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“Vacation from Hell”

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Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
Ranked #1 of 17 Hotels in Puerto Aventuras
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersGold level
niagara
Level Contributor
113 reviews
28 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 138 helpful votes
“Vacation from Hell”
Reviewed 2 March 2012

The front desk did not have our reservations. We did not get the room we paid for. The front desk staff spoke very little english and they were rude. We had to wait for 2 hours to get our room. They kept sending a bell boy to show us the room and he could not open the door with the card the front desk gave him. This took 3 hours. The food was not good at all. Not much choice 3* at best. Night entertaintment was lousy. 4 people entertained you. No beach at all to walk or swin in. Very small rooms with a large bathtub in the middle of the room that took up so much space and the excuse for the louse service is that they are changing over to a new management. Very dissapointed and did not get what we paid for. I have been to Cancun 15 times to different high end resorts and this one was the worse!

Room Tip: All rooms are very small. No closet space at all.
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  • Stayed February 2012, travelled with friends
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10 Thank 5685
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Customer Servic... A, Guest Relations Manager at Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, responded to this review, 14 March 2012
We regret to know about your perception, and deeply apologize for what you consider a less than satisfactory experience.

On behalf of Aventura Palace, I would like to thank you for taking the time to write to us. We kindly ask you contact us at customerservice@allinclusivecollection.com for the proper follow up.
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  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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  • Value
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San Jose, California
Level Contributor
44 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 March 2012

This was our first time at an all-inclusive resort and we loved it! If you want to check in and forget the world, this is the place to go. With the numerous restaurants, spa, pools, gardens, beach, snorkeling lagoon and all the amenities, you really don't need to leave. The staff at the restaurants were friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. Food was delicious and fresh. I really missed the breakfast buffet when I came home. Thank you Pedro, Juan, Letty and everyone else! If we needed something, it was provided with a smile and "it's a pleasure".

The property and grounds are well maintained and manicured. Playa Del Carmen is about 10 minutes ($20) away, if you want to experience the local color. PlayaCar Palace is the sister property to the Aventura Spa Palace, so you can take advantage of the beach, pool and restaurants there, too. It was like an extension of the Spa Palace... nice bonus! We really enjoyed everything about the Aventura Spa Palace... spa treatments, food, poolside cocktails, nightly entertainment, and the weather was perfect! I can't say enough positive things about my vacation with this resort... Muchas Gracias!!!

Room Tip: Quieter rooms are located on the north side Presidential suites are worth it!
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  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
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    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Lyn J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Customer Servic... A, Guest Relations Manager at Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, responded to this review, 14 March 2012
Muchas Gracias!! to you, we are really pleased to know that our Guest felt our warm and special service as they deserve.

Our goal is that every vacation will be a memorable one and it will be a pleasure to host you again at any of our Resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
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Sault Ste. Marie, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 March 2012

The following is a detailed letter (ok short story) we had sent to Signature/Sunwing and TD Travel back in January concerning our recent trip to Aventura Spa Palace fro Jan. 9th to the 16th, 2012. Although we had intended to write a review on TripAdvisor as soon as we arrived back in Canada, we thought that it would be best to first give Sunwing/Signature and the Aventura Spa Palace a chance to respond so that we could include them in all fairness. Unfortunately, the responses (just finally received today March 1st) only served as an insult. Sunwing/Signature offered a quote from their well written legal disclaimer and the Aventura Spa Palace simply side stepped and dismissed all of our concerns offering us an upgrade to their Presidential Suite the next time we visit (as this would ever happen before or after the transition to Hard Rock). In hindsight, we have always found TripAdvisor to be a very valuable tool when planning vacations and we were being completely selfish not warning fellow travellers as we ourselves have come to rely on. If TripAdvisor actually approves this review, hopefully it will at the very least prepare fellow travellers for what to expect. We are actually quite stunned as to how this property can actually still be getting positive reviews. Either not many have had the chance to experience the many other true 5 Star properties throughout the Riviera Maya or it is simply their first vacation.

If anyone should doubt whether or not this actually happened to us or wish to simply classify us as the typical "never satisfied" travellers, simply send us an email and we would be happy to forward pictures as well as the response letters we received from Sunwing/Signature and the Aventura Spa Palace themselves. We have been to the Riviera Maya 11 times now and never seen so many upset travellers as those walking around the Aventura Spa Palace.

The Letter:

After weeks of researching vacation destinations and resorts for a much needed break for my wife and I and to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday, we decided on the Riviera Maya area which both couples have travelled to numerous times prior. Having stayed in 4 & 5 star properties such as the Palladium, Iberostar, Gran Bahia Principe, Barcello, Princess, etc. we decided on Sunwing/Signature’s Ultimate 5 Star Adults Only Luxury Roulette package as a safe bet that our vacation would result in a fun filled week as we all had experienced many times before.

To our understanding, and as stated on both the Sunwing and Signature websites, this roulette package included three 5 star properties and you were guaranteed to be notified and booked into one of them two weeks prior to your departure. The properties were Royal Suites by Palladium (which my wife and I had the pleasure of staying at on a previous trip), Grand Yucatan Princess Platinum (our friends had previously stayed at this property) and the Aventura Spa Palace which we assumed was in the same category as advertised. How could we lose!

I suggested to our friends that they allow me to make all travel arrangements through the TD Travel Centre as we had done so many times before. We have complete faith in TD and have always received nothing less than awesome service from knowledgable and very pleasant staff. In this case, Greg made sure to answer all my questions and even went as far as to recommend an upgrade to our travel insurance package when I inquired about the standard coverage, billing etc. in the event of an unexpected mishap requiring medical services in Mexico.

