Friday, March 2, 2012

Un Hombre Y Su Hotel - A Man and His Hotel

During my visit this week, I have waxed poetic about the Ocean Coral and Turquesa. My comfortable and well appointed Junior suite, the lovely grounds, amazing dining options, the many activities as well as its beautiful white sand beaches. These are all true and I urge you my clients and friends to experience these things yourself. However, similar attributes like the above can be found in resorts of this area and others. What sets the Ocean Coral apart is its people. Sebastian of the activities department who worked diligently with me to improve my Spanish is less than a week, Alan Ramierez, executive chef who took time out of his busy day to see if our meal was to our liking, Guillermo and Jorge in Los Girasoles Mexican restaurant whose expertise in making Mayan coffee was only eclipsed by their service, Dolores and Lupita at the Despacio spa who worked together to give me one of my favorite haircuts of all time, Raul at the Marina del Mar restaurant who always seemed genuinely pleased to see me and greeted me with the brightest smile and the many staff members who I crossed paths with during the day who always greeted me with a cheery Hola! They are what make the Ocean Coral and Turquesa special. This post is about one staff member in particular.

“Excuse me my lady” with that Joaquin conceirege of the Ocean Coral and Turquesa resort was off and running, literally. We were chatting in the light and airy hotel lobby where Joaquin noticed a guest had left their sunglasses on one of the couches. He sprinted over, picked up the glasses, returned them to the guest and within seconds was continuing our conversation. When I laughed and noted he was constantly scanning the room, he simply said, ‘it is my hotel’.

Joaquin went on to describe how he came to the property during construction and stayed to work at the hotel. His passion, dedication and enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by hotel management, he was quickly promoted many times to his current position of conceirage. After spending a week as one of ‘Joaquin’s people’ I got to benefit directly from his attention to detail, professionalism and his personal credo, ‘nothing is impossible’.

For Joaquin the benefits gained are a two way street. His passion for ‘his’ hotel is only matched by his passion for his ‘people’. He shared stories of how ‘his’ hotel combined with his ‘can do attitude’ provided an outstanding experience for his guests Joaquin’s obvious pleasure at seeing his guests satisfied with their visit was extremely uplifting. It was like seeing the living embodiment of the phrase ‘job satisfaction’. (I was chagrinned later in the week when I was whining about something I thought I didn’t want to do, and Joaquin reminded me with a grin, “Nothing is impossible”).

So my fellow travelers I take home with me a slight sunburn, some birthday surprises for my hardworking husband who wasn’t able to join me on this is visit, and I hope some of Joaquin’s unfailing commitment to customer service. I am making a March resolution, when I think something can’t be done, in my memory I will hear Joaquin of the Ocean Coral and Turquesa say, “Nothing is impossible”.

Thank you Joaquin, for the assistance with dinner reservations, that ugly hat you made for me and made me wear and for showing me the measure of customer service excellence I will endeavor to strive for myself.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hair cuts, language and ruins- Mayan Riviera days 2 through 4

As your self proclaimed navigator of all things travel, when I embark on a new travel adventure I consider it my duty to participate in as many new experiences as possible. It was that sense of duty that turned my feet towards the Despacio Spa at the Ocean Coral and Turquesa resort (I know dear readers, I know but I care that much!). My tour of the modern, soothing facility; combined with my horrifying glimpse in the mirror of my too long and stringy hair tamed for the beach in a scrunchie (a scrunchie!!! What the hell was I thinking, ) that brought me at 4pm CST to Dolores, stylist for the salon.

I sat in the chair with some trepidation. I was weeks overdue for my regular cut(I have a bad habit of suddenly realizing I didn’t make an appointment for my haircut with important dates looming on the horizon ex.a vacation) and my normal style definitely wasn’t easily apparent.
Mi espanoel es muy mal and while Dolores’s English was better, how would we bridge the communication gap with something as important as my head? I needn’t worried, I love my new cut. Dolores was extremely thorough, checking progress many times during the process. I was ready for anything the resort had to offer!

As salsa musica blasted from the speakers, Sebastian set up a white board and chairs near the activity pool edge. Tuesday at 10am the Mexican sun was shining, but the heat not oppressive for my Spanish language lesson. I love foreign languages and studied Spanish for four years in high school and two in college. But what my education has always lacked is the ability to practice with a native speaker. My classmates were the approximately 10 year old Americans Charlie and Reed who had never had a Spanish lesson as well as Candela and Camilla who at about the same hailed from Argentina. The class was everything I could have hoped for a review of basic vocab for the less experienced with an opportunity for myself as well as the young ladies from Argentina to practice Spanish and English with each other. I was absolutely delighted with Sebastian’s pace and energy in the class. His enthusiasm for his language was infectious and when some ladies from Argentina (the lovely Vanessa and Lucia ) the class became even more lively and fun. Sebastian approached me after class and let me know he would prepare some advanced Spanish concepts for my lesson on Thursday.

The Toyota van rolled down the highway through Rivieras Cancun and Maya Seated behind the driver, I could see the Cancun Riviera laid out before me. As we passed elegant and impressive resort after resort and were passed my late model sedans, SUVs, and trucks, it occurred to me this was not the Mexico I experienced in 1982. Its citizens and the country itself (at least in this area) seemed to be enjoying prosperity and growth. More surprising there wasn’t a 60s era rusted out VW Beetle in sight. This Mexico was not unlike South Florida in its white sand beaches and upscale feel. The excursion had been arranged by my colleague in Cancun Alejandra Ozzorco, owner of Your Cancun dmc. Ale’s company provides ‘everything on the ground in Cancun to make the guests stay more pleasant’ like wedding assistance, private airport transfers. Today I was using Your Cancun’s services for a private tour of the Mayan archaeological ruins of Tulum. Located an easy hour and half ride from my hotel, Tulum was the major center of Mayan commerce with goods coming to the market there from Mayan tribes from as far away as Honduras and Belize for import with the Cancun area’s major exports of salt and honey also being traded at the market. The site is well preserved. The chief’s palace and the temple being in the best condition. The most surprising thing about Tulum? Its lovely public beaches, offering a cooling break from the midday Mexican sun. After our tour we chose to go to Playa del Carmen where our tour guide David Celis recommended Yaxche, a local restaurant serving traditional Mayan dishes. I had barbeque pork with hand made flour tortillas along with home made tortilla chips with the Mayan pumpkin seed sauce. During our lunch break we discussed Mexican mourning rituals, the country’s celebration of Dias de las muertas (days of the dead), Mayan cooking methods. For me, relaxing and visiting with a native person is the highlight of my trip. A private tour allows you the luxury of not only setting the pace of your day, but getting in depth knowledge of a country’s people.