Monday, July 22, 2013

Caribbean Craziness

Please read the first part of this vacation saga to catch up on what has brought us to this point, Caribbean Cluster...

Day Two: Thursday

We got up around 8:00 - the Funjet rep called shortly after and said that we could make the change. I was so happy! We were glad that it worked out. Even the additional fee couldn't discourage me. I packed up our bathroom, our clothes and we were ready to leave in ten minutes. No lie.We were on the third floor with five bags/ suitcases and the elevator was out of order. Seriously...par for this resort. Luckily we found one that was working. We ate breakfast, paced from the lobby to the rep and finally got the final go ahead to get a taxi and head to our familiar paradise - the Iberostar Quetzal. (This is where we stayed last year with Jason and Megan, this is what I knew that staying in Playa Del Carmen could be like.)

We arrived at this resort a few hours before check-in time. That didn't matter. We had a place to leave our luggage and we hit the path to the dive shop. This was my main concern, Joey needed to get busy diving. Scuba diving has become a passion of his and one of the things he most looks forward to on these trips (spending time with me tops his list but this is second). I wanted him to have the next available opportunity to do this. He wanted to get his next level of certification - Advanced - and so it began. He was able to go out on a dive shortly after we visited the shop. I took care of getting us into our room when it became available. I wasn't even going to complain that we were in the farthest building from everything (except the lobby), or that there was construction going on right outside our balcony or that we had to walk three flights of stairs to our room. It was all about perspective. We had a room at an amazing resort with a beautiful beach, enough said. And, we knew our way around. We were back in our 'comfort zone'. The rest of the day was spent at the beach or in the buffets. After dinner, we went to the Iberogrammy nightly show - enjoying performance by 'Shakira, The Blues Brothers, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and all the singers in USA for Africa'. And then we decided to call it a day.

Day Three: Friday

Joey dove at 8:30 and 10:30, thank goodness that these dives only take him away from me for about an hour. I enjoyed my quiet time on the beach with my book and then we had lunch together, spent some time feeding the fish in the ocean and taking in the beauty of the crystal clear, turquoise sea. We rested in our lounge chairs until the sun became too much - and after being in it for six hours - we both needed a nap in the AC. This was a good decision due to some sunburning going on. After some rest and while Joey was studying - yes, he seriously had to read, study and answer review questions - I got a wild hair and decided to ask if we could change rooms. It was worth a shot to see if they had a better location with a better view available. Great news! We got to move to a room close to the middle of the resort - the pool was nearby, the dive shop was one building down and it was on the bottom floor. Yay! I packed in a hurry, once again, to make a move. Third night, third room - it was all good :) We settled in our new room - I had become a master packer/ unpacker. Joey went on his night dive from 7:00-9:00. I read on the beach, ate dinner and waited on him to get back. Selfishly, I was thankful that he only signed up for one night dive.He enjoyed this dive but after three dives in one day, he was dragging a little bit. I went back to have dinner with him - this time I ate fruit and cookies. We started watching the nightly show but it wasn't entertaining us enough to stay up for it. We headed back to the room for a good night's sleep.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Caribbean Cluster

Caribbean Chaos Cluster

Mexico vacation. 4th year in a row. Booked six months in advance, yet thought about before the previous trip ended.

It's a given, Joey and I take a relaxing trip to the beach every summer. This year, he really wanted to try somewhere new - I researched Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica - all seemed expensive and just didn't grab me with the appeal that I needed to try somewhere new. I tend to be a creature of habit, go with familiarity and know exactly what to expect. I don't like surprises. So, we ended up booking our third trip to Playa Del Carmen.

It was a long awaited trip for both of us. He had been extremely busy working and I had been extremely busy missing him on those 15-16 hour work days. We enjoy our time away together- no work, no phone service, no problems. Or so we thought...