You could imagine all our excitement when the day came that a Sunwing/Signature rep called and notified us that we would be vacationing at the Aventura Spa Palace! We were getting a dream vacation at a property neither couple had been to before. With fond memories of our past vacations at the other two properties, we all started packing and could barely wait for the day of our departure.

Our Sunwing/Signature Vacation Experience

Departure / Day 1

We began our vacation a few days early, allowing us to travel the 7+ hours from Sault Ste. Marie, ON to Toronto, ON. After getting a good night sleep in the Pearson Airport district, we took a hotel shuttle to the Airport three hours in advance of our 10:30am flight. Or so we thought… After checking in, we were notified by the Sunwing counter that the flight was delayed with no update on departure time available.

Finally, more than four hours late, two or three gate assignments later, we boarded the aircraft for departure mid afternoon. Having already used the $20 voucher Sunwing gave us towards breakfast, we were all ready for the hot meal to come.

Having spent a fair bit of time in airports, I constantly assured my wife and friends that these things happen and are often beyond an airline’s control. I would rather put up with a delayed departure then find out mid flight that the aircraft you are on is experiencing technical difficulties. Besides, we are on vacation… what’s the hurry! 

The Sunwing flight was awesome, they offered us some complimentary alcoholic beverages as compensation for the delay and quickly lifted everyone’s spirits. Once in Mexico, alternate transportation to our resort was waiting for us and we were soon under way on a beautiful Caribbean evening.

Check-in

We sensed something wasn’t quite right when we pulled up to the lobby of the Aventura Spa Palace around 9pm. Normally at any five star resort we have been to whether in Mexico, Cuba, Dominican, etc., you are greeted with a token welcome beverage. Maybe they should learn a thing from the other two properties which Sunwing/Signature was offering in this package. Upon approaching the front desk, we were immediately informed that it had been a crazy day having checked in around 900 people for a convention they were hosting from the U.S. Even though this sounds like a lot of people, we just shrugged our shoulders and thought, the resort must be large enough to handle such a large group over and above regular guests such as ourselves.

It was soon very apparent that our thoughts were greatly inaccurate as we spent well over an hour waiting for them to find rooms for us. (Later we found out that this individual was actually running around the property checking out rooms personally as he could not raise anyone to help out.) My wife and I were the lucky ones having been found a room with a King sized bed. Our friends unfortunately weren’t anywhere as lucky as not only could they not be placed in the same building as us, the only other room he could find available had two double beds. So much for the requests we made at the time of booking for one bed and the same building.

It took a bit, but we all agreed that it was probably best to wait until morning when we were all rested and we could come back to see if they had come up with another room with a king or queen bed. So we proceeded to bring our luggage up to our respective rooms then meet back in the lobby to find someplace to eat. After finding an restaurant, we grabbed a bite and decided to take a walk around the resort to get our bearings.

The first thing we noticed, this property was no where near the size we were accustomed to, that is compared to Iberostar, Palladium, Princess, etc. It only took a few minutes to not only walk the Aventura Spa Palace grounds, we had unknowingly also toured the Aventura Cove Palace property and found ourselves in their lobby. Curious though, there was barely a soul to be found in all our travels but maybe the conventioners were all tired from their travels. Since we were already at the Cove, we decided to check out the disco… our wives are dance-a-holics. By this time it is 11:30pm and there are only four people in the disco and they were closing it down early. Oh well a good night sleep would be best so we all called it a night.

Day 2

Things started to look up a bit when we received word from our friends that they had found them a room with a king bed. Daylight also confirmed our first impression from the previous night, this property was quite a bit smaller than the others we had all experienced and no where near as well maintained. Definitely no where near as spacious as it looked in the pictures we had seen but who knows, the size may actually be a benefit. We went and grabbed breakfast from a small restaurant down by the pool, still unsure of where the main buffet restaurant was located. There was a very limited selection of fruit and a few other breakfast items but we were content, that is, until we discovered that this was the main buffet location for both breakfasts and lunches.

After having something to eat and talking to a few staff members about why there were virtually no guests around the pool but almost every chair was reserved with towels and other personal belongings, we were informed that the guests attending the convention were busy in the conference centre all morning and had the afternoons off. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to quickly figure out what was going on here. We also asked why the disco hadn’t been hopping the previous night and were informed that it rarely is, and that’s why they close it early most nights.

It was at this point that we all agreed that maybe it is best if we attempt to contact our Sunwing Rep to discuss transferring over to one of the other two properties which were in the Roulette Package. We were on vacation to have a good time, dancing, participating in various sporting activities, etc. which we all had a feeling were not going to come to fruition at this particular resort, especially with a 900 person convention taking place. Please don’t take this as a portrayal of us being the proverbial “wild partiers” as this is just simply not the case. We are just early 40ish couples who enjoy being energetic and active.

It was at this point that we approached the concierge desk to contact “David”, our Sunwing Rep. They immediately made the call and handed the phone over to me and I proceeded to explain our experiences and concerns to this point. David reassured me that he knew the property well and agreed that it wasn’t the best choice for “younger couples” who were looking to participate in various activities, dance until the early hours of the morning, etc. He asked me to call him back in an hour to give him some time to arrange a transfer to either the Palladium or Princess depending on which property had availability.

My wife and I decided to head back to the room to grab a few things and our friends proceeded to take a walk down to see the lagoon. Upon returning to the pool area we were greeted by our friends who were quite concerned. During their walk down by the lagoon, they stopped to take a picture of what they thought was a log carved and painted to look like a crocodile. To their surprise, the log swam off into the lagoon. They immediately informed staff in the area that they had a crocodile swimming in the same water as their guests but this notion was quickly dismissed as a large fish with an eel like tail which simply looked a lot like a crocodile but had been hanging around for a couple days now. I attempted to comfort our friends by reminding them that this is Mexico, one only hopes to be fortunate enough to experience wildlife many others only get to see on television.

