Monday, July 22, 2019

Our Cancun Trip 

This summer, we decided we wanted to go to a place which did not require a lot of planning, and hence we booked an all inclusive resort in Cancun. I had asked couple of friends and decided on the Hyatt Ziva.  I highly recommend this hotel, we had an amazing time.

Dates of Travel - July 16 to July 21 2019
  • Rooms were good size, and fully updated.
  • We had an ocean front room with amazing views. We could see the ocean, the beach, the pools and all the way to the end of the Hotel Zone. It was beautiful.
  • You can enjoy a  spa, and eating at 8 different restaurantsThe sweet tooths haven't been forgotten either, with a dedicated pastry/sweet shop to satisfy those cravings (like me)
  • After the sweet shop, I ended up spending a lot of time in the gym, which is not surprising.
  • Of course the unlimited drinks on hot days are just what you need
  • The resort also has shops (expensive though) incase you want to buy something
  • They also have activity center, Kids club ( which Tara used twice)
  • Every night they have night shows, and they are really good. Each day its a different show. I highly recommend seeing the Michael Jackson show
  • They have nanny service if you require. This is extra cost
  • There is free Kayaking
  • They also have a Dolphin pool
  • More than anything else, I felt the people in the resort really cared about their guests and the experience the guests have here.
My recommendations for Cancun
  • I think with kids, All inclusive makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, for everything you need to go out and bargain, or find your own food spots. We did not want to take that hassle, so this really worked for us.
  • The shuttles to and fro from airport to hotel, we booked Happy Shuttle Cancun, and they are a lot cheaper - $35. The hotel did tell us a very high cost, and we did not go with that. So book yours via Happy shuttle
  • Have enough $5, $1, $10, $20 notes with you for tipping. And use your own judgement to tip. We tipped the bell boy, the room service - each time they cleaned our rooms, and also few other folks who helped us
  • Take your sunscreen with you, as much as you need. You will use it a lot, and buying at the hotel is very expensive
  • Also take biodegradable insect repellant, if you plan to visit Chichinitza or the Senotes
  • Take two sets of swim wear, and you will be using them a lot. One set is ok, if you want to reduce luggage, but you might end up wearing your wet one again
  • The Chichinitza trip is a long one for kids, so I would highly recommend you doing it only as adults, which is tricky. So one parent can do it. In my case, Sree was not too keen, so I went. I booked the Chichinitza trip via Happy shuttle itself and it was about $65
  • If you use the gym, take gym clothes. I did and It was great to use the gym, with all the food you were consuming
  • Definitely try scuba diving there. The dive shop in the resort is great, and they do take care of you well. Ask Loui to be your instructor, he will take care of you. See if you can go see the underwater museum along with the Reef. 
  • Take floats for the kids, it will come in very handy.
Day 1 - Reaching Cancun 

We woke up at 4, and started from home around 5 am. Our friend, Hemal came to drop us. We, being used to packing more bags, was surprised that we just had 2 check ins and one cabin and a carry on.
We reached airport around 5:30 am and the check-in and security check happened pretty quickly. We waited at the gate for about an hour. Kids were a pain. I took Tara went to walk around and she made me buy these surprise balls which was expensive at the airport. Then after that Pranav got too tired from the early morning waking up, and he was cranky. He wanted to be carried by me or Sree all the time.

Finally we boarded the flight. I sat with the kids, and Sree was on the other side. Tara watched the entertainment , but Pranav was too distracted, overly tired and was so wiggly and throwing tantrums for almost 2 hrs. Then the last hour, he somehow slept off. I caught some of the Movie Blind Side - Sandra Bullock and loved it.

We reached Dallas and Sree quickly grabbed some lunch to-go and we boarded the flight to Cancun. Tara slept in the plane while Pranav was fully up and about. Sree sat with them half the time and then I switched with him. I watched the rest of Blind Side and then we landed in Cancun.
We forgot to carry a pen with us to fill the immigration form, so we had to fill it up at the airport. Then we got the on arrival visa and we finished customs, collected baggage and came out.

While we were walking out, airport authorities told us they can help and then started talking to us about the many offers they have for Xcaret and other places. Sree was so tired and kids were cranky, so we could not make any decisions and we went outside telling them we will think about it. We were again stopped by another person in the airport and told us, he will give us a discount permission ticket which we can use at the beach palace to book a trip to Xcaret. By now Sree was too tired, kids were cranky, so I just collected the form from him and we all went out.

