Cancun is back and better than ever for winter vacations

On Oct. 21, 2005, Hurricane Wilma roared ashore making a direct strike on Cancun. The hurricane was the most powerful ever recorded and completely decimated the Cancun tourist industry for more than six months.

Many hotels were damaged, some beyond repair. Shops, bars and restaurants suffered flooding and structural damage. The resilience and determination of the Mexican people together with unprecedented support from the Mexican government ensured that Cancun came back better than ever.

A huge beach recovery program took place, restoring the beaches to a condition better than before the hurricane hit. Hoteliers and restaurateurs turned the downtime opportunity to their advantage and brought forward longer-term plans to upgrade and improve facilities, resulting in today’s Cancun being significantly improved from the Cancun of 2005.

As the cold weather season approaches, you may want to give Cancun some thought as a great vacation destination. New flight schedules make Cancun much more accessible to those from the Pacific Northwest than ever before.

Carol and I had to travel to Cancun recently on business (yes, it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it!). What we found were some really outstanding vacation opportunities that are the perfect getaway for sun lovers and those looking to escape the cold, dreary and wet days of winter in the Pacific Northwest.

We first visited Moon Palace, a four-star golfer’s paradise. We are preparing for a large group we have going there in January, so we did what is referred to in the travel industry as a site visit for two days. Moon Palace is an all-inclusive resort, meaning all your food, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), 24-hour room service, entertainment and most activities are included in the price, making it an exceptionally good value.

For the golfers, there are 36 holes of championship golf available with special discounts for early rounds. For the ladies, there is an incredible spa where you can pamper yourself. For families, there are great kids programs and activities as well as separate pool areas with water parks and other fun things. For those looking for romance, each room has a giant Jacuzzi for two. It is a beautiful resort that meets about every need you may have. The choices of restaurants are impressive and the food was quite good. The pool is enormous with lounge chairs in the water on a chair deck. Overall, it is a top choice destination, in my opinion.

Our next stop took us to Dreams in the hotel district of Cancun. Dreams is on the very tip of a series of seven independent islands that make up Cancun. It was the first hotel built there and has the premium location. What a great family vacation spot. We had a second-floor room with a balcony overlooking the dolphin pool in the Pyramid building. We had six of these beautiful creatures providing non-stop entertainment night and day within feet of us.

The “Delphinus Swim with the Dolphins” program is available here and will provide an incredible experience. It is a beautiful resort that is also all-inclusive, which makes for great value. One interesting thing about it is that its whole theme is relaxation. The background music, the live entertainment in the lounges is all very soothing and creates a really laid-back environment. It is a very nice atmosphere.

Next, like desert Bedouins we moved onto the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Resort for our annual Ensemble Travel Group conference. The Fiesta Americana Coral Beach is a five-star luxury resort that is beautifully situated with impressive pools and activity areas overlooking a white sugary sand beach. It is a first-class resort for those looking for something really special. We weren’t able to necessarily enjoy all the amenities here simply because the Ensemble Travel Conference has a jam-packed agenda full of outstanding speakers and programs as well as significant interaction between agency owners working on innovative ways to meet the significant challenges of today’s travel industry. It is a great program and reinforces for us the value in our association with Ensemble.

Cancun offers outstanding tour opportunities to ancient Mayan ruins in either Tulum or Chichen Itza. These are fascinating sights that show the rich heritage and culture of the country. Water sports, swim with the dolphins programs, shopping and a variety of other things to do can give you an action-packed vacation, if that’s what you’re looking for, or beautiful peaceful beaches can give you plenty of relaxation, if that’s what you want.

I recommend you book early to get the best prices and selection. Waiting until winter to book when demand is highest means you will pay higher prices.

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way and can be reached at jvaughn@

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