Oasis Sens rolls out new LGBT friendly red carpet

For our three weeks in Cancun, we stayed at the Oasis Sens (formerly known as the Sens Del Mar and the Grand Oasis Playa); as of January 4, 2013, this resort officially markets itself as LGBT friendly

Oasis Sens rolls out new LGBT friendly red carpet

For our three weeks in Cancun, we stayed at the Oasis Sens (formerly known as the Sens Del Mar and the Grand Oasis Playa); as of January 4, 2013, this resort officially markets itself as LGBT friendly. No children are allowed at this quiet, romantic property, but topless women are welcomed with open arms (not literally, of course). The property has a lot going for it: a fair price, conveniently located in the hotel zone, on a white sand beach with gorgeous turquoise waters, unlimited food and beverages, lots of pools and an extremely kind staff.

According to Delta Vacations, the Oasis Sens is a three star resort. It is typical of the hotels which the Mexicans call “five stars.” If you want the American version of a five-star resort, you will want something like the Le Blanc Spa Resort or the Ritz-Carlton Cancun.

Our room was one of the upgraded Oasis Loves U VIP Suites; for me, this was important because this category includes Internet Wi-Fi, a deal-breaker whenever I travel. Those who used the business center said they had to pay per hour for the Internet; this would have bankrupted me. Our suite was hideously large – the length from the front door to the end of the deck was larger than the width of my house in Michigan. The deck sported a private plunge pool that inspired the question, “Can fat people go skinny dipping?” Our suite faced the ocean, and the evening breeze was magnificent; we preferred it to the air-conditioner. Throughout the night, the rhythmic sounds of crashing waves were supremely decadent.

Oasis Sens is sparkling clean; janitorial staff worked all day long keeping glass walls and marble floors impeccably bright. Our room had corrosion spots in the marble where former guests dropped food and drink but were too lazy to clean up their mess; acidic substances like vinegar, lemon, lime, orange and tomato juice destroy marble. Included in the room rate are house wines, mixed drinks and beers. We saw many guests who spent the day chain-smoking, drinking alcohol and lying in the sun without any breaks. Some inebriated guests had to be carried back to their rooms by their friends toward the end of the day. Cleaning staff worked constantly to sweep away the cigarette butts thrown to the patio by chain-smokers; some of those guests treated the entire pool areas as their personal ashtray.

The Sens has nine food-service areas, all which are called “restaurantes” in Spanish. Three of them are snack shacks, where a limited menu of fast foods can be taken to a picnic table to be consumed. The first, called Happy Chicken, served midget-sized chicken pieces, fries, and lettuce salad from noon to 4:30; it was closed at all other hours. Guests choose chicken pieces cooked in five different ways. I preferred the “crispy” variety, which are chicken chunks fried in a tempura batter. The waiter is dressed in a straw hat and peasant costume, which is very cute. There are six picnic tables nearby, some which have a small amount of partial shade – most have full sun. It’s melanoma waiting to happen. You share the picnic table with chain-smokers who eat and smoke at the same time. The second snack shack is called Mr. Wimpy; it serves hamburgers and hotdogs from 11 am to 5:30 pm (it is closed at all other hours). I sampled a hamburger and ate half of it; it didn’t taste like any meat I was familiar with, so I decided to forego the mystery meat and stick to the more traditional “restaurantes” that served carbs. The third snack shack is called Sushi and is open from noon to 5 pm only; I don’t eat raw fish in a tropical country, so I passed on this opportunity to expand my horizons.

There are three “restaurantes” available for breakfast. The first “restaurante” listed on the information services guide is “room service.” Guests can select from a dozen or so items and have them brought to the room, wherein your bedroom is your restaurant. The second is called Benazuza and is open from 7 am to 10:30 am; it requires reservations to take breakfast there, and there was a 4 day backlog when I made my reservations. The third breakfast location is called Coba, and it is a buffet. Coba is located down a few flights of steps from the main lobby, and there is no elevator; it’s OK walking down the stairs, but climbing the 38 steps from the buffet back to the lobby floor is challenging for people like me, who have arthritis and are in dire need of extensive liposuction. Around 8 am, there is a five-minute line to be seated for the buffet, but at other hours (6:30 to 10:30 am) seating was readily available. There is a selection of tropical juices and “Anna” spumante to drink with the buffet, a fruit bar, and several basins of Mexican breakfast dishes. I took a plateful of fried potatoes, which looked extremely delicious. Unfortunately for me, they were flavored with hot sauce, and as a northern European, I am used to cuisine with extreme blandness. I believe anyone who likes spicy food and alcohol would love this breakfast buffet.

