Behind the Scenes at Rhythms of the Night
Published Nov 4, 2008 - (Updated Dec 5, 2012)
Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2008 issue.
If It Looks That Easy, It Probably Isn't!
An accomplished pianist plays Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 as if it were the melody line of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and a gifted chef prepares a perfect Grand Marnier soufflé as easily as you or I would take the lid off a container of ice cream and scoop some into a dish. But what we don’t see when we marvel at the final products of these masters is the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice, revision, training and planning that bring them to such polished levels that they make their art look easy. So it is with Vallarta Adventures’ Rhythms of the Night.
Night after night, up to 500 guests take the one-hour boat ride to the exotic coastal setting of Caletas to experience this magnificent event. Since its inception in 1996, it quickly became and still remains one of the most popular tours in the Banderas Bay area for guests of all ages. According to Vallarta Adventures’ Isabel Spénard, “This experience is a mix of culture, mysticism and art, and is not just for couples. It’s a beautiful place to share a magical moment with family, friends or that special someone.”
We’re going to take you on a behind the scenes tour of the things you’ll never see at Caletas, since care is taken to ensure that, from the moment you arrive, you enjoy the polished final product, minus signs of the preparation process.
7:00 am: Crew arrives to load the boat with supplies in Vallarta and get it ready for guests.
8:00 am: Ten and a half hours before the first boatful of visitors step onto the dock for Rhythms of the Night, the supplies arrive at Caletas and are taken to the proper areas for production. Preliminary preparation of salads, dressings and desserts begins and continues throughout the day, while the hot food is freshly cooked just prior to serving. Approximately 170 employees over two shifts participate in all facets of food production for the daytime and evening excursions.
9:00 am: The dancers begin their three-hour daily training session in downtown Puerto Vallarta, taking classes in ballet and contemporary dance.
3:30 pm: Enriqueta begins her five-hour shift of cooking fresh handmade tortillas on a traditional cast-iron comal that can hold 10 tortillas at a time. She forms, hand flips and cooks hundreds of tortillas each day, without ever burning her fingers, to ensure plenty of hot and delicious tortillas for dinner.
4:00 pm: As the guests from the Caletas Day Trip are boarding the boats back to Vallarta, the staff walks behind them, picking up trash, empty water bottles, beach chairs and any other items to help restore this special place to as natural an environment as possible. If there has been a heavy afternoon rain, any gouges in the pathways are filled with sand to ensure a level walking surface for guests arriving in the evening. The outdoor grills are lit.
5:00 pm: Bar and table set up begins. They even wash the limes before they are cut for beverages to ensure that drinks are served in the most sanitary of conditions! And since Vallarta Adventures uses cloth napkins instead of paper to help the environment, at least 450 napkins are folded for dinner. Tables are set in the 12 restaurants and along the shore, and the bars need to be restocked with reusable glasses and other supplies. Organization is an absolute necessity, since approximately 1600 beverages are prepared and served nightly by the eight talented members of the bar staff.
Each Person Is an Intricate Piece of the Puzzle!
Would you believe that it takes the combined talents of over 100 people each day to orchestrate this excursion? Dedicated employees, such as the chef pictured with some of his enthusiastic assistants, are one of the keys to making the dining portion of this experience an adventure in gastronomic delights.
5:20: Things are really “cooking” in the kitchens by this time, with hot food production getting into high gear.
5:30: Cold food is carried from the kitchens to storage areas near the buffet stations.
5:40: The grills are checked to verify the coals have reached the perfect temperature. All areas are inspected to ensure the final preparations have been completed.
6:15: The performers arrive in their dressing room. Props are checked and outdoor preparations are made, such as pouring the mixture of gas and alcohol on the steps of the pyramid backdrop of the stage for the fiery finale of the show.
7:15: Musicians wearing body paint and full costumes take their places on the pathways near the dock to be ready to greet the guests. Candles and torches are lit in the open-air restaurants, on the seaside tables and along pathways. During high season, there can be upwards of 1200 candles and 100 torches, so it takes about eight people to light them all. Put this grand scale of romantic flickering lighting into perspective by realizing that there are as many candle lighters as there are bar staff!
7:30: As the first boat arrives, the sound of a conch shell over rhythmic drumming sets an exotic mood along the torch-lit pathways. Guests are escorted to their seating areas, and the buffet is ready to go. The dancers are warming up backstage and adding final touches to their makeup.
8:15: After a delicious dinner, including “to die for” desserts, guests make their way along torch-lit pathways to the outdoor theater, unaware that other guests have unobtrusively gotten off subsequent boats in time for the show. (These later arrivals enjoy the second seating for dinner after the finale.)
8:30: Rain or shine, the show goes on — and watching it in a downpour under the effective shelter of large umbrellas for two may add an even more mystical feeling. Nothing changes in the performance, and even the fire dancers continue in a blaze of glory. This upbeat show, which includes fire, singing, dancing, ancient indigenous traditions and even a 10-foot python, set on a large stage in the middle of the jungle needs to be experienced to grasp its magnitude fully.
9:00: The show is over with a flaming finale and, as the guests from the first boats make their way back toward the dock for their 10:30 return to town, the guests who have not yet eaten enjoy a late dinner by candlelight.
9:15: The party starts onboard with an open bar, entertainment by the crew and dancing along the way back to the drop-off points in Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta.
11:30: Clean up is finished about this time, and the last staff members depart from Caletas by midnight, leaving behind only the overnight security staff.
11:45: The final boatload of guests arrives in Vallarta, and crew members clean the boat until about midnight.