Saturday, 26 November 2011

All Inclusive Resorts

The front page of the travel section of today's Vancouver Sun is about all inclusive resorts. In fact, most of the section is about Mexico - and as it happens I have just returned from the Mayan Riviera where we stayed in two such resorts - the Hotel Catalonia Yucatan Beach and the Grand Serenis Mayan Beach. In fact both hotels are in large enclosed developments ('gated communities' in US speak) and both have two hotels sharing their sites.

The article claims that all inclusive resorts are now better than they were ten years ago. In the fourth paragraph Celeste Moure states "Neither one of us had ever stayed at an all-inclusive" - yet she has just spent three paragraphs ripping them apart. She also claims that additional charges are a thing of the past. Based on one hotel she has experienced - or two that I have. Both hotels practice the art of up selling from the moment you check in. Whatever standard of room you bought, there is the potential to go better - for an extra charge. At the Hotel Catalonia they also charge extra to use the in room safe ($3 a night) and both charge extra for internet usage (Catalonia's wi fi is at least free in the lobby if you brought your own computer).

Yucatan beach

Serenis is the most aggressive having a "Premium Travellers' Club" they want everyone to join, to get better suites, better booze in the mini bar and a special section on the beach equipped with four poster beds. The sales pitch is more like a time share - and in fact if you do join the club you can use the fee as a downpayment on some swamp land they have for sale. They told us we would get free internet and a beach bag if we listened to a 90 minute presentation - which actually took three hours before we got up and walked out. They were also unable to improve on Corona - why there is choice of all drinks except beer I do not understand.

Mayan Beach

Both hotels will provide special meals at extra cost - the Serenis even has one of its "a la carte" restaurants charge extra. And at any dinner anything other than house wine will cost plenty. Bottles of Chilean wine that retail here for $13 (with BC Liquor mark ups and taxes) are sold for over US$40.

The tips may have been included in the price, but as with cruise ships, if you show willing to hand out dollar bills, service dramatically improves. The tour company's rep also recommended tipping the maids, bell boys and bus drivers.

All that being said, the holidays are still excellent value for money. Serenis does have a new room service menu that it introduced just as we left - again, most of it at extra cost. We did not try that, but I was charmed to find that behind the bar they do have a genuine 12 year single malt. Glennfiddich. And there was no extra charge for that.