Cancun! The Ritz Carlton here, Latin America’s most elegant resort, brings unsurpassed luxury to this sun drenched vacation spot.
Lately, I’ve come to yearn for a Caribbean island resort where I could dress for dinner and be served by the kind of well-trained waiters that were the hallmark of the great European Hotels. I craved the idea of enjoying cutting edge cuisine in the kind of elegant setting that invited sophisticated conversation.
In my mind, I envisioned it like one of the opulent resorts featured in the old 1930’s musical comedies, a gorgeous oceanfront hotel with marble, flowers, gilt, and chandeliers everywhere that’s formal by night, yet informal enough during the day that I could wear a tennis outfit while passing through the lobby.
Happily, I’ve found my tropical paradise at the Ritz Carlton Cancun, Mexico’s premiere resort destination characterized by Technicolor blue skies, transparent turquoise sea, and tropical fish frolicking beneath the crystalline waves. For too many years I dismissed Cancun as a spring break retreat for the college set, but after hearing friends rave about the luxurious accommodations and lavish service at the six-year-old Cancun Ritz-Carlton, I eagerly booked a visit.
Cancun, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, was developed as a tourist resort by the Mexican government and features many hotels, but none even approaches the elegance and level of service at the Ritz. The gleaming marble lobby with its vast arrangements of tropical flowers sets the tone for the elegance that characterizes this resort. All the spacious, peach-colored rooms face the ocean and feature balconies where you can enjoy a room service breakfast overlooking the sparkling Caribbean.
Dinner found me at the romantic Fantino, a fairy tale of a restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine with Mediterranean influences. It’s impossible not to feel pampered as a pretty hostess warmly welcomes our party and escorts us to the table like treasured guests.
The Maitre’d, dapper in an elegant tuxedo, graciously serves our cocktail order of champagne from a silver tray, a hint of the luxury to come. Unlike an American restaurant where menus are brought to the table immediately, we were left alone with our bubbly, giving us a chance to admire the lovely pink and green room with dazzling murals above the chandeliers and picture windows overlooking the Caribbean sunset. The attractive crowd was elegantly dressed, surprisingly young, and from the quiet hum of conversations around us, quite international.
Once orders are taken, an amuse-gueule arrives. On this particular night it is a perfectly transparent rectangle of beef capriccio topped with tender green asparagus tips, wisps of Parmesan cheese, and toasted pignoli nuts surrounded by a generous squiggle of aged balsamic vinegar. The first course of the tasting menu, Mussel Salad, is a visual masterpiece with the crisp, bracing flavor of the sea. Next was a tiny demitasse of “asparagus cappuccino,” a delightful froth celebrating the essence of springtime.
Foie gras, atop caramelized figs and surrounded by a pool of Marsala wine Sauce, is accompanied by a sweet wedge of buttery brioche so one can fully enjoy the sauce. Grilled red snapper, infused with a zesty saffron sauce precedes a tantalizing pastry cart of mouth-watering desserts such as crème brulée with pineapple and a decadent chocolate torte.
While the service in the hotel’s Club Grill is equally formal, the slightly more casual ambiance encourages diners to relax. It’s a fun room! An attractive lounge entertainer, a ringer for famed songstress Billie Holiday, has couples entwined on the dance floor. We sip champagne as we peruse the menu, featuring many American favorites such as New York steak, grilled veal chops, and black pepper crusted tuna, but once again, I put my appetite in the hands of the chef’s four course Tasting Menu, paired with an intriguing selection of wines from Baja California.
The progression began with an amuse-gueule of Caribbean Lobster perched on a bed of tangy caramelized eggplant puree, followed by sweet lobster corn soup. Mexican stuffed chili stuffed with beef and pork was enlivened by a light crème sauce redolent of ginger and sprinkled with vibrant red pomegranate seeds. Squab, crisply roasted to perfection, was accented by a savory mole almond sauce and spiked with chocolate and cinnamon. A waiter presents us with selections from the dessert cart, explaining each in such exquisite detail it’s impossible to refuse.
Thankfully, the Ritz offers an exercise room and morning aerobics classes to work off the calories. A variety of massages and treatments are available for sybarites such as myself, who make the sparkling marble spa (featuring a sauna & steam room) a part of their daily routine. During my visit I indulged in several treatments, including a detoxifying mud wrap that left my skin deliciously soft and a deep tissue massage that was so relaxing I felt as if I was floating in a dream all evening.
Cancun offers the ancient treasures of nearby Mayan ruins, which the helpful hotel concierge can easily arrange for you to visit by car or plane. All I really wanted to do was get a light tan, watch the waves thrash a few feet away as I enjoyed a lunch of blackened fish at the al fresco Carribe Bar & Grill, and entertain the thought of getting another massage, this time at one of the ocean front cabanas. My friend had a different itinerary: Golf at the private Pok-Ta-Pok 18-hole golf course, and indulging in the nightly tequila tasting event in the elegant Lobby Lounge while enjoying a Montecristo cigar.
Service even extends to the tennis courts. Sign up for a game and a spa attendant escorts you to one of the several lighted courts and brings you an elegant silver container of water and the fresh, white, plush towels the Ritz is famous for. With every staff member so alert and attentive to your every need, one feels a royal personage.
Perhaps the best thing about the Ritz is that you really never have to leave. Beyond the two formal restaurants, the Café offers a different theme nightly (the most popular is the seafood buffet with Caribbean lobster) and the Lobby Lounge offers appetizers such as pizza, ceviche, and more. All kinds of exciting water sports are available (including para-sailing). Let others see Mayan ruins. A visit to the Ritz-Carlton Cancun is a place to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.