The full review of our stay in Riviera Maya!

It’s become more and more challenging to find time to do a complete write-up; however, with the Nickelodeon Resort being new, I wanted to carve out time to give it a full review. When we joined Exotic Travelers, one of the biggest appeals to joining the travel membership was that we could vacation to resorts that catered to us as a couple and travel with our kids to family-friendly options. This one would fall under the second category. If you go here, do it for the kids and manage your expectations.

The resort is in the beautiful Riviera Maya, boasting picturesque beaches and crystal-clear water. The architecture of this resort is a contemporary vertical layout with a separate area where the waterpark and some of the restaurants are housed. The property isn’t walkable, and you will be shuttled back and forth. The resort is in a line of succession of Karisma branded resorts along the beach, El Dorado, Generations, and lastly, Nickelodeon. While we loved El Dorado’s resort enough to return twice, and we bought into the program because we were excited to bring the kids back to visit Generations once it was completed.   The Nickelodeon resort we hoped would have all of the same elements of the sister properties, but I would caution it resides on the most depreciated portion of this stretch of beach. In other words, there is more waterpark than coast available to guests.

Laufty Life Travel Reviews & Outline

DISCLOSURE:  I do not work for Karisma, Exotic Travelers/Prestige, or Nickelodeon Resorts. We are Exotic Traveler members (8 years), and when we joined the program, we could not find unbiased information on the member’s experience. We freaked out, thought it was a scam (especially the flyback program), and had buyer’s remorse. That is when I decided this was useful information that should be shared, and I have your back.

To efficiently bring you more valuable travel tips and reviews, I am changing the format of travel blog postings. Here is what you can expect as an outline for future Laufty Life posts:

Laufty Life Travel Blog Review Outline

The Spot:  Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya has ideal weather during most of the year, I would avoid traveling during hurricane season, which is most risky August-October. We booked a swim-up suite using our Sapphire Exotic Travelers Membership at the Nickelodeon Resort. With our daughter participating in a club volleyball team this year, we postponed our trip to a month after spring break, saving us money on the resort reservation and the flights. 

Is your family a Nickelodeon fan? Children can enjoy their favorite Nickelodeon characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The characters are readily available, and Misha got to take a picture with almost every one of them. One of the best things about this resort is that the kids can have these character experiences without waiting in long lines, ordering expensive photos, or booking a character meal.

The Waterpark

It is difficult to impress a person from Wisconsin with a waterpark; Wisconsin Dells is considered the waterpark capital of the world. The Nick resort has a massive water park with thrilling slides, lazy rivers, climbing walls and splash pads. It is impressive. They even have a see-through bridge where you can see your little fishy swimming above your head. The slides vary in intensity, giving options for adventure levels; even my adrenaline junky kid didn’t brave the most daring.

The waterpark is a 5-minute shuttle ride from where the rooms are so you will have to wait both ways, but the shuttles come frequently. There are only four cabanas available for members to reserve. You are permitted to book this for one day of your stay. I noticed the area where the potential members considering joining could get more grand cabanas with TVs, closer to the slides and slime area, etc. No surprise there. They focus more on acquiring new prospects than keeping existing members happy.

The Swim-up Suite

The swim up suite was a bit of a disappointment.  The view from the room was gorgeous, but the swim up portion was not what I imagined.   We have gotten this room category at Azul Jamaica and at Nickelodeon Punta Cana and loved it.  The kids can just jump in, take a dip, and, depending on the property, swim to the swim-up bar for a fruity beverage.  

This king suite was on the 5th-floor and it went nowhere.  It is basically a small lap pool you share with the neighboring rooms.  It is mostly shaded so I asked to be moved to the first floor and they said that those are pool deck swim-up suites that have to be booked as premium booking.  Eventually, they moved us to the 6th-floor penthouse swim-up, which offered a sunny swim-up with no overhead obstruction.  

What I did like about the room was that there are two bathrooms, and the king bedroom has privacy doors that section off the living room.  They also added a Murphy bed which is helpful when you have tall kids like us.  Giana got the Queen pull-out sofa and Misha slept perfectly in the sponge bob Murphy fold down.  These are set up for young-school-age kids.  Going forward, they suggest we upgrade to Ruby level and book a double suite for both girls to have a real bed or book two suites, which would be expensive.

Good Eats

Our best dinner was at the Piazza.  Unlike other Karisma properties this was the only restaurant that requires reservations.  It is in the waterpark area, so we shuttled over.  It is an Italian restaurant with floor to ceiling glass windows and beautiful décor.  If you are dining as a family of three you may be seated at a table with a fourth guest, a ninja turtle.

James and I ordered a delicious filet, and shared the lasagna, which was also scrumptious.  The chef made buttered noodles for the girls which they always enjoy, and we ordered a nice bottle of wine to top it off.  They had live music that started around 7 pm.  We ended up with reservations for two nights here.

