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Trip Report Trip report, Club Med, Cancun

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This is a trip report on our week at the Club Méd in Cancún, Mexico, from 27 February through 6 March, 2009. We are Margie and Larry, two travelers in our mid sixties, and be both post on Fodor’s as “justretired”. The Club Med Cancún web page can be found at:
http://www.clubmed.us/cm/resorts-north-america-mexico-cancun-yucatan_p-115-l-US-v-CANC-pe-09H-ac-vh.html.

The Club Méd

For those who are not familiar with a Club Méd (“Club Méditerranée”): it was one of the original “all-inclusive” vacation resorts. It’s a French organization, where a member of the professional staff is called a “GO” (for “Gentile Organizateur”, “nice organizer”), and a guest is called a “GM” ” (for “Gentile Membre”, “nice member” (of the Club)).

My wife and I honeymooned in 1970 at a Club in Martinique. We love the Club concept. We were in Cancún with our children in 1987 and 1993. When we were first at a club, there were no locks on the doors, no TV, and very few amenities. Drinks were not included in the fixed price – you paid for them with plastic poppet beads, which served as money in the Club. Meals were always at a large table, with other guests and members of the staff.

Things have now changed – there is now a lock on the door, a TV, a refrigerator, a hair dryer, and a safe in the rooms, and no more beads (drinks are now included in the fixed price). There are still large tables in the dining rooms, but there are also smaller tables where couples and families can sit by themselves. I used to love coming to the dining room, picking a language, and always being seated at a large table with others. Practicing my foreign languages is one of the pleasures of a visit to the Club. We were able to generally repeat that experience this time by asking to “compartir una mesa”, but other guests didn’t always join us. This was in part because there were so many families wanting to eat as a unit. We enjoyed often having a GO join us (but never more than one at a time, a Club policy). I was able to practice my Spanish, French, and even a little Italian.

We liked one of the changes from past years: in Cancún, it seemed this time that the majority of the GO’s were Mexican. In the past, the GO’s have been from all over, with many from France, and being at a Club didn’t give you a feeling of being in whatever country the club was actually located in. In fact, before this trip, I had told my Spanish class that I wasn’t really going to Mexico, but that rather a Club Med is a Club Med, and is the same, wherever it is. That turned out to be not the case – the Club in Cancún really had a feeling of being in Mexico, and I enjoyed that (especially since all the Mexican staff were just as friendly as the GO’s).

One oddity of the Club in Cancún: although Cancún is on Central time, the Club operates on permanent Central Daylight time, to give an hour of extra daylight at the end of the day. But in the winter, when Mexico is on Standard, not Daylight, time, the Club is an hour later than Cancún itself (e.g. when it's 6:00 in Cancún, it's 7:00 at the Club). My wife liked this, due to the later sunset. In the winter, it also has the effect of putting the Club on Eastern Standard Time, so coming from Boston, we never had to change our watches when we arrived.

Our vacation

We very much enjoyed our vacation at the Club. The GO’s and the local staff were uniformly friendly, helpful, and competent. The Chef de Village, Olivier, greeted us warmly, and was much in evidence all around the Club. The variety of food offered was wonderful, and we enjoyed the tropical drinks (although we’re not big drinkers). We love the Club, had a great vacation, and will doubtless return some day to this Club, or to others.

Sailing was my main sporting activity, and I found the staff to be very welcoming and capable. They also were very attentive to safety, reacting quickly to boats in trouble or too far out (it was a week of rather strong wind). However, I must say that the equipment was not in good shape. Several of the Hobie Cats were out of commission due to lack of spare parts, so GM’s had to wait for boats. The lack of boats also seemed to limit the availability of lessons. Many of the windsurfing boards were very beaten up, and it was hard to find a life jacket with three working snaps.

We also did snorkeling. In fact, one of the attractions of the Club in Cancún is the ease of snorkeling – you can just walk in from the beach, instead of spending the whole morning in a boat. My wife has done things like silk painting at other clubs, and missed having more adult arts and crafts activities in Cancún. Unless we missed something, the arts and crafts that were provided seemed to be mainly aimed at children.

The Club in Cancún has a “Mini-club”, providing activities for children, including circus (trapeze) training.

We thought the Club could have used a naturalist. We were very curious about the plants, flowers, animals and birds that we saw, but found that nobody could identify them. With a naturalist, you could possibly also add some excursions about the local flora and fauna. I asked a man grooming a group of plantings what a particular flower was. He replied, “Una Planta”. Duh.

I brought a pair of magnetic clip-on sunglasses for my regular prescription glasses, but I forgot to bring an inexpensive pair of sunglasses that I could tie on and use for sailing. I was annoyed to find that I couldn’t buy these in the boutique! The sunglasses for sale there were all designer glasses, at around $150 or more. I was not about to wear them on a boat, where they could easily be lost. I thought they Club ought to have provided some inexpensive sunglasses. The sunscreen they sold (a must) was reasonably priced.

I would have loved a massage, but balked at $100 for an hour. I can get a massage here at home for $50 to $65 an hour – why should I pay more in Mexico?

E-mail is now such an important part of our lives that I was not too happy having to pay for computer time. On the other hand, I understand that it costs money to maintain their equipment and connection. It’s not clear to me if we still would have had to have paid had I brought my own computer.

Conclusion

My wife and I travel at least once a year, usually to Europe (we tend to alternate between France and Italy). I speak French, Spanish, and Italian, and my wife speaks some French. We don’t often take beach vacations, but those that we have taken have generally been at Clubs – still, only seven in the last 39 years.

Since I noted some suggestions for improvement above, I hope you don't conclude that we were unhappy with our experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. We loved our week at the club (and our break from the snows of Boston), and it reminded us that we’d like to spend time at the Club Méd more often. Our previous visit to a Club was a 25th anniversary trip to their “Turquoise” Club (Turks and Caicos) in 1995 – the 14-year interval since then has been too long. We hope to visit a Club Med again soon.

- Larry

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