Submitted on 01-18-2017
My husband and I have stayed at Valentin Imperial Maya twice. After our first stay, in July of 2013, we decided our expectations were set too high due to reading too many glowing Trip Advisor reviews and the resort simply could not meet them. So, we lowered our expectations and gave it a second chance July 1-8, 2016. The lower expectations helped, but we were still disappointed in several areas. As a couple in our early 40s, this was our 21st trip to Mexico (17th visit to Riviera Maya, 4 times ...
My husband and I have stayed at Valentin Imperial Maya twice. After our first stay, in July of 2013, we decided our expectations were set too high due to reading too many glowing Trip Advisor reviews and the resort simply could not meet them. So, we lowered our expectations and gave it a second chance July 1-8, 2016. The lower expectations helped, but we were still disappointed in several areas. As a couple in our early 40s, this was our 21st trip to Mexico (17th visit to Riviera Maya, 4 times to Cozumel), so we feel we have a good grasp on what to expect from an all inclusive, adults only resort.
Our biggest disappointment was in the service. People always claim Valentin Imperial Maya is second to none when it comes to service and the staff can not do enough for you. In two visits, we have not found that to be the case. Instead, we have been met with minimal service, at best. We are tippers; my husband never leaves a table without leaving a tip, no matter how bad the service was. I can honestly say, the employees who stood out really stood out and were not only tipped better, but also had their names given to the manager for their outstanding service just as those who fell way below expectations had their names left for their lack of effort.
One thing we really noticed this visit is the resort seems to be having an identity crisis- foam parties by day, strict dress code by night. The two do not go together, in my opinion. I could easily avoid the party atmosphere at the main pool, but there isn‚??t any way to avoid the stuffy dress code.
When we were there three years ago, men could wear nice shorts, a collared shirt, and non-beach sandals to all but two of the restaurants for dinner. Now, the only one that allows shorts is Mar & Tierra because it is not air-conditioned. Anywhere else, men must wear long pants, collared shirts, and closed toed shoes. I know the dress code is intended to make the dining experience formal and seem like five-star dinning. However, the strict dinner dress code is just too much on vacation. Guests should be expected to look nice, but wearing long pants every night is not what one wants when it is so hot. What is the point in making the male guests uncomfortable? I, for one, have never had a meal ruined because I saw someone‚??s hairy legs. Women can go to dinner dressed in anything they wanted to wear, while their husbands/boyfriends were forced to be uncomfortable. Every night, my husband made the same comment, "I have to wear long pants, but she can come in looking like that?". Most people we talked to would like a more relaxed dress code. I know a lot of adults only resorts have similar dress codes, but they also have options, other than room service, where men can be more comfortable.
Room- Both visits, we stayed in a Golden Swim-Up Suite. The room itself is beautiful with everything one could want- reasonably comfortable bed, separate seating area, two TVs, plenty of closet space, coffee maker, minibar (water, soft drinks, beer, and juice), huge bathroom with a shower easily big enough for two, bidet in the toilet area, and a nice sized patio next to the winding Golden Pool. Several people have mentioned the furniture is showing wear, and it is, but that wasn‚??t an issue.
Our issue was our room was never very clean. I used One Touch to request maid service between 9 and 11 am every day. That happened once during our stay. All other days it was after 3pm and one day they called to ask if we wanted service because it was our maid‚??s day off. We put the "please service room" sign on the door every morning by 7:30, so it wasn‚??t an issue of being skipped due to a ‚??do not disturb‚?? sign. The only thing the maid did was make the bed. Towels were left in the tub instead of being taken away, the bathroom was never touched, all floors needed to be swept and mopped.
Other inconveniences included flat, uncomfortable pillows. (We were told others were not available.) There are too many light switches that seem to do nothing. When we finally found a switch that turned on a light, it was very dim. We only received turndown service once in 7 nights. On nights we were in our room, no one even came by. Our building concierge was usually available, but we had three different ones during our stay and none were helpful when we went to ask why the room wasn‚??t getting cleaned, or to ask about anything else regarding the resort. None of these things were a major inconvenience or bad enough to report to management, but they were things we felt were constantly overlooked. In general, we loved our suite and its location (building 7). We just wish we would have had better service.
Beach/Pools: We found our happy place at the Golden Pool, which was right outside of our room, so we never even ventured to the main pool. We spent every day floating in the pool, hanging out with our new friends, and generally relaxing. We do not care for the beach at Valentin as the chairs and palapas are set all the way to the back of its very wide beach. It is quite a trek to the water, which is usually pretty rough. Every morning I walked to the beach to see how things looked and every day it was red flagged.
