“In our kingdom, everything is of the highest quality and of the highest standards,” said Juan Carlos Calderon, corporate director of sales in Canada at Palace Resorts.
PAX had an opportunity to truly understand what that means after joining nearly 160 Canadian travel advisors on Palace Resorts’ fourth annual Megafam in Cancun, Mexico, earlier this month.
Held at The Grand at Moon Palace, the week-long event (Nov. 1-8) gave Canadian trade an opportunity to experience the Palace brand first-hand through engaging workshops, Hollywood-level parties and enough free time to explore the all-inclusive properties for themselves.
A key component to the week (which had a waitlist of 600 people) was paying visits to other Palace properties in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel so agents could truly see and understand what makes Palace unique.
“These are not just beautiful buildings. These are luxury resorts that you give you all the taste and feel of luxury, but taken to the year 2020,” Calderon told PAX.
A consistent theme at Palace is that guests, regardless of their room size, have access to the same amenities. (“We don’t segregate guests by room category,” Calderon noted).
There’s also an impressive consistency in the food: Palace actually owns and operates its own food distribution centre, CEDIS, where hundreds of skilled workers prepare all the pasta, breads, pastries, meats, poultry, ice cream – you name it! – from scratch, by hand, using high-tech equipment and premium ingredients, for all of its nearby resorts.
“You’re not going to pick a resort based on the type of orange juice you’re getting in the morning, but when you discover the orange juice you are drinking was squeezed hours ago, that will make a difference in your vacation,” Calderon said. “The key is the dedication we put into every dish.”
The take-away: “Everything is taken to a different level compared to the average all-inclusive,” Calderon said.
Diana Winters, business development manager for Ontario at Palace Resorts, said it’s important travel agents discover this concept for themselves while on a Megafam.
“We want them to be able to sell based on their own personal experience. Not by what we’re telling them to sell,” she said.
So, what did travel advisors think of it all?
Here, PAX presents a roundup of the Palace properties agents had an opportunity to experience in Mexico on Megafam 2019 (along with their final thoughts!)
Hotel: Moon Palace Cancun
Rooms: 1,276 (Sunrise), 710 (Nizuc), 57 (Golf Villas).
Brief overview: “Moon Palace is very vast,” said Winters, describing what is considered Palace Resorts’ flagship property. Located a mere 10 minutes from Cancun Airport, the mega resort is divided into three opulent sections: Sunrise, Nizuc and Golf Villas (which are attached to a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course).
The three areas share a total of 13 restaurants and bars combined, boast sprawling pools and have tons of activities and amenities (tennis and basketball courts, nightclubs, kid’s clubs – you name it). “It feels like a large resort with pools that expand from one end to the next,” Winters explained. The Nizuc section is, notably, home to Palace Resorts’ wedding office where couples can meet with professional consultants, sample countless themes and, overall, iron out the details for their big day.
What agents said: “There’s so much you can do here,” TravelOnly’s Martha Becker from Peterborough, ON, said of the multi-section mega property. “It’s for people who just can’t sit still.” Becker added that she liked the consistency between all the sections. “The service, the food…You know what you’re getting and you’re never disappointed,” she said. Nexion Canada’s Jodi Greenleaves of St. John’s, Newfoundland, echoed that sentiment, adding that she “loved” the property’s glamourous décor. “It has a Vegas feel to it. It’s very lively,” she said. She also thought the weddings department was “beautiful.”
Hotel: The Grand at Moon Palace (Megafam 2019 host hotel)
Rooms: 1,316 (various views)
Brief description: The Grand at Moon Palace is a high-end extension of Moon Palace Cancun that opened two years ago. The rooms – “which are so big, you could do about ten cartwheels from the door all the way to the balcony,” said Winters – are covered in marble and each boast their own double jacuzzi. “The Grand is for people who are seeking a family-oriented vacation, but expect a higher-luxury feel with concierge-level service,” Winters said.
There are spots for children (such as a sky-high waterslide park) and adults-only areas (such as Unique Day Club). Other stand-out amenities include to-die-for restaurants (from Mexican to Italian to Asian to Lebanese) a glowing-green arcade called Wired and a “Secret Library” – a wall of books that features a hidden door that, when opened, leads to a bustling Speakeasy Bar.
What agents said: “Everything here is in the details,” said Martin Beauregard of Voyage Horizon in Sherbrooke, QC. “It’s my third time at The Grand, and it’s my favourite. The service is really personalized. You can be two lovers sitting in the corner or you can be party animals – you’ll find everything here.”
Wilfred Kwok, director and co-owner of Champagne Weddings based in B.C and Alberta, praised The Grand’s chic décor. “When you walk into the lobby bar, it’s breathtaking,” Kwok told PAX, referring to the room’s soaring glass-blown chandelier. “There’s nowhere else in Mexico where I can experience the same thing.” Reza Salkhordeh of Marlin Travel in Mississauga, ON, said the “food is phenomenal with tons of choices.” Guests staying at The Grand also have access to the other sections at Moon Palace. Tannis Dyrland, a travel agent with The Travel Agent Next Door based in Calgary, AB, said “as large as Moon Palace is, they make it very simplistic for people to explore,” adding: “I don’t believe seven days is enough here. There’s so much to see and do.”
