Okay, so you have read through the Pineal Tones website and you are wondering… what is this “All-inclusive” resort and why should I stay here during the 2013 Compassion Choir? The most frequent questions we have gotten about the Compassion Choir have centered on the the Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort. So, I decided I needed to check it out in person, see for myself and share my experience with you.
I went to Moon Palace in mid-June for 3 nights and 4 days. Although, I asked a few people to accompany me – they had previous engagements – so I went all by myself. I felt 100% safe and comfortable the entire trip. Going alone turned out to be an interesting curiosity to staff and guests and was a nice “ice-breaker” when meeting people.
I took a red-eye flight to Cancun because from Southern California it takes a few hours to get there. You can find flights from Atlanta and Charlotte, NC – and probably several other places. I had to get to Southeastern USA first and then catch the flight to Cancun – which was a breeze. The “red-eye” gave me a full day in Cancun that I wouldn’t have had even if I had left early in the morning from San Diego.
Secret 1: Look at your flight options and decide when you want to arrive to the resort so you have time to relax and get oriented before all the choir festivities begin. Your best option may be like mine – a red-eye. Or, you might want to do an “overnight layover” where you stay in an airport hotel in an interesting city with a short morning flight to arrive in Cancun well-rested.
The airfare to Cancun – even last-minute – was reasonable considering the distance (under $700) – about the same as my 2012 ticket to Maui (which I had booked months in advance). I plan on booking my Cancun flights for December very soon for the best price. Note that the check-in time is later in the afternoon at Moon Palace. There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy while your room is made ready. Check out is strictly at noon.
Secret 2: You may want to pack a bathing suit in your purse or backpack so it is handy if you can’t get into your room right away! They have towels at the pool that you can get with your “towel” card. The pool and beach are just around the corner from the check in desk…If you aren’t into the pool there is a lounge area in the lobby and a coffee shop with lots of goodies and some snack sandwiches where you can relax. If you are feeling more active – then there are many paths to walk or the gym!
My plane touched down in Cancun around 11 am and the adventure began! I was a little worried because I really don’t know any Spanish. I passed through customs easily and went to get my luggage – and to my delight, there were plenty of English-speaking airport staff. Everything was well-marked and I went through the airport easily and found the area for ground transportation. The transportation area is a large outdoor area. Be sure to make note of the name of the transportation company that is taking you to the Moon Palace and have any tickets, reservation numbers and itinerary with you in a convenient place. The group that picked me up was “Mayaland.” They were very professional and courteous. (Go to transportation area 28/29).
Secret 3: Don’t be distracted by all the information desks inside the airport – just look for your ground transportation service (it is included when you book your reservation through the Resort Portal.) Make sure to have all of your reservation documents handy after you get through customs!
Remember that many people in the resort and travel industry are working on commission so they can be very friendly and persuasive 😉 Before you leave plan any excursions you want to take – there are some special excursions included during the Kryon retreat (check out the schedule and links). Before I left, I decided how much I would spend out-of-pocket for souvenirs and pampering at the Spa – and stuck to it. I thought about an excursion, but with a 3 night stay and the objective to get familiar with the resort, I chose not to leave the resort area.
I had a nice peaceful ride to the resort – I think it was about 15 minutes. My driver spoke English and Spanish. There was a security gate that we passed through where he had to check in and give my name to be sure I was a registered guest. The resort is very secure! I arrived and my bags were tagged and I was shown to the reservations desk where I had a very short wait to check in. I understood that it was a “medium” busy time during my stay – not packed but not the slow season either. We will arrive shortly before peak season in December.
Not long after you arrive at the resort, you will need to schedule your return trip to the airport. (Remember if you booked through the portal these transfers were included in your quote). Note that there are some payments that had to be paid separately – but were included in your pricing quote.
It took a few minutes to check in and the woman at the desk described the resort and features very well to me. I was given a wristband that I was to wear for the entire stay. They also gave me a “towel card” for the pool, and 2 room keys. It is important that you keep track of your wristband, keys and towel cards as there is an extra charge if you lose them and don’t return them when you check out.
When we check in at Moon Palace in December we will be given a special wristband color that identifies us as a Compassion Choir group member. Only those who book through our portal will receive this band. This way the resort staff will recognize us and make sure we are given free access to any of the extra benefits of being with the choir. We have asked, and the resort will not give these special wristbands to people who haven’t booked through our website or representatives.
Secret 4: Because this is an all-inclusive resort I didn’t need to carry around a big purse with money and credit cards. I’ve never stayed at a resort like this – the closest thing I have done would be a cruise ship. I realized after arriving that most of my Summer clothes didn’t have pockets! I would have loved to have had a small passport portfolio that I have seen travelers wear around their necks – that would have been perfect. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and for me having a little organizer would have helped me keep track of my key cards and a few US dollars for tips if someone went way above and beyond in their service. (Keep a copy of your passport in a separate place from your passport – just in case).