The day before had finally arrived. I could pack everything that I had planned on packing (it took a lot of willpower not to pack a week in advance). Pack, weigh the luggage, redistribute to stay under 50 pounds and weigh again. Packed and ready. The goal time to head to our DFW hotel would be 3:00 to avoid a lot of traffic. Actual time of departure - 7:00. We avoided all the traffic. I refer to a four hour delay as "Joey time". Since our flight was leaving early on Wednesday we thought it would be nice to enjoy a free hotel stay and transport to and from the airport. This way we also got a little more sleep and were guaranteed to be there on time.

We left the house both a tad bit grouchy - I was starving and he wanted a haircut. We stopped at two Walmarts, for said haircut, neither worked out. Two more Great Clips later, he comes out with less hair than before ... and happier. I was still hungry. Hungrier. I was craving Cheddar's baked potato soup, there were none around us. The best we could do was IHOP. I was happier. We settled in at the La Quinta for the night.

Being the constant prankster that he is, my alarm went off at 3AM - an hour before I had it set for. If I hadn't been so tired (and confused), I might have thrown my phone at him. The next hour was spent restlessly waiting for the REAL alarm to wake us up.

Thankfully, check-in went smoothly, except when security pulled me aside for a bag check because SOMEBODY put his coke from the vending machine in my carry-on and forgot about it. He found this funny. In the boarding area, we set our phones for international texting and played Candy Crush. Upon boarding, we were looking forward to our pre-chosen/ pre-paid seats. Who buys seats on the wing? Apparently we do! $15 down the drain. I don't like my flying view to be obstructed ... so much for that. Plane ride was fine, security and customs went off without a hitch, we were on our way to the transfer van. Joey chose to sit in the front row. Unattended children (well almost - their mom was in the back somewhere) chose to sit behind us. For thirty minutes they fought and kicked our seats. Six other empty seats and the loud woman wearing fuzzy socks with sandals and drinking beer chose to sit right next to Joey. It was a long 45 minutes to our resort.

Upon arrival at our resort, Gran Porto Real, we notice that we are smack in the middle of downtown. (More about that in a bit). We got all checked in and found our ocean view suite with "private" balcony. Yes, we could see the ocean ... right across the public beach access road. The balcony was far from private with locals in the streets and a half wall separating the balcony on the other side. We get all settled in, unpacked and organized and go tour the resort. First stop - the beach. Oh. My. Goodness. I wanted to cry in disgust and disappointment. There were sandbags covered in algae all along the shoreline - that was so small - seaweed as far as you could see, rocks, cliffs and maybe three people in the water. Because it was gross. Uh-uh, no way, this could NOT be happening. The pool - I didn't even have a desire to check it out. We found the lunch buffet, spoke with guest services - who told us to walk across the pier and enjoy the prettier beach at their sister resort. And then scheduled a tour of that resort the following day in case we wanted to switch over. Ah, a glimmer of hope for something better. But, after thinking about where we had been before and after seeing the Cozumel ferry drop off  hundreds of passengers right at "our beach", I was DONE. My mind was made up to find a way to get us out of here. As excited as we had been that we had actually gotten away with a six night/ seven day vacation, I refused to spend it here. I know our phone bill will be high because I called Funjet and the travel agent over and over to get this situation resolved. We were scheduled to meet with our Funjet rep at 4:00 (standard procedure) and he was over 30 minutes late because he had a run-in with security. We told him of our desire - a mandatory desire - to change resorts. After finally getting through to his supervisor, the reservation centers had already closed for the day. Just our luck. So, we made the best of our evening since we were stuck here for the night. We got dressed and enjoyed dinner on the beach. It was set up in the sand for a nice dinner. From dinner, we walked up a block for some shopping. We turned down Cuban cigars, silver, and other random sales pitches. We told one guy maybe later and his response - "lies". Yes, we were yelled at. The guy with the monkey got irritated with me because even after he put the monkey on Joey's shoulder, I was not willing to pay $20 for pictures. He decided $10 would be sufficient and took a few pictures for me. The shopping was an adventure, from there we enjoyed cokes and crackers in the lobby and decided to crash out and hope for the best in the morning. And, in my mind, the sooner that I got to sleep, the sooner we would have our answers.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story...