Crown Paradise Club in Cancun
Oh Travel Shop Girl – where are you off to now? I just returned from Jamaica and now I’m off to Mexico! Lucky me! I won a trip for two for 4 days/3 nights to the all-inclusive Crown Paradise Club in Cancun, Mexico last year. My trip was good through August of 2012 and so I decided to book our trip sooner than later. This is a family all-inclusive resort so although the trip was for two, we opted to bring our son with us as a “pre-finals” vacation for all of us. There was a small supplement of $65 a night for him plus $10 per day for each of us for gratuities so our overall trip expense was to include those charges and airfare to and from Mexico.
Our flight out of Boston on US Airways was an early 5:30 am flight. We were up at 3 am, showered and out the door by 4 am, and inside the terminal before 4:30 am. I hate getting up that early, but since we were on our way to the Crown Paradise Club in Cancun, I got over myself quickly. Our flight had us connecting through Philadelphia and after walking from A terminal we had to walk all the way to gate B26 and got there after they had already started boarding. We were relieved to have made it on the plane in time and settled in just in time for the plane to take off. The flight was completely uneventful except for a few rough patches past Key West and we landed quickly and safely in Cancun.
After departing the plane, we passed through Customs, and since we had brought only carry on luggage, we were quick to exit the airport. Make sure to complete the customs form for each person in your party and they will give you back one part that you must give back when you leave. You have to place your luggage again through a scanner before leaving the airport and you will need to press the button, which randomly decides whose baggage is inspected. We got the green light and were able to exit without issue. I exchanged some US Dollars at the currency exchange before we left and stopped at the taxi counter to arrange transportation. On the right hand side were the expected “friendly” timeshare people offering to “help” us with maps and whatever we needed.
TSG Tip: If you haven’t been to Cancun before, my advice is to not stop and chat with the timeshare people as you’ll be obligated to sit through some horrendously long presentation at some time during your vacation and believe me, it won’t be worth it. My suggestion is to make sure that your transportation to and from your resort is prearranged so you can grab your bags and walk outside directly to your shuttle.
I decided to look outside for a taxi or transfer and we discovered that there is only one taxi service that you can use, whether you book inside or outside. From the airport to the hotel, a quick 10 minute ride altogether, was $16 per person for a shared shuttle or $64 for a private taxi. Crazy – I know! We decided to arrange our return ride to the airport for half the price and so we paid for everything and planned our pick up without having to worry about figuring it out on our last day. It pays to know your itinerary and flight schedule for the way back because if you can plan your return transfer when you are picked up, you can relax and enjoy your entire vacation without having to call for a pick up on your last day. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than having to stop mid-Margarita on the beach than that!
Ten minutes after stepping outside of the airport, we arrived at Crown Paradise Club in Cancun. The bellman took our bags out of the cab and advised us that since we were early, he would hold our bags until we checked into our room after 3 pm. Now we were dead set on getting into the pool and our room before that time so we had a plan. We checked in with Ivan at the front desk and had our fingers crossed the entire time. I asked if there were any upgrades available and he gave us the Standard Plus room (1124) on the first floor (one floor above the lobby), which had an oceanview with a King size bed and bunk beds with a trundle bed. We could have this room immediately or wait until after 3 pm for a different room As long as our son was ok with sleeping on a bunk bed, we were happy to take the room that was ready. In hindsight, I probably should have waited for the later room as it probably would have been in a better location, but our desire to hit the pool and grab lunch is what was propelling us forward. Ivan advised us about hotel policies including how if you lost the key to the safe, they charged you; if you lost your wrist band, they charged you; and if you lost your towel card, they charged you. I was already stressed out about losing things and I hadn’t even gone to my room yet.
TSG Tip: Make sure you have a sufficient amount of one dollar bills or comparable currency for tipping as you might face the same difficulty we did. The front desk can provide change in Canadian dollars, Euros, or British pounds, but not in Mexican pesos or US Dollars. There are two ATM’s near the front desk, one for Mexican pesos and one for US Dollars, but if you need change, they encourage you to go to a bank about five minutes from the resort. Sounds like they aren’t trying to help me any when they make it hard to make change.
