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Monday, March 9, 2015

Cancun, Mexico / Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas

February 2015, Weekday, 3-nights, King ocean view guestroom #2415

view from balcony
We stayed at Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas around the holidays at the end of 2011, and a review from that stay can be found here. One change I saw online before this stay, is that the words "all inclusive" have been removed from the hotel name. I think that was a good move because this hotel offers guestrooms that are all-inclusive, and they offer rates for only the guestroom. I never had a problem knowing which kind of room I was reserving, although I have read complaints from others who expected their stay to be all-inclusive, and then discovered it was not when they arrived. 

Arrival experience and status perks

I wish I had gotten the name of the bellman who greeted us when we arrived because he took excellent care of us. He took our luggage and escorted me to the front desk for check-in. There were two agents at the counter. One was assisting a guest, and then the other agent walked away without greeting me. When the remaining agent finished with the guest at the counter, another guest walked up to checkout, and the agent assisted him. After this, a guest walked up to the counter around the corner, and the agent who had stepped away returned and assisted this guest. I looked around in disbelief, although I did not say anything. All of the guests and staff members were speaking Spanish, and I had no way of knowing whether any of these guests had been to the counter to start something before we arrived. I tend to think that the guests who walked up to the counter to checkout cut in front of me. Next, the bellman walked up to the counter and said something to the front desk agents. As soon as he did, the agent assisting the guest who had been standing around the corner, immediately greeted me, and started to complete our check-in process as he finished up what he was doing for the other guest.

I had tried to contact this hotel via email before our arrival because I had two reservations for our stay; two nights with points, and one paid night. I wanted to make sure our confirmation numbers were linked, and I also wanted to request an ocean view guestroom. I did not receive a reply to that email, and our guestroom had not been assigned before our arrival.

During check-in, I requested an ocean view guestroom and received it. The agent did not say that this was an upgrade because of my status, although I am sure that it was. In hindsight, I probably should have requested an ocean view suite, since the hotel did not seem very full.

We were told we could stay in the same guestroom all three nights, and that we needed to come to the front desk to checkout and then check-in again the next day. We were initially given gold wristbands, and a 10% voucher for dining. The agent said this was because our first night not all-inclusive. I told him that was not correct, and that our first night was all-inclusive. He re-read our reservation details, conferred with another employee, and then apologized as he changed our wristbands to green. I had made our reservation several months in advance, and the rate was about $50 less than most of the all-inclusive rates currently available. I assume he thought it was not all-inclusive because of the rate we received. I observed other guests in this resort with red wristbands, although I did not learn the distinction of the red bands.

After check-in, my husband went with the bellman to our guestroom while I went to make dinner reservations. We had some difficulty making dinner reservations during our last stay, and I did not want to dine at the buffet every night. I gave my husband a key from our key packet; however, when they got to our room, he discovered I had given him a towel card rather than the room key! Housekeeping was nearby, so the bellman called the front desk to confirm our guestroom number, and then housekeeping let them in.

When we returned to the guestroom later that day, a plate of fresh fruit had been delivered. We did not receive a note with the delivery; I assume it was a welcome gift for Platinum guests. We also received late checkout until 2:00 p.m., although our keys quit working before then. Fortunately, I was in the guestroom when my husband returned from a trip out the last afternoon, so neither of us had to go to the front desk to get them recoded.

Guestroom 2415

This guestroom is located in the southeast wing above where the Ocean Grill is located. It has a small balcony, and there is a great view of the ocean. The balcony contained two plastic chairs and a small plastic table.

Although the balcony had no privacy from other guests on this floor, we never saw anyone else on their balcony. We saw items on a couple of balconies that indicated there were guests in some of the other rooms at least a couple of the nights.

view from guestroom balcony 
There did not appear to be anyone in the first guestroom in this hall. I was glad for that because there was a connecting door between our room and that room, which is often not soundproof.

Please visit my Facebook page album for more photos of this guestroom and the resort, as they would not all fit in this blog post.

Housekeeping service was fabulous. This guestroom was clean and comfortable when we arrived and everyday. The wireless Internet worked well in the guestroom.

The closet located near the entrance contained an iron, ironing board, hangers, and a large safe.

