleekly designed spa flows over two stories and incorporates rich woods, luminous Italian mosaics, and sand-colored marble. Many of the treatments utilize chakra-balancing gems to help you rejuvenate.
After that – and a quick nap – I was ready for dinner. I have to say, the quality of the cuisine was exceptional. For many years, many all-inclusives earned a bad reputation for offering free dining – but nothing of real quality, and not many selections. I’m here to tell you that the offerings here at this resort were plentiful, and everything was first-rate.
Take for example, our first dinner to La Joya, an upscale, award-winning Mexican restaurant. Our table was festooned with rose petals, and red napkins in the shape of swans. A live mariachi band serenaded us. There was an excellent salad of pumpkin seeds, lettuce and tequila-soaked figs, with a mango sorbet-and-honey-mustard vinaigrette. Dinner was salmon with a special mole sauce and wild mushrooms. The highlight for me, though, was the delicious mocktail made with ginger syrup, lemon juice and some orange and cranberry juice. It was fantastic, and I took to imbibing it practically every night, it was that good. I’ve been home two weeks now and I’m still thinking about how dee-lish it was.
The Italian dining venue, Tuscany Trattoria, was impressive both in ambiance and cuisine. The selections are sumptuous, from start to finish. I enjoyed the fresh-made pasta and my husband remarked how good the Salmon Gremolata was. Throughout our evening, we were attended to by a staff of two waiters, and enjoyed the beautiful music of a resident violinist. The ambience evokes the Amalfi Coast, with lemons growing in lattice and sculptures of the Greco-Roman era.
One venue that disappointed us was the French restaurant on property, Le Basilic. While this restaurant has won countless awards – we were not impressed – but we believe the reasons were particular to our tastes in both cuisine and ambiance. For starters, there is no menu; the structure is more Prix Fixe. You can tell the wait staff your preferences and they will custom make your order. Relevant to my observations about this venue is that I work out an average of 1.5 hours daily, and what I eat is very selective. I typically eat a lowfat, low-calorie vegetarian diet. To be presented with no menu doesn’t work for me – but that’s me. If you’re an adventurous eater, you will love the cuisine here. Even with my special order, I was served escargot, and seared scallops – neither of which I eat. And the ratatouille was mostly orange cream with a few vegetables in it.
Furthermore, the ambience consisted of a live pianist accompanied by, two ballet dancers pirouetting to Swan Lake around all the tables. Maybe it’s just me, but I found it pretentious – perhaps you would like it.
Another interesting dinner concept is The Table – a Mexican culinary, 3-D Surround Sound and Video adventure through the years, starting with the Mayans, and it also has a fixed menu of authentic Mayan foods and drinks. As I am persnickety, I only took small tastes of a few items, but the other guests were very impressed. One nice touch: A rocky three-dimensional gray “volcano” plate with a “crater” for crabmeat soup in the middle.
There were two other things that I believe could be improved. The Grand Fiesta Americana is still using plastic straws, and that needs to change to paper to be more environmentally-friendly. Also, in our room there is a marble step leading down to the sunken living room area, which provides a stunning view of the ocean (as do all rooms here). However, there are no visual or tactile warning strips highlighting the step, and I almost went flying through the glass slider as walked to the window for the first time to look at the ocean. This kind of safety measure is easy to address, and I was assured that it will be soon as part of the property’s planned upcoming renovation.
I want to end this review on a good note, because this really is an excellent resort. I loved all the little touches that I noticed – as noted, beautiful roses, of every color, are everywhere, not just the Front Lobby. The nightly dessert buffet in the lobby is a treat. The latticed “ceiling” of greenery and whole lemons in the Italian restaurant, and the violinist found here playing Hungarian Rhapsodies and Strauss waltzes, was very appreciated. High-thread-count bed sheets are changed daily, and the turndown chocolates are Rocher (Yum!). The uber-comfortable beds are Serta Perfect Sleepers. The resort also features a live violinist on a platform at the pool, playing pop favorites, and this really was a very lovely, unusual touch. And throughout our stay, the service was mostly stellar.
I liken this experience to being on a very upscale, first-rate cruise ship, where everything is included – except that here, you’ve also got access to a beautiful beach. Remember to bring your own pool tube – they were priced at $38 each across the street at the two-floor supermarket (where you can find some great souvenirs too).
Then, park your posterior in the water and remind yourself of how blessed and lucky you are to be in such a beautiful place. I most certainly whispered a sincere “Gracias” to the universe.
For more about my Wanderlust Travels, Please Follow me on Instagram at @Debbi Kickham.