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Thomas More Travel unveils new website

Thomas More Travel recently unveiled its brand new website with a crisp design, photos, videos and even more exciting tour options to choose from in the Mexican Caribbean and Yucatan.

Check out the new www.thomasmoretravel.com to book your transfers from Cancun International Airport to Royal Resorts or other hotels in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Browse the collection of day trips, cruises and water sports and start planning your vacation adventures.

Do you want to scale ancient Mayan pyramids, explore the underwater world of the Mesoamerican Reef, fly through the trees on a jungle zip line or come face to face with rare wildlife? Go snorkeling, set sail on a catamaran or spend the day with the family at one of the Riviera Maya’s famous nature and adventure parks. Visit archaeological sites, picturesque colonial towns and traditional Mayan communities. Renew your ties with nature in the area’s biosphere reserves and dive into the crystal-clear waters of a jungle cenote or sinkhole. From history, nature and adventure to Mexican cooking classes and vibrant nightlife, it’s all here and Thomas More Travel will help you plan unforgettable vacation experiences to tell your friends about back home.

Start booking your Cancun tours with Thomas More Travel

Visit www.thomasmoretravel.com or the Thomas More Travel desk in the lobby of your resort.

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Grand Residences receives award at Mexico’s Tianguis Travel Show

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun® received the Diversification of Mexican Tourist Products award for excellence in the Premium or Luxury category at the famous Mexican travel show, the Tianguis Turístico held in Mazatlan, Sinaloa in April.

Now in its forty-third year, the Tianguis showcases Mexico’s many destinations and the variety of adventures that await visitors and attracts tour operators and travel agents from all over the world. For decades it was held in Acapulco but it is now hosted by a different city or destination each year. Famous for its beaches and fishing, the 2018 host Mazatlan is known as the “Pearl of the Pacific.”

Grand Residences also appears in the TripAdvisor 2018 Travelers’ Choice listing of the World’s Top 25 Luxury Hotels and picked up four different Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice 2018 accolades given to the best of the best in Mexico. This is the fourth year running that it has been included in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2018 Top 25 Hotels in Mexico category.

• TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2018 Top 25 Hotels in Mexico
Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is No. 4
• TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2018 Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Mexico
Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is No. 2
• TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2018 Top 25 Hotels in Mexico for Best Service
Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is No. 14
• TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2018 Top 25 Hotels in Mexico for Families
Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is No. 18

Nestled on a beautiful beach just to the south of Puerto Morelos, Grand Residences offers a luxury vacation experience: spacious, elegantly furnished suites with every creature comfort, gourmet cuisine by an award-winning French chef, a spectacular infinity pool, a kids club and an array of activities and amenities for guests to enjoy. The resort is affiliated with The Leading Hotels of the World®.

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Distintivo H awarded to The Royal Haciendas restaurants

Top marks for The Royal Haciendas in the annual Distinctivo H inspections of the restaurant kitchens and food storage areas. It achieved a score of 100 percent in the review.

Distintivo H is a Mexico Tourism Board quality certification program for restaurants and hotel kitchens based on regular inspections to review hygiene standards and food handling and storage facilities.

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New from Interval Servicing Co., Open Stay exchange

Interval Servicing Co., the Fort Lauderdale-based membership services company for Royal Resorts members, has introduced a new option as part of its internal exchange services to give them greater flexibility. Unlike the regular Internal Exchange program, the Open Stay Exchange does not require an immediate commitment from the member on the dates he/she intends to occupy.

Members enroll online in the Open Stay Exchange program at no cost and receive an Open Stay Certificate valid for two years after the date of issue. They can use the certificate to book units listed in the Open Stay program and can log in at any time to check available inventory.

When members find a unit available that suits their needs and travel dates, they can redeem their certificate in order to book it. They then pay an exchange fee as they would with the regular internal exchange program.

The Open Stay exchange program is only available for the Royal Resorts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Open Stay certificates are non-transferable and cannot be redeemed for cash.