It was now just over an hour later and we all headed back up to the concierge desk to call back the Sunwing Rep David. Again, the call was promptly answered and the phone passed over to me. David explained that he had been in contact with the front desks of both the Palladium and the Princess and he was just waiting for a phone call back from either. He asked that we give him another hour then he should know which resort we would be transferred to and all necessary details. Again we thanked him and proceeded to head off for some lunch.

After lunch (about an hour and a half later), we returned to the concierge desk to give David a call back. Unlike the previous two calls, the concierge did get in contact with David, but after a brief conversation in Spanish was instructed to ask us to call back in 20 mins. as he was currently in a meeting. We waited an additional 30 mins. in the lobby area and went back to call David as requested.

To our surprise, the concierge had a much longer conversation with David in Spanish resulting in a second call being placed and the phone handed over to me stating that it was now David’s head office on the phone. The gentleman on the phone (speaking very broken English) proceeded to inform me that the resort (Aventura Spa Palace) would not refund them (Sunwing) for our booking and that unless we were willing to pay to transfer to one of the other two resorts, there were no other options available other than for us to stay were we were. I informed him that we had already paid for our 5 Star Vacation and this property, in our sincere opinion and past experiences, was simply not comparable to the others advertised in their “Ultimate Luxury 5 Star Package”. We were definitely not about to pay again for something we should have received in the first place. The conversation was going nowhere fast with the gentleman on the other phone just repeating that they were not prepared to transfer us anywhere without us paying for another package at another resort.

It is at this point that I politely ended the conversation by advising the gentleman that I would call back to Canada in an attempt to resolve this matter. I’m the last person to look for any type of confrontation while abroad. I then went back to our room and called into the TD Travel Centre seeking assistance. My call was promptly answered and after explaining our situation to the travel consultant, I was placed on a brief hold and transferred to a supervisor by the name of Jim Moses. I proceeded to again explain everything to Jim who immediately took my contact info in case we got disconnected while he attempted to contact Sunwing. After a brief wait, Jim returned to advise me that he was still attempting to contact Sunwing and asked if it would be ok to call me back at the room once he had a chance to talk with them. Now having a level of comfort that someone was finally trying to offer credible assistance, I agreed and proceeded to watch a bit of television while awaiting the call back from Jim.

After about an hour, I called back to TD when I noticed a message light on our phone fearing that somehow Jim hadn’t been able to get through. Co-workers immediately connected me to Jim upon reading the notes and Jim advised that he had spoken with Sunwing back in Canada. They advised him that now that we are in Mexico, they have to let Sunwing Mexico attempt to resolve this situation and that the local rep David would soon be at the resort for a pre-arranged orientation meeting already scheduled for 3:30pm. Sunwing Canada was informed that David will assist us at this time. Having already spent almost the entire second day of my vacation on the telephone, I thanked Jim for his assistance and we agreed to touch base later on for me to advise him of the outcome of the meeting with David.

Since we were already close to the meeting time, I proceeded down to the lobby with my wife and friends. We sat in the lobby area for some time, watching 3:30pm come and go with no sign of David our Sunwing Rep. Again we had the concierge attempt to contact David and after several calls, were informed that David couldn’t make it but a co-worker would be coming in his place. Back to the lobby bar we go.

With the evening hours now settling in, we again went over to the concierge desk in an attempt to contact David. Again, no surprise to us, we were informed that David was unreachable. The calls were simply going to his voicemail. Totally worn out and infuriated at this point we returned to our room to call back to Jim at TD. They immediately transferred us to Jim. After bringing Jim up to speed he informed me that he had continued to work on things from his end and that Sunwing in Canada had assured him that an individual by the name of “Alex” from Sunwing Mexico should be contacting us that evening. We ended the call agreeing to touch base the next day as we both agreed that nothing if anything would happen before then.

Shortly after hanging up from Jim, the rep who was filling in for David called stating that he had been waiting for us over at the Aventura Cove Lobby. We advised him that we were not staying there and would meet him in the Aventura Lobby in 20 mins. Not to waste too much time here as the ending of this episode is totally predictable, the rep again reiterated what was said in the earlier phone call with his head office. The resort will not refund them so if we aren’t prepared to hand over our credit card info and pay $1,392 USD (I assumed that was per person but could be mistaken and been per couple) they are simply not prepared to transfer us. After beating the whole issue of this not being close to a “5 Star Luxury Property” compared to the other two resorts advertised by Sunwing in the package, the rep proceeded to again call his head office. After a brief conversation in Spanish, he handed his cell phone over to me and a woman again proceeded to explain that the management of the Aventura Spa Palace was unwilling to refund our stay so unless we were willing to pay to transfer over to another property we were stuck where we were. She also claimed that the Resort Manager stated that despite the convention, we were receiving the same level of service one would expect to receive any other time. I attempted to explain to her that after only a brief amount of time at this property, this simply was not the case. I even attempted to sympathize with them by stating that I believed that they most likely were also not informed that there was a large convention going on this week. All my efforts at diplomacy seemed to be in vein so I simply handed the cell phone back and we very politely dismissed ourselves. In all fairness, I sincerely believe the rep was almost as upset as us, his efforts were obviously in vein as well.

It was at this point that we all agreed to make the best of it, get dressed up for a nice a la carte dinner (there was no dinner buffet) and later catch a show and try the disco again. If one thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse… we all know of the time aged expression “all dressed up and no place to go”!!! On our way down to the lobby heading for the restaurant area we bumped into a visibly upset couple who proceeded to voice their dismay that there was an average wait time of 1 to 2 hours at all the restaurants. With the time now around 7:30pm, we all looked at each other and just simply thought this can’t be possible. Every single restaurant had line-ups. We couldn’t believe our eyes and it was quite apparent that there was no use in complaining as there were plenty of those echoed throughout the lines and upon heading back to the lobby they were quite busy as well.

