Am at a family gathering in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico for the 4th of July weekend. Peter and I are with his nephew and wife, their two cute little girls (ages 3 and 6), his sister and his daughter. After 25 years with Peter who has umpteen cousins, each with lots of kids, well, there are always plenty of family gatherings.
It is a new adventure for me to be invited to spend four days in a rented house by the ocean where you eat most meals in and the day consists basically of moving between pool, bedroom, dinner table and assorted naps. Oh, and yes, a massage thrown in now and then. Am adjusting well.
Today was our Dolphin-Encounter outing for the little girls. After years of non-assertive behavior, where I always went along with whatever anyone else wanted to do (to be nice) and later in life learning that this is a formula for depression, I decided to announce that after the Dolphin-Encounter I wanted to stop at a spa (Grand Velas) for a quick tour. This spa is featured on our website and I have never seen it. In years past this “announcement” would have been met with rolled eyes and efforts to persuade me otherwise. No longer. People prefer that I am not depressed. Ditto that for me.
So off we went. First stop – Dolphin-land. Quite a nice place with six or seven large pools, all with dolphins and groups of tourists and locals in various encounter adventures. We watched as those from our group went through the whole process: waiting in line, checking in, changing into swimsuits, some crying, more waiting, then instruction sessions, demonstrations, and finally…into the pool with the dolphins. We waited patiently in the hot, noon-day sun on the viewing deck in order to enjoy the faces of the darling little girls who went from being afraid, to getting a kiss from a dolphin, to petting a dolphin and then finally for the six year old and her mom, to actually have a ride on a dolphin.
After our three hour sweltering adventure, it was back into the van and off to Grand Velas (a quick 5 minute drive) where the plan was for everyone to wait in the car while I did my 10 minute walk through the spa. What no one realized at the time is that somewhere in the middle of the sizzling hot dolphin adventure, I decided that the planned lunch stop – at a local thatched roof hut (read – hot) restaurant in downtown Puerta Vallarta, was no longer sounding at all appealing to me. So I suggested to the group that they wander around Grand Velas for a few moments while I tour the spa, in case they might come upon a restaurant which would allow us to eat a tad earlier.
Although it was my first time at Grand Velas, I had done my homework. This property was a Leading Hotel of the World, the spa is in our Connoisseur Spa Collection, and it had also received dining awards. I figured they must have a beautiful dining spot which might prove enticing. Sure enough while I headed to the spa, the group spotted this absolutely magnificent beach and pool side restaurant, Azul, with amazing views and even more wonderful – cool ocean breezes. They all succumbed, lunch was a delight, and I was thanked profusely.
Re the spa and property….plus points for the congenial spa receptionist who gave me a tour, plus points for the size of the spa (more than 20 treatment rooms for around 250 all-suite rooms), plus points for the tastefully appointed treatment rooms – especially the ones for couples, the nicely decorated amenity area with unusual foot baths, and the many options on the spa service menu. Double-plus points for the gigantic outdoor swimming pools whose infinity edging overlook vast ocean views – a site many would recognize from the cover of magazines. And triple-plus points for the supervised children’s water play area and the water volleyball game which was going on in one area of the pool. Sixteen men were having the time of their lives standing in just the right-depth-of-water, playing water volleyball. (From my days at the Golden Door, I can vouch for the fact that there is no better way for men to “bond” than playing water volleyball. I am certain that it easily counts for improved guest return rates.)
Questions which swirled through my head….the spa is beautiful, can it really be very profitable since it is so large? It didn’t appear very busy although it was early afternoon. Spa prices seemed slightly higher than I would have expected. And once again, the sad fact (although outsiders wouldn’t notice) that even though a spa is quite new (five years old) and gorgeous, to those of us in the industry five years ago in the spa world is another generation. It won’t be long before it will seem dated.
Would I want to check into Grand Velas next time instead of going to a private house on the beach for a holiday weekend? Well, yes for sure, if I was alone with my husband.
And yes, probably, if we were with the rest of the family. After all…even the little girls kept eyeing that swimming pool all during lunch wanting soooo much to plunge in and play with the other kids.
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