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Excellence Playa Mujeres – Excellent!

SmarterTravel

Author: Dennis Bisson
Date of Trip: June 2015

Executive Summary – We arrived at this resort on June 8th for an eleven night stay. We had stayed last year at the sister resort, Excellence Riviera Maya, so we were eager to compare. Arrival was warm and friendly including cool facecloths and a flute of champagne. We arrived about 1:00 PM and had to wait until close to 3:00 PM for the room. We were staying in the Standard part of the resort not the Club side and were very impressed with the room assigned, by far the most spacious, luxurious and best appointed room we have ever enjoyed.

The design of the resort is very similar to its sister, built around outstanding gardens and many separate water features and pools including the “lazy river” which circles the spa building. The key to Excellence PM is its staff. Without exception everyone is welcoming, friendly, smiling and prepared to do anything to make your stay enjoyable. We enjoyed meals in nearly all the specialty restaurants and only had one disappointing experience. We found the quality of the entertainment shows to be well above what we expected. For my wife and I this was a Five Star experience and we look forward to returning.

Detailed Report – We departed Ottawa on Westjet WS 357 at 0700 for the flight to Toronto followed by Westjet WS 2580 to Cancun arriving a little early about 11:30 but had to wait for the ground crew to arrive at the gate. Both flights operated on time and were uneventful. We got out of Immigration without problem and our bags were delivered within the twenty minutes promised by Westjet. Unfortunately we got the red light at customs and endured an unfriendly, intrusive and extensive search of our luggage despite having just gone through an x-ray inspection and a sniff check by a dog. Had we not been to Mexico many times before this unpleasant experience would have been sufficient to prevent us from returning.

We quickly found our USA Transfer agent outside the terminal as we had been briefed. The car soon arrived and we enjoyed a comfortable 35 minute trip to the resort with our driver Luis Zamora.

We arrived at the resort about 1:00 pm and were warmly greeted by the doorman and offered refreshing facecloths as well as a flute of “Champagne”. We found the check in procedure to be slow and unprepared. I think it could be more efficient. We were told that the room would not be available until 3:00 pm, the specified check in time. While we waited we visited the Martini bar off the lobby for a beer and followed that with a light lunch with wine at the Toscano buffet restaurant. We returned to the front desk about 2:40 and after stating we would accept any room were assigned 6305.

We are delighted with our room. It is in a quiet part of the resort, on an upper floor and is the best appointed and largest accommodation we have ever enjoyed. This standard room includes a massive balcony overlooking the lazy river, and a Jacuzzi tub for two which opens onto the balcony and is accessible from either the balcony or room. The room is large and features a king size bed, bathroom with two sinks and walk-in shower for two with two shower heads and a separate toilet area, walk in closet, safe, fridge, stocked bar, large screen TV, iron and board and an almost silent and very efficient AC system. Outstanding!

Tonight features a “white night” on the beach including a beach buffet so we opted to go to “Agave” the Mexican restaurant. We were greeted by Pamela and she asked if we were celebrating an occasion. We stated that we were celebrating Louise’s birthday and she asked if we would wait a couple of minutes. Pamela then escorted us to a specially prepared table in a premier location which had been decorated with flowers, towel animals (kissing swans) and balloons. Francisco, our waiter for the evening soon presented himself, took our drink orders and made menu suggestions. We accepted his offer of a selection of appetizers, which were delicious and followed these with Grouper for the main course. We were not disappointed. Following dinner we went to the beach area to see the show which was a troupe of dancers performing a series of dances and gymnastics using torches. Excellent show! We enjoyed another drink at the bar then retired to our balcony to enjoy the stars. The evening was a perfect start to our holiday.

Tuesday morning we went to the main dining room to enjoy breakfast. We were pleased to note a pianist in a corner playing appropriate music. We were overwhelmed by the selection offered. From your choice of fresh fish for your sushi to custom omelettes, a great variety of fruit and Mexican dishes etc. you were sure to find something to whet your appetite.