Members must be in good standing and the unit(s) they wish to deposit must not have been enrolled in any other usage program beforehand for the year enrolled, this includes owner loans, regular internal or external exchange programs, as well as any rental or resale programs.

The window for depositing the unit in the Open Stay Exchange is between two years and 60 days before the first day of occupancy for said unit.

For more information log in to the Interval Servicing website or call 1-800-930-5050 US/Canada, 01-800-099-0486 Mexico or 954-485-5400 All Other Countries. Email: exchanges@intervalservicing.com

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Royal Resorts prepares for the 2018 turtle season in Cancun

The month of May heralds the start of the 2018 turtle season in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean. During the summer, thousands of sea turtles will come ashore every night to dig nests in the sand and lay their eggs. Royal Resorts is ready to welcome these maritime visitors and protect their precious offspring.

Like biologists, marines, hotel workers and conservation volunteers all along the Quintana Roo shoreline, Royal Resorts security guards patrol the beaches at night on the look out for turtle tracks in the sand. They strain their eyes at the mere hint of a shell or a raised flipper emerging from the surf as these marine reptiles heave their huge bodies on to dry land in search of a nesting site.

From May to September, female green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles struggle across the sand after nightfall to lay their eggs on the beaches of Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, Holbox, Cozumel, Sian Ka’an and the Costa Maya in southern Quintana Roo. Forty-five to 60 days later, their eggs will hatch and the baby turtles will break free of their shell prison and race across the beach towards the waves and a new life at sea. In 12 to 15 years time, some of them will return to lay their own eggs on the same beach, repeating the cycle.

Royal Resorts is a Cancun turtle protection pioneer
Royal Resorts is proud to do its part to protect this ancient species that has been swimming the oceans for around 120 million years. A Cancun conservation pioneer, Royal Resorts has been watching over sea turtles since 1985. Official record keeping began in 1998 and since then its staff has protected 7,995 nests and released 741,042 baby turtles!

The 2017 turtle season was incredible with record numbers all over the Mexican Caribbean. At Royal Resorts, 1,063 nests were protected and 111,226 baby turtles released at The Royal Sands, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander in Cancun; 228 nests and 20,000 hatchlings were reported at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun to the south of Puerto Morelos and five nests at The Royal Haciendas in the Riviera Maya.

And it wasn’t just at Royal Resorts, all over the Mexican Caribbean record numbers of turtles were reported, for example the Akumal Ecological Center (CEA) reported that in the four bays its volunteers patrol there were over 1,300 nests and more than 102,000 hatchlings, the most ever seen in the Akumal area.

Sea turtle nesting is cyclical and good years with lots of turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs are invariably followed by slow years. Last year was a record-breaking season. We hope that 2018 will buck the trend and will also be an excellent year for the sea turtles.

A labour of love
Before turtle season begins, Royal Resorts security guards attend refresher courses on sea turtle nesting habits and the procedures they must follow during the season that are given by biologists working for the statewide conservation campaign. They are now ready for their annual summer vigil.

Night after night, they will patrol the beaches in search of nesting turtles. When they find one, they watch over her as she laboriously digs her nest and lays her eggs. They carefully collect the eggs and move them to a nursery where another nest identical in shape and depth to the original is dug. The species, date and time of nesting and number of eggs are recorded and another long wait begins until the clutch begins to hatch.

As the estimated hatching date approaches, the guards begin to monitor the nest closely until they see the first tiny turtles emerging exhausted from the sand. They are moved to a container to regain their strength before being released after dark when predatory seabirds such as gulls and frigate birds have gone to roost.

