IntroductionThis is a report of out trip to Club Med, Cancun from April 18 - 25, 2004. This was our fourth trip to this Club Med, but it's been a couple of years since I did a complete report, so this one will be fairly comprehensive.
Getting there and BackArrangements were made by Hal Segal of LeBeach Club travel and, as usual, everything was very much in order. It turns out that we selected a very popular time of year to visit Cancun as the flights were full and the village was completely full for part of the time we were there. Air travel was on Delta, so we had non-stop flights from Atlanta. We had good schedules, allowing us to get in some beach time on both the first day we arrived and the day we departed. We were able to get upgrades to first class on the return flight, making it more pleasant. Flights were on time (or slightly early) both directions. We were on a Sunday - Sunday schedule, hoping to avoid some of the Saturday rush at the Mexican Customs and Immigration area, but it did not make much difference. Although there may have been fewer incoming visitors, there were also fewer Customs workers, so it still took about 20 minutes to get through the line. Once through, we picked up our bags, got outside and quickly found the Club Med representative. We were the only passengers on the van and we got to the club in about 15 minutes. On departure, airport lines were rather long, probably an hour or more for some airlines. Using the Delta Medallion line got us through the check-in in only about 10 minutes.
Check-in was very quick but since it was only about 10:15, our room was not ready yet. We waited in the main bar area where we munched on the "continental breakfast" and had some coffee while we killed 45 minutes, when the room was ready. We had requested, in order of priority: 1: A room with a king/large bed, 2: a room in the La Opera building (close to sailing and windsurfing area), and 3: a room on the 2nd or 3rd floor. Our room was on the 2nd floor of La Opera and had a king+ bed. (Actually, two double beds put together with a strip between them, but it worked OK.)
Village OverviewThe Cancun Club Med is on the southwestern end of the Cancun strip. The side facing the strip has a nice, reasonably protected beach and the other sides of the resort are bordered by the reef and then the Sailing/windsurfing areas. The village must be one of the largest Cancun resorts in terms of acreage; the entrance road winds in through about a half mile of native vegetation and landscaping. The buildings are generally dispersed with plenty of 'green space' throughout the village. There was no feeling of being in a crowd, even with the village full. The windsurfing/sailing beach is about a quarter mile long and lightly used. The village was about the first resort in Cancun and has been renovated at least once. It is not a luxurious facility at all, but is comfortable and all areas are kept clean. Most people go to Club Med for the activities, not for the room, so a clean and comfortable room is more important than luxury. There is a TV (about 15 channels in multiple languages) and a telephone. About the only fault we found was that the drains sometimes gave out a definite 'sewer gas' odor.
The Chef'de Village was Hendel, a Canadian (although you would not guess it from his appearance). We frequently saw him around the village talking to the GOs, GMs, and making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. We got to where he recognized us and greeted us when he saw us and he seemed to enjoy talking to people like this. The Chef 'de Village has many roles, but I think that getting out and talking to the GMs is a very important part of their job, so I was glad to see that Hendel made it all the way to the sailing area at least once a day, although it is the most remote part of the village. He had just gotten a new "right hand man" (sometimes called the "Chief of Animations"), Lorenzo, whom we had met at Columbus Isle last fall and he remembered us from that visit. As usual now, we ran into a number of GOs who we had met at other clubs.
The evening entertainment was rather mixed; some evenings were fun, others needed some work. One afternoon at 5:00 they had a "foam party" in the disco and it got generally good marks. We noticed that they had moved the foam party from late evening to afternoon, probably to reduce the number of bruises and such that we heard about other years. There were several late night "beach parties" at the La Palapa restaurant during the week but we didn't attend, other than to hear some of the activities from our room. There were all the normal dancing and other activities around the bar and pool areas, with some dance instruction each evening before the entertainment. I was a bit surprised that we never heard the classic "Hands Up" during any of the Crazy Signs dancing, and several of the other classics were missing.
The FoodWe go to Club Med for the activities and the food (not necessarily in that order). The last couple of visits to Cancun the food was good, but not quite up to what we expect from Club Med (a French company). This time the food had definitely improved. I don't know if Hendel had a part in this or there was some other reason, but the food did seem to be just a notch or two better. However, the salad chef still likes green pepper a little too much; it was sometimes difficult to find prepared salads without green pepper. Although the popular soft-serve ice cream machine was gone, normal ice cream was usually available in several flavors. As usual, the red wine was too warm and coffee too cool, but there were almost always different and interesting main courses and side dishes. There were numerous freshly made-to-order pasta dishes and other made-to-order plates. They had the usual great variety of breads and a good cheese board, although we tend to avoid that most of the time. The fresh fruit, including plenty of papaya, was good, but I miss the fresh pineapple that seems to be getting scarce at Club Med these days.