Following breakfast we explored the property then returned to our room to change and then establish ourselves on the “lazy river”. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We went to the beach and walked to the right past the “club” zone about ¼ mile to the small marina established there. We didn’t find the beach particularly attractive and we were disappointed at the equipment offered by the water sports shack: three Hobicats, two paddleboards, a few kayaks and no paddleboats.

On return to our room in the late afternoon, Louise was delighted to find the room had been decorated to celebrate her birthday. A bottle of Champagne, fruit and a small cake were on the coffee table and flowers and balloons were surrounding the bed as well as a few small gifts/souvenirs. How thoughtful! We’re looking forward to dinner this evening.

Tonight we decided to visit Chez Isabelle, the French themed restaurant. We arrived about 7:00 pm and were warmly greeted and promptly seated. This room is a dark wood paneled room with subdued lighting and good spacing between tables. This makes for a very intimate and enjoyable atmosphere. Our waiter, Christian soon introduced himself and took our order for pre-dinner drinks. These arrived quickly and Christian made menu suggestions. Louise ordered quiche, I opted for steak tartar and we accepted Christian’s suggestion of mushroom crepe. Louise was disappointed with the quiche, I enjoyed the steak tartar and we both raved over the crepe. For main courses we chose Mahi Mahi and Sea Bass. We were both a little disappointed as neither was hot and the accompanying veggies were cold. Despite our disappointment with the main course the service and atmosphere made for an enjoyable dinner.

Following dinner we proceeded to the theatre to watch the “Caribbean evening” which consisted mostly of dancing. Although the dance troupe was excellent we were not impressed with the music. We returned tour room about 10:30 to enjoy our balcony.

Wednesday morning, after using the gym treadmills for our exercise, we opted to have breakfast in the Lobster house. This building is adjacent the main pool area and features a number of pods that jut out over the pool. We were greeted and seated by Andria a young lady with a radiant smile and an attractive dimple. The building’s other side is home to the Grill restaurant and has the same design and décor. The extensive menu features a large number of made to order items and makes a very attractive alternative to the buffet restaurant. Again service was exceptional!

We again enjoyed our day around the lazy river. Early afternoon we walked to the beach to watch the Margarita display and sample the Taco specials being offered at “Los Olas” the beachside grill shack.
For dinner we returned to the Lobster House. It has a wonderful outdoor atmosphere. We had the seafood bisque and warm salad for starters and I had the lobster tail while my wife ordered the seafood filled (shrimp, scallops, lobster chunks) lobster tail followed by a small piece of carrot cake and specialty coffees. Outstanding food and perfect service made for a memorable dinner.

The show this evening was called “Innovations of Dance”. A troupe of six male dancers put on a show that is not to be missed. Truly remarkable! We retired to our room to enjoy some time in our spa and lie under the stars.

Thursday morning we opted for a light breakfast so we made our way to the Aroma bistro located on the floor above the reception area. We arrived just before the 9:00 AM opening and joined the line with several others. This venue serves specialty coffees, frozen smoothies, light sandwiches, cookies, muffins, crepes and ice cream. Everyone wanted coffees but unfortunately the server discovered the large espresso machine was not functioning and she had to rely on a much smaller machine causing a significant delay in service. Despite the delay we enjoyed our light breakfast.

For lunch we enjoyed the “taco festival” served in the theatre area because of the threatening weather. We spent the day around the lazy river. We have spent very little time at the beach.

Tonight we decided to visit “the Grill” restaurant adjacent to the lobster house. We arrived about 7:30 PM and were surprised to be immediately seated. Unlike last years experience at Excellence Playa Maya we have not had any problems being seated at the specialty restaurants. We ordered beef empanadas and mushrooms and onions for appetizers. There was little filling in the empanadas and my wife found the mushrooms to be very tough. For the main course I ordered a 12 oz New York strip medium rare and my wife ordered the beef short ribs. My steak was correctly grilled but it was thin with a lot of gristle. My wife received two narrow strips of ribs connected with a small amount of very overcooked meat. Not like anything she was expecting and inedible. Despite the very attentive service we have to say this meal was a write off and we are unlikely to return to the Grill.

