Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cancun vacation review: Dreams Riviera Resort & Spa

The Resort

From the moment we arrived at our gorgeous destination, the bellhop put us at ease and made sure we checked our baggage and troubles at the entrance. During check-in we were greeted with ice-cold glasses of champagne and water before we were directed to our immaculate octagonal rooms. In addition to an amazing shower, our room also included a double vanity and a whirlpool bath large enough for two. Prior to booking our trip I read that the bathroom is not very private and this is certainly the case. The toilet is enclosed behind a frosted glass door with transparent borders as is the shower. But as a married couple, this posed no problem.

We also enjoyed a fully stocked mini bar which was regularly stocked with water, beer and a variety of soft drinks. Best of all, the resort is all-inclusive! Having stayed at two all-inclusive resorts prior to Dreams Riviera Resort & Spa, I can truly say that this resort lives up to its promise as top shelf drinks were prominently displayed and served. Even so, you always have the option of splurging on added extras like a bottle of wine or champagne.

Though the resort is much larger than we expected, it is very well organized. It is also family friendly with great activities and entertainment for children. In some reviews, I read complaints of the hotel being overrun with children. This was not the case when during our stay and the children we saw were very playful and well-behaved. My husband, in-laws and I traveled during the off-peak season (May 9th - May 16th) and found it well below capacity, which was beneficial for us since we're not a hard-partying bunch. Overall, the service was impeccable during our stay and the level of cleanliness was outstanding.

Our room entrance (1341) was facing the sports bar, so it was a little noisy in the evenings. It didn't bother my husband, but since I have hypersensitive hearing, I relied on my earplugs so I could sleep. Our balcony, complete with outdoor furniture, overlooked the gardens, pool and ocean. Soft music is piped throughout the resort's halls and walkways throughout the day. Since I don't mind this type of music I didn't mind, but I can see how some might grow tired of it after awhile.

Another thing I must note is the fact that a lot of weddings were held during our stay. Each day there were at least one or two weddings taking place, which made dining a bit more challenging since restaurants were closed for the private events. There was a definite transition from the time we first arrived to the day of our departure. By the end of the vacation we couldn't help but notice more guests arriving. The number of guests more than doubled. Furthermore, there were quite a few rowdy obnoxious people who seemed to relive their drunken college days despite the fact they were 35+ year-old parents. Nevertheless, we didn't allow this to put a damper on the nearly perfect days which preceded our final evening. Besides, there are bound to be a few noisy people no matter where one travels, particularly if alcohol is being served.

The entire staff at Dreams Riviera Cancun worked VERY hard to provide the best service possible and keep the hotel immaculate. Not once did we encounter a rude employee, even though some of them were visibly tired.


Every restaurant we tried was interesting and had tasty menu selections, but we preferred Oceana, Seaside Grill and El Patio. Porto Fino and Bordeaux were excellent as well. Himitsu was decent, but overrated. There were limited selections as far as breakfast dining, but the buffet breakfast at the World Cafe was good. We read that there was a casual elegance dress code for some of the restaurants, but noticed that while we adhered to the code, there was a notable inconsistency in its enforcement. There were some guests who dined in t-shirts and very casual clothing while others were turned away to change their attire. In addition, not all restaurants are open each day. However, the resort distributes a daily schedule so guests can plan their meals accordingly. Most, if not all, waiters work on rotation between restaurants, but we found the service impressive. Angel and Jimmy were exceptional!

During the week we were there, I tried a few interesting drinks. Purple Rain (gin, cranberry juice, Blue Curacao liqueur, sweet and sour mix and soda water) and the Watermelon Mojito were all pretty good. Everything I tried was pretty light for the most part, which worked well for me. However, I liked the Mojito the most. My husband enjoyed Coronas and Tequila. We only had the chance to visit the Barracuda bar once, but the atmosphere was unlike any of the few bars I've ever visited. Located right on the beach, guests can lounge on one of several swings suspended from the bar's roof. My husband and I made a very brief visit to this sports bar and we weren't very impressed with it. Possibly because it wasn't our scene. We're a laid-back couple that isn't too keen on excessively noisy places. The best lounge, in my opinion, was the Rendezvous Bar located in the main lobby. In the evening, the space comes alive with amazing live entertainment which add to the magical atmosphere. It's a wonderfully laid back place to relax after or prior to the fine dining Dreams Riviera has to offer. The shrimp tacos at Oceana were incredibly delicious!!!


