A lot of travellers look down on package deals and all-inclusive holidays – I remember a particularly catty comment I received from one of the Simonseeks’ editors knocking the value of a guide I wrote to the Mayan Riviera because people on all-inclusive breaks were just ‘handed things on a plate.’ I think that sort of attitude is just pretentious snobbery, the thing about travel is that it offers many different opportunities according to how people want (or indeed can afford) to do things. Travel isn’t all about spending 24 hours on a bus in the Andes on $2, with only a goat for company.
Now while I am not above snagging a bargain easyJet fare and hotel deal on the internet see our trips to the Prague, Tallinn or Cyprus for example), I don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying a touch of luxury from time to time and that is exactly what we got at the Grand Palladium and White Sands on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. What I liked about the Grand Palladium resort was that it had been developed in an ecologically sound fashion where the advantages of providing local employment were balanced with protecting the environment. The coastline of the Mayan Riviera is mangrove swamp, which provides a natural barrier against hurricanes coming in from the Caribbean and these mangroves have been retained as part of the resort infrastructure.
Naturally some of the wildlife has had to be relocated or confined.
but many of the other creatures like the coati, iguana and agouti roam quite freely around the discreet villa blocks that fringe the central lagoon.
The lagoon teams with fish and trees are full of colourful birds. Down on the white coral sand beach we watched osprey and terns dive for prey, pelicans fishing and high above frigate birds soaring on the thermals.
Our apartment was luxurious with a huge wide-screen telly, a constantly restocked mini-bar, bath room with spa bath and a safe that was placed on an eye-level shelf in the wardrobe (hooray for that no lying on the floor to access our valuables). Getting around the resort was by golf cart, an erratically timetabled boat of on foot.
Eating opportunities were fantastic. We had the free range of a host of restaurants, like Rodizio, a Brazilian grill where grilled meats were carved off gigantic skewers at our table, we got to eat the whole farm, turkey, chicken, pork, two types of beef, lamb, rabbit, sausage and pineapple. Ok I know pineapples don’t run around going baa, but after so much meat it was very cleansing to the palette .
Other restaurants included: the pan-Asian Bamboo which did a nice line in beef teyiaki. Sumptori the Japanese restaurant had Teppanyaki tables, but we didn’t want to wait for that and contented ourselves with some very good sushi and a delicious beef soba that just melted in the mouth. El Dorado is a steak house that does a fantastic Fillet Mignon. Ribs and More is exactly what you’d expect, I thought the beef broth starter was great but the burger (and a good burger is my guilty pleasure) was a bit ordinary. the only real disappointment was La Adelita the Mexican restaurant, where although the food was nicely presented it was a little bland.
On our previous visit in 2009 we also tried Portofino, a very competent Italian and Mare Nostrum a pan Mediterranean restaurant which tried to be all things (Spanish, Greek, Moroccan, Italian) but didn’t quite pull it off successfully.
Then there were the bars. There are bars on the beaches, by the pools and in each of the four hotel lobbys. There is even one for cigar smokers called Churchill’s appropriately enough. All the bar men can knock up a decent Margarita, Martini, Cosmo or Manhattan. And of course the all-inclusive advantage, no big bar and restaurant tabs to spoil the end of your stay with a huge credit card bill.
While I agree that this is a fairly sanitised version of Mexico we still got out to visit the archeological site and a Mayan village at Coba. however I also noticed at several points along the highways police road blocks manned by seriously tooled up coppers, a stark reminder that Mexico is still wild, untamed and dangerous outside the perimetre of our luxury resort. Only today it isn’t so much banditos and revolutionaries, but drug cartels calling the shots.