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Carribean Resorts... way too many choices!!

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  • May 24th, 2017 12:04 am
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[OP]
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Nov 22, 2015
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Carribean Resorts... way too many choices!!

I'm looking to experience my first resort vacation this June... overwhelmed by all the different price points and different resorts available. Anyone have recommendations?

I've been on 6 cruises but have never been to a resort - my wife wants me to try it. I've been on Princess, RCCL, Disney, Celebrity and Norwegian ships, if anyone here can use that for a comparison. I've heard that resort food is nowhere near what they serve on a cruise, and I've lowered my expectations accordingly... still, I'd like to go to a resort that serves decent to good food.

We're looking to spend around $1300 each, including taxes, for the week. Based on what's available on Expedia for the dates of our trip... I think I have it narrowed down to 2 resorts. Then again, I thought I had it narrowed down last night, but changed my mind and picked 2 completely new resorts to consider.

These are the two that we are currently considering:
Grand Bahia Principe Tulum
Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda

This is the one I almost booked last night only to change my mind:
Catalonia Gran Dominicus

What do you think?
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Oct 23, 2008
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I'm afraid you really can't compare cruising to all-inclusive resorts (especially food). I think if you prefer the cruise environment you're going to have to only consider 5+ star adult only resorts. Try looking into other islands like St. Lucia and Turks/Caicos.
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[OP]
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chimaican wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 8:05 pm
I'm afraid you really can't compare cruising to all-inclusive resorts (especially food). I think if you prefer the cruise environment you're going to have to only consider 5+ star adult only resorts. Try looking into other islands like St. Lucia and Turks/Caicos.
What's more confusing is the star system!! Expedia will say a resort is 5 stars, but Trip Advisor will say it's 3.5* with reviews like "this resort is maybe 3 stars, not 5".

I've never been to an all-inclusive so I can't say for sure what I prefer.

I tried to narrow my search using Trip Advisor to find highly reviewed, 4 to 4.5 star resorts (according to TripAdvisor). What do you think of the 3 resorts I linked in the OP?
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I just read your budget is $1300pp so I guess my above suggestion won't be helpful.

I've been to Gran Bahia Principe Coba (sister hotel of Tulum) twice. I find that Coba would be more relaxing to you however it depends on what you're into. Tulum is closer to the nicer beach if you prefer sand but Coba has better pools. You have access to both compounds. Either way, the resorts along the Riveria Maya tend to be very rocky as its off a natural coral reef. That resort also 2 more premiere hotels (Akumal and ???) that costs more but has bettter service.
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You need to understand that the hotel star system is based upon the number of services & amenities not a class system. So when comparing resort stars do not base it on what we have in Canada/US. I recommend do at least 4* regardless which
Caribbean country you choose. My rule of thumb is -1 star for Mexican & Dominican resorts, and -2 for Cuban resorts. Jamaica is pretty much on par. St.Lucia, Turks etc should be pretty on par too.

When you read tripadvisor you need to sort through the whiners. Some reviewers just like to complain. I mean, you have people complain about bugs in a tropical country, how stupid is that? Or people complain about poor maintenance at Cuban hotels... come on, it's pretty much a third world country with a USA trade embargo.
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chimaican wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 8:19 pm
I just read your budget is $1300pp so I guess my above suggestion won't be helpful.

I've been to Gran Bahia Principe Coba (sister hotel of Tulum) twice. I find that Coba would be more relaxing to you however it depends on what you're into. Tulum is closer to the nicer beach if you prefer sand but Coba has better pools. You have access to both compounds. Either way, the resorts along the Riveria Maya tend to be very rocky as its off a natural coral reef. That resort also 2 more premiere hotels (Akumal and ???) that costs more but has bettter service.
$1300 is more of a psychological upper limit. I figure I should try an average-to-good resort at a comparable price to a cruise, so I have an idea of value for money. We could afford a 5*, but that's hardly fair to compare it against, say, our most recent Norwegian cruise, considering that it would cost significantly more than what an inside cabin on an average cruise. It also helped to narrow it down a little... without the $1300 that I came up with, I found myself looking at wildly varying price points and justifying paying slightly more for a different/better resort.
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Forget Cuba if you want good food. It won't happen. Dominican Republic is bet.ter but not great

Mexico is better than DR. Jamaica and other much more expensive islands have the best food in the Caribbean.

I stayed at the Rui Vallarta and I highly recommend it. Good food, very nice hotel, lots of amenities and you get the use of the resort next door too.
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I have this theory that the more southern you go in the Caribbean, the more better the food, service, and beaches overall. Reason being, the cheaper the resorts, the more it becomes all about quantity and not quality. They're not attracting people there for the food, more so for the weather and the value, that's it.

That's why St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Barbados command a higher price point.

That said, I agree with everyone here that Cuba is the worst for food, followed next level by Mexico, and then best in my opinion is Jamaica (jerk chicken, beef patties, spicy foods in general). Dominican Republic is generally about the same level as Mexico. I 've been to a destination wedding in the DR where the bride hired a private chef that she hired from one of the more higher end resorts in the DR, and cooked for us the entire week at the villa she rented out. Cost to us all was $3000/person (flight and lodgings/food included), and it was worth it but just that once for what it was.

