Cancun 2011

I got a great deal from Sky Auction. It was for a week at the Westin Lagunamar in Cancun for $299. I didn't have to bid on it, I received an email from Sky Auction and this was one of the offers. My wife was having her annual shopping weekend at our house and there were going to be over twenty women (thirty was the final number) staying at our house so that was my cue to get out of town and go diving.

 

I booked my flight through Air Tran because Delta has a death grip on the Minneapolis market. Delta was a minimum of $250 more than Air Tran. My original flight was scheduled to leave Minneapolis at 7:00 am, a reasonable time in the morning. Unfortunately Air Tran changed my flight twice and my final departure time turned out to be 5:20 am, meaning that I had to get up at 3:30 am, an ungodly hour of the morning.

 

Air Tran flies out of the Humphrey terminal, I had forgotten how much easier it is to fly out of Humphrey than MSP. There were only four people in front of me to check in and the security was almost as fast.

 

I had done some searching on travel forums and it seemed that Easy Way car rental was the most recommended for Cancun. I had rented with Thrifty in Cancun several times before and my final bill was always twice what I was quoted, not including collision insurance which is covered by my credit card. The really irritating thing is both times we rented there were people outside the Thrifty office that tried to sell time shares while we waited for out rental car.

 

My flight arrived half an hour early, there were less than twenty people ahead of me for immigration and it didn't take long to get my luggage and clear customs. When I exited the airport the representative from the Easy Way was not there. I asked one of the vendors at the exit where I could find Easy Way and he told me where to stand. I was joined by a woman from my flight and shortly after the rep arrived and took us to the rental office.

 

The Easy Way office is located behind the Pemex station at the entrance of the airport. The people there were very nice. I had my car and was heading into Cancun in less than twenty minutes. The only problem I ran into was they charge me an extra 5% to use my American Express card, other than that the total was exactly what I was quoted, $170 plus 5% for the entire week.

 

;

The Resort

 

The Westin Lagunamar is a large resort but I drove past it because the Westin sign is relatively small and located at the top of the building. Check-in was easy. Omar was the representative , he was very professional. I was in building 9, 6th floor, room 4 (room 964). The room overlooked the beach, unbeatable for $299.

 

The room had a queen sized bed, sofa, two chairs, small table, flat panel TV and a wardrobe with plenty of drawers and space to hang clothes. There was a kitchen area with a two burner stove top, small refrigerator, sink and dishwasher. The kitchen was stocked with dishes, silverware and all of the required cooking utensils unlike our kitchen at the Privilege Aluxes which had a full kitchen but no dishes or cooking utensils. It had a large tub that was perfect for soaking my dive gear after diving. It also had a small balcony with two chairs and a small table. It was a very nice room but my only complaint is that is was a little small. If my wife had been with me it would have been cramped with us and our dive gear.

 

The grounds were beautiful, the Westin has a large infinity pool that overlooks the ocean. Cancun is known for its beaches and the Westin is located smack in the middle of the white sand beach that is Cancun.

 

Across the street from the Westin is La Isla shopping center. It is an upscale shopping center with a fair amount of restaurants. I ate most of my meals at La Isla because it was so convenient.

 

The Restaurants

 

La Isla
La Isla

 

I had dinner at the Taco Grill in La Isla twice. I had a burrito for dinner once and chicken tacos the other time. I liked the food but the habanero sauce was pretty wimpy by Mexican standards.

 

I had dinner at La Pizzara twice. My first meal was shrimp pasta. The pasta was cooked to perfection, and it came with eight large shrimp. It was very good. My second meal was chicken pasta. Again, the pasta was cooked to perfection but the chicken was chopped into tiny pieces and piled on top of the pasta. It would have been much better if they would have added the chicken to the red sause. It wasn’t bad but definitely not as good as the pasta camerones.

 

I had lunch one day at the Gourmet + Market Express . It is located near the Taco Grill. Once I find something I like I guess I stick with it so I had chicken tacos. They were just ok. The habinero sauce was so hot it barely tolerable, what I would expect in Mexico.

 

The only meal that I didn’t care for was at Blu. The restaurant is located in La Isla on the water so the view is beautiful. The waiter was the least friendly of any of the waiters this trip. I ordered spaghetti and it was terrible. It could have been the Mexican spices, they are not what would expect for spaghetti. It tasted burned too. I'm not sure of that was some odd spice or if the sauce was actually burned.

