Orlando and Cozumel November 2010

Orlando and Cozumel

I was in the strange position of having two trips planned back to back and not being able to go home between trips. The first trip was a work trip to Orlando followed by a vacation to Cozumel. And to complicate matters my wife had 24 of her relative and friends (women only) at our house for a shopping weekend. That meant that I would have to stay at a hotel when I got back to Minneapolis on Friday night.

Orlando

I was flying east  and I needed to get into Orlando before noon so I had a 7:00 am flight, meaning that I needed to get up at 4:45 am. The flight was packed, they always are these days.

Embassy Suites Orlando Airport

The seminar was at the Embassy Suites Orlando Airport. My room was large with a separate living and sleeping area, flat screen TVs in both areas.

The banquet room was nice, I had Yeager A and B for the first class and Yeager A for the second class. The food was just OK, nothing fancy. We could pick between a club sandwich, a burger, a salad and one other option. It was nice to eat lunch in the atrium rather than in the banquet room.

We had a small problem with banquets, for some reason they cancelled the room for our second class but we resolved the issue by using half of the room (Yeager A) for the second class. There is a folding wall that separates the room. So Wednesday night I tore my equipment down, packed half of it up and set up the other half in Yeager A. I got a scare later that evening after I came back from dinner, there was a message on my room phone that I had to change rooms. I called banquets and told them that was not possible so I am not sure what they did but I stayed in Yeager A.

I didn’t have a car this time because it looked like we might not have enough students to break even. I did walk to TGI Friday’s, which is directly across the highway for dinner one evening and the guys from Renal Dynamics took me there for dinner another night. There are a bunch of other restaurants within walking distance but I never tried them.

The second class was small only four people so we finished up really early on Friday. Earlier in the week our travel agent told me that there was a 3:20 PM direct flight and it was wide open. I opted to save the $150 change fee and just have her put me on stand by Friday morning. I should have known better, the flight was completely booked so I had take my connecting flight through Detroit. The upside was that the Detroit to Minneapolis flight was nearly empty, everyone had their own row.

Once I collected my luggage in Minneapolis I took the shuttle to Park n Fly and got my car. I booked a room at the Microtel near the Walmart in Bloomington.  I checked in and got to my room about midnight. The reason that I did not go home is because, as stated before, my wife had twenty-four women friends and relatives staying in our house and one man with all of those women would completely throw the logistics out of wack.

The logistics were a little crazy for this trip. I packed a suitcase for Orlando and another suitcase for Cozumel.  Once at the hotel I had to grab my toiletries and a few other other things from my Orlando suitcase and pack them in my Cozumel suitcase. I also packed two back packs, one for each destination. I had my work computer in my Orlando backpack and I have a netbook that I bring on vacations packed in the other backpack. I had to grab several phone adapters and other things from the Orlando backpack and put them in my Cozumel backpack.

I went back and forth on what to do with my passport. If I leave it in my car there is a small change someone could take it. If I bring it with me to Orlando there is always the possibility that it could get lost or stolen. Without a passport I couldn’t board the plane and my hotel, airline ticket and diving in Cozumel are non refundable. I finally decided to bring my passport with me and I managed to not lose it in Orlando.

I payed $54 for the night so I didn’t expect much and I got less. The room was small, it had a desk and chair but the chair had an imprint from a hot iron burned into it. The pad on a bench  had a piece of food or gum stuck to the fabric.

I could not sleep so I turned on the TV and finally fell asleep about 3 AM. I was woken just before my alarm was due to go off by a screaming woman in the hallway. I did not have any pajamas on, I am blind without my glasses or contacts and I was groggy from being woken up out of a dead sleep. It took me a while but I finally went to the door and heard voices talking in the hallway. I assumed that everything was OK so I showered and got dressed. At that point someone was banging on one of the room doors in the hallway. I was dressed and had my contacts in so I looked out the door. There were five other people looking out of their door when I opened my door. I looked down the hall and saw a young woman pounding a a room door. Eventually the manager came up and told her that no one was in the room. I wnet back into my room and finished getting ready. The hall was queit when I left. I assumed that no serious crime was committed at the hotel because the cops still had not showed up by the time that I left.