Bathing amenities and a hairdryer were located on the vanity across from the closet. The bathing area next to the closet contained the toilet and a large walk-in tile shower with a shower curtain on a curved rod.

Several towels and washcloths were provided at check-in, although we had a difficult time getting washcloths after this. We never received any washcloths when our room was cleaned, so I called each day. The first day, someone brought two washcloths and more towels. The second day, no one brought anything to the room, and I did not call again. Our last day experience was the same as the first; someone delivered washcloths and towels to the guestroom after I called for washcloths.

Initially, we thought the hot water did not work in the shower, and then we realized that it is backwards from what we are used to. Not only that, when you turn the knob to the hot position, it gets cool before it gets hot, so we initially thought that was the cold side. When the knob is turned to cold, the temperature was always kind of lukewarm, so we did not initially realize that was actually the cold either.

The tiled floor guestroom was a decent size. I was surprised to see we did not have any clear pictures of the guestroom or balcony without anybody in them. I decided to add a couple of photos with the people blocked out to the Facebook photo album, so that additional guestroom features can be viewed.

photo from hotel website, 
which looks exactly like guestroom 2415
A desk/table and chair were located in the sleeping area along the wall behind the closet. A small coffeepot with supplies, two bottles of water, a plastic ice bucket, and plastic glasses were on this table. The bellman had said that the water is included for all-inclusive guests, and we received two new bottles each day.

A nightstand and lamp were located on each side of the king size bed. A flatscreen TV was located on an armoire at the foot of the bed, and a soft chair was in the corner next to the balcony door. The bed was comfortable, although apparently king size sheets were as difficult to come by as washcloths. The bottom sheet on the bed each day was a flat sheet rather than a fitted sheet, so it did not stay down well.

The alarm clock is this guestroom must have been set to go off in the afternoon around 3:00 p.m. When we returned the first day, the alarm was ringing, so my husband turned it off. Apparently, he forgot to also cancel the alarm because it was ringing again the next afternoon. We canceled the alarm then, and it did not go off again.

Food & Beverage

A la carte breakfast was not offered, and I did not like many of the items on the buffet. The cooked oatmeal was extremely sweet, and I do not usually add sugar to my cooked oatmeal. Cooked to order eggs were offered; however, I do not like my eggs overdone, which is how they were cooked each time. I tried several items on the buffet and ended up having salad for breakfast almost every morning, as fresh tomatoes and lettuce were plentiful. The IHG website has a link to a menu for the Arenas  buffet restaurant, which is actually a breakfast photo. The photos of the restaurants exactly match what the dining areas looked like when we were there; however, the eggs in the "menu" photo look better than enything I saw while we were there.

Room service is also included; however, the breakfast menu in the guestroom only listed continental breakfast type foods like cereals and breads. I did not try calling to see if we could have ordered different breakfast foods. We ordered club sandwiches from room service for lunch our last day because this item was only available on the room service menu, and we were packing for our next hotel. The sandwiches came with fries, and the flavor was good. We had some confusion with our order though. I dialed the room service number on the guestroom telephone, and I was transferred to the bar. The bar employee who answered seemed confused, and then he asked me to hold for a moment. I got disconnected a few minutes later, so I dialed the room service number again. The same female who had answered the first time again transferred me to the bar. I was again disconnected and called back a third time. This time, a male employee took my order, and I am not sure if this was someone working in the bar or elsewhere. When we received our order, we needed to sign the order slip, which was stamped "all-inclusive." About 30 minutes later, someone from room service called our room because we did not have a credit card for purchases on file at the front desk (they had not requested my credit card again when we checked back in for our points night stay). I said that we were staying with the all-inclusive rate. There was a bit of confusion, and then the caller said okay.

Lunch options included room service, Arenas buffet, and the Snack Bar. The Snack Bar served burgers, hot dogs, Hawaiian or pepperoni pizza, and nachos. I think salad may also have been available, although I do not recall sure. The food flavor and quality was acceptable, although not great. I ordered pepperoni pizza the first day, and I received Hawaiian pizza because they were out of pepperoni.

