Club Med, Cancun Yucatan: Have Kids, Must Travel

Club Med

Saar Harel – International Traveller, Father, Lover of Global Cuisine, and Water Sports

Saar Harel, international traveller, amateur chef, IT consultant extraordinaire, and father of Little Zeus, takes our readers on his first no-nonsense trip to all inclusive resort.

If you have kids and want to travel, an all-inclusive resort might be the right ticket for you.

My wife, one and a half year old son, and I travelled to Club Med Cancun Yucatan for our first all inclusive family trip to see if all-inclusive (and Club Med) was as easy and fun as it’s made out to be.

Getting There

Getting to Cancun is likely one of the biggest draws. Almost every city has a direct flight and it’s often only 3-4 hours away, no matter where you’re located in the United States. That’s fantastic. From Chicago, our flight was direct, 3.5 hours, and smooth as fresh jar of Jiffy.

You come out of immigration, look for the Club Med sign, and a coordinator and a driver will be waiting to take you to the resort. The ride is only 10-15 minutes so that, too, was incredibly easy. In fact, my wife was such a huge fan of how convenient the travel was with a baby that she’s hesitant to take another connecting flight, or a flight over 3.5 hours, with the baby again!

Club Med Cancun

A view from our 2 bedroom family room at Aquamarine

Picking Your Accommodations

Option 1: Jade – Jade is an exclusive 18 suites, 37 deluxe rooms with a lounge and their own infinity pool. They also have their own concierges which only Jade residents have access.

Option 2: Main Area – These are the original buildings and they have a beautiful view of the lagoon and main beach.

Option 3: “Family” Area – On the other side of the property where the tennis courts are located, this area is less “happening” so families can have a little more space. The beach in this area is less luxurious.

Option 4: Under renovation when we arrived. It is basically between Jade and the main beach.

We stayed Option 3, the “Family” area, particularly in the Aguamarina rooms. To be honest, they are all the same for me as you can reach anywhere within a 5 minute brisk walk and they have golf carts to drive you from one side to the other, if you don’t feel like walking. You just need to wait 5-10 minutes.

Rooms
We had a fridge and everything inside was well laid out. We were also on ground floor, so we had a small ocean front yard. You won’t be spending much time in your room anyway.

club med cancun map

Club Med Cancun Yucatan Map I revised so that you can cross-reference alongside this review

Beaches

Main Beach – This beach has the best view of Cancun’s strip and was, very likely, the best beach for those with children in all of Cancun. Highly recommend. A+

This beach is also next to the bar and there are servers who walk around refilling your never-ending drinks. As new parents, this was one of the best features. Also, in Club Med you don’t tip, so, you can leverage them all day and avoid the annoyance of tipping each time. The water is crystal clear and turquoise, and fish will swim all around you. The waves are non-existent {at least for us}, so it was very safe with our toddler and enjoyable, no waves breaking on your head. The beach is also fine nice sand and there are no rocks.

Snorkeling Beach – On the east side of the resort, there is a protected park where you can dive. No need to bring gear as they will give it to you. This was a big highlight for me as I saw barracudas, plenty of colorful fish, and even a stingray and turtle. They have some chairs laid out for your partner so they can get a tan while you catch the sights.

Las Cazuelas Beach – I call it that because it is next to Las Cazuelas restaurant. It is somewhat rocky. However, it’s far from the crowd, so, if you want to relax without seeing many people, it’s perfect. As it’s next to Las Cazuelas, you have the added bonus of being close to the restaurant buffet (which is also less crowded than the main buffet) and it feels like a ‘real’ restaurant.

Sailing Beach – I call this sailing beach since the sailing is done in this area. The beach is ok for tanning. You can also watch your partner sailing away. There is an underwater weed in the water, so this won’t be much fun to be in. However you can swim to your heart’s content and tan to a crisp. There is no bar here. So prep in advance.

