We left the Minneapolis airport at 8 am. It sure was an early morning, getting up at 5 am to get ready. We all met at my house as I live closest to the airport. The stupid cat escaped from the house three times. It is not fun chasing a cat around the front yard at 5:30 am.
Our flight took off on time and it was a packed airplane. There were lots of people escaping the miserable cold weather.
During the flight (apparently Mexican airlines have much different rules than American airlines), the flight attendants opened the door to cockpit several times to have a word with the pilots. AT one point the co-pilot got up to use the bathroom and the flight attendant took his spot in the co-pilot chair. Um....hello people, does this freak anyone else out here but me? I know they have the planes on auto-pilot but still....I do not need to be able to see out the front window of the airplane! I thought the cockpit door could not be opened at all. But it was a chartered flight, there were no stops, so maybe the rules were a bit more lax.
We landed in Cancun at noon. It was a pretty smooth landing. We arrived early, so we had to circle Cancun before we got clearance to land. Once we landed the pilot announced that it was 84 degrees. The whole entire plane cheered and clapped as we also got the news that a winter snow storm was hitting back home.
We went filled out our custom forms and went through customs without any problems. We then made our way to the bus that was to take us to our hotel. Outside the exit of the Cancun airport is about 100 people shouting and holding up signs "Pick me!". We were told by previous friends who have traveled through the Cancun airport to ignore those people and not make eye contact as they are trying to get you to go with them to sell you a time share. We found our correct people to take us to the hotel. We asked the bus chaperone if we could grab a drink at the outdoor airport bar before we got on. She said "you can, but it's $5 at the bar and only $3 on my bus. Shhhh...don't tell anyone" Ok, let's get on the bus!
Once we got going the bus chaperone got on the loud speaker and told us "you will be at your destination in 60 minutes, that's like an hour". We cracked up laughing and asked her for another cervaza.
We got to the hotel and checked in. Upon checking in, we were served a very tasty glass of champagne. We were taken to our room and our luggage was brought up for us. We quickly changed into our swim suites and made our way to the beach, stopping at each bar for a drink on the way. We got to the beach and we all went into the warm ocean water and laughed our silly heads off as back home they were getting pounded with snow.
After we were done with sun and ocean, we went to our room. Lisa and I took a nap, Jo & Nickie went out shopping in town. When they came back to the room, we all went down to the lobby bar. We enjoyed our free cocktails and watched the entertainment. One thing about all inclusive...the cocktails flow pretty freely.
We slept in, then made our way to one of the restaurants for breakfast. After breakfast we got our suits on and went down to the beach. It felt so good sitting in the sun. After soaking up much sun, we got dressed and went to dinner at the hotel. The food at the hotel restaurant was so good. It was a large buffet and fresh grilled style. Everything was gourmet and the variety was fabulous.
After dinner we went shopping downtown. Lots of shops and lots of people wanting us to shop at their shop and spend our American money with them. We came back with our goodies that we found and then went to the lobby bar to end out the night.
We got up early to catch our bus for our all inclusive trip to Tulum and Xel-Ha. It was an all day tour. Our bus chaperone was telling us all about our day on the bus ride down and we made a couple of stops to pick up more people. She explained in both Spanish and English adding her own flare of humor. At one of the stops it seemed like it was taking a long time for people to get on the bus, so a few people got out to take pictures of flamingos. Finally Nickie decided she was going to take photos to. Nickie got off the bus and was taking photos and then the bus was ready to leave. We said "Wait, we can't leave Nickie here!" So the bus chaperone yelled out the door "Neeckie, we are leaving now!" Nickie was quite embarrassed and when she got back on the bus Teri (the bus chaperone/tour guide) said over the microphone "Ok, we can go now, we have Neeckie".
We got to Tulum and we followed Teri for the tour. She walked fast and you had to keep up. The tour was very interesting and the Tulum ruins were more impressive than I had imagined. After the tour was over we did have a little time for ourselves to walk around the area. We walked down the stairs to the beach and it was so beautiful. The bluest of blue and the prettiest turquoise I've ever seen. It is just amazingly bright and beautiful. When our time was up, we went back to the bus making sure not to be late as Teri told us we were not running on Mexican time, we were on Teri time and she would leave us behind.
