Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Country Inn & Suites - Newark Airport

I recently spent one night at the Country Inn & Suites near Newark Airport. The hotel is located at 100 Glimcher Realty Way. I was surprisingly pleased by this hotel!

There are many hotels in the area. I parked right in front of the hotel and upon checking in was given something to put in my car to show I was a guest. The check in clerk was very pleasant.

Right next to the check in desk is a small "store" that sold snacks, drinks, candy, sundries and microwavable food. There is also a room for continental breakfast (begins at 6 AM), an indoor pool and gym and a spot you can borrow books to read.

I took the elevator to my room which was a one bedroom suite and was very happy with the size. Upon walking in I found myself in the living room which had a cabinet with the t.v. in it, a couch and chair. Also in the room was a cabinet with a refrigerator, a microwave and coffee pot. Past that was the bathroom and shower, nicely sized and clean. There was a hair dryer in the bathroom.

There was also a desk with free internet access which worked perfectly. This is a big plus - I went from here with free internet to a five star resort in Mexico that had no internet access, which was a huge problem because I was working while on vacation.

Beyond that was the bedroom with a queen sized bed. There were the usual amenities of clock radio and ironing board.The bed was very comfortable and the room was very clean.

I checked out at 4 AM and checkout was a breeze.

The hotel is located very close to Newark Airport and offers Stay & Fly - you can leave your car (for a fee) at the hotel and be transported by van to and from the airport. The lot that the car are left in is fenced and I was told has a 24 hour guard.

The Jersey Gardens Mall is also right near the property and perfect for some shopping to kill time!

This hotel was an excellent value - I would not hesitate to stay here again. If I did, I'd leave my car here rather than parking at Avistar. The shuttle was very convenient.

See pictures here:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

El Dorado Royale Spa Resort - Riviera Maya

We recently had the pleasure of spending four nights and five days at the El Dorado Royale Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This resort is a 5 star All Inclusive Adult Only Spa resort with a Gourmet Inclusive theme. And gourmet inclusive it was! Our stay was just wonderful! Here are some observations and grades based on our A - F rating system.

Check in - A. Upon arrival, we were greeted in the lobby with cool cloths and a glass of champagne. We arrived at noon and our rooms were ready. Check in took 5 minutes with a very courteous staff. We were given a lock for our in room safe and room keys and we were ready to go.

The hotel resort is a very large property. It took 6 minutes to walk from the lobby to our room, but this was not a problem because there are trams that will take you all over the property that run about every 10 - 20 minutes. Since God only knows I need to lose weight, I tried to walk it as much as I could, even in the heat. Near each group of buildings is a tram stop. When walking out of the lobby in the back of the building, to the left are the Casita suites and to the right are the jr. jacuzzi suites. The resort is deceptively large.

Room: A After checking in, we took a tram to our room, a jr. jacuzzi in building 54.suite the back . Upon entering, immediately to the left is the bathroom. There is a double sink, a large marble shower and a separate toilet. The amenity package int he bathroom was great. There was shampoo, lotion, soap, a toothbrush, shoe shine kit, razor and shower cap. Additional amenities in the jacuzzi tub were shampoo, shower gel and a candle and matches.

Outside the bathroom is a desk and the bed. This room had a large super comfortable king size four poster bed. Across from the bed was a bureau that opened to reveal drawers, shelves, a t.v. and refrigerator.

There is a large closet with the safe in it,shelves and plenty of hanging space. On the other side of the bed is the jacuzzi, large enough for two people and placed so you can look out on the balcony. On the balcony were two chairs, a table and a hammock. My view overlooked the beach and the activity pool. There was also a table and two chairs inside the room to enjoy room service at.

The room and bath were spotless and were kept that way during my entire stay.

Food: A+ The food in this resort was outstanding. There are many restaurants, but not all were opened while I was there. All food is ordered off menus but there is a breakfast buffet area at Cocotels (later on that).

The food is artfully presented and everything was delicious. The restaurants do not accept reservations, it is first come, first served. I find that preferable to having to make reservations every day. There were no waits in any restaurants while I was there.

Cocotels: Cocotels is located in the main building . I ate breakfast here two days. You can order off a menu or choose buffet food (or both). I chose the buffet and was satisfied with the available choices.

La Isla - this is an open air restaurant by the main pool. We had lunch there our first day and they had great choices of fresh fish and meats. I had a surf and turf meal (all kabobs) that were very good.

