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El Dorado Royale Resort (Cancun, Mexico)

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Address: Km 45 Carretera Cancun / Cancun 77710 / Mexico

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      16.07.2009 20:03
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      Very, very highly recommended indeed

      I spent ten days at the EDR last January, and it ranks right up there with the best holidays i've ever had. I've been to a number of similarly or higher-priced All Inclusives in the Caribbean (Grenada, St Lucia, Barbados) and for me, this place blew them all out of the water. Here's a summary of the bits which make it brilliant!

      Location
      EDR is about a 30 minute drive south of Cancun and its international airport. It's well located for visiting the main attractions in the area - i won't go into a lot of detail on these as they're reviews in themselves, but Tulum is the most southerly at about 90 minutes away, with the other tourist hotspots (Xel-Ha, Xcaret etc) in between. Unlike some of the Caribbean islands, there are a hundred fabulous things to do in this part of Mexico - from amazing Maya ruins to swimming in crystal clear Cenotes (underground rivers where the top has fallen in so parts are open to the sky).

      A multi-lane highway runs north-south along the coast, and the turning in to EDR takes you through what is basically quite thick jungle for a few minutes - we even had to stop to let a couple of spider monkeys get out of the road. A promising start!

      We arrived just as the sun was going down, and were greeted with the usual chilled towel and miscellaneous champagne / cocktail business - personally all i ever want when i get off of a long flight is three pints of water and *then* a cold beer, but i seem to be alone in this! Anyway, checkin was reasonably swift, and my request for a room well away from the evening entertainment venue was granted, although that for an upper floor room wasn't. I believe that is something to do with First Choice though, i heard on the grapevine that they have some stupid 'elf and safety restriction against their customers falling off of balconies and suing them. We were parted from our luggage (another one of those mildly annoying "luxury service" foibles - i'd rather drag mine down a few steps than then have to go through the waiting and tipping routine, but it comes with the territory) and directed to our room.

      ~ The rooms ~

      As with most of these places, there are about six categories of room, although i suspect that the difference between the basic room cost and the higher ones was bigger than average - personally i never upgrade, after all 99% of your holiday happens outside your room and you're getting all the same facilities as the upgraders. However there is a major divide here between "normal" rooms and what they call "casitas". The latter are all together on one side of the resort, are larger and slightly more luxurious, but do also come with privileges - only casita guests can pre-book dinner reservations, they get dedicated palapas / loungers on one part of the beach, and dedicated loungers around some smaller pool areas - clever ruse here by the EDR, the brochure say "X pools" available to all guests because technically you may *use* any pool, you just can't use the loungers around the Casita ones so in practise you just won't bother! However, you pays your money and you takes your choice; Casita rates were almost double what we paid for our standard Garden View room, and i didn't feel hard done by in the least!

      Our room was smartly, neutrally decorated with marble flooring and dark wood furniture, and featured two double beds with canopies over, and a massive jacuzzi tub under the window. I thought this was a gimmick we wouldn't use, but actually we did end up using it most nights, it was a fun way to relax and cool down before bed. Plus, a bathroom larger than most people's bedrooms with two sinks and a huge walk in shower. Usual mod cons in terms of satellite TV, tea & coffee making stuff, minibar - kept stocked with water, soft drinks and beer. Outside, we had a small private terrace with hammocks (mmm!) and chairs. Most importantly to me, the beds were really comfortable ( i slept like a baby every single night), the hot water was plentiful, and it was quiet - no maids shouting in the outside corridor at midnight, or gardeners mowing the lawn on the other side at 4am, both of which seem to be common practise at other high end resorts i've been to.

      After a quick change of clothes, we headed out for supper. It was about then that i knew for certain we were in for a fabulous couple of weeks. The resort itself is spread over a huge area, it takes maybe 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. All of it has beautifully landscaped palm filled gardens, and at night the curving pathways were lit by fairy lights around the trunks of the palms. It looked just magical.

      ~ Food and drink ~

      There's a bar of some kind roughly every five minutes when walking around the resort - one by each pool, and some larger ones. My absolute favorite, where we stopped off that night on the way to supper, was in a huge palm-roofed building, open to the air at the sides, and had king-size beds on massive ropes hanging from the ceiling. The whole place was lit by candles and soft lights, and was very tranquil early in the evening (less so later when the entertainment started!). It's very hard not to be delighted with life when you're lounging on a huge, slighly swaying bed, consuming the first of many free cocktails (all inclusive, remember). For those who are fussy about such things (i'm not!), premium internation brand spirits were available at some of the bars, you just had to keep an eye out and ask the bartender if necessary. The local beer, Dos Equis, was a pleasant and refreshing lager which was on tap at every bar - i'm usually a Stella drinker and this did me just fine. Extensive cocktails featuring everything under the sun could be got anywhere. And the wine...well let's say nobody goes to Mexico for the wine, do they. Actually their house white and red were both Chilean and perfectly palatable, but any brands you might recognise had to be actually paid for (imagine!!) and were definitely pricey.

