Authenticity. It’s the buzzword of the hour and one that French designer Marc Hertrich seemed hyper aware of when he set out to add a little pizzazz to Club Med Cancun Yucatan. As a fifth generation cabinetmaker, Hertrich already had a sense of where to dig in—plunging into Mexico’s vibrant cultural heritage and exploring the work of local artisans. The result was a $14 million renovation with a keen sense for locality, family and festivity. “This is luxury by Club Med,” Hertrich says of the 60 new beachfront family accommodations. “It’s small, livable, convenient spaces that explore the colorful side of Mexico. We’re [sharing] the history and legends of the country in a modern way.”
the big reveal
Hertrich’s “modern Mexico” played out in numerous ways over the course of my 3-day stay, including the ribbon cutting for the new Aguamarina family rooms, kicked off by a traditional Mayan ceremony. Chanting, drumming and dancing captured the evening at the tip of the property, with Aguamarina’s contemporary design and the Caribbean Sea as backdrops.
For a resort spread over 22 acres, the atmosphere was minimal and intimate, despite the large crowd gathered at dusk to mark the occasion. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the intimate “big moment” really gave nod to Club Med’s knack for personalizing the resort experience. As an all-inclusive resort, this isn’t always an easy task to navigate.
Much of it has to do with the resort’s certified Gentil Organisateurs, known resort-wide as GOs, whose sole purpose is to strut around the property with a smile, shake things up when needed, and flex their know-how. At the onsite sports schools, this may mean jumping up on a wakeboard to help your client’s 12-year-old with his lesson, or teaching a family the art of the trapeze. In this moment, however, the GOs seem as lost as everyone else in the Mayan rhythms (to be redeemed at a later time, when their artistic flair hit center stage in resort-wide theatrical vignettes on Mexico’s history that emptied out into the new part-lounge, part-nightclub, Maya Lounge).
After the ceremony, we took advantage of the breeze rolling off of the Caribbean and strolled down to Las Cazuelas, a recently renovated upscale restaurant built on stilts for panoramic views of the sea. Serving local specialties in buffet form by day, the restaurant gets serious about Mexican cuisine at night. Farther down the path, the newly opened La Estancia, explored on our last night, offers Argentinean fare and an extensive wine cellar. All three of the resort’s restaurants are incredibly child-friendly, but the newly renovated La Hacienda corrals a section just for babies called the Baby Corner, where parents will find food adapted to little ones.
We asked Jacqueline Manuel, account director for the Eastern U.S. region, the secret to their success in capturing those who choose Club Med Cancun over a number of other hotels and resorts in the area. Her answer? Options.
“Club Med stands apart from most brands, including other all-inclusive resorts, for the multitude of activities and sports that are included in the per person rate. Families and couples can enjoy activities without any additional out-of-pocket costs, allowing them the opportunity to go home with more memories than just a beach and pool.”
One of the more popular activities is a brush with the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world. Guests can snorkel straight off the beach to explore it; we did it and it was refreshing to see the color pops below the surface that reefs have always been known for.
Manuel also mentions diversity in family accommodations, from the 5 Trident Jade Luxury Space, located in a specialized concierge building, to Aguamarina’s down-to-earth take on the Mexican hacienda. For reference, I’m pretty sure fireworks went off in my Aguamarina room moments before I entered, or so it seemed, dousing the walls with red, orange, yellow, blue and turquoise, and the rest of the room in a subtle “afterglow” of yellow, purple, green and pink. The room, with separate adult and child spaces, was also surprisingly green-friendly, featuring sensors that turned off the lights and air conditioning accordingly.
All Club Med rooms seem to adapt to the guest, a pretty impressive feat for families of various dynamics. Parents of newborns and up to 23 months old, for instance, can receive the Club Med Baby Welcome—including a baby bed, bath, changing table, high chair, bottle warmers, strollers, etc.—all factored into the initial price. A Pajama Club service, for ages 4 to 10, gives parents a night off to enjoy the onsite nightlife. Babysitting services are also available, allowing parents to be couples again and enjoy such perks as the themed treatments—from “discover” and “embrace” to “harmony”—of the Club Med Spa by Comfort Zone.
The resort’s sports schools provide fitness, tennis, circus and a number of other lessons to all age groups, and the Petit Club Med for 2- and 3-year-olds, which complements pre-teen and teen clubs, offers arts and crafts, theater, games and sports activities. λ
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue archive): Top Family Resorts (September 2014)