For local areas of interest and background to the El Dorado and Lomas Travel story, refer to my other post for the El Dorado Seaside Suites/Sensimar.
After our one-week stay at Seaside Suites, we moved a little further up the coast to the Casitas Royale. We had visited this resort several years ago and enjoyed it very much then…we were not disappointed this time either. This resort again is all-inclusive and would be in the higher end of the spectrum with high-grade restaurants and premium drinks as part of the Karisma “Gourmet Inclusive” program. Much like the previous resort, when you arrive you will be appointed your personal concierge. The Casitas are charming thatched-roof bungalows constructed in a semi-circle facing the beach and there are 30 – 36 ‘suites’ within each group consisting of a lower and upper floor unit. Each group has its own pool and swim-up bar as well as its own concierge. Because the facility is constructed with blocks of suites along the beach, there are fewer people per beach-foot than there are at most resorts, meaning better availability of beachfront facilities (especially the Bali beds). In older units, there is a walk-out to the bar area and newer units have private plunge pools with water access to the main pool.
The El Dorado Casitas Royale is part of the El Dorado Royale complex and facilities are shared between the resorts, however, there is limited access for Royale guests to some of the Casitas facilities. As an example, if a Casitas guest booked a restaurant in the Royale side there is no waiting and they are seated at their specified time. Royale guests cannot book restaurants (other than those that require mandatory booking) and are given electronic pagers while they wait for their sitting. If Royale guests wish to visit Casitas-side facilities, they can only do so after Casitas guests have had a chance to book first.
The Casitas Royale is one of the company’s higher end resorts with more personal service and enhanced dining. In a nutshell, they offer 205 suites, 14 pools (including a salt-water lagoon right beside the ocean), 15 restaurants, 17 bars and 2 spas. The suites themselves are quite unique in some of the features they have. Both upper and lower units are similarly laid out and boast a king-size bed, Jacuzzi, writing area, separate stalls for toilet and shower, plus an aguas del amor (outdoor shower)! Through sliding patio doors, there is a table with two chairs and a large bed-type lounge and a sheer cotton curtain for privacy. For the second-floor units, the stairs are long because the ground floor units have a peeked ceiling, making them higher than it would be with a regular ceiling. Naturally, the ground floor units are more expensive, but worth considering if you have any issue with stairs.
The resort covers close to a mile of beach and, as such, one has to walk quite a distance depending on where your unit is. There is a regular shuttle service every 15 minutes or so, but, if you are in the Casitas at one of the southerly locations, and want to travel south-bound to the Royale side, there is a chance that the shuttle will be full by the time it gets to you, especially at eating times (which is virtually all day…J). One trick is to hop on a north-bound shuttle, if there is room, and after it turns around and is south-bound you can wave to all the disappointed people on the south-bound trip for whom there is no room.
There is no shortage of places to eat and drink and you can plan your dining around the specialties offered. I have indicated B, L or D to signify breakfast, lunch or dinner. On the Casitas side, restaurants include D’Italia (Italian – D), Kampai (Pacific Rim – LD) and Santa Fe Grill (International – BD). On the Royale side there is the Fuentes (Culinary Theatre – D), D’Italia (Italian – D), La Isla (International – open air – BLD), Cocatal (International – BLD), Rincón Mexicano (Mexican – LD) and Jojo’s (Carribean – open air – BLD). There are also 4 ‘Gourmet Corners’ – Health Bar (fresh fruit juices), La Cabaña Pizzeria (wood-burning oven), Las Olas (salads and sandwiches), Kick (ocean-front grill) and Spot (gourmet breakfast and lunch). Ten of the pools offer swim-up bars, so even in your swimsuit, you don’t have to go thirsty. Other than swim-up, there are a few specialty bars; Bellini’s Bar (contemporary lounge ambiance), Gaviotos (seaside bar), Beach Bar, Martinis Lobby Bar (Martinis and Vodka) and Las Guacamayas (premium cocktails).
