I spent a week at the Club Med from 18-25 May 2008 with my 12-yr old daughter and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Club Meds are very different from other all-inclusive resorts as they place great emphasis on high quality activities and socializing. There are 3 types of people at the club: the guests, the activity staff (called GOs) and the local staff. The GOs are the soul of the club: they are mostly 20-30 year olds who run all activities, sometimes work the bar, run the kiddie clubs, eat in the buffet restaurant with guests and facilitate socializing. The GOs came from Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Belgium, Uruguay, USA, Japan, Morocco... The local staff are those who do the other jobs – room cleaning, dishwashing... Club Meds are great if you enjoy activities, meeting people or if you have kids. If you only want to lie on the beach and have intimate meals, the Club Med would be fine but you will be paying alot for activities that you don’t use – your money would be better spent elsewhere.
The Club Med is at the far southern end of the hotel strip. I heard that it was the first hotel to be built in Cancun and they got the best place in the area. The Club is on a large strip of land shaped like a “U” with the ocean on the outside and a lagoon on the inside (see www.eatonlink.net/CMcancun06/bigmap_.html ). It is a large park-like area with buildings 2-3 stories high – very different from the denser hotels elsewhere in Cancun. The way the land is shaped, waves break about 50 meters out from the swimming beach and the ocean was calm every day in front of the club, while 200 meters away at the Sun Palace the surf too rough for swimming every day we were there. The side of Cancun that has the most beautiful ocean colors is the Caribbean coast – unlike the “top of the 7” (northern beaches), but the surf there is rough -- the only place where you can swim every day is the Club Med. The view from the Club is fantastic, probably the best in all of Cancun, and the water color unreal. When we were there, there were ample comfortable seats in the shade – no need to get up early to “reserve” your chair. Their beach was also large and uncrowded compared to most other places we saw.
Farther down the shore there is a snorkelling area – the only good place to snorkel in all of Cancun – and, farther still, a sailing beach. In the lagoon you can water-ski with crocodiles – I am not making this up. We saw a 2 meter (6 ft) crocodile in the lagoon and they make you sign a waiver stating that you will not sue the Club if anything bad happens. However, they also say that, in 30 years, no one has ever been attacked by a croc – they are scared of the boat motors. As the activity staff skied there, we did too and felt safe.
The Club Med is as far from the action in Cancun as you can get. (That said, the food and drinks are excellent, and they have a very nice open air beachside night club right there – little need to venture out.) If you do want to visit Cancun, you have 2 options: taxi (fairly expensive) or bus. For the bus, you can walk out to the regular entrance to the Club Med and catch one there, but it only comes by about every half hour or so. Alternatively, you can walk up the beach to the Westin, cut through to the road – in all a 10 minute walk – and you will see a bus stop where buses leave every 5-10 minutes. Bus fare is cheap but you will need pesos. Myself, I did not care much for Cancun – it struck me as being an artificial creation made for tourists – a wall of multistory mostly soulless resorts, with a few interspaced suburban-style malls and, farther away, an uninteresting fairly recent town. If we go back, it will be for the beauty of the sea and for the Club Med; otherwise there are many nicer places to visit in Mexico.
If you get bored at the Club Med, then there is something wrong with you. Organized activities targeting different ages of children (and adults) include: sailing, water-skiing, trapeze, tennis, soccer, beach volleyball, water aerobics, Pilates, salsa lessons, Yoga, etc. And, if that is not enough, there is swimming in the gorgeous ocean, very good live music almost every evening (one group reminded me of the Gypsy Kings; others were a Cuban band, a Mariachi band, and an old rock band), a very nice spa (extra $), several half-day or day outings (extra $), shows every night and the night club afterwards. Their trapeze setup is professional quality and run by a mostly Brazilian set of gymnasts. We saw two trapeze shows, one with a visiting gymnast who worked before for the Cirque du Soleil and is one of six people in the world who can do triple flips - real neat. My daughter loved learning to sail, water-ski, improve her trapeze moves and seeing the spectacular trapeze shows, hanging out at the Car Wash (adolescent kids’ club; there is another club for younger kids) or the pool and eating with friends; I played in a doubles tennis tournament, did water aerobics, laid out on some neat canapé beds by the pool, frolicked in the water, had abit too much to drink, enjoyed the early evening music and eating dinner with new friends. Of note: while this club caters to families, its large size and range of activities means that adults don't feel encumbered – couples without kids too can enjoy themselves (I met many in this situation).
