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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cancun, Mexico / Holiday Inn Arenas - All Inclusive

Christmas time 2011, Weekday, 5-nights, King suite #2419

Status perks

We received an upgrade to a suite, and a small welcome cake was delivered to our room after check-in. It was delicious!
The guestroom was located on the top/4th floor in the wing above the lobby. The first number of our guestroom must represent which building we were in, and the second one must be the floor level.

view from entrance
The room was great, except that our view was overlooking the street rather than the ocean. An ocean view would have been nicer; however, since we had paid for our room with points, and the suite was an upgraded room, we were happy to have received the suite upgrade.

There was a full size fridge in the kitchen area, as well as a stove, microwave, sink, coffee maker, two bottles of water, table with two chairs, and a couch.

The bedroom area contained a flatscreen TV, chair, king size bed, and two end tables with lamps. There were two plastic chairs and a small table on the balcony. 
The bathroom was near the guestroom entrance door, off from the kitchen area. The toilet and spacious walk-in shower were located behind a separate door from the vanity. If you wanted to use the toilet with the door shut, you would need to shut the door first, because there was not much room around the toilet, and the door almost scraped it when opening.

The vanity, and a hanging closet were located outside the bathroom. There was a safe and ironing board in the closet. 

The guestroom was clean and spacious, although there were a few minor issues. There were only a few hangers in the closet, and there was no iron. I called to request more hangers, and someone brought a couple within a few minutes. The refrigerator made so much noise, that we had to unplug it at night. The items in the freezer froze quickly; however, the inside of the refrigerator never got cold. 
The clock in the bedroom area was not set to the correct time, and we could not figure out how to fix it. Alarm instructions were written on the clock; however, there were no clock setting instructions. I have reset many different clocks in hotels before, so I was surprised that neither one of us could figure this one out. Fortunately, setting the correct time on the microwave clock was an easy feat.

The shower drain was sluggish, so I called to see if this could be fixed. No one came to the guestroom while we were there, and it did not appear that anyone had come while we were gone. My husband fiddled with the drain the next time he took a shower, and it seemed to drain slightly faster after this.

The guestroom directory said that this hotel has a pillow menu, and that we could request feather pillows. I called to request a firm and a soft feather pillow; however, we were not able to get these because no one was familiar with the fact that these are offered. My call was referred to housekeeping, and no one ever called me back or brought pillows after I made the request.

The directory said that Internet service is free; however, when I tried to connect, a "pre-paid" access code was needed to access the Internet. When I asked at the front desk about Internet access for Platinum members, I was given a free sign on code. I do not know if other guests had to pay for a code. I observed guests using computers in the business center, and a code was needed to use those computers as well.

The bed was comfortable, and housekeeping did an excellent job cleaning the guestroom, other than not sending someone to fix the slow shower drain. You would think they would have noticed this every time they cleaned the shower. We left a small tip each day, and received two bottles of fresh water each day. I am not sure if this is standard for suite guestrooms, or if this was a perk we received. We greatly appreciated the bottled water in the room because I observed other guests signing to charge bottled water to their room at the bars.

Pool & beach
The beach area at this resort is much smaller than I realized when I had looked at the photos online. The are a few huts and chairs in front of the massage tables/Relaxing pool, the children's play area, and the main pool and dining area. The beach area is only about 10' to 15' deep in most areas, and the chairs were not comfortable. The ocean water in front of the resort is calm, and this seems to be an area where seaweed floats in. The staff did an excellent job raking the seaweed and beach everyday.

view from beach chair
All of the loungers at the beach and at the main pool, were hard plastic. The only loungers with cushions were located at the Relaxing pool (where we ended up hanging out everyday after a short time on the beach). The first day, I asked if we could get cushions for our beach loungers, and I was told no. Before the end of our stay, we observed guests taking the cushions from unused loungers and carrying them to loungers on the beach.

view from Relaxing pool
The view from the Relaxing pool was good, and the loungers in this location were the most comfortable. The pool is small, and it was not heated. The larger main pool, where the activities were held, was also not heated. There were never very many guests at the pool where we sat, and we always had our choice of seats, no matter how early or late we arrived at the pool area.

There were a lot of local guests at this resort during our stay (many from Mexico City on vacation), who did not hang out in the pool areas at the start of our stay. We left New Year's Eve day, and it seemed there were more guests in the pool area and on the beach that day than any day prior.

Food & Beverage
It was difficult to figure out the dining options at this resort. Another guest, who was on vacation with her daughter from Mexico City, commented to me on her last day that she was finally figuring out the "secrets" of this resort, so we were not the only guests who had trouble with this.

We had been given different information about how to make a reservation at one of the Fine Dining restaurants: dial 0 or the restaurant extension, make a reservation in person at the restaurant, and we had been told by more than one person that all of the a la carte restaurants would be closed the entire week. The paper we were given at check-in only added to our confusion because it was in Spanish. When I stopped at the front desk to inquire again, I was given a sheet in English, which listed the following restaurants: Arenas (buffet), Diletto (Italian), Ocean Grill Tequila (Mexican), Snack Bar & Grill (Relaxing pool), Deli (this restaurant has been closed even though it's still listed), and Room Service

Since I never received the same answer, I asked about the dining options every time we went to the buffet, even after I had been told the restaurants would not be open all week. We were able to get a dinner reservation at Diletto our second night, after I was escorted back to Arenas restaurant by the GM (or Captain, as they had referred to him in Cancun). Our name was added to a sheet at the podium where an employee was working who had told me the day before that the restaurants would be closed all week! There were only a couple available spots left, and I wondered how the others had found out about making a reservation.