Staying at the resort for just a week, we did not have the opportunity to sample all the restaurants and bars, but those that we did were very good to excellent. We first dined at D’Italia on the Casitas side and the dishes were both elegantly served and tasty. Our only issue here is the same as we had at the other resort and that was the availability of the GI (Gourmet Inclusive) wines. Even the sommelier didn’t know what wines were included! After asking for the Maître ‘D, we were finally offered one of the selections we knew they were supposed to offer. For our second dinner, we chose the Kampai, which was one of our favourites from our last visit. Again, it didn’t disappoint although the restaurant was full and the acoustics are poor, making the chatter extremely loud. One recommendation we have to make is the special dinner at the Fuentes Culinary Theatre; it is worth the $150/head extra cost. They bring in a celebrity chef to prepare the meal in front of you using closed-circuit cameras projected on four large video displays around the room and a sommelier to talk about the wines. The chosen chef at this event was from Miami where he has a successful restaurant. As the chef goes through the description of the dish and prepares it on-screen, a crew of kitchen staff are busily doing the same behind the scenes for the 200 or so diners. Also, the sommelier selects and describes the wines that were paired for the dishes. In our case, we had Mina Belhaj-Rouas from Kendall-Jackson Wines showcase an array of their offerings. A special bonus for us was the entertainment. We were treated to a performance by three tenors who did an Il Divo impersonation and, if I didn’t’ know differently, I would swear they were the real thing. Apparently, the two Mexicans and one Cuban have only been performing for two months and have, as yet, not produced a CD. I certainly would have purchased one if they had, as would many other guests there.
Similar to the Seaside Suites/Sensimar resorts, this facility did not have a great beach if swimming in the ocean is your thing. Much of the Yucatan coastline is being eroded away and several efforts are being made to counteract or slow down the erosion. In this resort, they have installed large concrete ‘pyramids’ about 100 yards from shore to break up the surf. As unsightly as I think these are, they do act as a man-made barrier reef and is being touted as the largest such reef in the world. On a positive note, if you like snorkeling, the natural reefs there will no doubt provide great entertainment. We spent most of our days at one of the beach Bali beds to read, write or snooze, whatever you wanted to do. Occasionally, we were interrupted by a server with some tasty hors d’oeuvre or a drink order…or ice cream. Need an extra pillow? Towel? Blanket? Just ask.
The most recent addition to this resort area is the construction of Generations, which is a family resort. It is located immediately to the north of the Casitas and comprises 162 one-, two- or three-bedroom suites, four restaurants and three bars. It provides a kids club for 4 – 12 year olds that allows parents to enjoy the facilities (and those of the Casitas and Royale resorts) while kids are provided with supervised activities and various other programs. We decided to visit one of the restaurants there on recommendation from a friend who had experienced it. It is called the Wine Kitchen and was so good (both food and Luis our server) that we went back a second time. Considering that we do not enjoy dining with noisy children present and prefer adults-only resorts, it is a testament to how good this restaurant was.
On another note, we were surprised that at both this resort and the previous facility we stayed at for this resort chain that we were not pestered at all with time-share sales. So much so, that we had to ask about their program only after it was alluded to us one time by our concierge. After we had decided a couple of years ago that we would never entertain any more time-share, we did decide to enrol in their Exotic Travelers program, which really is not a time-share but a club, as there are no maintenance fees. I strongly recommend that if you love this resort as much as we do and plan to return, you should seriously consider the club. It allows you to re-visit for much less than you would pay normally, even through packaged deals or RCI exchanges, plus it provides member privileges either not available to regular guests or come at a premium cost. The club also gives you access to all Karisma resorts and they have some interesting-looking facilities in Croatia with planned resorts in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.
Weather during our stay in early March was excellent with temperatures hovering in the 30°C (84°F) range and we saw no rain. Overall, we rate this resort as excellent and plan to return next year.