We travelled to Grand Sunset Princess Resort & Spa in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, in May 2023 and conducted our first resort review as part of our Allergen-Free Recognition Program for Hotels and Holiday Resort Destinations. The goal of the Gluten-Free Food Program, is to not only provide a recommendation based on our experience to the celiac and gluten-free communities, but to also encourage holiday destinations to become part of our program, ensuring food safety to those who need it.
The following is review is based on the experience of our resident celiac, Rob. Rob was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2011 and has done a lot of travelling over the years pre and post diagnosis. Each persons experience is different based on personal food preferences and additional dietary restrictions and/or allergies, but Rob gives us a good idea as to whether The Grand Sunset Princess is safe for a person with celiac disease.
ABOUT THE RESORT:
Age of the resort: 2007
Number of restaurants to choose from: There were six ala cart restaurants that included French, Italian, Steak, Japanese/Thai, Seafood and Mexican cuisine, as well as 3 buffet restaurants open to all guests of the resort.
Post booking are food allergies asked for? NO, but we did not use a travel agent. We booked through Redtag.ca and took advantage of a 40% off promotion for this resort.
**Do they have or inquire on checkin about food allergies? NO, not upon checkin at the resort, BUT, when you arrive at the ala carte restaurants for your reservation, the host asks if there are any food allergies. The host then lets the server know of your food requirements. We thought that this was a nice touch!
Is there a central contact person for food allergies on arrival? NO, but our room type did include a conceirge, so we made our reservations through them and let them know about Rob’s gluten “allergy”.
Are any restaurants dedicated? NO
WHO WE SPOKE WITH AT THE RESORT:
We were able to speak with the hotels Chief Conceirge and Assistant to the Chief Conceirge during our visit. We would like to mention that we tried to book an appointment with someone from the resort, starting weeks before our trip without success. It also took days during our stay to finally be told that the head conceirge would speak with us. Two conceirges arrived, and their knowledge of the food safety practises seemed accurate. Without speaking to someone from the kitchen or hotel management, we can only speculate that the answers to our questions are correct and truthful.
WHAT THE CONCEIRGE TOLD US:
Do they have separate prep areas for all gluten-free restaurants? YES. The conceirge informed us that by law, the resort has to have separate areas for allergens such as gluten, nuts and others. We were unclear as to by what law or if it is resort policy, partly because of the language barrier.
Do they have dedicated equipment? YES. We were told that by law they had to have separate preparation areas for those with allergies.
Do they cater for other food alergies? YES. They also deal with nuts, shelfish and dairy for example.
Are menus labeled for Allergens? YES. Some of the menus listed gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free options.
Are gluten-free drinks avaliable? YES. There was no shortage of distilled and non distilled beverages. They did not have gluten-free beer available.
Are the staff aware of gluten-free requirements? YES. The wait staff will go over gluten-free options on the menu or the chef will come to speak with you about your meal choices.
Are the staff trained in gluten-free procedures? To some extent. The wait staff is trained to bring the allergy letter provided by the resort or verbally let the chef know that a guest requires a gluten-free meal.
What procedures do they have in place if someone gets contaminated? We were told that they have not had anyone report a gluten contamination as of yet. They call a nearby doctor in the case of unknown allergic reactions.
Are there gluten-free room service options: YES, a few.
OUR FEEDBACK TO THE CONCEIRGE:
We did offer the conceirges the feedback about the number of menu and dessert options. Whether they pass it along to the head chef will remain to be seen by future gluten-free guests.
OVERALL MENU CHOICES: WE WERE LEFT WANTING MORE!
Number of gluten-free options on the menu at the ala carte restaurants: Limited to one or two from each section.
Did they have gluten-free appetizers? YES. Limited to one or two and mostly salad.
Did they have dessert options available? YES. Limited to one option or fruit as an option.
Was there bar food? YES. The gluten-free bar menu consisted of only a salad but it is something, so we have to say, yes. We were told that the nachos were fried in the same fryer as other items containing gluten, so that was disappointing. The bar seemed to be the only “restaurant” that did not have a separate prep area.
IMPORTANT TO MENTION:
Did you get glutened while staying in the resort? NO
Did you feel relaxed about gluten-free environment? YES. Luckily most Mexican cuisine is naturally gluten-free.