To spare you any further reading on Day 2… we eventually found our way over to the Cove next door and discovered a small buffet setup in the Italian Restaurant. We then proceeded to catch the last part of the show (shows were also at the Cove) then joined the six other people inhabiting the disco before retiring for the night.

Day 3

Again, I apologize for the length of this letter and in an attempt to avoid making our experience into a full length movie, I will attempt to only summarize from this point forward.

Called Jim at TD as promised and filled him in on our late contact with David’s co-worker as well as the second call to the Sunwing Mexico head office. Explained that nobody by the name of Alex attempted to call us but Jim even stated at this point that this is not surprising. Informed Jim that they had mentioned we were receiving the same level of service regardless of the convention and also that we had to go next door to eat dinner due to the duration of waiting times to get into the restaurants at our resort.

Jim again asked for our patience while he attempted to contact Sunwing Canada and advised that he would call on our cell phone rather than having us spend another day waiting in our room. Later in the day, Jim called seemingly just as frustrated as us. He offered to move us to another resort and began searching for availability. I assumed this would have been at TD’s expense, but at this point we both agreed that it would most likely not happen until the next day as he was attempting to try and get pricing options for hotel only. Upon further discussing the situation and bringing each other down, we agreed that the process would most likely cost us a 4th of our 7 day vacation and he suggested that if possible, we attempt to make the best of the rest of our week and upon returning to Canada, TD would assist us in escalating our experience with Sunwing. It was quite obvious by now that neither us in Mexico nor he in Canada were having much luck.

I discussed the outcome of Jim and my conversation with my wife and friends and all agreed that this was the most realistic approach towards a positive outcome in the near future.

The resort offered a $1,500 credit which could be used towards spa services and products, select excursions, room upgrades (lol), discounts on jewellery and a tequila gift set. We chose to use $1,150 of our credits on a Couples Spa Package which we preceded to book. After over two hours of technical difficulty, they finally handed us our appointment which was on the day before we were scheduled to leave. We were informed that this was the last spot available so our friends ended up booking a couples massage for that same day. They also booked an excursion to the Mayan Ruins in Tulum for the next day. (We had already visited this attraction twice on previous visits.

We enquired about visiting the Playacar Place in Playa Del Carmen which was clearly stated as a feature of our stay on Palace’s website, as well as literally hundreds of reviews on Trip Advisor. The site states that we were to have full access to this sister resort and all it’s amenities including beach, food, beverages and even a room to freshen up in. We had planned to take the shuttle to the Playacar Palace and use it as a home base to take advantage of a bit of shopping at 5th Avenue which we had talked up with our friends.

It was at this point that the concierge let us know that Hard Rock had recently purchased the Cancun Palace, Aventura Spa and Aventura Cove. As of January the shuttle only takes you to the Playacar Golf Course and we are no longer able to access the Playacar Palace. He stated however that it is only about a 15 minute walk from the Golf Course to 5th Avenue. We just couldn’t believe what we were hearing and actually had him go to several other co-workers to confirm his statements, always the same reply. He attempted to show us brochures on the Hard Rock Resort in the Dominican Republic but we politely excused ourselves.

Again we had to eat dinner over at the Cove in order to avoid lengthy line-ups and again the disco was dead (only 2 people this time). Called it an early night and ordered breakfast to be delivered to the room the next day.

Day 4

We couldn’t make coffee in the room while waiting for breakfast to be delivered as the maid must have run out of regular coffee and sugar and had substituted with extra decaf and sweetner. Breakfast was delivered but we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat the scrambled eggs as they required the use of a spoon.

In the morning the place was a ghost town with not much in the way of activities other than poolside trivia. Can’t blame animation staff as they need guest participation for activities and everyone is at the convention hall. Afternoon and evening is a full 180 with many attempting to use restaurants and facilities.

We are happy that our friends were able to go on their half day excursion to Tulum. At least they had good time.

Again had to eat over on the Cove side… thankfully I don’t think the conventioners realized that you can eat over there. And again, absolutely not one person at the disco this time… another early night. By now it’s obvious that all the convention people have to be up early so they must go to bed early.


Day 5

Woke up and headed down to the buffet restaurant “El Greco” for breakfast. Most of the conventioners were scheduled to leave today so we were optimistic that things would improve. Wow, so much for attempting to optimistic! “El Greco” was closed as well as that side of the pool. There was a flurry of activity as dozens of workers were ripping off the roof and hauling old materials away and bringing new in. I asked a staff member how long the restaurant would be out of commission and was informed that it should be completed by Monday or Tuesday. Yay, that’s when we leave!

After asking several staff where we could get breakfast, we finally were told by the front desk that the Asian Restaurant was serving breakfast and lunch while “El Greco” was having its roof replaced. Upon entering the Asian Restaurant and browsing through the very small buffet available, all we could do was take pictures and shake our heads in disbelief. There was a small section consisting of fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, apples and pineapple as well as a few yogurt cups. Moving on to the hot food section, there was the trademark scrambled eggs to be eaten with a spoon, some potatoes as well as very small selection of Mexican cuisine. Absolutely no breakfast meats such as bacon, ham nor sausage to be found, with the exception of cubed chicken and green peppers in a light gravy. A third station had a toaster with again a small selection of bread/buns and small boxes of cereal. No bagels, English muffins, croissants, etc. Again we are so not the complaining type but we’ve been to many Hotels back in Canada and the U.S. which offered way more appealing continental breakfasts the next morning. In defence of the resort, they did have a cook who was attempting to make omelettes, eggs and waffles but again… most people like their eggs cooked. Besides, we had never seen an omelette station with no meat available!