One of the benefits of lounging around the Golden Pool is the snack bar. You must have a seat somewhere around the Golden Pool in order to get a menu from a server who will then take your order and bring your food to you. The shrimp burgers were especially good. The only problem is service is slow to nonexistent. This is where we found the absolute rudest wait staff on the whole resort. Seven of the eight days we had two or three waitresses who would come around, but were not interested in taking drink orders, much less snack bar orders. They would either look the other way, tell us they were not taking orders at the moment, or take the order and not come back. On their day off, we had two young men who would take five drink orders at a time, bring those drinks back and go to a new section. This would not have been so bad if we could go to the Golden Pool bar to order drinks. However, every time we tried we were told to order from the wait staff. One day, I went to the bar at the main pool to get my husband and myself a drink and was told I could only order one drink at a time. At around two o‚??clock on our last day, the waitresses at the Golden Pool said the bar was out of pina colada mix, so they could not make any drinks. When someone ordered a rum and Coke, they were told the bar was out of rum. Maybe prohibition was in effect during our stay. At least we had great drinks during lunch at La Marche.
Restaurants: We honestly felt the food this trip was a lot better than it was in 2013, especially the beef dishes. Without fail, every waiter asked if we had any food allergies. We don‚??t, but it was nice that they wanted to make sure those who do were properly advised about their options. Service was very hit or miss.
Mar & Tierra and Le Marche are both available for buffet style breakfast and lunch. After checking in, we were told to go to Mar & Tierra for lunch while we waited for our room. A young man named Armando stopped by our table to welcome us to the resort. He was very friendly and talked about the resort and the area. He was very enthusiastic about his concierge training and his job in general. He is a great ambassador for Valentin. Armando had no reason to stop to talk to us other than he is genuinely friendly and cares about the guests. Armando even noticed our empty glasses and signaled our waiter to let him know. We never received the drinks and were ignored until we left to go check on our room. Due to such unfriendly service from our waiter and limited options, that was the last time we ate at Mar & Tierra for lunch.
Le Marche- We ate breakfast every day at Le Marche and often returned for lunch, as well. They seem to work on a head waiter/junior waiter system. We had the same wait staff all but one morning and every day we ate lunch here. The head waiter would take our drink orders and then forget about us. The junior waiter, Ivan, however, was very attentive and gave us wonderful service. The food in La Marche was always good, at the right temperature, and there were plenty of choices. We especially enjoyed the Mexican options and crepes at breakfast. At lunch, I had the best shrimp cocktail every day. Also, try the coconut ice cream with almonds and chocolate sauce. It‚??s like eating a frozen Almond Joy!
With seven restaurants, available for dinner, everyone can find something they like. However, make sure to follow the dress code to avoid being turned away. This never happened to us, but we saw it happen to others almost nightly.
We ate at Mar & Tierra (steakhouse) twice. We really enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere and the fact that my husband could wear nice shorts. Our steaks were cooked exactly as we ordered them. The choice of sauces made them even better. Our waiters both nights were friendly and seemed to want us to enjoy our meal. One night, I asked the waiter to recommend something that was purely Riviera Maya. He brought me a Mayan liquor called Xtabentun, told me about it, and waited for my reaction. It was really good, much better than the bottle I bought at the airport. He seemed happy I had asked and proud to share it with me. I really wish I could remember his name as he was so kind.
L‚??Alsace (French) was the worst dining experience we had all week. My husband asked for Bearnaise sauce on his filet instead of the wine sauce on the menu. He was told that would not be possible and that he would like the wine sauce, which he did not. His filet was so tough, he could not even cut it, much less eat it. The waiter's response was "I'm sorry you did not like it". Nothing else was offered or a solution suggested. I shared my sea bass, which was very good, with my husband who was not interested in taking a risk ordering another entr√©e. We also witnessed a man who introduced himself the head waiter harass the couple next to us. They did not see anything on the menu that appealed to them, so they told the waiter they would finish their drinks and eat elsewhere. The head waiter came over and told them they needed to try new things and had stay. He was very insistent and rude. It was as if he had been personally insulted. The confrontation created a hostile atmosphere and was definitely not something I would expect from a resort staff member. He finally left the poor couple alone. When they left, I noticed they had left a nice tip for their actual waiter's trouble.
Ginger (Japanese), we ate at the sushi bar. Neither the sushi chefs or our waiter were very friendly. In fact, after our waiter brought our drinks, we never saw him again. We ordered something off the menu to share and then the chef asked what we liked and made us his specialty. It was so good. we tried to go back on our last night, but there was a very long wait, so we went to L'Olivo.
The restaurant manager at L‚??Olivo (Itallian) stopped by to make sure things were going well. He was very nice and professional. I can not remember our waiter's name, but he was also nice, efficient, and professional. The steak medallions were also very good.
Juan at La Hacienda (Mexican) was the best waiter we had all week. He and his partner were funny, professional, and attentive. Juan brought tequila shots with our appetizer and then insisted we have one for dessert before we left. The food was good, the atmosphere was fun, and we felt like we had a real night out. Juan was our waiter both times we visited, the second time it was a lot busier, so he did not have as much time to spend with us, but he was still friendly and efficient.
Entertainment: The only show we went to was Michael Jackson. It was fun and they did a good job. We did go to the sports bar a couple of nights to play pool. It quickly becomes very hot, crowded, and loud. Entertainment really isn‚??t a priority for us.
Overall, things were better on this visit than it was the first time. Maybe we were just spoiled by our stays at other resorts where service was always a priority and we could truly feel we were on vacation. Valentine is a good value and has its pluses. Will there be a third visit? Maybe, but we will be visiting some other resorts in the area first.