Trip Start Nov 24, 2006
6Trip End Nov 30, 2006
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~Don't drink the water
~Stay away from frozen mixed drinks (=ice =water)
~No salad, no fruit without peel (=washed with water)
~Brush teeth only with bottled water
~Don't drink the water...
... Are you kidding me? What kind of vacation is that? Who was gonna have water anyway? I brought Pepto-Bismol and I brought Imodium, so pass that Margherita on the rocks, and the tequila and you know what? I claim the worm too! Oh yeah baby - we ARE going to Mexico!
Hubby & I were going to be the last to arrive in Cancun, thanks to our Northwest Airlines reservation, which had changed roughly 200 times. Okay that's slightly exaggerated but I was getting really annoyed with it. Instead of flying from DC to Miami to Cancun we now flew from DC to Detroit (nice airport by the way) to Cancun...in November!
But hey, nothing can really kill your mood if you hold tickets to Cancun, right? Once safely on the ground in Cancun an army of timeshare sharks attacked us. It was crazy - they were coming from every angle and they looked nothing like salesmen. Quite contrary - very professional, like actual airport staff there to help us if we needed something. They would even try and take the shuttle reservations from me: "Please let me see those papers". Good thing that our driver (Best day) had warned & prepped us for this. He told us exactly what he was going to wear and where to find him. This is probably the closest you'll ever get to know how celebrities feel when the paparazzi descend on them.
Once safely in the van we knew that the ride to our hotel was going to be short and sweet. Our driver was nice, but there's only so much conversation you can have in 10 minutes. And 10 minutes is all it took us to get from the airport to the lobby - sweet! Now... you would probably think that we had to deal with a lot of flight noise being so close to the airport, but that wasn't the case at all at the Moon Palace. Vacation was starting off right when an open bottle of champagne waited for us at the check-in. Our room wasn't ready yet, but we did get our wristbands which were our pass to the world of AI. Gracias! Dónde está il bar?
Just kidding... well sort of, we dropped off our luggage and decided to go for a little tour of the grounds. I have to say the moment I caught a glimpse of the ocean through one of the giant windows, my heart skipped a beat! Vacation has officially begun - we were really there. The pool was massive, surrounded by flowers, giant palm trees lined the walkways, there was one massive beach with no end in sight, a beautiful ocean streaked wiht turquoise patches in the distance, topped by a deep blue sky and the constant calming sound of waves slowly rolling in. Happy music came from the loudspeakers and wonderful smells found their way into our noses telling us it was time for breakfast/lunch/dinner or something. Paradise has been found! Everything was just peachy.
It was hard to decide on a what to do next, but eventually we chose to sit down and have lunch at a buffet style restaurant. Our waiter rushed smiling to our table happily taking our drink order. Well it is free, so I went for it - wine to be exact - after all I'm on vacation BABY ... (BIG mistake #1). On thing that's amazing about this hotel is that staff is bending over backwards, always trying to read your mind and fulfill any wish you could possibly have. They really know how to make you feel welcome. That held true for the entire vacation, everyone just made us feel right at home. We had a few moments to take in the sights before our waiter returned with a nice bottle of wine and offered us a first taste. I still feel goofy when they ask me to try the wine. I would never send one back, that's way too embarrassing. But that wasn't necessary, the wine tasted great. I wasn't prepared for the waiter to leave the whole bottle though, if I hadn't been on my best behavior I probably would have performed a little "happy dance" right there on the spot :).
Here's my new AI vacation rule #1: Limit your alcohol consumption! Every time when we were deeply engaged in oohing and ahhhing or deep conversation my glass magically refilled. I didn't even notice. And so it happened that I was still working on my very first glass, when the bottle turned up empty! First hour in the hotel and already woozy. Great start, we were on a downward spiral to being annoying American tourists.
Well, there was no time for consciencious thoughts or misbehavior, because now our totally awesome ocean front -*no-ground-level* room was ready to be conquered! I knew the room from virtual tours, but it was soooo much better live, not to mention the acoustics of waves slowly working their way toward the shore... The room itself was really beautiful and we loved the jetted tub that had been part of the reason why we chose the Moon Palace in the first place. It was a modern take on a rustic design and very romantic. My little towel figurine had me quite excited as well and after checking out all the spa quality complimentaries I truly felt like a queen in her castle.
