The tone of a day is set by the early morning view, as above. The tone of any hotel is set by its boss and HILTON CANCUN, AN ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT can be summed up in a single three-letter word, fun. Its Mexican manager, Salvador Gutiérrez, would not have been out of place as a Barnum & Bailey showman in an earlier age. He’s an extrovert polymath, as at home in his sprawling 715-key ocean-set resort thinking up ideas for guests as motivating his 800 colleagues to look after 600 arrivals any time now (even though he can’t wait to get away to check on latest pole position for Fi).
Even without that group the property, which will be over 95% tonight, is buzzing. HBA’s golden and taupe lobby is about 14m tall and 30m from end to end. Look past people sitting, standing, chatting, up at the bar on the left, standing at the coffee counter on the right. Opposite, an all-glass wall looks down at the adult, of two, significant outdoor pools, and a narrow beach, and the ocean.
Because of its size, layout of the seven-floor property is necessarily complicated but signage is superb. Any of the elevators take you to your floor (be aware, at first it is a little tricky to get your identification bracelet to connect with the elevator pad, and again with your room door). #6302, an 80sqm Ocean View Suite, speaks space, lots of it. Sand-coloured marble floors, upholstery and easy-pull drapes, a blue glass ornamental bottle and 2 scatter rugs, dining for eight, a big bar and full-size refrigerator. The bath-free ablution area has a two-person, two-head easy-work shower and two basins in a really-long vanity stand. Only one of the banks of US sockets has USB and USC ports, one of each.
Exercise time. Every one of the well-labelled staff members seems immediately willing to help with anything, even proactively. How to find the gym? It’s enroute to the 600-person convention centre. It is a serious space, with plenty of LifeFitness equipment and plenty of fruit (for spa, Hiltonites are buggied over to sibling WALDORF ASTORIA CANCUN, five minutes away). Many happy Hilton guests seem to get most of their exercise socialising, rather than swimming, in the pool below #6032: an identical pool, about seven minutes’ walk away, attracts families as it is next to an impressive play area.
There is so much to do, all, except the spa, included. Boards clearly list daily events. Today started with 10am stretching and proceeded, via beach volleyball, beach soccer, aqua fit, bingo, Latin dance, Huichol art, movies to 8pm karaoke. Yes, Senor Gutiérrez loves events. He makes use of everything, including the moon – the next Full Moon beach-set dinner is 6th June.
Tonight beach dining for at least 600 is being set up 100m north of the hotel, reached via a dune trek. White circular linen-covered tables, white chairs and a spider’s web of overhead lights are part of the preparation (perhaps this group will tomorrow be meeting in the Hilton’s 600-person indoor Convention Centre).
Girlahead has the needed reservation for dinner at Auma, one of 12 eating-drinking venues. Inside and out on a pool-view terrace, the interior is tall and brown-or-glass, with an open kitchen manned by Hector, in black. Dark wood tables are set with brown leather-look mats, matching napkins and anonymous show plates. A 2.5cm-thick slice of grilled rustic bread comes with dishes of spicy chimichurri, a red jam, and chef Reuben’s mix of garlic, tomato cubes, cheese bits and olive oil. Some pay extra for ribeye or tomahawk but the included offerings include an outstanding large over-embers NY strip, with choice of sauce and side. There is no room for any of the sweets, seasalt caramel cheesecake, charred lemon pie, dark chocolate truffle tart.
Half a dozen bottles, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, stand ready to be poured and just-as-needed refilled by enthusiastically-bustling local ladies – the XA Domecq Valle de Guadalupe was excellent, whatever its vintage. The in-lobby bar, by the way, has prominent signs saying barmen reserve the right to stop serving, as they think fit. As Girlahead walks past, postprandially, a barman is enthusiastically counting wads of dollar bills. Even though service is included in the room rates, it is impossible to stop Americans tipping automatically.
Breakfast is at three-meals Vela, the buffet haven that is another indoor-out spot staffed by a fabulous team, all ages, all professionally personal (some have sea-blue shirts matching china mugs, place mats and fabric napkins). One seasoned woman, in a black hairnet, somehow manages to produce two highly-personalised omelette orders simultaneously: the gluten-free corner has the most flavourful breads but most seem to go for pancakes, waffles or red or green-topped croissants. Two kinds of smoked salmon go well with cottage cheese and the papaya is thoughtfully cubed.
‘Are you ready to create new memories?’ say signs in elevators here. Let’s add ‘are you ready to have fun?”. That truly sums up the experience here at Hilton Cancun, an All-Inclusive Resort.