By: Tim Baines
Bloody Caesars? Poutine? Sunshine? Great golf?
Hola! Welcome to Cancun. Sounds like paradise, right, like you’ve died and gone to heaven.
OK, to be clear, it’s not like they serve Caesars all over Mexico, but we lucked onto what could be my favourite all-inclusive resort of all-time, the Royalton Riviera Cancun. And they happen to like their Canadians, certainly going out of their way to make the Eh Team feel right at home.
I’ve got to say the golf was a nice bonus, too. I got a chance to tee it up at three courses – Grand Coral, El Tinto and Puerto Cancun (the latter two can be pre-booked through Sunwing.ca).
There are eight courses within a half hour drive, designed by the top guys in the golf biz, icons like Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Greg Norman, P.B. Dye, Nick Price and Tom Weiskopf.
El Tinto places an emphasis on being player friendly, with no holdups or problems with tee times. I played a very enjoyable round with amicable Canadian Jack Billingsley, the President of Golf the Mayan Riviera who splits time between Milton and Mexico and arranges rounds.
Grand Coral’s director of golf Omar Velez explained: “It’s a fun course … that’s important because I’ve worked at some tough golf courses. You go back to your hotel happy. You’re not frustrated because you spent too much time looking for golf balls.”
You may also come across monkeys between the 16th and 18th holes. Not exactly something you’re going to experience on a golf course back home.
Puerto Cancun offers ocean views on holes 13 and 14. Explained golf pro Francisco Salazar: “It’s in great shape. You have spectacular views and it’s challenging – that’s what makes you want to come back.”
The Mexico climate is certainly mighty appealing to sun-seeking Canadians.
“The weather is the complete opposite of Canada,” said Billingsley. “Here, we get nine months of incredible weather and three months of hot, humid weather. In Canada, we get three months of summer (less if you are in the east coast) and nine months of ‘not sure what you are going to get.’ ”
Billingsley spent 33 years with the RCMP, serving in Newfoundland and Ontario, before starting to spend his winters in Mexico.
“I began coming to Cancun with cheap flights in the ’80s and loved the people and area,” he said. “I tried Florida but this is more to my liking.”
It’s notable that Sunwing has increased its emphasis on hooking golfers up down south. The travel company is looking to get the word out there about some of the magnificent golf courses you can play as part of a vacation. In Punta Cana, the options include El Cocotal, Golf Punta Blanca and Iberostar Punta Cana.
Back to the resort I stayed at – the Royalton. Yep, the Caesars were a thing of beauty, not like those gawdawful Bloody Marys they serve up in the U.S. And we soon found out that the sports bar – a sports fan’s dream with TVs all over the place – had poutine.
Oh, then there are the TVs. Some all-inclusives have a TV in the sports bar – maybe you’ll get to watch your game of choice, maybe not. But the Royalton has wall-to-wall TVs in a pretty fantastic and well-equipped sports bar.
Huge props to Sunwing, the travel industry megapower that has become tour operator/airline/travel agency/hotel owner – all in one. The Royalton is owned by the Sunwing group and its founder Colin Hunter, who also happens to be an accomplished jazz singer.
“He knows what Canadians like. He wanted to have that influence here,” explained Royalton Cancun’s sales director Claudia Garcia Siordia as she gave me the grand tour of the wonderful resort.
“The Royalton Luxury Resort experience is designed to surpass the comforts of home while guests are away,” said Jordi Pelfort, Managing Director of Blue Diamond Resorts. “For our Canadian guests at Royalton Riviera Cancun, we include meaningful touches such as Caesar cocktails, poutine and the Sports Event Guarantee which airs games from major Canadian teams.”
Maybe it’s the weather – day after day of sunshine tends to brighten your life a bit. Maybe it’s the palm trees – along with being a symbol of a southern destination, they provide a soothing effect, a calmness. Maybe it’s the hospitality – being greeted with a smile and “Hola” is just the way it is in a country where the people do everything they can to make you feel at home.
Making people feel welcome is a priority for the Royalton’s employees.
Wendy del Rosario, sales executive for USA and Canada, said there’s an emphasis on service – an all-in luxury – where wedding groups, families and singles can all find happiness in the sun.