JW Marriott Cancun resort prepares for 2001 opening

Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers recently toured the site of the 450-room beachfront JW Marriott Resort & Spa, now under construction in Cancun. Here is her report:

CANCUN -- Hardhat tours are not for the faint of heart, especially when experienced in the Mexican Caribbean during the summer.

These tours require sneakers, gallons of bottled water and the ability to look beyond the concrete, cranes and cement to visualize the finished product.

In the case of the JW Marriott being built here, that means an immense finished product.

Marriott's newest resort, which opens Feb. 1, will have 450 guest rooms, including 79 suites, each with its own balcony; five restaurants and bars; a deli-style market; a freshwater lagoon winding through the property; a free-form pool; a smaller, adults-only pool, and an 18-foot-deep dive pool.

I traipsed through every inch of the 30,000-square-foot spa, peeked into its 14 treatment rooms in various stages of construction, as well as its fitness center, aerobics room, beauty shop, solarium, Jacuzzi and, according to Marriott, Cancun's only indoor lap pool.

Renderings, blueprints and floor plans helped translate what I was seeing into what guests will experience when the resort opens its doors.

Conference facilities are also built on a large scale. I inspected them too, from the 14,400-square-foot Grand Ballroom and nine meeting rooms to the business center and reception areas.

Marriott's CasaMagna resort, next door to the JW, will be linked by a skywalk or connecting bridge so that the meetings facilities can be used by both properties simultaneously.

Matthew P. Shackel, area director of sales and marketing for Marriott & Renaissance Offshore Resorts, said that advance reservations for the new JW property "are strong. Our books are open and we are taking blocks of group bookings."

This is the first JW Marriott in the Caribbean region, and there are no plans for additional JWs either in Mexico or the Caribbean.

The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa in Hawaii is the only other property in that group.

The initials JW stand for John Willard, the founding father of the hotel chain.

"JW resorts are our luxury tier properties within the Marriott block," Shackel said. "That is how we are positioning these resorts."

Created in 1997 to combine the sales and marketing efforts of Marriott's four properties in the Caribbean and Mexico, the Offshore Resorts division now consists of eight resorts, including the JW Marriott in Cancun.

They are: Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino; Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino, which joined the division in March; Casa-

Magna Marriott Resort in Puerto Vallarta; CasaMagna Marriott Resort in Cancun; Renaissance Grand Beach Resort in St. Thomas; Renaissance Jamaica Grande Resort, and Marriott Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Beach Resorts in St. Thomas.

Shackel explained that Offshore Resorts provides "each property with an integrated sales, marketing and revenue- management organization."

He said the integrated effort creates awareness and demand and "maximizes sales and revenue" for the entire portfolio of properties.

Room count for the division stands at 3,000 plus, and the new JW in Cancun will boost room inventory by another 450.

Shackel said that 47% of the market comes from the metropolitan New York area, 27% from the Midwest and the West Coast and the balance from the rest of the U.S.

The JW Marriott Cancun is located along the island's hotel strip, two miles south of the convention center, 11 miles from the airport and a two-hour drive from several Mayan ruins and ecological parks.

Guest rooms will feature twice-daily maid service, robes and slippers, purified water systems, individual climate control, color television with Spanish networks and U.S. cable stations, two-line telephones with voice mail, an in-room safe, a coffeemaker, a minibar, an iron and a hair dryer.

Bathrooms will have a double-vanity sink area and separate bathtub and shower.

Restaurants and bars include the Mexican-themed Cafe Salsa, Gastino's Italian Sea Grill, the Parisian-style Buddha Bar, a beach bar and grill, a deli-style market, a lobby bar and 24-hour room service.

Resort activities will revolve around the water sports center, the three pools, two tennis courts, sauna, children's club and game room.

The Pok-ta-Pok golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, is 15 minutes from the resort.

The concierge and on-site travel agency will arrange sightseeing tours and activities, such as bullfights in the downtown arena, sailing and snorkeling at Isla Mujeres and deep-sea fishing excursions.

A car rental agency will also be on site.

Room rates will range from $329 to $439 per room, per night, double, through April 21 and from $149 to $254 from April 22 to June 30.

Packages will be available as well.

JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
Phone: (800) 223-6388
Group Bookings: (888) 778-4722
Web: www.offshoreresorts.com
CRS: All major systems

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