Cancun pioneer Royal Resorts is celebrating 40 years of welcoming guests to the Mexican Caribbean and creating magical vacation memories for them. In June 2017, the 40th anniversary celebrations of the founding of its first resort The Royal Cancun (1977 – 2017) get underway. Over the years, The Royal Cancun has become a beloved home away from home for several generations of Royal Resorts members and it still looks as beautiful now as it did four decades ago.
Let building begin
In 1974, a group of businessmen fell in love with Cancun’s spectacular shoreline and saw its tremendous potential. Mexico’s first master-planned resort was in its infancy when they shared a dream of building a great place for families to vacation, with spacious villas, upscale services and activities and where members and guests could spend precious time with their loved ones, year after year. And so the Royal Resorts story began.
The Royal Resorts Developers purchased their first plot of land on Cancun Island and construction of their first resort Club Internacional de Cancun, affectionately known by members as Vacation Club International or VCI, and now as The Royal Cancun, began in 1976. The pace picked up in 1977 and the membership program was established. Architect Fernando Lopez, who was to oversee the construction of all the Royal Resorts in Cancun, once described the challenges of building in the early days. “Building at the site was very difficult for the simple reason that the land we know now simply didn’t exist back then. When we started we had to wade through knee-deep water, and there were crocodiles nearby. From what is now Kukulcan Boulevard, all you could see of the first plot of land was a small sand spit and three palm trees. We had to use a boat on the bay to do our survey and soil mechanics studies! Finally, we were able to build a track from the road to the island using gravel and other quarried material. We also used landfill to raise one quarter of the lot where the first seven two-bedroom villas, the machine house and a temporary office were built. Richard Sutton, one of the Developers moved down to Cancun with his wife Betty to supervise the project. Their first Cancun home was a 35-foot trailer home on the building site.” Fellow Developers John Olson and Norman Carpenter also moved to Cancun with their families during the first years of The Royal Cancun.
In the early days there were no phones, let alone electricity. Workers had to rig up a provisional power supply by passing a cable along a line of wooden posts in the water. The only access road through the Hotel Zone was a dirt track connected to the mainland by a wooden bridge across Canal Sigfrido at Playa Linda.
“We had to reclaim land from the sea by using rubble to create a platform and heavy machinery to flatten the surface. Furthermore, due to the weakness of the marine subsoil, we had to sink concrete piles capable of supporting the weight of several floors when we finally started work on the building foundations.” Lopez recalled, “Our construction standards always exceeded local building codes and only the highest quality materials were used. The structural design was immensely strong, I knew it had to be to withstand hurricanes and the resort weathered Hurricane Gilbert (1988) and Wilma (2005) with distinction.
The Royal Cancun was built in stages and took several years to complete. The first seven villas in Buildings 11 and 12 opened on July 4, 1978, and were followed by batches of 12, 14, 16 and then 30 additional units. By the time the first stage was complete, the resort had 100 villas, pools, a restaurant and a store. The remaining 100 villas were built on the adjacent lot and the entire project was finished in 1982.
Welcoming the first guests to The Royal Cancun
When the first resort guests arrived in 1978 they were welcomed by the Suttons and a staff of six: Pilar Quintal, the first housekeeper, Carlos Montejo, the porter and maintenance man, two maids, the administrator Raul Flores and Francois, a Frenchman who became the Manager. They were subsequently joined by the late Raul Esquiel who started as a receptionist in 1981 and worked his way up to become Royal Resorts General Manager, and by Mirna Pech who is now Royal Resorts Executive Housekeeper.
For 22 years, Doña Pilar was the Royal Resorts housekeeper, responsible for training staff and spreading the warm, welcoming family ambiance and philosophy of service that remains today. Interviewed several years after her retirement, Doña Pilar remembered what it was like at The Royal Cancun in the early days. “I can still picture our pioneer members arriving,” she says, “They were thrilled to see their villas and were interested in everything – the construction work; in watching Cancún take shape, the local people, the new town taking shape on the mainland, the beauty of the beaches… everything was new to them.
Pilar remembered, “In order to provide a service for our members and guests, I ran a provisional store stocked with staples such as eggs, coffee, sugar, soft drinks and groceries. People always laughed when I gave them their eggs in a plastic bag instead of a carton so you can imagine their surprise when they saw local people drinking coca cola or orange juice from similar bags! The resort convenience store finally opened in 1980, the restaurant in 1981 and the pool in 1981-2.
“In the early years, Cancún suffered from supply problems and freight was often delayed. We had to learn how to deal with shortages,” Pilar added “I remember searching for soap, detergent, trash bags and even milk. Carlos and I got to know every corner shop in town and when we found an item we were looking for, we sometimes bought the whole stock just to be on the safe side. You never knew from one day to the next what was going to become scarce.
