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Occidental Grand Hotel Cozumel March 3, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Miscellany.
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This is our fourth trip to Cozumel and my fourth stay at the Occidental Grand Hotel. One reason we stay here is that charter packages are offered from Toronto. Another is the diving convenience for someone with a non-diving wife. It’s the last stop for the dive boat so I’m generally picked up last and dropped of first. The downside is that the boats don’t want to go up to the Northern Sites (say from Tormentos Reef and beyond) so if I want to go there I have to take a taxi to the Marina (La Caleta, which means “Cove” in Spanish) and back, although often I get a free ride back to the hotel from the staff at Blue XT Sea diving.

The hotel’s service has declined slightly since our last trip but not in any way that is meaningful to us. They don’t leave chocolates on our bed in the evening for instance. Most of the food is served in the La Posada buffet (breakfast and dinner) or the beach buffet (lunch), although you can book the Mediterranean Restaurant (Los Olivos) or the Steak restaurant (Sonora Grill, actually they only have 1 steak option on the menu) for a change of pace. They have a different them for the buffet every night and there is a large selection of foods to choose from.  Los Olivos wasn’t that great but we enjoyed the Sonora Grill. That said, you won’t get a great steak there but it’s not bad.

I particularly liked the ice cream they served. It tasted like the real thing rather than the mass produced stuff you buy in stores in Canada. I’d put it up against Häagen-Dazs or even Ben and Jerry’s any day.

The property is probably about 8 times longer than it is wide. A path runs from the entrance at the main building which contains the restaurants and bar, past about a dozen small buildings which are each 3 stories and contain 24 rooms. The last of these buildings is the “Royal Club”, which is some sort of upgraded facility that we’ve never tried.  Beyond the rooms is the “Serenity Pool” where we hung out the first few days of our first trip because it was sheltered from the high winds. There are several iguanas on the property and the largest likes to hang out there.

Footpath to Serenity Pool

Beyond the pool is a wooden walkway that crosses over a marshy area that is the home of several species of waterfowl and many small turtles, who hang out below in the hopes that someone will toss some food their way. It’s hard to take a good photograph of the marsh because the walkway is about 10’ above it. It would be great if they built an observation deck just about water level. Since our first visit, about a year after Wilma hit in 2005, this area has regenerated well, and the rest of the hotel is very lush in comparison also.

The walkway leads to the main pool. They give Scuba lessons there at 9AM each day but of course I didn’t participate. I was glad to see they had 5-6 students each day, though, and from the little I saw seemed to be doing a reasonable job of training. The beach restaurant lies near the pool and the dive shop, operated by Dive Palancar, lies beyond it. I’ve never tried Dive Palancar but noticed that they return from dives pretty quickly meaning they probably don’t tolerate the hour long plus dives that we regularly do with Blue XT Sea.

The main pool leads directly to the beach. Each morning, lots of people, myself or my wife included, trek down to the beach to put towels and other items on our favourite beach chairs. While there seems to be enough for everyone, the ones under the umbrellas, especially on the north side of the umbrellas, are especially coveted and it’s best to “reserve” them before 7AM.

Dawn at the Occidental Grand Cozumel

One complaint is that sometimes pool activities are facilitated by the staff with very loud announcements or refereeing, which spills over to the beach. After one particularly loud water polo game, the problem mostly went away, no doubt due to the complaints of some of the guests.

The roped off swimming and snorkeling area is quite large and well respected by the boats. Depth reaches about 8 feet at the farthest point from the beach and there is plenty of aquatic life to be found there as I’ve written about before, including a large school of Horse-Eye Jacks shepherded by a resident Barracuda.

All in all, it ain’t Sandals, but for about 60% of the price it does the job for us, and it’s in a great diving spot. More than likely we’ll be back within a few years, although our conversation has turned to trying out somewhere else next year for a change of scene and the following year having our 5-year family reunion in Hawaii, where I’ll certainly looking forward to diving

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