NIZUC, SUNRISE & GRAND AT MOON PALACE
There are 3 areas in the Moon Palace Resort: Nizuc, Sunrise and the Grand. Each area has it’s own flavor. Grand has the prettiest beach area and tacos, Sunrise has the beautiful conference hall area, and the Nizuc has a festive and fun atmosphere with very nice restaurants.
ROOM: My guest room in Nizuc was on the 3rd floor and had a beautiful view of the pool and the ocean. There were flights of stairs to my room and the bell person carried my bags to the room on check in and check out. If you have mobility issues or special needs please let the resort know when you make your reservation. There was a wet bar and plenty of bottled water in my room – it was so nice to have access to refreshments on arrival. They replenished it every day. They provided “turn-down” service with little chocolates every evening. Unlike hotels, there was no extra charge for water or drinks from the mini bar.
The king size bed, linens, and pillows were super comfortable and I am very picky in this regard. There was also a very large Jacuzzi tub in the room along with a separate, deluxe shower. I also enjoyed sitting out on my balcony in the mornings and evenings. Although, I didn’t use it a lot the free wireless worked just fine!
In general, the choir guest rooms are in the NIzuc area – where I stayed. The conference rooms are at the Sunrise. If you are walking, the best way to get to the different areas is by walking along the paved beach path. There are white shuttle buses that run between the different areas of the resort every 15 minutes or so. If you need to be somewhere at a certain time – like a Spa appointment (and you aren’t walking) It’s good to allow 20 minutes or so to catch the shuttle bus and find where you are going. The resort is very large and it took me a day and 1/2 to feel fully oriented.
Secret 5: If you are unsure of anything or feel lost ask someone with a resort name tag for help. There were many staff around that were very happy to help me!
The temperature inside the resort was very comfortable for me. Outside it was sunny, beautiful and warm (80 degrees F during the day). Blue skies and gorgeous ocean water – the pool was pretty, too. I carried a light jacket indoors – just in case – but found I didn’t need it. Four days was a very short stay – though it was long enough to have a fantastic time. I had a wonderful stroll through the grounds each day, walked along the white sand beaches, sat by the pool and had wonderful food and drinks. The service I received was excellent!
After settling in and unpacking, I went to check out the pool and the resort. In Nizuc, there is a towel area and excursion area tucked away across the pool from the stage where they entertain pool guests. It took me a little while to find the towels – that’s when I learned it is better to ask someone.
Secret 6: My room was for one person so I can’t speak for the rooms with 2 beds – but there wasn’t a lot of room for hanging longer garments. I had plenty of room for what I brought. Just a “heads up” that bringing things that don’t wrinkle in drawers could be a time-saver. There was a lot of room in drawers. Also, consider bringing 2 bathing suits if you like to be at the pool or beach a lot – it may be humid and it can take a little while for the suits to dry. Plus, you may want a dry suit to wear to the Spa! (More about that later).
I wasn’t in Cancun long enough to get around to all the resort restaurants but I did try the buffets in both the Nizuc (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the buffet at the Sunrise (which I kept calling “sunshine” — I heard that wasn’t unusual).
For those of you that have ever broken “gluten-free” bread with me – you know that I have some interesting food sensitivities – and it can be amusing to watch me order at a restaurant. My first meal was room service. There was a nice selection from the room menu. I had a simple chicken soup with avocado and rice along with a scrumptious 1/2 spinach salad with goat’s cheese and a fruity vinaigrette. I received my lunch in about 30 minutes. This was a very nice option to help me settle in and relax.
The first evening, I decided to try my hand at the Italian dinner buffet in the Nizuc. After a full night and morning of air travel, I was ready for something quick and easy. The bracelet that you get identifies you as a Moon Palace guest. All I did was walk up and they seated me at the window with a view. I was asked what I would like to drink and was offered wine. I chose iced tea and water which were frequently refilled.
At the buffet, there were lots of plain, raw vegetables and fancy salads and antipasto that I could eat. For the main course, there were seafood, poultry and fish options – some pre-cooked and ready to eat and others that could be made for you at the chef’s station. If you want something cooked fresh for you – go to that station first and then get your other items. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Italian buffet without lots of “make your own” pasta and sauce options. Did I mention a whole bar of cute desserts? Of course, it is all you can eat and drink with gratuity included. I didn’t have to pay anything additional for my meal.