We waited for our shuttle, and it came in a bit and Pranav slept off after some crankiness. We reached Hyatt Ziva, checked into our room, explored the awesome view from our room.

We quickly changed and walked down to one of the restaurants, El Mercado, which offered buffet, and had a good dinner. We  tried different things and also went into a pastry shop which the resort had and had pastry too. The marshmallows which we dipped in white chocolate was amazing.

Macaroons in the sweet shop - Pastels

We enjoying the yummy treats in Pastels

There was also a cafe right there, from where we got milk for the kids.
With a full stomach and completely exhausted, we hit the bed and slept like a log.

Done for the day.

Day 2 - First full day in the resort. 

View from our Ocean front room

I had kept the alarm for 5:45 am to checkout the sunrise. But I slept way past it. Finally at 9, I woke up and dressed and went to the gym. Hyatt Ziva has a nice gym. I did treadmill for about 30 minutes and did elliptical and cycling and bit of weights. The amount of food we are gobbling, I should atleast do this. But super glad I did it, because it kept me fresh for the rest of the day.

 I came to the room, kids had woken up, and then we all went down to the restaurant named 'Tradewinds' and had breakfast there. We took fruits, and guava was very tasty. Kids had waffle and eggs. The yogurt there was also yummy!

After this, we came back to the room and we all dressed for the pool. The floats were taken too, but the shop near the kids pool mentioned their machine to fill up the floats is not working. So I was upset that we brought it all the way from home and there is no way to fill it up.

We went and found a spot on the beach to keep our things and the kids and us enjoyed the beach for a while. It was hot. I don’t deny that, but it was not as bad as I thought.
Then after beach, I went around the pool to find a spot and in a bit got one.

I had also went back to see how I can blow the floats up. A young man named Paul in the activity center next to the float shop mentioned he can do it for me and he asked me to come back by 2 PM. I left the floats there and then we all hanged around the kids pool for a while.
Ready for the beach and pool

I later took Tara to kids club and it was family time in the baby pool, so we got both the kids into the baby pool and they hanged around there having fun on the slides. After this, Tara continued to be there in the kids club to make some cup cakes etc, while we came to the room, changed and got Pranav changed too. We brought Tara back up later, and then changed her. Once all of us got ready, and we went to the Mexican restaurant, Habaneros in the resort to have some amazing Mexican food.

This drink was called Mosquito

Tacos at Habaneros
Me and Sree had tacos. Kids had quesadilla and fish fingers. The drink that I ordered called Mosquito, was so amazing. I loved the lunch. And finally we ended up with sweet Tamale, which was really yummy too.

Sweet Tamale

We came back to our room and discussed the plans for visiting Tulum or Chichinitza. Sree clearly said Xcaret will be too much for this trip and also he is not interested in going to a theme park like place after coming here and it was a drive up there.

After much discussion, he said, the trip to Tulum or Chichinitza will be a long one and kids might not enjoy it so much, so he will stay back and I can do a shared bus trip to any of these.
So I decided on Chichinitza. It’s part of the new seven wonders of the world and I wanted to visit it. Tulum is supposed to be very beautiful too, but I decided to go to Chichinitza.

After booking the trip, we went down to the hotel grounds for a stroll. We saw a private wedding party happening and also we walked further down to another beach.
At sunset

The kids started getting tired and after the stroll, we went for dinner in 'The Moongate'. We opted for the bar seat where the chef would interact with us while he cooked. The children really enjoyed this along with the food. We all loved it.
This guy had magic hands
After a hearty dinner and a stop at the pastry shop pastels, where me and Tara munched on marshmallows dipped in white chocolate, we called it a day.

I packed my stuff for tomorrow and  headed to bed.

Day 3 - Solo trip to Chichinitza and Grand Cenote, Velladivold

I woke up at 5 am today and went to the gym. I cannot believe that I actually went to the gym. I worked out for about 35 minutes and wanted to see the sunrise. But it was not rising where I thought it would and I had to go to a different part. So I left that and went to get dressed for the tour today. I packed everything I wanted, got ready and went down and sat in the lobby. I was a bit anxious about finding the right shuttle. So I called the happy shuttle and they told me to wait there. In about 10 minutes, someone came and called my name and I followed him to a bus. The bus takes you to a hub, where you wait for a few mins again to board the right bus for the tour, it was all well communicated and well arranged.They also offered a service in the bus, where they would provide breakfast sandwich, homemade cookie and drinks in the bus for $10. I am glad I signed up for it, as I did not have to go around getting drinks from shops etc, and I would have definitely paid more than $10 for it anyways.