Las Cazulas View Club Med

The view from Las Cazuelas while dining

Classes

At Club Med, you can take classes. This is great for kids and some adults. For example, you haven’t played tennis. Well, take the 10 AM class and a pro will teach you. This is like getting a free lesson and people were definitely taking advantage of this.

Sailing – Unfortunately, we came when there was no wind, so we didn’t get to sail. A bummer for us, but that’s not Club Med’s fault and we still loved the idea that it was so conveniently located next to Cazuelas and our room.

Water Skiing – Water ski runs all year round inside the lagoon. You come in, wait a turn. Then start performing. If you don’t know how, then the beginner lessons are easily available.

Trapeze – They have trapeze lessons, they are not too daunting. You basically work on being able to use your muscles and core to swing and keep swinging. Easy peasy just make sure you arrive dry and clothed. My wife thought being in a wet bathing suit wouldn’t be an issue and didn’t want to have to go all the way back to the room so just a small detail to know.

There are many other classes, from gym to sports like beach volleyball, which all offer you an opportunity to perform an activity with others and a chance to bond about it and hopefully create an enduring friendship or just have fun while on the resort.

Club Med Children

Little Zeus knows how to chillax

Excursions
Day Trips – Every day, Club Med organizes and you can join a different trip. The trips change daily and are an excellent way to see Mexico in a safe, organized fashion. You wake up, you board a bus, it takes you to a site, for example the Pyramids, then it stops for food, another site, and you’re back. This is excellent when you have children or want a break from being on a break and can’t take another cocktail on the beach with the sun beating on your head #firstworldproblems. This sure beats getting a rental, getting lost, planning, drama, etc.

Diving – Club Med is famous for being a resort that caters to divers, they have a diving office and can easily arrange excellent, safe trips with vetted instructors who are proficient in your language. They can also match the trip to your experience level, so you enjoy yourself and not struggle against the current the whole time. They also can arrange classes if you want to get going and intro dives if you’ve never done it before.

Kids, kids

This place is perfect for kids. When they are small, they’re clingy. By the time they hit 5-10, they can barely stand you, and when they hit the teen years, they are too cool to be with you. So, this place is perfect. Safe, as this is a compound, plenty of activities for them, they can go play soccer, swim, hang, sit at the teen bar, and sip some juice, etc.

If they are 2 and above there is also “Petit Club Med” where incredibly kid-friendly instructors will take care of them for you. Trust me, at the end of the day, they will be exhausted and, during the day, they won’t ask you to build sand castles. So, you and your partner can enjoy “vacation” and not feel like scout instructors.

If they are less than 2, you can ask for a vetted baby sitter who can watch your baby while you charge your batteries.

Food at Club Med Cancun Yucatan

Gotta love the carved fruit

Food

Club Med has some set hours:

  • La Hacienda

A Baby corner is available during regular open hours.

  • Breakfast                                        7:00-10:30
  • Lunch                                             12:00-14:15
  • Dinner                                            19:00-22:00
  • Las Cazuelas
    • Breakfast                              7:00-10:30
    • Lunch                                   13:00-16:00
    • Dinner                                  19:00-21:30
  • La Estancia (Steak house at night)
    • Late Breakfast                     10:30-12:00
    • Snack                                    16:00-18:30
    • Dinner (Steak House)       19:00-21:30
    • Snack                                    22:00-00:30

Note: these hours are note set in stone and may vary. However, they also offer you the ability to eat outside those hours. You can simply head over to the La Estancia during  “Snack” hours and they will give you a menu and you can order like a restaurant.

Most meals are a huge buffet with a very wide selection including local cuisine and international one. So, you won’t be stuck eating Mexican rice and beans and can have your pasta, if so inclined.

Dinners are the best, there are two locations. La Estancia which is now an Argentinian grill and La Cazuela which is a Mexican themed restaurant. Both require a booking and then you can eat in them like a regular restaurant with your selection in the menu. If you don’t care for that, you can go to the Main restaurant and eat buffet for dinner.