There are three lunch venues, all serving scrumptious selections, and they make the Sens worth staying at. The first, called Muerdeme Mucho (Bite me, a lot) has Mexican favorites. The fajitas are to die for, and the decor is lovely. One of their outstanding desserts, called bunuelos (fritters) is absolutely addictive; I just couldn’t get enough of them. The closest thing I can compare them to are Leonard’s malasadas in Hawaii; Muedeme’s bunuelos have a lemon-custard filling. Can you imagine the joy of staying at a resort with unlimited malasadas? This is my idea of heavenly delight. Muerdeme cannot be accessed by elevator and requires navigating a multitude of steps; it has two sections – an air-conditioned interior, and an open-air terrace. The interior has wooden tables, linen tablecloths and napkins, featuring lots of festive Mexican decorations. The terrace has plastic table and chairs, and was always filled with chain-smokers.

The second lunch venue is called Moonlight, and it serves Italian dishes. It is a great place to order pasta, which is served al dente. I live in Italy seasonally, and am a big fan of pasta; I can eat it every day, as long as it is cooked to my taste. The first time I ate pasta at Moonlight, the penne was crunchy; I remember crunching on raw macaroni as a child when we were supposed to be creating artistic pencil holders from soup cans, but I didn’t know crunchy pasta was also served at Italian restaurants. Several guests said they wanted their pasta more thoroughly cooked, and I was one of them. Moonlight has two sections, like Muerdeme; the al fresco section was always occupied by chain smokers. Each table is covered with blue or red gingham tablecloths, which remained clamped to the tables throughout the day without ever being changed. I reckon a guest with TB who coughs on the tablecloth will leave his DNA behind for everyone else who subsequently is seated thereby.

The third lunch venue, my favorite, is the Arabian-themed Shillabar. The food is mild and delicious, and served in 7 courses. Some of the awesome dishes are the foamy hummus and the chicken couscous. This is an alfresco, canvas-sail-covered patio next to the private VIP infinity pool. The bar serves a large variety of liquid delights and the ambience is enhanced by beautiful Arabic music. The marble-top tables are unusually stout, which keeps them stable in the breezy alcove. There was a hefty waiting list for seating during the first half of dining hours (which run 12:30 to 4pm daily except Monday) but arriving around 3 pm always worked to get immediate service. Regardless of our arrival time, the restaurant was tainted by chain-smokers who had no courtesy for the other diners.

For dinner, there are four choices within a 4-hour window: Muerdeme (Mexican buffet), Moonlight (Italian table service) Coba (International buffet), and premium dining at Benazuza (cuisine by celebrity chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame). The cost for dinner at Benazuza requires a cover charge within a range, depending on the hotel status of the patron. We did not try Benazuza, considering that the original Hacienda Benazuza restaurant in Sanlucar la Mayor, Spain (upon which the Oasis’ premium restaurant is fashioned) went bust. Muerdeme has a team of strolling mariachis who serenade each table with a repertoire of Latino favorites, like the Ranchera standard, Cielito lindo, the Cuban Guantanamera, the 1958 rock hit Tequila and Consuelo Velazquez’ romantic ballad Besame Mucho. Muerdeme and Moonlight have beautiful outdoor dining, with views of diamond-like stars twinkling over the romantic resort. Chain-smokers infest the dining area with their ubiquitous fetor.

Guests are shown a wine list when seated at their tables, with package prices, and there are also house wines that incur no extra charge. During our stay, Oasis Sens served Almanojo Grupo Valle Redondo’s Marbella brand wines as the house wine, available in white or red. There has been some fuss on Tripadvisor about the quality of house wines served at The Sens. As a house wine, my dear Marco, who hails from Italy, said it wasn’t bad – he rated it a 6 out of 10 as a house wine. As a DOC wine, he rated it a 4 out of 10. I don’t drink beer or wine, so I don’t have an opinion.

However, Clicerio E. Cedillo from Quequi News called Marbella and its sister brands “venemo” (poison); apparently its maker was accused of preying on the health of hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic tourists by bottling its products in filthy containers. When they took back used bottles for recycling, they allegedly re-filled them with wine without cleaning them first. According to reports, Sergio Carrillo Esquivel, Director of the Mexican FDA, shut them down last year and slapped them with a fine; their license was reinstated after they paid the fine. I’ve heard of people who often pee in bottles, so I can imagine how unsanitary bottles would be of practical concern. JNSgraphic, a TripAdvisor contributor with 4,243 posts, wrote Oasis Sens’ “house wine available by the glass is not drinkable (red comparable to wood stain).” Marbella’s bottler, Almanojo, allegedly supplied the tainted spirits to hotels all up and down the Cancun strip; I don’t know whether any of them are still serving Marbella, but it is the exclusive house wine in Oasis Sens’ restaurants.