 

I had lunch twice at the Westin Lagunamar at the Oceano restaurant. Chicken tacos and a beer both times, the tacos were excellent. I was given a discount card when I checked in that was good for 20% off at the restaurants so tacos and a beer was 120 pesos which is a heck of a deal for a resort. The store at the resort was also reasonable. I stopped in for cookies and soda several times and it was no more expensive than the convenience store in La Isla.

 

It rained most of the day on Tuesday and it was too windy to dive so I walked to Plaza Forum by the Sea shopping mall to have lunch. I decided to live dangerously and have a piece of pepperoni pizza from the food court pizza place. I wasn’t bad. I bought a beer from the bar in the food court (something I wished we had in the US) to wash the pizza down.

 

The Plaza Forum by the Sea shopping mall is a nice little mall. It has Carlos and Charlies, Coco Bongo, Hard Rock, Rain Forrest Café, and a Brazilian steak house. It also has souvenir shops and other assorted shops. I had dinner at Carlos and Charlie’s one evening. I had chicken enchiladas. Not bad but I have had better.

 

I had lunch at Ojo de Agua in Puerto Morelos. I had shrimp tacos and they were very tasty. You can read the full description below.

 

Downtown Cancun

 

After I finished my food court pizza I walked to the Starbucks two blocks away dodging rain drops along the way. I had a cappuccino and used their free wifi to check my email. It didn’t look like the rain was going to let up so I decided go to take a bus to downtown Cancun. I wasn’t sure which bus to take. They had signs saying they were were going to Walmart and other locations. I finally just got on a bus and I got off after it had taken a left and gone several blocks down Tulum avenue. It down poured during the ride downtown so when I arrived some of the streets had flooded and cars and trucks had water up to their doors. One poor woman’s car had stalled in the middle of the street so I and another passerby pushed her to a side street. I didn’t stay downtown long since it was still raining.

 

Day Trip to Puerto Morelos

 

I hadn’t used my rental car a lot, I only used it to drive to the dive shop the two days that I dived. Friday started out windy and I decided to get out of Cancun. I hopped in my rental car and drove south to Puerto Morelos. Karen and I have stayed and dove there twice.

 

I discovered that they had completed the overpasses on highway 307 since we were here last. That means the stop lights are gone on highway 307 all the way to Playa del Carmen and maybe further.

 

It only took about half an hour to get to Puerto Morelos. I had planned to snorkel and hang out on the beach but it was still windy and there wasn’t a good place to set my stuff down so I decided to have lunch at Ojo de Agua.

 

The complaint I have about Cancun is that it is not really Mexico, everyone knows that. Puerto Morelos isn't Mexico either but it is a little bit closer to the real thing. I got a taste of that when I had lunch.

 

When I walked onto the deck of the restaurant the waiter said something to me in Spanish. The only thing I understood was cervesa so I said yes. He brought me a beer but never gave me a menu. It took me a while to figure out that he had probably asked me if I wanted to eat or I just wanted a beer. I flagged him down and said I wanted a menu, he looked confused until I pointed to the menu under his arm. Unfortunately I don't know the Mexican word for menu. It was kind of a funny situation because he assumed that I knew Spanish and he assumed that he knew English.

 

The waiter brought me great chips and tomatillo habanero sauce with my beer and for lunch I had shrimp tacos. They were loaded with shrimp, so many that I had to take about half of them off them just to pick up the taco. The tacos were 60 pesos, less than $6.00 and they were good.

 

I drove back to Cancun after lunch. By the time I got back to the Westin the wind had died down and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The ocean was calm and about six shades of blue. This was the best weather of my vacation. I decided to hang out on the beach the rest of the afternoon.

 

My One Night Out

 

My days of hitting the clubs are long over but I decided I would have a beer or two at one of the clubs after my dinner at Carlos and Charlie's in the Forum by the Sea. The club was across from Carlos and Charlies. It was one of the typical clubs in that area- teeth rattling bass, a bouncer that practically drags you into the club, a pretty decent light show with fog and beautiful young women trying to sell you tequila and jello shots. Being at the disco reminded me how old I am. Just about everyone there was under thirty. It was interesting people watching.

