My fiancee and I stayed here at the end of March during the calm before the Spring Break storm; it was my second time at a Riu, though I stayed at a Palace before, and her first time. Here's the lowdown:
If this is your first-time to an all-inclusive, the choices can be confusing. A number of properties claim to be all-inclusive, but then have tiered drink plans, added fees for a la carte dining and other confusing extra charges-- the Riu chain means "all-inclusive" when they say it. The choices of liquors and wines may be limited, but you never have to pay extra for a drink or food, so there are no surprises on check-out. Tips are not required, but if you appreciate the service you're getting, it's just common decency to tip accordingly.
I did miss the room service available at the Riu Palace properties, but if they had offered room service, I'm not sure we would have left the room.
We booked a jacuzzi suite, which in my opinion was well worth the money if you're going to stay for more than a few days. The jacuzzi suite has (obviously) a jacuzzi; this is out on the balcony. There is also a jetted tub in the room next to the bed, and a fairly large shower. There is a walk-in closet with a safe (we didn't feel the need to use it and had no problems). As is standard in Riu resorts, each room is also equipped with a fridge stocked with beer, soda and water, as well as a liquor-dispenser. The non-palace resorts stock the liquor dispenser with "off-brand" vodka, rum and gin, and Jose Cuervo tequila. Beer is Dos Equis, and there is also Pepsi and Seven-Up, diet and regular. There is a sitting area with a medium-sized TV, but we decided that if at any point during the trip we turned it on, we had failed as vacationers; so I have no idea what channels are available.
Oddly, I found the food here to be, by and large, better both in quality and selection than at the Riu Palace I stayed at previously. There are two buffet restaurants, one for lunch, one for breakfast and dinner. There are also three (?) a la carte restaurants that require reservations; we only tried one, the Bamboo, which was pretty good. The lunch buffet remains open for most of the afternoon until just prior to dinner-time, so if you like a later lunch or a mid-afternoon snack, you're covered. The sports bar also provides snack foods such as nachos, pizza, burgers and hot-dogs; these are perfectly fine foods, nothing to write home about-- although they served a Roquefort pizza there that I couldn't seem to get enough of after about three caipirinhas....
Sea-foods are fairly readily available-- lots of shellfish-based dishes in the buffets. There were at least two beef or pork entrees at each meal. Desserts seemed to be mostly gelatine- and fruit-based-- we both noticed a distinct lack of cakes. There is ice-cream-- soft-serve is available day-round, and tubs of regular ice-cream at dinner. The breakfast buffet, especiallty, offers up a staggering number of choices, including pain au chocolat, bacon(!), fantastic sausages and eggs cooked to order.
The only thing I noticed that I really missed was the lack of butter at lunch and dinner and the availability of margarine instead. I dealt with it, but am curious if butter is just ungodly expensive there or if there is some other logistical reason for its absence.
Plenty of it. There are stations near the pool with soda fountains and Dos Equis taps-- these are not manned, so if you're there with your kids, you might want to keep an eye on them-- when I was fifteen or so, I'd have hit the Dos Equis hard in that situation. There are also servers with carts who make the rounds for pool-denizens. The carts have fairly limited cocktail offerings, but there is also a poolside bar to get more complicated drinks-- the line can be pretty daunting, however.
I'm a single-malt Scotch man, so I was disappointed that there didn't seem to be any; but I did discover the Caipirinha, and that made up for it. Also, there doesn't seem to be any other beer but Dos Equis, which was fine by me, but may be a problem for beer connoisseurs. I heard a number of complaints that the drinks weren't strong enough, but in the sun on a warm day, you really don't want them to be. Sparkling wine is available in the restaurants if you ask for it and there is also table-wine on tap at the buffets; the wines are not top-shelf material, but a decent accompaniment to dinner.
Sodas are limited to Pepsi products, which are not my favorite; they did have Manzanita Sol on tap, which is one of my favorites, so it evened out.
We both work at fairly stressful jobs, so we went to the Riu to read and relax, catch up on reading and to not be asked to do anything more strenuous than lift a glass or fork, so we didn't go for aerobics or volleyball; however there was a daily volleyball game, there were Spanish language classes that I intended to attend, but ended up not going to and there seemed to be plenty of other options both physical and mental if you get bored. There was a beach party one day for lunch with a huge paella fry-up, and a beach dinner with costumed banditos and gauchos one night.
Independent vendors are available on the beach with para-sailing, horses and the like, if you want added activity options.
I have not had any complaints at either of the Riu properties I've stayed at. The cleaning staff is second-to-none, keeping the public areas sparkling clean. The check-in process was great at this resort, we were taken to a desk, given a drink and checked in quickly. The waiters at the restaurants were fantastic, and checked at our table frequently. I think there was only one bartender who didn't seem to be too interested in my drink order, but the bartender in the sports bar was very attentive and suggested drinks I might like. The doorman was very helpful in getting transportation into town arranged, and very friendly. On check-in, our bags were taken up to our room for us. Overall good service with a smile.
There were a number of eagle-eyed security guards roaming the grounds when we were there. Cameras were visible in secluded areas. I had intended to pack away all of my electronics when leaving the room for the day, but left my iPod on the bed-- it was placed on the nightstand when I came back. I left my camera and iPod out after that, and they were just fine. I know some people have complained that things were stolen from them by the room-cleaning staff, but that was certainly not my experience there and I doubt it was for most guests. The staff struck me as very friendly and hard-working and I would have a hard time believing that theft is common in any way. Even in town, we never felt threatened by anything. Mazatlan seems to get a lot of bad press for isolated incidents.
In all, we had a fantastic week and did not want to come home. The city of Mazatlan as a tourist destination was not necessarily my favorite, but the resort itself was a fantastic get-away. If you are going to Mazatlan just for a resort experience, I would recommend Riu Emerald Bay very highly.
All rooms are ocean-view-- the back of the hotel is just the passageway between rooms.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC