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Finally, an all-inclusive resort that lives up to its billing

  • Written by Deborah Stone

I’ve never been a fan of all-inclusive resorts. In fact, I’ve made a point of steering clear of them when it comes to hotel options. Everything about them seems mediocre to subpar, from the ubiquitous buffets overflowing with bland food to the lackadaisical service and the neutral, uninspiring décor. Then there are always massive lines and crowds in the restaurants, bars, and pool areas, making peace and privacy difficult commodities to come by once you leave your room. And though you are under the impression that inclusive means “all,” you quickly discover that many of the amenities have additional fees tacked on to them. The final insult, however, is being required to wear the proverbial wristband to identify your connection with the property throughout your stay.

Cancun 019To every rule, however, there are exceptions. Case in point: the adults-only, “unlimited luxury” Secrets The Vine in Cancun, Mexico. Word had gotten out that this was a special place, unlike any other inclusive property, and though I was skeptical that the accolades were actually based on reality, I admit I was also curious. The 495-room hotel, which opened in August of 2012, is one of the newest properties amid Cancun’s well-known seaside tourist zone. It’s also one of several dozen managed by AMResorts, which has six brands of exclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean.

My first impression of Secrets The Vine was positive, as I was greeted warmly by the staff and offered a cold beverage upon entrance, followed by a prompt and efficient check-in process. I took note of the property’s sleek contemporary design, along with the artwork that dotted the walls and public spaces. Of special note are the eye-catching murals painted by artist Marta Ramirez. Once shown to my room, the positive vibes continued as I looked out at the spectacular views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea and Nichupte lagoon from outside my private patio. I then appraised the chic interior decor. Each room is spacious with plenty of natural light and furnished with handsome teak wood pieces. Floors are Italian porcelain and beds are dressed with fine luxury linens. The white glass bathrooms have expansive showers, his and her armoires and high-end bath products. There is the usual assortment of amenities; among them, a daily refreshed min-bar, where all the contents are included in the price of your stay – no additional charge. Yes, you read that correctly! The other big plus is the unlimited connectivity. Not only is there free Wi-Fi, but also free phone calls to the U.S., Canada and throughout Mexico from your mobile or directly from your room. Another first in my book.

Cancun 007Though it was tempting to stay in my room, especially with 24-hour room service (also included), I was eager to see the rest of the place. For gym rats, there’s a state-of-the-art fitness center with an array of cardio machines and weight equipment, and a very helpful trainer on duty. Unlike typical hotel fitness facilities, which usually have an antiquated treadmill or two and a broken down stationary bike, this one truly lived up to its glowing description. The property also boasts three ocean view pools and one infinity pool, as well as an outdoor Jacuzzi. And you’re only steps to the beach, where you’ll find cabanas, chairs and plenty of towels, as well as miles of white sand to walk on and enticing waves to frolic and body surf in. For an additional charge, which is to be expected, you can arrange to go scuba diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing or kayaking at the water sports center.

Cancun 060With seven restaurants, you’ll never go hungry at Secrets The Vine. I was delighted to discover that only one of the eateries is a buffet; the others are a la carte and offer a wide variety of cuisines from Peruvian and Mediterranean to Italian and Asian fusion. No reservations are required at any of these specialty restaurants. More importantly, the food is actually quite good. It’s tasty and creatively prepared, with options to suit even the most discriminating of diners. And you won’t be disappointed in the service, which is impeccable. But, if eating with others is not your style, you can always call up room service or arrange for a romantic dinner at one of the cabanas on the beach.

Cancun 055It’s no surprise that the bar scene is popular at Secrets The Vine. You have your choice of eight locales in which to enjoy your libations. There are oceanfront and poolside venues, which usually get the most action during the day, as well as a sports bar, a piano bar and assorted other drinking holes within the various restaurants. The Vino Bar occupies center stage, as wine is the theme of the property. Here, you can learn about Mexico’s wine industry from Head Sommelier Ariel Morales and have the opportunity to taste wines from around the globe. With an on-site wine cellar containing nearly 4,500 bottles, the selection is immense. You can also visit The Vine Bazaar, a centralized gathering spot that encompasses a café, lounge, bar and library. And yes, your all-inclusive rate allows you unlimited premium domestic and international brand beverages. Later in the evening, there’s always some type of live entertainment. One of the nights, we were treated to a human circus with acrobats and a juggler.

Then there’s the aah-worthy spa. Secrets Spa by Pevonia is a sanctuary of indulgence and relaxation, inspired by cave-like structures and natural cenotes of the area. It offers an array of customized treatments that integrate the scientific use of therapeutic plant extracts with traditional natural remedies. The highlight of my experience at the spa consisted of a series of vino-infused treatments, which included the Wine Facial, Ultimate Wine Massage and Pinot Noir Escape Exfoliation. Knots of tension disappeared as my therapist worked her special brand of magic on my body; all the while, the heady aroma of wine permeated the room.

Activities abound at Secrets The Vine, from water aerobics, yoga and dance classes to beach and pool volleyball games, Spanish lessons and poker tournaments. There are also wine tasting and pairing sessions, along with demos on creating specialty cocktails. And all of these “extras” are inclusive in your stay. Those who choose to leave the property, however, will find ample sights to explore such as Isla Mujeres, Tulum Mayan Ruins, Xel-Ha Archeological Site, Xcaret Eco-Archeological Park, Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, Playa Del Carmen and more.

Secrets The Vine, with its elite service and superior amenities, defines elegance. The property’s “unlimited luxury” concept is not just a nebulous notion, but rather a purposeful intent to provide a truly all-inclusive experience that aims to wow guests on all levels. At this resort, words really do translate into actions. And best of all, there are no wristbands!

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If you go:

Secrets The Vine is located twenty minutes from Cancun’s International Airport.

The airport is serviced by numerous airlines, with daily flights from the U.S. and Canada.

For more information about the resort, visit: www.secretsresorts.com/vine-cancun

For Cancun visitor information: www.cancun.travel

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Photos by Deborah Stone

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