29Club Med, Cancun
NOTE: I have posted this review on Trip advisor but there is so much “noise” there I thought I’d post it here also. If you want to read a nicely formatted version with relevent photos included, it is on my personal web page: www.hammocktree.us/ms/trips.html
The weather was still cold in the Atlanta area and we wanted to get in some sailing, so we decided a trip to the Cancun Club Med was in order. The last couple of times we went to the Cancun Club Med, they had one or two Hobie 16s available, apparently about the only Hobie 16s left in the Caribbean. We much prefer the Hobie 16 over the other common catamarans, the Hobie Waves and Getaways, because it is faster, more responsive, and just plain more fun for experienced sailors.
I made the land arrangements through Donny at Mill Travel and, as usual, he provided prompt response, useful information, and overall good service. I made air arrangements through Delta. Transfers to and from the airport and the Club Med were included and provided via Club Med.
Getting there and back
The flights were on time and comfortable. About two weeks prior to the trip, Delta offered an upgrade to first class at a very attractive cost, so we took advantage of that. First class travelers on international flights are entitled to the use of the Delta Sky Club facilities and we have found that they provide a very nice breakfast while we are awaiting flight time, so we leave home a little early to allow time for such a visit.
The main problem on the outbound trip was the transfer to the Club Med: we could not find the Club med representative. The Cancun transportation area is a very hectic area in any case, but there was no one there with a Club Med sign. We asked several other drivers and coordinators and they said the Club Med rep. should be there, exactly where we were looking. After about 20 minutes with no success, a local taxi driver came to our rescue and called Club Med. There seemed to be some confusion, but after some discussion we were told that the Club Med rep., wearing a green shirt, should be there soon. Sure enough, she appeared about a minute later. I don’t know where she had been, but she was not anywhere that we could find her. In general, Club Med needs to completely revamp the airport reception/transportation process. We had been through the process several times (always with problems) and still had issues: I can imagine what a first time Cancun visitor would think.
The return trip went better. The only problem on this leg was the complete unintelligibility of the gate announcements at our gate. We were sort of at the end of a hall with a lot of noise and echoes and could not understand but about 10% of the announcements. Fortunately, the gate agents realized this and held up signs indicating what group should be boarding: pre-board, premier, zone-1, etc. This simple move was a virtual life saver.
On our return to Atlanta, immigration/passport control was quick and easy and our bags had just come out on the carousel as we arrived to pick them up, so we were through the airport in almost record time.
Around the Village
There had been a few changes since our last visit 1.5 years ago, but nothing that affected us very much. There was construction of a new building along the sailing beach that included a new swimming pool and patio area between it and the existing building on that beach. We were told that this pool would be geared toward the families and kids to relieve the crowding of the current main pool area in the village center. One of our GO friends told us that the village was essentially 100% full the week we were there and it did seem busier than usual to us.
The beach to the northeast of Club Med appeared about the same as previously, with continuous resorts as far as the eye could see.
The first few days there was quite a bit of seaweed (Sargassum) washing up on this beach and the resorts had men out raking and cleaning up the seaweed, but it still tended to accumulate and, after a day or so, smell rather bad. Although we took almost daily beach walks, it was difficult to walk on this beach as it was either steeply angled down toward the water, or very soft sand that was difficult to walk on.
There were some minor updates to the village center area, with a stage and decorative cover that made it more comfortable to sit in this area in the daytime. The stage (between the bar and restaurant) was used each evening for some entertainment before, and sometimes after, the main show in the theater.
As usual, we were in the Opalo building. We request this building because it is about mid-way between the village center and the sailing beach, so it is convenient for us.
Our room was a standard one and, being on the first/ground floor, had a large patio area at the rear. Our view was only of some mangroves about 50 feet away and, during the day, the floor of the patio was too hot to walk on barefoot, but it was a good place to dry our clothes after a day at the beach. There were no major changes from previous visits, but the room was maintained well and clean and the air conditioning kept the temperature comfortable, although it did not seem to dehumidify very well.
A representative of the native wildlife, a 10 foot+ crocodile, did show up one day and take up a position on a platform of the Opalo building that is about 6 inches above the lagoon water level. We have seen the crocodile on previous visits, but he seems to have grown some. The Club Med water ski activity operates in the same lagoon, sharing it with this, and possibly other, crocodiles.
