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I am a major fan of all-inclusive holidays for when I just want to relax. But ‘all-inclusive’ means a slightly different thing in every hotel and it is never the case that everything actually is included. Some lower quality ‘5 star’ resorts may not even serve you name brand drinks (bring on the hangovers). For my 30th birthday, I sampled two hotels I have been coveting for a long, long time: Excellence Playa Mujeres and Le Blanc Spa Resort, both rated 5 on Tripadvisor, the two could not be more different. But which won?
When: January 2020
Cost: We booked direct in order to fly BA First to Houston and also try both hotels, but it isn’t the cheapest method from the UK. Excellence was £2,250 and Le Blanc was £3,315, both for 6 nights. You can find out more and book with Excellence here and Le Blanc here.
What’s Included: a straight comparison of what you do and don’t get at each resort’s ‘all-inclusive’ is provided in the table below.
As I said, our method of booking was not the cheapest.
If you want to fly in decent luxury, but want maximum value, I would suggest booking with Britsh Airways. Their Holiday Finder allows you to find the cheapest dates in Club World and you can easily find the hotels by selecting All-Inclusive under Board Basis and sorting by Tripadvisor rating.
Virgin Holidays is also worth checking out if Upper Class is cheaper, but it rarely is!
Spoiler: And the winner is…
If you don’t want to read the mini-review of each section, my overall scores and comments, plus the final verdict is below!
Note that at nearly 50% more expensive, I’m judging Le Blanc tougher in all sections, as it needs to earn its whopping price tag! Also, because we only used the spa at Le Blanc (it was sooooo good), I won’t compare with EPM.
Round 1: The Room
Winner: Excellence Playa Mujeres (4) vs. Le Blanc (3.5)
EPM offers are wider selection of rooms and the incremental costs are not mind-blowing. We went for the second level room (the swim-up suite) at about £23 a night more. Le Blanc offers less choice, basically whether you get an ocean view or not. We went for the Royal Honeymoon Oceanfront for about £33 a night more.
In a nutshell, both rooms are beautiful. They really are. But EPM is bigger and, most importantly, you get outside space. We really loved the swim-up suite, being able to laze around on the terrace and hop into the very private lazy river.
To get a balcony in Le Blanc you have to book a Royal Governer for around an extra £700 above and beyond the Royal Honeymoon! So in essence, the vast majority of rooms don’t have any outside space. The view was amazing, and the finish of the room was more clean and modern as you would expect from a more pricey hotel. But we missed being able to go outside.
Round 2: The Location
Winner: Le Blanc (4.5) vs. Excellence (3)
For us, we were too far out in EPM and we didn’t feel like we could really go and wander anywhere. If you are looking for quiet and seclusion then EPM will suit you.
Le Blanc is in the middle of the Cancun Hotel Zone, but you don’t feel like that when you are in the hotel itself. It is still very serene and quiet. But its location allowed us to step out to the mall, and more easily do tours and excursions.
Round 3: Hotel, Facilities and Grounds
Winner: Le Blanc (4.5) vs. Excellence (3.5)
I have to give this one to Le Blanc again. The hotel just looks more fresh and upscale. The beach was better kept and looked more pristine. The whole place smells amazing! The gym was better equipped. The different pools felt more clearly distinguished and the infinity pools had a real wow factor. There was a main ‘active’ pool, a terrace pool and a very quiet lower pool all with their own atmospheres. Oh and they heat the water! Even the bars and restaurants have more individual personalities.
On a negative, Le Blanc does feel small. The whole thing (excluding rooms) is on just three levels, and you get around very quickly.
EPM is more spacious and sprawling. I loved the lazy rivers throughout the property (for the swim-up suites) and the main lobby is very grand and beautiful.
But I felt that despite its size, each area was a copy and paste of another. So there wasn’t really much choice across the property. A major negative was that the pools were freezing, as they only heat the Excellence Club pools (same rooms but in a better location plus a selection of benefits for an additional cost). Everything felt a bit more rustic, which may be your taste, but I preferred the clean and modern finish at Le Blanc.
Another negative at EPM was that despite its size, it was difficult to get a seat at the main pool and beach. I think this is because so many areas are reserved for Excellence Club that everyone else gets squeezed in together.
Round 4: Food and Drink
Winner: Le Blanc (4.5) vs. Excellence (3)
This is the most clear-cut difference between Le Blanc and Excellence and is where your money has gone. The difference in food and drink was pretty crazy and not expected.
EPM food and drink was good. Like perfectly good. There is a good variety of restaurants (9 in total), our favourite was the Lobster House. The lunch buffet was also very tasty. But the majority of dishes we had were just a little lacking in some way. You are not going to go hungry at all, but you may also not be wowed at every sitting. The room service, however, was a real step down from the restaurant food.