After dinner we enjoyed a drink and the music around the “plaza”. We opted to pass on the evening’s entertainment which was labelled as “Pop Stars”. We retired to our balcony and could hear the music from there as we are only a short distance from the plaza. We ended the evening in the spa tub with a half bottle of wine.

Friday we begin with our morning visit to the gym followed by breakfast at the lobster house. Today’s hotel theme is Mexican so we are looking forward to some special events and dining experiences.

The staff spent a good part of the day constructing a Mexican village on the “square”. Despite their effort a late afternoon downpour ruined their efforts and all the evenings events had to be moved inside. It’s a pity so many guests did not have the opportunity to witness their efforts.

For dinner we decided to visit “Basmati” an Indian themed restaurant. This venue is a long narrow room having three columns of well spaced tables for two. We were greeted by an elaborately dressed hostess and all of the servers wore Indian dress. The ambiance was excellent. For starters we shared an order of Murg Tikka which consisted of two large pieces of very moist and flavorful chicken kebobs. We were also served some very good pampadoms. For main courses we ordered Vindalo chicken and chicken Kadhi which was prepared with green pepper onion and spices. We ordered rice pulao, a basmati rice with peas and two types of nan. The dishes arrived in small bowls, were very hot and wonderfully spicy. This dinner turned out to be the best dining experience we have enjoyed so far. If you enjoy this type of food don’t miss a visit to Basmati.

Following dinner we returned to the square were staff had set up a number of gambling tables. By the time we arrived they were just rapping up for the evening but we were just in time to get good seats in the theatre for the evening’s Mexican folkloric show. We have attended several of these over the years but we felt that this was the best we had experienced.

We awoke Saturday morning to an overcast and rainy day. We went to the gym followed by breakfast at the buffet were I enjoyed a wonderful omelette. At 10:00 o’clock it is still raining heavily and I’m writing this in the main lobby area. Of note is that Wifi service is available throughout the resort but was not always reliable on my different devices. Rain and wind persisted throughout the day so we made use of indoor facilities and our room/spa.

We received an unexpected call in the late afternoon from Guendoline our concierge. After some discussion she said she was aware of our disappointment with our Grill experience and wanted to make sure that we were accommodated at whatever restaurant we wanted to visit tonight. This was an exceptional response to a dissatisfaction we had not yet voiced. Obviously our waiter at the Grill must have noticed our dissatisfaction and passed it on up the line. This was an example of exceptional attention to detail and determination to ensure the guest is satisfied. We advised Guendoline that we intended to return the Chez Isabelle at 7:00. We’ll see if she is able to ensure our entrance?

We arrived at the restaurant about 6:45 and as soon as we stated our room number the hostess greeted us by name and escorted us to a specially prepared corner table. Flower petals had been placed all around each place setting. We were impressed to note that a pianist was playing. We were off to a wonderful start. Our waiter soon introduced himself and we quickly had our first round of drinks. We have found that the servers want to give very fast service probably because most diners do not wish to linger over their meals. In order to pace our meal we ordered the French onion soup for starters and told our waiter we would decide on other dishes later. The soup was a very flavourful light broth with a Gruyere cheese topping. We again ordered the mushroom crepe to share and we were not disappointed. By now we were into the Merlot and the waiter left the bottle on the table.

For the main course we ordered a Pollo con Calvados and a filet, medium rare, for myself. Both dishes arrived as requested and both were excellent. We ended dinner with a Spanish coffee and liquors. This was a wonderful dining experience.

Following dinner we went to the theatre and caught the last 15 minutes of a performance by three tenors. What we heard was excellent and we were disappointed we had not attended the whole performance. Following the tenors we witnessed a “light show” performed by six individuals. The stage was very dark so that you could not see the bodies only the light wands and objects they were twirling. What followed was a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes that could make you think you were tripping on LSD. This was a performance that should be on AGT. Showtime finished, rain still falling we retired to our room for another spa session with wine.

