Cid City

Marina El Cid debuts on the Riviera Maya

By: Patricia Alisau

Curiosity gnawed at me as the driver rounded the gravel road lined with mangroves. We were on the outskirts of the small fishing village of Puerto Morelos, a mere dot on the map of the Riviera Maya. Would the newest El Cid in Mexico resemble the original in Mazatlan, a sprawling four-hotel mega-complex? I had four days to find out during a fam sponsored by the property.

The difference could be felt immediately. Once in my spacious one-bedroom suite, for example, I ordered a synthetic down pillow from the pillow menu. It arrived in a mere 10 minutes, giving me just enough time to freshen up before lunch.

The Marina El Cid opened in mid-March with 200 junior, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites set in a series of attractive Mediterranean-style, four-story ochre buildings.

The interior design is called minimalist chic, according to sales manager Jurriaan Klink. I noticed clean lines and non-fussy fixtures bear this out.

An all-around family resort, El Cid provides a Kid’s Club with its own pool and meal menus. But that’s not to say that parents don’t get pampered, too. Set to one side of the buildings is an adults-only Silence Area with water lounges, Jacuzzi and private massage tables (where the only sound is that of the ocean lapping the shore). It’s a perfect setting for a massage, which at El Cid blends the traditional with some Mayan techniques.

I chose the four-hand Kukulkan. Under the guidance of two masseuses, silky strokes with oils segued into 80 minutes of Shiatsu, reflexology, lymphatic drainage and cleansing of the aura, kneading out knots and raising my energy level about 100 percent. Massages are offered on the beach or in your room while a spa is being completed (due in August). I chose one in my suite on the breezy balcony.

The large balcony was just one reason the one-bedroom suite was so appealing. Cool marble floors led into rooms like the full-sized bathroom with walk-in shower, a glamorous space that offered style as well as function. A kitchenette, bedroom with plasma TV, living room with a Murphy bed and handsome dark-wood furnishings made the room come together nicely. The higher-end suites have Jacuzzis on the balcony, while the junior suites have no kitchenette.

In addition, a fruit bowl appeared daily on my dining table, a perk of belonging to the Club Platinum. An optional program that your clients pay for separately, Club Platinum features a comfortable lounge with computers, a TV, English-language newspapers and complimentary alcoholic beverages throughout the day. Guests receive their own personal butler and have an aromatherapy menu at hand. There is also a room upgrade to an oceanfront or oceanview unit, bathrobes, beach bag and late check out, which reminded me more of things you find at a boutique hotel rather than an all- inclusive resort.

General manager Hector Lopez, who won an award for his food and beverage service at a former post, said he intends to bring his expertise to the dining experience at El Cid as well. Each of the resort’s three restaurants has its special points.

The Andalus serves buffet meals with a large number of international dishes besides homemade breads and desserts. Each morning, I started out with my favorite juice made from the nopal (prickly pear) cactus, which Mexicans consider a health drink. The ultra-elegant, Japanese-style Alcazar features a la carte Asian/Mediterranean fusion food, while the Hacienda Arrecife serves Mexican selections poolside. All guests have access to 24-hour room service at no extra charge.

There’s also nightly themed entertainment like pre-Hispanic and Mexican folk dances near the pool, pending the completion of an arena by summer. A singer with a mood music repertoire also shows up nightly at the bar. There’s no disco, but guests can sign up for a dance-club night crawl to Cancun.

Marina Made
Just as the name suggests, the hotel has a marina a few hundred yards from the lobby. It’s a full-service affair that will eventually hold 350 boats. At an extra cost, deep-sea fishing, cruises, snorkeling and diving with PADI-certified staff (even into the coastal caverns) can be booked. But best of all, there’s a seafood restaurant, which I lunched at one day while watching the fishing boats come in from their early morning run.

The next morning, I jumped aboard a 29-foot yacht with the harbor master for a refreshing cruise along the shore. We spotted a marine turtle, fishing skiffs, boats loaded with snorkelers and deserted beaches as we slipped through openings in the Palancar Reef, the largest reef system in the Americas, which stretches down to Central America.

Although the bike outings, tennis courts, kayaks, windsurfing and fitness center are free, El Cid’s travel agency offers tours for a fee. I spent one evening at Xcaret taking in the horse show and the dramatic recreation of the ancient Maya ball game, a precursor of today’s soccer games. The night ended with a flourish of folkloric dancing.

The last jaunt of the trip was to tiny Puerto Morelos, a laid-back fishing village with about two dozen shops. I bought a paperback at a used bookstore, which I started to read at the hotel while relaxing in a hammock on the beach. It was the late afternoon when the pool activities and watersports died down and a kind of otherworldly tranquility washed over me.


Hotel Marina El Cid

Hits: Lovely setting on an isolated stretch of beach with a protected bay for swimming. Imported wines and beer included in all-inclusive price. Personnel are warm and go the extra mile.

Misses: The resort could use more tropical gardens and green areas. Vegetarians should stick to the buffets at the Andalus. Clients will have to go off-site for shopping.

Be Aware: Honeymooners might not be happy at this all-round family resort.

Plugging In: Internet hook-up is not available in rooms. Wireless access in lobby.

Rates: Rack rates start at $322 per night, double. The Club Platinum upgrade is $40 per person, per night.

Commission: Starts at
10 percent. Incentives