Written on: 21/06/2003 by Dave. (1 review written)
Amazing resort, good food, excellent value for money, nice turquoise water, good service
Japanese a la carte not good, beach is a little rocky and corally
Stayed on the Kantenah side from June 8th-15th ,2003 and was afraid of the rainy season but got 7 days of sunny hot 36 degrees weather!!! This is an amazing place. I've been to a number of all inclusives in the Dom Republic and Mexico and Cuba and I didn't think anything would beat Iberostar Dominicus in La Romana but this place is equiv. or slightly better in some ways. From my travels I've observed and notice the difference between a 4, 4 , and a 5 star resort. Very posh as soon as you enter this resort. There is a big diff between those little stars if you are picky about service, food, and drinks. But then again it depends who rates it and people's past experience and expectations. My criteria are how the food is and whether or not your stomach has problems. If it's a top-notch place you should have amazing high quality food and not have stomach problems. You can still have stomach problems in a 4- 4 star resort. But not here nor Iberostar in the DR. This goes to show the good purification systems and the sanitation practices they use. Here at the Palladium, all food handlers wear rubber glove. Old or damaged food is thrown away right away! You don't see that in normal resorts!!! Furthermore the facilities are great here.
Here's a quick and dirty summary:
1. Food in general is top notch - or course some stuff look strange and you don't touch but a resort that serves Gigantic prawns and smoke salmon in the buffets is good in my books. Desserts are very good - moist cakes, somewhat sweet but not overpowering.
2. Excellent cappuccinos and expressos (house wine is fair)
3. Genuinely friendly workers (this is sometimes hard to come by)
4. Huge pool with 4 columned off jacuzzis and a swim up bar. Smaller private pools in the spa or adult pool area- great if you want the feeling privacy.
5. The beach is nice with turquoise water
6. Plenty of lounges and papulas (pool and beach)
7. Snorkeling off the beach is ok but not the greatest
8. Steakhouse and Italian a la cartes were very good
9. Proximity to Tulum/Akumal/PDC/ Xel ha
THE NOT SO GOOD (MINOR):
1. The Japanese a la carte was pretty bad despite a good show by the teppanyaki chef. Worst tempura I've tasted. The sashimi was so thinly slices - paper thin and the tuna looked BROWN. The negiri was 4 diff pieces to be shared by 8 people. The teppanyaki was not very authentic but they did give you enough to eat.
2. There is only one towel place which made it a pain to get if you use the beach or smaller pools
3. The main pool's water a little salty
4. Mini bar is stocked only every other day.
1. Email the resort ahead and request what you want. (eg King bed (very few rooms with it), Tub, 3rd floor, and an ocean view). I did and got everything I asked for!!!!
2. Grab international drinks from Hemingway and bring it to the cigar bar or the lobby instead of drinking the inferior booze.
3. If you want the best beach go to the Kantenah side as the sand is better and there are no rocks upon entering the water, just fine sand. Bonus is nobody is over there as everyone hovers in clusters around the beach near the bar/pool i.e. the Colonial side.
4. Snorkel early in the morning (approx. 8-10am) if the tides / wave are high as the water is calmer and visibility is better.
5. Book the a la cartes right away. Arrange your a la cartes based on the buffet themes you'd like to skip. Go for the later sittings as you get more pool time!
6. Don't buy anything from vendors at the resort unless you already know Playa Del Carmen prices. Buy Amber colour aged Tequila not white. White one will give you headaches!!!
7. Do yourself a favor and use 45 SPF sunblock. The sun is brutal. Fifteen minutes and you are toast. 80% of the people had 4th degree burns. I used 45 SPF and still got slightly burnt - and I sat in the shade all the time!!!
Marble Marble Marble. They didn't skim on this place. Nice fountains and illusion of floating restaurants with fish. Great flamingo and crocodile area as is an orchid area.
Great service esp if they are not busy. They will come serve you. The lobby bars are nice on both the Colonial and Kantenah sides. The cigar bar is nice but only Hemingways has premium liquor (3-4 scotch, rum, sparkling wine, vodka, etc )
Huge but deep. If you don't swim you have to say on the sides or by the lounge chairs, as the pool is 5'3" in most areas. There are some graduated spots but small. The smaller pools (adult pool and spa pool are 4'11" deep). Water is salty but that may be because no one rinses themselves after the beach.
Sand is not super white - beigish and some debris but the water is nice and turquoisey. There is quite a bit of corals between the Colonial and Kantenah side. Great breeze at the beach actually cooled you were the pool was stifling hot! The sandy patches are very fine in the ocean and the water is a warm 29 degrees.