The EPM drinks were also fine. But just fine. Only the Martini Bar in the main lobby makes a decent cocktail. Every other bar shares one menu and it is very syrup heavy. But all bars do stock named brand alcohol and will definitely not water down!
Le Blanc’s food was just noticeably better. The quality of the meat and fish was better, the flavouring was better and again, the food at each restaurant tasted more distinctive. My boyfriend also developed a midnight room service habit because it was so good. There was less choice though, with just 5 options.
But what really stood out for me were Le Blanc’s drinks. If you haven’t noticed from my other blog posts, I like a tipple. Le Blanc has a house wine list, of all wines that are included. At EPM you were lucky to get a choice of two reds or two whites. All the LB wines we sampled were very good indeed. The spirits selection was better. We spent a whole afternoon sampling different tequilas with the excellent bar staff around the property. The cocktails were legit and not just reliant on lashings of booze or syrup. Everything was just better. Period.
Round 5: Service
Winner: Excellence (4) vs. Le Blanc (3)
And then Le Blanc hits an obstacle. Its service. It just wasn’t for us. EPM was not perfect either, but we liked their relaxed style more.
The welcome at EPM was wonderful. We were handed sparkling wine as soon as we enetered. When we said that (after missing our first night’s stay) we just wanted to get into our room now, they made sure we were in within 20 minutes. We got a tour of the resort. Staff were checking up on us in a friendly way, calling us by name, but not intrusive. But it felt informal and not forced.
However, there was an issue with communication. Not a single room service order we made actually came with exactly what we had asked for. And on my Birthday, not a single thing my boyfriend had booked actually happened, which really upset us both. But they did put everything right in the end and also apologised with a bottle of premium sparkling wine, chocolate strawberries and roses in the room, which was a very nice touch.
Le Blanc I’d say was more consistent. But we felt awkward with most of the staff. The staff have to say “It’s my pleasure” whenever you say thank you. Which makes the place feel robotic. If I made a joke, it was like they felt they had to laugh, but weren’t allowed to actually respond with any banter themselves. That wasn’t everyone and there were some great people, particularly our floors’ butlers Mario and Manuel.
There were positives. Our room had aromatherapy set up every night and we could request specific fragrances. Staff were extremely helpful with any questions we had and if they didn’t know the answer, they made sure to find out. I also loved when Mario and Manuel planned for the whole room to be filled with balloons and a big Happy Birthday sign!
But what we really didn’t like was the totally offputting attention towards female guests. At dinner, the waiters would not look at or acknowledge my boyfriend properly. One waiter actually stood with his back to my boyfriend whilst asking me questions about the holiday. I felt extremely uncomfortable and we left dinner early on two occasions. I’m not sure if this was a direction from the management to “put ladies first”, or, I hope not, a racial thing, but I’ve never been anywhere where the service is so one-sided.
My boyfriend, for the service alone, said he will not go back to Le Blanc.
Round 6: Entertainment and Activities
Winner: It’s a tie (4 a piece)
Basically, the free entertainment programme at EPM was way better (for our tastes). There was a wider range of things to do on-site, other than just drink and laze around (which I do love doing). Every night, you got a paper in the room with what is on the next day, with literally activity after activity from 8am. I particularly enjoyed the daily Texas Hold’em sessions!
The nightly evening entertainment was also very good, either in the big theatre, or in the lobby itself. We enjoyed the circus show and the classical musicians in particular. Another novelty was the cigar bar, which we had a fantastic time at. The cigars are charged extra, but are reasonable at about $20 each.
But everything else you wanted to do at EPM was costly. A romantic dinner on the beach was nearly $300 cash. All motorized watersports were provided by a separate company on the beach, at cost. The spa was extortionate. So we didn’t do anything else apart from the free stuff. I think if we were there any longer we would have had to start booking paid activities and god knows what the room bill would have been.
At Le Blanc, you have resort credits, which come included with your room (we got $1,500 for a 5-7 night stay). These can be spent on the spa (up to $500 for a 5-7 night stay), excursions (we did a great watersports day), premium drinks, souvenirs, all sorts. You pay 16% tax in cash, but this meant an 80 minute couples massage was a fraction of the cost compared to EPM. We even got a romantic dinner beach with the credits, paying just $70 in cash.
This made up for the ‘not much going on’ vibe at LB, as you could just book up activities for your day.
The evening entertainment was a bit lame though. Maybe because it is in such a small room (the Cavo bar), but my boyfriend described it as a ‘posh Butlins’. That said, the mentalist show was really really good and suited the small audience much better.
So there you have it! Le Blanc comes out with 24/30 against Excellence’s 21.5/30. If you could make an EPM-LB hybrid you would pretty much have the ultimate all-inclusive resort! All in all, I preferred Le Blanc, because food and drink are super important to me. My boyfriend preferred EPM, as the room and service are top on his list.
Our search for the Number 1 all-in continues…