The next morning after a nice breakfast at the Sunrise buffet, I took a shuttle back to the Nizuc and stopped at one of the Vacation Planner’s desks in the Lobby to schedule an appointment at the Spa. I chose an 80-minute massage that included the full spa experience of saunas (dry and steam), cold pool, warm pool and hot pool. You may use your Resort Credit at the Spa for a massage – but not for the one I chose. The staff are very helpful and clear about what and how you can use your resort credit. Remember that $1500 credit we negotiated for the Compassion Choir reservations? You can use it for certain designated activities, excursions, items at the gift store, and more. Ask the staff about your $1500 of resort credit if you are unsure. When you use the resort credits, you will charge the item or service to your room. You are responsible for paying taxes on the resort credit items. Resort credit was not included during my stay, but I did ask a lot of questions about it.
Secret 7: There was a safe in my room so I kept my passport, my extra purse items and an envelop from the desk materials in my room. (For identification – I kept my driver’s license with me – though I didn’t need it). I have never used a safe before in a hotel – but I thought I would give it a try. It was easy to set the code (instructions were in English). I put all of my receipts from the gift shops in the envelope in my safe – conveniently organized for checkout! I did do some room charges for items that I purchased in the gift shops and some gift items I just paid for with my credit card. You don’t have to put extra things you buy on your room account. If you are sharing a room – you will want to work this out with your room-mate from the beginning of your stay so there are no surprises when you check out. (More secrets on checking out later).
On my second day, I noticed that I was having a little reaction to the food I had eaten the day before and mentioned it to the Vacation Planner when I was setting up my Spa appointment. She was so helpful, and directed me to the guest services desks that were also in the Lobby. I sat down and explained my issue and the gentleman at the desk said they make a laminated card in Spanish for people who have allergies or special needs. This was amazing! It took a while for them to prepare the card and I was half-way through my stay before the card was ready to pick up… but I was only there for a short stay. If you have special dietary needs that are serious or strict – it is worth stopping by early in your stay. I just showed the card to the person seating me and they made sure my server was aware of my food issues. It’s pretty tricky, too (wheat, tomatoes, soy, legumes, and black or white pepper), They did a phenomenal job of letting me know what I could eat. For this “above and beyond” service – I did leave a tip. If you do have special needs allow extra time and if you can eat during non-peak hours that may help as well.
There are several buffets and restaurants to choose from in the different areas of the resort. Food and drink are readily available everywhere – you just need to pay attention to the hours of operation for each restaurant. The pool was open until about 6:30 PM each day when I was there.
I really enjoyed dinner at the Mexican restaurant “Los Corporales” in Nizuc. My server, Antonio, was very attentive and helpful. The food was really good, too. There can be a wait for seating – especially if you go at peak hours 6:30 or 7:00 PM. The second time I went they gave me a buzzer and it was about a 20 minute wait. I was able to wander around the resort area while I was waiting. I decided to eat there my third night because they did such a nice job and were less crowded than the Brazilian steakhouse. If I had felt more adventurous I would have tried one of the restaurants at the Grand. A couple of the restaurants do take reservations. If you are in a hurry – the buffet is the way to go.
From Nizuc, I hopped on the shuttle to the Golf area of Moon Palace – where the large Spa is located. There are smaller Spas also – but my “vacation planner” recommended the large spa for the treatment I had chosen. I had a wonderfully relaxing time at the spa. They have a definite series of instructions upon check in – in English or Spanish to get you through their spa experience. The Spa is spacious, nicely appointed and friendly. There are special detox and fruit drinks, tea, and water available. The staff is very clear with instructions and watch the time for you so that you meet your therapist on time, There is a large menu of options and you need to wear a bathing suit in the sauna/bath area. My massage was very relaxing and comfortable.
I read that you could check out the evening before you leave and I would recommend this! You won’t have your bracelet after you check out, but they will give you a coupon slip that you show to all the restaurants, etc. that you are a guest.
The person scheduling your return trip to the airport will help you to determine when you need to leave the resort. I decided to have room service and pack. I went to the lobby an hour before my ride was scheduled. I was glad – it took a little while to get checked out. Be sure to keep track of all the luggage tickets, and papers that they give you upon checkout. If you don’t check out they may stop you at the gate until they know your balance has been paid. Just be present and ask questions if you don’t understand and you will be fine!
Seriously, for people who have time-shares or want to save a few dollars – it probably makes sense to do this in other ways. The resort has a policy of having to pay to come onto the property – even if you are part of a conference. This fee is $120 per day per person and is subject to availability. If you are not staying at Moon Palace, you have to get a pass each morning upon your arrival and you cannot reserve them ahead of time (I asked). This pass is good from 7 am to 11 pm and allows you access to the facilities, food and beverages. It isn’t that much more to stay at the resort. See my upcoming article on price comparisons and budgeting.
All and all this was a wonderful trip (albeit brief)! If I hadn’t done a little gift shopping and spa retreating – I wouldn’t have had to pay any additional money upon leaving. It is truly an all-inclusive resort. I can’t wait to go back!