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Budget Traveller in a Posh Resort?

We did it. For this trip, the ultimate budget ATB team of Lyn and Mady didn't have a budget. Mady was celebrating a significant birthday and was dreaming of a week of pampering and celebrating. We had just returned from our first international travel in years (France posts here) and were both itching to return to our travelling ways. An all-inclusive posh resort was chosen, plane tickets booked and soon we were heading from our homes on opposite sides of Canada for a full week at a posh, 5-star, adults-only, all-inclusive Mexican resort in Playa del Carmen. Soooo, what's the verdict? Is this kind of splurge going to become a regular part of our adventures?

Mady chose the resort. She found a package deal online that included airport transfers and (what seemed to be) generous credits towards massages and a "romantic dinner" on the beach. The image of sitting watching a sunset on a beach while enjoying a fabulous dinner for her birthday dinner seemed like a perfect plan. We stayed at the Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya.

About a week prior to our arrival, we sent the resort a message to confirm our inbound flights and to get instructions on the process. We were informed that the transfer would only be arranged for one trip. My transfer, several hours later, would be an additional cost. Both of us found the transfer company, Feralter booth outside the airport easily and were quickly taken to the hotel. Both of us had pleasant drivers who pointed out different attractions, offered advice, and encouraged us to try out our limited Spanish during the 30-minute drive. Upon arrival, I sent Mady a message that I had arrived. In the meantime, fully-masked porters whisked my bags away, discretely scanned my temperature, and escorted me to the lobby where I was greeted by a concierge (and a welcome drink), and led to a comfortable upholstered chair in the beautifully air-conditioned lobby. I was soon joined by one of the receptionists who added my information to Mady's in the database and began to explain the layout, facilities, and event schedules. Mady soon arrived in the lobby and we followed our fine tradition of enjoying a welcome drink before we were informed that a shuttle was loaded with my luggage and ready to take us to our room (ha! I only had a carry-on and a tote bag). As we rode toward our building, the driver pointed out the facilities. Each building has a concierge with an office at the entrance. He carried the bags into the room and pointed out the well-stocked mini fridge, coffee station, and pool towels.

Our room (a Golden Superior Junior King Suite) was beautiful. We had two balconies overlooking "The Lazy River" (the quiet pool), a huge sitting area, and an enormous bathroom suite with two sinks, a separated shower, toilet/bidet areas, a large jetted bathtub and more open floor space than whole rooms in my townhouse! Double closets (with fluffy bathrobes and slippers) had drawers, plenty of hangers, and a guest safe. The room came with a TV (never turned it on) and a screen that displayed the day's events, weather information, and excursion ideas. (We were constantly trying to figure out how to turn it on or off... the way the power and lighting switches were linked was a mystery we never solved.) The bed was huge and very comfortable.

I never got rid of the feeling that I was a total fraud. Mady had less difficulty adjusting as her natural love of luxury took over. As she says "having someone hand you an icy pina colada as you recline under a palapa never gets old." There are two pool areas. The huge main pool is a hive of activity. There are two swim-up bars, hot tubs, volleyball nets, many float mats, a bridge, and water features. There was some kind of fitness activity daily including in-water cycling, yoga, and volleyball games. There are also smaller pool areas and canopied sun beds that can be reserved by the members of the resort's Privilege Club. (We didn't go that posh!)

Along the pool's edge are many padded lounge chairs for guests to sit in the sun or under shade. Waiters circulate and will deliver drinks and food right to your deck chair. Mid-afternoon performances at poolside included a belly dancer, a drumming group, and a synchronized swimming team.


Other activities included ping-pong, various games, pellet rifle target-shooting (Mady won!), and "educational" workshops in local culture. We enjoyed a tequila-tasting, pico de gallo/guacamole making class, and checked out the Spanish class (it was for very beginners and only covered about 5 phrases).

Food choices are vast. There are 7 main restaurants each specializing in a certain cuisine: French, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Steak & Seafood, and the breakfast/lunch buffet. There is a dress code for evening dining but it is fairly loosely written and seems to be written to discourage beach wear. We noticed a wide range of evening wear from sequins and jackets to pantsuits and button-ups.

There is also a coffee bar, food trucks, and room service. Small bars are located everywhere as well as the lobby bar, the Plaza España bar, a cigar lounge, a sports bar, and a magical martini and mixology bar. The evening theatre show included a Michael Jackson review, a circus performance, and a multi-media Mexican extravaganza. Alcohol is served all day and until late in the evening. We were soon recognized as the crazy women who ordered all our daytime drinks "sin alcohol"