D'Italia - a beautiful Italian restaurant in the main building. I did not eat here, but others staying at the resort said the food was excellent.

JoJo's - this is a beach side restaurant with seafood, beef and chicken dishes. I ate here twice ordering steak once and a pasta dish the second time and was not disappointed. Also very pretty to look at the beach as you are enjoying a meal.

Kampai: This is an Asian restaurant in the Casitas area. Believe it or not, we had breakfast here and who'd believe Asian inspired fare for breakfast was outstanding? I had coconut macadamia crusted pancakes that were out of this world. One of my friend enjoyed cream cheese stuffed French Toast with mango sauce and another had the most beautifully presented Eggs Benedict I've ever seen!

La Fuentes: this is a beautiful restaurant that gives a live culinary show. You order your meal and then can watch as a chef prepares it on huge screens inside the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant wasn't open when we were at the resort but it is a unique concept and I would imagine quite popular.

Pizza Cabana: This is outside the main pool and you can order pizza and hamburgers.

Health Bar: In the Casitas area, there are fresh fruits, juices and healthy options.

It was also my understanding there was a Fondue bar beach side, but I didn't see this and am not certain it is still there.

There are 13 bars, including swim up bars and a Martini Bar (where we spent most nights). The bartenders were excellent at every bar we went to.

Entertainment and Activities: B+ The pool closest to my room was the Activity pool where games were played throughout the day. You will find a board that tells you what activities are going on during the day near the pool. There were the usual games, like water polo, kayak races, pool bingo and pool volleyball plus some other fun games during the day. There was a water aerobics class I took with the lovely Paola which is held at noon. There are also lots of bicycles you can use to ride around the property.

The evening entertainment did not seem to have too many people in attendance late at night. There is entertainment at Las Guayanas (near the second spa and gift shop on the way to the activity pool) nightly and usually by 10 PM there were just a handful of people left. The last night we were there they had a Casino Night, where they gave you $3,000 in play money to play Blackjack and Roulette and at the end of the night, you could bid on items to purchase. It was extremely hot and I played Roulette for about a half hour and gave my money to a table mate and went back to the room. It was a lot of fun though!

My only complaint about the resorts are about internet access. I brought my laptop as I had to keep in contact with several clients. There was no wireless access unless you were in a Casita. You could purchase minutes to use the computers in the internet cafe. Out of three computers, only two worked and there was always a line to use them. Many people were posting to their Facebook account ( plenty of free publicity for the resort!!) or were checking in for their flights the next day.

I spoke to a rep. from the hotels who stated that management's philosophy was that they wanted people to be able to relax on vacation so they didn't offer wireless in all the rooms. However, in this day and age, you need Internet access, if only to check e-mails and to check in for your flight to make sure you have a seat. I think El Dorado needs to rethink this and offer wireless in every room. It makes no sense that they have it in Casitas but not in other rooms.

Spa: A There are two spas on this resort, one spa with a gym near the Activities Pool and the new Casitas Spa, on the Casita side of the resort. The Casitas Spa is beautiful, with welcoming incense burning in the lobby and a hydrotherapy room. The hydrotherapy is free to those staying in the Casitas who purchase a spa treatment but is charged to those who are not in the Casitas. When purchasing a massage you are given the choice of having a man or woman doing the massage and having it in the spa or on the beach (at no extra charge).

I had a 50 minute back and neck massage on the beach that felt like luxurious pampering to me. What a relaxing way to spend an hour! The spa treatments were very reasonably priced, especially compared to what you would pay on a cruise ship!

Overall rating: A
This resort was just beautiful. It is about a half hour drive from the airport. The staff were always courteous (my thanks to the Customer Service gals who helped me in the Internet cafe with the non-working computer and password!) The resort was clean and well kept.

This is an adult only resort (they have a sister resort, Azul that accepts families with kids). They offer wedding ceremonies and vow renewals. There are over 600 rooms at this resort, but they also have smaller resorts in the area - the El Dorado Seaside, with 282 rooms and the intimate El Dorado Maroma, with 72 rooms and the most spectacular Presidential Villas of all three resorts. (They also have Hidden Beach, which is the only all inclusive luxury "au naturele" resort in the Mexican Caribbean). El Dorado has something for everyone depending on the size of the resort you are comfortable with.

Every guest at the resort we spoke to loved the resort. Not a single complaint was heard.
I highly recommend any of the El Dorado resorts ( we did visit each one and have pictures and video if you'd like to see them).