Monday, December 30, 2013

Hotel Review - Valentin Maya - Riviera Maya, Mexico

For wise travelers looking for value, the Valentin Maya adults only all inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico is an outstanding choice. Located on Riviera Maya just south of Cancun the resort is about 35 minutes from the Cancun airport. The property is huge and the rooms are among the largest you'll find at a resort - entry level rooms are junior suites with plenty of room and one of the largest bathrooms we've seen.  The Riviera Maya is not known for outstanding beaches, but the Valentin had a great beach with none of the artificial reefs that look so horrendous off shore. You'll have relaxation and romance here.

The land the resort sits on is very large and secluded.  There are 14 buildings spread throughout the property and most offer seclusion and quiet. There are 524 junior suites with balconies or terraces and 16 suites. Room categories start at Deluxe Junior Suites that are 516 sq. feet with garden views and either a king or two double beds. The Silver Suites are the same size but with a garden or pool view and have king sized beds. Golden Junior Suites are 656 sq. feet, overlook the pool and have balconies. Golden swim up suites are the same size with oversized terraces on the ground floor where you can enter the pool from our room  between buildings 6, 7 and 8. Emerald Suites are 624 square feet and are located on the beach in buildings 9-14. Diamond suites measure 1.032 square feet and have a separate living room, roof terrace and include Privilege amenities (more about that later) and are in buildings 1 - 5 (not on the ocean) . Finally, Imperial suites are the same size as the Diamond suite and are corner rooms located in buildings 2 - 8 and also have roof terraces and Privilege amenities.

Each room has the following amenities included:
  • Private furnished terrace or balcony
  • Full marble bathrooms
  • Separate shower cabin
  • Separate Toilet
  • Vanity mirror
  • Hair dryer & Scale
  • Bathrobes (& Slippers upon request)
  • Phone in bathroom
  • Satellite TV
  • Air Conditioning with in-room climate control & Ceiling fan
  • Radio/Alarm Clock with I-Pod dock
  • Direct dial telephone with voice mail
  • Free Internet connection (Wall)
  • Free electronic in-room safe (up to 15" laptop size)
  • Coffee/tea maker set
  • Mini bar
  • Iron & Ironing board
  • Turn down service available in Silver, Golden, Golden Swim up,
    Emerald, Diamond and Imperial categories
  • Umbrella 

The Valentin Privilege amenities is an interesting concept that you can have even without staying in the Diamond or Imperial suites. As of the time of our visit, anyone could pay $60 per person per day extra and receive the following additional amenities:

  • Private check-in and check-out at the Valentin Privilege Club.
  • Pre Arrival Concierge services at
  • Early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability).
  • Daily newspaper room delivery
  • Fruit platter & petits fours once per stay
  • In room fresh flowers once per stay
  • Bottle of sparkling wine in room upon arrival
  • Tailored Minibar (Your selection of Premium drinks out of our Privilege Menu)
  • Beach bag
  • Lobster included at Lobster and Seafood Grill (no extra fees).
  • Restaurant reservations through Privilege Lounge Concierge if desired
  • Reserved lounge chairs under guests name at pool OR beach
  • Exclusive access to privilege lounge (7:00am – 11:00pm) with:
    • WiFi service
    • Concierge service
    • Ultra premium bar service
    • Snacks at Privilege Club (5:00 pm – 7:00pm)
There are palapas on the beach and around the pool that will be reserved for your use only. You'll find your name on the palapa so that no one else can use it.  We did not have these extras but we never had a problem finding a lounge chair around the pool or a palapa (if we were up early enough) for the "ordinary folk". The pool is huge, one of the largest in Mexico so lounge chairs weren't an issue when we visited.

