A potential paradise for partiers: the Royalton Chic Suites Cancun Resort and Spa
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Cancun is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, which is currently one of the international destinations U.S. citizens can visit without needing a negative COVID-19 test (though you will need a negative test to reenter the United States).
The city’s infamous hotel zone is home to a number of resorts that cater to just about every type of traveler. The Royalton Chic Suites Cancun Resort and Spa is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort set to join the Marriott Bonvoy family later this year, so we decided to check it out now that travel is returning and many are looking for their first escape after more than a year of staying at home.
When it comes to booking a great vacation, two people can have widely different experiences at the same resort depending on the vibe you’re hoping to get out of your trip. Someone who loves live music and nightlife isn’t looking for the same type of resort as someone who prefers relaxing days and quiet evenings. The Royalton Chic Suites Cancun Resort and Spa is proof that “vibe” matters.
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I booked a two-night stay in the resort’s most basic room — the luxury junior suite sunset view — for $308 per night. All taxes and fees were included (with the exception of a small environmental tax that added less than $3 total to the overall bill), which means no pesky resort fee tacked on at checkout.
It’s an all-inclusive resort, and all meals, drinks (including alcoholic beverages) and 24-hour room service were included for both me and my companion in the room price.
Since Royalton Luxury Resorts will be joining the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio, I was excited about the prospect of earning Bonvoy points — especially after a year of little to no earning. But booking is still done through the Royalton CHIC website, and there is no way to add your Marriott number to your reservation. I asked at check-in if there was a way for me to attach my Bonvoy number to my stay, but they told me that the systems weren’t integrated yet — even though you’ll find this hotel listed on Marriott’s website. This means your elite status won’t be honored, either.
With this in mind, I’d consider booking your stay through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal if you plan to stay at the resort in the near future. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited, so I could have booked my stay for the same price and gotten 5x on my stay with the Chase Freedom Unlimited before transferring those points to use with my Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The Royalton Chic is situated in the heart of the hotel zone in Cancun — which can be a benefit or a disadvantage depending on what type of vibe you’re going for during your stay.
On the plus side, the Royalton Chic is a quick 20-minute drive from Cancun International Airport (CUN) and is surrounded by touristy restaurants, bars, and activities. If you’re looking for exciting nightlife and a more tourist-focused experience, the hotel zone is a great place to be. Our first full day there, we took an afternoon walk just to see what was down the hotel zone strip. Popular places such as Senor Frogs and Coco-Bongo were a short walk away, and the sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate the foot traffic.
Another benefit to the hotel zone is the stretch of sandy beaches. The Royalton Chic is right on the water, so you can wade in for an ocean swim or stay by the pool without losing that ocean breeze and picturesque view. There were also places right on the same stretch of beach to rent wave runners or book other water activities such as snorkeling.
Of course, there is a downside to being smack in the middle of the busiest tourist zone in Cancun. It’s harder to escape the crowds, for one. And you’re certainly not getting an authentic Mexico experience. Personally, I care less about touristy bars and clubs and more about checking out local favorites and having a relaxing vacation on the beach. And while there is certainly a lot of beach to enjoy, those who aren’t interested in the party scene might want to check out a resort outside of the hotel zone.
We booked a rental car for our trip to Mexico (which I enjoyed having but may not be the best choice for any nervous drivers), and there was complimentary valet parking at the resort. When you pull in, someone at the gate asks for the name associated with your reservation before letting you through. As you pull up, someone was waiting to welcome us to the resort, help us with our bags (which were delivered up to our room) and take our temperatures before entering the lobby area.
The second we walked through the doors, it was very clear that this resort — while luxurious — was probably not the vibe for my travel companion and me. There was a DJ playing music from a large platform right at the doorway, which took away from the otherwise gorgeous lobby, in my opinion. As someone who would rather spend a quiet afternoon reading beachside with a margarita, it wasn’t what I’d personally look for in a vacation spot.
We got to the resort at about 5 p.m. on a Monday evening, and the lobby was decently busy. With four different check-in counters available, we still had to wait about 10 minutes for someone to be able to get us checked in. However, they were serving drinks (a pink fruity drink that was very good) while we were in line and there’s a clear view of the beach out the glass windows at the back of the lobby, so we didn’t mind the wait.
Checking in was simple and only took about five minutes once we got up to the counter. Like most hotels and resorts, they do require you to have a card on file for incidentals. But the only additional charge to the room not included during booking was an environmental tax that only added $2 and some change to the bill.
My one complaint is that between a busy lobby, the music playing, plexiglass separators and masks, it’s a bit hard to hear what’s being said.
Rather than room keys, we were given bracelets that had a small, flat fob that gave us access to our rooms and all of the restaurants throughout the resort. Personally, I preferred this to actual room keys that would have been easier to lose and more of a hassle to carry around with us throughout our stay.