The bus into Cancun stops in front of the Oasis Sens, and the fare is 8.5 pesos (67 cents US); you can also pay them an American one-dollar bill, but you don’t receive any change. The journey from The Sens to Market 28 takes 40 to 50 minutes, and it’s a single ride on route R2. Market 28 is the giant flea market with cheap souvenirs like Mexican blankets, sombreros and tote bags. The bus on R2 stops by Walmart, where you exit and walk about 360 yards to the market. There is also a foreign exchange booth at the market with fair conversion rates. We found a plethora of shops along the way claiming they were the celebrated “Market 28,” having names deceptively similar, like Fleamarket 28. You have to be cautious not to fall for their scam.

For people wanting to travel to more distant locales, the Sens rents very new Smart Cars for a daily fee. They hold a deposit on your charge card, of which only Visa and Mastercard are accepted, and you are responsible for a set maximum amount if there are damages to the vehicle. There are at least a dozen cars on site, and if they run out of cars, they can take inventory from one of the other Oasis properties for you. If you decide to take a car, beware of the ridiculously placed speed bumps all along the highway. If you fail to realize they are there and hit one, you can damage the car’s tire and rim, like I did; look for a road sign that says “tope” as the harbinger of doom which lies ahead.

The Sens is listed as a gay-friendly hotel, but in my experiences, all the Oasis hotels have always been super friendly to gays. The Sens has extremely courteous staff who work industriously and show great attitudes; I can’t think of any time that they were less than gracious.

My room, 190 had a million-dollar view of world-class white sand beaches on turquoise waters, but it had some drawbacks. Access to the room requires negotiating a couple of flights of stairs, and there is no elevator access to the floor whatsoever. The giant deck and refreshing plunge pool were wonderful to experience, provided the chain smokers in adjacent rooms stayed away. We had difficulty tolerating the air conditioner, because it produced air that irritated our lungs. When we opened the door wall, it was great until the chain smokers began their reign of mass pollution. As each deck is laid out one after the other, conversations held there are easily heard by surrounding guests. One guest’s conversation centered on how same sex marriage was going to destroy the sanctity of his marriage. They sat on their deck and spewed their toxins without any concern for the sanctity of the air that other people had to breathe. According to Cancer.org, “Secondhand smoke is classified as a known human carcinogen. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.”

Dealing with the smoke was not easy for us. My dear Marco found blood in his phlegm, apparently from small blood vessels that burst from excessive coughing. My eyes burned when the chain smokers fogged our air; I had to rinse my eyes in a glass of water frequently to clear the filth. All of the employees at the hotel indicated there were no smoke-free rooms or floors designated at the Sens.
Considering that there are two towers, torre A and torre B, it would be very helpful to designate one for those who have a death wish for cancer, and the second for people who prefer undefiled air. Of course, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. Research scholar Francine Cronshaw from the Latin American Institute, University of New Mexico, refers to drinking, smoking, gambling, and extramarital sexual liaisons as typical macho behaviors, and we know machismo is inextricably tied to the Mexican culture. That being said, there is also a large component of Caballerismo in the culture, requiring a real man to be protective of others; given the overwhelming evidence of harm caused by second-hand smoke, it would follow that genuine caballeros (gentlemen) would institute policies that protect innocent guests from the deadly carcinogens. It must be noted that excessive smoking is widely accepted all over Cancun, and this is not an issue isolated to The Sens or Oasis Hotels.

The greatest quality found at The Sens lies in its modesty; you are not going to have to deal with any snooty, arrogant staff here. No one is going to point at you and ridicule you for being gay or fat or black or handicapped or anything; these people are authentic and hospitable. It’s not a five star hotel by US standards, but it’s not a one-star either; it finds its place somewhere in the middle of the road and is open to a wide variety of guests who enjoy relaxation and gorgeous beaches. I like Oasis Hotels, and I find their employees to be good people. I recommend The Sens to guests who are seeking a clean, conveniently located hotel along the beach and seek a peaceful ambiance.

For more information, visit: http://senscancun.com/

Friend the author, Anton Anderssen, at http://www.facebook.com/teddybears and follow him on Twitter @Hartforth .

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