Club Med Food

If you’re hungry and looking for a nibble in between drinks, they often serve appetizers like this near the main bar. Score.

All in all, there is a lot of fish near Cancun, so the selection mirrors that and you can get extremely good fish dishes.  The chicken is also very good. You won’t find lamb and the steaks won’t be Texas grade but everything was good and we would take seconds and thirds.

As a word of warning, sometimes in buffets some things can be a miss. For example, on Day 2 the rice was undercooked. However, there is such a huge selection you can just pick something else. So I recommend putting “mini” tasters on your plate in round one. Then come back for what you liked in round two.

Wine/beer

If you love wine but don’t know exactly how to describe a pinot grigio vs a pinot gris  then they offer a good basic red or white. If you are more discerning, try the Rosato {rose wine}. It was better than the standard free house red or white, I would rate it as a C. If you are very picky, ask for the wine menu, it’s an extra cost, but the prices are the same as you would pay at a resort. Their selection is quite good.

For beer, the tap was Dos Equis which was fine by me.

For cocktails, they are excellently done and not strong, but just strong enough. So, you can glue the cocktail glass to your hand and have them all day without passing out or embarrassing your kids. My wife recommends the caipirinha and was happy that they tasted good, had a decent amount of alcohol, but weren’t so strong to give her a hangover. I had never been to an inclusive and pretty much swore myself off of ever going this route, but once I had a baby, I was open to trying anything that was easy.

All in all, Club Med was an excellent way to vacation, without breaking the bank.  It is also extremely safe and well laid out so you can enjoy your time and your kids can enjoy their time without you hovering above them.

This place offers a lot of options. Coordinate with another family and enjoy a joint vacation, go out and see Mexico, take some diving, polish your tennis, try that water ski you always see on TV, relax with some bocce ball, try some trapeze, you get to choose and the staff was excellent.

Club Med Yucatan

A storm looked like it was moving in, but after a nighttime drizzle, the sky was clear and the weather was perfect. Beautiful colored canopies and ambient lightening make parents feel like they’re in a more hip version of a family establishment.

Big Positives

  1. No Tipping allowed – so no need to lug cash!
  2. Safe – this place is a compound, you can pretty much leave your phone on the chair and no one will steal it.
  3. Nice – staff are the nicest, they are recruited from all over the world, so they can speak French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English. We found them to be friendly genuine people. They are especially good with the kids as kids can tell a phony from 100 yards away.

Things to Know

  1. Make sure you bring Deet bug spray. The resort is surrounded by a mangrove and, at night, the mosquitos can be annoying. They don’t sell Deet, they only sell Citronella, which did not work for us.
    So, bring your Deet and you will have a perfect vacation.
  2. If you plan on learning to dive, there are pre-requisites. Like a medical exam, etc. So call them and make sure you bring all the paper work. Like I said, they are methodical and safe and won’t let you go without the requirements being met. I can respect that.

Grade: A-/B+

Club Med Cancun Yucatan

Icelandic Skincare for Glowing Jetset Skin

Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels 4-Pack

Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels 4-Pack

Thanks to friends in the beauty business, I’m grateful that I often hear the freshest skinny on the latest and greatest beauty finds, particularly when it comes to what they know I need. Small, high-quality, unique, multi-purpose products that are useful for a long or short trip around the world. I need products that won’t clog my pores and won’t leave me begging for a facial upon arrival.

The latest find is skyn ICELAND Solutions for Stressed Skin. With skin savers compact enough to throw into any carry-on bag, packing is worry-free, and skin stays rejuvenated upon arrival. Born from a life-changing mission to treat and alleviate the effects of stress on skin while promoting a full of balance, Skyn products are free of parabens, petroleum, mineral oil, and sulfates. They don’t test on animals and they’re 100% vegan.