After Tulum the tour bus took us to Xel-Ha. Xel-Ha is a natural occurring inlet. We had 5 hours to tour on our own and it was all inclusive, so all the food and drink you could want. The first thing we did was have lunch. The restaurant we went to had mostly Mexican cuisine except I did find steak and chicken as I am not a big fan of Mexican food. I'm pretty much a steak and potatoes kind of girl. The steak and chicken was fabulous.
After we ate we walked around the park and looked in some of the gift shops. Then we decided to go snorkeling. Snorkeling was hard to get used to, and it was my first time. I'm sure I looked like an geek, but no one knows me there. I finally got the hang of snorkeling and it was fun. By the time we discovered where the fish were hanging out (along the edges of the inlet in the little reefs) it was time to swim back and venture on. We only had 5 hours to tour Xel-Ha.
After snorkeling we walked around, grabbed a couple of drinks, did some shopping, and watched people swim with the dolphins. As we were watching the people swim with the dolphins, a bird pooped on Jo's foot. We all got a big kick out that and we were glad it was none of us. So we laughed at Jo's expense.
We had a little bit more time so we ventured across the floating bridge that crossed where the ocean poured into the inlet. It's a good thing the bridge was as wide as it was. It was so hard to keep your balance and you staggered all over the thing. It was the kind that you felt like you were still moving after you were on solid ground.
We took a peek at the underground river system through holes in the walk path. There are no above ground rivers in that area. They are all underground, as there is only about 10 inches of topsoil and then limestone. We had to walk back across the scary floating bridge. I figured out the faster you walked on the bridge, the easier it was not to stumble all over it. We shrieked like little girls going across the bridge. We ran into a gentleman who was wearing a Minnesota Gopher's t-shirt and a Twins baseball cap. We said "Hey, Minnesota!" to him and he replied "I don't speak English". Indeed that was the only thing he knew in English.
We made it back on the bus on time and didn't get left behind. Teri our tour guide, asked before departure if Neeckie was on the bus. Nickie raised her hand and the whole bus laughed. Xel-Ha is huge and 5 hours was not nearly enough time there. We only saw about 1/3 of the area. What we did see was amazing, total paradise.
After we got back to the hotel we rested for a bit. We had room service bring us up some cold beer and then decided to hit the lobby bar again and then call it a night.
We enjoyed our last day at the beach and the hotel. After lunch we decided to go shopping again. There was a whole area that we had missed. It was over a mile of shopping. Any girls dream. We hit the jackpot. Lots of good bargaining and lots of good souvenirs.
It was starting to get dark but we were having so much fun downtown. Then all of a sudden there was a parade. We walked right into it. I still have no idea what the parade was for and what they were celebrating, but they were sure having fun. Their costumes were over the top.
After the parade we found our way to Senior Frogs. We sat in their fun swing seats, had a couple of beers, and then the shot lady discovered us, so we paid 20 pesos for her. She gives you the shot, she rubs your temples, then she grabs your hoo ha's.
We made our way back to the hotel, then found our way back to the lobby bar for our last hurrah. It was our last night and we were going to make it a fun one.
It turns out that a large group of people from the Minnesota Vikings (one player, his wife, then the behind the scenes people, and their wives) had checked into the hotel earlier that day. So I got to meet Chad Greenway and get my picture taken with him. He was a pretty good sport and I had to stand on a coffee table so that I wouldn't get cut off in the picture.
We said goodbye and goodnight to our favorite hotel bartenders, then went back up to the room. We decided not to go to bed, but rather call room service for more cold beer.
Time to go home. We had to get up early in order to catch our bus to take us to the airport. The bus didn't show up, so the hotel sent us on one of their shuttles. The shuttle was full, so I got to sit in the passenger seat and listen to the driver's favorite Mexican radio station and watch him drive. My right mom arm reached out many times as driving in Mexico is pretty wild. No lane markers, not many stop signs, and the ones that are there, they run. One road we took had a tree growing out of the middle of it. Instead of cutting the tree down, they just paved the road around it, so not only do you have to watch for other cars on the road, but you have to watch for trees too.