Follow the turtle season rules
If you are going to stay at Royal Resorts or Grand Residences or wherever you are in Cancun and the Riviera Maya this summer, please join us in protecting our turtle visitors. Follow the turtle rules:

• Alert the security staff when you see a turtle on the beach at night
• Be very quiet and keep still, noise, lights and the movement of people disturb nesting sea turtles and cause them to leave the beach without laying eggs
• Watch from a distance of ten (33 feet) meters
• Do not attempt to touch the turtle or crowd her
• Do not shine a torch or use the light on your mobile phone
• No flash photography
• No smoking
• Obey security staff when they give instructions
• Help us to keep our beaches and sea clean. Plastic straws, bags, packaging, fishing lines and nets and other garbage floating in the water are lethal to turtles and other marine life
• When snorkeling or diving watch turtles from a distance, do not swim towards them and do not attempt to touch them
• Wear a t-shirt when snorkeling as protection from the sun instead of applying sun block. Sun products pollute the water and are harmful to marine life
• Turtles are protected by Mexican law and it is illegal to disturb them, persecute or hunt them and consume their meat or eggs.

The Mexican environmental agency SEMARNAT rules for turtle nesting season are designed to keep human contact with the creatures to a minimum. The rules stipulate that fragile baby turtles can only be released by trained personnel and not by hotel guests. Failure to comply with these measures can lead to resorts losing the right to have turtle nurseries on site or to be part of the turtle protection campaign.

First turtles of 2018 arrive in the Riviera Maya
The first turtle nests of the season have already been reported in Puerto Morelos, Akumal and Xcacel and there will be many more in the months to come.

Stay posted during the summer for more 2018 turtle season news from Royal Resorts
For more news on the 2018 turtle season in Cancun check the summer editions of the Royal Reporter e-newsletter and the Royal Resorts blog.
(Source for Akumal statistics, CEA)

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Royal Resorts protecting the environment, reducing plastics

Buy an eco-friendly cloth shopping bag from The Royal Market and help Royal Resorts in its mission of protecting the environment. Decisions like saying no to a plastic bag or straw, switching to a reusable water bottle and recycling trash can help reduce mankind’s dependence on plastic and lead to a cleaner future. We can all do our part.

Just one person using a reusable shopping bag in their lifetime means preventing 22,000 plastic bags or more from polluting the environment. Imagine how many more would be stopped if we all used cloth carrier bags?

In addition to eco-friendly shopping bags at the resort stores, Royal Resorts is doing a lot more to reduce the use of plastics. Plastic straws are no longer served in drinks at the restaurants and bars and the next step is to use less plastic cutlery.

The Royal Market is selling disposable plates, cups and cutlery that are biodegradable as an alternative to plastic and polystyrene brands.

Royal Resorts has a trash recycling program. There are recycling trashcans throughout the resorts and special bins in the villas so that guests can separate their plastic, glass, aluminum and cardboard waste.

Plastic and all other waste suitable for recycling is collected and sold as “trash for cash” to raise money for the Royal Resorts Foundation’s charitable causes: conservation, children’s education, cancer screening and treatment for women on a low income, physiotherapy for children with motor and neurological disorders and employee emergency relief. In 2017, 311 tons of waste were recycled, representing US$13,600 for the Foundation.

The plastic tide
Did you know that 70 percent of all the garbage in the oceans is plastic? Plastic carrier bags, bottles, packaging, straws, fishing nets and even cling film find their way into rivers, on to our coasts and ultimately into the oceans. Only nine percent of all the plastic produced worldwide has been recycled. Scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

There are vast floating patches of garbage in our oceans, of which the most famous is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is twice the size of Texas, three times the size of France and it is still growing.

Seabirds, sea turtles and other marine life can become entangled in plastic; suffer horrific injuries or mistake floating plastic bags for prey, such as squid or jellyfish, with fatal consequences. Plastic is lethal to marine life.

Over time, plastic breaks down into minute particles called micro-plastics that enter the food chain, killing or seriously weakening marine life and birds. Plastic waste and micro plastics are now being found in the most pristine and remotest areas of our oceans like the Arctic and Antarctic and in the deepest ocean trenches including the Mariana Trench in the Pacific and the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean.