I made the mistake of giving into the animation staff to play a game of beach volleyball down at the lagoon. I really felt for these people as they were always attempting to start activities and drum up participation. It just seemed as it was simply a losing battle. We managed to get about a dozen people playing until both another guest and myself found out the hard way that the crushed coral they passed off as a beach was extremely sharp. I walked away without any skin on both knees and she ended up with the same thing on her knee and an elbow. Oh well it was fun while it lasted 

That night we were finally able to get into an ala carte restaurant but as we had come to expect, very small portions and extremely inconsistent quality. We all ordered steaks medium and two of the four of us had to ask for our steaks to be returned to be cooked more. They were completely raw inside, and not just a bit rare. We finished the meal and went over to the buffet on the Cove side.

We caught the show and with no surprise, walked into the disco for a drink, watched about a dozen or so people participate in karaoke, then retired early after the girls danced to a couple songs and everyone left.


Day 6

Same brutal quality and selection of food at the make shift breakfast and lunch buffet.

Rain today but we’re still bound to make the best of it as this one isn’t under the resort’s control. “Vanilla” one of the animation staff taught me how to make grasshoppers out of palm leaves while we ate nachos for breakfast. Our stomachs were really upset by this time and wanted to take it easy.

The previous evening, our friends had bumped into a couple returning from the Playacar Palace in Playa Del Carmen. They had informed us that despite the information we had been given, the Playcar Palace was still welcoming all guests visiting from our resort. They advised that yes the shuttle only brought you to the Golf Course but there was a shuttle which ran every 15 mins bringing guest to and from the Playacar Palace. Since it was raining, our friends decided to take the morning to go check out whether or not what we were told by our fellow guests was true or not.

Our friends returned shortly after lunch with the biggest smiles we have seen since we left Canada. They told us that things went exactly as the other couple had stated. There were shuttles to and from the Golf Course, welcomed with open arms at the front desk upon showing their Aventura Spa bracelets and access to all amenities. They went on to tell us that despite the resort being half the size and only a 4 star, the food well surpassed the quality and quantities available to us at the supposedly 5 star Aventura Spa. Even though the weather was overcast and brief periods or rain, they took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful beach.

We later rounded up several other couples and headed to the indoor pool/hot tub area to escape the rain. Even though drinking was frowned upon in this “healthy lifestyle” area, we managed to convince a few of the lobby bar servers to bring us drinks and proceeded to tip them well for their efforts. It wasn’t long before other guests joined in and “Lucy” our server was now bringing us potato chips, nuts and nachos in addition to our drink orders. Guess they appreciated the fact that we were all just having a great time socializing despite the weather.

Ate pizza over at the Cove, caught the show then attempted the disco again. Turned in early.

Day 7

Our last day and we actually woke up excited!!! Our half day Couples Spa Package was scheduled 9am and our friends each had a one hour massage booked for 11am. As mentioned prior, they couldn’t get any type of Couples treatments but we would all finish around the same time. We had made plans to head into Playa Del Carmen to do some shopping and take our friends to a restaurant we had ate at during several previous trips. Finally we could look forward to a decent meal.

Just when one would think it couldn’t possibly get worse, the Aventura Spa came through again. We arrived at the spa just prior to our 9am appointment only to watch more puzzled expressions as the front desk staff attempted to figure out why the sales team had us showing up earlier than required. After several minutes the girl explained to us that our appointment slip should have indicated 10:30am not 9am. Again not being in any type of rush, we just apologized for the confusion and decided to go socialize with our friends by the pool until 10:30am.

Back at 10:25am for our revised appointment with great anticipation and again, puzzled looks, managers being called to the front with a flurry of activity. After several more minutes, we are informed that the couple booked for the morning Couples Spa Package had already arrived and began their treatment! My wife immediately broke into tears and the woman who we were dealing with came out and guided us over to a nearby table and chairs. I proceeded to tell her why my wife was so upset, briefly outlining the weeks events as well as explain that we had been to the Riviera Maya several times in the past few years and never came close to any form of disappointment. This person who I refuse to identify, proceeded to apologize profusely and break out in tears as well.

I attempted to comfort her by stating that even though we felt this resort was no where near a 5 star compared to all the other properties we had stayed at in this area, we would definitely give the staff there 5 stars or more. She thanked me for my sincere compliments and proceeded to explain why she was so upset. We were told that the last two months have been very difficult for her and her co-workers. She explained how upsetting it was to see and have to deal with so many unhappy guests day after day even though they were giving their heart and soul. I refuse to identify this person or even get into the further details given as I don’t feel it is necessary but I suggested that they somehow fit my wife in for an hour massage or something to calm her down. This is now well beyond a simple double booking. She agreed and after some convincing, my wife as well.

After they brought my wife in to start her treatment, the same woman returned with her supervisor and offered another apology as well as a massage. I politely declined stating that I am way too upset to actually enjoy it. They requested that I explain the week’s events to the General Manager of the Spa but again I politely declined advising that we were to leave the next morning so I didn’t feel my taking up his time would be of any benefit. I did however request to speak with the General Manager of the resort at which point the woman who had been comforting my wife offered to take me down to the lobby and see if he was available.

I too am a business owner and appreciate hearing both the good from clients in an effort to improve our products and services. For some reason I just felt the need to pass along all our frustrations and disappointments with this trip in the event he would actually find them helpful in some way. Heck why not? I had an hour to kill and obviously no more pressing engagements.

It wasn’t long after she made a phone call that a gentleman by the name of Rodrigo Del Toro came over to us. He introduced himself as a manager and guided me to his office behind the front reception. We sat down at his desk and I proceeded to explain why I (and my party) were so upset. I explained how we had booked a Sunwing “Ultimate Luxury 5 Star Roulette Mayan Riviera 18+” package offering what we believed was comparable vacations at either the Palladium, Princess or Aventura Spa Palace to be chosen by Sunwing two weeks prior to departure. I went on to explain how, based on previous vacations to the Riviera Maya at 4 & 5 star properties such as Iberostar, Palladium, Princess, Barcelo, Gran Bahia, etc., our expectations had been set quite high prior to even leaving Canada.

