Playa del Carmen. Almost, But Not Quite

One of the cool things about flying into Mexico is the conspicuous absence of roads. You might see one or two, here and there, but nothing like you see as you leave the DFW area. As we got closer to the Cancun airport, there were even some unsettling visions of dirt roads leading to nowhere, that just suddenly stopped. Christi joked that they were the body drop-off points.

That might not be funny.

Our day started off great. On Saturday morning, we left the house, earlier than we planned, which is always a victory. We stopped by Sonic for a drink and some breakfast. The drive to the airport was quick and smooth, as it was Saturday morning. It barely took us 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the south remote parking area was full, which was where we had planned to park. Oh, well. We will pay the higher price for parking near the terminal.

We got checked in with no problem at all. The people at the counter were friendly and talkative, and we couldn’t have been much happier. With our bags checked, we settle in to wait for the plane to arrive.

The plane arrived on time, if not a bit early. We got boarded, stowed our two carry-ons under the seats in front of us, after getting our books and glasses out. The flight was completely full, and we had a charming woman sitting next to us, who was very friendly and talkative, as well. She was on her way to Cancun to meet up with some high school girlfriends for a sort of reunion. She was probably our age, if not older, so it may have been quite some time since she has seen these people.

For the first time, ever, I purchased food on the plane. We got some Smartfood popcorn, and I had a cheeseburger. We knew it would be at least 3:00 PM before we would be able to eat anything else. Little did we know . . .cue ominous music.

The flight was great. Oddly, clouds are bumpy. Weird. But it was clear most of the way. Lots of blue water on the way. The landing was nearly perfect. We got off of the plane with no problem, but off-loaded onto the tarmac, where we were immediately herded into a bus. We don’t remember that from our last trip to Cancun, but we had never flown on Sun Country before. A nice gentleman offered his seat to Christi, and we had a quick bus-ride to the actual entrance, where we finished filling out our customs forms and got in a lengthy line.

As we were filling out the forms, a nice airport employee (I think) answered a couple of questions for us, after which he asked us, “You want weejur? We get through the line quicker!” At first I thought he wanted to take our picture. But, no, it sounded like “weejur.” We thanked him, but said, no thank you, we’ll just wait. Later we saw him pushing a WHEELCHAIR! Suddenly, we realized what he had asked us. He was offering to get a wheelchair for Christi, which would have gotten us straight to the front of the line. We got a great laugh out of that! “Weejur.”

(I am NOT making fun of the way anyone talks. We just could not understand what he was saying.)

At one point, we looked at the line next to us (this was not the customs line, by the way; this was the line for access to the country via passport), and noticed it was a couple of serpentines ahead. Suddenly, Christi noticed that the whole area was also much narrower! We immediately scooted over to that line and got through to the passport official much quicker.

We then picked up our luggage. By the time we got through the passport line, all of the luggage was sitting on the floor around the baggage claim area. After a brief search, we found both of our suitcases and headed to the customs line. We got through there with no problem, although the lady working there seemed quite impatient and hurried to get us through. It was nearly noon. Maybe she was about to go on lunch break. Who knows? Christi pushed the button; the light flashed green, and we were home free!

We walked through that infamous area between customs and outside, where all of the timeshare scams wait for you. We looked neither to the right or the left and ignored the one or two people who tried to get our attention. Once outside, we began searching for our transport in the sea of people with signs and colorful shirts.

Someone from USA Transport point out the Apple Vacation people to us, who then directed us to the end of the area, where a group of them were waiting. After a brief wait, we got in a van with two other couples who were also heading to Playa del Carmen.

As those of you who follow us on Facebook know, this is where things took a dark turn.

About 15 minutes or so out of Cancun, the van driver pulled over to the side of the road. I didn’t notice that he had a cell phone to his ear, but he called out, “Who is going to Iberostar Tucan?” We looked at him and raised our hands, and got really nervous, because it was obvious we were certainly not there. The driver came around to the passenger door of the van and handed me the phone.

The man identified himself as an airport supervisor, or something like that. At this point, I do not remember, because everything from this point on was simply the stuff of nightmares.

He told us that there had been an “incident” at the Iberostar Tucan, and that they would be closed that night. We would be sleeping at the Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar, for the night, and would need to contact an Amstar (same people as Apple Vacations) person to find out what would be happening the next day.

Needless to say, we were stunned. We asked the driver what the “incident” was. He said, “Heheheh.” That was it.

Alrighty, then.

He dropped us off, just a few minutes more up the road, at the Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar. Now, this “Paraiso” place is a multi-resort complex, housing five different hotels. Remember that.

