Friday, July 8, 2011

Discovering Secrets in Riviera Maya

I was picked up at Grand Velas by the Secrets Maroma driver for the next part of my Mexico adventure. It was only a short drive, but we had to go through some areas of unpaved road in • Riviera Maya so it took longer than expected. 

When I arrived at the resort, I was greeted by management and staff who all said the same thing, “Welcome home.”  As much as the unlimited-luxury was a theme here, so was the feeling of comfort. My home for the next four days would be in the Preferred Club, which reminded me quite a bit of the Royal Service area at Paradisus Punta Cana. That area of the Secrets Maroma offers rooms with ocean views or swim up suites, and extra amenities such as a lounge with daily continental breakfast and afternoon hors d’oeuvres; free internet access; and upgraded mini bar and bath amenities.

Carlos, my concierge, introduced himself and gave me his private extension before he took me to my building. My room could not have been better. I had a corner room on the fourth floor with a tub on the balcony (and a Jacuzzi inside between the bed and bathroom) and perfect views of the pool and ocean. There was a bottle of champagne waiting for me, but what I was most impressed by is something that is available in all rooms of all Secrets resorts – the Secrets Box, which allows the concierge and waiter to leave food, drinks or whatever you order from 24 hour room service in the box if your “Do Not Disturb” button is pressed.  For the (many) honeymoon couples it offers complete privacy, but for the rest of us it’s nice to not have to run out of the shower to get the door in your towel!

Lunch was at the World Café, a huge buffet with an incredible selection of pizza, pasta (made to order), sushi, salads, and just about anything you could want. As soon as I walked in and gave my name I was told they had noted my allergies and the maître took me to the chef, who confirmed anything that might have been cooked with fish that I couldn’t eat.  With that in mind, I filled a plate with a little of everything else, enjoying it all with a glass of iced tea brought by the friendly waitstaff.

I went back to the room a bit, unpacked my suitcase and got ready for the only thing I had to do on my first day – get a massage in the spa.  I was going down early to check out the Hydrotherapy Circuit, which is included with most treatments : Sauna, Steam Room, Jacuzzi, Sensations Path, Cool Plunge,  Warm Plunge, Rustic Shower, Pressure Shower, and Water hydrotherapy with swan and cascade jets, high pressure water hoses and bubble massage beds.  Yes, it was as heavenly as it sounds and by the time I got done with my massage in my private cabana, I was so relaxed I didn’t even have the urge to turn on the computer.

It was also late in the day so I missed the scheduled activities, of which this resort has an impressive amount. Almost every day you can find yoga, tennis and Spanish lessons; jungle bike and kayak tours; scuba demonstrations; volleyball; water aerobics; and even swim up poker and bingo!  There are also special classes called “Sharing Secrets” that take place once a week, including tequila tasting and cocktail mixing lessons.

I was happy to learn that reservations are not needed at any of the eight restaurants. I had been eating mostly Mexican food and the Italian in me was craving pasta, so I headed over to Portofino for dinner. It was dark (maybe too dark, the waiter had to bring everyone flashlights to read the menu), cozy and comfortable, with soft pillows in the private booths. I started with a selection of their warm breads, which included a warm onion roll with a touch of cream cheese. It was hard not to ask for more, but my Eggplant Parmesan appetizer showed up just in time, with a semi-sweet glass of Blanc de Blanc from the Baja vineyard Vinos Domecq.

In addition to pretty standard Italian specialties, the Portofino Restaurant  at Secrets Maroma Beach lets you put together your own, choosing your type of pasta, sauce, vegetables and, if you want, chicken, shrimp or meat. I chose Fettuccine with White Wine Sauce, Mushrooms, Asparagus, Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes, served with fresh shredded parmesan cheese. It was absolutely scrumptious, but I didn’t finish it all because I knew dessert was coming. It was a touch choice and I settled on a cappuccino with my Pana Cotta in Caramel Sauce. The restaurant manager brought me a special cordial for dessert, a Pomegranate Tequila from La Pinta that I highly recommend.

Before I went back to my room, I went over to the Rendezvous Lobby Bar for a little while to listen to a great piano player and have a Pomegranate Cosmo.  There was also an “American Idol” show in the theatre, followed by Disco Night at Desires Bar.  It looked like I would not run out of things to do, but first it was time for a good night’s sleep before my day at Zoetry Paraiso De La Bonita, and it appeared my four poster bed was ready and waiting for me.

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