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You may have top-tier elite status, but your mileage may still vary!

I love the Hilton brand and I’ve stayed a ton around the world at different Hilton properties. This experience was not quite up to the mark. Here are a few details of my most recent stay at Hilton Playa del Carmen, which is an all inclusive resort.

Hilton Playa Del Carmen

an airplane wing above the water

Stunning view as you land at Cancun Airport

I used my airline credits from the Hilton Aspire Card in order to fly to Cancun via Atlanta. It comes with a $250 airline credit that’s available for use per calendar year. Currently, you can earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after signing up for the card and meeting the minimum spend.

This card is loaded with benefits. One of them is the $250 resort credit, which I also used at this property. Since the card also gives one free night after approval, I used one of the free nights to book one of the many nights during my stay at the property. The card gives you automatic diamond status, which is top tier for the Hilton portfolio.

Booking the Hotel

a pyramid with a square top with Chichen Itza in the background

The visit to Chichen Itza is worth it

I used my free weekend night from the Hilton Aspire Card to book one of the nights. I booked the remaining three nights using Hilton Honors points. Also, I placed my Hilton Aspire Card on file for this booking so that I could charge any incidental expenses to the card in order to use the $250 resort credit. Here’s a list of hotels that Hilton considers as resorts for the purpose of using the resort credit.

What you need to know

a plate of food on a table

The food and service at this hotel is fantastic

Based on my experience, here are a few things you must know before booking a stay at this property.

‘New’ Hilton Property

I stayed at this property earlier during this year. It still had some of the old branding. Before Hilton took over the property, it was called The Royal. There were a few sections of the hotel that were under renovation and it looked like the property was undergoing a facelift.

Elite Status Recognition

After being greeted as a Diamond guest, I was asked to proceed to a separate section for checking in. At this moment, I got the shock of my life. The rep completing check in told us that we would owe a bill upwards of $2,000 after we finish our stay.

I was shocked, since I’d booked the stay using my Hilton Honors points and free weekend nights. I scrambled to check for the confirmation email on my phone. To my relief, I’d booked the entire stay correctly with points.

Elite Status Confusion

After a few discussions and talking to his ‘management’ on the phone, the rep apologized and then provided us with clear details about our award stay which showed a total of $0. Problem solved for now! It seems like their systems had coded this as a paid stay for some reason!

The rep said that since they were in transition from the Royal brand to Hilton, they were still not sure about a lot of elite benefits and how points can be redeemed at the property.

Room Upgrade Benefit

a person holding a cup of coffee overlooking a pool

The new room had fantastic views of the pool and the beach

One of the benefits of top tier Diamond status is that you can get upgraded based on availability. The hotel was nowhere close to full. I checked with the rep and he told us that I’d already been placed into an ‘upgraded’ room. After entering the room, we noticed that this was one of the base level rooms. We called front desk again. This time we spoke to a different person.

The rep acknowledged that ours wasn’t an upgraded room. She also acknowledged that there was some confusion about elite status benefits since the hotel was new to the Hilton portfolio. The rep apologized and told us that she’d have us moved to a room with a better view of the ocean.

Avoid Pool View Rooms

If you value privacy, then please avoid rooms that face the main swimming pool on the property. The music is pretty loud and if you want some tranquility, I’d suggest you avoid this room category.


I must commend the staff for their service. They were always attentive to any questions. They acknowledged the shortcomings because of the transition and apologized when needed. While there was a lot of confusion with regards to elite status benefits, the staff took good care at listening to and addressing my concerns.

Beach Access

The hotel has a beach that is open to the public. As a result, it does tend to get crowded on the weekend.


a buffet line of food

Taco station. Yumm!

This is an all inclusive resort. I loved the variety of options available for food and drink. FWIW, there were a lot of different options available and as a vegetarian, the staff was happy to customize dishes for me based on my dietary requirements. I also enjoyed the cold brew at the coffee shop on the property. Here’s a list of all the food and drink options on the property.

The Pundit’s Mantra

From a management perspective, I can understand how tough it must be to integrate new properties into the portfolio. Hilton’s presence globally is massive and there are always going to be a few cracks that appear. I was disappointed at the entire check in experience. A few reps seemed to know more about Hilton Honors benefits, a few knew nothing about it. While I applaud the superb attitude and service of the hotel employees, the confusion over hotel benefits was a let down.

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