Our trip to Cancun

Our Visit to Club Med, Cancun 2002 This is a trip report about our recent trip to Club Med Cancun. This was our second trip to this Club (and about our 10th CM trip overall). Before the report, I should point out that my wife and I had decided to go to Cancun during this specific week and contacted our primary Travel Agent, Hal Segal/LeBeach Club. It turned out that this specific week was "Salsa Week" at CM Cancun, and Hal's "SalsaCruise.com" was also offering additional salsa lessons and activities for an additional charge. Since the cost, with the additional activities, was still less than we had expected to pay, we signed up for the extra activities. We figured that if the weather was bad or the wind too low for sailing, we could participate in the Salsa activities. As it turned out, the weather and wind was great so we didn't get involved in the activities, but the other people who did seemed to enjoy the lessons and dancing. But, since we really did not get involved, I won't really comment much about the Salsa activities.



We made our own airline arrangements, using Delta Skymiles points. Both flights were on time, comfortable and we had no significant problems or delays. On our return trip, other airlines had long lines for check-in, but at Delta/Aero-Mexico we were second in line and got through in very quickly.

The only problem at all was on arrival in Cancun when multiple flights arrived at one time, causing a long delay for Customs processing. Still, it took "only" one hour from flight arrival until we were headed to the Club Med. There was construction in the Customs area, so perhaps things will get better.


The Cancun Airport
The Cancun Airport


Club Med Cancun layout
Club Med Cancun layout


A brief review and description of the Cancun Club Med is probably in order. The club was the first of the modern Cancun resorts and has the best possible location on the Southwest end of the beach strip. It has a nice beach which is protected from the heavier surf.


Around a rocky point is the reef and snorkeling area. It extends about 500 yards, then around the next point is the windsurfing and sailing beaches. These are a bit rocky and not good for swimming, but great for sailing and windsurfing (water shoes recommended). The club probably has a total of more than a mile of beach which wraps around three sides of the resort, the forth side is a lagoon area, opening into the larger Cancun lagoon.


The CM is rather unique in Cancun in that there is significant acreage and the grounds are lushly landscaped and there is no feeling of being at all crowded. Looking at the other resorts while walking on the beach makes it plain how different the CM really is. All buildings are 2 or 3 stories high and are barely visible above the trees surrounding the buildings. The club is getting a little old. Although it underwent a renovation a couple of years ago, the mechanical components are aging. We did have an A/C problem on arrival which was quickly fixed, but we heard of other problems which were not so quickly corrected. Since the club was completely full this week, there were no rooms available to move affected people to. It was kept clean and well maintained; housekeeping was good. There was also very significant and noticeable security. There were guards at every building and maintenance people were accompanied by security guards when entering any room.

Example of the lush landscaping
Lush landscaping
We go on vacation to sail, windsurf, snorkel, eat, and do some sightseeing. We go to Club Meds because we have found that they consistently have the best of these facilities. Cancun did not disappoint. Although CM/Cancun offers a good Tennis program, water-skiing, beach and pool activities, an active bar scene, and significant late-night activities, we did not participate in these pastimes, so I won't attempt to report on them. I'll break the rest of this report into facilities, sports, food, entertainment activities and general comments.


Facilities:

The club is showing it's age a bit, but is generally well maintained. Everything is kept clean and the grounds are well landscaped and groomed. The rooms are fairly basic, and not large. They do now all include cable TV (about 20 channels) and telephones (although we had problems with their message system). We had been rather specific about the type of room we wanted and where we wanted it and got everything except one part... We had requested a king bed and got two twins. Not really a big problems for a couple who have been married over 30 years... I knew what to do. I moved the night table out of the way, and pushed the two beds together. From then on the maid made it up as one large bed... It just had a 'crack' down the middle. Many of the common areas are open air but there was a nice breeze most of the time. If you sat in the middle of the 'theater' it could get stuffy though. And the seats in the theater!! Some of the most uncomfortable I've experienced. The metal 'bleachers' in the back of the theater were more comfortable. The main restaurant is air conditioned but it could not really keep up with the heat of the cooking and the full crowd so the after dinner coffee was just not comfortable. Guest (GM) rooms are in 2 and 3 story buildings scattered around the grounds. Some people complained about having to walk to much but we didn't find it a problem. The reception, bar, pool, main restaurant, theater, boutique and most other 'offices' are all in a central area.


Sports.

As I said, we enjoy sailing, windsurfing, and snorkeling. Although not great, the wind was sufficient to both windsurf and sail every day.


There was a good selection and quantity of windsurfing gear, although I did have to settle for a big 'beginner' board a couple of times instead of my preferred 328. They had plenty of trainer sails, but a little limited in the larger sizes and only the heavier Aerotech rigs. Equipment was reasonably well cared for and the GOs were very helpful and friendly. (One of the GOs, Kenny, was at Columbus Isle last Sept. when we were there, so we got off to a fast start.) There is a very good area for teaching beginning windsurfing and the instructor GOs seemed to do a good job. If you are interested in learning to windsurf, this would be a good choice, but take water shoes.
Windsurfing Area
Windsurfing area



Club Med Sailing area: Hobie Waves and Lasers
Sailing Area


The sailing area has about 6 or 7 Hobie Waves ('safe' catamarans) and three Lasers (small, exciting, mono-hulls). These were some of the best maintained boats I've seen at any resort.


Grek, the chief of sailing, immediately fixed any problems and took obvious pride in "his" boats. While I would much prefer Hobie 16s or 15s, the Waves are good safe 'resort' boats that don't take a lot of maintenance, are easy to handle, and hard to tip over. The Lasers, on the other hand, are much more exciting and are intended for more experienced sailors. I would have liked to see a larger 'sailable' area, but it was enough. Although the club was completely full this week, we seldom had to wait for a boat, although partly because we could take either a Hobie or the Lasers.


