“Soaked up the sun
Felt the breeze,
Melted in his arm
Tasted the sea”Dione
Buying into vacation memberships
I hate being oversold and underwhelmed. Satisfaction is often determined by expectations. This return trip to our “home resort” at El Dorado Royale came with the expectation that as members of the Exotic Travelers Club we would be treated well, like Royales. The atmosphere and food were as outstanding as we remembered from our first visit in 2016. No doubt this resort has all the elements you need to connect, reconnect and bask in your relationship. If you’re not feeling the love, you might need to find a new mate. But from a membership perspective what we wanted to see was if our investment into the club was worth it?
El Dorado Royale (EDR) and El Dorado Casitas (EDC) are adult-only all-inclusive sister resorts that flow into one another on the expansive Karisma Resorts property. The resort chain has recently added Generations Riviera Maya a family-friendly option adjacent to the El Dorado complex. In the lush setting of Riviera Maya, with sensational food, beautiful views and the sand slipping through your bare feet, it is not hard to fall deeply, rekindle love and feel intensely consumed with one another.
What stood out for us on our first trip aside from the stunning tropical setting was the outstanding presentation of the delicious food. With nine restaurants to choose from the resort not only offers a variety of fare but also prides itself on being a gourmet all-inclusive. The dinner that sold us on joining the travel group was at Fuentes the culinary theatre. You can read about our first experience here. Our question going back for our second visit was would the trip live up to our first impression? Would our investment for becoming members be worthy of the rewards that we were promised?
Timing is everything and we picked the perfect time to jet. Not only would we be on site for the NYE celebration but we could decompress from the holiday stress. Our kids had two weeks off school for winter break, we spent the first week of that break with them doing all the holly jolly things for the season and by the second week, we were ready to pass the baton to the grandmas, recharge and shift focus from the magic of the season to the depths of our love. We were not alone in picking this travel week. The hotel was overbooked for the holiday per our attendant at check-in. Which made getting into the restaurants that require reservations tricky.
Tip #1 for traveling to these resorts is to try and reserve your tables prior to your arrival.
We jumped right into vacation arriving in the late afternoon, we took some time to stroll around the property and re-familiarize ourselves with the layout. We returned to our room and got ready for an early dinner and our first night of entertainment. Every night comes with a theme and our first night was the Neon Night in the main pavilion. There were a lot of glow sticks, dancing, a rave feel if you will. At one point the predator came out of nowhere. It was a high-energy show with sexy dancers on stage, we warmed right up to our vacay with some cocktails. I started chatting with the other resort guests.
I like fucking tacos too, James
In the main pavilion where the late-night crowd congregates, after the show is done, they break out a street taco stand so you can soak up your drinks. The tacos are banging, we both remembered them and we were looking forward to revisiting this amenity. It was a long travel day but we found our second wind. James offered to go up to the bar to retrieve us a drink, I said yes I’ll take one.
When he came back after a beat and I was still sitting by a couple from MN hearing about their stay thus far, what restaurants they’d tried, what excursions they did, the usual small talk. Then, I noticed that the taco stand was out. By the time we made it over there, the tacos were gone. My disappointment turned into rage when I found out that my hubby had enjoyed himself a taco on his visit to the bar. When I asked him, why he hadn’t grabbed one for me? He said that I only asked for a drink. This led to a swift tongue lashing from his hangry wife. I could almost taste the cilantro and queso that was not to be had. I went through a series of questions about the things that I did for him over the last couple of weeks through the holiday season without him prompting me to.
- Did you ask me to buy your books to read for the vacation?
- Did you ask me to prepare appetizers for your family Christmas?
- Did you ask me to send parental instructions for our childcare to both grandmas along with the kid’s insurance cards and doctor’s contact information, so we could have a break?
- Did you ask me to book premium seats on the plane that allowed you extra legroom for your tall stature?
Why is it that in these 14 years of marriage and 19 years of dating did I need to ask him to fulfill my needs, when I so readily anticipated his? It was a silly spat. The next morning, he redeemed himself. He told me to go find a beach cabana while he took care of all the arrangements for the remainder of our stay. I got to lounge on the shore and take in the first glimpse of the ocean while he handled our dinner reservations, booked us a spa package, arranged a snorkeling tour and even secured us a candlelit dinner on the beach. He was gone for nearly two hours but he sat with the Concierge instead of our Butler. I think that affected the engagement we had with the Butler from the remainder of the trip.
Tip #2 assert your member status upon arrival and utilize your butler to do the work of securing your vacation agenda
People tend to give guys a ton of leeway when it comes to consideration of their spouses. Complaints about these incidents are followed by comments like “that’s just men”, “they don’t think like us”, “we are moms, it’s in us to put others first” well I won’t settle for that. It won’t change if we just accept it as the norm. I go hard for my man and I want him to reciprocate, it’s not about the tacos.