I took the short drive back to Park and Fly, then rode their shuttle back to the terminal and caught my 7:00 AM American Airlines flight to Cozumel, connecting through Dallas. I was dead tired because I only got about one hour of sleep, so I was sleeping before the wheels lifted off the ground and slept almost until landing in Dallas.

I had several hours between flight so I grabbed something to eat. The gate agent handed out the customs forms before we got on the plane which was nice. It is easier to fill out the forms while sitting in the airport rather than on the cramped tray table on the plane.

While I was waiting to board the plane I was able to help out four Dallas women that sat next to me. Just like anyone else who doesn’t fill out a customs from on a regular basis, they had questions about how to fill it out. Since this was my sixth international trip in the last two years I am very familiar with the form. I also advised them to turn off their smart phones because even though they are not making calls the phone could still download emails and texts racking up huge data charges. They were also worried about their safety taking a cab from the the airport to the Westin resort on the southern end of the island. Cozumel is very safe and they have nothing to worry about when taking a cab. It was kind of funny, at one point when filling out the customs form one of the women said that she couldn’t beleive that four smart business women couldn’t figure out how to fill out a simple form!

Cozumel

It was about a two hour flight from Dallas to Cozumel. I was still tired but I could not sleep. When we landed there as another plane ahead of us but it was nothing like deplaning in Cancun and seeing a football sized area packed with people waiting to clear customs. It did not take long to clear customs and immigration. I actually got the red light in customs, the agent did a very quick search of my bags and I was on my way.  I grabbed a shuttle (cab) and I was the first one to be dropped off.

Casa Mexicana

Casa Mexicana Entrance
Casa Mexicana Entrance
From Cozumel 2010

The reviews for Casa Mexicana on Trip Advisor were great, almost all excellent or very good. We have been burned by reviews of hotels on Trip Advisor before, the hotel simply did not live up to the reviews. This happened as recently as last July when we went to Belize so I was a little tenuious opon arrival.

I vaguely remember seeing the Casa Mexicana entrance when we were here in 2004, I recognized the esclators going from street level to the lobby. It was windy and when I got up to the lobby level the storm shutters were closed accept for a small opening that I could squeeze myself and my bags through.

The people at the front desk were friendly and check in was fast and easy. My room was large with two double beds, the bathroom was average sized, the room contaied an armoir with TV and a desk. There was also a balcony, since I did not pay the upcharge my balcony was at the rear of the building overlooking houses and businesses. It was fair sized with two plastic chairs and a small table. The maid kept the room spotelss all week, they were actually a little too good at their job. I couldn’t dive several days because of a cold and if I hung out in my room I would get calls  and they would hang up when I answered. The calls stopped after the maid cleaned the room.

Casa Mexicana Front Desk
Front Desk
From Cozumel 2010

Breakfast was included with the room and it was similar to larger resorts. They had a hot table with eggs, sausage, Mexican dishes. They also had fruit, yogert, cereal and more. There was a chef  that could make pancakes, waffles or eggs/omelettes. I was running late for the dive boat several mornings so I just had cereal. Zuceritas was what it was called, it had Tony the Tiger on the box but they did taste like frosted flakes. I also had fresh made waffles several days and they were good.

Casa Mexicana Pool Area
Pool
From Cozumel 2010

I can’t say enough good thing about Casa Mexicana, the staff was great, the location is good- everything in town is within walking distance. There is definitely bang for the buck. That said do not expect a high dollar resort, the furniture is a little dated, the pool is small and there isn’t any beach access for the hotel or within walking distance. I would stay here again and I would bring my wife with me.

Casa Mexicana
Looking Up at Breakfast
From Cozumel 2010
Casa Mexicana Room
Room
From Cozumel 2010
 

Aqua Safari

aquasafari

I found a package on the Aqua Safari web site for diving and hotel. It was a great deal, $638 for six days at the Casa Mexicana and four days diving. After diving with Aqua Safari for two days I came to realize that Aqua Safari isn’t my favorite dive shop but they are not my least favorite either, kind of right in the middle.

After checking in at Casa Mexicana I walked to Auqa Safari, twenty yards north of the hotel. They gavem my equipment and had me set up a tank to make sure that I could.

