Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cancun 09 - Day One - Isla Mujeres

We arrived safely in Cancun yesterday! It is a long day to travel and a direct flight might be much better, but for the money, it was a relatively easy travel day. I was very impressed with Continental Airlines. Both for being on time (early in the case of our Chicago departure) and for the smooth take offs and descents. My two older children really suffer when the descent begins. On the first flight, a passenger offered them gum and that seemed to help. We bought some, but it didn't offer any relief to E for the second flight. She swears she will never fly again, but we have so much fun traveling! We must find a solution!

We got through immigration and customs and the tourist trap booth in record time and made it to our hotel a little over an hour after landing. We did have our bag searched by customs. I had one whole suitcase full of Cliff bars and tons of supplements. I guess that didn't look so good on the camera. He was very polite. At first when I said "vitamins" he said "oh, like candies", I said yes. Then, as he was closing up my bag, obviously satisfied, he said, "like, nat-ur-al med -ee-cin"? I smiled and said "yes." Whew!

We arrived at the hotel and got checked in and went to the restaurant for dinner. M had a huge meltdown because he was starving and I didn't let him get the buffet. The waiter - Carlos - was so wonderful. He literally RAN M's meal to him as soon as it was ready.

We caught the tail end of the nightly show. A cowboy doing amazing lasso tricks and some traditional dancers. Once M had some food in him, he was in shopping mode. There were artisan vendors set up near the outdoor part of the restaurant and he enjoyed looking at their wares. For the second night in a row, my kids were too full and tired to have dessert!

We went back to the room and straight to bed. We needed to be in the lobby by 7:30AM to change money, get our voucher's for Wednesday's excursion, change John's departure transport and make sure we were on the right bus. Amazingly, we got it all done and arrived at the Dolphin Discovery shop at just the right time.

We had a great room service breakfast of empanadas (like chicken quesidillas), orange juice, and pineapple turnovers... and of course for John, COFFEE. We got the beverages complimentary and on the form, they asked for how many... so John actually got COFFEE FOR FIVE!

I forgot to take a picture of our view, but it is a gorgeous view from the 18th floor of the lagoon. The only complaint with our room would be the loud hum of the water treatment plant across the street. You can't hear it if you are blasting your A/C. But once I shut that off, the street noise is loud and noticeable. Can't complain for $30/night... and the rest of the hotel is outstanding. Marble floors, balcony, huge towels, comfortable beds, bathrobes... FREE Wi-Fi! A beautiful 5-star resort hotel. I think the only reason it doesn't get more business is the lack of a "kids club" but we don't need that, so I'm thrilled. If you want to come to Cancun, check out the deal at the Radio Shopping Show for Omni Cancun. I see it is down to $99 for a five night stay! Amazing!

OK... so back to our day...

It was raining when we boarded the fairy. Between getting wet and the motion of the boat, M was NOT happy. Soon enough, they broke out the donuts and Sprite and he cheered up... almost enjoyed himself, as you can see here. The girls just naturally love water and boats. R was happiest when she could stand by the side and feel the breeze in her hair. Too bad we couldn't have gotten a shot from the outside of the boat.

I was amazed at how the emcee on the boat ride could speak all the languages of the people on the tour. In this case, Spanish (both Mexican and South American dialects), English (he made a great joke of quoting the times in "half-past" for the people from England and Scotland vs. "two-thirty" for the Americans) and even Japanese! He started off in Spanish and I had a slight grasp of what he was saying. Now I have an idea of what it is like to be an exchange student! I would have figured most of what he was saying out, but I would have missed alot.

When we arrived at Dolphin Discovery, we went to the dock and the trainers came out and had the dolphins do tricks for us. One of the staff was near where we were standing and he introduced us to the dolphins we were near and also told us about the three nursing dolphins and their moms who were in a special area. There are 25 dolphins at Dolphin Discovery. As it turned out, we had these same two dolphins, DaVinci and EeShell, in our Swim Adventure.

The Dolphin Discovery is like a day resort. There is a playground, a pool, a hammock garden and a restaurant/bar, plus gift shop and several play fountains. It is on a small island, Isla Mujeres. (Woman Island - because they discovered some large Mayan statues of women there many years ago) As we walked down the dock, one of the waiters started asking us if we were interested in purchasing the buffet and asked us to find him. He would give us the all-inclusive buffet for $600 MXP. When we got to the restaurant. It was explained that you see the waiter to purchase your meal plan. There was a sign posted stating the buffet was $15USD for adults and $6USD for children, so the price he quoted was fair. However, I went to find him and couldn't, so another waiter, Israel, asked about my family and offered to not charge for R OR M, bringing the price down to $475MXP! Our first deal of the day!