      Restaurant wise, that first night we went to JoJos, an open air place where you could eat caribbean-inspired cuisine whilst listening to the waves break on the beach next to you. I got rather obsessed with their giant shrimp with black beans and plantain, followed by the best banana tarte tatin i've ever had. On one night, we were even offered lobster within our all inclusive, although i had to turn it down as it was a "pick a live one from the tank" arrangement, which gives me the creeps. I'm perfectly well aware that all the fish i ate had to be killed at some point, but actually pointing the finger is beyond me. And yes for the record, if there were no butchers i would starve!

      Other food options included a mediterranean place, an Asian restaurant (awesome - they had superb sushi and you could just keep it coming for as long as you wanted!), and Italian and a Mexican - the latter served more traditional food (cochinita pibil, smoked marlin tostadas, mmmmm) at lunch, although the evening stuff was "gourmet" mexican gone mad (scallops with white chocolate mole, only without the chilli so as not to upset the feeble of digestion, so more like scallops with custard really) and i personally wished they'd stuck to Burritos and so on.

      The restaurants are described as "gourmet a la carte" - ie, you chose from menus - rather than buffet based, so the food was prepared fresh and beautifully presented. Portions are small because they expect you to have four or five courses, but any time you want more, just order a double portion. One of the restaurants did run buffet style at breakfast, which was great because i don't wish to converse with anyone much before 10am and was much happier helping myself to a huge glass of watermelon juice, a stack of french toast and some tropical fruit. On the whole i really, really enjoyed the food, but i think one small improvement would be to have a casual dining option for the evening. There were one or two days when we'd been out and about in our hired Jeep all day and were shattered ,and really just wanted to do the equivalent of vegging out on the sofa with a bowl of pasta. Those days, i found the elaborate multiple courses and formal waiter service a bit overwhelming. In the end i figured out my own solution - order a double portion of just a main course which you like, and get them to bring rice or fries with it to make a normal size one-plate meal. Still, a "steak and chips" bar would have made the place absolutely 110% perfect for me.

      During the day there was also a "healthy bar" place which did massive smoothies / fresh juices plus salads, nachos and guacamole etc. That tended to be my second breakfast squeezed in before lunch - a milk, honey, papya, oat and cinammon smoothie, just to keep my strength up!!

      One incredibly important thing i didn't mention yet, which was right up there with our reasons for choosing the EDR: it's adults only. No wailing babies in the room above us; no tantrumming toddlers screaming around the pool or mashing food into the floor in the restaurants. I really love my peace and quiet and this resort totally delivered - they'd managed to resist playing loud music anywhere outside of the evening entertainment / nightclub area too.

      ~ Recreation ~

      So, in between eating, drinking and, er, eating again, we sometimes found ourselves with a few hours to kill. There were two huuuuge landscaped pools, usually with nobody much in them (the water WAS quite chilly, but in general i think that's a good thing!) and with giant four poster pool beds around them. I did spend a fair amount of time asleep, again, on one of those! There was an issue about lounger / pool bed hogging i'm afraid - most were "bagged" by 8am and your choice was, be a martyr and enjoy sitting on your (hard) moral high ground, or just get in there and join the competition. As we were on a jetlagged up at 6am schedule, we always got a bed, but we did try to be considerate and give it up if we were going out for a couple of hours, not everyone did the same. That could easily be cured if the staff just moved any belongings left unattended for more than a couple of hours, but I guess they preferred to let the "lounger wars" rumble on quietly rather than tackle the problem.

      The beach is the one area where this resort isn't 100%. After the most recent hurricane, much of the sand was washed away and the currents changed so that huge sandbags had to be put in the water to protect what was left. The sand itself is soft and white, and the water is turquoise and clear inside the lagoon areas made by the sandbags; but yes, there are these huge black lumps (think dead killer whale size!) somewhat spoiling the view and preventing you swimming out to open water. Didn't bother me a bit, but if your "thing" is spending all day on the beach with that perfect tropical view, you need to go further south down the coast to the Maroma, Playa del Carmen or Tulum areas where the beaches are more perfect. If you're really hankering for a perfect beach day, a 20 minute shuttle trip takes you to Maroma Beach (£5 for beach only access or included for free with numerous activities available such as bananaboating, horseriding, waterskiing etc) which has endless pure white sand and tranquil water.

      You could also borrow bikes to ride around the resort or out into the jungle trails, and there were numerous (dis)organised activities like water polo, football on the beach, aerobic etc available. Oh and a very well equipped gym (who the hell goes to the gym in a place like this?! certainly not me!) with sauna and steam room, and two very high end spas. You could also get sunset massages on a platform overlooking the beach, if your body could take any more sheer bliss. The spa treatments were more expensive than at home though, so I went when i got home instead as a way of getting over the sheer stress of not being pampered 24 hours a day any more.

      If there's one thing i would say is bad about these places, it's the culture shock when you get home. What, i don't have a choice of 150 different things for supper?! AND, i have to clean up afterwards??! For the first few days after i got back i literally felt like i'd been expelled from heaven, if i believed in such things. Still, i have fantastic memories, and for what we paid (about £1,500 each for 10 days, including flights with extra legroom upgrade) it was worth every penny.

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    • Product Details

      All-inclusive 5 star adult only beach resort in Mexico.