I liked our room so much that I tipped the maid $5.00, which brings up the tipping topic. Because the hotel is all inclusive you don't have to tip, but I heard how little money the staff make. Often not more than $3.00 per day and people move to Cancun, because jobs pay so "well" here. Some guests don't approve of tipping, but I didn't care. It's a personal choice and I chose to bring $50.00 in one dollar bills. I tipped everyone from maid, waiters, reception- & luggage boy to bartender and golf cart driver. They were so excited and when do I ever have the chance to double someone's salary without breaking the bank?
Our first night was spent at a party close to the lobby, it was really fun. The party took place in a big amphitheater, where a Mexican band performed on stage. There was plenty of finger & snack food, BBQ and desserts and of course anything else you could possibly think of. It was really fun! Our little group ordered some wine and apparently some magic glasses that would never turn up empty. These never-ending glasses do come at a price though, once I felt like I started to get a little dizzy and I probably should stop drinking (though still working on the "first" glass), it was too late. We had to call it quits, after the early morning get-up it was time to catch some Z's. Not before tossing my brother in law and his wallet including all credit cards and so forth into the pool though. My sister in law (non-drinker) was not happy with me, but that shouldn't be the worst of my night. Let's just leave the rest of the night up to your imagination and start off with day 2: A massive hangover and a lesson about the treacherous AI learned!
Given the previous night I was only slowly joining the happy mood of other guests, but their delicious breakfast really helped. Once I safely stomached breakfast I spent some time with my new "food" buddy - one of many stray cats on the hotel grounds and I just had to smuggle the cuty some food. By day 3 kitty knew when I broke my fast and was already waiting for me.
The hotel has a long laundrey list of things to do, like Spanish lessons, animations, water sports, the golf course, kitchen tours, tennis, mini golf, giant chess and a lot of creative things that I would never have thought about, plus quite some shopping. And people trust me when I say that no one beat the souvenier prices of the hotel stores. This is the place to shop and you don't even have to schlepp it far! We couldn't resist and just had to buy the "Gusano rojo" (see pic at beginning of blog) a tequila shot with a "red worm" in it. It's not really a worm, but a larva that gently fades to pink. We weren't aware of it at that time, but we bought the most tasty worm of all worms... The tequila worm is perfectly safe to eat. Some markets even carried canned tequila worms. Just add a spicy sauce and you have a nutritious snack... Legends about the tequila worm say that it has magical powers that can impart strength to the consumer. Some claim it to be hallucinogenic or an aphrodisiac. Truth is though that the worm was not put into the tequila until the 1950s - as a marketing trick- sorry there are no historical Mexican claims or fantastic properties. We threw a coin and either hubby or brother in law had to drink it. Brother in law lost, but hubby was nice enough to help start it off. It was completely predictable that the worm is probably coming out with the first sip and of course that's what happened. Before he knew hubby swallowed the worm and we had to get another tasty "gusano rojo" :)
Looking back at the trip I think the best things about the hotel are:
People complain about it all the time. They don't like the water, because it isn't as turquoise as it is in Cancun (the hotel is secluded in a jungle forrest and not on the strip in Cancun). That's much is true, but it didn't bother me. The reason for this is the seagrass. Moon Palace is definetely not a place for swimmers, but we had planned a day trip to Xel-Ha and various trips to the sister hotels so I was fine with the water only being turquoise in the distance where the seagrass disappeared. By the way you can kayak to those areas easily and you'll find a little turquoise area that is all yours to snorkel around. You don't have to share it with anyone, it's only you and the fish :) That's another thing - I don't like to share with a lot of other tourists so I prefer big wide open spaces.
I love to go for long walks on the beach, it's so romantic and relaxing. Had I booked a room in the Cancun hotel zone the hotel beach would have been a 200 m strip to be shared with the other 300 hotel guests. Not a problem at the Moon Palace. I've walked and walked and walked and never met a soul. It was really beautiful (once I got over the first day and knew not to leave without a thick layer of bugspray) and I was very happy with my decision. During vacation I like to feel as if I'm the only person there and the endelss beach at the Moon Palace hotel definetely allowed me to feel this way. By the way - all beaches in Mexico are public, so if you do feel a need for turquoise water, take the hotel bus to Cancun and just hit the beach. You can plop down wherever you wish (except on a hotel lounger of course).
People complain that the jacuzzi takes up too much space in the room and that's accurate, but since I've never had a jacuzzi before I had no problem with the space it occupied . It was very romantic and sexy, but I now know that you're not going to embark on any adventures no matter the nature after getting out of a jacuzzi. It's like a train hitting you, leaving completely worn out and tired.
The sister hotels
I loved seeing the other hotels. They were all so beautiful and with the exception of the Cozumel Palace we really did see all of them available to us at the time.
This was the first hotel we stopped by. Actually we didn't mean to, but we had day tickets for Xel-Ha. For some reason traffic wasn't moving at all. We just passed the hotel, when the road turned into a parking lot. So we decided to have a late breakfast at the Xpu-Ha while the "accident-road-blockage-no-idea-what-really-happened" would clear. It felt great to have this opportunity. Palace resorts promote this fact: You pay for one palace hotel, you play at all of them. Had we just been waiting on the road we probably would have been very angry, very soon. After all we held all inclusive all day tickets for Xel-Ha and we were so close!
Xpu-Ha is an Eco-park jungle hotel, kind of like a zoo with rooms. You arrive at a massive bamboo hut lobby (and from there you take the golf carts if you want to be able to make it somewhere by the end of the day). It seems like they take good care of their animals. Big huts (pavillions) on stilts emerged from the woods and apparently these were the guest rooms. They looked really cool and in this setting I could see myself spending a night in the jungle. We got a glimpse of a beautiful turquoise ocean at one point, but never quite made it to the beach. I know that Xpu-Ha has a beach though.
Playacar Palace (Playa del Carmen)
Picture Santorini, the greek island with white houses and blue roofs facing the ocean, that's what I mean with white luxury and that's the only way I can describe this modern hotel. Wow - Once you get by the massive tree growing in the middle of the lobby that is surrounded by beautiful secluded sitting areas, enclosed with white flowing curtains that surely would make anyone sit down, you'll enter the terrace. The terrace is more of an enourmous stairwell down towards the turquoise ocean. The whole hotel is white. Everything feels light and luxurious. It's really beautiful, but they don't have a beach. Instead you just straight march down the stairs into the ocean. Quite cool, but not possible on "surfs-up" days.
Aventura & Spa Palace
I'm in Italy! That's how I felt when I first saw the Aventura & Spa Palace. The beautiful indoor terrace looked like an Italian piazza with lots of little bistro tables and one overgrown fountain in the middle. Massive arches covered the walkway around the square Piazza and loudspeakers played beautiful nature sounds making me want to stay right here. This spa hotel really smelled just phenomenal, it was like drifting through the halls on a scented cloud. Once outside we walked down the stairs to a gardenlike area with fountains, sculptures, waterfalls and of course a beautiful pool landscape with little bridges to cross over and a lagoon that is separated by a big breaker wall from the ocean. We had lunch at one of the open air restaurants and the food at the Aventura Spa Palace was amazing. There was a lot of choice at the Moon Palace, but there were just unlimited options at the Aventura Spa Palace. Just amazing. We decided to swim around a bit in the lagoon, unaware of the jellyfish warning. After a good 10 minute swim a fellow tourist told us about the little visitors and we were out of the water in record time, not that I had noticed a single jelly fish. We did have a jellyfish problem in Italy before and this is still a very touchy subject for my hubby :) The Aventura Spa Palace is adults only.
So much for our "on-site" experience, remember to make your vacation one to remember: Smoke a Cuban cigar, try not to fall down too much, learn to speak fluent Spanish (or just learn to say hola & gracias), smile too much, tip too heavy and always remember YOU'RE NOT FAT!". But eventually you'll come to the point where you'll feel the need to leave and explore what's behind the hotel walls. We sure did and these entries follow next.
Where I stayed