Sunday morning and it is still raining. Many parts of the resort are built in the open concept with the corridors, stairs and public areas all finished in tile. When you have heavy rain and high winds water gets everywhere and it takes a small army of workers with squeegees to try to dry these now very slippery surfaces. Don’t know how we will amuse ourselves today? It rained all day. We spent a lot of time reading
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Tonight we visited the Barcelona restaurant, a Mediterranean themed venue. We followed our practice of ordering one course at a time in order to control the pace of the dinner. We had Falafel and Kibbeh for starters which we shared followed by white bean soup. For a main course one had Moussaka and the other grilled salmon. Everything was well prepared, tasty and served hot by our very attentive waiter. Following this excellent meal we attended the Madonna show. This was a very energetic show with good performances although we didn’t care for some of the music selections.

Monday morning and the rain has stopped. It is hot and humid but overcast. Hope we have a good day? Yes indeed we had a good day all around. Enjoyed several cervezas and we spent the late afternoon on our patio lounger.

Guendoline contacted us again and made arrangements for us to visit “Spice” the Japanese –Asian themed venue. The décor and dress of the staff is in keeping with the theme. There is a separate enclosed area where those who have opted for the hibachi style dinner are seated. The remaining area is spacious with widely spaced tables. Again we were warmly greeted and escorted to a specially decorated table.

Our servers tonight were Cesar and Geraldo. After our pre-dinner drinks we ordered “Spice Combination” which included shumai, spring rolls, and chicken satay. Geraldo also brought along a selection of sushi. We followed this with bowls of “Tom Kha Gai” a very tasty/spicy Thai chicken with coconut milk and vegetable soup. Wonderful! For a main course my wife chose Thai Green Curry, with shrimp only, she passed on the squid, and I opted for the “Chili Basil Grouper”. Both dishes were excellent. We passed on dessert. Thus concluded a wonderful dinner in an enjoyable venue. With the exception of the Flavor Market we have now had dinner in all the speciality restaurants. We will now spend the next three evenings returning to our favorites.

Tuesday morning it is warm and the sun is promising to make an appearance. We made a point to visit Guendoline at her office in building nine to thank her for her efforts. She is a delightful lady and was very eager to ensure that our stay would be memorable. She insisted on knowing our plans for dinner so I expect we will again have a special table at the Lobster House.

After eight days it’s fair to comment on general maintenance and housekeeping. We have found the grounds, gardens and pools to be meticulously maintained. The beach area is regularly groomed. Public areas and especially the washrooms are constantly attended to. There is no shortage of beach towels or chairs despite hoarding by some guests. Finally we must compliment our housekeeper, Yaneth, for keeping our room spotless and fully stocked. We are usually early risers and we greatly appreciated having our room tidied by 10:00 AM. Similarly we greatly appreciated the evening turn down service and freshening up including chocolates. Unfortunately we never did get to meet this individual. It wasn’t until late in our stay that we learned you can call room service and request a specific time for your daily housekeeping. There is supposed to be daily mini-bar service but this was not always the case or on one occasion they came very late (6:00 PM) after we had called room service.

Tonight we returned to the Lobster house for dinner. We arrived about 7:00 PM and were greeted and immediately seated at a nice table in one of the “pods” and thus able to enjoy the gentle evening breeze. We have found that by arriving around seven we have never had to wait to be seated at any restaurant. Our server, Arnulfo, soon had our drinks. For appetizers one of us had the warm potato salad with chicories and the other had Cancun salad, a green salad with Mahi Mahi. Both of these were delightful. After a glass of wine we both had the lobster bisque which was even better than that of our first visit.

While enjoying a break between courses we were visited by Alfonso, the duty manager and also the Entertainment and Sports manager. We enjoyed a delightful conversation with him. After more wine my wife opted for the tried and true seafood stuffed lobster tail and I opted for a steamed lobster tail with veggies. These were outstanding and my ½ tail was the largest I have seen and cooked to perfection. Stuffed at this point we passed on dessert and went in search of entertainment. Thank you Arnulfo and especially the chefs for an exceptional dinner.

We found good seats in the theatre to await the 9:30 “Magic Show”. The show was performed by three magicians and two lovely assistants. An interesting twist is that the performers were silent or mimed actions. This meant there were no language problems. The magic itself was of a very high standard and could easily be worthy of a TV special or large commercial venue. Speaking of shows we have been very impressed with the performances we have seen and look forward to these shows. One comment we have is that the show information about the different performances published in the daily newsletter is very sparse. Because of this we feel many guests have missed some very talented acts.