Hotel: Beach Palace Cancun
Rooms: 285 (ocean, lagoon and resort views)
Brief overview: “Location, location, location is one of the best assets we have,” said Juan Carlos, a director of sales at Palace Resorts, told PAX. Located in Cancun’s glitzy hotel zone, Beach Palace is actually the first property Palace Resorts opened back in 1986. However, the beachfront luxury resort – situated between the Caribbean Sea and Nichupté Lagoon – has dramatically been remodelled since then.
After Hurricane Wilma destroyed most of the building’s facade in 2005, the property was rebuilt from scratch and reopened in 2007. Being close to Cancun’s nightclubs and shopping malls is convenient, but it’s Beach Palace’s Sky Terrace – a rooftop space that offers 360-degree views of Cancun – that brings the sizzle.
What agents said: Bonita Smith of Centre Holidays in Ottawa, ON, said Beach Palace “feels homey.” She loved the fact that the hotel truly caters to families. “There’s Xboxes in the rooms,” she remarked. “When you’re travelling with kids, they get bored. So that’s something kids will like.” Nexion Canada’s Gail Perry from St John’s, Newfoundland, said the property was “definitely one of the more luxurious resorts I’ve visited as a travel agent.” She described it as “very subtle, sophisticated and classy,” noting how the rooms “are awesome with beautiful views.” Perry particularly liked the infinity pool looking over the ocean.
Hotel: Cozumel Palace
Rooms: 169 (all ocean view)
Brief overview: Located about 15 minutes from Cozumel Airport, Cozumel Palace is an upscale, relatively small oceanfront resort on the sparkling west coast of Cozumel Island. Though a luxurious waterfront property, there is no natural beach (elevated sandy spots are, of course, available).
However, it’s Cozumel Palace’s close ties to a magnificent coral reef – the second largest reef in the world – that makes it sparkle. Unforgettable snorkeling and scuba diving experiences await, and with Cozumel’s crystal-clear waters right in front of the resort, guests have easy access to an unparalleled underwater world.
What agents said: Nora MacDonald of Simply Travel by Design in Thunder Bay, ON, said the property was “very inviting and intimate,” adding that she would recommend it to clients who “were interested in the water aspects of a trip.” On Palace, the brand, MacDonald said she appreciates its attention to detail and friendly staff. “I didn't meet one person who didn’t have a happy smile or say hello,” she said.
Laura Middleton of Vision Travel in Georgetown, ON, took her kids to Cozumel Palace a few years back on a day-pass while on a cruise. “We hung out by the pool, the service was phenomenal,” she recalled. Furthermore, at Cozumel Palace, “The diving is key,” Middleton said.
Hotel: Playacar Palace
Rooms: 201 (mostly all ocean view)
Brief overview: Just steps away from Playa del Carmen's 5th Avenue shopping district and the Cozumel Ferry Dock, Playacar Palace is an ideal spot to sun tan during the day and enjoy the nightlife of “Playa" at night. Combining chic whites, calming décor and natural greenery, the resort immediately transports guests into vacation mode with a wide-open, jaw-dropping view of the turquoise-tinted ocean, which unfolds just steps beyond the main lobby. The upscale property is about a 45-minute drive from Cancun Airport.
What agents said: “It’s a smaller resort, but I like that I can still send a family here,” said Maryanne Wagstaff, an owner at MACS Travel based in Alliston, Ontario. To that end, Wagstaff said she’d be equally comfortable sending a young couple “that want the nightlife” to Playacar Palace as well. “It’s more active,” Wagstaff said, describing the property’s overall vibe. “With 5th Avenue right there, people can go out, do things, leave the resort and feel safe doing so. It’s for people who want to explore and immerse themselves in the culture.”
Georgia Rakopoulos of UNIGLOBE Enterprise Travel in Toronto, ON, loved the prized view of the ocean from the main lobby. “You have this feeling of tranquility right when you walk in,” she said. As for the type of clientele she would send to Playacar Palace: “I would send people who have travelled a little bit and want a luxury experience but are looking for a boutique feel,” Rakopoulos said. And of course: “People who can appreciate the proximity to Playa del Carmen.”
Hotel: Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun
Rooms: 260 (67 per cent ocean view, 33 per cent lagoon view)
Brief description: Le Blanc is the only all-inclusive, adults-only resort in the world that has maintained a Five Diamond recognition for ten consecutive years. With locations in Cancun and Los Cabos, the brand is the ultra-luxe member of the Palace family that offers personalized butler service (regardless of room category), world-class wellness services, and crème de la crème dining options.
“It’s a little piece of heaven on earth,” as Sharon Wilson, business development manager for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at Palace Resorts, put it. “Everyone gets treated like royalty.”
Suzette Alvar, a sales manager for Le Blanc in Cancun, said Le Blanc is all about pampering. “It’s an escape that gives guests a feeling of relaxation, but also luxury,” she said. And remember, it’s all-inclusive. From hydrotherapy circuits at the spa to dining on seven courses at Lumiere, a French-fusion restaurant: “You can do it every day, without restrictions,” Alvar said. Located in Cancun’s hotel zone about 25 minutes from Cancun Airport.
What agents said: “It’s super clean, very romantic and calm,” Jeff Mcgarvey of MACS Travel based in Alliston, ON, told PAX. “If this is where you’re coming to have a romantic getaway, this is the place to do that. For sure.”
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