Boogie boarders zoomed atop waves beside the new sands of Cancun.
Waiters delivered pina coladas and grilled lemon shrimp skewers to
sea worshippers lounging beneath blue awnings. Before I even
slipped out of my sandals, a Ritz-Carlton attendant appeared with
gigantic white towels and led me to a private palapa. Within
seconds, I was part of the beach scene at the new Cancun.
A year ago there wasn’t a grain of sand in front of the
Ritz-Carlton or any other hotel on Cancun’s seven-mile beach facing
the open sea. After Hurricane Wilma thrashed the hotel zone in
October 2005, the Mexican government hired a Belgian company to
dredge sand from the sea bottom and blast it against boulders and
walls. The new beach is wider than before, though the sand isn’t
quite as soft and white. But the water is gradually clearing to its
classic shade of aquamarine.
I was visiting Cancun for the reopening of the elegant,
Five-Diamond Ritz-Carlton, a hotel I always considered way too
fancy for the beach. I was wrong. The Ritz adds a level of luxury
that ups the bar for every other high-end hotel in Cancun. I got
the message while sipping the best margarita I’ve ever tasted
during a cooking class in the new Culinary Center. My appreciation
for the finer side of vacationing blossomed over a dinner of filet
mignon, foie gras and almond souffle at the Club Grill, long
considered Cancun’s finest gourmet restaurant. The formal
wine-tasting session with boutique Mexican wines wore down my
resistance completely. Indulgence is fun and utterly appropriate in
the new Cancun.
It took nearly a year for the Ritz-Carlton to open after Wilma.
According to general manager Luis Marco, 90 days passed before the
building dried out enough to even begin reconstruction.
“We wanted a healthy building, not a sick building with
dampness,” Marco said. “It had to be done as a Ritz-Carlton should
The final 365-room hotel is much like the original. Your clients
will be pleased to see the crystal chandeliers, plush carpets,
lavish floral arrangements and formal furnishings Ritz-Carlton
loyalists appreciate. Marble gleams throughout the lobby and guest
bathrooms, and thoughtful touches like a neck pillow in the deep
tub and fresh roses on the nightstand reflect a high standard of
service. The beds, by the way, are sublime. The Kayanta Spa is so
popular your clients should reserve their treatments in advance.
They can also enjoy steam rooms and saunas at the outstanding
fitness center, where attendants instinctively know when exercisers
need more water or a cool towel.
Along with all new furnishings and art (including an impressive
array of outdoor sculptures) the Ritz added 16 open-air casitas on
the beach beside wood-slat walkways. Beachgoers lounge on the
casitas’ white beds during the day, protected from the sun’s rays
by gauze curtains. At night, tables replace the beds and candles
and flickering torches add all the right touches for romantic
dinners on the sand. Be sure your clients dine at least once on the
beach during their stay. Even families find the experience utterly
But the piece de resistance of the new Ritz-Carlton Cancun is
the Culinary Center.
“This kitchen is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,”
chef de cuisine Rory Dunaway said at the beginning of his Real
Mexican cooking class.
The Viking Range Corporation partnered with Ritz-Carlton in
creating the oceanview center, which is equipped with everything
from a multi-temperature wine cellar to ranges that use magnets to
create heat. Even the high-torque blender was impressive,
especially when churning Dunaway’s secret margarita recipe.
Our class of four whipped up fabulous ceviche, huachinango
veracruzano and lime flan. (Who knew flan contains a cup of heavy
cream?) Our teacher was like a kid, encouraging us to play with our
food, have fun with our knives and experiment.
“It’s your food,” he declared. “Do what you want with it.”
We toured the herb garden sipping wine as the kitchen “valets”
cleaned our prep stations and set out plates and crystal. The
aromas of tomatoes, olives, capers and oregano wafted from our
fish, and the upended flan landed perfectly at the center of our
roasted pineapple slices. The meal was divine. The students beamed
with enthusiasm. In fact, the valets had to practically push us out
so they could set up the next class.
Dunaway’s playful attitude stayed with me long after our class.
In fact, his influence was so strong I ignored my to-do list and
spent an hour catching waves at the beach.
Commission: 10 percent
The Ritz-Carlton’s $50,000 Culinary Center is the first of its
kind in Cancun. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a kitchen
like this at any hotel. Classes include Spa Cuisine and the
complete menu for a Tuscan dinner party. Wine and tequila tastings
are also held in the Culinary Center, where the wine cellars are
stocked with superb vintages and guests sip from Reidel glasses.
The two-hour classes cost $95 per person; wine tastings cost
The beachfront casitas are available for private dining for $85
for a party of up to six persons.