Moon Palace brings high-tech to Cancun, and its sister property will soon follow. Groups have long favored Cancun for its sun and sand, but with two new expansions--at Palace Resorts' Moon Palace in Cancun and Aventura Palace, 45 minutes south of Cancun along the Riviera Maya--it will soon appeal to planners in search of connectivity and cutting-edge technology.

Opened in 1996, with a phase two expansion in 1998, Moon Palace opens its most meeting-friendly feature this fall: a new 50,000-square-foot exhibition center. This will be "Mexico's first such installation for exhibitions and trade shows," says David Schwartz, corporate director of group sales for Palace Resorts of Cancun, who also notes that the property plans to open 27 holes of golf designed by Jack Nicklaus in late 2001.

The cornerstone of the new exhibition center is the Galactic Ballroom. The 26,813-square-foot hall features hookup panels every 32 feet, with access to microphone inputs and video connections, including high-end computer monitor connections. Each panel also includes electrical connections for both 110 and 220 volt equipment, XLR (digital audio) inputs, BNC (for putting computer images on a regular TV screen) and 5-wire RGB (computer-to-computer video), as well as telephone and data ports. Video cabling and telephone systems for teleconferencing run throughout the building.

"This is probably the most advanced hotel in the area, in my opinion," says Brent Augustine, Moon Palace audiovisual director. "The Moon Palace was designed with convention groups in mind, with an easy access loading dock and dual cargo elevators that lead right into the main ballroom. Large productions are not a problem."

The ballroom also has projection elevators in the 30-foot-high ceiling. These accommodate data and video projectors and allow for unobstructed viewing from all corners of the room. Another cool feature: ceiling mounted automatic screens. The facility offers video playback in all international VHS and Beta standards, including SVHS, Beta, BetaSP, PAL, SECAM, and digital. Editing facilities are available, as are simultaneous translation facilities.

Tech-needy groups will find a Public Frame-Relay WAN with high bandwidth availability; only Cisco and 3Com routers and switches are used. Inside Moon Palace lies a 24-pair fiber-optic backbone. Throughout the building, 100 MB network access is offered with Category 5 copper cable. The facility has three ISDN data lines --for videoconferencing or data--and can contract for more with advance notice. It can also rent fractional or full E1 access. (E1 is the European equivalent of T1; it has a slightly larger capacity.)

A fully equipped stage includes scrims and theatrical lighting, including robotic lighting designed by Martin Professional. J&S Presentation Technologies maintains a full-time, on-site technical staff.

With construction wrapping up at Moon Palace, Palace Resorts' attention turns to its 474-room, hacienda-style Aventura Palace. The laid-back resort hopes to entice meetings to its virgin jungle landscape by constructing a conference facility and duplicating the technological offerings just introduced by its sister property. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2000.

Caribbean Resources Bahamas Ministry of Tourism * www.bahamas.com

Barbados Tourism Authority * www.barbados.org

Bermuda Dept. of Tourism * www.bermudatourism.com

Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism * www.caymanislands.ky

Dominican Republic Tourist Board * www.dominicana.com.do

Jamaica Tourist Board * www.jamaicatravel.com

Puerto Rico Convention Bureau * www.meetpuertorico.com

USVI Dept. of Tourism * (800) 372-USVI