I stated, (with no disrespect or offense), we strongly felt that the Aventura Palace simply was not even close to being in the same category as those mentioned above. I then proceeded to explain our dismay of finding out at check-in that there was a large convention of 900 people checking in on the same day we were to begin our luxury vacation. One would have assumed that our tour provider (Sunwing) would have been told of the convention and given the opportunity to make sure we weren’t placed at this resort. I mentioned how we had simply called our Sunwing Rep the next morning to request a transfer over to one of the other properties which were in our package only to have our first two days wasted resulting in a demand to pay and additional $1392 (per person or couple?) in order to fulfill our request because he or a fellow manager would not refund our stay to Sunwing. It was at this point that he interjected, explaining that this was the first he had heard of such a thing. He explained to me that it simply wasn’t their policy or wish to have guests stay at the property against their wishes and that they frequently accepted guests from other resorts who were looking for a more quiet and laid back atmosphere and in turn allowed couples such as ourselves to transfer out when they determined the property was not what they were looking for. He assured me that no such request for a refund was made by Sunwing Mexico and there were no cancellation fees that would have been charged to anyone. He asked for the Sunwing Reps contact info and appeared sincerely upset.

I proceeded to fill him in on the rest of our week and all he could do was continually apologize over and over and attempt to offer explanations. He confirmed that Hard Rock had entered into an agreement with Palace for Cancun Palace, Aventura Spa Palace and Aventura Cove Palace. He also stated that he has hundreds of staff working under him and clearly there was some confusion with regards to the Playacar Palace as we were in fact more than welcome to visit and enjoy the amenities at any of their other Palace Resorts.

Again, I stated that with no disrespect, we didn’t know who to believe or who was lying to us. All we know is that this was the worst vacation either couple had ever experienced and we just simply couldn’t wait to get back to Canada. I explained that we had travel extensively through the Caribbean and always had a special spot in our hearts for Mexico, it’s people and the Riviera Maya. Obviously as I believe this was our 10th trip here. He thanked me profusely for coming to him and stated that he was going to escalate this from his end as he had a friend who worked at Sunwing back in Canada. He provided me with his business card and also stated that once I emailed him our Sunwing Mexico Reps info that he was going to get to the bottom of this. Again, he seemed quite sincere and upset but at this point… we just simply don’t know who is telling the truth.

I asked him for a letter confirming that the Aventura Spa Palace did not request cancellation fees or refuse to refund our stay but he informed me that this would be the equivalent of putting a gun to his head. He just reassured me that he would be definitely looking for some form of compensation for us from his end.

Upon hooking back up with my wife and friends, we headed off to Playa Del Carmen by taxi. The shopping and our meal was a hit! Finally, some fond memories to take home with us. Too bad we hadn’t learned that the information which was provided to us about the Playacar Palace simply wasn’t true. We could have spent the majority of our time enjoying this property during the remainder of our trip.

Day 8 – We’re Going Home!

We had breakfast delivered to the room and marking “Eggs Well Done” on the order seemed to work. We didn’t need a spoon to eat them! Packing was easy as we hadn’t really ever unpacked or even had the opportunity to wear any of the evening dress up cloths we brought.

After calling for a Bell Man, our luggage was promptly wisked away for our departure from the hotel. There were no issues at check-out for us but our friends weren’t to happy to pay $40USD taxes on a so called $300 Spa Product Package which contained 4 small sample sized creams. Oh well… we’re going home.

We arrived at Cancun Airport only to be awestruck yet again. There were 4 open Sunwing wickets attempting to board not one but four aircraft!!! After over 2 hours we finally made it to the counter after they opened up an additional wicket for fear that the aircraft would not be boarded in time. Do you think it could actually get any better for us? NO… they advised me that our two suit cases which totalled a combined weight of 38 kilos back at Toronto Pearson now weighed 45 kilos. They took the unused weight from our friends to knock down a few kilos but still charged me $60USD for being over. The funny thing here is that we never bought anything or even put anything more in our luggage! This isn’t our first rodeo and we realize that humidity can account for some extra weight on the way back but 7 kilos… that’s a small child!!! And no we didn’t have any wet cloths in our bags either.

To save you a long story and wait for us… we ended up literally running through duty free, grabbing a few bottles along the way and arriving at the gate as the second last to board. Wow that was cutting things close. 

Summary

Quite simply, we feel completely ripped off having booked what was advertised and sold as an “Ultimate Luxury 5 Star Roulette Mayan Riviera 18+” with all the accompanying expectations and actually provided with much less. We have no clue whether or not Sunwing was aware of the convention taking place at the resort they had selected for us and would hope that if they did in fact know in advance, they would have been courteous enough to book us in at one of the other properties offered in the package.

Even prior to booking, I found myself defending Sunwing as our friends had travelled with them last year on a vacation to the Riviera Maya resulting in lost luggage for the first 3 days of the week. We personally have never had any issues in the past having travelled several times with Sunwing. Our expectations had always been exceeded.

You read or hear numerous negative reviews where there have been delayed flights, weather, etc. It is my sincere opinion that in most cases these are simply beyond anyone’s control. Mother nature can be unpredictable and delayed flights are often caused by weather or mechanical failures. Safety is always #1 and travellers need to keep this in mind.