There were various minor changes such as some large “CANCUN2018” signs behind the stage and on the beach. We wondered what they would do in 2019, just change the 8 to a 9? A new feature this year was the use of small RFID chips attached to the required bracelet that also acted as a key for out room door. They were just in the process of implementing its use when charging purchased items, such as good wine.
There were some minor changes to the dining (and drinking) scene. The restaurant next to the sailing beach had (once again) been renamed and was now “Taco Arte”. Both it and the adjoining bar had been updated/changed somewhat, largely, I suspect, to accommodate the increased number of guests.
We frequently had breakfast at Taco Arte since it was a bit closer to our room and also allowed us to check out the conditions at the sailing beach. Taco Arte is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but requires a reservation for dinner.
The main restaurant, The Hacienda, is at the center of the village and is open for all meals with no reservations required. It offers the largest selection of food at each meal but can get a bit noisy with all the people, especially kids. There is one large room reserved for adults only that does help.
The third restaurant, The Estancia, is a takeoff on an Argentine steak house and the specialty is, of course, steaks. The Estancia is only open for dinner and requires a reservation.
We dined at all three restaurants, including dinner at both “reservations required” restaurants. The steaks at Estancia were good, but not like a true Argentine steakhouse (like “El Gaucho” in Aruba). The service was above average, but not stellar and there was some confusion in charging for the wine. Dinner in the Taco Arte was a little different, with a slightly strange menu and procedure, but the food was good. The service was a bit spotty: for example, I wanted to order a bottle of wine but our “waiter” did not come back around until time for dessert. The Hacienda had a different theme each evening, so each night of the week had a different selection to choose from. It is all buffet style, but there are multiple serving stations where the chefs are preparing and serving plates to order.
We ate most dinners at the Hacienda, in the adult’s room, and most evenings had one or two GOs join us at our table, which we welcomed. (We always took a table for four, although there were just two of us, for just this reason.)
A new feature that had just opened was a wine bar, La Bodega. It is located in a space below the Hacienda restaurant that was formerly a “teen club” and faced the lagoon. It is open-air and there was usually a nice breeze keeping it cool but on one visit a thunderstorm was passing by and the wind and rain intruded quite a ways into the space, getting a couple of patrons slightly wet and preventing the use of some tables.
La Bodega operated like a standard wine bar, offering quality wines by the glass and bottle. Prices varied some, but the mid-range prices were about $10 per glass or $40 per bottle. With each order, glass or bottle, came a very nice cheese and sausage platter. It was very good, but really overkill for two people just having a glass of wine each. It was apparent that La Bodega had just opened as they were going through some “growing pains”: they did not have their procedures figured out and the staff were getting in each other’s way and forgetting to do key things. On our first visit we had to go looking for someone so we could get a check and pay up. Some people were going upstairs, getting a plate of food from the restaurant, and then bringing it down to enjoy with some wine in the relatively quiet and peaceful La Bodega. They offered several wine and whisky tastings during the week but the prices for the tastings seemed rather high, with a French wine tasting coming in somewhere close to $100. (All prices are quoted in Mexican pesos so I’m doing rough conversions here.)
We go to Cancun mainly for sailing. In past visits they had always had at least one or two Hobie 16s, a relatively high-performance boat that is fun to sail for the more experienced sailors. The other Club Med villages have stopped using the Hobie 16s in favor of the less expensive and easier to sail Hobie Waves and Getaways, so we go to Cancun to sail the 16s. This time there were three Hobie 16s, but they were all hauled up on the beach with something (different) wrong with each of them. One had a bad place in a hull and the other two had different problems with rigging. We suggested to the GOs (and even the Chief of the Village when he visited the sailing area) that the pieces of the boats could be dissembled and reassembled so as to make at least one, and probably two, usable boats. Whether the GOs felt they just did not have the knowledge and skills to do this, or they just did not want to bother, I don’t know, but it meant that we were stuck with sailing the small/simple Waves for our visit. On our last visit to the Turkoise village Susan and I helped one of the GOs (“Pineapple”) do this very operation: we took apart two “broken” Hobie Getaway’s and made one perfectly functional one. It is not a difficult process. From the GO’s perspective, “fixing” the Hobie 16s would have taken some time and effort and would have resulted in at least one more boat on the water to keep track of, but we talked to at least two other couples who had come to sail the 16s and were very disappointed they were not available. This will definitely influence our decision whether to return to Cancun.