Our room at the Crown Paradise Club in Cancun was a basic room with a King size bed and a bunk bed with a trundle bed underneath. You could easily fit five people in this room comfortably, but I would recommend it more for families than a group of friends traveling together. There was an armoire with a standard old-fashioned tube TV inside, a refrigerator that they had painted to match the refrigerator (can you say weird?), and a closet with a few hangers and a safe. The bathroom was a fairly good size with a tub, toilet, and a sink. Near the end of our stay I also discovered that the rooms in the Crown Tower were the ideal rooms to have since the building was newer and it contained the “Adults Only” floor with a special lounge. I was able to look into one of the rooms in the building you see below, which had newer furniture and I instantly felt jealous, but I didn’t let it ruin my vacation.
The view from our room was an amazing one of the resort, the main pool, and the beach, but also of the roof below and the resort’s air conditioning system. There were workers right outside our window – yes right in front of our room so the element of privacy was something we had to forego while there. You feel a little like a deflated balloon as you walk toward the sliding glass door to take in the beauty of the beach and the ocean and then realize you have a couple of sweaty guys working on the air conditioning units and the roof right outside your window. I highly recommend asking for a room that is higher up or in the Crown Tower to avoid staring at the ductwork.
After we changed out of our clothes, we decided to grab lunch, but found that all of the specialty restaurants were opened only for dinner and it would have to be the buffet. Unfortunately, the buffet was not open yet as they were switching from breakfast to lunch. My son was able to grab a few croissants and so we headed over to the bar in the main lobby. It was there that we met the fabulous Gabriel who was one of the best bartenders at the resort. I felt so bad that they all had to sport those lunch lady hair nets while working, but they were all pleasant and friendly, more so than the guests ordering drinks.
Yes, they don’t have any top shelf liquor although they do have Bacardi and Campari, but you might not recognize any of the other brands. I’ve mentioned it before that you’ll probably get a watered down drink at a budget all-inclusive resort, but this was not the case here. I had a fabulous Margarita that was so good and not watered down and I was so glad that it was my first drink on the property. We also tried a Piña Colada and the beer of choice at the resort, Corona.
I love the picture above that says you can order up to four drinks per person as many times as you want. Sure enough, the gift shop in the lobby and in the lobby in the Crown Tower building had those mega thermal mugs that you could pour your drinks into so you wouldn’t have to keep going back to get more drinks. I liked getting a fresh drink and not looking like a hoarder, but again – that’s me! If you are new to the resort, let them know as you might get the “initiation” shot that we received, which includes a plastic bottle, a napkin, and a shot. We had a great time with the bartenders and always tipped them to thank them for their good service toward us. However, I can honestly say that we never saw anyone else tipping.
TSG Tip: I’m sure people might question why you should have to tip at an all-inclusive resort when gratuities are included. Try it once to see how different your vacation is and you will always want to after that.
We ate the majority of our meals at La Palapa, the buffet restaurant pictured above as the brown building by the pool. Here you can see the entrance and the “Adults Only” section. Although the building is large, the amount and variety of food available was limited. We found that the best food was the freshest food made for you such as the Mexican station and the smoothie station. You can find your basic food choices here from fruit, cereal, and baked goods for breakfast and a salad bar, pizza, and sandwiches for lunch as well as refried beans, rice, tortilla chips, nacho cheese sauce, french fries, and lots and lots of meat. The food doesn’t change much and if you were staying here a week, you might be bored after a few days.
Service was completely unpredictable as well as if you sat outside, the servers would often completely ignore you. One morning I was dying for a cup of coffee while I sat and watched the server doing nothing. I even went up and asked if he could bring us coffee. Five minutes later and suffering the effects of caffeine withdrawal, I went inside and found a server to pour me coffee. I suspect that the servers with seniority have the inside stations and the newer servers are relegated to the less desirable stations outside. Please keep in mind that I have worked in restaurants and probably have more patience for service than most, but I cannot tolerate bad service in a buffet when the only job is to clean tables and get beverages.