It was about consideration. It was about him putting me at the top of his list, thinking and anticipating my needs prior to me verbalizing them. We are longing to be courted. I’ve heard many a friend complain about the complacency that seeps into marriage so innocently. And it’s not that we seize to love each other or have neglectful partners, it’s just easy to turn into lazy lovers.
Couples get caught up in the daily grind, spent from work and parenting. Before you know it, the relationship has shifted into autopilot. Attending to each other needs has taken a back seat. I know my husband cherishes me but it’s not always natural for him to express it.
Love in Paradise
That’s why millions of women marvel at reality dating shows like the Bachelor.
“And so, she sits marveling at the latest contestant on The Bachelor, wishing she were the one on the incredible date, on a tropical beach. Wishing she was getting dolled up and being passionately pursued by the man of her dreams. That’s what these vacations mean to me.
You don’t need to necessarily take her overseas to make her feel special enough to want to tangle in the sheets! It’s the depth of conversation over a dinner that you planned, it’s your hand on her back and a stroll in the sand. It’s the affirming words you say of why she worthy of that rose. It’s the feeling of being sought after that will never grow old!”Dione
The breakdown of the membership, is it worth the investment?
I’m not that person at a five-star resort who still can’t be satisfied. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and a quick search on TripAdvisor will produce an overall score of 4.5 out of 5 for both EDC and EDR. The touchpoint for us was centered on the member experience and the fact that we paid a lump sum with the promise of exclusive savings, elevated benefits, and luxury amenities. We have taken advantage of the membership on several trips since we joined. We have been to Azul Negril, Nickelodeon Punta Cana and Azul Beach Resort in Riviera.
What does the Exotic Travelers Membership include?
- A discount of 50-60% of rack rates
- Private transfer to and from the airport
- 4 bottles of top-shelf liquor in your room
- 20% off spa, excursion and gift shop (We went scuba diving at El dorado Maroma on both visits.)
- Nightly desserts and shots in the room
- Wine and champagne in the room
- Price matching on booked trips
- Butler Service
- Late Checkout
- Member’s only gala dinner
- Premium Room Service Menu
- Free candlelit dinner
- Day Pass to another Karisma Resort
What wowed us on this visit:
- Phenomenal food at the following restaurants
- Wine Kitchen in Generations
- D’italia Villa ( I ordered the lobster soup, lasagna, and lamb)
- D’italia Casita
- The Culinary dinner at Fuentes is a superb dining experience
- The servers deliver the meals in a choreographed fashion with coordinated music. Each course is explained by the chef and paired can be paired with wines for an additional price.
- Room service was fast and James loved the breakfast burrito
- The entertainment is stimulating we loved the NYE beach party with fireworks. They played all the hits, the set-up was fabulous and we danced the night away near the stage.
- JoJos has swings and it seems to be the new hot spot. They play current music in the evening after dinner and although the restaurant is under construction they offer outdoor seating with great views of the ocean.
- Our couple’s massage started with a Mayan blessing and both therapists worked our muscles thouroughly.
Room for improvement
There seems to be a blurred lined between the concierge and butler service at this resort. The concierges are incentivized to get members to join and upgrade. They will act as butlers to achieve this goal. However, if the guests are not interested in the pitch or unwilling to sit through a meeting, they will quickly drop off on those services. Since James’ initial contact for our week’s agenda was with the concierge our butler fell short of his duties.
- Shuttle service was spotty at best
- NYE VIP table was not worth the money; our table was so far in the back and we were sandwiched between two elderly couples. We took our included bottle of champagne and sat with our neighbors from our building in a table they snagged.
- Most of the pools had no music or energy during the day
- Yoga is only offered at 8 am wish they had an afternoon option so you could sleep in and still get your stretch on.
- The house wine is undrinkable. They have placed a high emphasis on upgrading wine bottles at the restaurants.
Tip #3 Buy Duty-Free Wine before arriving.
Diluting Benefits and Member Discontent
As the Karisma brand grows some of the rewards promised to its members seem to be diminishing. In addition to the Exotic Travelers membership, we bought into the FlyBack program. The flyback program promised $1,000 reimbursements for the first ten years of membership for travel to the Karisma resorts. Unfortunately, many members have had to wait 9 months to a year to receive reimbursement if not denied the refund for miscellaneous loopholes in their submission. Many have cited that this seems to be an oversold Ponzi scheme. We have submitted our reimbursement and I will update this post with the response.
Both travel groups have formed Facebook Pages where members express dismay with the benefits promised. The major issues members are citing are listed here:
- A member discount is only at the promised rate during the big sales. Ex-black Friday
- Deposits for reservation has increased from $50 to $100 to now one-night rate
- New resorts opening will require an upgrade to use membership benefits
- Similar or better-discounted rates can be found on third-party travel sites as what members are paying.
- Privileges are being diluted. Ex- no reserved cabana beds any more for members.
Tip #4 If you are going to join a travel membership. Look before you leap. You do not have to sign right away. Do your research by joining the facebook group, checking tripadvisor reviews and see if the good outweighs the bad.