They tell you to snorkel to the right side, as it's calmer inside the buoy. There is one small coral reef patch there with lots of marine life but it'll take you maybe 5 minutes to go around it. Search the sandy floor as you might see a spotted sting ray. To the left side of the lifeguard there is a more extensive reef outside the buoy. Lots of sea fans but go only if the waves are calm. Saw a 5 ft barracuda there.
Regular fair - made to order omelets, bacon, sausages, cold cuts, cheeses, hash browns, pancakes, breads, fruits (mango, papaya, pineapple, melons, guava), fresh juices, cereals, yogurts.
Pool Buffet (lunch only): very similar to main buffet but opens earlier and you can wear your bathing suit
Main Buffet: The Colonial Buffet was closed during our side and only the Kantenah side was open. Made to order steak, pork chops, lamb chops, burgers, hotdog, salmon or sea bass in addition to your regular stuff and of course a killer guacamole, pasta bar and super bready pizzas.
Usually a theme to the nightly menu. Seafood is the best. Huge grilled prawns and smoke salmon galore, calamari, mussels, other fish. Mexican was so so. Italian seems like a regular fair like Gala. Passed on Dominican and Moroccan themes. A lot of the lunch stuff made it to the dinner one also.
A LA CARTES:
Excellent. Appetizer bar will fill you up and is great. Huge cold prawns (little overcooked), BBQ shrimp skewer (good), Proccuito, mushroom skewers, eggplant, grilled peppers etc ..I got full after that. Had seafood bisque for soup (very good), wife had duck breast with raspberry vinaigrette, Main was excellent tenderloin, I had mix grilled (salmon, bass, shrimp, scallops) - good. Amazing taramisu!!!!!!choc mouse was so so! And of course cappuccino.
Very good. Appetizer bar had smoke salmon and regular salads. Had excellent french onion soup and the beef broth was also good with lots of corriander. Rib Eye steak was huge (10-12 oz)- slightly overcooked but good - came with baked potato/mash and veggies. Dessert was cheesecake or from the daily tray.
Appetizer is either soup (this should be another course)/tempura (GROSS) /yakitori (good). Negiris too few for the whole table. TUNA was brown!!! Ekkkkkk. Sashimi was sliced wafer thin and looked strange. The rolls were acceptable. The teppanyaki is ok as a stir fried food (shrimp/scallop/chicken/beef) but not as Japanese food. I lived in Japan for 5 years so I know the real stuff. But this food wasn't even acceptable as pseudo Japanese food. Iberostar's Japanese a la carte in DR was amazing compared to here. Tempura ice cream was gross, as it was the same soggy doughy batter as the normal tempura. The coffee jelly was bad too. Disappointing as this was our last meal at the resort and I know I would have been better off at the regular buffet. Note they do have sake - no extra charge!!!
Beginning of week 60% Spanish, 30% Americans, 10% Cdn
End of week 45% Spanish, 45% Americans, 10% Cdn (more kids as school was out)
Palladium Hotel Rate = 9.5 Peso/ US $ (Cdn is really bad so take US)
In town PDC or Akumal = 10.1 to 10.2 Peso/ US$
At ScotiaBank in Playa Del Carmen = 10.4 Peso/$1US
Almost everywhere will take US $ at 10 to 1 so you can just pay US.
EXCURSIONS Off the Resort:
You can do virtually any excursions on your own - better than paying $60 US for tour operators to do for you (save at least ) . Alternatively, go into town eg. Playa Del Carmen to book excursions like Scuba Diving in Cozumel $60 US or Chichen Itza at only $29US. That's the beauty of staying along the Riviera. Take the Collectivo white mini vans (red/orange striped) to almost anywhere as its cheap, convenient, efficient, safe and most, important - air conditioned.
SCUBA COZUMEL - (full day)
(15 Peso to PDC then 146 Peso (return) for Hydrofoil to Cozumel)- note take the Mexico Company Line as they are faster (39 mins) and have more frequent departures (every hour).
Either go into Playa Del Carmen before hand and book a scuba trip for Cozumel from an satellite office of a company in Cozumel. I went to Blue Studio Dive Centre (don't know if I would recommend them as the ratio of divers to dive master was high at 1:7) which is near the main square near the ferry dock. They charge $60 US for 2 dives. Since it was low season he automatically went down to $55 and free equipment rental (usually $15). So it was a deal compared to diving at the Palladium for $130 at nearby reefs. It's worth the extra effort to do it yourself. Alternatively you can take the ferry over to Cozumel where there are 6-9 megshift booths of diveshop operations right on the docks who can take you out the same day (either starting at 9am or 2pm).
