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Friday,  July 19, 2024 4:14 AM 

On Location: “1,500 ice creams a day”: Inside Playa’s 4-phase makeover of Seadust Cancun

On Location: “1,500 ice creams a day”: Inside Playa’s 4-phase makeover of Seadust Cancun
PAX dives deep into Seadust Cancun Family Resort, which is undergoing a transformation led by Playa Hotels & Resorts. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

It seems like Playa Hotels and Resorts has to update its map every six months.

The company that operates all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, just in the last two years, has rapidly expanded its portfolio with brand alliances, new builds and management takeovers in prime sun-kissed locations.

One of its latest projects is Seadust Cancun Family Resort, a 502-room family-friendly property, nestled in between sea and lagoon, in the spacious south-end section of Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

Last week, PAX was given an on-the-ground look at the all-inclusive hotel, which Playa assumed management of last February.

Seadust Cancun Family Resort is in Cancun's Hotel Zone. (Pax Global Media)

As previously reported, the takeover expands Playa’s footprint in highly-competitive Cancun, strengthening its ability to capture the entry to mid-level family segment.

READ MORE: On Location - Seadust Cancun set for major transformation amid Playa takeover

If there was a property set up for families, it’s Seadust Cancun, which is about 15-20 minutes from Cancun International Airport, on a powdery white-sand beach.

A waterslide castle at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

Treasure Island Water Park has a pirate ship. (Pax Global Media)

In addition to having 19 bars and restaurants, serving Mexican, steak, Mediterranean, Italian and Japanese specialties, there’s Treasure Island Water Park, featuring an Excalibur-like castle, slides, a pirate ship, water games and more.

READ MORE: Playa expands portfolio in Mexico with Seadust Cancun Family Resort

There’s also a kid’s club (for ages 5 to 12), a teen playroom (under renovation), a baby club (for 18 months to age four) and babysitting services (for an extra fee).

View from inside of a

The hotel’s suites, with mini fridges and plush (super comfy) king-sized or double beds, range in categories, from standard to family to lagoon-facing sunset to oceanfront (the latter two come with terrace jacuzzis).

Some suites have bunk beds (for up to three kids) and accommodate up to five, when you include two parents.

Bunk beds that sleep three at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

There’s an infinity pool, a kid’s pool, a baby pool and an adults-only pool. Also, for kids, there’s mini-putt and even a low-hanging zip-line track.

But these are just the Coles Notes. What makes Seadust Cancun interesting, right now, is the transformation it’s currently undergoing now that it’s in Playa’s hands.

Beachfront at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

A 4-phase transformation

General Manager Silvestre Vazquez said he’s “very proud” of Playa directing the show at the hotel, which operated under the Seadust name, independently, for about five years (the building’s bones, however, are roughly 15 years old).

He divides Playa’s plan into four phases. Phase One, which was completed last month, was about improving the back of house, enhancing the team with new training and talent.

General Manager of Seadust Cancun Silvestre Vazquez. (Pax Global Media)

The "service from the heart” hand-on-the-heart gesture and bow performed by staff at Playa properties everywhere is already visible. 

Executive Chef Jesus Farfan (formally of Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos) was also called in to shake up the hotel’s menus.

Vazquez describes Farfan as a “talented millennial Chef” who’s teaching the kitchen all about new food trends and cooking techniques. 

Big Ben restaurant is one example of a concept refresh Playa has made at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

A special roasted Chilean sea bass prepared at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

“We're very happy to have him,” the GM said. (And as guests, we, too, couldn’t help but feel happy. Many dishes we devoured – from braised veal to pork belly with sweet apple – were bursting with rich flavours).

Mixology and sommelier experts are also now on the payroll, elevating the beverages

One highlight was participating in a mixology class, where flair bartenders flipped bottles, balanced glasses, and stirred-up a show while we got tipsy on negronis, mojitos and more. 

Cocktails served  with flair at a mixology class. (Pax Global Media)

As we sipped along, bopping to Latin dance beats, the bartenders would share fun, historical facts about each cocktail.

Similar learning moments unfolded at El Maquey, the hotel’s Mexican restaurant, where an in-house tequila and mezcal expert delivered a tableside masterclass on the two local liquors.

A tableside masterclass in tequila and mezcal. (Pax Global Media)

Phase One was also about enhancing the entertainment, which included the opening of a nightclub, SeaBar, so adults have something to do at night.