That said, whenever we want to do a quick Caribbean trip, Jamaica and DR are our top choices, then followed by Mexico. Keep in mind, when you're down there, all of the resorts have some kind of agreement with tour companies that will gouge you like no tomorrow. Some will not even let you book with them unless you tell them what resort you are staying at. This is so that they give you tourist pricing, and the resort gets a small cut. Besides, unless you're originally from there, look like the locals, and talk like the locals, you stick out like a sore thumb wherever you go, that much is obvious.

Personally, 5 days is the most I'll want to do an all-inclusive. Your first time you can enjoy the full week but after that, it gets very boring in my opinion. Time literally goes by a lot slower when you have nothing to do, where cruises have activities around the clock, the most all-inclusives will have is a morning exercise class, often in the pool. The rest of the day you lie on the beach and get a tan, or go on excursions which are overpriced for what they are.

Please don't forget to tip the staff, especially your room attendant. They refill your fridge, clean your sheets and pillow everyday. You can either pay all at once when you leave or a little bit everyday. They work hard around the clock and unlike Canada, their lack of standard wages means the resort can pay them pennies so your $2-$5 USD a day goes a long way for them.
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Cuba does have great beaches though. ;)
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Jun 15, 2015
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superfresh89 wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 7:37 pm
I'm looking to experience my first resort vacation this June... overwhelmed by all the different price points and different resorts available. Anyone have recommendations?

I've been on 6 cruises but have never been to a resort - my wife wants me to try it. I've been on Princess, RCCL, Disney, Celebrity and Norwegian ships, if anyone here can use that for a comparison. I've heard that resort food is nowhere near what they serve on a cruise, and I've lowered my expectations accordingly... still, I'd like to go to a resort that serves decent to good food.

We're looking to spend around $1300 each, including taxes, for the week. Based on what's available on Expedia for the dates of our trip... I think I have it narrowed down to 2 resorts. Then again, I thought I had it narrowed down last night, but changed my mind and picked 2 completely new resorts to consider.

These are the two that we are currently considering:
Grand Bahia Principe Tulum
Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda

This is the one I almost booked last night only to change my mind:
Catalonia Gran Dominicus

What do you think?
The Bahia Principe Tulum is your best option.

Catalonia is a very mediocre chain- the Blue Bay Grans is on a terrible beach.

You can certainly find something comparable to cruising (in regards to food and luxury) but to be honest you will have to up your price point.

Also trip advisor ratings are an algaraythm based on reviews submitted. Expedia reviews are based on the contracted agreement between Expedia and the resort.

You are looking at 4* and 4.5* resorts- I would certainly look a bit higher if you are an avid cruiser.

Also highly suggest an adults only.
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our food was pretty good in Cuba, its a cheap holiday thats pretty decent quality. its not 5 stars by any means, but its probably the best bang for your buck for a holiday.
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chimaican wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 8:05 pm
I'm afraid you really can't compare cruising to all-inclusive resorts (especially food). I think if you prefer the cruise environment you're going to have to only consider 5+ star adult only resorts. Try looking into other islands like St. Lucia and Turks/Caicos.
BrunetteGirl wrote:
Mar 21st, 2017 9:38 am
The Bahia Principe Tulum is your best option.

Catalonia is a very mediocre chain- the Blue Bay Grans is on a terrible beach.

You can certainly find something comparable to cruising (in regards to food and luxury) but to be honest you will have to up your price point.

Also trip advisor ratings are an algaraythm based on reviews submitted. Expedia reviews are based on the contracted agreement between Expedia and the resort.

You are looking at 4* and 4.5* resorts- I would certainly look a bit higher if you are an avid cruiser.

Also highly suggest an adults only.
I took your advice and looked into 5*. We found an acceptable price at the Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an; we just have to shift our vacation to start on a Wednesday.

I'm thinking this is a much better choice than my original ones...
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superfresh89 wrote:
Mar 22nd, 2017 9:24 am
I took your advice and looked into 5*. We found an acceptable price at the Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an; we just have to shift our vacation to start on a Wednesday.

I'm thinking this is a much better choice than my original ones...
Be aware that Sian is on the other side of the main highway (googlemap it). To access the beach you will have to take the hotel gulf-carts over the resort access bridge. This probably isn't much of an issue as the only two (older) hotels on this massive lot actually sit adjacent to the beach (Akumal & Tulum). There are a lot of golf carts that bring you from place to place. The good thing about Sian is that it is isolated from the other 3 hotels (which you have access to).
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Shaner wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 8:58 pm
Forget Cuba if you want good food. It won't happen.
I will disagree on that. Depends on what you think a good food should be. To me fresh fruit, veggies and grilled fish I can eat my entire life. And to me everytime I go to Cuba 2 or 5 star resort I can get without any issues.
If you are however looking for fancy, high end dining experience, not gonna happen.
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chimaican wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 9:30 pm
Cuba does have great beaches though. ;)
Correction.......... beaches, people, safety and food :) all the reasons to go there.
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