We flew with Maya Island Air out of San Pedro to Belize City on a tiny plane again, a much scarier flight than our flight into San Pedro since we flew through dense clouds the entire way. We were required to pay an exorbitant tourist tax for leaving Belize, but fortunately they took credit cards.
Our connecting flight from Belize City to Cancun was on a much larger plane – a 120+ seat jet. Total people count on plane: 8, of which 4 were the crew! Very odd and I’m sure unprofitable. We were even served a meal!
I had the bad luck of being selected for a secondary search at Cancun airport (that darned button lit up the red light!), which meant having to re-pack two suitcases and two carry-ons in view of a dozen airport staff, while Ian waited outside (they wouldn’t let him stay with me).
This time (unlike our honeymoon when the airport to hotel transfer was a disaster) I booked a private transfer to our resort with Cancun Transfers. The private van was on time and the driver was very courteous. It took about 1.5 hours to get to our resort, with a quick stop at 7-Eleven just outside Cancun for refreshments.
Once at the hotel, we refused to pay a $500 upgrade fee for an ocean-view room so we ended up with a room overlooking the front entrance of the resort. It was pretty well soundproof so we didn’t mind the lack of a view. The requisite towel sculptures appeared on our bed about every other day. We didn’t really get this one (a turkey? a swan? in June?):
This was the hallway outside our room. I’m glad I insisted on an upstairs room – the ground floor rooms were much noisier since the resort golf carts could drive right through the buildings on the main floor.
The resort, Grand Sirenis, has some pretty crazy architecture.
The front lobby is just stunning. Those armchairs fit 2 people comfortably, and we certainly enjoyed them lots. Our favourite part was listening to the jazz trumpet player who played nightly from about 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm in the quieter side of the lobby. Nothing like live music, a cool breeze, and never-ending drinks.
There are 900 rooms in the resort and I overheard a staff member say there are 3,000 staff in high season. We were there in shoulder or low season, so one of the buffet restaurants was closed and the a-la-carte restaurants were open on alternating days, but the rest of the amenities were all operating.
The most important of the amenities, and one of the reasons I picked this resort over similar ones: the lazy river!
Floating down in a single or double tube, with drinks or ice cream in hand … pretty nice way to spend 15 minutes on a lazy afternoon!
The resort food was pretty decent, although the vegetarian options were uninspired and repetitive after a couple of days. There were a lot of British guests whose appetites / palates the resort had to satisfy, which made for some pretty bland fare. We did enjoy the Japanese a-la-carte, with a noodle chef who showed off some pretty crazy knife skills. Unfortunately, like the dessert below, the presentation far out-shone the content.
The drinks were quite weak although they would make them stronger if you asked. The beer was terrible however. I did enjoy the occasional chocolate martini!
On our second day at the resort, the resort’s water main broke. We had no water for showers or toothbrushing until about noon the next day – pretty horrible timing as we had gone snorkeling and were in need of showers. We heard from other guests that the a-la-carte restaurants had to close that night, although the buffet where we had dinner seemed fine.
The resort had an on-site dive shop operated by Underwater Technical World, a chain of dive shops partly owned by a guy from Langley, BC. Since we had not done as many dives as we would have liked in Belize, we booked an 8-dive package with the resort shop. They threw in free equipment rentals and an extra dive for free. The ocean was still very rough on our first couple of days at the resort, so we did our first 2 dives as cavern/cenote dives at Cenote Chac Mool near Puerto Aventuras. Once the ocean calmed down, we did some awesome ocean diving just minutes from the resort. More about the dives in the next post.
I managed to scrape my foot on a rock pretty badly while walking out to the dive boat carrying all my equipment (the resort really needs to get a dock, or perhaps a rock-free shore like the resort next door).
We were very lucky to have absolutely beautiful weather for the first 9 of 10 days (although a bit too hot for Ian’s liking). We didn’t spend too much time on the beach since our days consisted of small breakfast, dive, lunch, dive, shower & nap, dinner, jazz trumpet. When we did manage to get to the beach, it was pretty awesome!
We went snorkeling a lot in the little bay in front of that beach. The visibility wasn’t always fantastic, but we did see some awesome marine life. I was super happy with my prescription scuba mask that I bought just before this trip. I used standard masks on our previous dive/snorkel trips and it sucks being near sighted under water.
We did one organized tour on this trip, with Alltournative to Cobá and a little Mayan village. More about it in a separate post.
We only left the resort on our own once, to go to Playa del Carmen. We were all set to take the colectivo but we got a hard-to-refuse offer from a taxi driver dropping off passengers at our resort, so we took a taxi. It was almost 25 minutes to PDC, so we were quite happy for the comfort of the taxi in the end.
We had some awesome, authentic Mexican food in Playa, at Media Luna (Ian raved about the fish tacos) and at Yaxche. Both places had good drinks too – Ian got a tasty chaya leaf mojito at Yaxche, and we tried many kinds of beer at Media Luna.
We would have loved to eat more, but our stomachs just couldn’t stretch much further. I think next time we go, we will stay right in Playa, in a small hotel or maybe a self-catered condo, as the food quality and value is way better than what we got at the resort. Also, the dive shops in town seemed to have much better priced packages.
On our last night in Mexico, there was a crazy thunderstorm. We stayed at the resort bar, listened to the trumpet player, and watched the lightning until about 11 pm, then went up to our room, when the power promptly went out. Fortunately the back-up generator kicked in right away. It was still thundering and pouring rain the next day on our way to the airport, and our flight out of Cancun was delayed. Fortunately we (and our luggage) still made our connection in Minneapolis, with enough time to down a pint of Sam Adams at the airport bar (finally, good beer!).
We returned home to a stinky but happy Buffy (thanks Tara for dog-sitting for 3 weeks!!), a clean house, and over 2,000 photos to view and edit. The underwater photos have taken the longest to go through. Some of those in the next post!