The Positive

- TD Travel Centre; from booking to working with us while we were attempting to resolve our issues down in Mexico. We can’t begin to voice how much you are appreciated!
- Playa Del Carmen; always fond memories including this trip
- Even though we don’t feel the Aventura Spa Palace is a 5 Star Resort, the staff definitely earns this rating, higher if we could. We spent well over $500 in tips during the week and they deserved every cent!!!
- Aventura Spa does have a few things to teach others, free LD back to Canada (unfortunately we could only make a connection 50% of the time but most likely due to volumes with conventioneers), free WiFi (it was extremely slow and frequently lost connections but again volumes), Breakfast in Bed
- Sunwing Flight; compared to Air Canada Vacations who we travelled to Mexico with last June… you guys rock! From the $20 voucher to grab something to eat while waiting for the four hour delayed flight at Pearson to the Counter Staff, Air Crew, Champagne, Hot Meal, Headsets and even First Round enroute, you also earn a 5 Star Rating in our books.
- Mexico, Riviera Maya; our second home 

The Not So Positive

- Sunwing Ultimate Luxury 5 Star Roulette; shame on you!!! How could you guys actually put the Aventura Spa/Cove Palace in the same category as the Royal Section of the Palladium or the Platinum Section at the Princess? Maybe you could pull this one off with someone who had never experienced the others. And the reason I include the Cove is because without it, the Spa simply could not function. Most of the amenities are located over there.
- Wasting almost four days of our seven day vacation stringing us along over a simple transfer request. I could have remained at work in Canada and made money rather than waste a week of holidays after spending thousands of dollars.
- Convention; We would really like to know if Sunwing actually knew that there would be a 900 person convention at this property? Although the staff did there best, everyone was simply maxed out attempting to cater to this many people as well as the few regular guests. It was stated to us by Sunwing Mexico that the Resort had informed them “despite the convention, we assure you that your clients are receiving the same amenities and level of service that one would receive even if there was no convention…” Bull!!! Can one always expect to either wait hours to be seated for dinner or else have to go next door to the Cove.
- Food Quality & Quantity; They say not to expect anything special in Cuba which we’ve never found to be the case staying a 4 or 5 star properties there. I’m sorry but the selection, quality and quantity at the Aventura Spa Palace wins that absolute worst we’ve ever experienced. No fish, limited fruit selections, very limited breakfast and lunch selections, we can’t begin to even properly describe our complete dissatisfaction here. We have pictures though!
- Condition of Property; Yes this is a tired property in our opinion well over due for a make-over. And yes we are now aware that Hard Rock has some pretty impressive plans for this property including removing the lagoon and creating a beach. All I can say here is that if we would have booked a 4 star property (being generous because of the unique amenities), you simply wouldn’t be hearing from us or reading this letter.
- Resort Credits; in our opinion a complete scam other than when used for Spa Services. Jacking up all the prices in the jewellery stores than allowing you to use a portion of your credits which coincidentally equal the price increases. Thanks to the Palace member who pointed this out when she went to buy an item she had seen 6 months prior. Asking $300 credits and charging $40USD in taxes for a Spa Product Sampler Kit which most likely isn’t even worth the taxes, get serious.

In short, we all found ourselves returning to Canada cheated and more stressed out than when we left. We felt so embarrassed and bad for our friend who bought this vacation as a 40th birthday present for his wife. The past year for us has been extremely stressful at work and on the home front, we needed this getway.

Our friend used the analogy that yes Sunwing offered us an Ultimate Luxury 5 Star Roulette, but unfortunately we pulled the trigger with the bullet in the chamber. I would more like to think we simply went to the Keg, paid for their best steak dinner and were served a McDonald’s Sirloin Burger.

Either way you would like to look at it, the entire reason for this very detailed letter is that TD and Sunwing have four very unhappy clients on their hands and we would like to extend the opportunity for one or both of you to acknowledge what we were all put through and at the very least, replace the vacation which we paid for and should have received. I’m sure that in hind sight we all would agree that the most logical and easiest resolution would have been to transfer us to the Palladium or Princess that first day, but unfortunately that suggestion brought us to where we are today.

If anyone would like to chalk this up to us just being “unhappy people, chronic complainers or never satisfied.”, all I can offer is our past travel history with both TD Travel and Sunwing/Signature. Simply check your records and I challenge you to find any instance of us contacting anyone with a complaint.

P.S. - I didn't forget, yes the staff have an incentive program where if their name is mentioned in a review here on TripAdvisor they are rewarded. Vanilla, Marco, Mario and so many others... the staff are the only ones who actually deserve a 5 Star Rating!!!

  • Stayed January 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
8 Thank bruceandtreena
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Langley City, Canada
Level Contributor
15 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 March 2012