The dive sites are at least  forty-five minutes away by boat. The Aqua Safari boat is a cabin cruiser style so it is fairly comfortable for the boat ride. We had two groups of people going out both days that I dived, up to six per group. The divemasters were competent and friendly. The equipment was good, the BCs weren’t new but they were in good shape and the regulators did not leak.

The package I had was four days diving but I only dove two days because of high winds one day and I started coming down with a cold so I could not clear my ears the other day. I was pleasently suprized when I paid my bill. I assumed that since I bought a package for four days that I would automatically be billed for four days of two tank dives. That was not the case, I was only charged for two days diving. I would not expect that very many dive shops would give me a break on the package price.

I only dove twice per day but several people that I met on the boat dove three or four times per day. One of the people was from California and he was a younger guy that was staying a a hostel in town and paying something like $15 per night for his room, he dove three or four times every day. I can’t blame him, the third dive was only $12 dollars and if you did a night dive you only paid $5 for the night dive. At those prices the dive shop isn’t making any money so they are doing it for the love of the sport.

The Dives

When I landed on Saturday it was windy and when I woke up Sunday it was even windier, probably forty mile per hour gusts. I checked with the dive shop and the harbor was shut down, so no diving

Large Crab
Large Crab
From Cozumel 2010  

I did not set my alarm on Monday, I just assumed that the wind was not going to die down. I was awoken by a phone call at 8:25 am telling me that I needed to be at the shop in five minutes if I wanted to go diving. I said that there was no way I could make it so I rolled out of bed, showered and walked to the dive shop. I signed up for the afternoon dive and returned to the shop at 2:00 PM.  We dove Paradise Reef reef. It was a good dive, it was only 45 feet deep so we stayed down for an hour and three minutes. I saw many fish, many large angels that are not afraid of people, they swam right up to me. Angels have a tendency to ignore divers unless you get too close and when  you do they will take off. I also saw durgeons, trunk fish and and a lot of anemones.

Ray
Ray
From Cozumel 2010

Tuesday I woke up with a slight case of the sniffles, not a full blown cold but I was not feeling 100 percent. We did a two tank dive at Delilah Reef for the first dive and I didn't get the name of the second dive site. Among other things at Delilah I saw a nurse shark and a stingray.  The second dive was good too. Are there any bad dives in Cozumel?  I saw a huge school of baby sardines and a large school of jacks.

Eagle Ray
Eagle Ray in the distance
From Cozumel 2010
Ray
Ray
From Cozumel 2010
Millions of sardines
Millions of sardines
From Cozumel 2010

I had problems clearing my ears on the second dive. This was a new experience for me I have never had problems clearing my ears. I knew my diving for this trip was over.

Play Del Carmen

Since it was so windy on Sunday I took the ferry to Playa. It was fairly choppy but because the ferry is a catamaran design it did not bounce around much.

Playa Ferry
Playa Ferry
From Cozumel 2010

I was just killing time by coming here and I had nothing I needed to do so I wondered down 5th Avenue and around Playa. I finally ended up at Senor Frogs by the ferry dock where I had a couple of beer before catching the ferry back to Cozumel.

Beaches

Pier at San Francisco Beach
From Cozumel 2010
San Francisco Beach
San Francisco Beach
From Cozumel 2010
The Laid Back Playa Palancar
The Laid Back Playa Palancar
From Cozumel 2010
Peacock at Playa Palancar
Peacock at Playa Palancar
From Cozumel 2010
Peacock at Playa Palancar
Peacock at Playa Palancar
From Cozumel 2010
Coconut Crab
Coconut Crab
From Cozumel 2010
Windy side of Cozumel
Windy side of Cozumel
From Cozumel 2010
 

One day after diving I grabbed a cab to the Money Bar and Beach Club. It is a nice little beach just south of town. I believe it cost $10 each way for the cab. I was hungry so that I had some tacos and beer immediately when I arrived. After eating I found a good beach chair to dump my stuff in and I snorkeled for about half an hour. It was decent snorkeling, I saw many fish and some rays.