A bellboy took our luggage and set it with some other luggage and told us that we would come get it when we got our room key. That seems to be crustimony proceedcake for all of these places (only Winnie the Pooh people will understand that reference; it means “customary procedure”). We went to the check-in counter and began to explain our plight.

The guy at the counter was well-aware of what was going on. He even gave us a little more explanation. There had been a fire at the Tucan.

Now, pretend you are us. You’re in a van with strangers, in the middle of Mexico (okay, not the middle, but still . . . ). Suddenly, you are told that you can’t go where you are supposed to go because of an “incident.” If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you’re thinking, “Drug cartel? Mass murder??” And things like that, right?

Imagine our relief when it was just a fire. “Just a fire . . .” Right.

Anyway. After waiting less than five minutes, we were told that the bellboy was going to take us, via golfcart (they have a ton of those things running around this place), to the “Lindo” hotel. Okay. We got in the golf cart with our luggage, and were taken to the Lindo, where we encountered a line of about fifty (maybe more) other people who had been displaced from the Tucan, and had ALL been sent over to this resort!

It was at this point that we discovered that the entire front entrance area of the Tucan had pretty much burned to the ground. At that point, we realized that we would NOT be going to Playa del Carmen. And, I believe, that was when I got on the lobby wi-fi at the Lindo and posted this on Facebook. At one point a hotel employee tried to go get us to eat something at the buffet while we waited, but we insisted on staying in line. In the meantime, we struck up a conversation with a young couple in front of us, one of which was wearing a Red Sox shirt. There’s always a silver lining, right?

It’s a good thing we didn’t go to the buffet, because about 15 minutes later, a guy told us we were all going to the “Maya.” Okay. Hotel number three! Oh, lest I forget, while we were waiting, Christi went and found an Amstar/Apple Vacation representative, who basically told us she couldn’t do anything for us, just get checked in and we would go go from there.

Now, granted, this entire situation is most definitely not Apple Vacations’s fault, and we certainly do not hold it against them. They were simply letting Iberostar handle the problem, which may not have been the best way to do it. And Iberostar, we believe, has handled the situation very poorly. The couple in front of us said that there was no direction at all when the fire occurred. Some people, who were out at the pool or the beach, were not even allowed to go back to their rooms to retrieve their belongings.

Okay. On to the Maya. We were transported to the Maya, where we found an even bigger line of people. At this point, Christi and I were nearly despondent. We kept saying to ourselves that this was going to work out . . . Everything would be okay. But it was beginning to appear otherwise.

Then a miracle happened.

Seriously.

A woman appeared out of nowhere, who works for Iberostar. She quietly said to Christi and me, “Would you consider going to the Grand? It’s adults only, but we can take you there, right now.”

“Absolutely,” we said. “Wait, you don’t work for a different travel agency, do you?” She laughed and said, “No, I’m not going to try to sell you timeshare.” She also said that there was no line, currently, at the Grand.” We were quickly loaded onto a golf cart. Then we were loaded onto a different golf cart, which resembled a VW bus with the sides cut out and golf cart seats installed. It was kind of cool looking.

It carried about ten of us over to the Grand, which is named that for a reason, folks. We actually got to the counter first, where we were quickly assigned a room and given our wrist bands for the all-inclusive stay. The main disappointment was that we would not be in an ocean-front suite, for which we had paid extra for at the Tucan. We are, supposedly, on a waiting list to get one, but every time we ask them we get a rather condescending look from the people at the counter. (I checked last night, and an ocean-front room at the Grand would cost us roughly $1000 more for the whole vacation trip.)

We finally got to a room, which is incredibly nice. We have a king-sized bed, a chaise lounge, full bathroom, fully stocked mini-bar/fridge, coffee-maker with a variety of teas with it, a nice table for the computer, and a patio with a hanging chair, couch, and table outside. The view is pretty, just not the ocean.

After getting settled into the room, we set out to find the ocean, which was just a short walk away. We sat out by the sea for a while, just watching and listening (and drinking the first Miami Vice for the trip). Then we made our way over to the lunch buffet that was still open (by now, it was 4:30). Christi had only had that bag of popcorn since breakfast. We ate all we could in the thirty minutes that this buffet was still open, then came back to the room to get our swim suits and go hang out by the pool.

The pool and pool bar closes at 7:00, so we came back up and changed back into our regular clothes and went down to the dinner buffet for some more food. After eating there, we were so very exhausted that we came back up to the room and read for a little while before falling asleep.

This was one of the more traumatic days of our life together, so far.

Now, on to today.