My wife and I are typical boomers, kids are gone and we are now starting to travel a bit for fun. When we sought out a vacation site in Playa del Carmen we specifically looked for an adult hotel with lots of ammenities that was 'supposed' to be close to Playa del Carmen. Our travel agent recommended a few and we settled on the Spa Palace. 12 minutes north of Playa - a long walk but doable. Much to my surprise it was 30 some minutes south, even past Excaret Park. Well that was the only downside and really they had that fixed too because the shuttle went in to town every day and it was for free. Taxis were $200 pesos each way.
The hotel was immense and had both adult and family sides, we had the best of both and access to the whole site. There were several first class restaurants, so much so we hardly had interest in going into town for dinner as we thought we would. The Greco Seafood restaurant was our first stop and we were greeted with extraordinary service and great seafood dishes. All service was plated and portions just right to allow you to enjoy each course. Right from appies to the dessert everthing was wonderful. Second nioght we tried Italian at La Trattoria, again an excellent meal and good service. We did notice it starting to get busy around 8 pm so we decidsed to come a little earlier and entry was no problem. We tried La Heurta - California Light - well the advertising and the restaurant manangement haven't quie got this one in sync. It was high end Mexican, where California Light came from who knows. Food was still good. We did venture over to the 'Cove' (family side as well and were treated to a traditional Mexican meal with a wondeerful marichi trio and lively entertainment. During the day the Greco serves as the luncheon buffet - still serving first class seafood but buffet style. You could have al the shrimp, salads beef, salmon, squid or a burger if you really had to then run back outside and hit the pool or beach again.
Well, beach is a bit of a misnomer. Like the Excaret Resort the beach is carved out of the coral reef. The Spa Palace however has done it well and mad a huge seawater lagoon that give you the opportunity to get wet and swim with the small fish in safety. The hotel ovberall was fantastic and we would go back in a heartbeat.
The rumours of the conversion to a Hard Rock Hotel are true but it will be a positive move. The hotel is ready for a facelift after 12 years of service and the switch to HR will give that opportunity as well as to introduce some new vitality to its life. Yes they too have the 'membership' salepeople ready to enroll you into tthe HR lifestyle and enjoy their facilties in the Caribean and on the west coast of Mexico.
The staff at the hotel were excellent, upon our arrival the Hotel Services staff went out f their way to ensure we understood what the $1500 credits could be applied to and what amenities were available and how to book them. Rooms were well maintained and cleaned thoroughly each day. All the mechanical stuff worked well and you would never know the place was 12 years old.
Again, we would go back in a flash and probably host our sons wedding there. It is a bit of a hike to Playa but all the outdoor activities like diving, snorkelling, dolphin swims are withing 5 minutes of the hotel so it is a saw off.
Go and enjoy. we did.

Room Tip: Quite rooms are furthers from the restaurants in the northern wings of the hotel. You sacrifice pro...
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  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank KimandSherry
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Customer Servic... A, Guest Relations Manager at Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, responded to this review, 14 March 2012
Thank you for your good comments, it is always great to know that our valued Guests received what they been expecting.

We are glad to know that all of our services were of your entire satisfaction.

Once again thank you for your comments and be sure that it will be a true pleasure to host you again at any of our resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Colorado
Level Contributor
29 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 March 2012

We spent the last week at Adventrua Spa Palace. We had been there 3 times in the past including our son and daughter in laws wedding in 2004. The resort has really gone downhill in the past few years, and was only 25 - 30% full based on what staff told us.

The rooms were just tired feeling they need some new paint and updating. Breakfasts and lunch were ok and room service was prompt but the dinners were awful. We tried all of the restaurants that were open (several were not) and the Mexican restaurant was the only one that had good food and service. The Italian restaurant had a 90 minute wait for salty, tough pork tenderloin and crappy service. I felt like we were a burden on the wait staff. Everything else was just so - so.

We sat in the VIP area down by the lagoon during the day and had great service from the wait staff and in general the bar staff was good. One morning at breakfast I was unable to get either coffee or water, it was like I was invisible and then the next day it was fine.

The spa services were great and both Dayana and Guillermo provided excellent treatments. Booking two spa services and a pedicure and manicure took over an hour. I was happy to find out that I could use my $1500 on spa services but everything I tried to book was 'unavailable' or their system showed me as already booked for services when I was not booked. I feel badly for the people who have to fight the reservation system, it has to be incredibly frustrating and yet they still smile.

We were told that this resort is being re-branded as a Hard Rock resort. I am not sure what that means because there was no way I wanted to sit through another high pressure sales pitch to find out.

Honestly, I think Palace Resorts has an Executive and Senior management leadership problem. We have stayed at several of these resorts over time and they have all gone downhill. We still have a lot of weeks available on our plan but the price has gone up drastically over the last few years (I think in part to make up for the low occupancy rates) and we will be looking at other resorts for our annual trip to Mexico or swapping our weeks out and use them in conjunction with our RCI contract.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank coloradoheeler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Customer Servic... A, Guest Relations Manager at Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, responded to this review, 14 March 2012
On behalf of Aventura Palace, I thank you for taking the time to send us your comments and observations about our resort. Feedback is extremely important to us as it helps us know how we are doing in terms of service and facilities.

You may rest assured that we take all of our Guests comments with the utmost importance and based on such, we take the necessary steps to prevent the occurring of inconveniences to our valued Guests. Adjustments are being implemented continuously to enable us to keep providing excellent service. We are confident that as a result of these actions we will continue being reliable and customer responsive. Your comments have been shared as well with key Staff in our organization, most importantly including our Management Team.

Our goal is that every vacation will be a memorable one and we in Aventura Palace hope that you will give us the opportunity to host you at any of our Resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

Property: Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
Address: Carretera Cancun-Chetumal Km 72, Puerto Aventuras 77710, Mexico (Formerly Aventura Spa Palace)
Phone Number:
Region: Mexico > Yucatan Peninsula > Quintana Roo > Riviera Maya > Puerto Aventuras
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#1 Luxury Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
#1 Spa Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
#1 On the Beach Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
#1 Top resorts Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
#5 Family Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
#8 Business Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
#9 Romantic Hotel in Puerto Aventuras
Price range (per night): ₹ 24,096 - ₹ 47,351
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Heaven at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya 4.5*
Number of rooms: 577
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A blend of relaxation and adventure awaits you at this adults only retreat. Set in the Riviera Maya overlooking the aquamarine Caribbean Sea, enjoy 1,266 luxurious accommodations with double Jacuzzi, balcony (most with hammock), and 24 hr. room service. Among the facilities to highlight is the state-of-the-art spa offering a perfect day of pampering. Guests can also enjoy seven restaurants, several bars, a disco, outdoor/indoor pools, and unlimited tours as part of the all-inclusive package. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Aventura Hotel Palace
Aventura Hotel Puerto Aventuras
Mayan Riviera Palace
Adventure Spa Palace
Hotel Mayan Palace
Adventura Spa Palace
Aventura Palace Spa
Aventura Spa Palace Riviera Maya
Aventura Spa Palace Resort
Aventura Spa Palace Mexico

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