I know, I know, this is usually a site dedicated to touring theme parks. I, myself am usually dedicated to a similar pursuit, but like many things, TouringPlans changed a little in 2020. We now have a division of the company that is a full-fledged travel agency, which opens up the research possibilities quite a bit as well. Not that we plan on fully covering the entire world of travel all at once, but you might see some more information here and there about some seemingly random travel spots. Oh look, here’s one now.
Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun
The “Now” chain is an all-inclusive resort under the larger AMResorts umbrella. Now Sapphire is located about 15 miles south of the Cancun airport on the coast of Mexico. In early January, I decided to take my family there to see how it was; and it turned out to be extremely nice. I should mention now that we were in no way compensated for this. Everything was bought and paid for just as any traveler would. I mean, I wouldn’t turn down some special treatment in the future though if anyone at AMResorts happens to read this (winky, winky).
Safety and Spreading Disease
Another thing I should get out of the way here: travel right now is inadvisable. It was looking like it could be a little better back when we booked the trip, but it wasn’t and we decided to go anyway. No, it was not the smartest decision, but we took every precaution we could. We wore masks, got tested, and totally quarantined for two full weeks on return. I will say, however, that while at the resort we felt almost no discomfort with the situation. Almost everything was outside and we found it easy to stay away from others. Any inside locations (mostly dining) required, and enforced, mask usage. The employees of the Sapphire were excellent and I observed literally zero employees not properly wearing masks.
If you want to see more of the resort, I also created a video tour that you can see here:
What’s Included in All-Inclusive
Okay, now the fun stuff. When you purchase a room at an all-inclusive resort the “included” parts can vary. One of the things I have liked about the AMResorts I have stayed in (this is my third) is that you can have a perfectly lovely time using only the things that are included in the price. At the Now Sapphire, all restaurants, drinks, and basic recreation–volleyball, basketball, many watersports, etc.–are included as are drinks in the mini-fridge, towels at the pool, and other small-but-important items like that.
We decided to make a small upgrade to a Preferred room (more on that below). That added the use of a secondary restaurant for breakfast, the ability to reserve a poolside cabana, access to an adults-only pool and its bar with elevated liquor, and access to a preferred lounge that offered snacks, hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and a concierge. We did reserve a cabana for one day and grab snacks and drinks from the lounge, but I would have been perfectly fine without the preferred amenities, especially since our kids were with us meaning that we couldn’t use the preferred pool.
The only things that aren’t included are special things like spa treatments, tennis lessons, and any excursions, where you are escorted on tours of anything from Mayan ruins to shopping districts. Some of the excursions sound great and we already picked a few that we want to do in the future, but this was a quick trip so we didn’t actually do any of the excursions this time.
The room we settled on was a Preferred Club Junior Suite Ocean Front View, although we debated a few other types. Most of the rooms have the same layout and, despite the words “junior suite” in there, they are all called that. The big differences are the views and what’s outside of the sliding doors.
The most economical room is the Deluxe Junior Suite Tropical View which, even though it is both “deluxe” and a “junior suite” has the same layout as almost all the rooms. These rooms are simply looking out onto trees or walkways. Next up the chain is the Preferred Club version of the tropical view; same view with the preferred amenities I mentioned above. Above that is the Preferred Ocean Front that we went with. The added bonus there is that you are a) looking straight at the beach and the Caribbean Sea beyond, and b) you have a jetted tub on the balcony. There is no Ocean Front room that is not Preferred.
The top rung of rooms that sleep 4 is the Preferred Beach Front Swim Out which, in hindsight, I wish we had gone with. It features a mini-pool outside of your room that is heated and looks onto the Sea. We didn’t opt for this because you share said mini-pool with 5 other rooms, but after seeing how little they are used by most of the rooms I was less worried about that than I thought I would be. The other option we considered was a “Family Suite” which is basically two connecting rooms. It would have given us more space, but the cost went up significantly for the family suites and our trip wasn’t long enough for us to get that annoyed with each other.
