For Day 4 of our trip to Playa del Carmen, we wanted to actually see PdC itself.
- To Playa del Carmen by taxi;
- Walk along Fifth Avenue — lots of stores, drink at resto, bought pants for J, went to beach — HOT !! 🙂
The downtown area is quite long, with lots of hotels, stores, small businesses, big businesses, some malls, restaurants, etc. Fifth Avenue is closed to cars, so one long pedestrian walkway. While there are lots of little souvenir booths along the way, most of the prices are all the same at each of the stores — and all 5 to 10 times what it is worth. This isn’t where you go for souvenirs, but it was nice to walk along. There are a few bargains here and there, or at least better variety than some other places, so we did pick up a couple of things.
We also went to a nice little restaurant for a break and a drink, and then kept going. We thought about having lunch, but it was still a little early and of course we had the all-inclusive free lunch waiting for us back at the resort. No sense paying twice, right?
We did manage to find J an extra pair of pants. Overall for the week, we didn’t do too badly for our packing, although I had a couple too many polo shirts, could have used another pair of casual shorts, and in this case, J needed an extra pair of pants (a collateral victim of the infamous mustard attack from the first day). We even went down to the beach, just to scope it out.
There were two downsides to our shopping trip. First, we were wearing our resort bracelets that they use to identify you as a guest who eats for free with all the resort food and drink (they’re permanent for the week, they don’t come off). Which also means anyone downtown knows you are at an expensive resort plus they also like to say, “Hola, remember me, I’m Miguel, your waiter at Sandos Caracol.” Of course, they hope that you will assume you’ve forgotten them, and maybe that works with some people, but we knew our waiters etc., and Miguel or Jose or the other two or three names they tried on us along the strip were not people who worked there. Just a sales technique, which if I had been interested in what they were selling would have been been enough to steer clear.
The second partial downside was money. We struggled with having enough cash ALL week. We didn’t get a chance to grab much American or Mexican cash before we headed down, figuring on having enough to get us through a day or two and then getting more on site. We even grabbed some before leaving the airport when we arrived. But here’s the thing…the hotel doesn’t cash traveler’s cheques (yes, A had some from a previous trip) nor were they particularly good at breaking larger bills into smaller bills. We also did the strip of Fifth Avenue and only found one real “bank” the whole way, a Scotiabank, only to find out that we had brought our credit cards but not my debit card (still in the safe).
We traveled with 2 cards each — our Mastercards (1 each), an extra Visa that I don’t use very often, and my debit card. However, at the resort, we didn’t need to carry that stuff around since it was all-inclusive and the wallet spent most of the week in the room safe with our electronics. I didn’t really want to take a cash advance on the credit card when I could do debit, but as I said, we didn’t have it with us for the run into town. We paid for a few things with the credit card, and used up a bunch of our cash, planning to do something else later or hoping to catch another bank. All week long, we were looking for places to exchange cash or get smaller bills for tips, etc.
- Taxi back to resort;
- Laguna for lunch;
- Short rest in room, P had nap;
- J & A went to pool, warm, Shirley Temple, went underwater, played ball with Sophia, went to beach — too windy;
- J & A played ping pong;
While I had a nap, J & A went down to the pool and played for awhile. J even met a little girl by the pool and played ball with her, although play might be an exaggeration as she was only about 1 year old. They tried the beach too, but it was too windy, and they came back to the room. I had hoped to join them, but ended up sleeping a bit more. The heat from the morning had really taken my energy.
- Toscanas — S L O W!!!
So I mentioned earlier that the restaurants were the second biggest disappointment of the trip, and this is where it came into play. In the morning, we had gone to make our reservation for the Japanese place. It was the only place they recommended for reservations, and told us to do it the “morning of or the day before”. We went to make the reservation and found out they were booked for Thursday (that night), Friday, Saturday, and had one opening on Sunday at 9:30. We managed to get one for the Monday, our last night at the resort for 6:30 — FOUR days in advance.
Now, I’m a planner, and I don’t mind making reservations, I don’t need the week to be totally spontaneous. In fact, I probably do better when it isn’t. So when we booked the trip and knew there were 7 restaurants, and that you might have to make reservations sometimes, no biggie for me. I fully expected that I would end up booking the next 3 or 4 days in advance for each night and trying out the various restos. But the kicker was that you CAN’T make reservations at any of them except the Japanese. You just have to go and wait in line.
We tried for the Brazilian place again, and there were several groups waiting. Took them 10 minutes to even come to take our name, and told us it would be 35-45 minutes until we could be seated. It was 7:30 at night, with a 7yo with us, and no guarantee it would be only 45 minutes, so we passed. We headed over to the Italian place that we had went to on the first night. It had been a bit slow, but not dreadful.