COVID-19 safety measures
There are markers on the floor to promote social distancing while you wait in line, and they take your temperature before you enter. Everyone must wear masks while indoors. Additionally, the check-in counters had plexiglass separators between guests and the desk agents checking us in.
We did have to fill out a health questionnaire, but this extra step wasn’t a hassle and immediately gave us the impression that they were taking safety precautions seriously — something my companion and I both appreciated.
The hotel does offer a place where you can get tested for COVID-19, but the service wasn’t advertised to us online or when we checked in. We happened to see signage when searching for a bathroom down a hallway in the lobby.
I booked a luxury junior suite with a sunset view, which is the standard room. The room was nice, though not overly spacious. We had two queen beds, a sofa (that could be pulled out into another bed if you needed it) and a small desk area.
The beds were comfortable, though nothing special. Another small irritation is that there was only one outlet and one USB plug-in between the two beds. There was another outlet by the desk. For two people who each had a phone, laptop and tablet, this made charging our devices at night a neverending rotating game of “who gets the outlets?”
The closet held a safe and a steamer. I personally use a steamer at home for most of my clothes, so I didn’t mind the lack of iron and ironing board. But for heaver fabrics that need more than a small hand-held steamer for wrinkle remover, that could be an issue.
The bathroom had a double vanity but only outlets on one side (which was annoying when it came time to do our hair for dinner). I also wasn’t impressed with the lighting in the bathroom area. It was a bit darker than I would have wanted, which made doing makeup harder. Considering this is the type of hotel that encourages dressing up for dinner and checking out the nightlife the hotel zone has to offer, I would have expected a better setup in the room for getting ready. Winged eyeliner is a science, and low lighting was not my friend.
The shower was spacious and came with two shower heads — a rain shower head and a detachable wall-mounted hand-held shower head. While rain showers are great in theory (and definitely pass the Brian Kelly shower test), anyone with long or thick hair will tell you that they aren’t always the best for washing and conditioning your hair. The hand-held shower head had much better water pressure.
There were some areas I thought could have been cleaned better — the hand-held shower head had some soap scum buildup and some of the nooks and crannies of the shower weren’t thoroughly clean.
The minibar just had water bottles and a few canned sodas and the coffee station was lacking. But room service is available 24-7, so we were never without anything we needed.
Speaking of room service, you could place an order from the TV. You can find a full menu through the TV, place your order and then have someone call your room to confirm. As someone who generally hates ordering through the phone, this was a nice touch. The TV was also where we found most of the information about the resort, including which restaurants were available, the fitness schedule and more. You could even book excursions or spa treatments.
Our room had a balcony that overlooked an outdoor entertainment venue for the hotel. It offered a great view of the sunset and an easy way to listen to live music (including a Queen cover band one of the nights we were there) without braving any crowds. But the music and lights from down below made it hard to go to sleep without closing the curtains — and the ever-changing colorful lights still seeped in through the cracks between the two curtains. We were high enough up that I would have normally liked to keep the curtains open to wake up to natural light, but that wasn’t possible.
This is another example of this resort not being a great option for those who are looking for a more relaxed vacation setting.
Food and beverage
The food was hit or miss, which isn’t uncommon at all-inclusive resorts. The Royalton Chic offers a variety of dining options — a buffet with a little bit of everything, Asian-inspired cuisine, a Mexican restaurant, a sports bar, a steakhouse and a cafe for specialty coffee, baked goods and gelato. There is also an Italian restaurant, but it was closed during our stay.
Something to note across the board at almost every restaurant was the chairs. With the exception of the buffet, every restaurant had incredibly small chairs. I’m a plus-sized traveler, which made dining uncomfortable no matter where we went. This may not be an issue for you, but if you are blessed with wide hips like me, note that you’ll have to squeeze into chairs whenever you eat (which may change which clothes you decide to pack for dinner).
We were unable to try out all of the dining options, but here’s a quick rundown of the places we did get to check out.
Jade – Asian cuisine
The Asian restaurant was my least favorite restaurant we tried while there. It was crowded and the seats were uncomfortable.
You get a three-course meal: a starter, sushi and a main dish. The starter portions were small, but the dishes themselves were good. The sushi, however, was medicore. Our main courses were both large portions — neither of us could finish our meals.
We did get a surprise performance mid-meal from a belly dancer. The performance was beautiful and the dancer was talented, but it seemed a bit out of place in the middle of our meal. And the music played during the performance was very loud.
Agave – Mexican dishes
It should come as no surprise that the Mexican restaurant was hands down the best. The overall vibe was more relaxed (no belly dance performances mid-meal), and the food was excellent.
We ordered mango margaritas, a melted cheese and chorizo dish (which tasted as delicious as it sounds) and tacos. I had Baja fish tacos while my friend had el pastor tacos — both were great. And of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without a round of chips and guacamole.