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New service at The Royal Market

The Royal Market is offering a new service for Royal Resorts members and guests. If they need to print their flight boarding passes they can now use the computers in the resort stores to do it and pay only printing costs. If they are only going online to access their flight details and print boarding passes for the flight home, they no longer have to purchase a web pass from the cash desk at The Royal Market.

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Hacienda Sisal salsa on sale at The Royal Market

An evening at Hacienda Sisal, one of Cancun’s top Mexican restaurants, begins with the waiter bringing a plate of tortilla chips and a tasty dipping salsa for you to snack on as you look at the menu, order guacamole, margaritas and choose from a tempting selection of appetizers and main courses. This homemade sauce has proved so popular over the years that diners often ask for the recipe. They can now go one step further and take the taste of Mexico home with them as it is on sale in Royal Market stores at Royal Resorts.

Have you tried the Hacienda Sisal chili sauce on sale at The Royal Market? Made to the chef’s traditional recipe, it is perfect for chips and salsa. Buy some as a souvenir for friends or for a Mexican night back home when you want to relive your vacation memories.

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Return of the gentle giants, whale shark season in the Mexican Caribbean

If you are traveling to Cancun or the Riviera Maya this summer and love the underwater world, how about an incredible once-in-a-lifetime encounter with nature, a swim with a whale shark? You’ll have seen these gentle giants on TV in BBC and National Geographic programs but have you ever imagined coming face to face with one? The whale sharks start arriving in the Mexican Caribbean around the middle of May and from June to mid-September you have the opportunity to swim with the world’s largest fish.

Face to face with one of the great ocean wanderers
Whale sharks are great ocean wanderers, traveling thousands of miles through the tropics in search of the microscopic plankton that is their staple diet. In the summer they gather in the Mexican Caribbean where higher temperatures mean an abundance of plankton. Hundreds of whale sharks feast on plankton in the waters off the islands of Holbox, Contoy and Isla Mujeres. Biologists believe that this is the largest whale shark aggregation in the world and have discovered that it isn’t only plankton that attracts them but also fish roe. It is the spawning season of the little tunny fish and the whale sharks are partial to the eggs.

There are actually two whale shark feeding grounds in the Mexican Caribbean: the area between Holbox and Cabo Catoche and a stretch of deeper water to the east of Contoy and Isla Mujeres. Due to the importance of this area for whale sharks and other marine species such as sailfish, marlin, manta rays, dolphins and sea turtles, the Mexican government declared part of the zone a marine biosphere reserve.

Imagine snorkeling alongside a whale shark and watching as a creature the size of a bus approaches you and swims placidly by, its gaping jaws open to scoop up the plankton. With a final flick of the tail it disappears into the depths. It is an awe-inspiring sight and an emotional experience, one that wildlife watchers shouldn’t miss.

Spots and stripes, the domino fish
Whale sharks are also known as “domino fish” due to their distinctive stripes and dappled markings. Each fish has its own unique pattern and whale shark scientists around the world are compiling a photo catalog of them. Through the use of this international database for identification purposes and by tagging sharks they can now begin to map the movements of these enigmatic creatures and learn where they go as they visit different feeding grounds during the year.

Guided small group eco trips to see the whale sharks are available from Cancun and Isla Mujeres. During the boat trip out to the whale shark feeding grounds your guide will explain the whale shark rules, which include keeping your distance (five meters), not attempting to touch the creature and swimming alongside it instead of in front. Only two people per boat are allowed in the water at one time and are accompanied by the guide. The use of sun products and flash photography are not permitted.

On the journey out to the whale shark area, you may spot wild dolphins and sea turtles. Huge manta rays also gather to eat the plankton and sometimes breach the water surface in spectacular flight.

