If I hadn’t glimpsed the turquoise blue water outside of the plane window, the humidity that hit me like an invisible barrier when I departed the airport would have let me know that I was in Mexico.
It was my first time in Mexico since 1998, and my arrival in Cancun for the TBEX travel blogging conference was a big deal for me. You see my last experience in Mexico wasn’t so pleasant. After being violently ill in Cozumel, I’d sworn off the country – fairly or not. Yet at the same time, Mexico has fond memories for me since my very first time on an airplane, and my first trip out of the country at age 16, was to Merida, Chichen Itza, and Cancun with my high school Spanish class. So it was appropriate that the place where I first satisfied my desire to see the world was also the place hosting my first travel blogging conference – the place where I would go to learn how to take my growing travel blog to the next level.
For once, the decision of where to stay was out of my hands as the conference was held at the Moon Palace Resort, an all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, 20 minutes away from the main hotel zone in Cancun. One of the common complaints against all-inclusive resorts is that they don’t bring business to the local economy. You could definitely stay at the Moon Palace and not leave since it offers a golf course, spa, beach, restaurants and multitude of pools, but they also offer tours to nearby archeological ruins and attractions like Chichen Itza, Rio Secreto, Xcaret, and Isla Mujeres (the first place I ever snorkeled!). And, I don’t know whether they are paid of a fair wage, but it is evident that the Moon Palace employs a large number of people.
Because, you see, the best thing about the Moon Palace is its people.
Arriving at the Moon Palace, just a few short minutes from the Cancun airport, I was greeted by the outside bell staff with an ice-cold towel and a flower whose sweet aroma welcomed me to the tropics. While checking in, I was approached by a waiter offering me a drink – reinforcing the message that while at the Moon Palace they want you to have fun. And, since it is an all-inclusive that includes alcohol, there was no reason except your own inhibitions to not partake – except that after waking at 3am, I wanted nothing more than a bed in a cool room.
Everywhere you turn in the Moon Palace there is an employee there greeting you with a pleasant smile and cheery “Hola,” more than eager to help with anything you need. After retrieving my bag from the over eager bellman, his job was to show me to my room and point out the resort amenities along the way. As tired as I was, I had hoped to quickly grab my bag and find my own way but as we walked along I got a sense of how big the resort really is.
There are three main areas at the Moon Palace, each with its own lobby and set of buildings. I was staying the Sunrise section, which for me had the advantage of being right next to the Moon Palace Arena, where the conference was taking place, but also great for families as it is where you will find the fun kiddie pool.
The grounds of the Moon Palace are expansive, really three resorts in one. Instead of throwing up large towers of rooms, the rooms at the Moon Palace are spread through many buildings, each strategically angled to provide rooms with a glimpse of the beach from the balcony or patio. While the buildings don’t convey a strong sense of place, giving more the air of a tropical apartment complex, efforts have been made to give the hotel a hint of a luxury resort.
The rooms aren’t fancy, but they go overboard in making your stay comfortable with the amenities. In the bathroom you will find large-sized Chi shampoo, condition, and body lotion, along with a Chi hairdryer and even Chi flat iron. Alongside of our two double beds and small table, in the room we also had a large jetted tub (I guess so you can take a bath with a view of the beach?) and a small patio with a hammock and chairs. In addition to a free minibar, fully-stocked each day with water, juice, soda and beer, there was a pull out bar with many types of alcohol “on tap” to keep the party going.
In the Sunrise section alone, the Moon Palace offers a number of dining options, including room service, two poolside restaurants, an Italian restaurant, Mexican buffet, Asian restaurant, café/bakery/ice cream shop, and a few bars (including a teen club). Perhaps the food over at the reservations-suggested restaurants near the golf course is better, but most of the food I had was mediocre – but again, the service was superb.
I’ve never seen a resort with such a high staff to guest ratio. A similar resort in the U.S. would have had half the staff. At each restaurant there were at least two or three waiters and bus staff hovering near each table, eager to bring you what you need and more than happy to serve you some alcohol. My best experience was at La Gondola, the Italian restaurant in Sunrise, where our wait staff was so attentive and funny they made the meal a joyful experience.
I didn’t have much of an opportunity to utilize the many, many pools – or more accurately an endless pool connected by bridges spread out beach front and dotted with palm frond umbrellas to help shade from the strong sun. To stay cool in the heat, the Moon Palace offers chairs resting directly in the water to take poolside lounging to a new level. In my short time in the pool area, I noticed the pop music pumping and the attentive wait staff happily serving drinks poolside. Definitely a party atmosphere!
If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation with plenty of Mexican ambience, you aren’t going to find it at the Moon Palace. What you will find are endless activities, kids’ and teen clubs, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving, surfing on the “FlowRider,” nightclubs, outdoor dance parties, golf, and evening entertainment. The Moon Palace reminded me a lot of the Atlantis (but without the awesome water park) in that it is a mega-resort with all the amenities and activities you need, but without the personality, architecture, and ambience of the region. But what it does have is a plentiful and pleasant staff ready to make your vacation enjoyable, because in my view, the best thing about the Moon Palace is its people.
Moon Palace Reviews: Tips for Families
- Request to stay in the Sunrise section, as this is the largest “resort” within the complex. Here you will find the kiddie pool, mini golf, the toddler-teen Playroom, and Wired Teen Zone with video games, arcade game, pool, air hockey and a “bar.”
- Don’t worry too much about picky eaters. If you are a foodie, you may be disappointed in much of the food at the Moon Palace, but picky eaters should be ok. Most of the buffets had chicken nuggets, fries, and cheese quesadillas (plus tortilla chips), room service has hamburgers, and the Italian restaurant has pasta. For breakfast you can get eggs, cereal, breads, fruit, and pancakes.
- Request the manzana (apple), plantano, or uvas (grapes) building so you can be between the Sunrise and Nizuc section. I’d avoid the Luna building as it overlooks the Moonlight Terrace where evening parties are held so it could get a little loud.
- Don’t count on using the beach. The beach at the Moon Palace is fairly narrow and the times I saw it, the red flag was flying, possibly because of the large amounts of seaweed muddying up the water.
- If you have little kids, there is a zero entry area near the kiddie pool. Just keep in mind that the big pools within the resort complex are connected, winding under bridges and around corners so it can be easy to lose track of kids.
- Almost all the staff spoke fluent English as well as Spanish so, while there isn’t a language barrier, it can be fun to practice a little Spanish.
- Because it is an all-inclusive many people don’t tip but show you appreciate good service and leave a tip!
The Moon Palace isn’t for everyone but if you are looking for an affordable, tropical vacation that has something for everyone, and you enjoy all-inclusives, you might want to give it a look.