Tag: Mexico

Mar 08

The Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta

The Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta

Posted by Laura Snow on March 7, 2015 1

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Nestled in the Puerto Vallarta Marina beach strip, the Casa Magna Marriott is a beautiful beachfront resort, with a full conference center, five restaurants, three pools and a fantastic fitness centre. The tropical grounds of the resort are covered in cacti, palm trees, flowering vines and lush gardens. The moment we walked through the front entrance, I immediately felt like I was in a tropical paradise. When you walk up the front steps you can see straight through the other side of the building to the pool and beach!

The hotel is very close to the airport, which is amazing when you just want to get to your hotel and put on cooler clothes on your arrival. It’s set outside of the downtown area, but still only a 10-15 minute bus or taxi ride to the city center or hotel zone. We had no trouble getting around Puerto Vallarta during our stay, and greatly enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of the area. The Casa Magna is not an all-inclusive hotel so has fewer people who just came to drink and party.  Even though we left our kids at home we appreciated the family atmosphere. There are three golf courses near-by, the hotel has a five star spa and you can do many water activities right from the beach in front of the hotel.

The marina is only a five-minute walk from the hotel, and has many shops, services, restaurants, boat charters and dive shops. We spent a lot of time there since we took a scuba diving trip from PV Scuba in the marina. The marina has a totally different feel at night with many open air restaurants and boats all lit up.

The grounds, pool areas, and guest areas at the hotel were kept very clean. Our bed was extremely comfortable and the room had everything we needed. You have to pay for internet in the room but wifi is free and very fast in the lobby and pool area.

All of the staff at the hotel were very friendly, and helpful especially the bellhops at the front door of the hotel. They helped us get taxis, let us know where we could walk to and remembered us when we came back.

There are many locals selling their hats, jewellery, blankets and souvenirs on the beach in front of the hotel every day. They are very nice people. Talk to them. If you don’t want to buy anything just tell them no a few times and then start a conversation. They love to talk and often have questions about where you’re from!

We ate at three of the restaurants on site and I would highly recommend any of the Mexican dishes from any of them. The buffet was excellent with many, made to order, items including a local specialty: Chicadiles. This breakfast plate is made with taco chips, eggs, shredded chicken, ranchero sauce and cheese. My husband highly recommends it! There were also made to order omelettes and breakfast fajitas! My favourite drink at the Casa Magna was a fresh juice made from cactus, celery, orange juice and some other veggies/fruits I can’t remember. It was delicious and I had it almost every day. I would not recommend getting the american style food at the resort – the “american” cheese isn’t what we’re used to. It’s a much better idea to order the local food, and try new things!

The hotel has a fantastic view of the ocean, and city, especially at night. I was also lucky enough to see a humpback whale, in the ocean, from the hotel on my last day. The rooms all seem to have a wonderful view, but we really liked ours, with the sun setting over the ocean, directly in front of the balcony.

The beach was a little rough, at times, to swim in, but clean and warm. My husband did not hesitate to play in the waves, more than once! I stuck to the pool, which was warm and had a pool bar!

While we were at the Casa Magna, Marriott Hotels had a program going on with Go Pro where you could test drive a Go Pro Hero 4 camera. This was such a fun opportunity! We took the Go Pro with us on our scuba dive to Los Arcos and are so happy we have a video to remember it by!

via The Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta.

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Feb 21

Beware of the Hidden Mega Resort!

Looks like a beautiful Resort, But beware, it is larger than you think!

Looks like a beautiful Resort, But beware, it is larger than you think!

I am finding a disturbing trend in the resort industry. It’s been known for awhile now that most people don’t really like a resort with 2,000 plus rooms in it. In fact the perfect maximum size seems to be between 6-750 rooms. If you find a resort with say 1-200 rooms, many people would expect to pay a premium for this type of location.

This is creating a dilemma for the resort operators that want to have as many people as possible per square metre of ground space as this means maximum revenues can be achieved. So what is “their” solution? It seems the trend is to still put up these mega resorts, but to simply divide them into smaller sections called … wait for it … Resorts!!

That’s right; they have a layout of say 2,000 rooms, running down to the beach. It has a centre pool area and specialty restaurants at the top and somewhere near the bottom. You know the ones I am talking about. Here is the Steak, the Italian, the Japanese, the Seafood, etc.

So here is what is happening. All the rooms to the left of the pools are called Resort “A” and the ones to the right of the resort are called Resort “B”. Now they can advertise a resort of 1,000 rooms instead of the 2,000 rooms. But wait, it gets better. This number is still too large for that magic figure, so they take the rooms closest to the beach and make them Premium and … you guessed it, these are now another Resort. Let’s say “C” and “D” of 250 rooms each. These rooms are usually “Adult Only” and come with Premium drinks a private small, sometimes very small private pool area and so on.