We woke up around 7:00 this morning (which was probably at least ten to eleven hours of rest), and decided to go ahead and get up and go get some breakfast, after which we would try to find the Amstar representative at this hotel.

The breakfast buffet was pretty spectacular. (The dinner last night was pretty great, too.) There was a lot of different styles of food, some of which was not quite identifiable. There are signs, in a variety of languages, but they don’t always quite line up just right. The best part is the two egg stations, where the cook will create an omelet to order or make eggs sunny-side up or over-easy, or however you want them. There was bacon, sausage, tater tots, fried cheese sticks, some mini-quesadillas with jalapeno cheese in them, about a dozen kinds of bread, a variety of cheeses, jams, and jellies, a dozen different kinds of donuts, a guy making crepes, cereal . . . I can’t name it all! It was delicious.

One thing that is slightly unnerving is that this is one of those kinds of places where, when they seat you at your table, they put your napkin in your lap for you. I really don’t like that, to be totally honest. Haha. Oh, and another thing I forgot about last night. As we looked over the list of restaurants that are available (reservations strongly encouraged), they all required “long trousers” for gentlemen. Well, I didn’t bring any long trousers because the Tucan restaurants only required Bermuda-style shorts! Oh, well.

After breakfast, we found the Amstar rep (after getting another condescending look from a check-counter person upon asking for a ocean-front suite . . . Still none available). He was VERY helpful. We are now assured that we will have our transport back to the airport on Wednesday morning (we were concerned about that because they didn’t really know where we wound up), and helped us contact the people that do the Chichen Itza tour we are supposed to on on tomorrow. Now, I still haven’t heard back from them, so I still am not sure if that’s going to happen, since we are in a different town. I guess I never said that. We are in Puerto Morales, about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

I am waiting on an email from that company to see if we will get picked up in the morning. It was supposed to be at 7:00, so I’m thinking it might be earlier.

After we got done talking to Amstar, we headed back to the room, where we put on our swimsuits and headed to the beach. We stopped at the pool bar for another drink (Miami Vice for me, 7 & 7 for Christi), and quickly found a front row set of lounge chairs, under a straw umbrella thingy, and settled in. This was somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00.

We went to the water. The ocean water feels magnificent! It’s not cold, it’s not hot, it’s perfect. And once you get out into it, around waist to chest high, it’s so very calm. We just stood/floated out there for a while, just relaxing. It felt so good. Yes, I wore sunblock. 100 SPF. I don’t mess with the sun.

After some time in the water, we retreated to the lounges to lay and read. We watched people (the few that were out there) and listened to the water. I almost dozed off a few times (I was completely in the shade . . .again, I don’t mess with the sun). We had another drink, along with some bottled water that had miraculously appeared while we were in the ocean. We both took some pictures. Then, after an hour or so, we went back to the water. While we were out there, we had a nice conversation with some ladies who seemed to be veterans at these Mexico vacations.

At this point, I will tell you what we have decided.

Anyone who reads this blog knows how I believe about God and related matters. We have firmly decided that God’s hand has been in this right from the start. For some reason, which we will probably never know, we weren’t supposed to go to the Iberostar Tucan in Playa del Carmen. We didn’t get the ocean-front view we wanted. But the place we are staying is much nicer than anywhere we have ever stayed, probably nicer than anyplace we would have chosen to stay. We have heard from various people that the Tucan is very noisy. Christi read reports that the rooms are hot, and that the A/C doesn’t work well.

I guess it was really hot yesterday morning.

Duhdumdum crash!

So, even though we had to endure what we went through yesterday, all along, God had it under control. I’m not sure why he couldn’t have just sent us straight to the Grand, instead of having us go to three other hotels first, but I’m not going to question it. Perhaps it was to prove to us that we don’t have to worry about anything, no matter how bad or uncertain anything looks.

This has been a tediously long entry, and for that I apologize. But there was a lot to write. We are blessed; tremendously blessed. Many people experienced worse hardship than we did yesterday. Some were able to get their belongings from their rooms, others were not. We heard that they were instructed to go to a conference room last night, around 8:00 PM, to get their stuff. At least Iberostar was able to do that for them.

We even heard that there was supposed to have been a wedding at the Tucan yesterday! Can you even imagine??

So, yes. We are blessed. Always.

I’m going to post some pictures. Probably tomorr–no, wait. If we wind up going to Chicen Itza, I won’t be posting anything until Tuesday, probably.
If you read this far, I salute you.

At this point, I am doubtful about the Chichen Itza trip, as we still have not heard any news about the transport. And, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a . . .

Grace and peace, friends.

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