They gave me a ham sandwich and cookie and juice for breakfast.

The tour started at 8:45 am. The guide and the driver and the helper was all very nice. The guide’s name was Ave. He is very funny too. As we drove to the Grand Cenote, he was telling us a lot about Mayan culture, their numbering system etc. we reached the cenote, by 11:30 AM.

They told we need to have a biodegradable insect repellant in the cenote, and I got one from them, inspire of having one from the hotel.

We walked around a bit, and then I changed into swim suit, took a shower and then walked into the Cenote. It was so marvelous to see. Just like the ones you see in the pics. They had life jackets and lockers and I paid for those and then entered the cenote. The cold water combined with the light from the hole in the ceiling was something magical. And it was not scary as there was enough people
In the pool. I did not go much further away from the entrance, and was hanging onto the deck quiet a bit. At one point I did leave my hands off the deck and just floated around.
After this, I went back returned the life jacket and took all my stuff. I went and changed and then walked towards the restaurant.

There were hardly any insects there.

inside the Cenote

After a dip in the Cenote

I did not realize the food was buffet. But then I figured it and went and took food. I mean nothing great to mention.  Normal food. Wish it was better. I also ordered a margarita thinking it was part of the ticket, but apparently it was not, so I paid for it. The margarita was too sweet and not the best.

I did get a souvenir and then walked back to the bus.

It was another 1 hr drive to Chichinitza. Ave, the guide kept telling a lot more about Mayan culture.he also distributed a specific kind of tequila drink. I had it one gulp. I was supposed to drink it with all after saying some prayer. Anyways, he told me he hopes the Mayan gods will not punish me :)

Once we reached Chichinitza, we were asked to stick with the group. We were also told not to pay heed to the vendors outside Chichinitza. With the additional $10 I paid, I got an umbrella and water when I got down and then, I asked an elderly couple, Dave and Lois if I can just walk with them during the tour. They were more than happy.
Slowly I got to know them. They are here for their youngest son’s marriage which is happening in an all inclusive resort in Cancun on Monday. They have 4 kids and all of them are going to be here. In this tour, their daughter and family was also there. They have been married for 51 yrs :). And they both love to travel. Dave was a strategic consultant for the last 30 years. It was fun to get to know them and do the tour with them


With Dave and Lois

Our guide for the english speaking group, was different and had his own way of explaining concepts. He explained about the Mayan calendar, Chichinitza,  the different structures there and what it meant. Temple of sacrifice, the courtyard for the games they played, temple where the priest sat, how the head of the leader of losing team is taken by the winning team etc etc.
It was a lot of information. After he finished his explanations, it was time to walk back to the bus, but me and Dave went further down and looked more at the temple of sacrifice and spent some time there and walked back to the bus.

I think its amazing that Mayans  have built a temple for the gods, and we are still discovering more about the ruins with every year.

Once we got into the bus, I thought we were going back, but looks like, there was one more stop in the Spanish village of Velladelud. The houses were made of concrete and were so colorful. Reminded me of the houses in Kerala.
It was only a 20 min stop, where we could use the restroom, and by the time I came out, Dave already had an extra icecream for me. It was corn icecream and not too sweet at all. I enjoyed it!

Corn ice-cream

Then, we walked and took some pics of the church there which was spectacular and took some pics in the Plaza. Got a cute pic of Dave and Lois on the love chairs in the plaza. Then we headed back to the bus.
The love chairs in the plaza for Velladeloid
A very beautiful church

As the trip was ending, and we were on a 2 hr drive, Sergio the helper gave all of us tequila, which we enjoyed. We were also given chips.
In the middle I really wanted to use the restroom and used the one in bus. I really appreciate these ADA buses. They make sure everything is neat and clean.

