The Grand Mirage Resort & Thalasso Bali on the peninsula north of Nusa Dua looked like a stunning, all-inclusive resort. It was our first stop in Bali and the lobby, with its vista of a man-made waterfall falling into an empty courtyard, seemed to capture the tranquility of the island. Marissa and I had once stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun and I flashed back to that romantic weekend, albeit my friend’s wedding. I was looking forward to recreating that romance in Bali. It was when we saw our room and the beach at the Grand Mirage Resort that I realized that the image of paradise was, in fact, a mirage.
The beach was crowded with guests and touts and jet skies flying past speedboats, which dragged parasails and these contraptions that looked like air mattresses that had taken to flight.
My wife said something to me.
She yelled it over the noise of a shrieking child and the ambiance of speedboats.
“I said he better not let go.” We watched the mattress-rider sail thirty feet in the air. The shadows of coral were directly below him. It would have truly been a postcard if the crowds had disappeared and the boats’ motors stopped buzzing in my head.
I leaned back in my lounge chair; the plastic arm snapped. I searched for a replacement lounge. Though the lounges were mostly empty, the towel people–those who place their towels down for the entire day, but never come back to use the lounge–had gotten to them first.
Though the Grand Mirage was not a classic honeymoon resort, it did seem like a nice place to take a family, especially for parents whose kids like to take over the pool with their balls and floatation devices. (The resort had plenty more kid-friendly entertainment: nightly shows at the Rama Theater, kayaks, catamarans, windsurfing, playgrounds, game rooms, tennis courts, and giant chess pieces set up around the property.)
Marissa and I, however, did have one incredible honeymoon moment at the Grand Mirage: The resort’s magnificent Thalasso Spa. We were given the French Aromatherapy treatment in the Cinnamon Room. True to its name, the room was lined with cinnamon sticks. After two strong masseuses finished our sensual rubdowns, we bathed in a tub filled with red and pink petals and emerged slick with the oils and bathing salts.
The Grand Mirage tried hard, but things just fell flat. The staff was friendly, but inattentive. I spent one afternoon at the beach trying to wave down a waiter, all of whom avoided the sand. I felt like I was doing a lot of cheek-turning during my three-day stay. When we arrived in Bali, nobody was at the airport to pick us up. When they hosted us for a special dinner, no one on staff knew about it. “Eat from the buffet,” one of the waiters kept telling us as if he were the only one who was annoyed. One morning, I called the front desk to inquire about yoga. It took three people to understand me. Finally, someone had a solution:
“Go downstairs and check the information board.” Where did this employee work at the hotel? Yup, the INFORMATION desk.
And though we had the all-inclusive option (minus lobster, prawns, and good beer), I only enjoyed one meal, which was at the resort’s fine-dining Italian restaurant.
“What’s the dress code?” I asked the lady at reservations.
“There’s no dress code, but dress nice,” she told me.
We arrived to find all of the guests in shorts and t-shirts. The waiter seated us at a table covered with a sauce-stained tablecloth. The house wine was terrible. (A much finer bottle that we could have paid for stood between us. My wife gave me those eyes that said, please let’s splurge. I can’t drink this crap.) One little kid at the table beside us would not stop shrieking.
“Can we move to the back room?” I asked.
“No. All of those tables are reserved,” the waiter informed me. (There were four empty tables in the back room. Not one was used in the ninety minutes we dined there.)
I would have gladly put up the money for that shrieking child’s Sea Walker activity.
On the plus side, my lamb chops were delicious.
“How’s the pasta?” I asked Marissa.
Her eyes said Olive Garden, and my taste buds confirmed.
Disclaimer: The Grand Mirage hosted my stay, but all reviews are honest.