Traveling staples include:
  • Glacial Cleansing Cloths ($15)
    • With no water needed, these cleansing cloths are ideal for those on-the-go moments when you need to wash away any unwanted makeup, sweat, dirt and other impurities your skin accumulates when traveling while simultaneously refreshing skin. Perfect for the flight.
  • Arctic Face Oil ($35)
    • Arctic Face Oil is your winter solution. Delivering powerful hydration, it helps repair and balance the skin’s lipid barrier while locking in moisture. Over time, it also smoothes fine lines and wrinkles to reveal a softer, more youthful complexion.
  • Hydro Cooling Firming Eye Gels ($30)
    • In just ten minutes, this cooling transdermal gel patch infuses the eye area with highly potent actives and Icelandic glacial water to firm, tone, brighten and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. These are especially great during long flights when your skin can get stressed and tired.
  • Arctic Face Mist ($29)
    • This soothing mist instantly helps calm and stabilize irritable skin with a cooling burst of natural Icelandic mineral water. An excellent pick-me-up after a long day of traveling.

Your Istanbul Travel Cheat Sheet

Istanbul at Dusk (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul at Dusk (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Turkey, the site of two wonders of the ancient world, is a present-day marvel – the cradle of many civilizations, the very center of world history and a modern republic which, at times, struggles between embracing the relics of her past and a forward-seeking future. A country of fascinating contrasts, antiquity is juxtaposed with the contemporary, the familiar with the exotic, and sun-swept beaches beckon less than an hour away from snow-capped mountains. Everywhere, however, visitors say they are often treated to the extraordinary warmth of the Turkish people. Istanbul is the most popular 1st stop for those visiting Turkey and it’s a clear winner among people of all nationalities and religions. If  you only have a few days or a long weekend, here’s a quick cheat sheet of the Top Things to Do and See in Istanbul, to soon be followed by the Wonders of The Turkish Coast.

The Bosphorus

The Bosphorus

What to See

In addition to the well known sites of the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, two years ago, Istanbul was rated Travel + Leisure‘s #1 European city to visit, so, to celebrate Staff of the Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) compiled a list of the 10 places every visitor to Istanbul must experience which we wanted to share.

  1. Sip the best Turkish coffee at Mandabatmaz
  2. Browse the sustainable, locally-made, high-end contemporary Turkish goods at Armaggan Emporium
  3. Indulge in centuries of Anatolian culinary tradition at NAR Gourmet and NAR Restaurant
  4. Absorb the work of Turkey’s greatest contemporary artists at Istanbul Modern
  5. Hop on a Bosphorus ferry to Kadikoy for people watching and Alinin Dondurmasi’s famous ice cream
  6. Experience the centuries-old tradition of raki and fresh fish at İsmet Baba in Kuzguncuk
  7. Relax in the pleasure of a traditional Turkish hamam bath at Cağaloğlu Hamamı
  8. Shop the collection of critically acclaimed Turkish designer Simay Bülbül
  9. Soak up the sounds of Turkey’s thriving jazz scene at Nardis Jazz Bar
  10. Enjoy cocktails and conversation in Münferit’s quiet garden before returning inside to dance until dawn with locals
Istanbul (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul

A few years ago, we stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul because we always know we’ll get top-notch service and food, but Istanbul has several fantastic properties that are unique and special (Note: Ciragan Palace). The Ritz is located at one of the most exciting cultural crossroads in the world in a city that bridges the continents of Asia and Europe along the banks of the Bosphorus Strait. From the outside, it may look like another skyscraper, but once inside, international recognition for its commitment to exceptional levels of service becomes clear. You’re not simply told where the Ladies room is located, you’re escorted there, after being offered some warm Turkish sahlep, a delectable sweet warm drink reminiscent of yogurt and cinnamon. The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul was voted “Best Overseas Business Hotel 2009” by readers of Condé Nast Traveller UK and it’s no surprise. It’s about as stress free as you can get. In addition to 244 rooms and 23 suites, there are 57 Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms (since I’m obsessed with the Club Level) and The Ritz also offers the award-wining Laveda Spa that includes ten treatment rooms including a not-to-be-missed Turkish Hammam where you will feel transported back in time, dreaming of the days of Suleyman the Magnificient.