We decided on arrival that we only wanted to eat in Los Gallos, the Mexican restaurant, while we were there so I called down to make the reservation. I was told that no more reservations were being accepted for that day, but that I could call in the morning at 8 am to try for that day. Friday morning at 8 am I called and the phone rang and rang. I tried several times and a few times the line was picked up and disconnected. When I did get through I was told that there were no reservations for that night, but we could have them for Saturday. This was ridiculous as we called right when we were told to call. They kept trying to push San Souci, the outdated and undesirable French “adults only” pink and purple restaurant that no one was choosing, but we decided it was not for us. I ended up speaking with Nancy at the Front Desk and telling her our situation and she was able to secure a reservation for us on Friday not for Los Gallos, but La Piazza at 5:50 pm. Not sure why they have such an antiquated reservation system, but it clearly doesn’t work. We later heard that Los Gallos was closed on Friday. When I go to Mexico all I want to eat is Mexican food so I was disappointed that our dinner plans weren’t working in our favor. Why don’t they close Sans Souci and just expand Los Gallos? Other restaurants at the Crown Paradise Club in Cancun include Fisherman’s Seafood restaurant, Fujiyama, and Wayne’s Boots, an old West steakhouse.
Our dinner in La Piazza started off good as the restaurant is in the new building and has an incredible beachfront view. When we asked for a table with a view since there were only a few people there, they put us up a level near the antipasto bar. I had seen negative reviews for the Italian restaurant, but still still wanted to give it a chance. The antipasto bar is a great idea because you can help yourself to the caesar salad and olives as well as other vegetables prior to your meal. The menu is limited to soup, pizza, pasta, and meat entrees so I ordered the Penne Arrabiata, which was overcooked penne pasta in a super water downed sauce. It was supposed to be spicy, but the only spice was a few sliced jalapenos on top. My husband ordered a pizza, which was identical to what was available in the buffet. My son had the pasta with shrimp, which he liked, but he doesn’t have the most discerning palate. For dessert, they ordered the tiramisu, which was nothing like tiramisu at all and almost gelatinous in taste. My advice is to avoid this restaurant if at all possible.
Dinner at Los Gallos was a completely different experience and I wish we could have eaten all of our meals here. Our server, Melchior, was a breath of fresh air as he was zipping around the restaurant taking care of all of his guests with a positive and professional attitude. We were seated immediately after arriving at 7:30 pm for our reservation and we ordered a couple of mango margaritas to start the evening. Melchior had some pico de gallo, salsa, and guacamole on the table for us along with tortilla chips.
I can actually say that I was super excited when I saw the menu and saw the description for the “Crema Sol y Luna” soup. “Sun and Moon” cream soup is a cream soup of squash blossom puree artfully blended with a delicious huitlacoche cream soup. Truly a unique combination. Never heard of huitlacoche? It’s a “pathogenic plant fungus that causes smut disease on maize and teosinte (Euchlena mexicana). The fungus forms galls on all above-ground parts of corn species, and is known in Mexico as huitlacoche; it is eaten, usually as a filling, in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups.” It may look horrible and maybe even a little scary, but I wanted the chance to at least taste it. Of course, it tasted like mushroom soup, but the soup was delicious.
The menu was fairly typical with salad, soup (including tortilla soup), enchiladas, and fajitas. All of the items for the main entree contained meat or seafood, but Melchior was kind enough to arrange for us to receive vegetable fajitas. For dessert you could choose from tres leches cake, flan, ice cream, or Pastelito de elite con queso y salsa de canela (Warm sweet corn and cheese bread with a hint of cinnamon bathed in a sweet cream sauce). Between the tortilla chips and salsa, the margaritas, and our entrees, we couldn’t consider gorging on dessert. We loved that the strolling mariachi singers had great voices and were interacting with guests and that the atmosphere in the restaurant was warm and inviting. How is it that the resort pull this restaurant off successfully but can’t do it elsewhere?
During my stay at the Crown Paradise Club in Cancun, I was determined to spend time in the water down at the beach. Ignoring the red flags, we went in and soon discovered why this would be the only time we did. Maybe you’ve been to Cancun before like we have. But if you’ve been at a different resort heed this warning: Not all beachfront properties are the same! The surf was rough and I mean rough. I would absolutely not recommend anyone with children go in the water at all as you might not be able to get out. It may look calm from this picture, but we were winded from getting slapped around in knee deep water. Now I understand the abundance of pools on property since most people didn’t venture onto the beach at all.