You are looking at 6 different resorts when advertized to you.

You are looking at 6 different resorts when advertized to you.

Now the main two resorts are now reduced to that magic number of 750 rooms each. Here is where it get’s nasty in my books. If, for the entire 2,000 rooms, there are say 7 specialty restaurants, they are available to everyone at all the “Resorts”. The same goes for the main pool area and sometimes the one pool swim up bar and other bars. So, what is advertised to us, the buyers of these rooms? They will tell the tour operator the following

  • 750 rooms
  • 7 specialty restaurants
  • 2 buffet restaurants
  • 8 bars (only one open at night in the main lounge area)
  • 1 large swim up bar
  • 1 Gym
  • 1 Spa
  • Beautiful beach area.

The problem is that this is all true except all of these services are being shared and sought after by 2,000 room guests or say 4,500 people.

4,500 people competing for

  • Restaurants
  • Seating at the bar areas and show areas
  • Spa appointments
  • And a seat by the pool or beach.

Any experienced traveler knows in these situations, that if you have one person in your party that is an early riser, they are elected to travel to “your” spot and claim your chairs for the day with the old towel and book routine.

But, we, as innocent travelers arrive at our 750 room resort with all of the restaurants and amities, do not feel the need to rush down and select your reservations for the entire week and guess what happens? You are at the buffet for most of your trip, you missed the lobster that you saw in the picture and it takes you 4 days to figure out the towel and book routine.

Of course, the Premium section does not have to go to the main guest services to book the restaurants. They have a special number to call or a private guest services that will either book the restaurants for you or in some cases, sometimes depending on your tip in advance, will watch for a cancellation and get you in whatever night you want.

Have a closer look at the bottom of the map, you will see two of the "lobbies"

Have a closer look at the bottom of the map, you will see two of the “lobbies”

So, what do we do about all of this? Can we boycott it and expect it to change? On a trip I took last year to Mexico, this really became apparent to me and started me on this research. I called the resort and they said this is normal business, I called the tour operator and they said they cannot check on the facts sent to them from every resort and have to assume they are telling us the truth.

Well, that was a year ago and you will still find the same resorts advertized as smaller ones. With a very small amount of work, it is easy to figure out. The resorts do not hid it once you are there, so if you find pictures people take of the resort maps, of the names of the resorts as you drive in, you will pick up on this.  As well all most any resort built more than 10 years ago is most likely a single resort. It is the newer ones that are constructed to take advantage of this.

To give you some examples of this, and yes, I know you are waiting for this part, let look at the Majestic / Colonial resorts in Punta Cana of an example of this done right. Here they have two resorts next to each other. I say next to because everything advertized as being in one resort is in that resort. There are no ads to my knowledge where they include any restaurants from the sister resort.

They have the Colonial and the Elegance resorts. Each has its own pool areas, their own restaurants, etc. but you can walk from on to the other easily.  

In Mexico we have the newer style example. For example, you can book a room at the Grand Sunset Princess but, at least through Canadian tour operators, you cannot book a room or even have a hint that, across the pool the Grand Sunset Riviera exists. I just re-confirmed now and they still advertize that this resort has the following:

Property Amenities : • 672 Room(s) • 12 Pool(s) • Medical Centre ($) • Beauty Salon ($) • Air Conditioned Gym/ Fitness Centre • Jacuzzi • Kids pool • 11 Restaurant(s) • 9 Bar(s)

Once you arrive, you will discover that most of these are shared between over 2,100 rooms. To me, this just does not seem right and YOU need to be aware of this beforehand.

What can we really do? Check out the resorts. I strongly recommend that you read the reviews I have posted here at http://StevesTravelBlog.com and everyone’s reviews at TripAdvisor.com Spend one hour researching the Resort, not for what you want, but what you now know you do not want. Ask questions on blogs and you usually will receive answers quickly.

I hope this has helped you have a great upcoming vacation.

Yes, that is my hand and I was being a "Crazy Gringo!" but having fun at this huge resort.

Yes, that is my hand and I was being a “Crazy Gringo!” but having fun at this huge resort.

On a final note, I am not saying that you will not have a great time at these resorts. Most people have an awesome time, I just want you to get what you pay for. I would guess that up to 80% of travelers go for the fun in the sun, the more the better and only go indoors to grab a bite at the buffet and to sleep. It is for the ones that enjoy the extras and the atmosphere expected that may experience disappointment without this information. At the Resort(s) I am talking about in this article, the staff were all fantastic. 

Enjoy, travel well, and I just might bump into you somewhere this spring season.

 


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