Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dreams Puerto Aventuras

The Dreams resort in Puerto Aventuras is an excellent value set in a beautiful location. Puerto Aventuras is a private gated residential community located in the Riviera Maya on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. I would recommend the private community setting to people traveling with small children or to people who want an American feel to their Mexican vacation, not to backpackers or people looking for the 'real' Mexico. Once you pass the gatehouse, it's beautiful but it really doesn't feel like your in Mexico.

Overall Dreams is a wonderful vacation spot. The all-inclusive resort is situated on a private beach and backs to the Puerto Aventuras Marina. The resort is small in size compared to the mega resorts of Cancun and the Riviera Maya. With only 305 rooms, the resort is manageable and every room has either a Marina or Ocean view.

Rooms: We stayed in a marina view room on the 3rd floor. We had exceptional views of Puerto Aventuras and the marina and enjoyed sunset and happy hour on our balcony almost nightly. Once we even saw a stingray in the water directly in front of us. Upon arrival, we were surprised to find the room had a second floor lounge. We really didn't see the point in the second floor unless you had small children who could sleep on the futon, but it's really not the best place for kids because the exposed spiral staircase is much too dangerous for kids. Overall, the room was nicely decorated and very clean. Our mini bar was stocked each day with bottled soda, water, Coronitas and an orange juice. We had a coffee maker but never actually given any coffee to make by housekeeping. The bathrooms were modern and the water always hot. Funny thing about the bathroom was the "convenient" phone by the toilet that only called out to the US, Canada and UK.

Pools/Beach: The resort has two pool areas each with a swim up bar, the activity/all ages pool and the adults only pool. The activities pool starts to get loud early, so if you had an ocean view room, we heard it was hard to sleep in. The activities pool is large in size and is attached to a 30 person whirlpool. The sun sets first over the activities pool, so most adults either move to the adult pool on the other side of the resort which gets a half hour more sun or move to the whirlpool for sunset and happy hour. Although, the adults pool is quiet all day, it does get a little louder at happy hour though. My favorite pool was the quieter adult pool as the activities pool was a bit too Cancun party-party for me.

The beach was absolutely beautiful with white sand and crystal clear water. The beach is small but comparable for the size of the resort. Chairs were plentiful and you could always find a quiet spot to read and relax. The beach service was fast and offered sandwiches, salads and drinks so you could be extremely lazy and never leave your chair. The water is active with small fish in the beach's shallow area so beware if you aren't a fish person. To the right of the beach was a natural rock saltwater pool for swimming and snorkeling; however, one day a small nurse shark found its way into the water and caused a bit of excitement on the beach.

Activities: The resort offers a plethora of activities. Each morning we picked up a copy of the Sundial resort newsletter which detailed restaurant availability and the activities for the day, rain or shine. The resort offered an Explorer's Club for kids which was nice because then most of the kids were cooped up in their own private area. The daily activities ran by the Dreams Entertainment Team centered around the pool and beach including: volleyball, yoga, water aerobics, ping pong, bungee trampoline, etc. The beach also offered free water sport equipment such as kayaks, Hobie cats, and snorkel and windsurf equipment. The nightly activities consisted of a show in the cruise ship like theater. We hit the Mexican dancing show, the Elvis impersonator show and the Halloween show. All slightly cheesy but entertaining as you know the dancers and singers put a lot of work into it. Nightly on the beach was either a movie or American sporting event projected on a big screen or a performance show such as "Dreams Idol" or the Fire and Rain show. The activities kept people busy and the staff always tried to get everyone involved but quickly left you alone if you didn't want to participate.

Food/Beverage: The resort offers your choice of 7 restaurants and 4 bars. All  food and beverages are included in the all-inclusive price unless you "upgrade" your dinner for the lobster or your drink for a specialty bottle of wine. Every day at least 3 different restaurants are open for dinner with the World Cafe and Seaside Grill open for lunch. We never ran into more than a five minute wait for a table for two even during the busier hours. My favorite restaurants were: Gohan for sushi, Seaside Grill for steak and other traditional grilled items and Portofino for Italian. The traditional Mexican restaurant, El Patio wasn't anything to write home about, I could get the fajitas I ate at any basic Mexican restaurant in America. The adults-only Oceana was my least favorite as it didn't have a wide selection of fresh seafood choices. The World Cafe, the family orientated buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, was your standard buffet with food for the masses. The World Cafe was very nice option for a quick afternoon snack if you weren't interested in having a hot dog or hamburger at the beach side Barefoot Grill. Also, you could order room service 24 hours a day free of charge. The food was good for an all-inclusive restaurant, better than I have had before, but the flavors were bland as it had to appeal to the masses.

The resort had 4 bars to choose from. During the day, the best spots were the swim up bars, Sugar Reef and Manatee. I really enjoyed hitting the beach side Barracuda bar at sunset and after dinner for a peaceful drink with a view and ocean breeze. The nightclub Desires, was entertaining for late night people watching and to catch a game in the afternoon. If you aren't interested in partying with crowd, you could always grab a drink and enjoy the view off your room's balcony.

Service: Overall, the service at the resort was great. The concierge, Gina, was very helpful when we checked in. She was pleasantly surprised to find out we had rented a car and would manage our own tours, unlike other concierges who would recommend the "safe" tours and provide us with vague directions to the local sites. We were extremely disappointed that the resort did not have a map of the surrounding area or offer to print one for us.

The rest resort staff and restaurant staff were always helpful and went above and beyond to make our stay enjoyable. We always tipped in the restaurants, bars and for room service. I loved to call room service (which is included) as whichever gal answered, she called me "Mrs. Hunt" and when I tried to correct her as that's not my name, she would say every time "OK, Mrs. Hunt." The resort provides you with "Resort Credit" which are really just $200 worth of coupons to use at their resort, such as $10 off a bottle of wine or $20 off a spa service. We never used our coupons and four days into our stay, the front desk called to see if we were OK and if we had lost them. Sadly for Dreams, we didn't spend a penny at the resort but we did have an excellent time!

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