If you want to sit out and relax by the pool, you’ll have your choice of a few pools on property. The main pool is where any and all entertainment is conducted and it has two basketball hoops and sometimes a volleyball net. People start saving chairs in the morning, but not as early as I’ve seen at other resorts. Adjacent to the main pool is the La Concha pool, a smaller shell shaped pool where people go to relax and lay out. There is one pool near the main lobby that is covered and next to the children’s water park. The next pool is the adults only pool on floor one of the resort. We spent most of our time here with the swim up bar as it was quieter and less crowded than the main pool.
If you’re feeling like a little “adventure,” there is one other pool, but I don’t recommend swimming in it. This is the pool at the end of the two water slides and it is small. There are several lounge chairs around the pool, but I can’t see this as a place to relax. The reason might be because the rock climbing wall (without any padding at the bottom and only concrete) is there as well as the world’s shortest zip line, a soccer field, and a beach volleyball area. We had this pool to ourselves for the longest time and only one other family showed up. Due to the extremely poor signage (meaning no signage whatsoever), I don’t think people even knew this existed.
There will always be great things about a resort as well as those things you wish you could change. At the end when you compare your pros an cons, hopefully, the pros will outweigh the cons. Unfortunately, this vacation was full of a lot of cons, many of which I have already mentioned, but here are a few more:
- Although affordable, it might not be for everyone. Maybe you’ve never traveled outside of the country and if so, this might be your first time at an all-inclusive in which case you might really fall in love with this resort. If not, you will naturally make comparisons to other resorts you’ve been to and it might fall short with those who have been memorable to you.
- Air conditioning is incredibly loud in the room. Loud like you’re standing next to a 747 jet kind of loud.
- No accessible outlets in the room. We ended up charging our electronics in the one outlet in the bathroom…next to the sink.
- Wifi is horrible. Best spot was in the middle of our bed. Really?
- Room wasn’t cleaned all day on Friday. They called after we had been in and out of the room all day at 5 pm and we told them they could come in at 6 pm. At 7 pm we returned and room was still not made up. They then had someone come and clean the room. Make sure you put the card in the door that says to clean your room or they will just skip over your room entirely.
- Water pressure was horrific. Sounded like someone was screaming in the shower the entire time you were in it. The shower heads need to be replaced or each one carefully cleaned to descale them.
- Entertainment was lacking and what was available was really bad. We caught a few minutes of the Michael Jackson tribute show and all I could think was that you would have to be really, really, really drunk to enjoy it.
- Don’t look too closely at the resort because you will notice that it needs repairs to the already existing repairs. For example, the glass above the lobby that meets the wall by the elevator on floor one is crumbling. Yes, I said crumbling so you might want to avoid standing near this or below it.
- Don’t bother trying to play basketball. The balls are nearly flat and the hoops are either broken or installed upside down.
- If you’re looking for a romantic vacation, please keep in mind that this is a family resort and you won’t be able to get entirely away from children. There are adults only areas, but they are still going to be underfoot no matter where you go.
- Timeshare sharks troll the lobby since the resort is next door to their sister property, Golden Shores. if someone asks if they can help you, they are probably from the timeshare property.
I’m not such a horrible person that I can’t come up with anything positive about the resort. Here’s my pros list about the Crown Paradise Club in Cancun:
- This is an affordable all-inclusive with lots of pools, beachfront, dining options and it’s family friendly.
- Children can’t possibly become bored with children’s clubs, pools, basketball, tennis, and even miniature golf.
- The bartenders are absolutely amazing including Gabriel at the main bar and Sebastien at the adults only pool bar.
- Christy at the Mexican food station in La Palapa made us some incredible food. I especially loved the super hot sauces in the large bowls near the back of the station that we discovered.
- I was intrigued and amused by the translation of the food in La Palapa including one choice at breakfast, “divorced eggs.”
- Trafalgar, the “English pub” was fun despite the glass wall that allows you to look directly into the children’s area. There were a couple of pool tables and a bar so how can you go wrong with that?
The rest of the photos from our trip to the Crown Paradise Club in Cancun will go up on the Travel Shop Girl FaceBook page soon and then we are headed back to Jamaica to see more great resorts there.