We love authentic Indian food but didn't expect to find it at an all-inclusive resort along the Mayan Riviera in Mexico.
However the five-star Excellence Riviera Cancun that hugs the soft, white sand of the eastern Yucatan peninsula was full of pleasant surprises for the palate and for all the other senses.
Their intimate Indian restaurant (called Basmati with a chef brought in from India) is just one of eight ethnic a la carte dining areas available for guests in a series of low-rise buildings on the immaculate 55,000 square metre property.
In a week that passed too quickly we were able to sample them all - Mexican, Asian, French, Italian, Seafood, Steak and a Pizzeria. Reservations are never required.
We expected great Mexican food but the adults-only resort clearly puts a lot of effort into creativity and authentic taste in the other venues. All the restaurants also have vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Our only complaint was with the soggy French fries at lunch. They clearly needed some input from Canada!
On arrival in the spacious modern lobby, guests are greeted with cool towels, glasses of sparkling wine and a genuine welcome from all the bilingual (English-Spanish) staff.
All the 440 air-conditioned suites at Excellence Riviera Cancun are large with full marble bathrooms, a Jacuzzi tub, large-screen satellite TV with DVD player, bathrobe and slippers, a complementary mini-bar stocked with water, juice, soft drinks and beer plus a furnished balcony or patio.
We were able to enjoy even more luxury in one of the Rooftop Terrace Suites. In addition to our oceanfront room and balcony on the 4th level (with a Jacuzzi inside and out), a staircase led to a private terrace overlooking the beach and the azure Caribbean Sea.
In addition to a comfortable sofa and queen-size sunbed there was a shower and an 8'x10' HydroSpa pool. It was big enough for several couples! It was a special treat to lie on the lounger at night and gaze up at the star-filled Caribbean sky.
The unique Rooftop Suites are part of the Excellence Club, several areas of the resort that offer a concierge service, daily hors d'oeuvres delivered to rooms and access to a private lounge with snacks and premium drinks.
All suites in this section of the resort are also supplied with a variety of premium spirits. When we arrived we looked for a bottle of single malt scotch, our favourite for sipping. The concierge who showed us to our room said he'd be right back and returned shortly with an excellent bottle.
We're not sure where he got it because none of the 10 bars scattered around the resort carried single malt. We were impressed!
The whole layout of the resort was carefully planned for maximum privacy with a style that management calls "Classic Luxury."
The lawns and gardens are well groomed and spacious. The low-density of the buildings promote a laid-back and uncrowded feeling even when the resort is full.
Six large serpentine swimming pools meander throughout the property and cover almost 20 per cent of the resort. In many of the suites you can just open the door and go for a quiet swim.
For those who prefer the adjacent beach, the amazing powdery white sand is cleaned each morning and the warm Caribbean is very inviting. You can safely walk for kilometres along the firm sand licked by the waves.
In fact the small town of Puerto Morelos is less than an hour's gentle walk south of the resort and has several great shops for Mexican souvenirs or silver (bargaining is expected).
The town also boasts its own leaning tower - a tall beachfront lighthouse that was battered by a hurricane several decades ago.
This was our second stay at one of the impressive Excellence resorts. The Spanish-owned chain is small and low-key (just three properties in the Caribbean - two in Mexico and one in the Dominican Republic - with a fourth now planned for Jamaica) but they clearly aim to be among the leaders in the upscale, adult-only, all-inclusive holiday and romance segment.
The food and beverage director even told us that part of his job is to visit top hotels and resorts around the world to be aware of culinary trends and activities that would enhance the Excellence brand.
We were naturally reluctant to fly back home after a week in this heavenly retreat but the final happy surprise was the Cancun airport, just 25 minutes from the resort.
It's large, very efficient for check-in and has a waiting area with great shopping, restaurants and one of the best duty-free areas we've ever encountered.
It even had a talented mariachi band to leave lasting musical memories as visitors with great tans and long faces headed back to northern climates.
John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax