Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: January 2018

Resort Review: Secrets The Vine, Cancun

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If it’s true that life’s a beach there could be few worse places to be beached than Secrets the Vine Cancun as this adult-only oasis set on a stunning beach with memorable ocean views from its chic designer guest rooms is a relaxing retreat from the wider world beyond its gates.

Since it’s grand opening in 2012 the 497-room Secrets The Vine Cancun has delivered a wine-focused upscale all-inclusive experience for singles & couples with gourmet  dining and a small but well laid-out resort complex.

I’d confirmed a Deluxe Ocean View room and was assigned #1805 upon check-in, a room with two double beds and a western sunset view over the neighboring Hard Rock Hotel Cancun.

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The room like the entire resort has a very crisp and clean yet warm modern design and a symmetry with two vanities, two beds, two glass enclosed spaces for toilet and shower stall, two closets, two grey wicker chairs on the balcony and matching terracotta tiling on the floor and ceiling in the washroom area that’s between the door to the unit and the bedroom.

The golden brown desk opposite the beds under the wall-mounted flat screen TV has a higher and lower tier with a mini-bar restocked daily under the former with the latter housing a drinks station and Nespresso coffee machine.

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The low-back cappuccino coloured leather chairs completely compliment the room decor but aren’t comfortable for long periods working on a laptop however it’s one of the few things I could find fault with after a week in the room with the other being no light switch in the glass-enclosed toilet as there are three wall-mounted light controls which are between the beds, inside the hallway door and over one vanity.

What really makes the room feel like a tropical bungalow yards from the beach despite being in a high-rise tower is the white wood print ceramic Italian plank tiling that runs throughout the bedroom and balcony.

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The large shower stall features a ceiling-mounted rainfall shower head as well as a wall-mounted shower head with individual controls of each that make for excellent refreshing showers you won’t want to leave. Note that only the Master Suites and Honeymoon Suites at Secrets The Vine Cancun offer a tub as all other room categories feature a shower only.

The sweeping ocean and lagoon views from the large balcony of room 1805 are another room highlight and was a nice place to watch the sunset every evening before heading to dinner.

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Wall-to-wall sliding glass doors open almost the entire width of the room making the balcony feel like an extension of the bedroom instead of a separate space.

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Worth noting is guest rooms on floors 10 – 20 and are serviced by one bank of elevators just off the main lobby while guests who’ve upgraded to the Preferred Club with its added perks and amenities stay in rooms from the 21 – 28 floors. That isn’t to say however that this is a 28-story building as there are no 1 – 10 levels and no 13th floor due to superstitions with that number so in reality more like a 19-story tower. I noted that curious numbering while lazing by the Terrace Pool and noting that the restaurants, spa and fitness facility were only a few floors up from the lobby level yet are on the 12th floor.

As the weather was cool and windy my first few days, I opted for a spot away from the beach at the Terrace Pool to unwind and swim.

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Despite arriving during high season the loungers by the beach and pool weren’t a problem to find later in the morning, a pleasant surprise for those who’ve  stayed elsewhere and had to reserve a spot early in the morning. The resort actually politely reminds guests not to hold loungers for longer than 30 minutes and I found this request was followed.

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Unlike at other luxury all-inclusive resorts Secrets The Vine Cancun doesn’t offer larger two-person day beds even in the Preferred Club but rather individual loungers with thick pads and section sofas. All loungers throughout the resort however do enjoy regular wait service for cocktails or bottles of water.

The beach in front of the resort is golden brown sand that extends out into the water making it good for swimming with good room between the water’s edge and stairs to the Barefoot Pool.

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The Barefoot Pool steps off the beach.

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My sunrise beach walks are always a favorite morning ritual when I’m in the tropics as it’s a serene way to start my day with few people on the beach. One  morning I came upon a pelican pausing from fishing in the shallows to preen.

photo by author

photo by author

Around the resort there are a number of venues off the main lobby including The Vine Bazaar: The Vine Bar with it’s floor-to-ceiling 4,500 bottle wine cellar which is the largest in Mexico. Wine tasting lessons lead by the resort sommolier are  offered daily and is part of the Unlimited Luxury all-inclusive program.

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Champagne tasting is also offered on a regular basis at The Vine Bazaar for a USD $25 per person supplement for five glasses of champagne.

Steps away is The Vine Lounge which offers a casual venue for drinks during the day and hosts live entertainers most evenings.

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The duo “H & C” offered some funky cover versions of well known songs one evening but guests can consult the daily activities guide Sundial left in each room during the turn-down service as there’s a list of the performers in each venue with show times.