The high points of this resort:
- The rooms size. The rooms and bathrooms are huge with plenty of storage space and plenty of room to spread out.
- Cleanliness - rooms and floors were very clean, restaurants were clean, grounds were well maintained.
- Quiet and romantic. No screaming kids or loud partying adults.
- Excellent food. We didn't have a bad meal, in the restaurants or the buffet. Even the coffee was good.
- Friendly staff - always had a smile and a hello.
- Beautiful chapel on property. If you are Catholic and looking for a Destination Wedding, the chapel is just beautiful here.
- Grounds - the grounds are gorgeous. There is much greenery and tropical plants. We loved the privacy of our balcony with our gardenview from building five.
- Many options for activities. There are two scheduled bike rides around the property daily, lots of pool activities (even a water ballet show!) and activities and shows at night. Some were very corny but funny.
- Beautiful beach. Take a walk down the beach and walk to the left - you'll find plenty of lounge chairs on the beach.
- The optional Valentin Privilege package. If you like to be treated like gold, book the package if you aren't staying in one of the room categories that offers it. Nice beach and pool palapas reserved just for those with the package.
- Daily replenishment of the mini bar in your room.
- Extensive room service menu. Probably the biggest menu I've ever seen at a hotel for room service.
- The value for your dollar. You won't find a resort this nice for this price point.

The resort advertises itself as a five star resort. We didn't feel that it warrants a five star rating for several reasons that all point to service. Let me preface this by saying as travel agents, we make note of things that many people would never notice. We have to for our clients so no one comes back unpleasantly surprised  so we are much more critical than an ordinary traveler. And I will also say that we met many guests who are repeat customers and come back to Valentin over and over. These are the issues we found:

- The terry cloth bathrobes were dirty looking, old with obvious wear and so small they didn't fit around either of us.  The resort should junk them and purchase new waffle robes that come in bigger sizes.Towel quality was similar - 5 star resorts offer big fluffy towels. They should all be replaced with new toweling.
- Housekeeping wasn't up to five star standards. We would leave our dirty towels on the floor signaling we wanted them replaced. The towels were removed but not replaced. We had to call twice to have towels replaced. When they finally got it, the bath mats weren't replaced and we had to call again.
- There is a great mini bar with coffee maker but no milk or coffee creamer rendering the coffee maker useless for us.
- Food was excellent but if you arrive at the restaurants after 7 PM the waits were horrific - at least an hour wait regardless of the restaurant.   I attribute it to the fact there is no buffet restaurant open for dinner, only breakfast and lunch.  The largest restaurant on property, Le Marche, is their buffet and these waits could be avoided if they opened the buffet for dinner.  We also didn't always want a big sit down meal every night and would have welcomed the buffet restaurant.
- The property is so large that it is difficult to get around. Our room was in building five and at least a five minute walk to the restaurants. When we checked in, we were told all we had to do was call for the golf cart, but after we were taken to our room, we never saw a golf cart again. One night we waited at the lobby for a ride to our room - we waited a half hour before it arrived.  On the day we were leaving, we called to have a cart pick us and our luggage up for check out. We were asked if we were ready and we told them we were. We waited a half hour and no one ever came for us. We ended up dragging our luggage for a 10 minute walk to check out.
- We had a massage at the spa, which was excellent. When I was given a robe, I noticed the slippers were not new, they were merely washed and they looked dirty. Use disposable slippers or replace them.
- At our favorite restaurant on property, Ginger the Japanese restaurant, the service was terribly slow - almost two hours for dinner. After waiting an hour to get in, we waited 45 minutes between courses.  After the dinner course was brought, it was after 9:30 PM and I didn't want to wait another 45 minutes for ice cream. I asked our server to bring me the ice cream for dessert right away.  After finishing our dinner and waiting a half hour, the dessert still never appeared.  I finally told the waiter to disregard the request for the dessert and his response was "Oh, you wanted it already? You don't want to relax?" There were only two waiters for the entire restaurant. We also found the Restaurant Manager to be very inflexible. There are Hibachi tables that you must make reservations for. We witnessed an incident where one of the tables had four empty seats because whoever reserved them never showed up. A party of four asked if they could take those seats and the Manager refused, saying they didn't have reservations. So the four seats went unused. We didn't see poor or slow service like this at any of the other restaurants.

None of this ruined our stay and I would come back to Valentin Maya in a heartbeat. For the price it is an excellent value.

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