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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Am I a Cruiser?


My Cruise Experience-
Am I a cruiser?

Not too long ago, I took my fifteen ad half year old daughter, and her 19 year old sister on a three Carnival Cruise. After I returned for the cruise, I asked myself over and over, am I a cruiser?

The cruise sailed from Long Beach, California to Ensenada, Mexico. We then looped back to Long Beach. We spent two days at sea one in the town of Ensenada. The days at sea were spent overeating incredible delicious food while hanging out on the main deck and watching the entertainment, dancing to some great 80's music till my daughters decided that mom was getting too crazy, playing miniature golf, and walking the deck. Nights were devoted to more eating, lots of picture taking by the many professional photographers on ship, and more music and family rated shows until 10 PM.

On our one day at port, I had high hopes of going to EL ROSARIO, "A tranquil village in a wide valley, the last town along the transpeninsular highway with a full range of lodgings, stores and services until Guerrero Negro in Baja California Sur. The village also contained mission ruins and a museum." This, I found, was tougher to accomplish then I expected. I made the mistake of when I got off the ship of getting on a bus that would take us to town. This happened mostly because I the information booth at the port, seemed to discourage the trip. My girls and I in turn picked up on the vibes that were felt and decided maybe we should come up with a plan B. The plan B, turned out to be a an excursion to the Ensenada’s Blow Hole La- Bufadora . The excursion for $15.00 each, took us to the Blow Hole, gave a free drink and chips and the opportunity to shop at the open market that was located there. The drive to the Blow Hole was filled with beautiful scenery as well as some interesting information from our guide in regards to the crops that were grown in the area.
When we got to La Bufadora, we were told that it was one of the largest blow holes in North America. At the time, I was not overly impressed. The pictures we took of it while we were there, however, were quite impressive and made me wish I had signed us up for the canoeing excursion for an up-close view of the Blow Hole. After many pictures, we went off to find the restaurant where we were to get our free drinks. I wish I could say the drinks were fabulous, but unfortunately, they were not. It was then off to a little shopping. And that was exactly what it was; a little shopping. Excursions such as this one are not for people, like me, who like to take their time in making a purchases. Once we got back to Ensenada, I rebelled. I realized, how close the ship was to the town and told my girls we were walking back after we looked around the town. The walk, for me was both enjoyable and enlightening. I found out from the locals, that it would not have been that hard or far to go the village of EL ROSARIO. In fact when I told one of the vendors of my desire for a beach that day, he said, you should have went to EL ROSARIO. Your daughters would have loved it. By then, I was having what you would call a "melt down." I wanted my ocean fix! I wanted to be IN THE OCEAN! NOT ON IT OR BESIDE IT! While I was having my melt down, my girls and I stumbled upon a very quaint restaurant where I got my sanity back before going back on the ship. That night, it dawned on me.... there was a way I could still get my beach in. Instead of going to the airport first thing in the morning and sitting all day while we waited for our flight home, I would rent a car and take the girls to the beach in California.
The next morning, I woke up with renewed energy and spirit. A quick call to Enterprise rental cars, and a short ride to get the rental car and we were on California coastline highway. This was heaven to me. We made a quick stop in Newport Beach to view the ocean. Then it was back in the car where we found the an awesome spot in Laguna Beach to swim. And I swam. I managed to drag my 15 year old in the water. My year old, just didn't want to look a mess when got on the plane. I understood. That would have been me when I was her age. After indulging in some great waves, I reluctantly got out of the water and got back in the car for our drive to the airport.
For me, any time I am near the water and its warm enough to be in it, I have to have a full day of just splashing around and catching a wave. Does this mean I have not a cruiser? No. What it does mean is that I need planned shore excursions that include a full day at the beach.
So, are you a cruiser?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Goodbye Mexico, Hello Colorado











This morning brings mixed emotions. Excited to be going home and see the special people in my life, but sad to leave the majestic Caribbean water. I take one last walk on the beach where I meet some people who used to live in Russia. Since I have gone to Russia twice on mission trips, we have a lively disscusion on Russian politics, the beauty in Russia and how it differs from the USA. Then, its back to the room to pack and one last breakfast in the dining room. The servers there look sad to see us go. Their parting words are, "Come back and see us soon." After capturing many photo memories, we go back one last time to the room to gather up our suitcases before we start our trip home. On our way to the lobby, I run into our friends from Spain. This of course turns into another photo session, along with sharing of email and facebook addresses. Before, I know it, we need to leave for the airport. Once there, I am surprised at how fast the line to check in goes. I have horrible memmories of standing for what seemed like forever at the Cancun Airport waiting to check in for a flight home. After check in, we go to the terminal area and check out the duty free shops. Nothing seems appealing except for the resturant that is offering what like quart size margarita. We consider getting one but they are $12.00 and all the pesos have been spent. So, no marg. At 5 pm, we are in the air and on our way home. The flight home has a few issues. First, Tammi had bought candles with oil in them at the airport in Cancun. She makes it on the plane with them but finds out in Dallas she will either have to throw them away or check another bag in. She decides she does not want to throw them away so off she goes to baggage to take care of the situation. This leaves us barely enough time to catch our flight to Denver. Running and gasping for air, we make it to the plane just as they are boarding. The flight from Dallas to Denver is a little bumpy as we are coming in before a storm. The captain warns everyone that it might be rough. It actually turns out better than expected. Denver International Airport,(DIA), is pretty empty. This makes for a short wait to get a shuttle back to USA Parking.