I'm not much of a swimmer, so I'm nervous when it comes to venturing into deep water. However, I was comfortable in every pool at the resort. However, we spent most of our time in the infinity pool. It was gorgeous, clean and usually at just the right temperature.


We enjoyed a daily refreshing dip in the surf. Sand was very soft and clean. However, the churning ocean sweeps seaweed ashore. Though nothing can be done to tame the unpredictable tides of nature, the seaweed is cleaned every morning. In spite of it all, we were able to make the most of our time sunbathing and enjoying cold drinks while admiring the beautiful beach scenery. I read of difficulties getting a decent seat, but during our stay we never had a problem. Granted, we were staying there during the off-peak season. I can see how seating may be an issue when the hotel is at full capacity.


The spa is the best I've ever visited! But it's not without a price. Even with the coupons applied, it costs a pretty penny for a full experience. My mother-in-law and I indulged in hydrotherapy (incredible!!!!), hot stone massages, facials, tropical oasis body wraps and paraffin foot and hand treatments. Gabriella, Yuribia and Norma were excellent. The staff were very courteous and did everything they could to ensure that our experience was as pleasant as possible.

The gift shop is small, but offers a lot of interesting items and trinkets as well as basic necessities you may have forgotten to pack. My favorite shop at the resort is definitely the jewelry store. The prices were reasonable enough for my husband and I to purchase some cool, unique gifts for several people.


Chichen Itza
I feel so lucky to have been able to tour the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza! Our guide, Oscar, was fun, charismatic and very informative. The magnificent structures were a remarkable sight to behold and are a true testament to the genius of the Mayan people. Most memorable is the demonstration of how the serpent God Kukulcan's temple was built to mimic the sound of a bird known as Quetzal. Furthermore, a strategic series of claps can be echoed from the pyramid to chirp the name of the Mayan God. It was at once chilling and amazing to hear the history of this newly declared world wonder. Our guide, Oscar, did a remarkable job transporting us back in time to where this landmark was a thriving society of remarkable individuals.

Unfortunately, I feel I must caution those looking to tour this incredible site--there are countless vendors throughout the property who WILL attempt to sell you items. It is very important that you not stop to talk to them or you will lose track of your tour guide. And believe me, it would really suck to get lost there, especially in such hot weather. Also, the tour was highly commercialized from the beginning. We were taken to three separate vendors selling things like jewelry, calendars and Mayan liquor. The tour guide offered to photograph us, but we declined. When we returned to the bus from the tour, there was yet another vendor selling custom bottles of tequila. To our amazement, one of the bottles bore the image of the couple seated across from us. Then it dawned on us that the photos the guide had taken earlier had been processed and placed on the bottles for sale to the respective visitors. I found it disconcerting and sneaky that this wasn't mentioned at the time the photos were taken. Other than these issues, it was an enjoyable experience. With each day the minuses fade, leaving positive memories that will last us a lifetime.

Before returning to the hotel, we paid a visit to the cenote. Though beautiful, it was intimidating due to the fact I can't swim worth a damn. Even so, I wasn't about to pass up the once in a lifetime chance to take a dip in such a gorgeous environment--with the aid of a life jacket, of course. As I descended the steps my apprehension escalated, but after some coaxing from my husband I slowly climbed in via the ladder. The water was very cold (about 60 degrees or so). Tiny catfish were swimming all around, but it wasn't enough to distract me from my fear. After a few moments of clinging to my husband for dear life (my life jacket was slipping) I decided to exit the water so he could enjoy the rest of his swim in peace. But hey, at least I went in.

The following day we booked a shopping trip through one of the tour companies at the resort. It was a great trip and we managed to pick up some really cool souvenirs for friends and family. After that, we spent the final day of our vacation just as we started it, relaxing at the resort and admiring the serene landscape.

To summarize: I can't say enough wonderful things about Dreams Riviera Cancun. I'd definitely recommend it those looking for a great vacation. And did I mention shrimp tacos? :-)

Feel free to check out my vacation photos.