Ritz Carlton Couples Hammam

Ritz Carlton Couples Hammam

At the Laveda Spa, the experienced therapists apply the miraculous methods of massage and skin care with Aromatherapy Associates offering all natural plant oils and the high-end line of Carita products. Apart from that a variety of holistic massages like the relaxing “Sultans Royal Six Hands Massage” applied in synchronization by three trained artisans, there are also exclusive body treatments like the “Hot Chocolate Seduction”, “Caviar Therapy”, “Milk & Honey Bath,” or an intoxicating wine therapy called “The Gift of Bacchus,” all infused with natural ingredients.

The Indoor Pool at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The Indoor Pool at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The indoor pool, the biggest of all indoor hotel pools in the city, is another alternative for more sporty activities or a few lazy laps. You’ll have the feeling of soaking under the Turkish sky when swimming in the mosaic pool as twinkling “stars” on the ceiling illuminate the pool area and highlight the impressive architecture of the Byzantine period of Istanbul.

But perhaps the most stunning section of the Spa is the authentic Turkish Hamam modeled on the 16th century Baths of Roxelana. The Hamam ritual entails a process of complete surrender to scrubbing, washing, and relaxation where you enter a private hamam room and lay a warm slab of marble. Once there, you’re exfoliated and cleansed like a goddess with copious amounts of warm and cool water, followed by a thorough body wash, and a bubble massage where the therapist creates clouds of bubbles with the use of a special towel that surrounds you like a daphine-scented cloud (an exotic flower from Western Asia).

This was, in many ways, the highlight of my luxurious vacation.

Ritz Carlton Cooking

Ritz Carlton Cooking

After our Turkish Hamam, we headed to the Ritz Calrton Istanbul’s Çintemani restaurant for dinner, an exciting autumn menu designed to celebrate local seasonal produce and showcase a unique approach to the culinary traditions of Turkey. Highlights on the autumn five-course degustation menu from then Chef de Cuisine, Ali Ronay (now at Raffles). His menu included Turkish puff pastry with pumpkin and pomegranate, lamb from the Thracian region and Turkish pancakes, while the à la carte menu was a whirlwind journey around the country’s regional flavors from Thracian beef fillet, prawns from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, tuna and octopus from Dardanelles, veal from Balikesir, and chicken from Bandirma on the Sea of Marmara. The fusion of local flavors and innovative cooking techniques made the dishes so unique and mouth-watering that I can honestly say I’ve never quite tasted food like this before. Prawns were infused with Turkish Raki brandy, Bosporus bonito fish was prepared in traditional tomato and onion ragout, while mullet from Dardanelles was dressed with virgin olive oil from Bodrum. Innovative techniques included lamb prepared à la sous vide (a method of cooking vacuum-packed food in a plastic pouch at a set temperature often in a water bath) and cheesecake created from Aegean curd and seasonal pumpkin.

Now are you hungry to check it out?

Rates from $269/night

www.ritzcarlton.com/istanbul

Other amazing places to stay in Istanbul:

  • Kempinski Ciragan (truly historic and palatial)
  • The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul (can’t go wrong with the always solid Four Seasons)
  • Pera Palace (a Jumeirah property so expect proper opulence)
  • Georges Hotel Galata (a unique boutique property with an intimate vibe)
  • Hotel Ibrahim Pasha (another boutique property in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul on a quaint quiet street)
  • The House Hotel Nisantasi (a smaller elegant modern hotel)

Bars and Restaurants to check out:

  • 11:11 (open Wed. – Sat. this hotspot is owned by the son of one of Turkey’s famous singers)
  • Public (where you want to people watch and party)
  • Poseiden (one of the top fish restaurants in Istanbul with classic mezzes & raki in an upmarket terrace atmosphere)
  • Casita (late night peruhi aka. vegetarian Turkish pasta with yoghurt & mint… yum!)