Mother of the bride

The setting was pure perfection: beautiful turquoise water, a salt-kissed tropical breeze and love was truly in the air. 

Last week, 40-odd family and friends attended my daughter, Lacey’s, wedding at the NOW Jade Riviera Cancun just outside Puerto Morelos. The resort delivered service and amenities over and above my expectations.

The courteous and friendly ambience was obvious from the moment we disembarked our private taxi service provided by Feraltar Transfers. 

Our luggage was efficiently handled as we proceeded to check in. The lobby is majestic with a magnificent infinity water feature and contemporary art installation. Invitingly cool washcloths and champagne eased us thru the required documentation and we and our luggage were quickly dispatched to our individual rooms.

The rooms are large and spacious junior suites, all featuring massive bathrooms equipped with soaker tubs, glassed-in shower stalls, bidets and huge double sink vanities. 

Views matter at this resort. Categories range from tropical view, ocean view and oceanfront. I chose the tropical view and was amused at the result. Then, again, I was on my own and only use my room to sleep in, however those of you expecting something more “view-like” would be disappointed so I would recommend upgrading to ocean view in the first place.

This resort offers a concierge section as well. Preferred guests have a private pool, private breakfast restaurant, large soaker tubs on the balconies and upgraded services and amenities. 

Room service is available 24 hours for the entire resort and you’d be surprised at how many people utilize it at 4 a.m... This observation is based on the daily clickity clack of the food carts wheeling down the corridor outside my room.

The amazing level of friendliness and courtesy was truly outstanding. Everyone from pool/bar and restaurant staff to groundskeepers were always smiling and ready to help in any way. You had to insist that the wait staff accept tips as their first response was “you know all gratuities are included in your stay?”   

There are no wristbands at the NOW resorts and no reservations are required for the a la carte restaurants.  Access is determined by room number. 

Japanese, French, Mediterranean, Italian and Mexican were your options and each and everyone offered excellent menus and service. Breakfast and lunch were offered at the large buffet as well as poolside grill.

Entertainment was great. Fun activities and games during the day and professional live bands in the open-air lobby bar at night. Large, outdoor TV screen allowed us to follow the Stanley Cup playoffs and most nights were capped off with some dance steps at the Sports Bar disco.

My hat goes off to Irina, the wedding coordinator. Her gentle manner, insight and professionalism made for a relaxed and detailed process towards the big day  The ceremony was everything a mother could ask for. The minister was eloquent, the photographer skilled and the reception after included all sorts of unique and memorable touches.

In the end, I find it is not the beach, the room or the amenities that make the most significant impact on a holiday.  It’s the people.  The NOW Jade delivers in spades. 


Flying with common sense

People must shake their heads and wonder about common sense and courtesy when viewing on social media the overwhelming accounts of unruly passengers, security staff and airline crews.

More people are flying than ever before in aircraft that seemingly have no empty seats. Air travel is no longer a fun adventure, but a necessary evil to be endured.

We have all seen the video of Dr. David Dao being manhandled off the United Airlines flight. Would it surprise you to know that every time you purchase an airline ticket, you agree to a contract of carriage? 

One of the points within that contract is that an airline is well within its rights to remove a passenger from a plane. It’s not the sort of policy that’s usually followed once the passenger has been seated, but they have the right to do it.

Bad behaviour is not solely practised by airline staff. The International Air Transport Association has announced a 16 per cent rise in unruly passengers since last year. Cases range from profuse profanity, anti-social behaviour to assault on weary flight crews.

Why is this happening? Some theorists believe that since 9-11 the travelling public has become infantilized. That is the expectation from airline personnel and security staff that passengers will remain submissive and compliant throughout every step of the air-travel experience. 

Then again, the travelling public themselves are not held accountable or prosecuted for their outrageous outbursts either and therefore others are emboldened to also “act out” without fear of retribution.

The sad fact is that in today’s super competitive airline industry, things have become ridiculously rule based.  When I worked for Air Canada back in the 1990s I was given a certain amount of leeway in accommodating passengers who’s travel plans had gone awry. 

Change fees could be waived, alternate flight arrangements with other airlines could be sourced, etc. 

Nowadays, most airline staff are simply not allowed to do the right thing.  They must follow mandatory rules, which severely limit their ability to come up with immediate customer service resolutions or lose their jobs.

Thankfully, the United Airlines situation has opened a needed discourse among airlines and passenger activist groups. United has implemented 10 new mandates to better improve and protect their customers' expectations when flying. 

An important one I believe is empowering their employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.  Another is increasing customer compensation for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000. 

Let’s face it, getting bumped from a flight is no fun, but I think you’d get over it for that kind of money.

There’s a bad apple in every situation. For every disgruntled rude flight crew or passenger, there are 10 more cheerful, helpful people behind them. 

Common sense needs to prevail in today’s skies so that we can all remain safe and enjoy the transport. 

Terrific teen travel

Every now and then a promotion crosses my desk that truly warrants  extra exposure. 

