Celebrating in Mexico: Cancun Wishes and Caviar Dreams
By Melanie Reffes
Where Mayan culture is celebrated and romance reigns supreme, Cancun in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo is framed by the denim blue water of the Caribbean Sea and sandy stretches of coral beaches. On the Yucatan Peninsula in an area known as Riviera Maya, Cancun is adored for fine resorts that line the beach, sizzling nightlife, open-air craft markets, haute and spicy food in umpteen restaurants and plenty of perches to take five under the Mexican sun. Easy to navigate with buses that operate day and night for USD$1.00 per ride, the city is divided into two zones; City Zone and Hotel Zone.
A popular choice for destination weddings, honeymoons and time away from the fray, Cancun is a short 4 hour flight from New York and less than 3 hours from Dallas. One of the most diverse resort towns in Mexico attracting tourists from around the globe, the city by the sea is easy to get to via a bevy of airlines and a guaranteed good time for couples celebrating in the Mexican Caribbean. www.cancun.com/
Making Merry at the JW Marriott Cancun
Twenty minutes from the Cancun International Airport, JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is a timeless treasure striking the perfect balance between a luxury stay and a salute to Mexico’s Mayan culture. Following a multi-million dollar re-do to all 447 ocean view rooms and suites, the landmark resort is outfitted with vacation mainstays from the exclusivity of Club 91, infinity pools and seaside cabanas to the Mayan-inspired spa and a beach prettier than the postcards. “The hotel incorporates elements that reflect the calming vibe of the destination allowing guests to feel at home in the bright and spacious new guestrooms,” noted Mitzi Gaskins, VP and global brand leader, JW Marriott. www.jwmarriottcancun.com
For twosomes tying the knot, enjoying a honeymoon or partying with the grandkids at a vow renewal ceremony, there’s plenty of fun under the sun. Take your pick from tennis and water sports to quality time on a comfy sun chaise planted on the sand. Under the watchful eye of an expert wedding team, details can be arranged prior to arrival. “Our advance planning includes menu tastings and site inspections which we offer at discounted rates to couples as they decide what is right for their special day,” said Lorena Flores, weddings sales executive, JW Mariott Cancun.
At sunset on Saturday the most popular, weddings are tailored for every budget and personal preference from a chic on the beach to elegant in the seaview gazebo. For couples thinking out-of-the-box, weddings can be arranged anywhere the heart desires. “We’ve had requests for ceremonies at our popular Gustino Italian Grill, Presidential Suite and on the gorgeous Tulum terrace,” adds Lorena Flores, weddings sales executive. Chefs prepare international menus and for couples desiring a religious ceremony; options from Catholic and Jewish to Sikh, Hindu and same-sex unions can be arranged.
Packages at the JW Marriott Cancun are dreamy affairs like the aptly named ‘Always With You ‘that includes white chairs decorated with colorful bows, tropical flowers, music to motivate and menus to beat the band. The big day starts with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres served on crisp white linen-laid tables made pretty with candles and seashell centerpieces. A four-course feast tempts with grouper Mexican-style, salmon sweet with lemony honey and desserts worth the splurge like dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut pralines. To seal the deal, newlyweds are offered a room upgrade on their wedding night. Price, per person, starts at $212.00, based on 50 guests. Take it up a notch with “A Love To Remember ” priced at $292.00 per person, which includes a DJ, discounts in the spa and a scrumptious wedding cake. Additional packages can be personalized for parties big and small. www.marriottcancunweddings.com 1-800-223- 6388
And To All a Good Night
From ocean view guestrooms with sunny balconies and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and marble bathrooms to grand suites with Club 91 access, living and dining room and walk-in closet, there is a bed for every budget. “Our new interiors complement the natural beauty our guests have grown to know and love,” said Christopher Calabrese, GM and VP. Designed by the team at G+G Interiorismo, décor is calming with warm sand tones and blue bursts that complement the Caribbean Sea. Extras that make a world of difference include Illy espresso makers, robes, slippers, rainfall showers, room service, high-speed gratis Wi-Fi that works on the beach, travel agency and the International Jewelry Center near the lobby for last minute wedding bands and a sparkling selection of engagement rings should popping the question be spur-of-the-moment. Keep your camera ready for photos of Mayan-inspired sculptures and the colorful Cancun sign in front of The BeachWalk restaurant. “Opening our guests up to the world around them is one of the most authentic travel experiences they can have,” said Christopher Calabrese, VP and general manager.
Stylishly upscale, Club 91 Presidential Suite and the One-Bedroom Presidential Suite are regal with showcase windows, full kitchens and roomy dining rooms. Oak detailing and ceramic tiles were curated by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola whose Fjord armchair is on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and whose artistic eye has gussied up the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona and the W Hotel in Puerto Rico. On the top floor, Club 91 welcomes with a full bar, breakfast omelet station and to-die-for snacks like sushi and tacos tastier with piquant salsas. At communal tables or a table just-for-two, sea views and a soothing vibe are delightful.
Margaritas, Mariachis and Pizza Nera al Carbone
Keeping hunger at bay, dining options include ten restaurants and bars at the JW Marriott Cancun and the adjacent Marriott Cancun Resort. At the JW Marriott Cancun, Sedona Grill is the real deal with a big breakfast buffet and a la carte signatures for lunch and dinner. Bring your appetite to the festive Mexican buffet every Friday where musicians serenade the hungry and standouts are too good to miss like chocolate mole chicken, chunky guacamole and a ditch-the-diet sweet table. “This is the ideal choice for our guests looking to eat local,” smiles Yadira Barojas, marketing supervisor, “we encourage everyone to try new dishes and return for seconds.”
