Planner’s Pick: Hard Rock Cancun

Infinity pool
Infinity pool

The 12-story Hard Rock Cancun borders the Caribbean Sea in the midst of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, a short 15-minute drive from Cancun International Airport. The all-inclusive property contains a 16,400-sf convention center, a spa with outdoor palapa-style massage areas, five bars and lounges, and five restaurants including Mexican, Italian and Argentinean cuisines.

For 268 members of a Midwestern insurance marketing organization on their annual spring incentive trip, the 601-room Hard Rock Cancun was the anti-freeze to winter’s icy blasts.

“Our group ranged from 20s to mid-30s—Hard Rock Cancun was the perfect fit for them,” says Shawn M. Quish, CMP, a meeting and incentive planner for Galactic Limited. “They were having so much fun that other than shopping or taking one of our offered excursions, they didn’t leave the property.”

He explains that the casual, no RSVP-approach encourages trying each restaurant, but the one that drew the most raves was Ipanema. The upscale Rodizio Brazilian grill evolves into a rocking nightclub later in the evening.

Though a veteran planner who specializes in bringing groups to Latin American resorts, this was his first time holding a program at a Hard Rock Hotel.

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had that began as soon as I entered the lobby and heard so much music that I personally connected with,” says Quish. “Every song evoked a memory and would spark conversations about other people’s connections to songs.”

He also praised the staff for exceeding the level of service he’s experienced at 5-star properties, especially on the night when inclement weather forced the group’s beach party into a ballroom with five hours’ notice. Quish was leading a group tour when the staff called to discuss arrangement. His only directive was to make sure the ballroom did not look like a ballroom.

By party time, the ballroom had been transformed into a dynamic rock n’ roll nightclub with red carpet leading into the room, red velvet ropes, LED uplighting on the walls and bright glow columns. The DJ had been stationed on a stage tricked out with motion lighting to coincide with the music.

“To do that in five hours was amazing,” he says. “I’ve never before had a client tell me that they were happier being in the ballroom than they would have been on the beach—and that’s a direct quote.”

For offsite tours, a group of 30 participated in the half-day Dolphin Discovery excursion on Isla Mujeres. They were transported over to nearby Marina Aquatours for the transfer over to the idyllic island, where they swam with dolphins inside a netted area in the ocean. The visit included close encounters with sea lions, manatees, stingrays and sharks, as well as a buffet lunch provided by the onsite restaurant.

Quish says, “My clients said being in the water with the dolphins was one of the most magical once-in-a-lifetime experiences they’ve ever had.”

The group also checked out Coco Bongo in town one night. The nightclub features incredible acrobatic stage shows, high-energy music and multimedia enhancements. His group bought the deluxe Gold package, entitling them to immediate entrance, seats and unlimited drinks.

Quish says he’ll be returning to Hard Rock Cancun. “It was the little details that really made an impression.”