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The towering palapa roof, with a long, marble entranceway worthy of the Taj Mahal, seemed a fitting welcome to the newest deluxe hotel to put its flag on the Riviera Maya. After a half-day of travel starting at dawn, the sight of the Blue Diamond Riviera Maya was as appealing as the butler walking toward me with a tray of frosty margaritas.
A former Mandarin Oriental resort, the property was acquired by BlueBay Resorts of Spain in 2011 and switched gears from Mandarin’s family-oriented blueprint to an all-inclusive, all-adult, all-suite concept with a soft opening earlier this year. Spread across 36 acres of protected green areas, winding rivers and a cenote (natural freshwater pool), all 128 rooms face the water and are far enough away from the guest activities that privacy is a byword rather than an afterthought. The beach, restaurants and pools are clustered at the end of a long mangrove trail, which can be walked or chauffeured via golf cart. The Yucatecan limestone and zapote wood in the design provides a sense of place since these were the same materials used to build the Maya temples scattered across the peninsula.
Each morning, I would open the tall shutters in my suite to a river and a flood of light from the sun, then step out onto the deck and climb the stairs to my private rooftop terrace where I could see the ocean. At night, I had my own viewing post of the stars. My suite was one of 10 different suite styles, the smallest of which measured 660 square feet. Others overlook private gardens with plunge pools or the cenote. The top-of-the-line casitas have private beach access and rooftop infinity pools, and some units come with docks for river taxis.
After days of touring Maya ruins such as Chichen Itza, aptly named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, my room became a small retreat where I could brew a quick cup of coffee from the espresso machine, freshen up for dinner after a spell under a powerful Swiss shower or the outdoor bathtub and relax in a robe on the sumptuous four-poster bed filled with Egyptian-cotton linens. All suites have desks, two phone lines with free local and long distance calls, complimentary Wi-Fi access, 42-inch televisions and DVD players.
The no-stress mindset carries over to the dining as well.
“No reservations are needed. There’s no wait, and guests can dine in any of the restaurants as many times as they wish,” said sales director Daniel Ceballos.
With its bamboo floors, low lighting, amber jewel decor and violin music, the refined Ambar features nouvelle fusion cuisine. Duck, lobster and veal are prepared with Mexican-international ingredients while the outstanding dessert is a chocolate confection inspired by the paintings of Pablo Picasso. Touting culinary specialties from around the world, the Aguamarina stages French, Italian and Lebanese nights while the Ceviche - Tapas Bar at the pool serves light snacks. For an after-dinner stogie, there’s the Cigar Lounge.
From pedicures to Pilates to Janzu water therapy and chromatherapy, the treatments at the 25,000-square-foot spa will kickstart relaxation if it hasn’t already set in. For more activities, there’s a marina and a nearby Nick Price golf course. Three- and four-night stays include a diving class or a free round of golf.
The resort is 45 minutes from the Cancun airport and 15 minutes from the town of Playa del Carmen. Key client markets are in California, New Mexico, the Midwest and East Coast cities.
Soft opening rates that are good until October range from $285 to $650 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Commission is 15 percent.