The main problem with sailing and windsurfing was caused by the fact that the snorkeling area just off the Club Med is the best in the Cancun area. Several (many!) tour operators run snorkeling tours and these tours use wave-runner or similar size boats to shuttle people to/from the snorkeling area. This means that every couple of minutes a stream of from 4 to 15 small boats, driven by people who have never done this before, cut right through the middle of the sailing and windsurfing area. These people blindly follow the boat in front of them and most have no idea that sailboats (and windsurfers) are less maneuverable and have the right of way. A few larger boats also go through, making rather large wakes.

I can certainly understand why they go there to snorkel though. Along the southern edge of the resort is about a 1/2 mile of very good snorkeling reefs, just a few yards from the shoreline. The tours only use about 100 yards of the reef, and they do appear to feed the fish so there is a large concentration of fish there. The Club Med Snorkel facility is toward the other end of the reef area. The Club provides equipment and leads 'guided tours' through the reefs in that area. We had our own equipment so we went in the Club Med snorkeling area, in the 'snorkel tour' area and in between. It was in the 'in between' area where I saw a large Morey and a very nice Leopard ray glided peacefully right below us.

Snorkeling area with the little boats
Snorkeling area


Food

It seemed strange being served Mexican food by a chef named Francois. I didn't know whether to say 'gracias' or 'merci'. We have found that Club Meds that cater to primarily North American GMs don't have quite the quality of food as the more international locations, and this was true at Cancun. The food was good, and we certainly ate our share, but the spices and variety was a little lacking. We made liberal use of the various sauces and 'add-ons' and did quite well.

Main restaurant: central hot food area
Main Restaurant

As usual, each night was a different emphasis or theme, and we enjoyed them all. I did have one complaint: the salad chef appears to be very fond of green pepper and it was in almost all prepared salads. I don't like Green Pepper and it doesn't appear to like me. There are two restaurants and both operate in buffet style. The main restaurant has the normal (for Club Med) group tables for 6 to 10 people. La Palapa is a smaller open air restaurant on the beach next to the windsurfing area. It has tables for 2 or 4 and you must make reservations ahead to eat there. We ate there twice and enjoyed it.

Breakfast and lunch was at the main restaurant, with a late lunch available at La Palapa. Food at La Palapa was comparable to the main restaurant, perhaps slightly better, but the salads were not as overloaded with green pepper. There was less selection at La Palapa, but still plenty to choose from. It did have one other significant advantage: it had a selection of good ice creams while the main restaurant only had a 'soft-serve' machine. As mentioned earlier, the air conditioning was not quite up to the requirements at the main restaurant.

La Palapa restaurant
LaPalapa Restaurant


Entertainment

In our previous Club Med visit and this one we have observed an apparent effort to upgrade the entertainment. While not as elaborate as some of the shows at Columbus Isle last year, there seemed to be more emphasis on entertaining with a quality show rather than the prior rather childish affairs. Because of the salsa activities at the club this week, there were some emphasis on dancing, and some of it was very good. The current Chef de Village was Gus, from Australia. Gus is a very talented person, and participated in most of the evening entertainment and many other activities. He did a very creditable job singing and an excellent job on the fiddle actually playing "When the Devil came to Georgia". There was the highest participation in the Crazy Signs dancing that I have seen in a long time. Perhaps it was due to the salsa crowd, or just that the club was completely full. In any case, it was good to see. Although we did not check it out, I understand the disco was very active and the foam party one night seemed to receive high marks from the participants.


Other

We took one off-club excursion, the one to Chitzen Itza, the largest Mayan ruins on the Yucatan peninsular.
Chitzen Itza Pyramid
Pyramid


It was a 2 hour bus ride and the GO tour guide helped pass the time, then gave everyone a chance to catch up on some sleep (we had to get up at 6:15). We had a very nice tour of the ruins on a rather hot and dry day, keeping to the shade whenever possible. Anyone with the slightest interest in archeological sites should take this tour.

But one of the best parts came after the tour. After 2 and 1/2 hours in the hot and dry site we were all very hot, sweaty, and tired. Rather than get into a bus and ride two hours back, we walked about 100 yards outside the site entrance to the Club Med Chitzen Itza archeological village. There we changed into swim suits and jumped in the pool for a perfect refreshing cool-off. In a little while a very nice buffet lunch was served, complete with entertainment. After lunch and time to relax around the pool, we re-boarded the bus and headed back, stopping at a 'Mexican art' store (souvenirs) and to visit a historical town and church. The Club Med village facilities turned a run of the mill, hot tour into a most enjoyable and memorable experience.

Club Med Archological Village
Club Med Village


Other Comments

While Gus (the CV) was very talented, it seemed that he made a better Chief of Animations (entertainment) than Chief of the Village. We never saw Gus around the village during the day talking to the GMs; although were at the sailing and windsurfing areas almost continually, we never saw Gus in that part of the club. He did not seem to 'mingle' at all, and I see this as an important CV function.

Cancun is known as and promoted as a young singles crowd resort, and there were plenty of young people and lots of singles. Couples and older people should not be concerned that they will be out of place. There were plenty of people in their 40s (and older) and everyone seemed to have a good time. I would suggest that Cancun is a good resort for active people of any age or martial status. Inactive people or those who have trouble walking distances might want to consider a more compact resort. I would guess that about 80% of the GMs were from North America, 5-10% were from Latin America, and the rest from Europe, so there was a very strong North American emphasis, for better or worse, depending on your viewpoint.

Contact me via mike@hammocktree.us