We also thought Good Burger, home of the good burger was excellent.  There is an ice cream truck in the middle of the space where the kids can get scoops and shakes after their meals are complete.  It is not open for lunch so most days we ate at the Bikini Bottom which had an excellent selection of tacos.

The fire show and beach party buffet were not great.  In general, the buffets were not as tasty as we had previously experienced. You can see with these that the resort is still working out the kinks of a new staff and property. 

Candlelit disaster

One member benefit you receive every booked week is a candlelit beach dinner.  These include upgraded menus, lobster and steak, ocean views, and automatic romance.  Welp, not in this instance.  Our butler said they would set our kids up with a table in the Yacht club adjacent to where we would enjoy our memorable dining experience.  They would have a seafood buffet night and we would have a solo date.  

They set the girls up inside and walked us out; we were the only table on the restaurant’s veranda.  As I noted before, there isn’t much beach on this resort, so we were shocked that it was a candlelit patio table rather than a feet in the sand set up.  That would have been fine, but things went totally left!  A group of people crashed our dinner. 

As we were seated, we noticed the half-brick wall surrounding the patio occupied by three adults a few feet from where we sat.  Three adults were sitting on the half wall backs facing our table but awkwardly intrusive to a candlelit dinner with their kids jumping on and off the wall into the sand repeatedly/loudly.   I thought for sure they would get the hint once we were ordering our wine, or the server would intervene but that’s just me and my Laufty dreams.

To make a long story short this dinner was a comical mess.  They continue to invade the space to appease their kids who perhaps couldn’t sit through dinner inside the restaurant.  I was speechless but I’m sure my face said it all.  At one point a man in their party began to pace back in forth talking on his speaker phone within arm’s reach of our table as the waiter opened our bottle of wine.  Giana and Misha came out of the Yacht Club while we were eating our salads and looked on in astonishment at the chaos circling us.  Later Misha remarked “that man was in your romantic dinner”.  They informed us that the buffet offerings were gross, and they wanted to go back to the room.   

After the first course this group began to bring plates of food out from the buffet.  I was floored.  This dinner would normally be a $150 with wine, $250 upgrade.  Finally, the manager had to ask them to return inside to their seats and that the terrace was reserved for the candle-lit dining.  We were like wow; everyone isn’t aware of social etiquette but that was weird.  Minutes later the food they left was still on the wall and out of the dark, a bandit appeared.  James tells me to turn around, and I see a colossal raccoon quickly paw the remains.  We break out in laughter; you can’t make this shit up.  My husband predicts he will be back.  Sure enough, he returns for the remaining scrapes, swiper no swiping.  

To add assault to injury, our oldest daughter ended up with food poisoning.  At 10:30 pm, she woke up vomiting and continued to be sick until 3 am.  The head butler comp’d the $170 fee for medical care and sent a Dr. to the room.  Within 12 hours of her receiving care and medication, she made a miraculous recovery, but seriously, what a disaster. 

Stepping Out

The thought of leaving the resort can be a scary prospect but our excursion was the trip’s highlight.  We booked a private tour to the Island of Women Isla Mujeres.  This trip to Isle Mujeres was the highlight of our trip, from booking with the office and having all my additional questions answered to the authenticity of our guide Tu Guia.  

The service was excellent, and we finally got my youngest daughter to snorkel. The crew on the boat was accommodating; Tu gave us space to explore but also let us know that he would escort us to any points of interest. He was passionate about his country, nature, and his position. The water around the island is clear; every shade of blue/teal was a breathtaking experience.  We learned about the ocean ecosystem and how we can be more responsible in supporting it.  Our tour included lunch, drinks, and snorkeling equipment.  Since we booked a private tour we were able to decide on the timeline.

The Rating

We had our highs and our lows on this trip.  This is a young property and I believe that the food will eventually meet Karisma’s exceptional standards.  The layout isn’t ideal to me I love to stroll along the beach after dinner but that is a personal preference.  I also think our girls are aging out of this category of experience so we really wanted to get there while our youngest would still appreciate the cartoon element.  For younger kids, this place is paradise.

Would we return to this property?  Not likely but we did for the most part enjoy ourselves.  I would give it a 3.75 rating out of five.  One more thing to mention is the resort spa was worth visiting.  We had two couple’s massages, and I had my make-up and lashes done prior to our beach photoshoot.  All of our services there were 5/5 and the photographers were an energetic couple who made us twirl, jump and laugh. We also loved the Nick lounge. The cocktails were crafted, the furniture was comfortable and after dinner it was a great space to hang out in. They have live music most nights and we played family games.

Laufty Life Punta Esmeralda Beach Photoshoot Monica & Oscar