Cancun Trip Report

We kicked off this year’s (2009) summer break with a 4-day vacation to Cancun in the 3rd week of June. The package was reserved six month’s in advance through Expedia after comparison shopping at many sites. An overnight flight aboard Mexicana Airways and a 3-night stay in the Hotel Zone came to around $1500 for the four of us. We complimented ourselves on the deal and on our timing, only to find the same deal offered in Expedia for a brief period in mid-February for around $1350 – between the time we reserved (around 6 months before the trip) through late May, the pricing fluctuated between $1350 to as high as $2200. Lesson learned - patience can be a virtue.

The flight was uneventful and the very short break in Mexico City was (less than two hours) was not a hassle. Mexicana service was fairly good – a boxed lunch (small sandwich and snacks) with drinks was offered on all the flights. A peculiarity we noticed at both the Mexico City and Cancun airports were janitors offering trivial services with the expectation of a tip. At Cancun airport the porters hustle you along without waiting for your consent. Quickly getting about one’s business and presenting a token tip for any services that you “caught on the way” is the best option as the other alternative is in one way or the other unpleasant.

Orientation at the Hotel zone is straightforward – Kukulcán Boulevard is the main road running the length. The hotel zone commences at Km-zero just outside Cancun city and covers an area shaped like the number seven, with the short-end starting at Km 0 and terminating at Km 21 near the airport at the long end of the seven. The seven enclose a lagoon and a duo of bridges at the ends of the seven connects the tourist area to the rest of Cancun. The area surrounding seven is a fully-planned exclusive tourist facility complete with around 150 hotels, shopping centers, and entertainment options. Public transportation is the best option to get around and they operate very frequently (every few minutes). Each bus ride is 75 pesos per trip per person including children, independent of distance traveled. Navigating the place via bus is simple once the bearings are in place.

Our hotel was not an all-inclusive resort, although there were three restaurants on-site. Since we had plans in place for sightseeing during the morning hours, this perfectly met our requirements. The facility and the staff were great. Cancun hotels can have several caveats one needs to be aware of:
  1. Time-share sales pitches – many hotels are sites were timeshare sales representatives "camp" (sometimes disguised as concierge) pitching their line. Our experience was to the contrary - the solitary solicitation was a phone call from the Expedia desk at the hotel asking us to stop by their counter for tour coupons. We did not avail of that option. Of the three towers at the hotel, one is the Royal Tower featuring suites with terraces and related luxury features - could be that the sales personnel focused on guests in these rooms.
  2. Strict prohibition of outside food – since it is not an all-inclusive resort, this restriction makes one feel dining at one of the three restaurants at the hotel is imposed. During check-in, it was mentioned that we had to sign something that said outside food was not allowed. But, the staff made it clear that outside personnel were curbed from delivering food to rooms for security reasons. We did not encounter any problem whatsoever in bringing in food purchased from outside the hotel.
  3. “Nickel and Diming” and expecting a tip for everything – our experience was comparable to any US or international hotel (3-stars or above). Availing of bell service is the norm and since our room was at the tower removed from the main building, we were only too glad to let them handle the luggage and to have them escort us in the tram, and point out the various facilities and features of the place. None of the staff displayed any suggestions indicating a tip is warranted, and for us it is only common courtesy to tip for the service provided. We were asked to sign a waiver if we choose not to use the locker at $2 per day. We did avail of this option. Like most international hotels, pre-authorization using a credit card will take care of incidentals. For us, the pre-authorization was for 2000 pesos (less than $200). The charges incurred were for room-service and restaurant dining.
Our reservation was at the tower called the premium tower which had newer rooms with a small balcony overlooking the great ocean. Watching the ships sail by in the horizon was delightful.

Half a km away from the hotel, we found medium priced familiar chains such as Bubba Gump. Though the pricing at this seafood restaurant in the Forrest Gump movie theme is comparable to its US counterparts, the service was a little better. The closest shopping plaza was the Flamingo Plaza - one of the smaller shopping malls that dot the entire stretch of the 20 and odd km of the hotel zone. The plaza itself was devoid of customers in the mid-afternoon hour we visited and the shop-keepers vaguely interested, a far-cry from the “aggressive” nature we were warned of prior to the trip. The pools were fairly crowded in the afternoon-hours, but plenty of beds and sofa parlors were available to stretch out. The pool was lovely and we had a wonderful time there. The private beach-front is excellent when not windy.

