Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: March 31, 2004

EMBASSY SUITES is heading south of the border to Mexico City. The hotel company said it will open its first hotel in Mexico in the capital city by the first quarter of next year. The "upscale" 162-suite property will be operated under a franchise agreement and managed by San Mateo, Calif.-based Landmark Hotels. Embassy Suites will work with developers to convert an existing office building on Paseo de la Reforma in the heart of the capital into an 18-story hotel primarily geared to business travelers. Rooms will feature high-speed Internet access and work areas, and breakfast will be included in the nightly room rate. One of the hotel's key selling points will be "conference suites," or rooms with an adjoining conference room with seating for six guests.

DELTA AIR LINES said it will expand its service between Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport and Cancun from one flight a week to four, effective July 1. The nonstop flights will operate on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The service had previously been offered only on Saturdays. The flights will be operated aboard a 737-800 aircraft with room for 148 passengers in a two-class configuration. Flight 718 will depart Cincinnati at 9 a.m. and arrive in Cancun at 11:06 a.m. On the return, Flight 719 will depart Cancun at 1:42 p.m. and arrive in Cincinnati at 5:50 p.m.

APPLE VACATIONS launched the "12 Weeks of Frees" promotion, offering clients free room nights, air fare and meals, among other things, on select air/hotel packages booked by April 17 for travel from April 18 to July 4. From Chicago, for example, a second person flies free to Cancun when staying seven nights at the Continental Plaza Playacar; the all-inclusive package starts at $699.99 for the first person and $399.99 for a companion. From St. Louis, a week at El Cid La Ceiba Cozumel starts at $824.99 and includes a $35 food and beverage credit per person, per room. From Denver, the second person flies free and kids stay and eat free at the Viva Wyndham Vallarta; the seven-night all-inclusive package starts at $799.99 for the first person and $599.99 for a companion. All prices are per person, double. For information or reservations, call (800) 365-2775 or visit www.applevacations.com.

A NUMBER OF HOTELS AND RESORTS in Cozumel created packages geared to Cozumel's bread-and-butter market: scuba divers. Surrounded by the second largest coral reef system in the world, and boasting underwater visibility of up to 200 feet, Cozumel is one of the world's top scuba diving destinations. A couple of examples:
• The 90-room Casa Mexicana offers three- to seven-night scuba diving packages, plus a free snorkeling excursion for non-diver companions. Three-night packages start at $204 per person, double, while seven-night packages start at $492. Prices are for two-tank dives and include daily breakfast. Clients receive a free night dive when they dive for a minimum of five days. For information or reservations, call (877) 228-6747 or visit www.casamexicanacozumel.com.
• Dive programs at the 106-room Casa Del Mar Cozumel range from a three-night package starting at $241 per person, double, to a seven-night package starting at $580. The rates are valid through Dec. 22. The packages include daily breakfast, unlimited shore diving and a 20% discount at the resort's nearby Nachi Cocom beach club, where guests can rent water sports equipment, swim in a private swimming pool and have lunch on the beach. For information or reservations, call (800) 235-5892 or visit www.casadelmarcozumel.com.

VISITORS STAYING at the Hotel Finisterra in Los Cabos can learn "Baja-style" cooking from chef Ignacio Jimenez every Friday through the rest of 2004. Hotel Finisterra is offering guests a one time cooking class for $25, including a recipe handbook and lunch. The class is held Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. in the hotel's kitchen or poolside. Cooking classes focus on the regional cuisine and spices of Mexico. For example, April's classes will focus on regional seafood, while classes in May and June will focus on the "Wines of Mexico" and foods to accompany them. For details or hotel reservations, call (800) 347-2252 or visit the Web at www.bajahotels.com.

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