We left a tip that evening, and our server made us a reservation at Ocean Grill for the next night. The food both nights was excellent, and I was disappointed that these were the only two nights we were able to enjoy a la carte dining. Buffet dinning was the only option the other three nights of our stay. Our first night, this was in the Arenas restaurant, and the other two nights, there was buffet dining with a show in the theater room on the second floor. The buffet food served during the shows was better than what was served in Arenas our first night--delicious soups, and more salad and entree choices--although the seafood and sides at both a la carte restaurants was even better.

Even though this resort is listed as "Cancun Arenas - All Inclusive" on their website, they sell different room plans--from just a basic guestroom to all inclusive. The menus we were given in the restaurants had different categories and prices listed. We were told that the all inclusive package included everything for dinner except the lobster or steak (filet mignon, I believe). We did not order either of these items, and we did not have any charges.

Arenas buffet was the only choice for breakfast. I did not care for most of the breakfast food items. There was an omelet and egg station, so my husband was happy to have an omelet or eggs over easy each morning. The omelet filling choices did not include spinach (my first filling choice), and the chef tended to overcook everything, so it helps if you know a little Spanish! I got fresh corn tortillas (filled with cheese, peppers, and tomatoes) at the egg station two mornings, which were pretty good.

We dined at the Snack Bar & Grill for lunch. We checked Arenas lunch buffet one day, and thought the Grill options were better. Choices at the Grill were: nachos, salad, fruit salad, fries, burgers (I think hot dogs too, although I am not certain of this), and two types of pizza. The salad was excellent! In fact, I thought all of the a la carte salads were good quality, flavorful, and fresh. I did not care for the burger the first time I had one (it was overdone, and did not taste like beef). My husband tried the burger again, and said it was better the second time, so I tried one again our last day. It was better the second time. Cheese is not listed on the menu; however, you can order it with cheese. The pizza choices were hawaiian and pepperoni. I thought both pizzas tasted bland, although my husband had the hawaiian pizza twice. He also thought the pepperoni pizza tasted bland.

Lobby Bar
Luis, at the Snack Bar & Grill, made the best Bloody Marys and Mudslides! He took great care of us. The other beverages we had were also great. Miguel, at the Lobby Bar, was fabulous! He introduced himself the first day, remembered our names and preferences, and even translated for us when we sat next to a couple from Brazil. He seemed to be a self-taught bartender and Multilingual speaker. He had a notebook, which he often wrote words and phrases in, as well as drink recipes. He sometimes referred to it when he prepared a beverage out of the ordinary. On the one day that he was not working, I tried to order a cappuccino martini that Miguel had prepared for me one day, and both times I received hot coffee with a shot of Kahlua. Miguel made several excellent drinks, and I sure missed him that day!

The coffee in the evening was good quality, and the coffee in the morning at the breakfast buffet was not too bad. We received coffee for our coffee maker in the guestroom each day, although we did not really care for the quality of that coffee.  

Overall and misc.
This hotel is located about 5 miles NW of the shopping plazas in the heart of the hotel zone where Blvd. Kukulcan veers west. We walked to the InterContinental (IC) in that area one day, had a beverage at their beach bar, shopped in the plaza across the street, and then took the bus back. The beach area at the IC is a large, beautiful, sandy area with many huts and tables. The beach bar seating was comfortable with a great view, although the Bloody Marys were not as good as the ones we'd been having at the Holiday Inn (HI). The pools, jacuzzi tubs, lobby restroom, and hotel lobby looked immaculate and well maintained. I was surprised that I had read online that this property is rundown. We were only there a short time, and we did not actually step into any of the pools, nor did we see a guestroom, so our observations were very brief. I could have used my PCR points for a stay at the IC instead of the HI; however, a points stay at the IC would have covered only the guestroom, and no food or beverages.

Wal-Mart is located downtown, about 2.5 miles from the HI, and there is a bus stop just before the resort. We took the bus there one day, and then walked back, because champagne was not included with the all inclusive package. We felt safe the entire time we were in Mexico this trip.

Other than some of the misinformation we were given about the dining options at the HI, we thought the service was great. Yes, we left tips; however, we did not always leave a tip, and it was never a huge amount. We received the same service after we tipped as we had received when we first arrived. This is a smaller, less deluxe resort than where we had stayed the two nights before, and if we had paid a great deal, I am sure I would have been disappointed. If you are looking for a casual, clean, laid-back place to relax for a good price, I think most people would be happy here. We were pleasantly surprised after our initial doubts when we first arrived and saw how small the property is.

We found out about daily events from a sign holder with a daily insert in the elevators. The flyer listed  the dinner and show times.