Cancun Calling: Tales From The Beach

By: Maxine Sheppard

July 20, 2012

Last week was a special one for Virgin Atlantic, as we celebrated our brand new route to Cancun, Mexico with a typically exuberant inaugural trip and party for selected guests and media.

Derren Brown, Cleo Rocos, Alexandra Burke and Keith Lemon were also onboard to launch our new destination in style, with the latter adding his own special brand of celebrity juice to the traditional tarmac wingwalk . 

The Cancun wingwalk with Keith Lemon, Alexandra Burke and Richard Branson The Cancun wingwalk with Keith Lemon, Alexandra Burke and Richard Branson

While it’s fair to say the partying pretty much started as soon as the nine hour flight departed London Gatwick, the much-anticipated three days of tropical frolics began in earnest after checking in at the Royal Hideaway on Mexico’s pristine Riviera Maya at Playacar, one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most luxurious resorts.

Infinity Pool © The Royal Hideaway Infinity Pool © The Royal Hideaway

Settling in for some fun in the sun was one of our special VIPs, Stephen Ryden-Lloyd from London, who has been flying with Virgin Atlantic for more than 13 years. Stephen is a Flying Club Gold member and along with three other frequent fliers and their guests, was handpicked to join us having clocked up a serious amount of miles on his regular flights to and from the USA and Delhi.

We took the opportunity to catch up with Stephen upon his return so we could quiz him about the highlights of his Mexican adventure”¦

Stephen and friends at Virgin Atlantic's White Party in Cancun Stephen and friends at Virgin Atlantic’s White Party in Cancun

Stephen, tell us how you came to be invited to take part in this trip and how was the atmosphere on the flight out to Cancun?

Earlier in the year I was asked – as one of Virgin’s frequent fliers – whether I’d be interested in joining the inaugural trip to Cancun. Well, this is a question that requires only milliseconds for synapses to connect from ear to mouth and reply “yes” to.

The weeks rolled on and some time later the itinerary was shared, and from the look of it we were in for three days and nights of fun and non-stop activity. I began to wonder what to pack for a glam and a white party, as well as snorkelling and swimming and adventures in the jungle – that’s quite a mixed wardrobe!

Saturday was flying day, and at 36,000 feet it was the best bar scene in the world. Miss Cleo Rocos pouring drinks anyone”¦? What a classy and entertaining lady she is.

Cleo Rocos en route to Cancun Cleo Rocos en route to Cancun

What kind of adventures did you get up to over there?

Sunday was action day –  I chose to go ziplining at Xplor near Playacar, a natural adventure park close to Cancun. Fourteen ziplines, some as long as 900 metres, on which you travel at 30 kmph over the jungle canopy. Boy, did we sweat. Ziplining has to be one of the most fun things to do in the world, and the water landings nearly left me mooning on more than one occasion!

It was pretty humid that day in the jungle, and also in what we called “˜the batcave’ (and there were bats) where that evening’s glam party was held. The party itself was swell, and after the speeches we were entertained by a superb band called Sway, before Alexandra Burke came on stage. What a talented singer she is; despite the heat and humidity we were all dancing well into the night.

Alexandra Burke sings at the Virgin Atlantic party in Cancun Alexandra Burke sings at the Virgin Atlantic party in Cancun

Did you get any time to relax and enjoy the Riviera?

Yes, the Monday was a relaxation day for me, though others went snorkelling, swimming with whale sharks or visiting the Mayan ruins. But a day by the pool, on the beach, eating paella made in a pan six feet wide, making friends, getting sunburnt (a little), and the odd tonic eased us nicely into the evening’s White Party at Chloe’s Club, a wonderful venue at the luxurious Mayakoba Resort.  Tuesday was the down day. Knowing you have to leave and travel home always drags my heart a little, but before the flight we coached up to Cancun itself and Le Blanc Spa Resort. Stunning is one word to describe it; a beautiful hotel where we chilled by the pool and soaked up more sun, then shopped in Cancun itself before finally taking the last ride of the day to the airport.

What will be your lasting memories from the trip?

There were four frequent fliers on the trip, or rather four couples, and as a group we bonded and already have some dinner plans to re-meet! Every time I think about the trip it brings a smile to my face. It was hectic, mad, funny, informative, entertaining, very drinkable, with a beautiful hotel, in a gorgeous location. More than that, I never expected to meet such truly fabulous people and make new friends.

My overriding memory of the Cancun inaugural will be all the smiles and laughter we shared. Travel should be about memories, and this trip was packed full of them.

Virgin Atlantic's Inaugural Trip to Cancun Virgin Atlantic’s Inaugural Trip to Cancun

Virgin Atlantic operates twice-weekly direct flights to Cancun from London Gatwick. Our leisure fleet of Boeing 747s are getting a fresh new look to make your flight even better – take a look at the makevover.

For more information about Flying Club our previous post will tell you all you need to know, then visit to sign up to our seriously rewarding loyalty programme today. Book a flight to Cancun and you can earn a minimum of 4,944 Flying Club miles.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

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