The sailing conditions were generally fairly good, although we didn’t even bother getting wet a couple of days because of the light wind. There were 6 and sometimes 7 Waves available and a full village, so we frequently had to wait for a boat, but usually not too long. The GOs did look out for us, getting us into boats as quickly as they could because they knew we would take care of ourselves. The best wind was on the afternoon of our last day as a large thunderstorm took a long time to approach the area. The wind went from almost calm in the morning to a good 15 – 20 knots shortly before we decided the storm and the lightning was getting a bit too close for our comfort. We retreated to the bar at Taco Arte and watched the more brave (foolish??) sailors continue for a while longer.
One thing that impacted the sailing for the last three days was a major invasion of seaweed (Sargassum). It had been piling up on the main Cancun beach, but the wind shifted more out of the south (instead of east) and that blew the seaweed into the sailing area.
The seaweed layer was about 4 – 6 inches thick and you had to wade through it to get to the sailboats tied to their buoys. The first day of the seaweed invasion there was not much wind so we did not bother wading through the mess. The second day there was slightly less seaweed and the tide was lower, making it easier to get to the boats so we sailed some. The third “seaweed day” the staff were starting to clean it up some, but it was also starting to rot, creating an odor and discoloring the water. We held our noses and waded through it to the boats. On the fourth day, our last day, there was no wind in the morning, as noted above, but we could not pass up the good afternoon wind, seaweed or not. The staff had cleaned out more of the mess, but there was still a lot. The water was a murky brown and hot from the decomposition and the lack of water circulation because of the seaweed. Definitely not the best sailing conditions! After sailing and wading through the mess we made it a point to rinse off well using a shower or hose.
Entertainment was a combination of normal GO shows and some outside “talent” that was brought in. Several evening there were local bands on the stage prior to and during dinner.
The GO shows included quite a bit of participation by the circus GOs and the shows were generally well choreographed and well-rehearsed. The entertainers brought in for the shows were geared more toward the younger crowd with acts we referred to as “Mexican Hip-Hop”. Some of them did have some interesting special effects.
Most evenings, there appeared to be a family/kids show prior to the main show. Sometimes the kids participated in these shows and sometimes not. Some parents brought their “little ones” to the main show when they would have been much happier in bed at their room.
The GOs are the primary people who can make your visit fun. Since we spent most of our time at the sailing beach, we mainly interact with the sailing GOs. Except for the issue of the broken Hobie 16s, the sailing team did a good job. Paul (Chief of sailing, from Haiti), Reginal (Haiti), Emanuel (Mexico), and Rodrigo (Brazil) worked very well as a team and kept things moving smoothly. They were slightly understaffed as one sailing team member, a young woman, had an accident a couple of days before our arrival and was not able to participate again until our last couple of days. Sometimes the GOs seemed a bit disorganized and weren’t paying attention to something, but then they would pick up on it and things would smooth out again.
They realized fairly quickly that we knew how to sail and that we would cooperate with them as much as possible, so they helped us as much as they could to get us a boat quickly when we asked for one.
We also had dinner with and talked to several other GOs, including Francisco, who was a sailing GO on our last visit and now worked in reception.
The Chief of the Village was Abdel, from France, I believe. He may have been gone the first couple of days as we didn’t see him until about the 3rd or 4th day but we only saw him very occasionally after that. We saw him once at the sailing beach (when we complained about the Hobie 16s) and at a couple of evening shows but never welcoming guests entering the main restaurant, as is customary. As we were preparing to depart the village, he was in the departure area for about 15 minutes while we waited for the taxi and other people to arrive. He seemed to be avoiding us as he talked to several other people but did not come where we were standing. I don’t know if he was afraid that we would complain about the Hobie 16s again, or if he did not want to talk to non-French speaking guests, or if it was just an accident, but he certainly did not appear to be friendly and outgoing toward us.
We had fun, got in some sailing, relaxed, ate too much, and made some new friends. However, without Hobie 16s for our use, there is very little to draw us back to Club Med Cancun. We will keep looking to see if we can find a resort (Club Med or not) with the kinds of boats we like to sail.