Another whale shark watching option is to plan an overnight trip to Holbox, the island on the north coast of Quintana Roo where even the wooden signs lining the sandy streets of the village show the famous pez domino as the whale shark is affectionately called by local fishermen. You can go in search of whale sharks in the morning, explore the Yalahau Lagoon and Isla de los Pajaros (Bird Island) in the afternoon and still have time for the beach and to discover the rustic laidback ambiance of the community.

Book your summer whale shark trip
Whale shark watching trips are available through Thomas More Travel. Book online at www.thomasmoretravel.com or at the tour desk during your stay.

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Travesia Sagrada Maya, Sacred Mayan Journey to Cozumel

The first rays of the sun touch the shores of the bay in Xcaret Park in the Riviera Maya and the sound of drums, flutes and conch horns reaches a crescendo. Mayan priests chant their salute to the dawn and clouds of aromatic copal incense waft through the air. Witnesses to a scene from ancient times, the audience watches Mayan oarsmen receive the blessing of the gods. They will be embarking on a perilous canoe journey to the sacred island of Cozumel to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. It is the Travesia Sagrada Maya, the Sacred Mayan Journey, which takes place on May 25 and 26 at Xcaret and Cozumel.

The temples of the ancient Mayan port of Polé lie within the boundaries of Xcaret Park. Once a trade center on the Caribbean maritime route, Polé was also one of the departure points for pilgrimages to Cozumel. On May 25, the canoes will depart for Cozumel once more, as they did over a thousand years ago. As the pilgrims’ families bid farewell, a flock of scarlet macaws flies overhead in a salute to the rising sun. A fitting tribute as macaws and parrots were sacred birds in the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures and were associated with the sun god.

Depending on the weather and sea conditions, the Travesia Sagrada Maya crossing will take between six and eight hours. The pilgrims make landfall on Cozumel at Chankanaab Park at around 1 p.m. and walk to the shrine of Ixchel where they pray and leave offerings for the goddess.

The morning of May 26, they set sail again heading for the mainland with Polé in their sights. A cheer goes up from the shores of the bay when the first canoe of returning pilgrims is spotted and they are greeted with great joy and celebrations for their safe homecoming.

A journey of faith
After six months of arduous dawn training sessions, 377 oarsmen and women are ready to board their canoes for the Travesia Sagrada Maya. They will be following the sea route taken by ancient Mayan pilgrims who traveled from all over the Yucatan Peninsula to the sacred island of Cozumel (Kuzamil) to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, childbirth and the moon and tides. Depicted as an old woman or a beautiful young maiden and also known as Ixchebelyax, Ix Hunic or Ix Hunieta, Ixchel was also the patron of fishing, painting and weaving.

This is the twelfth year of the Sacred Mayan Journey, which is the representation of a pilgrimage dating from the Late Post-Classic period of Mayan history (A.D. 1250-1519). From the backdrop of a Kii’wik or bustling Mayan market where trade goods were bartered and rituals in honor of Ixchel to the clothing, headdresses and face paint worn by the priests and priestesses, the nobility, dancers and oarsmen, everything has been carefully researched to make it as authentic as possible.

The Travesia Sagrada Maya originated as an initiative from the Experiencias Xcaret group to restore an ancient tradition and has been enthusiastically embraced by the people of the Mexican Caribbean as has the Festival of Life and Death at Xcaret, which showcases Mexico’s Day of the Dead traditions, October 30 to November 1 and 2.

The oarsmen come from the Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Cancun, Yucatan and other parts of Mexico and they are joined by expats that have chosen to make their home here. This year, 35 crew members are from Argentina, Canada, United States, Colombia, Venezuela, United Kingdom, France, Slovakia, Spain and Italy.

Some 218 dancers and musicians from Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, the Zona Maya in southern Quintana Roo and Xcaret reenact ancient rituals in Polé and Cozumel, portraying the goddess Ixchel, priests and priestesses, the ruler and his court, merchants and villagers.

If you would like to witness the Travesia Sagrada Maya or Sacred Mayan Journey ask at the Thomas More Travel desk about trips to Xcaret.

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