I was the last one to be dropped off at the hotel and I tipped them decently and then caught up with Sree and kids for a dinner at 24 hrs restaurant  in the resort. I was gobbling down food. Sree and kids had a relaxed day, they ordered breakfast in the room, Tara went to kids club for about 2 hrs.After sometime around 4 pm or so, they had gone to the pool on our side of the room. It was much quieter and nicer they said in this pool. After pool, the kids had a bath and Pappu slept off, so he ordered in dinner in the room again and after this they were waiting for me.

I chatted with Sree about the day and we called it a day.

Day 4  - Resort day

I could not wake up early today, due to the long day yesterday. So when I woke up it was around 9 am. The kids also woke up around same time. I got some yogurt etc from downstairs and they had that. Around 10:30 I went to the gym. Till 11:30 I was in the gym. Once I came back, I read Robert Galbraith for a while and then Sree went to the gym.

We all got ready and by the time we went for lunch, it was around 2 PM. We had lunch at an Italian place. I also went and spoke to the Dolphin place and asked them about rates for the Interaction with Dolphin etc. and I booked one for Tara and me. Then I went to the activities place, the place where they help me blow up our floaties, they had scuba diving and in my excitement I signed up for it.

After this, we went upstairs and then changed to swimsuits and came down for a swim. The kids and us were in the pool for almost 2 hrs to 2.5 hrs. After which, we went up, got dressed and then went to dinner to Tradewinds.

We also saw the night show, which was Mexican show. It was interactive so we all danced. Then we sat around a little more while a band played and then went to the bar to do tequila tasting. But they did not have that. So we got two spicy margaritas and came back to the room. We put the kids down, and I could not finish the margarita due to the spice.

Later in the night, I got so anxious about scuba diving that I could hardly sleep. I slept for an hour, then woke up around 1 am and until around 4 am, I was looking up YouTube videos on how you scuba dive and how risky it is etc and working up my mind a lot. I was so anxious I was thinking I will just go cancel the next day and finally at one point I just drifted to sleep.

Day 5 - Scuba diving and Dolphin Interaction

Today, we had kept alarm at 6:00 am to watch sunrise. We both woke up thinking we will be able to watch the sunrise from a side corridor window. But apparently none of those windows helped, the sun was well hidden in some other side. So we ditched the idea and came back and slept, as we can’t go too far anyways as kids were sleeping.

I slept off again for another 2 hrs and hence had to ditch gym. By the time we woke up it was 8:45 or so. I woke up and got into my swimsuit and got the kids up and changed Tara to swimsuit too.

We all went down for a quick breakfast and then went down to the dolphin activity check-in. We checked in and then we were given some information and they took us to the dolphin pool. Sree and Pranav waited at the viewing area. We were given life jackets and then we were taken to the dolphin pool. I was the only one who was not that good in swimming. So I told them that upfront. The pool was 12 feet in depth. Initially we were asked to stand on the dock side and the dolphin who was named Tatich, which means boss in Mayan language played with us. We also had a dolphin ride which was fun, where we held onto the dolphin’s fin and the dolphin would pull us. That was fun. Tara was so brave she went on her own. Then, we moved into the central part where the depth was 12 feet and I was trying to balance with her and me. And I was falling over a bit and a nice young man who was doing the activity with us, held her. We did the rest of the activities and then got out. The photos and videos were very expensive but we still got it, as these are memories.

Daniel who helped Tara in the water

I was still worried about scuba. So I went to the activity center and spoke to Sophia there that I am really worried and want the instructor to hold onto my hand. She took me to Eric who told me, he will help me practice a bit in the pool, and then see how it goes.

I came down to meet Eric in the pool and he was still getting all his gear, so I spoke to Sophia for a while. I gave her a good tip for helping me. She lives in Cancun and she just finished schooling. Her mom has taken up job in another part of Mexico. She has taken this job to keep herself engaged during the summer and until she joins college. She likes sports so she wants to graduate in communications and do sports reporting and she also likes to design swim wear so opening a swim wear boutique is also her idea. For a 17 year old, she seems to be so patient, understanding and caring. I was hardly that when I was 17.

With Sophia

Eric came in a bit and myself and Eric did try the scuba gear in the pool. First time he told
me I looked scared and not to go into the ocean. But the second time, he said I could try taking the class. So we went to the dive shop and he told the manager there that I would like to dive but I need someone to hold my hand. The person told me that, another option for me is to take a private instructor with me. but that would cost me extra. And I was totally ok with that. I really wanted give this a try. So paid for the private instructor. And there was also an Asian family who was two girls and one boy who was about 11 yrs old who was with us. Two instructors were going with them too.
An instructor named Loui came and he gave me fins to fit in. And he also gave initial instructions. I felt he would be a great person to dive with. And I asked him if he would dive with me. And he agreed.

