Seven Dead In Mexican Resort Town Of Cancun

News of Mexico rebounding from a string of drug-related violence still looks bleak; on Sunday, six people were strangled and one was decapitated in the southern Mexican tourist resort of Cancun.

Police found the bodies of the five men and two women in a shack in the outskirts of town. They believe the slain are independent drug dealers without any links to a specific cartel. The news comes just a month after two men opened fire in a bar in Cancun, killing six and injuring five others. More than 70,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2007.

Set on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Cancun is a favored beach destination for spring breakers (and, of course, those who want to skip the parties, too). Although violence has erupted in several Mexican cities over the past few years, there are still plenty of safe areas to visit. In fact, our own McLean Robbins just visited Cabo San Lucas, and Kyle Ellison seems to have no reservations about recommending Baja as a hotspot for adventure travel this year.

[Photo credit: Getty Images]

Hotel News We Noted: April 13, 2013

capella pedregal lobbyWelcome to spring, “Hotel News We Noted” readers. If you live on the East Coast like we do, you’ve been experiencing downright balmy weather and it’s making us crave summer resort escapes, ocean breezes and open-air roof terraces. Lucky for you, we have lots of that kind of info in this week’s column. This week, as always, we round up the best, the worst and the most interesting news in the hotel industry, tracking resort openings, pampering packages and other reportings from our travels – which this week includes a recap of our recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Have a hotel we must visit or a tip you can’t wait to share? We welcome your feedback and comments, so feel free to shoot us an email or leave a note below with ideas and thoughts.

Over-The-Top Hotel Package: Viceroy’s $500,000 Once-In-A-Lifetime Wedding
Television and magazines have shown us that a wedding can certainly be a lavish affair. But by just about anyone’s standards, a $500k wedding package is over the top. As part of a celebration of their new experiential video, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts is offering a Destination Wedding Package for just that price. But what do you get for half a million? The package includes:
· A Marchesa bridal gown
· Fitting and alterations by exclusive couture tailor Madame Paulette in New York
· A complete Marchesa for Lenox china set (12 settings)
· A three-night destination wedding for up to 75 guests at the Viceroy Hotel or Resort of your choice, which includes a Welcome Reception, Rehearsal Dinner and Wedding Ceremony and Reception
· 60 Guestrooms at any Viceroy Hotels and Resorts property for the three nights of the wedding

While this package seems quite expensive, it does include an all-expenses paid wedding for you and 75 guests, plus your gown and china. What do you think? Would you buy this once-in-a-lifetime offer, or get a house instead?Travel Recap: The Latest On Cabo’s Hotel Scene
Cabo has long been a playground for Hollywood’s rich and famous, a safe yet tropical jaunt down from LA that’s known for its high-end hotels and discreet service. It’s also one of our favorite vacation destinations, and we just returned from a five-day trip.

This time, we stayed at Capella Pedregal. The area’s newest ultraluxury resort opened in 2009 and doesn’t disappoint. With fewer than 100 rooms and a spa ranked as one of the top ten in the world, the hotel features amenities that most would deem celebrity worthy, including private plunge pools in every room, personal assistant service and entrance through a man-made tunnel carved into Pedregal Mountain. It’s no wonder that A-listers like Reese Witherspoon have made this a regular stop in their vacation rotation. Visitors seeking a true VIP experience should opt for the Estrella Suite, which overlooks the resort and offers prime sunrise views, or a beachfront Casita, which features a private beach area, oversized pool and bathrooms that open directly to the outdoors.

We also visited two of the area’s other grande dame hotels: Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, a Rosewood property, and Esperanza, an Auberge property. Both have their own loyal followings, and also boast fewer than 100 rooms. Notable updates at Las Ventanas include a newly re-launched spa menu focused on holistic treatments, a new menu at their fine dining restaurant focusing on high-end specialty dishes from around Mexico and plans to close the property in May for several weeks to complete new luxury villas on the beachfront. Esperanza also has made recent updates to their spa and fitness center, and continues to boast one of the best fine dining restaurants in the Cabo area, Cocina del Mar, located on a rocky outcropping with exceptional sunset and views of crashing waves.

