Monday, February 29, 2016

Mexico: Day 2 - Checking Out the Grand, Bike Ride, and Tony's

We came from the Pacific Time Zone, and Riviera Maya is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you would think we would have a hard time getting up in the morning.

Not this morning, as for some reason, we both popped up right around 7am, just as the sun was coming up.


And this was a very cool view; we are used to the sun setting on the ocean. We poured ourselves some juice from our mini-bar and watched the sun rise.



Paradise.



While we were getting ready to go to breakfast, the phone rang. It was the concierge, asking if we wanted to meet someone from The Club. They had sat us down the day before and, while showing us maps of the property and telling us about activities, did The Club Spiel. I had read about this and it isn't a time share, but basically you pay a crazy amount of money and then get discounts on your room, a special spot on the beach (whenever we walked by this special area it was empty), and other perks. The day before when she gave her 5 minute talk, she asked if we wanted to meet someone, and we politely declined. But here she was calling us a bit early, to see if we wanted to come meet someone at breakfast. My Sweetie politely made it pretty clear that we were not interested, and they never bothered us again.


Breakfast at the buffet is very good. The buffet is huge, with two cooking stations that make any egg dish, and have sausages, bacon, and other dishes. There is a juice bar, all sorts of breads, cereals, fresh fruits, amazing looking donuts, a waffle bar, a place where they make fresh churros, and lots more.

Here was my plate.



I love passion fruit, and it has been years since I have had some!

We both found the bacon to be different. Almost like it was not fatty enough. The sausages were different too, but not inedible.

The service is amazing; the moment we are seated our drink orders are taken. Each morning I would get coffee and juice, but My Sweetie developed a taste for double espressos, and would order one each morning.

We went back to the room and I snapped this photo for my youngest and sent it to her on Facebook Messenger.




She had insisted that her doll be packed in our suitcase, and I wanted to make sure that she saw that dolly was having a good time.


 That reminds me about internet. I had switched my phone around to be able to work internationally, but we soon found that the phone coverage was not very reliable. Surprisingly, wi-fi was excellent at the Grand. I had read that it could be spotty, but there was a wi-fi box on the desk in our room and we had perfect internet access. Actually, almost everywhere we went we had good wi-fi, and found that Facebook Messenger was the best way to communicate with the kids back home.  For the record we only messaged them twice the whole week.


We wanted to get a feel for the rest of the resort so we walked to the lobby. It is about a ten minute walk from our room.


This is an outside corridor near our room.



To get to the lobby you walk through the main part of the hotel, this hallway. Rooms lead off of it and have views of the pool and gardens.







This is the end of that building; two of the restaurants are up the stairs. 





This is where you enter the lobby area. The Italian restaurant is right in this area.


This is the hallway circling the atrium. Off of this hallway there are a couple stores, a pool room, the music bar, and the lobby.





When you are in the center of the atrium you look up and see this:




At the lobby we found out that there are morning bike rides that happen between 10am and noon, and are a tour of the entire Iberostar property with a Star Friend. Star Friends are employees that do the entertaining. They play volleyball games, ping pong (that comes later in our trip), pool games, and are some of the happiest workers at the resort. Alejandro was the Star Friend leading the bike ride, and it just so happened that we were the only ones on the tour.



The tour took about an hour. There are 4 other resorts here: The Mayan, the Lindo, The Playa and the Beach. There is over 2,000 rooms in the entire complex, but I will tell you, I would have never guessed that. They go up in level, with guests staying at the Grand, able to visit all resorts and restaurants. Alejandro took us on a nice tour of them all. The other resorts were very nice looking, but definitely not as nice as the Grand. He also took us by the convention center, golf course, and tennis courts.

We also stopped and he gave us a tour of the main spa and shopping center, all of this on property and for Iberostar guests.



The tour took about an hour. I was really glad we did this on our first full day; it gave us a sense of everything Iberostar has to offer.


Lunch was at La Brisa, the buffet. I have to admit, the meal the night before was a very rich one for me, so today I noticed that I was missing my appetite.



We both tried the grilled lobster. This was the first disappointing item of the trip. Both our lobster had a strange taste and was soggy. I had read that sometimes the seafood is not cooked correctly so I was prepared for this, and seriously, cooks are allowed a mess-up every now and then.



After lunch we headed to the beach. The other four resorts use the same area of the beach and have blue towels, while the Grand has their own separate area, much nicer recliners, and yellow towels.




We walked down to the other section and it was much busier and a bit louder. And there were kids. Walking back into the Grand area the change was dramatic - it was quiet, the chairs were more spread out, and the atmosphere so much more relaxing.





Each time we went out to the beach, within 10 minutes we had a beach waiter coming to get our orders. Noberto was our beach waiter most of the time, and he did an excellent job.