Wednesday dawned very warm with a light overcast which soon dissipated and the temperature kept rising. Great day! At noon we made our way to the beach side Los Olas grill to enjoy the Taco Festival. One of the staff demonstrated how to create a taco and how to eat it. At the same time an attractive Mexican couple rode up to the grill and the lady, “Adelita” serenaded us to Mexican songs atop her horse and encouraging guests to have their picture taken. Following her performance her partner gave a demonstration of rope twirling atop his horse.

Following lunch we returned to the “lazy river” area only to go back to the main pool area, “Sol Bar” around 4:00PM to listen to the “Little Band” followed by the Manager’s cocktail party. All the managers were presented and following the introductions they all mingled among the guests offering canapés. This was an enjoyable and unexpected event and the guests were very vocal in expressing their appreciation of the staff’s efforts. When mentioning the lazy river one should also mention the Revive smoothie bar. There you will find Emiliano or Ever ready to make you a special pick me up, many prepared with specific treatments in mind.

Tonight we are anticipating returning to the Basmati restaurant for another “hot” fix followed by the Circus H2O Show at the main pool. We don’t know what to expect there?

We enjoyed another excellent dinner at Basmati served by Anibal. We chose some of the same dishes as on our first visit and were not disappointed. There was some delay getting our main course but we simply enjoyed more wine. We arrived at the main pool area just before show time and were fortunate to secure seats stage front. A tripod structure about 30 feet high had been erected in the center of the pool and from the top of the tripod a cable and pulley arrangement had been suspended. Two long narrow strips of fabric were attached to the cable. Several performers then proceeded to entwine themselves in the fabric and were raised above the water and performed many gymnastic feats. These were Cirque de Soleil type feats. The show lasted about 30 minutes in and around the pool and again was more elaborate and professional than one would expect at a resort. Well done!

Today, Thursday is our last full day and it is starting out to be a sunny warm and almost cloudless one. After a wonderful breakfast including a custom omelette at Toscano we visited Guendoline our Concierge to say goodbye. She insisted on arranging our dinner for tonight and is attempting to obtain a late checkout for us. OK it’s organized for 12:30.

We returned to the Lobster house for our final dinner. Prompt seating, a wonderful “pod” table and “Ever” for our waiter. We enjoyed almost the identical meal as last time and it just as good. Again, Alfonso, the Sports & Entertainment manager stopped by the table for a short chat. We passed on dessert and returned to our room.

What a surprise! We opened the door and found flower petals on the floor leading to the spa. Drawing the curtain from the spa we found it full with soap suds on the top and these also topped with flower petals. The water was still very hot so the task must have been completed shortly before our arrival. In addition, the coffee table was laid out with a dish of “petit fours” with a note saying “Come back soon” and a bottle of sparkling wine was on ice. Outstanding! So ended our final night.

Friday morning we awoke early and got most of our packing done before going to “Toscano” for breakfast. We were again greeted and seated by Adriana and served by Jose. We enjoyed the rest of the morning around the pool and our balcony. The bellman arrived as requested at 12:30 and we proceeded to the front desk for an effortless checkout followed by a great buffet lunch with wine, our first lunch at Toscano. Hilario our driver from USA Transfers picked us up as specified at 1:30 PM for the 45 minute trip to the airport in heavy traffic.

I have a few suggestions that the resort might like to consider implementing:
• The addition of “noodles” to the pool areas would be inexpensive, relieve the shortage of “floaties”, would be easy to store and I believe would give the guests more flexibility and fun in the water.
• I suggest that several paddleboats be added to the selection of non-motorized water equipment.
• Perhaps a small side table could be placed beside the balcony bed.
• Although not everyone’s wish, it would be really appreciated if there was an area, preferably with at least a plunge pool, perhaps even a rooftop, were clothing optional was accepted.

With that said all that is left to say is that this was a Five Star experience. Thanks to the 785 staff that made it so.

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