Buffet experience: Rob loves a good buffet because there are lots of options and he can usually go around with the chef and eat well.
Buffet dessert experience: There was a small area that had three gluten-free items in it at all times. We never saw anything different, only the same three items all week. That was disappointing.
We booked a catamaran tour that included lunch with our Sunwing representative, so we let him know of Rob’s gluten-free meal requirements. Rob was very pleased with the meal that he received! Everyone received the same type of meal and his had a couple of gluten-free substituions. This made him feel great because most of the time, he receives a totally separate meal that is bland and nothing like the meals that the rest of the guests receive. We booked a Cancun Adventures catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres that included two snorkelling stops and time on the island. The water was gorgeous, the weather was fantastic and it was a great day!
OUR OVERALL RESORT RATING: WE WERE LEFT WANTING MORE!
Our overall resort rating from 1 to 10 for the gluten-free experience is a seven. This rating is based on the personal experience of Rob, our resident celiac. When Rob dines out or travels, he expects a full dining experience that includes an appetizer, main and dessert, as would any other patron. While the Grand Sunset Princess did provide what Rob considered a safe gluten-free experience, in most cases, salad was his option for an appetizer, he had limited main choices and there were proper dessert options (he doesn’t consider fruit a dessert option) at only two of the ala carte restaurants. The Mexican restaurant offered the most options but even they only had fruit for dessert. Rob just pushed the plate away when it was set in front of him.
The buffet didn’t have anything that he enjoyed but ice cream. As with many celiacs, too much dairy bothers him, so he couldn’t even have too much ice cream. *Ice cream is something to watch out for in the Caribbean because it may have gluten containing ingredients. We recommend to ask someone what’s about the ingredients of each flavor.
*As a side note: fruit and salad are not items that Rob typically eats a lot of when visiting Caribbean resorts. It is his personal choice because of washing practises. While resorts assure us that all food is washed in safe water, Rob does not take the risk of contracting a parasite due to undercooked or raw food that contains bacteria that our gut is not accustomed to. You may notice in our photo content on our social accounts, that most of Rob’s meals contain cooked meat or vegetables. Again, this is a personal preference for his gut health.
We acknowledge that Rob may be a tough customer when it comes to his gluten-free experience, but we trust his many years of travelling as a celiac. He has learned, sometimes the hard way, what to eat and not to eat while travelling to certain destinations.
DO WE RECOMMEND THIS RESORT?
We recommned this resort if are looking for good value for money, but we were left wanting more. The Grand Sunset Princess is a beautiful property in the Quintana Roo Penninsula of Mexico, that offers a selection of pools, a soft sand beach and two sister resorts on either side of her called the Princess Riveria and the Platinum Yucatan Princess, which is adults only. Guests have access to all three resorts depending on your room type. We stayed in a Laguna Villa Suite for our visit, which came with a few perks such as: no charge for cabanas at our pool, our own conceirge, our own private area on the beach, premium alcohol at no additional charge, and a 25 minute massage at the spa for each person. It was a bonus that if one person did not want the massage, it was transferrable to the other person, allowing them a free 50 minute massage. YES PLEASE!
This resort is known for it’s array of swim up rooms, which are close to the main pool/bar area and convenient to be a part of the main pool activities, afternoon siestas in the room and seeing monkeys walk about. Deer were also spotted in the early mornings, as well as other wildlife that inhabits the resort.
If you choose the Grand Sunset Princess as your next vacation destination, we recommend that you contact the reservations desk via email before your trip at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that you require gluten-free dining. They should respond, letting you know the process, which should be; when you arrive and checkin, you can visit the conceirge desk to print you out a Spanish gluten-free restaurant card to present to the chef at the buffet and restaurant staff. You can also print off or save your own Spanish restaurant card from celiactravel.com to your phone and present it when you dine.
We also recommend to make your dinner reservations soon after you arrive at the resort. The resort was very busy during our stay, so depending how many are in your travel party, you may encounter difficulty making dinner reservations.
Happy gluten-free travels!
Disclaimer: This review is based on the experience that we had at this resort. Food options and choices may vary depending on additional dietary preferences and allergies. The Gluten-Free Food Program and Gluten-Free Finder website are not responsible or liable for any recommendations made by the writer or the resident celiac.