Ocean Grill entree
The Ocean Grill was open for dinner the day we arrived, and we were able to get a dinner reservation for that evening at 8:30 p.m. That was a bit late for us; however, we decided it was better than not being able to eat there at all. None of the a la carte restaurants were open for dinner for the remainder of our stay. We stayed on Sunday - Wednesday, and it seemed that Arenas buffet and the Snack Bar were the only places open during the week.

There is a pool bar at the main pool, which was open during the day. The lobby bar was also open during the day, and this was the only bar open in the evening. Mimosas had been available the last time we visited this resort; however, mimosas or champagne were not included at all during this stay. Different red wines were available at different locations. I could usually get merlot at the restaurant and lobby bar, although this was not what I received if I did not request it, and it was sometimes difficult to get.

There is an unmarked dining area next to the entertainment booth by the pool, which was never open during our stay. The door was open our first afternoon, so I walked inside to see if it was a restaurant that was going to be open for lunch. I did not anyone inside; however, I observed menus and a refrigerated cooler filled with bottles of champagne. I inquired about the restaurant and champagne at the lobby bar that evening. I was told that the restaurant and champagne are not included. I asked if we could purchase a bottle of champagne, and we ended up with a decent quality bottle of Brut champagne for 150 pesos.

The service in all of the restaurants and bars was excellent. Luis, who had made our excellent Bloody Marys at the Snack Bar in 2011, was now the evening bartender where Miguel had worked then. Alcoholic beverages were no longer served at the Snack Bar. Servers and guests had to get orders filled at the main pool bar or lobby bar.

edge of adult pool patio
with small beach below

Pools and beach 

There are two pools at this resort; the main pool by the towel hut and activities booth, and a quiet/adult pool at the northwest end. An observation we made after two stays at this resort, is that the guestrooms in the north wing by the adult pool (guestrooms starting with #1) appear to be smoking rooms, and the guestrooms in the south wing (rooms starting with #2) are non-smoking rooms. We met guests staying in building 1 who were smokers, and we observed ashtrays outside by the guestrooms in building 1.
adult pool -
massage bed in the back; by edge on left

Neither of the pools were crowded at any time during our stay. The beach is much smaller than it appears in the photos on the hotel website. Even so, it was not difficult to find a lounge chair or a spot in the shade.

beach view from under tiki hut

The lounge chairs are not very comfortable without a chair cushion, and these can be requested from one of the servers or at the towel hut. We had cushions brought for us at the beach and the adult pool.

The beach towels were a good size and quality, and the beverage service was excellent. We received excellent service while on the beach and at the adult pool. We observed a server serving food in to-go containers to guests on the beach, as if they had been able to order room service from the beach. We did not ask about this since we prefer to eat at a table.

east of the Holiday Inn; walking back to the resort
There is a volleyball net and children's playground equipment on the beach, and there is a large floating trampoline type raft in the water in front of the main pool. The water was clear for the most part. Staff cleaned out the seaweed daily; however, the water did not seem to be as free of weeds as it had been when we visited in 2011. There is much more seaweed on the beach in this area when you get away from the Holiday Inn, so it is obvious they clear a tremendous amount of seaweed way from their beach.


There is a nice walkway in front of this resort on both sides of the road. If you walk east, the walkway on the opposite side of the road is along the lagoon. There is a bus stop in front of the hotel and across the street. The bus travels the entire hotel zone and downtown. One day, we walked the 4 miles to the Presidente and took the bus back. We passed a shopping center and ferry dock on the way, along with a few markets. The bus cost was 10.5 pesos each.

If you are looking for a small laid-back place to stay in Cancun, this hotel offers great service and it is clean. Other than our experience during check-in, the service was excellent. If you are interested in the all-inclusive package, I suggest staying on the weekend since dining options are limited during the week.

We heard some guests raving about a catamaran excursion they had booked at this resort. They said it was a day long excursion that included beverages and lunch for $60, and that the boat was very nice. They said they stopped for snorkeling and at a beach on Isle Mujeres. We had not looked into any excursions since we have been on quite a few in Mexico and the Caribbean, and they are usually quite similar. If we had heard people raving about this excursion when we arrived, we would have checked into it. Unfortunately, we did not learn about it until the evening before our departure.

Let me know if you have any specific questions! Our experience and information about the  Presidente Cancun Resort is next.