We got to the Italian place around 7:40, 7:45 or so. They took our name, a few groups ahead, but I could see through the window that there were LOTS of empty tables. Ergo, I figured it would be a short wait. As I mentioned above, I’m a planner, and I used to do logistics for a living…which means BAD logistics annoy the crap out of me. 10 minutes pass. 15. A guy comes up, pressures the waitress, and suddenly a group of NINE go in (as a group of 5 and a group of 4). I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they were already on the list and he was merely giving them permission to break them up, but I wasn’t sure, and there were others who grumbled too. Finally, we were escorted in and I had been right — half the restaurant was empty.
At night, the restaurant switches from buffet to à la carte, but they still have a buffet. And the first night, there had been some “hot” dishes too. So I figured I’d grab something to get us going while waiting for the food we would order separately. Nope, the buffet was all cold salads and desserts, and not looking that appetizing either. They had a few slices of pizza and I snagged a couple for J, but there wasn’t much there for a meal for anyone.
We waited 10 minutes for our menus and water, another 10-15 for him to take our order. And then another 35 for the food to actually arrive. In short, it was 90 minutes from the time we got in line to the time we received our food. People who were seated after us received their food ahead of us, and we hadn’t ordered anything complicated. They also brought the entire section’s food all at once, rather than when a table’s dish was ready, meaning some of it had been sitting back in the kitchen for awhile.
I insisted on speaking to the manager. J ate a few bites of his but I had to feed it to him as he was too tired to eat. He was pretty much asleep in my arms. When the manager came, I explained that it had been 90 minutes, people had been seated ahead of us, and people who were seated after us got their food before us. Totally unacceptable. I told him to figure out what went wrong as I was going to complain to the resort manager.
In the manager’s defense, he did what I told him to, and he was apologetic. He even offered to give me a reservation, to which I told him I wouldn’t be crazy enough to eat there again. He offered other restaurants, which if I had been calmer, I might have accepted. I told him no, I wasn’t discussing it then, I was too upset and it wasn’t fair to him to put up with my being so POed. I said I would deal with the resort manager.
Which I did. Sort of. Again, I was ticked, and I try not to talk to people when I’m ticked as I can be quite aggressive and hostile. There’s a reason why people at law school called me “The Unreasonable Man”, as I can be quite non-compromising once inflamed. I know that, I control it by exiting the circumstances when I can. Particularly if J is around and would see me “blow”. Of course, all bets are off if the person is insulting, condescending or bullying, then I don’t hold back at all. In this case, we left, and I spoke to the concierge who recommended that I could write the manager a note.
Which I did. And dropped off to the front desk for the manager, requesting a reservation at either the Mediterranean or the Brazilian place before we left the resort.
Which the resort manager promptly ignored. No acknowledgement of it, total radio silence. No notes at the desk, nothing in the room, no emails even though they had my contact info, absolutely nothing. Just didn’t care, and part and parcel of the “experience” with the resort apparently. They simply don’t care, one of the downsides of them already having your money for the week upfront. Sure, I could have followed up to say “WTF?”, but honestly I knew that I would just lose it. And I’m on vacation. Easier to suck it up and go with the flow then create a scene. While I was frustrated, I also didn’t want it to get any worse if I dealt with him and he blew me off in person.
For the resort, they made out like bandits off of us for the week. I can’t drink because of some medication I take, and Andrea had maybe two or three drinks all week, so nice profit all around. My only recourse basically is a negative review about the restaurant logistics on the various review sites. And, to be clear, while I was ticked, Andrea was equally unimpressed — she told me she wants to help me edit the review as she thought it was ridiculous too.
If I was reading this, written by someone else, I might think, “Oh well, a 45 minute wait, is that really a big deal in the grand scheme of the week?”. No, of course not. But the restaurant choices were the main reason I was comfortable with the resort. When so many people complain about food experiences in all-inclusives, the option to have à la carte options for dinner and to make reservations at one of seven different restaurants on the resort was a key factor in my comfort factor. Then we arrive and find out that one of the restaurants (vegetarian) isn’t open so we were down to six. Of those six, only half are open to families for lunch; two are still buffets at night while the other four are à la carte, but there is a wait of anywhere from 30-90 minutes. For people traveling with kids. And they won’t take reservations, and when I complained, the resort manager completely ignored me.
A one-off glitch I could tolerate, but not when it’s endemic to the resort. Extremely frustrating, and also hard to just ignore when you are dependent upon them for your meals.