We got to the airport and checked in."Do you have the bottom of the form you filled out when you got to Mexico?" the airline counter guy said. I was the only one who didn't. It was a piece of paper that you wrote your name, your nationality, and your birth date on. Then you signed it. I ripped mine in half and threw it away back at the hotel. Extra stuff I didn't need to carry around with me, I figured. WRONG!
He told me I had to go to immigration and get a new form. I couldn't get my boarding pass until I did so. Really? For a stupid little piece of paper that had less info than my passport? Isn't that why you have a passport? Ok, no arguing. I went to immigration and the immigration guy gave me my new paper to fill out and then said it would cost me $35, but I can't pay him, I have to go to the bank next door and get a receipt, and then take it back to him. I had no money left. Not even a penny in my wallet. I told the man I had no money and his reply "That's a big problem for you." Yeah, he didn't care. I also had traveled with out my credit card. (Yeah, I know who does that?) So I had to borrow money from Jo in order to get back into America. The immigration guy could have made up any dollar amount and I would have had to pay it.
The line at the bank was long. Very long. There were only two tellers and they were S L O W! Finally, it was our turn. Jo paid the $35 and I got my receipt. I took my form and my receipt, and gave it to the immigration officer. He looked at it, stamped it, and sent me on my way. The whole process took a little over an hour. Good thing we got to the airport early. I took my passport, my stamped important and expensive piece of paper back to the counter man, and he gave me my boarding pass.
Then we went through the TSA checkpoint. The X-ray guy said "Whose bag is this?" I told him it was mine, and he pulled it out of the bucket and got out his little swipey cloth and swiped down the handles of my carry on bags. I got the all clear so I could get home now. Who knew I'd be such a problem child getting out of Mexico?
We got on the plane, they did one last boarding bag check and we passed that. Which is good as we'd already been passed the TSA checkpoint.
The plane ride home, the cockpit was more secure. No flight attendants opening the cockpit door, and no pilots taking a potty break. It was difficult to sleep as there was a very obnoxious mom sitting across from us with her two small children. "Are we in the air yet? Now, Now...how bout now?" After we were in the air, the kids were quiet but the mom went on and on to her kids. We could hear the mom over the roar of the plane engine. I'm actually surprised no one said anything too her. She was annoying to everyone around her as even the people ahead of me turned around and gave her the evil eye.
We landed in Minnesota. I got off the plane and had my cell phone out to let my husband know we had landed. I got yelled at for having my cell phone on, and was instructed to shut it off. Again, I'm being a problem child.
We were told our bags would be searched when we were filling out our customs forms on the plane, so be honest and claim everything you are bringing back and the value. Well, I know that customs people get really mad if they find something you didn't claim,no matter how small. I wrote down that I had $10 worth of prednisone. You can buy that over the counter in Mexico. Well, they didn't check our bags, so I didn't really need to claim it, but I was just being honest. Here's how the conversation went between the customs guard and myself...
Guard: You are bringing back prednison?
Me: Yes, I wrote it on the form, did I need to?
Guard: Do you have a prescription for it?
Guard: Why not?
Me: Because I don't
Guard: Then why did you buy it?
Me: Because I could
Guard: Why else did you buy it?
Me: Because I'm a mom and when and if I get really sick with a cold or bad virus, it cuts the time in half and gets me feeling better faster. It's been prescribed to me before. My son also gets croup and they prescribe it to him for that condition, so I figured it will say me an ER trip or two at 3 am. Are you going to take it away from me?
Guard: Well, even though you can buy it over the counter in Mexico, you can't bring it into the states with out a prescription, but since you have such a small amount of it, doesn't cause me concern, so I'll let you through with it this time.
This time!? Ok, whatever...Not like I'm going to Mexico all the time for prescription drugs I don't have prescriptions for. Are they going to save my customs form and next time I go to Mexico pull it out of a file and say " I told you last time you were here about this." Ok, fine I'll behave next time.
Really, I had no idea I would such a problem child at both airports.
We do our girls trip every two years. This was our second time. We really loved Playa Del Carmen and decided we would go there again in 2 years, but next time we'll stay longer as we didn't stay nearly long enough this time. And now that I'm trained in on all the rules, I won't be so much of problem child.
Here are the links to the photos.