Overall the room was perfectly acceptable. It was nicely appointed with good-quality materials and comfortable furniture. Nothing particularly blew me away, but I have no real complaints either. I could have used a little more storage space in the bathroom, and queen-sized beds instead of doubles in the sleeping area, but that’s about it. More importantly, it was a nice space to rest in once we left the poolside and the air conditioning worked well. For a tropical beach location, that’s all I really need.
The food is always where I get critical of all-inclusives; it’s just not easy to create quality items for high-turnover dining. The food here was pretty darn good though. We ate at almost all of the available restaurants and I have very few complaints at all. The buffet-style restaurant in particular was shockingly good. Not that the food was great, but it was good for both breakfast and lunch (it was closed for dinner due to the low guest count) which is shocking when talking about a buffet. Having several items cooked-to-order certainly helped.
The sit-down dining was only open for dinner and those were Lemongrass (Asian), Cibu (Mediterranean), Fresco (Mexican), Bluewater Grill (Steak and Seafood), and Paramour (French, and adults only). We did not try the adults-only one, but we ate at all four of the others. The Mexican was our favorite, with a good variety and genuinely spicy offerings. The Mediterranean and Asian were both very good as well, and the Bluewater Grill was underwhelming. The food was slow and a little bland, but we also only ate there one night so they could have just been off that day.
For quicker items there was a coffee shop open all day which we used many times to wonderful results. There is also a poolside grill with mediocre burgers, pizza, and nachos that are saved by some fresh toppings like guacamole, jalapenos, and queso fresco. We legitimately ate 5-6 meals per day for four straight days because so much was so good. By day two my wife was already looking up diet ideas for when we got back home. That’s not even a joke.
I’ll start with the pool because it’s gigantic and awesome. The main pool is a free-form monster of a swimming hole that never gets more than about 4 feet deep and has plenty of little nooks that you can have all to yourself. Of course there’s a swim-up bar (which is the only crowded part) but there are also chairs built into shallow spots for supreme sunbathing. The chairs are made of concrete and tile, so they’re not all that comfortable, but you sit me in shallow water with a margarita and you won’t hear me complaining.
Since I brought up the swim-up bar, I may as well mention all the bars. There really are only a few: one poolside, one in the lobby, one on the beach, and two that are preferred-only (in the lounge and preferred pool). Even with few bars, they moved very quickly due to the excellent staff. The quality was above-average for any drink that didn’t require a pre-made mix. If you got something that used, say, strawberry syrup it tasted a little sugary and unnatural. I stuck mostly with a lime margarita on the rocks. No salt please.
Of course there is also a full Caribbean beach that runs the length of the resort (and then some). It’s not the greatest beach I’ve ever seen, and there is an abundance of sea grass, but it is nicely groomed and offers lots of spaces for relaxing. We really didn’t spend a lot of time on the beach, but it was more because we liked the pool so much rather than that we disliked the beach.
Another thing that we liked (and by “we” I mean “the kids”) is water slides. We have found that few all-inclusive resorts have water slides since they don’t exactly scream “relaxing,” but yet we seek them out because darn it they’re fun. There are three slides: one straight, fast slide and two that are twisty and generally pretty slow. On their own they wouldn’t sway my decision to stay at the Now Sapphire, but as an add-on they definitely help.
Speaking of things for kids, the resort also offers a kids club for those 12 and under. Like all kids clubs, they offer activities and supervision for a while so the adults can go do adult stuff. Since I’m basically just a large child I don’t always go in for the adult stuff so we didn’t use the club at all.
I really don’t have criticisms… and I tried to find some. The staff was above-and-beyond excellent, the resort was beautiful, and we had a great time. I would go back at pretty much any time, hopefully because AMResorts starts trying to bribe me (winky, winky).
To book the Now Sapphire or anything anywhere, submit a quote to the TouringPlans travel agency. There are many Destination Specialists that are experts in Disney, Universal, all-inclusive resorts, cruises, and just about everything else.