Monday, September 10, 2012

Almost Grand in Mexico (Part 2)

Our initial impressions of the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico were quite good based on our arrival and our room.  We arrived late in the day so there was not time for the beach.  The next test was the one I was most worried about...the food.  After check in, we headed to the surf & turf restaurant for dinner.  When we first sat down, we had a good feeling.  We were very happy that all the restaurants were air conditioned.  It gets really hot in Mexico and eating outdoors in the heat is just not comfortable for us.  The menu looked good, the wait staff was attentive, it was air conditioned, what could go wrong? Well...the food.  The seafood platter was over cooked.  The steaks were not flavorful and dessert was just not good.  It was just ok.  Not terrible, but we left a bit disappointed.  Unfortunately, this would end up being the best dinner we had. 
After dinner we went to the lobby bar where we would meet what I nicknamed "the lobby bar crew".  What I liked best about the all inclusive arrangement is that more people hang out in the bar and are they are very social.  At other non-AI resorts it seems that people leave the resorts often at night to avoid the over priced food and drinks that most resorts serve.  We happen to love hotel lobby bars so this was perfect for us!  People would hang out in the bar either before or after dinner (or both).  We like to eat dinner early so our routine had us in the bar after dinner and we sat pretty much in the middle of the bar.  On our right each night were two men traveling together from Germany.  Next to them were two women traveling together.  I kept hoping they would get to know each other, but never seemed to happen.  On our left was an extended family trip with the parents, two adult children and their spouses.  This group was quite fun and they included Chris in on the "drinks on fire" ritual they have when visiting the Grand.  I found the drinks on fire to be great fun...but I wasn't the one drinking them.  The bartenders were also a hoot.  They loved trying out new drinks to try to please the guests and they would pass around testers for everyone to try when something was a hit.  The bartenders also provided games because I am a sucker for logic games.  Overall, we LOVED the lobby bar. 
After the lobby bar, we would usually go back to the room and hang out on the balcony or use the jacuzzi.  The combination of the breeze and sound of the ocean waves was incredible.  The balcony is also very spacious and comfortable. The jacuzzi takes a long time to fill up so if you plan on using it, I would recommend asking the butler to get it started while at dinner. 
Here is one more picture of the jacuzzi...because it was so awesome it deserves to be shown twice!
We were very happy with quality and service of the drinks.  We did not drink much during the day while at the beach, but the waiters kept us stocked with cold waters.  One day when I did order a daiquiri while at the beach I was impressed with the service.  Shortly after I ordered it, we went in the ocean.  The waiter must have seen this because he did not leave the drink to melt in the sun.  Instead, he waited for us to get out of the water and immediately brought the drink to me.  Now that is service!!!!  Quality brands were available (such as Grey Goose) and the drinks were not watered down.  I love champagne and the champagne they serve, while not as dry as I prefer, was very enjoyable. 
Now back to the food.  The Italian restaurant had good risotto, but everything else was not good.  Even the service was bad.  We ordered a bottle of wine, but after the first pour the waiter took it away and never brought it back.  We were disappointed that there was not a Mexican restaurant for dinner since we were in Mexico after all.  On the third night we went to the Mexican restaurant at one of the other Iberostar resorts in the same complex.  This restaurant was very warm, the food was really slow to come out and they brought me the wrong food.  On our final night, we gave up and got room service. 
For lunch we had a good routine of eating chips, salsa and fajitas, but the issues with dinner made getting dinner a chore.  The service was also good during lunch.  Once we realized dinners were not as good, we starting eating two portions of fajitas for lunch, but were glad we were not here an entire week eating the same lunch every day. We were happy to have the choice of being inside or outside for lunch since we like to be air conditioned and have a break from the heat in the middle of the day.
Lunch Restaurant
We are not big breakfast eaters, but tried it a couple days.  One day was room service and the food arrived cold.  One the last day I went to the restaurant by myself for breakfast.  Nobody greeted me to seat me so I sat myself.  I also never had anyone come take a la carte orders from me or bring me drinks.  I was completely on my own from the buffet. 
View from Breakfast
Overall the food was huge disappointment, but enough about that. 
Stay tuned for the final installment that will have tons of pictures and will be all about the beach and pools!

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