The kids immediately noticed the playground and the cool swings by the bar we had seen in the travel video and of course Rosalita was just happy to see SAND! John took M to the staging area for the Dolphin Encounter program. This program was billed as being suitable for ages 1-80 and great for non-swimmers. From the pictures and even the travel video we watched, it seemed like participants were in shallow water with the dolphins. What we discovered, was that the programs are held on a platform down in the water where you see the trainer standing in the picture above. Miguel freaked and would not go down the stairs into the water. So he and John just watched the program from the pier. Not exactly my plan when forking over the cash, but I was proud of him for even considering it. He's usually not one for adventure.

While the boys were at their program, the girls enjoyed the pool and my personal favorite, the hammock garden. It was at this time I really decided I love this type of vacation. It really made me wonder why we go to Disneyworld and consider it a "vacation." Our itinerary today sounded just as crazed as a day at the Magic Kingdom, but in reality, there was plenty of time for lounging, relaxing, talking, exploring and just enjoying the surroundings. It was not at all crowded. No lines, no waiting. Just beautiful and relaxing. I guess Disney has it's place... but maybe they should consider adding a hammock garden.

This is E - doing her impression of a dolphin caught in a tuna net. Please, only buy dolphin safe tuna. It really IS impossible to get out of a net when trapped on your belly....

At noon - the buffet opened. Not spectacular, but convenient and reasonably priced. At 12:15, we began our adventure. They showed us the various hand signals for kissing, hugging, and dancing with the dolphins and then explained how we were going to be able to do a belly ride and a boogie board push. Then, we went down into the water. E couldn't touch and I was even a little intimidated and could understand M's hesitance. I got to swim out first to do the belly ride and I was in awe that I was swimming in the Caribbean sea with huge animals! I was amazed at how peaceful it was when the dolphin swam up. I grabbed on to its dorsal fins and was pulled back to the ledge! So cool! I wished we could do that twice! E was hesitant to try that, but I swam out with her and showed her how. She did it one handed! The video is very cool! She did not want to do the boogie - board push (you hold on to a large kick board and the dolphin pushes your foot) so she got to do the belly ride twice.

The pictures are awesome!

After swimming all day, we got to go to the downtown.
The kids bought some overpriced masks from "Cheapo Philipo" He lured us into his shop and dumped out a huge bag of these things for the kids to try. He started out at $400 MXP - EACH! Kept making me offers on the silver. Said his shop is new and he can discount the prices. In the end, he gives us two masks for $400MXP and the kids are happy. I'm skeptical, but he is very nice.M is obsessed with sombreros and insists he is going to buy one. I keep telling him I don't think we can get one home on the plane! He sure wears it well though.

The Isla downtown shopping area is very much like the Mexico you read about. The people are hanging out in front of their shops and will do anything to get you to stop and buy something. They haggle the price, they open the door and invite you in. It was a neat experience. We go to the beach for a little while and the kids are in heaven. The water is warm and calm, the sand is soft. We have to leave too soon for them. We run the gauntlet of more shops and stop to buy a t-shirt, then get to the boat just in time.

When we get back to Dolphin Discovery, R is FINALLY asleep. No nap all day. I go to the customer service kiosk to see if they have been able to arrange any sort of refund for the Encounter the boys skipped. They give me a generous photo/dvd package and I am thrilled! I really wanted the DVD, but didn't want to spend $40USD for it. Deal of the day number 2!

When we return to El Embarcadero, all of the pirate ships that offer dinner cruises are lit up. There are various "Pirates of the Caribbean" strolling about, so we get some pictures. There was an amazing full moon we saw rise - you can see it in the photo on the left.

It was time for dinner. We walked quite a way until we got to a light so we could cross the street to catch a bus. This is a very strange thing about the main drag here. It is not very pedestrian friendly, yet there are a ton of pedestrians.

We settled on checking out El Shrimp Bucket John and I tried the "All You Can Eat" Shrimp deal - beer battered, coconut and breaded shrimp for $20USD per person. The waiter kept teasing us that the record is 216 shrimp! We vowed to beat it... it made me think of the Simpson's Episode where he sues the all you can eat seafood buffet. I can't find any clips on You Tube, but if you can, send them to me! As it turned out, we each got through about a bucket and a half. It was delicious! The restaurant was very clean. No ADA laws in Cancun however, the bathrooms are tiny!

From there, we were able to walk back to our resort.

I am so amazed and grateful for my wonderful children! They really enjoyed themselves today (in between minor meltdowns) and I heard very little complaining. M and John were strategizing about how we could move down here (John could teach golf, E could teach bike riding...). On the ferry on the way back, E pointed out that she will be ten in 14months. When I asked her where she wants to go for her 10th birthday, she says, "Mexico!" And at dinner, she says, "when we leave, well, if you can get me outta here!" All this from the girl who didn't want to come on this vacation!

Well, off to bed. Tomorrow is Xel-Ha and Tulum!

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