Dove at Santa Rosa Wall but current was too strong and we lost a few members as they got swept away. It was next to impossible to swim against the current as I swam to shelter in a cave - your air disappears quickly. Really scary. Everyone had to surface and we realized that we had one missing party member. Search of the missing person took 20 mins. Everyone was freaked!!! They finally got spotted very far away. Used remaining air to do a quick 20 min dive on Chancanab Reef. Clear visibility, shallow dive 40-50 ft with baraccudas, lobster, moray eels and lots of other marine life. There is also a sunken vessel nearby. Second dive was Paraiso Reef. Extensive reef with lots of marine life. Very colourful and relaxing drift dive in a slow current. Nicer than Chancanab.
Note: Diving in Akumal with Akumal Dive centre cost $60 US for 2 dives plus $15 for equipment
TULUM (1/2 day)
(15 Pesos - 15-20 min)
10 min walk from highway (no need to take the tram for 15 peso)
Be weary of time share people by the parking lot for the Allure Resort. Not worth wasting your time to earn $60 US or tickets to Xel Ha - it will waste 2-3 hrs of your vacation even though they say 1hr only
Entrance free 37 Peso/person and video camera is 30 Peso
Bring bathing suit as there's a nice beach - you'll need it after the heat
Lots of water is essential as it's stifling hot
Not mandatory to hire a guide ($5US). You can listen in to all the other guides and take your time. There are signs with explanations of the major buildings.
PLAYA Del CARMEN (1/2 day)
(15 Pesos - 20-25 min)
No brainer ride from the resort
Collective drops you off near Main street - 5th Ave
The beach is there and so are all the souvenir shops selling much of the same stuff. Most places have fixed prices so its good as you won't get ripped off as much as if you bought from a market or unmarked item. T-shirt stores abound at $8 US for most designs. A 980 litre of Kaluaha is $8.50 US but is only $8.00 at a COSTCO like superstore which is 10-15 walk from centro by the highway called Chauradu (big orange building). Good place to buy stuff at good prices (reg clothing/beach stuff/Tequila/groceries etc).
YAL KU LAGOON (AKUMAL) (1/2 day)
(10 Pesos - 5 min)
Take Collectivo and say you want to get off at Akumal Caribe or the Playa in Akumal and walk 5 min into town then from town you must continue towards the lagoon via a road passing by lots of villa/condos (approx 15 min) Try to hitch a ride if any car passes by
Entrance fee is 60 Peso into the park (8:30am -5:30pm)
Go early in the morning - no one is there plus visibility is better in the water
Buy biodegradable sunblock at home - much cheaper and bring a T shirt to snorkel in otherwise you will burn. (can't use regular sunblock as it kills the fish)
Bring a towel and water - no need to rent lockers as it's pretty safe and low key there. If you choose, lockers are avail and showers 10 Pesos
You can rent snorkel equip there or in Akumal town at the dive shop for 50 Peso (snorkel & mask) 40 more pesos for Fin for all day.
Hint: bring some banana to feed the Sergaent Major (black stripe with yellow) fish. They go crazy (hundreds will eat off your hand)
Lots of boulder and caverns under the lagoon. Very calm water. Its like you are snorkeling in a canyon/cave. Really cool and strange as it's fresh water. You will see huge parrot fish/angelfish/yellow or blue tangs/surgeon fish/gunts/sea bass and even a barracuda or turtle if you are lucky. You can venture further out toward the bay where the water meets the sea and gets saltier and there are normal reefs. The water is a little rougher there.
Bonus - same as Xel Ha but without all the tourist and Disneyland atmosphere. Great if you just want to do snorkeling without all the other stuff without the hoards of crowds of Xel ha (which cost $25 US to get in or $53 for all inclusive) Yal Ku Lagoon is still undiscovered so it was great!!!!
To summarize this is an amazing resort and given the price it's even better. Excellent value for money and I would pay even more - but I got a great deal last minute. Go away at the end of May or beginning of June or beginning of Dec as less people and better prices.
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I've traveled the world extensively backpacking to 5 star resorts. If you want to read my personal website check out my other personal travelogues (India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Micronesia, Philippines, Tanzania, Morocco, Kenya, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, All over Europe, the US, Canada, Hawaii, and the Caribbean (Cuba, Cancun, Dom Repub) - which include my experiences and great travel tips, you can check out my personal web site at:
Note: if you want to read my reviews on resorts in the Dominican i.e.
Coral Hamaca (http://www.epinions.com/content_23662726788) or
Iberostar Dominicus Hacienda (http://www.epinions.com/content_65812926084) or
Casa Del Mar in La Romana (http://www.epinions.com/content_84550258308) you can visit my epinions reviews
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