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A whale-watching excursion with Nexus Tours provides a view of the RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas.
A whale-watching excursion with Nexus Tours provides a view of the RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas. (Jason Scott Deegan/TravelGolf)

Signature Vacations delivers Canadians the ultimate 'all-inclusive' Mexico and Caribbean golf getaways

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer

Signature Vacations has mastered the "all-inclusive" vacation.

The Canadian company, a division of the Sunwing Travel Group, has been flying snow-weary travelers to warm-weather destinations for more than 40 years, specializing in exotic locales in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. The tour operator works with more than 700 all-inclusive resorts, including RIU Hotels and Resorts, Hard Rock Hotels, Dreams, Palace Hotels and Resorts, Paradisus and others.

The company's ability to manage the entire vacation -- from the flight and ground transportation to the fun excursions at the destination -- helps customers keep costs down and avoid hassles along the journey. Travelers can have everything booked and paid for in advance, so they never have to reach for their wallet. They can just show up and enjoy the ride.

The Signature Vacations model

The secret sauce of a Signature Vacations packages is Sunwing Airlines. Not only does Sunwing Airlines offer direct flights from more than 30 Canadian airports, it is one of the few airlines that still deliver over-the-top service. Passengers are greeted with a glass of champagne as a welcome gift to their dream vacation. Bistro-style meals, including wine and alcoholic beverages, and in-flight entertainment are available at no additional charge.

Once the plane lands, NexusTours, a division of the Sunwing Travel Group, takes over by shuttling people to their resorts. Local experts from NexusTours guide daily excursions such as zip-lining, city tours, catamaran rides or other adventures specific to each destination.

Signature Vacations cater mainly to Canadians, although Warren Banks, the brand manager at the Sunwing Travel Group, said there's nothing to stop Americans -- especially those who live near the border -- from traveling with the company.

The Sunwing Travel Group also owns Vacation Express, one of the largest tour operators in the Southeast United States. Vacation Express, based in Atlanta, has an extensive network of flight offerings to the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica from most U.S. cities. It also sells air-only and hotel-only packages to nearly 20 popular tropical destinations.

"The all-inclusive vacation hasn't really caught on in America," Banks said. "We're trying to change that."

Golf destinations with Signature Vacations

Golfers can look to Signature Vacations for a winter escape. Montego Bay, Jamaica -- home to White Witch Golf Course, Cinnamon Hill Golf Course and Half-Moon Golf Course -- is the headliner in the Caribbean, although Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is a great choice, too. Banks indicated the courses listed on the Signature Vacations Web site are just an example of the courses available in each destination.

Plenty of courses and resorts are available in Mexico's three best golf destinations -- Puerto Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit, Cancun/Riviera Maya and Los Cabos.

My Signature Vacations experience

Los Cabos -- where I traveled with Signature Vacations in January, 2015 -- should be every golfer's first choice. Cabo can be pricey, but the near-guarantee of great weather and the beautiful desert-mountain-ocean landscape is irresistible.

Signature Vacations offers tee times with the improving Cabo San Lucas Country Club and is in negotiations with the stunning new Quivira Golf Club, Banks said. Currently, only guests of the four Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas in Los Cabos (which Signature Vacations can include in a package) and nearby property owners have access to Quivira, a Jack Nicklaus course that has quickly become Cabo's No. 1 resort course since opening in December 2014. Its ocean views and all-inclusive comfort stations on the course create a once-in-a-lifetime round of golf.

The RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas, my home during the trip, sells 20 percent off tee times at the three excellent courses owned by Questro Golf: Cabo Real, Puerto Los Cabos and Club Campestre San Jose. The RIU Palace, the most luxurious hotel within the RIU brand, must be popular with golfers, because every day I saw several dozen golf bags in the lobby, ready for transport.

The food served at the resort's buffets was excellent. Surprisingly, its reservations only steakhouse was comparable to the high-end restaurants -- Salvatore's Italian Restaurant, Bar Esquina at the Bahia Hotel & Beach Club and Sunset da Mona Lisa -- I dined at off property that week.

The resort had a fun party vibe. Everybody seemed happy to see the sun. Or they were taking advantage of a shot dispenser with four bottles of premium liquors ready to pour and a mini-fridge stocked with alcohol in their rooms.

The party continued on the water during a whale-watching excursion with NexusTours. Humpback and grey whales migrate to Cabo every winter from roughly December through March. A visit to the Glass Factory for a glassblowing demonstration kicked off the tour with a fun surprise.

As the boat left the marina, selfies with the famous rocky Arch at Land's End were required photography. We spotted whales almost immediately in open water. One even breached just off the starboard side. Lunch and more drinks made for a great day on the water.

The excursion ended in downtown Cabo San Lucas with tequila tasting and shopping. Sounds fun, eh?

For more information, visit www.signaturevacations.com.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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