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Other lounges and bars to chose from are outdoor Mantees Bar and Sugar Reef steps from the pools and beach, the Red Vine Piano Lounge and Half Time sports bar which was a popular place among the mainly American guests for the NFL and college football games.

The top-shelf spirits served in all the cocktails at all bars and lounges come without plastic straws as the resort chain has joined with others in Riviera Maya and beyond to end the use of these as they do not decompose and harm marine ecosystems including the sea turtle that for are found along the coast.

As enjoyable as the guest rooms and lounges are it’s the dining that helps make Secrets The Vine Cancun memorable as it’s more than just food, it’s cuisine.

If you have a yen for Asian cuisine Dragons is a mix of Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese delicacies and what I liked most was that a diner could mix-and-match Oriental appetizers and entrées and not be limited to only to one regional specialty.

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Sea Salt is steps from the beach with an ocean view and serves a seafood inspired menu al fresco or on a patio outdoors.

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The night of my visit was a Caribbean-themed buffet night but the weather wasn’t cooperating with gusty winds strong enough to blow napkins off the table. Luckily however staff was always nearby to catch whatever fell and with almost as many staff as guests when I dined  the service was impeccable.

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Olio is an outdoor à la carte Mediterranean restaurant open to all guests after 6 PM but reserved for Preferred Club guests during the day.

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photo by author

Nebbiolo Ristorante is a classic Italian upscale dining restaurant on the 12th floor steps from the Spa, fitness center and Olio. The lasagna I ordered on my arrival night was a little cold and the portion size smaller than expected so wandered down and enjoyed some hearty Mexican food and the Mariachi band performing during Mexican night at the Market Café.


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Being low maintenance and an early riser I skipped room service and usually made my way down to Market Café buffet restaurant shortly after it opened at 7 AM after a refreshing beach walk or early work out.

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For a buffet restaurant the quality was very high and  the champagne chilled for a morning Mimosa or two.

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Next to Nebbiolo on the 12th floor is my favorite restaurant, the Bluewater Grill, which serves amazing steaks and grilled fare that had me making a repeat visit.

As with all restaurants at Secrets The Vine Cancun reservations are not required and no limits on specialty restaurant visits as is the case at some all-inclusive resorts. I found being seated as a solo traveler never an issue and wait times fairly short even at peak times.

Should all these varies dining venues not be enough, guests of Secrets The Vine Cancun may opt to take advantage of the Sip, Savor & See program which allows complimentary dinner and drinks and live evening entertainment at nearby participating resorts from 6 PM to 1 AM. The resort concierge needs to make the arrangements and transportation isn’t included but it’s a yet another option open to guests.

To work out the calories consumed at any of the resort restaurants the well-equipped fitness center is open daily 6 AM – 9 PM with stunning ocean views.

I enjoyed a morning run on the treadmill while watching the sunrise and the pelicans fish offshore.

Secrets The Vine Cancun more than lived up to its accolades as a luxury retreat and I very much enjoyed my week-long holiday from the moment I arrived and the front desk staff greeted me with a “welcome home” to the moment I left for the airport. The superior service, fine dining that’s better than any I’ve had at an all-inclusive resort, and ultra-comfortable  guest rooms make this adult-only a new favorite of mine especially while enduring a snowy Edmonton Winter.

There are panoramic 360-degree view of the rooms, beach, restaurants and public areas here.

Fowl play; robotic birds could make air travel safer at Edmonton International Airport

Edmonton International Airport has many stories to tell but most aren’t readily apparent to the average user boarding aircraft at its gates or awaiting luggage at its carousels. Some are stories about man-made marvels that manage baggage or the million of passengers that pass through its doors every year but this story is about the role nature plays at Canada’s fifth busiest airport.

After it became apparent in 1955 that the propeller age of air travel was passing and that the bigger jet airliners required longer runways than Edmonton’s original city center airfield could accommodate 7,600 acres or rural farmland near Leduc was purchased by Transport Canada for $1,469,000 and plans begun for a new airport which would eventually open 5-years later. By an informal and unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” the original landowners were allowed to lease back and continue to farm unused tracts of land which some still do as Edmonton International Airport remains Canada’s largest airport in area with more than half of its land still under cultivation.

It’s this farmland and natural areas that attracts wildlife including birds which  puts them on a collision course with aircraft creating the potential for a catastrophic air crash.  Edmonton International Airport staff have employed a number of scare tactics to alter birds entry into airport airspace but in 2017 became one of the first airports in the world to add a new and all-natural tool to its arsenal: robotic birds.

 

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