Gourmet Marché – International buffet
The buffet has a station for pretty much everything. It’s easily the busiest dining option — though it also has a lot of seating to make up for that — which means it can get loud while you’re ordering food at each station.
Whether you want to try out traditional Mexican dishes or grab a slice of pizza, the buffet has you covered. We got tacos, which were delicious. They even hand-made the tortillas as we ordered.
Scoops Gelato and Caffe Lounge
I need coffee daily to function, and the Scoops Gelato and Caffe Lounge did not disappoint. While the room had a coffeemaker and you could order basic coffee and cream at the buffet, I was able to get an iced coffee with coconut at Scoops.
You could also choose from an assortment of baked goods, takeaway snacks and gelato, but we were mainly interested in the caffeine options. Keep in mind that they do not have a menu, so have in mind what you want before you order.
We did order room service for breakfast one morning. The coffee was disappointing, and none of the food was that great. It took an hour to get to us, and my omelet and my friend’s french toast was cold by the time the food arrived.
For me, the highlight of the resort was the easy access to the gorgeous blue water of the ocean. The beach is quite literally a flight of stairs and 15 steps from the resort doors.
There are lounge chairs lined up along the beach for guests where you can work on your tan, dry off after a dip in the ocean and order a drink from the bar.
And if you’d rather avoid the waves and sand in favor of the pool, the infinity pool is situated right at the edge of the property, overlooking the beach. More lounge chairs with umbrellas line the pool areas, and the larger infinity pool has a swim-up bar that was open all day.
We were able to keep to ourselves pretty easily, despite the pool area remaining decently crowded throughout our stay. The swim-up bar got a bit crazy during the end of the day with some partiers, but we were able to grab drinks and swim toward the other end of the pool to relax.
There are special areas reserved for Diamond Club guests, which are available as an upgrade to any room booked. There is a separate pool and separate lounging areas along the beach for those guests, but there didn’t seem to be a large difference between the two areas — especially not while the resort still isn’t booked to max capacity.
There is a rooftop pool area available to all guests, though the cabanas, food and alcoholic drinks ordered from the rooftop cost extra. Pool access on the roof is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, but the area is open until midnight each night. While there are typically nightly events that occur, the rooftop was pretty empty both nights of our stay. This was a great escape for us from the loud music and party vibe of the rest of the resort, but once the normal schedule for events resumes and more people start booking stays, the rooftop will likely become busier.
There is a spa at the resort, but it’s hard to find. There’s a check-in desk outside the Gourmet Marché restaurant and you could book treatments through the TV in your room, but that was the only signage throughout the hotel that alluded to the spa.
The resort also offers fitness classes to guests, including sunrise yoga, kickboxing, boot camp classes, zumba and more. But like the spa, the gym was incredibly difficult to find. The resort map on the TV was blurry, and there was no easily-spotted signage to point me in the right direction.
There were nightly performances on the third floor — the same floor that multiple restaurants and bars were located. One night were a pair of dancers and another night was a talented electric violinist playing popular pop songs. During normal operations, it was easy to picture the resort as a party haven for tourists who wanted to let loose and enjoy a slice of exciting nightlife without wandering too far from the resort. There was a stage and dance floor and hooka was available to order at the bar, but because of social distancing measures, there was no dancing.
The concert venue outside was also another area that was probably a live music lover’s dream pre-pandemic, but it wasn’t as enjoyable when having to stay six feet apart and in your chairs.
Overall, the service was great. Staff was attentive without being overbearing in most cases. Everyone was friendly, and wore masks inside the resort.
It did seem like the hotel was a bit understaffed. Room service took an hour to get to our room, and one person had to man multiple stations at the buffet. From what I’ve seen, this is a common problem across resorts right now as tourism starts to pick up again and properties are working to restaff as more travelers book stays.
The concierge held desk is the one area I felt service fell short. We wanted to try out one nearby local restaurant while we were out for an excursion, so we asked the concierge for recommendations. We weren’t given any recommendations and were urged to stick with hotel dining instead. Considering we were in the middle of the hotel zone, I’m shocked that we were unable to get any local recommendations (we were looking for local fare, but at the very least, I figured we’d get pointed toward Senor Frogs or Coco-Bongo).
When it comes to nightlife, the vibe matters. Parties aren’t as fun without crowds and dancing — two things most people aren’t comfortable with during COVID-19. And while it was obvious the Royalton Chic resort was meant to be a partier’s paradise, it fell short between the lack of people, more limited bar hours and necessary COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing.
This resort certainly wouldn’t be my first pick if you want a relaxing escape. Those who are interested in the nightlife Cancun has to offer will likely be better off waiting until COVID-19 restrictions regarding mask-wearing and social distancing ease and more people start booking trips once more. While the party scene certainly isn’t what I look for in a vacation, I can definitely see how the Royalton Chic could be a great place to meet people and have a fun Cancun vacation when it’s in full swing.
Featured image by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy
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