Behind the scenes at a resort

A view of the fountains in front of the Moon Palace Resort, Cancun

We Americans are a weak species, when it comes to traveling. We’re famous for getting sick, and the more remote a place we go to, the sicker we get. Of course, we share this weakness with Germans, Brits, and many other people from today’s “first world.”

When we go to foreign countries, two things make us sick: contaminated water, and unfamiliar germs on our food. It’s ironic that we’ve raised our standard of living, while making ourselves more and more vulnerable to what is, essentially, dirt and bugs.

It's true that we've managed to contain many dangerous diseases, but I sometimes think we've gone too far. We've also eliminated our resistance to normal flora and fauna found everywhere else in the world.

When I was young, I drank from streams and ate from dumpsters and the piles of abandoned food behind grocery stores. I ate the pizza slices people left on the tray when they left the restaurant. And the result . . . I stayed fed, and I never got sick while traveling.

Now, I eat fine fresh food, all clean and nice. And I get sick when traveling, because my body is no longer exposed to those stream and dumpster germs. I had that notion in mind when I went to Cancun this week.

I’d never been to an upscale Mexican resort before, so I decided to take a look behind the scenes at the Moon Palace. I got up at dawn and went for a walk. The first thing I noticed was the jungle. You reach the boundaries of the property, and there it is, on the other side of the fence.

Every night, through that fence, there’s a steady trickle of crabs, scorpions, snakes, and rodents. And right behind, there’s a little army of workers, catching them before the tourii wake up and notice, or worse, step on one and really notice.

Tourii, by the way, is little known the plural of tourist.

Wherever grass leads into swamp, there are signs warning of crocodiles. I looked hard for crocs, but I never saw one. I did see some scorpions, and some snakes in the trees. And I also some plenty of birds and mammals.

At 6AM, the crews were just arriving for work. The cooks and bakers are the first to get going. Here's a food service person bringing some of the first trays of food to the conference area.

I was impressed at the obvious pride they took in their equipment. Here you can see a fellow prepping his truck for the day, and in the shot below, a crew cleans up their John Deere equipment after doing a patch of lawn.

Both shots show pride in the work, the place, and the equipment. As a lover of machines, I was pleased. All the equipment repair is done outside, as you can see here:

The resort didn't skimp on equipment, either. Many of the trucks are Mercedes-Benz, and John Deere seems to have a lock on the tractor, lawn care, and construction equipment franchise. They've purchased machinery that will last, and they've got a workforce that cares enough to keep it up.

Here (below), you can see the garbage handling behind the main hotel building. As you can see, it’s clean, cleaner actually than most places in New York. I was impressed. In addition, they are separating organic from inorganic waste, and recycling. The large units on the platform are chillers for the climate control. I suspect they are raised like that to protect them from hurricane driven storm surge. With that height, they are ready for some big storms.

The total absence of loose trash and debris is noteworthy. This would be impressive if seen behind a banquet facility, restaurant, or hotel here in America. Indeed, having looked around, it's rare here. That makes this shot even more impressive in light of Mexico's reputation.

This is the other side of the dock, where fresh supplies are loaded in. Note again the absence of loose food bits and trash.

Here you can see the recycling bins where glass and plastic are gathered.

I wondered how they dealt with the water issue, as many wells in this part of Mexico are shallow and prone to contamination. The answer is on the beach – desalination. They draw seawater into their own system, and make fresh water. That water is piped through a modern distribution system, and at the other end, they have their own sewer system.

It’s all clean and modern. I wish I had pictures to show you, but my camera was overcome by humidity and it had stopped working.

Here's another interesting aspect of the resort's design. At first glance, this photo shows a very opulent hotel lobby, empty of people at dawn. And indeed it is opulent, being 100% stone. But it's something else - too. It's rugged and cleanable.

Stone flooring over reinforced concrete is very sturdy. If a hurricane comes, you stack the furniture high, and let the floors flood. And in season, you use bleach and a power floor polisher t keep it all clean. These floors have drains in corners, specifically to facilitate cleanup in this manner. Very smart.

All the rooms are the same, so they too can be cleaned with bleach solution. Some American hotels I've seen could actually learn a thing ot two from these folks. Here's a shot of my room, looking in from the balcony.

There's actually a sill at the balcony door, to keep rain and wind-driven seawater out. In addition, the balcony is imperceptibly pitched to drain outward. And that's not all - there's a piped drain in the corner to allow cleanup with bleach. If they simply squeegeed it over the edge, the side of the building would become streaked. There's some smart planning in evidence here. In this next photo, you can see the open spaces they've designed in, to dissipate storm surges. It looks peaceful now, but I imagine it's a whole nother world in a storm.