Get happy at the JW Lobby Bar where the 150 margarita menu is unique to Cancun. Created by a team of tequila connoisseurs and crafty mixologists, the heady cocktails are shaken and stirred with Mexican tequila; some infused with black tea, beetroot, and serrano chili peppers. Choose a flight to sample several or sip just one (or two!) like the fruity Mango Tango, apple-y Pucker Up and the Fire Scorpion with watermelon and chili powder.
Show your innards some love at Gustino Italian Grill where Pizza Nera al Carbone is a standout with a black charcoal crust. Aiding digestion and nirvana for carb cravers, the healthy pie is blanketed in mozzarella arugula, roasted tomatoes, pancetta and asparagus. Hot peppers optional yet recommended. “We’re the only restaurant in Cancun baking black dough pizza,” said server Michael as he delivers a piping hot pie, “our former Chef was from Italy and knew all about pizza and the health benefits of natural charcoal.”
Flip-flop friendly, BeachWalk is a sunny roost for a ceviche gussied up with lobster and octopus, crunchy sweet spring rolls and a frosty raspberry mojito. Poolside and beach service is available for those relaxing on a sun lounger or Bali bed. Open at 6 am, Gift Shop and 750 Pizzeria is the go-to for an espresso, New York-style pizza and anything you forgot to bring from home like sunscreen and a bathing suit.
Go For The Green
Fun for golfers, the ‘Ultimate Golf Getaway ‘includes accommodations at the JW Marriott Cancun, daily $50.00 resort credit, green fees and roundtrip transportation to the Puerto Cancun Golf Club. “We welcome golfers who may want to get married on the course and ask couples to bring their own food and decorations while we provide the backdrop which we know appeals to those who like to golf,” said Erick Ake Pacheco, manager. “In addition to the package,” adds Tiffiany Holmes, hotel manager, JW Marriott, “our concierges arrange tee times, lunches and lessons at any of the 14 golf courses in Cancun.” https://puertocancungolf.com/
With a nod to the environment, plastic straws at the JW Marriott Cancun have been replaced by clever environmentally-friendly straws crafted from avocado pits. “We are proud to be among the first large U.S. companies to announce that we’re eliminating plastic straws in our properties worldwide,” said Arne Sorenson, president CEO, Marriott International, “removing plastic straws is one of the simplest ways our guests can contribute to plastic reduction which is something they are increasingly concerned about and are already doing in their own homes.”
Out and About
With plenty of tours to choose from, Cancun is catnip for history buffs, adventure-seekers, shoppers and sunset partyers. “Of course, beaches are part of all tropical vacations,” said Tiffiany Holmes, hotel manager, JW Marriott, “in Cancun, it’s our Mexican hospitality, food, Mayan culture and unique activities like swimming in the cenotes and visiting the pyramids that are the big draws.”
Get your shop on and bring your pesos to the markets and malls like La Isla Shopping Village where you’ll find a humongous souvenir and craft store, open-air boutiques, restaurants and for families; Interactive Aquarium, Senor Frog and the Ferris wheel are fan favorites. Go local at Mercado 28 and Plaza Bonita where artisans sell a ginormous array of crafts, leather and colorful fabrics while bartenders keep the mood lively with gratis shots of tequila. Try your hand at haggling although for many of the vendors, this is their main source of income. Also in the Hotel Zone, Mexican Outlet is full of bargains galore and sweet samples in the Chocolate Artisanal Workshop and for upscale buys, Luxury Avenue Shopping Mall impresses with luxe labels from Hermes and Fendi to Burberry, Bvlgari and BCBG Maxazria.
Nightlife is red hot with dozens of restaurants, bars and clubs lining the strip. For night owls, Coco Bongo is the largest club in Cancun and a good time with flying acrobats, foam parties and musical tributes. It’s a big Ahoy Matey at the Jolly Roger Pirate Show and Captain Hook Pirate Dinner Cruise where swashbucklers get groovy with the wonderfully costumed pirates on board. A 20-minute ferry ride from the Gran Puerto Cancun ferry dock in Puerto Juarez, a few minutes from downtown Cancun, Isla Mujeres is delightful for a day away from the resort. Reef-fringed, the petite islet is popular for the dreamy beaches, seaside dining, craft shops and bars that stay open late. Take your time exploring on a golf cart as the last ferry back to Cancun departs at midnight.
A natural high on the Skyrider that soars above the sea is a peaceful ride with vistas of the hotels that line the beach and the Nichupté Lagoon. A rush for adrenaline-seekers, Aqua Twister is the only speed boat in Cancun that doesn’t require you to drive the boat yourself. The 20-seater zips across the unruffled water of the Nichupté Lagoon at speeds up to 90 mph impressing with 270 degree spins and power brake quick stops. There are thousands of underground swimming holes called cenotes in Mexico including in Puerto Morelos where the brazen swing from zip lines, underwater explorers snorkel in the clear water, swimmers take a dip in the refreshing cenotes, cyclists bike through the jungle and the rest of us take five in a hammock. The tour includes a yummy Mexican lunch and round trip transportation. Tickets for tours and excursions can be purchased at the Aqua World kiosk at the JW Marriott Cancun. https://aquaworld.com.mx/en