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
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.
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
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
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
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