In other notable Cabo hotel news, San Jose del Cabo just got a new boutique hotel opening of its own. This slightly quieter and more traditional town is located about 30 minutes from Cabo San Lucas. The 72-room Hotel El Ganzo (which translates to “The Goose”) boasts a rooftop bar, three farm-to-table restaurants, a Film Club, a recording studio accessible through a trap door in the lobby floor, a full-service spa and a cool line-up of artists and musicians in residence. Located at the base of the marina in an old fisherman’s wharf, the property offers exceptional views of the Sea of Cortez as well. At just $193 per night for the opening rate, this property’s a steal and well worth a visit.

Want more Cabo news, plus images of the trip? Check out our photos on the Gadling Instagram from this past week.

Article Update: Hotel Wi-Fi
Last week, we told you that IHG had made a big deal over the advent of free Wi-Fi for their loyalty program members, and we mentioned a few other hotels that also offer a similar benefit. We inadvertently forgot to mention that Canadian-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts also has offered complimentary Wi-Fi for their President’s Club loyalty program members worldwide since 2006.

[Image Credit: Capella Pedregal]

#OnTheRoad On Instagram: Cabo San Lucas

ticketGreetings, everyone! This week I’ll be taking over the Gadling Instagram feed (find it here) as I head to the sunny shores of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

You’ll get an inside glimpse at my travels, including a tequila school, sunset horseback rides along the beach and lots of spa scouting. It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it.

Cabo San Lucas
is known as a celebrity paradise, and this trip will show followers what it’s like to travel just like those very A-listers we read about in magazines. I’ll be staying at the ultra-luxe Capella Pedregal, a AAA Five Diamond Resort with the eighth best spa in the world, according to TripAdvisor.

We’ll also visit hotels like Las Ventanas and Esperanza, both of which are popular celebrity vacation destinations.

If you’ve been to Cabo before, feel free to leave suggestions of places we should visit or things we should do during the trip. If you haven’t, follow along for inspiration.

Not on Instagram? You can also check out full post trip coverage in our weekly column, “Hotel News We Noted.”

[Image Credit: McLean Robbins]

Know Your Spring Break Legal Rights

Spring Breakers, did you know that anyone boarding a plane is covered by a “passenger bill of rights?” Or that in Mexico you’re guilty until you can prove yourself innocent?

Lawyers.com’s editor in chief, Larry Bodine, has some legal insights that Spring Breakers should digest well before their first Jello shot – particularly the 120,000 students heading to Mexico this year.

What can I do right this instant to be safer on Spring Break?
Sign up for the U.S. government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It’s free, and in the feds’ own words, “It allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.”

What’s another thing?
Look up the U.S. consulate or consular agency closest to where you’re staying. At travel.state.gov, check under Country Specific Information for a list of agencies in your destination. Print copies for you and your travel mates and enter the information in your cellphone.

Is there an app for that?
Yes! There’s a Smart Traveler Program app for iPhone and Android.

American laws apply to me everywhere, right?
Wrong. Bodine says many college students think American citizenship grants them immunity from laws in other countries. This isn’t true. If you’re in Mexico or Jamaica or the Dominican Republic or anywhere, you are subject to that country’s laws and punishments. “There are a lot of semi-innocent things we do the U.S. that are crimes in Mexico,” Bodine says. “Walking on the street with an open alcohol container is a crime. Getting off the bus without paying. Taking off your clothes on the beach.”

In another country you can’t count on something like Panama City’s Spring Break Court to minimize the repercussions. “The laws in Mexico are very different,” Bodine says. “If you’re charged with a crime, you are presumed to be guilty, and you have to prove you are innocent. If you are arrested, you’ll be held for 48 hours before you get to make a statement. If they want to charge you, you can be held for a year without bail.”

Check the most recent edition of a reputable guidebook for laws.