“I wanted our new guests to feel at home and enjoy themselves. I treated them as though they were members of my own family. They knew I would look after them and they trusted me. That was a really great feeling. I used to pick flowers to put in their villas, leave them a bottle of wine on their anniversary, find birthday cakes for their children and even cook Mexican food for them.
“I was in charge of the gardens for several years, says Pilar, and I filled them with bougainvillea, hibiscus, ixora and other colorful flowering shrubs. Together with Betty Sutton, we created the rose garden, a beautiful courtyard that has been an oasis of tranquility for many years. I remember seeing crocodiles basking in the sun on the shores of the lagoon or even on the beach. We had hummingbirds, orioles and pelicans in residence at the resort, generations of cats and iguanas, and I’ll never forget the antics of four mischievous raccoons that could often be seen scampering around after dark.”
Royal Resorts developer John Olson also remembers that in the early 1980s, the resort welcomed celebrity guests such as chess champion Bobby Fisher, astronaut Gerald Carr, pop stars and screen idol Robert Mitchum. “It was just after Mr. Mitchum completed filming the TV drama The Winds of War, based on the Hernan Wouk novels The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. His agents had told us that he wished to remain incognito, but being Robert Mitchum, he couldn’t resist talking to members and guests. He made friends very quickly and hustled up a party every night.”
A perfect family vacation spot
With its sheltered beach, calm, clear shallow waters and spacious, fully equipped villas The Royal Cancun fast became a family favorite. Lasting friendships were made on the beach, in the pools, sail boating out in the bay and on the tennis courts. Children who spent many a happy vacation at the resort have now become Royal Resorts members themselves so that their children may have the same experience. It is a place enjoyed by all generations from grandparents and great grandparents to parents, children and toddlers, an unforgettable spot where magical memories are created.
Longtime members and guests at The Royal Cancun love the low-rise Mexico-Mediterranean-style buildings set in tropical gardens, the views of the bay, the family ambiance and community spirit. They love the employees who greet them year after home with “welcome home.” And they have fond memories of Cancun in the early days, of teaching their children to swim or snorkel; riding the bus to their favorite restaurants or to Puerto Juarez. They remember shopping in the first supermarkets or the markets and crossing over to Isla Mujeres on the crowded wooden boats that were the first ferries. They explored Cancun and the Riviera Maya enjoying picnics on deserted beaches and parties under the stars. In the words of some of our members at The Royal Cancun:
“This place is very dear to us”
“The fun we have had here is priceless”
“Growing up with The Royal Cancun holds a special place in our hearts”
“The friendships and memories we have experienced at this resort will never be matched or forgotten.”
“We call Cancún our home.“
“ It is our home away from home. When they say, “welcome home,” it truly feels like it is. We count the months until our next visit. It is our place of tranquility, rejuvenation, relaxation, fun, and memories”
“ We are treated like family. When we arrive, we feel as though we are welcomed home! Everyone is wonderful and we love the Mexican people. They are friendly, hard working and always have a smile on their faces. We travel a lot and have never encountered the friendliness that we have found at Royal Resorts.”
Impeccably kept, with new amenities to enjoy
From 2009 to 2012, all the villas at The Royal Cancun were renovated with new furniture, drapes and art. Other features added in recent years include a second restaurant, La Trattoria, serving Italian cuisine, a sports bar, fitness center and mini spa, a beach bar, second pool bar and grill, room service, a gift shop and a supervised kids club. There’s even a botanical garden filled with native trees and shrubs, which supplies fresh herbs to the restaurants. Guests can still sign up for the perennial favorite sail boating on the bay, and there are bike trips and kayak trips on Nichupte Lagoon to give them a glimpse of the mangrove forest and the wildlife that inhabits it.
The Royal Resorts story continues
It’s been a remarkable 40-year journey that has seen this corner of the Caribbean transformed into one of the world’s most popular beach playgrounds and Royal Resorts into a leading vacation ownership company.
Royal Resorts now has six award-winning resorts in the Mexican Caribbean: The Royal Cancun, The Royal Caribbean, The Royal Islander and The Royal Sands in Cancun, The Royal Haciendas in Playa del Carmen and Grand Residences by Royal Resorts in Puerto Morelos, affiliated with Leading Hotels of the World®. There are 3,000 employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than 20, 30 and even 40 years, and more than 70,000 members. More than 3.5 million members and guests have enjoyed the Royal Resorts vacation experience to date and we look forward to welcoming many more in years to come.
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Share your Royal Resorts memories
During the year, we will be publishing stories and photos commemorating 40 Years of Royal Resorts on our blog, in this newsletter and on our Facebook page. If you would like to drop us a line and send us photos and stories about your treasured vacation memories with family and friends, staff you remember at your favorite resort, we would love to hear from you. You can send photos and vacation stories to email@example.com
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