The hotel zone has options for activities at various levels. For those interested in the Mayan ruins, the El Rey ruins (37 pesos – roughly US $3 for adults and children are free) are located at at Km 18.5 on Kukulcán. Playa Delfines (Kukulcán, Km 18 near punta nizuc) the highest point in the hotel zone and provides a very good view of the area. Visitors inclined to hone their bargaining skills can find an outlet at the Mercados (similar to flea markets in the US with bargaining being the norm). The one on Kukulcán at Km 9.5 called Coral Negro and three more in Cancun proper – Mercado 28, Mercado 23, and Ki Huic Market are the more popular ones. Route 1 or Route 2 bus from the Ocean side will get one to Cancun downtown from the hotel zone. For Mercado 28 (the most popular one), choose Route 2 and alight at the first stop after the bus passes Avenida Tulum – the driver usually points out this spot, but even otherwise it is hard to miss as it is mass exodus at this point. Route 15 and Route 27 are minor routes that also serve the hotel zone. Buses that say "zona hoteleres" in the front all lead to the hotel zone.

For traditional shopping there are six shopping malls in the hotel zone between Km 8.5 and Km 13. These shopping malls combine both restaurants and entertainment options. The La Isla shopping center (Km 12.5) features an interactive aquarium and the place mimics Venice with bridges and canals in Las Vegas style. Kukulcán Plaza (Km 13), the largest of the malls on the other hand, incorporates movie theaters and bowling alleys in addition to 300-odd shops and restaurants. Flamingo Plaza (Km 11.5), Forum-by-the-sea (Km 9.5), and Plaza Maya Fair (Km 8.5) are smaller malls, but still with their own entertainment options – the Plaza Maya Fair is themed around a rainforest and offers nightly Mayan dance and other music shows while Forum-by-the-sea highlight is a multi-level structure with a large common area in the middle where there are options for rock climbing and other make-shift performances. The mall also features the Rainforest Café on the 2nd floor. The third-floor is a budget food-court – a reasonable dining option for frugal minded travelers. Plaza Caracol (Km 8.5) is on the other end of the spectrum with high-end shops and galleries.

In a nutshell, Cancun delivers for a tourist vacationing in a tropical resort – wonderful beaches, food choices galore, excellent public transportation, organized tours to nearby attractions, and not to mention a large hotel zone completely planned out as a tourist Mecca. Although many would consider a three-night vacation “too short”, for our lifestyle this was wonderfully right on time. Our highlight of the trip was the visit to Chichen Itza, a Mayan ruin which is now one of the Seven Wonders of the World. 

Related Posts:
  1. Cancun Trip Report.
  2. Day tour to Chichen-Itza.
  3. Vacationing in Cancun - Gotchas to avoid for frugal travelers.
Last Updated: 02/2011.

    No comments :