How can I find out about open-container laws?
In Mexico, it’s illegal to walk on the street with an open container of alcohol. Costa Rica made it illegal last year. The law varies by country, so ask a bartender, a hotel manager or concierge or a security officer about your destination’s law once you arrive. Ask about public intoxication laws, too. And research them before you go.

Why do the police seem cool with the “anything goes” thing?
Police might let the good times roll – but they often crack down when there’s a car accident, a fight breaks out, someone gets belligerent with the cops or danger otherwise looms, Bodine says. You don’t want to be anywhere near these incidents. Find someone fun and rational to hang out with if you want to make sure to stay out of jail.

I’ve been arrested. Whom should I call?
Bodine says your first call – and only call, if just one is allowed – should be to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the area where you’re staying. Consular officials can provide information on the local legal system and help you find a local attorney, but they can’t get you out of jail.

What will happen if I get caught smoking pot in Mexico?
The U.S. State Department’s website says: “The importation, purchase, possession or use of drugs can incur severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried, and imprisonment of several years following a conviction.” Don’t even risk having some in your pocket.

I’m 18 and can drink legally in Mexico. Can I also bring home alcohol?
No. Once you land in the U.S., it’s illegal for you to have it. Chances are it will be confiscated when you go through Customs after you land.

What should I do if I am the victim of a crime?
“Notify the authorities,” Bodine says, “but don’t let the hotel or tour company or restaurant make the report. You should also call the U.S. embassy.”

What rights do I have at the airport?
If you’re bumped from a flight because it is oversold or canceled, the airline is required to give you a paper detailing your rights. The airline employees rarely offer it, but you can ask for one. Bodine says the law requires the airline to rebook you on a different flight, and if that flight isn’t scheduled to arrive within two hours of your original flight, the airline is supposed to pay you 400 percent of the one-way fare for that leg of the trip. But again, don’t expect the airline to be upfront about this. “Ordinarily, they’ll offer you as little as possible,” Bodine says. “They’ll put you up in a hotel and offer you a $300 travel voucher. If you don’t ask for [your full entitlement], they won’t give it to you.”

If your flight is canceled or delayed by weather, the airlines don’t owe passengers any compensation.

Going to Mexico? Read the U.S. State Department’s “Know Before You Go” page for Spring Breakers, and brush up one more time with this video:

[Editor’s note: Got legal questions? This isn’t legal advice. Try reaching out to the folks at Lawyers.com!]

[Photo credits: top, Mnadi via Flickr; bottom, Spengu via Flickr]

Over-The-Top Valentine’s Travel Experiences: Day 4

capella pedregal estrella suiteWe’re categorizing all things romantic over the next few weeks here on Gadling, focusing on “over-the-top” travel packages that allow you to declare your love in true high style.

Today’s package comes from one of Mexico’s most luxurious resorts, Capella Pedregal, located in Cabo San Lucas. (You may recall that Capella’s Washington, DC property is the subject of our ongoing “Birth of a Hotel” feature.)

This February, Capella Pedregal has unveiled a “Month of Romance” series of packages, including the sumptuous Passion Ablaze offering, whcih includes:

· Five nights Beachfront Suite accommodations, located directly on the beach
· Luxury car airport transportation
· Private Yacht Ride to Lover’s Beach, with on-board Champagne and dinner on the beach
· Custom piece of jewelry for each night of stay, designed by Chan Luu
· 80-minute Art of Couples Massage
· Private beach-side astronomy lesson
· Private beach dinner for two
· Welcome bottle of Clase Azul Super Anejo tequila
· All food and beverage, including a private dinner in the La Cava wine cellar

· Romantic rose petal turndown
· Glass blown heart memento

While the package is a rather mind-blowing $40,000, it’s worth noting that the one-bedroom beachfront suites generally run at about $2,500 a night for these dates, and so the package isn’t really that much of a stretch from a regular week’s stay.

If you’re still looking to go luxe but not break the bank, the three-night “Heart to Heart” package, featuring many of the same amenities in an ocean view guestroom starts at $3,290.

[Image Credit: Capella Pedregal]