They've also oriented the buildings with the short side to the sea, and open central corridor to prevent pressure buildup on the inside. The roofs are heavy, and you can see how they're sectioned and reinforced to prevent liftoff. These structures are designed to survive some pretty serious storms and flooding

If you look closer at the trees, you'll see how many are bent back, away from the sea and storm surge. The ocean is never very far away. At this resort, there's a shoal line about a mile offshore where the surf breaks, but a big storm would just keep piling in the water.


Sandra Cormier said…
It's amazing how much thought went into the design of the resort. I'll never look at coastal structures the same way again.

Thanks for the education, John!
Polly Kahl said…
Thanks John, that was very interesting.

Kanani, I'm glad they found Andre and he's okay.
John I've got to tease that you're the only person I know who goes to a stunning resort like that and before hitting the beach or lounging by the pool takes photos of the machinery and the recycling facilities! Thanks for the tour, though; your ocean view was amazing! Karen in (landlocked *sigh*) Denver :)
Anonymous said…
John, thanks for that informative and very interesting tour of the resort. My son particularly loved seeing the big red truck - it's a beauty. I liked seeing how clean everything is... I've been threatening for years to build a house with drains in each room. It just makes good sense.
Doreen Orion said…
I'm with sustenance on this one. But, that may be because having just gotten back from Phoenix in 112 degree weather, I would so love to live vicariously through some beach resort lounging.
I'm almost to Yellowstone. I left 110 degree S. California, then AZ which was maybe twice as hot! My kids hope to see Yogi Bear. Cancun would be uninteresting three of them!
Michelle O'Neil said…

I love these peeks inside your mind. There is something so sweet about your fascination with how things work. Not sweet in a condescending way, but sweet as in, you can be brilliant and also keep that childhood enthusiasm for things like machines and trains and garbage trucks. The best of both worlds, I think.

Kanani said…
Hey Ear Wiggler,
That's an awful lot of marble for a bedroom, don't you think? Anyway, I look at that and think about falling and hitting my head. Though I don't ever do that.
Kanani said…
Oh Yeah... you have an invitation from an SED class at Fullerton High to talk to a group of about 20 kids who are all high functioning and just different. I'll yap with ya later.
John, what a great tour! I never thought about the practicality of all the marble in the lobbies, very cool. Our house is set up so all the water drains out, but we still need some type of gutter.

Thanks for sharing and I hope you didn't get too sick!
Chris Eldin said…
Great photos! And every single one does look clean.
You've also given me some great dinner tips for the kids.
Darci said…
We used to go stay on the pacfic coast of Mexico every winter. Looks very similar but not as elegant as this place in Cancun. I remember mostly (well that and the three days in bed on lomotil or some such concoction) after eating goat meat. There was one guy who seemed to have the singular duty of following the also single black swan around whilst he/she waddled from place to place the little "poos" were dispensed seemingly before they actually hit the grass.
You're right, John. We've anti-bacterialized ourselves into sickness. Rather a bitter irony. And there's talk in the medical community of bringing BACK certain parasites, which are known to protect the human GI tract. I sat in on a presentation at Autism One about using parasites to clean the GI tract. Critters DO have their purpose in the world.

Did you know that antibiotics were originally dispensed with a Nystatin coating to kill the yeast overgrowth that results from killing gut flora (good and bad?) Most of us in the biomed autism world have our kids on high dose ProBiotics, to fight the yeast overgrowth that's rampant in our kids. Everyone should at the very least, eat a good quality yogurt every day, (if you can tolerate dairy) especially after antibiotic use. The gut and brain are intimately connected. Top GI docs are making huge strides in autism - while neurologists mostly twiddle their thumbs (though not your pals at Harvard, of course.)
Jerry Waxler said…
Once again, you're helping me push the limits. I've been gradually inoculating myself against the shame of doing stupid things when I was a kid, but never thought I would ever ever admit in public that I used to go into the cafeteria during college and eat left overs from other people's plates. I gag a little when I think of it now, but, hearing you comment on it so matter of factly, along with some of the conversations on the forum make me realize that kids do things differently than adults, and I was playing by a different set of rules back then.

I guess to tell an authentic story memoir writers have to dig deeper into memory and say more stuff than "normal" people.

Thanks for the teaching moment, and thanks for pointing out the clean loading docks. I don't think I've ever seen one so clean in the states.

Memory Writers Network
Ms. TK said…
You are so cool, John. I would have never even thought to look at those things in that way. Thanks for loaning us your eyes...
Daily said…
holy crap that was an awesome tour of the resort. i mean, really. the background information you gave is actually pretty important if you were going to choose a place to stay.

not all the pretty front end stuff that they put in the guide books.

maybe another career on your horizon as a travel guide that gives real information?

and, per the usual i learned something from your post. never knew the plural of tourist.

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