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We just return on Friday Dec. 13, 2002 from a one-week stay at the Occidental Grand Cozumel. Over all it was great vacation. We give it a 9.5 out of 10 rating.
We stay at the Grand primarily because they offered two free scuba dives when staying with them before the 21 of December. As well the ability to eat and use the facilities at the Allegro was attractive. Unfortunately we discovered that we could only use he facilities at the Allegro between 6am to 6pm. This means that we could not stay for dinner or watch the evening shows.
The rooms at the Occidental Grand are fantastic - very large and well appointed. The rooms are arranged in several separate buildings located between the beach facilities and the main lobby building, which houses most of the restaurants. The resort is separated from the beach facilities by a natural swamp that must be crossed using a long wooden bridge. This means that a person must walk a considerable distance between the main building, rooms and beach. As well if it looks like it might rain take the umbrella provided in each room with you.
The food was very good - lots of seafood. The Grand has two alacarte restaurants, one with Mediterranean cuisine and the other with steak house cuisine. Neither restaurant required advance reservations yet. The breakfast buffet served made-to-order omelets, waffles, hash browns, bacon and lots of fresh fruit as well as cereals and many Mexican dishes. The lunch buffet at the beach has a wide selection of salads, sandwiches, pastas, seafood, barbequed pork ribs, desserts, etc. The evening buffet had made to order steak, fish, pork and pastas as well as Mexican dishes. It also featured a salad bar, fruit bar, pastry bar, juice bar and dessert bar. The Grand features an elegant open-air roof top pizzeria that made a delicious thin crust pizza. The pizzeria was open from 6pm to 1:30am nightly. Although we never ate at the Allegro, other people that did said the quality of the food and selection was better at the Grand.
The bars serve every conceivable drink imaginable made with premier liquor. The bartenders were friendly and very good at mixing our favorite drinks. Drinks and wine were available with meals in the restaurants and buffets. The main bar and lounge area had very comfortable couches arranged around coffee tables that made for great conversation areas to visit with new friends.
The pools are fabulous. The quiet pool locate in between the villas and the footbridge does not have bar or food service. This means that a person must walk to the beach for food or drink. The beach and beach pool areas are well appointed with umbrellas and lounge chairs and has poolside bar service. Daily activities such as pool games, aquatic aerobics, horseshoes and beach volleyball take place in or near the beach pool. This makes it very noisy at times around the beach pool.
The beach is small and is located next to the pool and buffet facilities. Access to the beach is down a steep six-foot slope that resulted from erosion caused by the last hurricane. The beach was groomed regularly but still had enough seashells on it to satisfy most beachcombers. Remember that in this part of Cozumel from the high water mark to 500 meters off shore is a protected wildlife zone. Collecting seashells from in the water could result in a $5000.00 USD fine.
The snorkeling is great especially to the left of the beach buffet facilities. We saw, stingrays, spiny lobsters, eels, coral and a lot of different fish. The on site dive shop has new equipment and good dive masters. The dives are priced at $32.00 USD per dive or $29.00 USD for 10 or more dives. The 10 dives can be accumulated between two divers. Equipment such BC, regulators and weight belts costs $6.00 USD per dive. Wetsuits cost $6.00 per dive. Mask, fins and snorkels are free.
Unfortunately, the only evening entertainment is in the disco, which has one pool table. There are no nightly floorshows. Other than dancing or karaoke in the disco the only other evening entertainment consists of drinking in the bar or watch satellite TV in your room.
The resort has a small shop that carries sundry products and souvenirs. The best shopping is in downtown San Miguel. Getting to and from San Miguel is expensive. Taxi fare is $17.00 USD one-way per couple or $20.00 USD one-way for two couples per cab. Plan to go into downtown San Miguel at least once but plan to stay as long as possible to avoid taking unnecessary expensive taxi rides. We could not find any local vans or buses that transported people to and from the occidental Grand Resort area to downtown San Miguel or other attractions.
Although we did not go on any tours the people we talked to at the resort thoroughly enjoyed their tours. The tours available included visiting an eco-park where one can swim with the dolphins, jungle dune buggy excursions that cross through the island's interior jungle, catamaran snorkeling tours and great scuba diving.
One of the things that caught us by surprise is that although we booked through a tour operator we still had to pay a security surcharge of $5.00 USD per person each way when flying from Cancun to Cozumel and back again. Even though the tickets from our tour operator said that we could take two pieces of luggage plus a carry on per person to and from Cozumel, the local air carriers have restricted luggage to one piece of checked baggage and one carryon per person. We had to pay $20.00 USD for each extra piece of luggage taken in each direction. As well, the Mexican custom officials inspected each piece of luggage when going to and from Cozumel and when departing from Cancun before checking the luggage for departure. Try to fly directly into the Cozumel airport if you have the opportunity in order to avoid the extra charges and inspections.
Over all this was a very enjoyable and laid-back 5-star plus vacation that we would recommend for people that want to relax on the beach, enjoy fine dinning and a quiet resort atmosphere.
Ingrid and I own a travel agency in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and have spent the last 15 years traveling extensively throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. We have found the advice and reports posted by travels on websites such as this indispensable when planning our own vacations and advising our vacation clientele. If you need advice or help planning your next Caribbean/Mexico vacation we'd be pleased to help with no obligation. Feel free to email us at email@example.com or call our office at (780) 414-1122.
Thanks to Gary & Ingrid for this trip report...