We were told the details of how to clear the water in the masks, how to pop our ears as we go down. How to equalize ourselves with the pressure. The bouyancy and the oxygen monitoring, will be handled by the instructor.

We were taken a bit into the ocean where we can put our feet down, and asked to practice our skills. Skills on how to correct our masks and let the water out of it, skills of what to do if we lose our regulator etc. I was able to do that without any issues inside water. We also saw a few fishes and it was so beautiful even there. I felt more confident about going deep into the ocean. And was really excited now.

They drove us 2-3 minutes into the ocean where the Chitales reef was. Once there, the boat was docked and we were helped with the scuba gear. Then Loui put out a rope into the water. I also had weights on my body to help me sink. And as we went down the rope underwater, I knew this was the real thing. Something I have never done in my life before. And so grateful to have Loui with me. Due to the pressure the ears started paining and I closed my nose and tried to blow through it as Loui told me. And I had to do it multiple times to equalize myself. Then we reached the ocean floor and he held my hand and we swam to the different parts of the reef and I saw school of fishes, various colors and the sea turtles up close. It was amazing! I have never had an experience like this, and I just loved it. I have had a bad time snorkeling in Hawaii, and this one totally made up for it. I cannot  thank Eric, Loui and Sophia enough for helping me out so so much in doing this trip. We were under water for around 40 minutes. I gave Loui a good tip, after we were back. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad I did it.

With Eric

With Loui

Sea turtle

Playing with the fishes

We came back to the dive shop and I had to go back to the room to get some cash to buy the photos and video, and then feeling really grateful, I went to the pool area where Sree and kids were just starting. I had to take something up into the room, so I had to go back and I was using the restroom and I got stuck there. The door will not open. I did not have my phone with me, so no way to call Sree.

I banged on the door, also tried to somehow open it, but it would not. Finally hearing my banging the room service person came and then she called for help and the reception sent someone over and I was finally out. Phew! I almost thought I am going to be inside there for the whole time until Sree came up. I was stuck inside for around 15-20 mins.

Then I went to the pool and we all had fun in the pool for about 2 hrs. Tara has been constantly practicing what she has learnt in swimming class and she was very excited she could swim in big pools.

After this we went up and all of us had a bath, and then dressed up and went to Habeneros ( the Mexican restaurant in the resort). Just to note, Sree also got stuck in the restroom again, and I had to call reception again to take him out. We did give this feedback to Hyatt and they said they will look into this.
The food again was amazing in Habaneros, and we had two drinks. I loved it. It was our last meal in the resort.

On the way back, the resort night activity was the Michael Jackson show and it was amazing. Kids and Sree went up, and I saw it for a bit more longer and went up after buying the magnets from the gift shop.

We packed our stuff and kept alarm for 2:30 am and called it a day.

Day 6 - Coming back to San Jose 

Nothing much to talk about today. We checked out of the hotel around 3:45 am. The shuttle through happy shuttle that we booked came to pick us up. We finished the process in the airport and waited at the gate. I got some milk and snacks for the kids and they had that. We did the restroom trips with them and then boarded the flight.

At the airport

At the airport

Bye Bye Hyatt Ziva

Pranav slept off for the entire flight, so that was a blessing. Tara too slept a bit. I slept, I don’t think Sree did.

We reached Dallas and then it was really tight. We had to clear customs, check out our baggage , check the baggage in again and then go through security check again. Then we had to take the sky train to terminal C. Our gate which was told to us was 28, but it was actually 11. So from 28, we had to walk all the way to 11. We reached and they started boarding. Sree went quickly and got us sandwiches which was a great decision! And then after boarding, these flights don’t have the entertainment in the seat. So you need to see through the phone. Both the kids gave us a tough time as both wanted the iPad. Pranav was impossible and both me and Sree were struggling. He was so active! I knew he will soon go down once we reach San Jose.

Finally finally we reached San Jose. And then collected our bags and Hemal was there to pick us up.

We reached home, and ordered food and I sat around looking at the great pics of my scuba diving :).

Best memory ever.