One change this year was at La Palapa, the open-air restaurant at the end of the resort close to the sailing area. The first time we were at the Cancun Club Med, many years ago, La Palapa offered table service for most courses, with only desert as a buffet. The last two visits, La Palapa has been all buffet style. Although it offered tables for 2, 4 or 6, the food offered was essentially the same as at the main restaurant, although with less variety. This year La Palapa was full table service for all courses and the food was different from the main restaurant, with a step up in quality. In general, I thought it was well done and a overall improvement. With a full club, reservations at La Palapa were in demand and a bit difficult to get; the club needs to find a better way for GMs to make reservations but we did enjoy our visit. Drinks (All Inclusive)
For American GMs at American sector Clubs, drinks are now included in the standard rates. This means that you can have as many drinks as you care to consume, although at peak times, the wait at the bar might slow you down a little. Although there were a lot of younger GMs there to "party", I didn't see any serious over-indulgence, although we didn't participate in some of the late-night parties. Drink quality and variety was reasonable and the bartenders were willing to make about anything requested. We probably didn't get our money's worth as we probably averaged less than one drink a day (outside of wine at dinner), but I'm sure that others more than made up for us. Sailing and Windsurfing
Sailing and WindsurfingWhen we got out of the airport we noticed the wind was blowing about 10-15 miles per hour: good for sailing and reasonable for windsurfing (more would be better). That was the lightest the wind blew all week! Everyone at the club said they had never seen the wind blow so hard so long, every day! It was great for sailing and windsurfing, although it kept the water stirred up a bit so snorkeling was not at it's best. There was a change to the windsurfing; all windsurfing activities had been moved down to the sailing area. A sail storage area had been added adjacent to the sailing shack and the old windsurfing buildings were used as a place to lie on beach lounges. Although the GOs claimed otherwise, we are pretty sure the reason for the change was to combine the sailing and windsurfing teams so as to be able to reduce the GO staff by one or two. While the new arrangement was fine for experienced windsurfers, the old layout was much better for beginners because it offered more shallow water and a better protected (from strong winds) area for getting started. We also witnessed one rather serious sailboat vs. windsurfer collision which would have been almost impossible under the old arrangement. I'd really suggest that the club reconsider this change.
The sailing team was a good bunch, headed by Nacho (from Mexico City). Once they realized we knew what we were doing, we were allowed to do about anything we wanted, including taking out a Lazer with a big sail in some of the strongest wind. ("Hey Nacho, OK if I grab a Lazer for a while?" "Sure: no worries.") There was a limited selection of mid-range windsurfer boards and the sail rigs were rather heavy, but we got along just fine. Tom, the windsurfing GO, was from Belgium and very pleasant and helpful. We had dinner at La Palapa one evening with Nacho and Tom and they had the normal interesting GO stories to tell. There were six Hobie Wave catamarans and two Lazers and there was enough wind to make the normally placid Waves rather interesting. Because of the strong wind, beginner windsurfing classes were seldom possible, and even introductory sailing sessions were sometimes curtailed. (Windsurfing lessons would still have been possible at the old windsurfing beach.) Although the sailing team was a good crew, they were a little lax on the regular boat maintenance activities. But, perhaps we were just spoiled by Grek, chief of sailing a couple of years ago who maintained (babied!) "his" boats like no one else I've seen. As always, the streams of small boats ("personal water craft") going to and from the snorkeling area cut through the sailing and windsurfing area, sometimes making things more "interesting".
SnorklingThe snorkeling in the Club Med area was somewhat restricted because of the waves and chop driven up by the wind. A number of people did get in and reported that, while reduced, the visibility was reasonable. We went in the snorkeling area where the tours go, using the little beach between La Opera and La Palapa. We found the visibility less than the last couple of times we were there and the current was pretty strong; not a major problem, but noticeable and possibly an issue for weak swimmers or those not used to snorkeling. If you're not familiar with the Cancun reefs, the best snorkeling area in Cancun is just off the club property and can be reached at several entry points between La Palapa and the club snorkeling shack. Other Cancun visitors have to take some form of boat trip to get to this area.
OtherThere were the normal other activities, including tennis (appeared to be very light participation), excursions (a lot of interest/participation), and laying on the beach. The exercise room had frequent classes of various kinds and seemed to get quite a bit of activity. The massage "tent" had been moved from the pool deck to the grassy and tree shaded area close to the water between La Opera and La Palapa, a nice improvement. While we were there they were assembling the circus equipment. It will be across the road from the La Opera building and should be operational by now. With the "totally all inclusive" program there is some kind of food and drink available just about anytime, including the late continental breakfast in the bar and snacks in the afternoon. This is especially nice for arriving GMs who get to the club hungry, but too late for one of the regular meal times.
The GMs this week were a pretty good mix. There were naturally quite a few younger (20s and 30s) GMs, but also a lot of people more our age (40s and 50s). Guys, take note, there seemed to be more unattached women than men! Probably 60-70% were from USA, 20 - 25% from Canada, a few from Mexico and other Central or South American areas, and a few from Europe.
Overall, we thought the club had improved over the last couple of visits, but perhaps we just liked Hendel's "style" in running the village.
Aerial view of the club property.
Windsurfing has been moved down to the sailing area.
Entrance road into the Club. Not your typical Cancun resort!
Main reception area
A view down the beach toward the main Cancun strip
Looking further down the beach.. nothing but huge hotels
Much different than the Club Med!
The Club Snorkel shack and snorkeling area.
Notice the wind blowing the palm trees...
The other direction from the Snorkel shack torward La Opera.
In the distance is the snorkeling area where the snorkel tours go.
The massage tents. A nice setting, but we didn't see many customers.
Old Windsurfing area. Sailing and new windsurfing area is in the distance.
La Palapa Restaurant looking cross the old windsurfing area.
Looking inside the La Palapa restaurant during the day
Hobie Wave and some Windsurfers in the water at the sailing area.
Windsurfers in Action
That's Susan closest to us headed the other way.
Main pool area.
Main bar is on the left, restaurant to the right.
The business part of the main bar.
Crazy Signs dancing in progress.
Every night before the nightly entertainment.
Central grill inside the main restaurant.
Other types of food surround this room.
One of the prepared salad tables (there are two).
Daytime desert table (evening version is more elaborate).
Susan standing next to Hendel, the Chef de' Village.
The tall guy next to Susan is Lorenzo.
Behind Lorenzo, in blue shirt is Nacho, the Chief of Sailing, and behind him is Tom, Windsurfing GO.