[Update 2015-06-23 1:10 PM EST: I’ve added more photos throughout the blog to show more of the resort]
My wife wanted to celebrate her joint birthday with her cousin this year. He and his girlfriend have a small daughter and they wanted a place that was family friendly, meals all included, and had kids pool and activities. My wife and I normally prefer backpacking and eating with the locals rather than All Inclusives (AIs), but after some research we found a happy compromise and we all booked at the Royalton Riviera resort in Cancun, Mexico.
We had a real blast – it was a great relaxing vacation enjoyed by every one of us.
Recently a colleague was hesitating between Royalton and another resort and asked me if he should go there with his family. I decided to blog my answers to his questions in the hopes that it helps someone else make up their mind.
The resort is south of the Cancun airport and is relatively quick to get to from there. It sits alone along a long windy road through a mangrove swamp – as a result you are probably not going to want to plan day trips away from it (a taxi to downtown Cancun might cost $40 USD or more).
The resort is enormous (1000 rooms) but is modern (less than a year old), beautiful, and well laid out – it has good traffic flow but also lots of smaller nooks and crannies, pools and little bars. As a result it never felt too crowded, even at mealtimes.
Service is attentive and friendly. Apparently when the place opened about 9 months ago it was understaffed and is still a little on the thin side but we never had reason to complain. Most of the staff speaks English but if you try to speak Spanish to the staff they are happy to oblige, which my wife and I liked.
On one side of the resort is an adult only wing that is called the “Hideaway”.
Bearing in mind that rooms might change depending on which package you choose – each room has an electronic locked safe with a great feature – USB plugs inside the safe so you can charge up your devices even while they are locked in the room. The rooms are clean and airy, and seem well sound proofed.
Activities and Events – the Event staff seemed really energetic and fun – we adults just lazed around all day so we didn’t take advantage of the daytime entertainment, but there were some awesome-looking water balloon fights in the pool during the day and there was a good Kids Club for babysitting.
At night they put on shows – one that impressed me was an Aztec sacrifice / fire ceremony (it was perhaps a bit too dramatic for young kids). On another night they showed some acrobatics and play-acted some children’s tales which the little kids seemed to love. There were also bunny mascots wandering around during the day and clown shows with balloon making.
There is great and fast wifi access everywhere, even on the beach. I enjoyed relaxing in the sun and checking email or browsing from time to time.
The food is exceptional – some of the best we’ve had at a resort. Endless variety, the buffet never got boring, no one ever got sick, and the restaurants were fun too. There is a dress code in some of the restaurants (ex long sleeves, bermuda shorts or long pants for men) so make sure you pack something nice to eat out with.
If you drink alcohol then you can order the top-shelf liquour there and they don’t seem to water down the drinks. Hanging out at the central bar was also fun and was a nightly ritual.
Timeshares and the Towel Game
The Sunwing (charter flight) staff we arrived with warned us in advance that upon check-in you will be greeted by Time Share operators who try to “help you check in” and then try to convince you to do a tour and breakfast with them where they try to sell you Time Shares. Duly warned, we politely told our assigned operator we weren’t interested, and then spent a pleasant few minutes chatting with him as our room was prepared. So, that was no real issue but it’s something to be aware of.
The major annoyance is the “Towel Game” – where other tourists try to “reserve” seats at the pool or beach (or both) by leaving their towels around, and then show up late or not at all. This is apparently a real problem in lots of places and we saw a couple of fights over this practice. It’s pretty lazy and greedy for someone to do that I think. This isn’t the resort’s fault and seems hard for them to control. Luckily they have lots of lounge chairs and hammocks so the problem was reduced somewhat.
There were some vendors on the beach but they were polite, not insistent, and not too numerous (since the resort is south of Cancun).
Seaweed – there is lots of it if you go swimming in the ocean there. I personally hung out at the pools or in a hammock on the beach so this didn’t concern me much. The beach itself is very beautiful.
Bugs – there were some mosquitoes since the resort is between the ocean and a mangrove swamp – nothing too bad though (more a minor annoyance). We didn’t see any other bugs.
If you want to feel pampered at a family-friendly resort, I highly recommend this.