I always pride myself on being a budget traveler. I love when people ask me for tips and tricks on booking cheap flights and hotels, and the level of excitement I feel when I’ve saved hundreds of dollars is often indescribable. Actually, it’s a bit addicting.
Prior to Cancun, I had never been to Mexico and honestly, my knowledge of the area was limited. I knew Cancun was beautiful, that Americans love Mexico, and I was aware it was a big party destination for young people. I figured this has to be an inexpensive and easy place to travel.
After booking very cheap, last-minute flights, I assumed finding a low cost/decent hotel would be simple. Four days prior to our trip, I booked a hotel through Hotwire’s “hot rates” for an incredibly low rate. It was a 3.5-star all-inclusive resort located in the hotel zone. I cringed at the fact it was only 45% recommended, but I had never experienced an all-inclusive hotel plus the price was unbeatable, so I booked.
Hotwire took me to the next page, happily exclaiming “You booked the Grand Oasis Cancun” and asked me if I was happy about my booking. Since I wasn’t sure if I was happy, I did a quick google search and was brought to the main page of the hotel. The hotel looked decent, but after reading reviews, I found out we booked the “party hotel” of Cancun.
Turns out, when you’re 30 years old, married and traveling with a child, a party hotel is not the best choice. Four days later, we arrived at the hotel and found a long line of people waiting to check in. It was about 2:30 and check in was not until 3:00, so we stood in line for 30 minutes before being helped. The guy at the front desk gave us a map, described the amenities and told us we had a beautiful room. Initially, I was pretty excited as I looked over all of the restaurants and planned all of my meals.
And here’s where it all goes downhill…
Leaks and Cockroaches
Our room was located at the end of the hallway on the bottom floor. I liked the location because we had a giant patio and only had to share one wall with our neighbors. Unfortunately, that was the only positive part. There were towels and buckets right outside of our door when we arrived. The ceiling was leaking and there was literally a giant puddle we had to step over to get to our door.
The AC inside of our room was also leaking. We had to gather several towels and place it by our beds because puddles were forming. In addition to the water accumulating in our room, there were mini cockroaches popping out of every little corner. I honestly laughed at how ridiculous the condition of our room was. Every time we left, I made sure all of our bags were closed to avoid bringing little roaches back home.
I was determined to eat at every restaurant the Grand Oasis had to offer. Unfortunately, the food was pretty terrible. There was one sushi restaurant that had the only raving reviews, but during our entire stay, the restaurant never opened.
Favorites: Sevilla (wine and tapas) and Hippie Chic Grill (seafood). Both places had great ambiance/location and the food/drinks were good.
Least Favorites: Dragon Wei (Chinese food) and Tatish (international buffet) both places had very low-quality food and very limited selections.
Along with unlimited food came unlimited alcohol. Let’s be real, an open bar during my entire vacation sounded like a dream! But of course, the way things were going, it was too good to be true. All of the alcohol was extremely low quality and there was no option to purchase higher quality drinks. As someone who also lives at 10K feet in the Rocky Mountains, I have a very high tolerance for alcohol and the several shots of cheap tequila I ordered at the swim up bar were like water to me.
Surprisingly, the resort is advertised as a family-friendly brand. There is childcare available during the day, and even their website shows a family of four frolicking on the beach. Unfortunately, the cheap liquor and the cheap rooms attract an interesting crowd.
These are the people I encountered:
The Naked Australians
As we were swimming around one pool, a group of women from Australia (they kept yelling “we’re Australian”) decided to take their tops off and swing their boobs side to side while announcing it to everyone. My 6 year old looked up and literally said, “Oh my God, what are they doing?” We were in the pool next to another group who commented on how disgusted they were with the crowd. The upside is staff quickly shut the boob show down and warned the women, but it was clear that people at this resort thought this behavior was okay.
The Boombox Star
During breakfast at the awful international breakfast buffet, one man decided to bring in his portable speaker and blast rap music in the buffet line and at his table. It was obnoxious. In addition to his loud music, every time he got up, he grabbed his bottle of Dom Perignon. A closed bottle of Dom Perignon, by the way. I saw the same man later in the day, holding the same bottle, still not opened…
The Drug Dealer
While we were on the beach, right in front of our resort, I sat on a beach towel watching Riley and Clayton jump around the waves. I happened to look to my left when I saw 2 Americans hand a very young man a wad of money. The way he handed the money looked so sketchy, so I ran over to Clayton and said: “I think that guy is selling drugs!”
I ran over to the young man and saw the items he was selling: small to large wooden boxes of Cuban cigars. I stopped him and asked “so what are you selling?” and his response was “what do you need?” He then rambled a list of drugs and I think my eyes lit up from shock. I had heard it was easy to obtain drugs while in Mexico, but I never imagined it would be this easy. I responded, “no drugs, but how much are your cigars?” I honestly felt bad for the kid so I bought a small pack of Cigars. When I walked away, I couldn’t believe that anyone, on this beachfront right in front of our hotel, could buy any drug of their choice.
Overall, the trip wasn’t our favorite destination, mostly due to our hotel experience. I have since learned that I am way too old to be this cheap. I know it may be tempting to get the most bang for your buck, but it’s not always worth it.
After our trip, the state department came out with a travel warning to Mexico. Apparently, there were several incidents of tourists getting tainted drinks at resorts. One person even drowned in a pool. I then found out the Grand Oasis was one of the hotels where an incident occurred.
Lesson learned, never again! My advice, spend a little more money and avoid the low end, low-quality party resorts of Mexico. You’ll be much happier and comfortable during your vacation.