 

I walked back to the Westin at midnight. I’ve read posts on Trip Advisor asking how safe Cancun is. I was completely safe walking home. At three in the morning I would have called a cab but midnight was perfectly fine. My only complaint was that every cab driver that stopped to offer me a ride back to the hotel tried to sell me pot or take me to a massage parlor. I'm wasn't really interested in either so I sent them on their way.  

My Cancun Cell Phone

I wanted to use a cell phone while I was in Mexico so I brought along an old unlocked Palm that I had bought years ago. I found a Telcel store in La Isla and I was able to buy a sim for the phone. It cost only 150 pesos (les than $15 US). I didn’t use it a lot but I sent texts to my wife and called her from Ojo de Agua in Puerto Morelos. I am a phone geek so it was nice to have a phone that I could make international calls and texts with while in Cancun.

 

Diving

 

I came to Cancun to dive but I thought I was going to be rained out again this year. I had been checking for hurricanes throughout the summer and fall and almost every hurricane had gone up the east coast of the United States (can you believe a hurricane hit New York) or out into the Atlantic. The week before I arrived Hurricane Rina formed south of Cancun. The projected path of the hurricane showed a direct hit on Cancun, so I received an email from Air Tran instructing me how to change or cancel my flight. I bought trip insurance when I purchased my week at the Westin, unfortunately for the trip insurance to pay off Air Tran would have to cancel the flight. Unfortunately they did not. I wavered for several days and finally decided that I would go even though I might not get much diving in. My problem was that I had to leave because of the all of the women coming to our house. I had to be in Los Angeles for work the next week so I could have gone out early but I guess I would rather spend the week in Cancun even if I could not dive.

 

Luckily Rina made landfall south of Playa del Carmen and quickly devolved into a tropical storm. My dive master told me they had some winds and rain in Cancun but it was not bad at all.

 

I book my dives with Nautilus Diving (excellent reviews on Trip Advisor) and they are located in Clipper Club. I was supposed to meet the dive master at 8:30 am so I arrived a little early, at least by my watch. I waited until 9:00 am and no one showed. I walked to the hotel office to see if they might have a phone number for the shop. I talked to the man behind the front desk and told him that I was supposed to meet the dive master at 8:30 am. He pointed to a clock and told me that it was 8:10 am. Then informed me that daylight savings time was Sunday and the clocks were moved back an hour. I had no I idea that Mexico had daylight savings time.

 

The dive master showed up right on time if you’re on daylight savings time. I filled out the paperwork and we were off. We had to pick up another diver and dive master at the marina. Even though it is a short walk from the dive shop across Kukalakan Boulevard to the ocean, it took forty-five minutes by boat to get from the Nautilus Divers dock in the lagoon to the dive site. I would have thought the trip would have been much shorter but it takes a while to get from the lagoon the ocean.V

 

The first dive was Punta Cancun. I saw several small brown spotted eels. I also saw a large ray and a lot of barracuda.

 

The second dive site was about 100 yards from the first. I didn’t catch the name of the site, I am not sure that it was an actual dive site. We just motored over a short distance.

 

At the start of the dive we saw several drum fish. The first time I saw drum fish was in Turks and Caicos. The dive master made a big deal about seeing them but since they were only about two or three inches long I wasn't impressed. I wanted to see bigger things. Now that I am more experienced I can appreciate the smaller creatures. You can see from the picture below what a cool little fish they are.

 

There were large schools of grunts, many barracuda, another large ray and unfortunately some very large lion fish, the bane of the Caribbean. Once we surfaced it took the boat about 10 minutes for the boat to find us because of the six foot swells.

 

By the end of the second dive I had a splitting headache and a slightly upset stomach. When I was setting up my equipment I smelled the air (highly recommended) and noticed that that it smelled like plastic or rubber. I wasn't worried because I thought it was the mouthpiece or my reg. It wasn't like it smelled like exhaust fumes. I did a Google search when I got back to the resort and I did find one other person that had a similar experience and people seemed to think it might have been a problem with the carbon filters at the tank filling station. I wasn’t so sure so I decided that I would dive one more day and hang it up if I got a headache.