While I was out snorkeling three young women occupied the three lounge chairs next to mine. When I came back from snorkeling I laid down to take a short nap. As I laid there I could hear their conversation, it took me a while to figure it out that they were speaking French. I love the French language. I took a year in junior high and a second in high school but I remember almost none of it. I am kind of curious what they were saying, what ever it was it sounded nice.

My last full day on the island I rented a car and drove around the island. The first beach that I stopped at was Playa San Francisco. It is a nice beach but very busy. They had jet skis for rent, boats to take you snorkeling, a water trampoline and climbing wall. They have a $10 minimum charge, which I did not know so I had one beer, snorkeled for a while and asked for my check. The they told me about the minimum charge so they gave me a couple of Cokes to even things up. I drove a short distance down the road to Playa Palancar. This was more my style. It was a far quieter beach. You could walk the beach in either direction, there were some houses but not much else. As I stated below I had lunch and it was my favorite meal for the trip. I hung out for the rest of the afternoon, snorkeled and laid on the beach. The snorkeling was good- large fish and rays.
They have several roosters that roam the beach and about eight peacocks (four male and four female).  As I laid on the beach chair drinking beer and reading Steven King’s Dumas Key, one of the roosters past my chair several times. The Peacocks also wondered past. One of the males made his way past my feet, hungrily eyeing my toes (see the picture below). He eventually moved on without taking a taste. There was also a crab that someone called a coconut crab, I don't know if that is its correct name but supposedly its freakishly large claw  can crush a coconut (also see picture below).    

Food

Breakfast

Breakfast was included with the room at Casa Mexicana and it was excellent. I had waffles almost every morning but there were many options to choose from- heuvos rancheros, cereal, omelets, eggs and much more.    

Lunch

I had lunch at Carlos and Charlies the Saturday that I arrived. Decent food as usual but a little spendy. I had lunch at different restaurants around town. The food overall is pretty mediocre. Note that I did not make a point of finding the top rated restaurants from Tripadvisor so if I did my might have liked the food better. My best lunch was at Playa Palencar  at the beach restaurant.    

Dinner

Dinner was low key. I ate pizza at Rolandi’s one night, I had pizza of course. Another night I ate at Carlos and Charlies. I was the only person in the restaurant so the manager came over and chatted with me for a while. I had dinner at several other location in town.      

Recap

Casa Mexicana

I would go back in a heartbeat. The employees were nice, helpful and professional. Breakfast was good. If you want to stay in town then  Casa Mexicana has a great location. It is right on the southern end of town across the street from the ocean. My room was fairly large with a king size bed that was actually comfortable, not hard as a slab of concrete like most Mexican beds. The furnishings were average.  

Aqua Safari

I would recommend them to a friend. They are not my favorite dive shop but the divemasters are knowledgeable  and friendly. Their boat is fairly large so the forty-five minute boat ride isn’t too uncomfortable. The equipment is good, my BC was in good shape and my regulator didn’t leak once. I would like to add a caveat to diving with Aquasafari, Karen and I have been spoiled with  dive shops that are very customer service oriented, we don’t do anything but dive, the shop takes care of everything else. Aquasafari is not that type of dive shop. You have to set up your tank between dives. Not that big of a deal but not what we are use to.

Food

Breakfast at Casa Mexicana was great so I did not try any other restaurants for breakfast. I thought lunch and dinner were a little overpriced for the quality fo the food. It wasn’t overly expensive about $15 dollars for enchiladas and a beer and supper was also about $15 for a beer and an entree. None of the food was outstanding.    

Beaches

If you are on the island for a day (or even longer for that matter) it is worth the $15 dollar cab ride (each way) to The Money Bar Beach Club. It has a nice beach, the food and snorkeling are good. There are some nice beaches on the southern end of the island. If you are looking for a party beach you can go to Carlos and Charlies Beach Club or San Francisco Beach. They are located next to each other on the south end of the island. You can get food, beer, rent jet skis, and go snorkeling. They have a water trampoline, and a water climbing wall. If you prefer something something a little quieter you can go further down the road to Playa Palancar. They have good beer, good food and good snorkeling and no jet skis.

5 thoughts on “Orlando and Cozumel November 2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.