Ensuring grown-ups have their own space is what led to opening “Club Caribe,” the adults-only, lagoon and mangrove-facing pool and bar space (with a rooftop feel) on the hotel’s second floor (where sunsets explode).

“Club Caribe" is an adults-only pool and bar space. (Pax Global Media)

Ice cream & mini discos 

Pre-Playa, families with kids made up roughly 80 per cent of Seadust Cancun’s clientele.

Once the transformation is complete, the hope is that more adults (couples, friends, weddings and honeymooners) fill up some space. The sweet spot, Vazquez said, would be 60 per cent family, 40 per cent adult.

The cruise ship-like atrium at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

The nightly entertainment in the theatre, meanwhile, is geared towards youngsters.

There’s a pre-show “mini disco” where parents can dance with their kids before the headliner, which changes every night, from magicians to a Disney cabaret featuring cameos by much-loved characters.

Prepare to have jams from Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Frozen and Encanto stuck in your head all week. (We Don’t Talk About Bruno).

Characters from Disney's Aladdin put on a show in the theatre at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

Phase One of the makeover finished last month. This also included giving Big Ben, the hotel’s grill house, a modern refresh (each restaurant will be redone, one by one) and opening an ice cream station – which “has been a hit,” Vazquez said.

“We serve more than 1,500 ice creams a day,” he noted.

Phase Two, which begins this summer, will see the opening of a wellness-oriented grab-and-go station (serving salads and smoothies) in the hotel’s park-like promenade, which sort of looks like the interior of a cruise ship, where monuments of world landmarks, like Big Ben and the Arc de Triomphe, also stand.

Inside the spa's "Romance Cabin" for couples. (Pax Global Media)

The Spa at Seadust, accessible by a glass bridge, will also see upgrades, including the addition of a “Princess Cabin,” where attendants (dressed as princesses) will offer kid-friendly treatments, like manicures. The team said this should be ready by fall.

A “floatarium” – tanks filled with salt water that allow guests to effortlessly float – is also coming soon.

Warm woods, marble countertops

Renovation of the hotel’s rooms, part of Phase Three, will also begin this summer and fall.

The new design – which has already been implemented in the Presidential Suite – consists of warm woods (inspired by the Yucatan jungle), marble countertops and modern furnishings.

It’s a big change from the black-painted wood motif currently seen in all other rooms, and it’s Vazquez’s hope to have all accommodations finished by August of 2024.

BEFORE. A family suite, pre-reno, at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

AFTER. A renovated suite, which will serve as a prototype for the makeover. (Pax Global Media)

The hotel’s airy lobby and check-in area is also due for a revamp this summer. The plan, Vazquez said, is to add cabanas so it’s cozier.

Phase Four, which begins next summer, focuses on equipment upgrades, like stronger air conditioning across the property (the rooms already, mind you, are pleasantly cool).

Inside the lobby at Seadust Cancun, which will be redesigned this summer. (Pax Global Media)

Thinking outside of the box

Beyond structural changes, there’s a commitment to create new experiences, too.  

For instance: this week, the hotel is launching an activation whereby guests, by invitation, can dine in the main kitchen, where a chef, in the open, will prepare meals.

Customized dining experiences by the beach at Seadust Cancun. (Pax Global Media)

Weekly guided walks on the beach are now offered – the “Cancun” sign (for pictures) is just a 10 to 15-minute stroll away. There’s plans to schedule volleyball tournaments on the beach.

Additionally, the hotel, through its DMC, Discova, has neat excursions that visit the region’s many cenotes (sinkholes, in collapsed limestone bedrock, that are filled with sparkling-blue groundwater).

Floating in a cenote at Cenote Zapote ecopark. (Pax Global Media)

We visited Cenote Zapote, an ecopark, about 45 to 50 minutes from Cancun, in the lush jungle of Puerto Morelos.

Here, guides escort small groups from cenote to cenote (from open pools to deep caves) to swim, zip-line and simply enjoy nature. It’s a highly-recommend experience (that also includes lunch).

All about people

So, there’s a lot going on Seadust Cancun. Does this mean prices will eventually go up?

The short answer is yes. However: “If we increase the rate, we will be competitive,” Vazquez said. 

Seadust Cancun has friendly, authentic service. (Pax Global Media)

Relaxation and thrills aside, the highlight at Seadust Cancun are the employees, who are not only upbeat and very friendly, but are also 110 per cent authentic in the way they interact with guests.

This goes a long way in offering an experience that is both memorable and meaningful.

As Vazquez put it: “Our number one asset is our people.”

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