Grand Virgins

For my next trip report I am going back to the beginning. Our first visit to Iberostar Paraiso was to the Grand, shortly after it opened. We vacationed there in June 2007 for Zung’s 60th birthday. But we didn’t originally plan to go to the Grand. When we made our trip reservations we booked what would have been our fourth visit to the Royal Hideaway. Our first visit to Royal Hideaway in May 2004 for our 25th anniversary had knocked our socks off. It was our first trip to Mexico and our first all-inclusive experience. It was amazing and we knew it would be the first of many. I don’t think I realized at the time how much I would come to love Mexico.

We returned to Mexico and the Royal Hideaway in May 2005, but because the hotel was overbooked we got bumped to another hotel, the Cieba del Mar, for over half our week there – which is an entire trip report in itself. The days we did get at RH were busy and the busyness took off some of the glow. As compensation for being bumped we were given a free week to use within the next year. We considered going that October for my birthday, but the timing didn’t work out. Thank goodness! Hurricane Wilma arrived to the area on my birthday and did enough damage to close the Royal Hideaway down for months.

We cashed in our free week in June 2006 for our anniversary, and it was the best it had ever been. We couldn’t wait to return the next year and we booked our 2007 “couples” (as opposed to our “family”) vacation again at Royal Hideaway. I had been reading for months about the serious beach erosion that had been occurring. That wasn’t what scared me away. The Royal Hideaway had enough going for it in terms of service (above all, service), food and facilities, that I was willing to give up a large beach.

Since I read obsessively about a hotel before my vacations, there was no way I would miss the rumblings about issues at RH. But I was one of RH’s biggest fans, so I didn’t get nervous at first. The negative buzz increased. There were lots of large, noisy groups being hosted at RH that was ruining the romantic ambiance. Some people were making the jump to the new Iberostar Grand. A luxury,    adults-only addition to the Iberostar complex.

Although we had decided to go to the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo in August for our family vacation, I initially dismissed any kind of switch to the Grand since it was a new hotel that surely would be experiencing growing pains.

The straw that broke this camel’s back was the report from another RH fan that there had been kids there when she visited in April.  RH was not truly adults only because they allowed 13 yrs and older teens. In reality, there were very few because there was nothing for them to do and it was a hotel geared towards adults, primarily couples. The other RH fan said there were lots of kids and several that were clearly under 13. Then two other guests confirmed this. I have kids. I love kids. But if I’m not bringing mine, I don’t want to have to deal with yours.

There was a fair amount of hand wringing, fretting and agonizing about what to do. Between the appearance of kids and the disappearance of the beach at Royal Hideaway, we decided to take a chance on the new Iberostar Paraiso Grand.

I called up my TA and told her to make the switch. Then I started obsessively reading every review that came in about the Grand. The buzz was overwhelmingly good. Although it was a new hotel, they had created the staff from the best of the best of the other 4 hotels in the Paraiso complex. Our excitement began to build.

There was plenty to keep us busy while we waited for our vacation time to arrive. Nicholas turned 21 in May. (How did that happen?)

I made him a mango upside down cake and we took him to the best restaurant in Colorado, Frasca Food and Wine.

Seriously, if you ever find yourself in Boulder, Colorado, eat here for dinner. It’s awesome.

It was also swim season and Susie was on swim team.

Gotta love those early morning meets!

The first day of our vacation finally arrived. Yea! There was no travel drama. We arrived at the airport and took our first vacation picture.

We are going to Mexico! We are so happy and excited!

We hung out in the waiting area. Looks like we had not yet started our Chef Jimmy’s pre-boarding breakfast tradition yet.

I’d be willing to bet I’m reading People magazine in this pic.

The flight was uneventful. It was our first time in the new terminal in Cancun. We got off the plane and made a right and then walked down a long hall, go down the escalator and at the bottom of the escalator we are at immigration.

Quite a few people in quite a few lines. Don’t ya know, we picked the shortest line, but it turned out to be the line that was NOT moving. There was a family, who, for some reason, was taking a LONG time. People in our line were bailing and finally we did too. Once we finally got through immigration we went to baggage claim, where our bags were waiting for us (since we had done all our waiting in immigration).

There were long lines for Customs. It’s okay – we’re in Mexico! There will be champagne waiting for us when we get to the Grand! Our positive attitude is rewarded with a green light (7 for 7). Next task is to find our Cancun Valet driver.

It felt like the “gauntlet” was not as bad as previous trips. Or maybe we have that, “I won’t talk to you, no matter what you say to me” look, down.

We get outside and there are a bunch of guys with signs with people’s names. WHERE’S MY NAME? I CAN’T FIND MY NAME!

I am also looking for the Loomas guy to tell him we won’t need a ride with them. Suddenly, I see the sign with my name AND the Loomas guy, simultaneously. Loomas guy us right in front of me, so I tell him we are not going with him. Then I turn to look for the guy with the sign with my name and the sign is GONE! WHERE DID IT GO? I JUST SAW IT!

Turns out the guy had two names and he was flipping them back and forth and I saw him flip back to my name. Thank goodness! I can’t take stress like that. Off we go to wait about two minutes for the car. It actually was a car this time – it’s usually a van (and has been a van every time since).

We are off! We arrive at the Iberostar Paraiso complex in about 30 minutes. It is a gorgeous property. It is huge, with all five hotels and a golf course and a shopping center and a medical building.

At last, we are pulling up to the front of the Grand entrance. And a grand entrance it is!

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