    Labels

    401k ( 15 ) Abad Turtle Beach ( 1 ) Abrams Capital Management ( 5 ) Acoustic Electric Guitars ( 1 ) Acoustic Guitars ( 1 ) ACT ( 1 ) Activist ( 4 ) Address Change ( 2 ) Advanced Placement ( 4 ) air asia ( 2 ) airlines ( 2 ) Akre Capital Management ( 18 ) Alex Roepers ( 5 ) AP ( 4 ) apartments ( 2 ) Appaloosa ( 15 ) ARIUS ( 1 ) Arlington Value Capital ( 3 ) Atlantic Investment Management ( 5 ) Ayemenem ( 1 ) Bangalore ( 3 ) Bangkok ( 2 ) Bannerghatta National Park ( 1 ) barbuda ( 2 ) Battery Park ( 1 ) Baupost ( 2 ) Baupost Group ( 17 ) bay area ( 2 ) BDCs ( 3 ) Benjamin Graham ( 2 ) Benjamin Graham Model ( 2 ) Berijam Lake ( 2 ) Berkshire Hathaway ( 30 ) best sites ( 9 ) Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ( 13 ) Bill Ackman ( 19 ) Bill Gates ( 14 ) Blue Ridge Capital ( 13 ) Blum Capital Partners ( 12 ) books ( 4 ) Boone Pickens ( 2 ) BP Capital Management ( 2 ) Brave Warrior ( 3 ) Brave Warrior Advisors ( 12 ) british honduras ( 2 ) Bruce Berkowitz ( 19 ) Bruce Fund ( 12 ) Camcorders ( 3 ) canada ( 4 ) cancun ( 3 ) CANROYs ( 7 ) Cantillon ( 12 ) carl icahn ( 9 ) Carl Ichan ( 8 ) casino ( 3 ) Casio ( 2 ) CBRE ( 2 ) CEF ( 2 ) Charles Akre ( 15 ) Charlie Munger ( 14 ) Chase Coleman ( 13 ) Chou Associates ( 18 ) Christmas gifts ( 7 ) Christopher H. Browne ( 7 ) Chuck Akre ( 13 ) Cisco ( 2 ) Class Action Settlements ( 2 ) CLEP ( 1 ) Coatue Management ( 13 ) Cochin ( 2 ) coin collecting ( 266 ) collectibles ( 266 ) Consumer Product Reviews ( 29 ) cook islands ( 2 ) coonoor ( 2 ) Covered Calls ( 2 ) credai ( 4 ) Daily Journal ( 14 ) Dalal Street ( 8 ) Dan Loeb ( 10 ) DAT ( 1 ) David Abrams ( 5 ) David Einhorn ( 22 ) David Swensen ( 17 ) David Tepper ( 15 ) David Winters ( 15 ) DCF ( 2 ) Digital Piano ( 3 ) Dinakar Singh ( 13 ) Donald Yacktman ( 10 ) dry bulk shipping ( 2 ) Duquesne ( 18 ) Education ( 37 ) Edward Lampert ( 14 ) Egerton Capital ( 13 ) Egypt ( 3 ) Elementary Education ( 10 ) Elementary School Textbooks ( 5 ) eReaders ( 2 ) Eric Mindich ( 13 ) ESL Investments ( 9 ) ESPP ( 6 ) ETF ( 2 ) ETN ( 2 ) Eton Park ( 13 ) Everyday Musings ( 58 ) Exam Prep ( 7 ) Exiting the rat race - how to? ( 19 ) EXPLORE ( 1 ) Fair Value Estimates ( 4 ) Fairfax Financial ( 4 ) Fairfax Financial Holdings ( 14 ) Fairholme ( 19 ) Fairpointe ( 13 ) Family Office ( 5 ) FD Laddering ( 1 ) Financial Independence ( 93 ) Fisher Asset Management ( 10 ) Flash Camcorders ( 3 ) flat ( 4 ) flats ( 2 ) Flip ( 3 ) Francis Chou ( 18 ) free ( 17 ) frugal ( 3 ) Frugal Living ( 34 ) Fund Holdings ( 756 ) futures ( 2 ) FVE ( 2 ) gambling ( 3 ) garmin ( 2 ) Genting ( 2 ) george soros ( 21 ) giveaway ( 15 ) Glenn Greenberg ( 16 ) Glenview Capital ( 10 ) GMAT ( 1 ) Google ( 2 ) Gotham Asset Management ( 7 ) gps ( 5 ) GRE ( 1 ) Greenlight Capital ( 22 ) Guitars ( 3 ) Half Marathon ( 2 ) Hawaii ( 2 ) Hedge Funds ( 775 ) HELOC ( 1 ) High School Education ( 7 ) High School Textbooks ( 6 ) HOA ( 3 ) hobby ( 17 ) holiday shopping ( 7 ) Holidays ( 3 ) Holyland ( 11 ) Home Improvement ( 2 ) home ownership ( 5 ) Homes ( 18 ) Homeschool ( 18 ) Houses ( 2 ) Housing ( 3 ) Hykon ( 2 ) Ian Cumming ( 15 ) Icahn Enterprises ( 6 ) india real estate ( 5 ) Infinuvo ( 6 ) Insurance ( 2 ) invesco ( 17 ) investing strategies ( 2 ) Investment Portfolio ( 94 ) Investment Research ( 10 ) Investments ( 7 ) iRobot ( 5 ) Irving Kahn ( 10 ) israel ( 5 ) Jason Maynard ( 10 ) Jefferies ( 2 ) Jeffrey Bruce ( 13 ) Jeffrey Ubben ( 12 ) Jerusalem ( 2 ) Jim Chanos ( 13 ) Joel Greenblatt ( 7 ) John Armitage ( 13 ) John Griffin ( 13 ) John Paulson ( 17 ) Joho Capital ( 15 ) Jordan ( 3 ) Joseph Steinberg ( 9 ) Julian Robertson ( 4 ) Kahn Brothers ( 10 ) Kakkanad ( 4 ) Kanyakumari ( 2 ) Kawai ( 2 ) Ken Fisher ( 10 ) kerala real estate ( 5 ) Kids ( 49 ) Kids Yamaha ( 3 ) Kindle ( 2 ) kochi ( 8 ) Kodaikanal ( 2 ) Korg ( 2 ) Kraft ( 2 ) Kuala Lumpur ( 2 ) KWA ( 2 ) Kynikos ( 13 ) laptop ( 5 ) Larry Robbins ( 10 ) Las Vegas ( 2 ) Leon Cooperman ( 14 ) Leucadia ( 2 ) Leucadia National ( 13 ) Lone Pine Capital ( 9 ) long ( 6 ) long call ( 2 ) long puts ( 3 ) Lou Simpson ( 15 ) LSAT ( 1 ) Mahabalipuram ( 2 ) Malaysia ( 3 ) Marathon ( 2 ) Mark McGoldrick ( 10 ) Markel ( 13 ) Mason Hawkins ( 4 ) MCAT ( 1 ) Melinda Gates ( 7 ) memorabilia ( 266 ) MFP Investors ( 13 ) Michael Dell ( 15 ) Michael Price ( 13 ) Middle School Education ( 4 ) Middle School Textbooks ( 3 ) Mini Notebook ( 3 ) MODUS ( 1 ) Mohnish Pabrai ( 21 ) mortgage ( 2 ) Mount Kellett ( 10 ) MSD Capital ( 15 ) Music ( 6 ) Mutual Funds ( 5 ) mysore ( 2 ) Nelson Peltz ( 9 ) Netbook ( 4 ) Notebook ( 3 ) numismatics ( 266 ) O-Duster ( 1 ) Oahu ( 2 ) offers ( 2 ) Ole Andreas Halvorsen ( 10 ) Omega Advisors ( 14 ) online tax ( 4 ) ooty ( 2 ) Options ( 4 ) Pabrai Fund ( 17 ) passive income ( 7 ) pattaya ( 2 ) Paulson & Company ( 7 ) Paulson and Company ( 9 ) PEG ( 2 ) Pershing Square ( 19 ) Phil Fisher ( 5 ) philately ( 283 ) Philippe Laffont ( 13 ) Piano ( 9 ) PLAN Test ( 1 ) portfolio ( 4 ) Prem Watsa ( 17 ) product reviews ( 13 ) Property Taxes ( 2 ) PSAT ( 1 ) R2I ( 24 ) R2I Finances ( 3 ) R2I Housing ( 5 ) Raising Kids ( 41 ) Rat Race ( 15 ) RBS Partners ( 12 ) reading ( 5 ) real estate ( 6 ) Reducing Expenses ( 2 ) REIT ( 3 ) Retirement Portfolio ( 9 ) Reviews ( 81 ) Richard C. Blum ( 12 ) Robert Bruce ( 13 ) Robert Karr ( 15 ) Robotic Vacuum ( 4 ) Roland ( 2 ) Roomba ( 10 ) schooling ( 2 ) Sears ( 9 ) seeking alpha ( 2 ) Services - Reviews ( 33 ) Seth Klarman ( 19 ) Shipping ( 5 ) Shopping ( 3 ) short ( 5 ) short calls ( 2 ) short put ( 2 ) short puts ( 2 ) short selling ( 7 ) Ski ( 5 ) Sled ( 4 ) Solar Stocks ( 13 ) Soros Fund Management ( 14 ) Southeastern Asset Management ( 4 ) Southwest ( 2 ) spin-offs ( 2 ) SQ Advisors ( 15 ) stamp collecting ( 283 ) Stanley Druckenmiller ( 18 ) Statue of Liberty ( 2 ) Stephen Mandel ( 9 ) Stock Analysis ( 84 ) Stock Investments ( 4 ) Stock Portfolio Updates ( 6 ) stocks ( 3 ) summer ( 2 ) tax ( 6 ) TaxAct ( 3 ) TaxCut ( 1 ) Teacher's Editions ( 5 ) Technology ( 4 ) Test Prep ( 11 ) Thailand ( 3 ) Thekkady ( 2 ) theme park ( 2 ) Third Point ( 10 ) Thomas Gayner ( 13 ) Thyra Zerhusen ( 13 ) Tiger Cub ( 28 ) Tiger Global ( 14 ) Tiger Management ( 12 ) Time Square ( 2 ) TOEFL ( 1 ) TPG-Axon ( 13 ) Travel ( 278 ) Travel Reviews ( 82 ) Trian Fund Holdings ( 9 ) trip report ( 21 ) TurboTax ( 3 ) Tweedy Browne ( 10 ) Vacations ( 28 ) value investing ( 12 ) ValueAct ( 5 ) ValueAct Holdings ( 6 ) Vancouver ( 2 ) Video ( 3 ) Viking Global ( 10 ) Wallace Weitz ( 10 ) Warren Buffett ( 30 ) Wayanad ( 4 ) Weitz Investment Management ( 9 ) wilbur ross ( 17 ) William Von Mueffling ( 12 ) Wintergreen Advisors ( 15 ) Yacktman Asset Management ( 10 ) Yale Endowment ( 17 ) Yale University ( 7 ) Yamaha ( 7 ) YDP ( 1 ) YPG ( 1 )