The Mayan calendar may have predicted that the apocalypse would begin in late December, but for newly-wed RACHEL WILLIAMS, life was near heavenly in Cancun, Mexico
I PROBABLY shouldn’t confess this - brides everywhere will have my guts for lacy blue garters - but a tiny, sugar-coated-almond-sized part of me was looking forward to my Mexican honeymoon more than my actual wedding day.
You know the moment you and your hubby finally get to relax, just the two of you?
Long gone are the petty arguments over the first dance and the seating plans.
The only decision we wanted to make on our week-long break was whether we ordered champagne at the swim-up pool bar or sipped cocktails on the beach.
That’s why we chose the five-star Excellence in Playa Mujeres, Cancun.
With a personal concierge and 24-hour room service, this adult-only all-inclusive hotel was one wedding plan we did agree on!
Lapped by the Caribbean Sea, it offers the same calibre of soft white sand beaches and bath-warm blue sea as the Maldives or St Lucia, at a snip of the price.
But that doesn’t mean they scrimp on anything.
Pulling up at the grand gold-gated entrance, just 25 minutes from the airport, we were handed a glass of champagne before being whisked through the sprawling marble lobby, past the other new arrivals to our private check-in.
We’d upgraded to the Excellence Club and there were plenty of perks to follow.
We were spoiled with superior toiletries, a private beach and members-only pools.
With no unsightly wristbands to differentiate between guests, it’s the waiters’ job in these secluded areas to remember you by face, making you feel extra special.
They even recalled couples - and their favourite tipples - who had visited a year earlier.
With attention to detail like this, it’s no surprise the hotel is at least 85-95 PER CENT full all year round with honeymooners, couples getting married and lovers returning.
But you wouldn’t know it to wander round the extensive grounds.
With seven pools, nine restaurants and a two-mile long beach, on our first day we didn’t see another person - except for the waitress refilling our glasses.
Relaxation certainly comes easily here. There are hammocks big enough for two in the pool and double beds that swing gently under palm trees.
Another way to explore the resort is by the lazy river, which winds around the spa, past a juice bar and through secret paradises you might not have found on foot.
Still recovering from the 10-hour flight from London Gatwick, on our first night we ordered room service, popped open the complimentary champagne and climbed into our Jacuzzi. Every room in the hotel has one.
The next day, we headed to the main pool. With a swim-up bar, live Spanish or Jamaican bands and plenty of sun loungers, it had a party atmosphere. And by now, we were ready to continue our celebrations!
Couples excitedly asked each other about their big days and ordered rounds of congratulatory drinks.
It’s like being part of a club where everyone is always happy and public displays of affection are allowed.
Even men admitting they cried at the ceremony were awarded with a pat on the back - from other blokes!
That night, our concierge organised a private dinner for us on the beach.
Fairy lights decorated the palm trees and the waves lapped soothingly a few feet in front of us. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more romantic, a saxophone player emerged from the darkness and serenaded us.
There was fat chance of me keeping up the pre-wedding diet, when the food is as delicious as it is at the Excellence.
It’s like travelling round the world in one building with flavours from Italy, Asia, India and the Mediterranean.
Our favourite was the French restaurant. Rose petals were scattered on the table as a surprise and at the end of our melt-in-the-mouth steak dinner our waiter presented us with the gooiest chocolate fudge cake we’d ever tasted - with the date of our wedding drizzled in sauce around the edge.
It’s just a shame we didn’t get to sample all the restaurants in our short stay.
After four nights, we checked into the family-friendly Beloved Hotel next door.
The white reception filled with cream sofas and champagne-coloured cushions was as inviting as a cuddle, with the classiness of a boutique hotel and the cosiness of a family-run business.
The three-year-old resort has 109 rooms, every one catering for a family of five.
There’s a golf course next door which offers reduced rates for guests and a marina on the front doorstep for fun tours.
After the merriment at the Excellence, the silent surroundings at the Beloved felt like a welcome detox. And what better way to make your body feel like a temple than with a visit to the spa?
Designed like modern Roman baths, there are towering columns, framing the cloudless sky.
We enjoyed a couple’s back massage, which ended in a milk mousse bubble bath.
During the neck and head massage it was difficult to stay awake. But the sound of a champagne cork popping brought me back to reality. When we opened our eyes, there were chocolate dipped strawberries by our side.
Now our skin was glowing, we decided to have a big night out.
Just a 10-minute taxi ride away from Cancun city, it only cost a few pounds to get to the main strip.
By day, it’s great for shopping and water sports. At night, the bright lights sparkle and the place really comes alive.
We escaped from it all, on board the Columbus Lobster Dinner Cruise. Leaflets promised it was the most romantic experience in Cancun - and they didn’t disappoint.
The Spanish galleon set sail as the sun was going down, before a dinner of succulent steak and meaty lobster was served.
By the end of the night it was hard to resist getting up on the deck and swaying to the soft live sax under the stars.
Back on dry land at the Beloved, it was time to pack.
Here, you don’t feel naughty emptying the contents of the free refreshments into your suitcase - you’re actually allowed to take the premium-brand bottles of alcohol home with you!
Tucking into our final meal at the fine-dining Lupita, one of four restaurants at the Beloved, we managed to agree on something else.
That, like all the lovely couples we’d made friends with during our stay in Cancun, we would go back for our first anniversary too.
Rachel Williams was a guest of Sovereign Luxury Travel, who offer seven nights at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, Mexico from £1,539 pp on an all-inclusive basis, departing on March 19, 2013. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick and private transfers. (Includes a 20% discount.)
They also offer seven nights at The Beloved Hotel, Mexico from £1,625 pp, departing on March 4, 2013. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick and private transfers. (Includes a 40% discount). Call 0844 415 1936 or visit www.sovereign.com