The main buffet restaurant has 6 different dining rooms with very different décor, and two a la carte restaurants (Tapas and Mexican). Compared to other all inclusive resorts, Club Meds excel in terms of food. The buffet had a lot of choices, changed significantly from day to day (and from lunch to dinner), and the desserts especially were excellent. The food had a strong French flavour, although there were too a good deal of Mexican, Italian and Japanese dishes. Most people with whom I talked thought the food to be outstanding; one couple said it was better than a 5-star Iberostar that they had recently visited.
That said, we are fairly strict vegetarians and this is the one Club Med out of four we have visited where we have had trouble eating (dinners only; breakfasts and lunches were great). The Cancun club in the evening tended to overemphasize meat and fish, even in the composed salad dishes and often pastas, really limiting our choices. We spoke to the chef and then to the reception and, after several days of poor food, things got better. What I am trying to say is 1) if you love meat or fish, you will be thrilled, 2) if you have dietary restrictions the Club Meds are usually great places to go to, 3) this is less true of the Cancun Club Med than other Club Meds we know and 4) if you do have special needs then fax them ahead of time to warn them and politely ask for their help, and if things don’t work out, rapidly go talk with the cook (and then if necessary, insistently with the reception staff). Hopefully, after being badgered by us, the head cook may be more open to handling special diets in the future…
Drinks. Like other all-inclusive resorts, the free house wine is fairly basic and there are better bottles for sale. The top shelf booze required paying extra but their regular stuff was already very good. For real good coffee, go to the main bar – their espressos and café au laits easily rival a Starbucks in quality.
There are several types of rooms – the regular (Yucatan) one we had, deluxe rooms, and concierge suites in the Jade building. The regular rooms are not ocean front, but ours directly overlooked the lagoon and we saw beautiful sunsets every evening. The deluxe rooms in the other buildings are slightly larger or come with an ocean view. From what I have heard, the best rooms are in the Jade building but only on the ocean side – it is not worth paying extra for rooms on the other side.
You can request a certain room type by faxing the Club 7-10 days prior to your arrival – they are good at meeting requests (check their website for the fax number). However, they do not give free upgrades. Unless you are handicapped or have a stroller, avoid the ground-floor rooms which are less private and noisier. Buildings with rooms are all 2-3 stories high – if you don’t mind stairs the best are on the third floor. Buildings A, B and C (Amatista, Obsidiana, and Topacio) are lbetween the main area (pool, restaurants, bar…) and the trapeze/water-skiing and miniclub area for younger kids. Building D (Turquesa) is near the main area and apparently tends to be noisy. We were in building E (Granate) – a good choice. Buildings F (Onice), G (Ambar) and H (Opalo) are abit farther away, between the main area and the tennis/sailing areas. The Jade building is the farthest away and has the best ocean front suites.
This club was completely renovated a couple yrs ago and the rooms are stylish – strong colors, comfortable beds, a stylish shower area, and a sttriking bright deep pink toilet area. There are flat screen TVs and we had a free cable internet hook-up, a safe, a coffee/tea maker and a minifridge at no extra cost. All rooms have either a balcony or terrace. This club used to cater to couples and, for that reason the rooms tend to be small. You could fit three people into a room but it would be tight; I believe that if you are a family of four, then Club will provide you with another adjoining room.
To resume, I’d rate this Club at a 5-star level:
• 8 stars for the activities: nowhere else comes close
• 4.5 stars for the room: much stylish than a Hilton, but the rooms are fairly small
• 2 - 5 stars for food & drink: 5 * for breakfasts and lunches, 5* for dinner if you are a consummate carnivore and 2 * if you are vegetarian and dislike having to talk insistently to the chef to get decent food
• 6 stars for fun and the ease of socializing (again, the Club Med excels here)
• 6 stars for the beach
• 4 stars for the pool: very nice, but probably crowded when the resort is full
• 5 stars for the front desk
In Cancun, I would not consider staying anywhere else. Tom
Unique Quality: Best activities of any resort in the Yucatan. The international activity staff - about 80 people aged around 20-30 from 20 countries (Canada, Mexico, Brazil, USA, France...) are great - the heart and soul of the place. Music, food, drinks all is very good. Best beach on the Caribbean coast of Mexico