Here we are trying a Chocolate Mudslide and a Margarita.



After a while we went to the spa pool. This is an indoor pool with a couple of hot tubs and fun water spouts. As you work your way down them, they get stronger and stronger, until at the end, you can barely stand, as it blasts you with water. There is also a juice bar here, and I had a yummy canteloupe-melon-cucumber concoction.


Back at our room, we got ready for dinner. Tonight we had reservations at Tony's, the surf and turf restaurant.

And this was waiting for us.


And this.



The day before when we had talked with our butler, I had asked him for some Havana Rum. I knew this stuff was tasty, and, up until last year, illegal to get in the states. He very nicely provided us with a full bottle.

And I won't tell you whether or not we consumed the whole thing during our trip.



Dinner was lovely.

This was the one restaurant where service did seem slow. Not too slow, but we probably waited 20 minutes for our entrees.

We decided on the seafood sampler for our appetizers.




I had done my homework and knew you could substitute things in the menu so for our main dishes, we both ordered porterhouse, but instead of the grilled lobster we asked them to steam it.



The steak was very good, and cooked exactly how we had asked. One of us got a more soggy lobster and the other got an great one. So today was a hit or miss with lobster.


We also got the Caesar Salad which was good.





For dessert we split a hazelnut cake and some ice cream.








I also got a Mexican Coffee, at the suggestion of our waiter. Made with both tequila and kahlua, this drink hits the spot.



Tony's was good, but could have been better. And the service was slower, but not so slow that we needed to say anything.



After dinner we went to the lobby bar.

My Sweetie tried a S*x on the Beach, which he found pretty sweet.



I got a Cucumber Mojito, which turned out to be one of our favorite drinks of the week. Not too sweet and delicious flavor.


We had a big day planned for tomorrow, so we skipped out on the show and went to bed early.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mexico Trip: Day 1

In January of 2016 My Sweetie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. And we decided to go to Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Honestly, I hate it when people say, "Oh, you mean Cancun?"

Yes, we flew into Cancun, but our destination was 30 minutes south, and our peaceful, quiet, and secluded resort is nothing like crazy Cancun.


We flew with American Airlines and had a connecting flight in Phoenix, but everything went very smoothly.




Because we were celebrating, we stayed at a very nice, all-inclusive resort, Iberostar Grand.

Before we came to this resort, I did lots of research. And the one blog that was most helpful was Iberostar Rocks, with all her detailed posts about this resort.

There are four other Iberostar properties that are adjacent to the Grand; as a Grand guest you can visit any of the other resorts and eat in their restaurants. (But seriously, who would want to leave the Grand?)



Upon arrival, we were told that because we were celebrating something special, they were upgrading us to an oceanfront room. This was a huge surprise, and was amazing.

The rooms are all pretty much alike at the Grand. The bathroom is near the door and very spacious, with a large Jacuzzi tub, shower, and two sinks at either end of the room.




The rest of the room was divided into two spaces, a sleeping and living area. We found the living area very functional, and used the table and chairs when we ordered room service. There was a wi-fi router in the desk and we had perfect wi-fi the entire time we were there.



The porch outside had a lovely swing...


and sofa.






And did I mention the view?


 {Taken from our porch}


This. Was. Amazing. And right outside our door.

The decor of the room was beautiful, and very elegant.


We had been in our room for about 5 minutes, when there was a knock at the door. It was our butler. Each wing and floor of the Grand has a butler. He answers any questions, arranges special things for your room, and is very helpful.

I knew there was a pillow menu, so he went over it with us, described a few, and we ordered a couple of pillows to try. I also knew you could ask for bottles of spirits if you wanted something special, so we asked for a bottle of Havana Rum.

After we got settled, we walked out to the beach for a quick toe dip in the warm water. Then back to get ready for dinner - tonight we were going to the buffet. The buffet is open each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are five a la carte restaurants that you can also eat at, but they do require reservations.


The buffet was almost overwhelming, as you can see from my plate; which was like, one of four plates.


I tried foi gras (I was surprised, I really liked the buttery taste), ceviche in many forms (I do love this dish), shrimp aspic (not too much taste, but I was fine with it), and raw lobster with toppings (tasteless, but the toppings were yummy).


My dessert plate, which was a fraction of the things offered.




We headed to the Lobby Bar, where we got margaritas.




We walked leisurely back to our room, then decided to go to the nightly show, but we weren't sure quite where the theater was. We went out and asked our butler, and he not only explained where the theater was, but insisted he drive us there in his cart. This was what we encountered the entire time we were here; if you needed help with something, the staff went above and beyond to help us get what we wanted.

The show on Mondays was the magic show, I don't have any photos, but it was entertaining and clean.

The time change was not a big deal for us, as we ended day one of our trip.