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the fact that children two to 11 years of age get reduced rates at all-inclusive resorts when they share their room with their parents. Some resorts like the RIU chain even offer special “kids stay free” programs for that age group during the year. 

What if I told you a resort chain was offering an “all kids under 17” stay free?

The Palace Resort chain is not only offering free stays to teenagers. but they also are not restricting it to only two children per family. 

Those three and four children families can book into a family-deluxe category and all the kids stay free. Single parents pay the single room rate and the kids stay, eat and play for free. Just pay airfare.

There are six family Palace Resorts to choose from. Five are located within the Riviera Maya region and one, their new Moon Palace Grande, in Jamaica. Luxurious accommodations, five-star cuisine, world-class nightlife entertainment. Palace Resorts delivers something for the “kid” in all of us.

Mom and the girls can indulge in the full-service state of the art Awe-Spa. Dad and the boys can play unlimited golf at one of two Jack Nicklaus golf courses. Teens will love to challenge each other to the ultimate surf experience: Flowrider as well as hang out in their own Teen Club Wired

The Playroom will be a favourite destination for the little ones. Pool games, slumber parties, indoor and outdoor activities and all conducted under the watchful eyes of trained staff. 

One unique experience is the sea turtle release.The Palace Foundation funds a team of environmentalists to maintain the native leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Each July through September, guests of the Palace Resorts in the Mayan Riviera can assist in the release of newly hatched baby turtles into the ocean.

The whole family will enjoy the top-notch evening entertainment. The Moon Palace has been host to such artists as Usher, Rick Astley, Foreigner and most recently Cheap Trick.

The Jamaica resort has featured Shaggy and in February, the legendary rock band Survivor. There is an ongoing assortment of live shows, meet and greet events as well as a choice of over 13 watering holes to discover in each resort.

Stays of five to eight nights warrant a $1,500US Resort Credit, which can be used for spa treatments, tours and all kinds of fun family-time activities. Stay longer and your Resort Credit grows accordingly.

Palace Resorts are offered through Sunwing/Signature Vacations. Westjet Vacations and Transat Holidays.  The Kids and Teens Stay Free offer must be booked before May 31 and is valid for travel now through to Dec. 23.

Take this once in a lifetime offer and enjoy the Top Tier luxury of Palace Resorts with your Family this year.


Free weddings anything but

You’re engaged! You’re high on love and can’t stop looking at your sparkly engagement ring. 

Quickly and inevitably the questions start: 

  • When? 
  • Where?
  • Who? 

Flabbergasted with details and pressure, you look at your love and say,

“Let’s just combine the wedding with the honeymoon. It’ll be so much easier.”

Destination weddings continue to be a strong travel trend. The concept of running away and getting married in a tropical destination just seems so much easier and less expensive. But is there really such a thing as a free wedding?

The ceremony: 

The “free” wedding packages offered by resorts are for symbolic vows. This is not a legal ceremony therefore most couples get married by a Magistrate prior to their arrival in destination. If you do want your ceremony to be a civil one (legal in Canada) you will have to pay for the extra services required. 

In Mexico, this requires in-destination blood tests and notarized proof of eligibility for marriage. Civil and religious ceremonies also require you to be in destination at least three business days prior to your marriage to facilitate paperwork.

The number of guests: 

A bridal bouquet, boutonniere for the groom and a small wedding cake and champagne is the standard inclusion for “complimentary” wedding packages. Maximum 10 guests!  Many bridal parties alone, without the guests exceed that number.

For each guest above the 10-person limit, there is a charge of anywhere from $10-$35US.

The Upsell: 

Upon arrival at the resort, the bridal couple have a meeting with the wedding coordinator. Last-minute details are verified as to location/time of ceremony, colors, flowers, etc. You think car salesmen have a bad rep? 

This is when the “upsell” begins. Better flowers, more decorations, live band vs DJ. The skillful subtleness of the sales pitch to make your wedding “something magical” is very hard to resist. Each upgrade comes at a cost.

After-wedding venue

You’re at an all-inclusive resort. Why would you pay for your meal? Well, the wedding coordinators readily discourage bridal groups from assuming they can reserve a section of one of the a la carte restaurants for their wedding dinner. 

If you want privacy for congratulatory speeches, the first dance and typical family antics, you will have to reserve a separate area for that privilege. 

Audio equipment, lighting, music, even outdoor dance floors come at a cost. Meal service as well is not complimentary as you are taking the required wait staff away from the rest of the guests at the resort to tend to your group’s needs. 

Generally private functions run anywhere from $25-$65US per person. 

Experience has shown that smaller groups of 20 or fewer can be accommodated in the a la carte restaurant of your choice with gentle persuasion. First dance would be at the in-house disco and anything disruptive to the other diners (speeches, etc.) would not be allowed.

Destination weddings are wonderful. They truly do allow for a week-long nuptial celebration with friends and family. 

However in the words of a wise old man, “There is no such thing as free."

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy by email.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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