 

My second (and last) day of diving for this trip was a good one. The first dive was the C58 wreck. This is my third wreck in the Cancun/Isla Mujeres/Puerto Morelos area. In 2010 we dove the C56 in Puerto Morelos and earlier in 2011 we dove C55 in between Isla Mujeres and Cancun.

 

The C58, like the C55 was broken in two by Wilma. Unlike the C55 the two sections are about 150 yards apart. The two sections of the C55 are very close to each other.

 

I was diving with a couple from Los Angeles. The husband told me he didn't like diving in enclosed spaces and he wasn’t sure he was going to go into the ship. I told him about my problem at Devil's Throat earlier in the year and I wasn’t sure that I was going to go into the wreck either.

 

Since there was a chance of strong current the plan was to descend head first and meet at the wreck. We were lucky there was almost no current. We had a relaxed descent and met at the stern of the wreck. The dive master signaled to us to swim to the upper deck of the ship. As I peered over the top of the ship I saw two large eagle rays hovering in the current above the top of the ship.

 

We descended to an open deck where we were to enter the wreck. The two eagle rays had descended and appeared to be watching us enter the ship. Both myself and the guy from California did the swim through. It was relieved to overcome my fears. I am sure he felt the same.

 

Sections of the hull had been removed so there was plenty of light. The openings that we swam through to get to the front of the ship were wide enough but not very tall. I scraped the top of my tank on almost every opening.

 

We exited the first part of the wreck and started the trek to the other section of the ship. We couldn’t see it so we put our faith in our dive master and swam behind him for several minutes before the wreck came into view. After we had finished the dive the dive master admitted that we was a little worried that we were not going to find the second part of the wreck.

 

The swim through was much darker than the first but there was more room to maneuver. Just before we exited the wreck the dive master pointed out a large eel in the hold.

 

The second dive was good. A lot of sea life. Many barracuda, schools of grunts, eels, rays and unfortunately, lion fish.

 

We were again left bobbing in the ocean. It took about ten minutes before the boat found us. I wasn’t worried and it gave me time to think about what plan B would be if the boat didn’t show up. Since we could see land we could have easily swum to shore.

 

Unfortunately I once again had a splitting headache by the end of the second dive so I decided to hang up diving for this trip. I am not sure what caused my headache. I don't think it was bad air because the dive master would have had issues too. I did a little research on the web and found that besides a possible carbon filter problem I may not be breathing correctly. When diving you are suppose to slowly breath in and slowly breath out. I am aware that I pause in between breathing in and out but it is just for an instant. You should never hold your breath when diving it might cause an air embolism. I found a forum on the internet where someone stated that pausing causes your body to retain CO2 and this will cause a splitting headache. I don't know why this has never been an issue in the past but I will have to watch my breathing in the future.

 

Eagle ray
Eagle ray
   
Starfish
Starfish
 
Green Eel
green Eel
   
Barracuda
Barracuda
   

Recap

 

Diving

 

Contrary to what you think, diving in Cancun is good. Also contrary to what you think it is not easy. One of the things I like about diving in Isla Mujeres is the ease. You get up, walk several blocks to the dive shop and then board the boat. In Cancun I had to rent a car (I did find out that I could have paid to have the shop pick me up). On days that I dived I had to drive about 3 km (not far) to the Clipper Club then take a forty minute boat ride to the dive site. So it's a little over an hour from the time I left the hotel until I was in the water. This is longer than I would like.

 

Hotel

 

The Westin Lagunamar was wonderful and it was a steal to get it for $300 for a week from Sky Auction. It is a beautiful property. The pool and beach are fantastic. The health club is great. The restaurants and convenience store are reasonable priced for a resort. The room is a little small but very nice.

 

Food

 

The Oceano Restaurant at the Westin was good and actually reasonable. All of the restaurants at La Isla were good accept for Blu, the other dishes might be better but the spaghetti was terrible. Carlos and Charlies and the food court pizza place at Plaza Forum by the Sea were ok.

 

Cancun Buses

 

Why get a rental car in Cancun? The bus system is clean, cheap and the people on the bus are nice.

 

Easy Way Car Rental

 

This is the only car rental company in Mexico where the price I was quoted was was the price I paid. Every other company in Mexico that I have rented from has tacked on an $11 a day insurance fee. It was included with Easy Way. I will rent from Easy Way next time I am in Cancun.

 

 

One thought on “Cancun 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.