I use my King Super card at USA parking to get a $1.00 off each day that I was gone. I also hand them my parking punch card which once it is filled allows me to get a freebie parking the next time I use it. Finally, at midnight,I arrive home to two attention needing cats and my dog, Ginger.

Note, the resort we stayed at charged $10.00 an hour to use the internet or $80.00 for five days. I lucked out when as the hotel manger gave it to me free since the arrangements for my stay were mixed up. I therefore, should have had this blog done in Mexico...but, when in Mexico, its hard not to subscribe to just having fun!


Sandy Tanner
Family Travel Consultant/Affiliated with All Inclusive Vacations
970.310.3625
www.familytravelconsultant.com
"All the World is a book, those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine

Playa Del Carmen- Day 3 of Mexico- Tuesday








Upon wakening on Tuesday morning, I decided I needed to share one of my favorite Mexico cities with my daughter, Tammi..Playa Del Carmen.

This town of 100,00 people does not seem near as big as it is. The city has attempted to keep it looking like a small fishing village by passing an ordinance limiting buildings to four stories. A few five story buildings were built despite the ordinance, however. Tourist activity in Playa del Carmen centers on Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, stretching from Calle 1 norte until Calle 34, a pedestrian walkway located just one or two blocks inland from the beach, which is lined with boutique hotels (Deseo, Basico or Casa Ticul) , or with a special mMxican touch (Barrio Latino, or La Tortuga) shops, bars, and restaurants. Over the years a European influence has come to Playa and can be seen by the interantioanl flavor of the restaurants and shops.

So, after a late morning at the Caribbean Marketplace, we took off for the city. A round trip cab fare cost $60.00. I assured my daughter the cost was well worth it as it is a very charming city. A word to those who have not traveled much, it is best to establish the price of the cab before you get in. Afterwards it is pretty hard to bargain. I had hoped to get to the city before afternoon as it can get quite hot there. Since I paid $30.00 to have my hair braided on the beach the day before, (makes getting ready to g places easy as well keeps me cool), I was anxious to get there early and find my favorite hat shop where I could buy a Panama hat and keep my head from burning. The drive to Playa took about 40 minutes. Getting there took longer as there is massive construction going on. The city is getting a couple of over passes. This is both a good thing and a bad one. Good because it will help with traffic congestion but for me, it means the possibility of my favorite fishing town becoming more like its neighboring city, Cancun.

I am amazed as we drive into the city as to how much it has grown since I was here in 2006. I am again amazed at how little the shop keepers will bargain. Is this because of a richer tourism crowd coming in or a result of the swine flu and bad media press of Mexico? I find my hat and pay $20.00 more for it than I did in 2003. Then its off to find a pair of flip flops that I have only been able to find in this area of Mexico. I can't even find this Caray brand on the Internet! They too have gone up in price. Tammi and I then find souvenirs for various people. We also find an all natural food restaurant to eat in. An excellent plate of Mexican food is brought along with the best strawberry margarita I have had on the trip! I always ask for sugar on the rim of my glass when I get a strawberry marg. which gives me a funny look every time. Salt and strawberries just don't work for me.

We then wander down into my favorite area...the wharf where the ferry comes in takes people to Cozumel Island. Why do I like this area? Because it is where the locals hang out. I love mixing with the people. I go into the Burger King to get a ice cream cone to cool off my over heated body and when I don't understand that the person who is on the other side of the room makes the cones there, the locals al jump to my rescue. I want to stay and hang out here and experience some night life but my daughter is anxious to go meet up with her new girlfriends...uggg!

So, about 6 pm we return to our resort. Over the next three hours till our 9 PM dinner time at L'Hermitage, the French restaurant at the resort, I take another long walk on the beach. I will have to give this up tomorrow as that as when we return to Colorado. I am sadden as there is something about the ocean that makes me feel alive. As I walk it, rains some. Its as though the sky is as though the sky is crying for me as well. At 9 PM , my daughter go into the restaurant. She orders the CONFIT OF DUCK. I order the POACHED DORADO FILLET,glaze vegetables and sauce chives. The service is slow here. I wonder if is because it is French. The French see eating as an experience, not just a meal. My daughter is impatient. Her duck is very good. I am a little disappointed in my choice. The wine, however, save its. Around 10:30 we venture over to the main lounge. My daughter takes off with her friends and I meet up with the Spanish newly weds. They are tired tonight. We chat a while. Tonight the disco tec is open. My friends are tired and decide to skip it. I am getting tired of the 20 something crowd so I go back to the room to pack up for our trip home the next day. After I finish packing, I decide, since I have never used the room service to order some food. I get a glass of milk and a piece of really tasty cream cheese pie...something to be said for room service!

Sandy Tanner
Family Travel Consultant/Affiliated with All Inclusive Vacations
970.310.3625
www.familytravelconsultant.com
"All the World is a book, those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine

Mexico-Monday-Day 2








This morning, I pulled my fun loving daughter out of bed, at 6 am to meet with the hotel staff about our accommodations. I explained to the hotel manager what went on the day before and how the room just was not what I expected. I was given warm apology and within 20 minutes was given a room that was within a stones throw of the beach! In other places I have been, when you change rooms it your job to move all your belongs to the new room. Not at the Paradisus Riviera Cancun. A staff person came up to the room, grabbed our bags and we were whisked away in a mini golf cart to our new room. The new location was awesome. Large room with a couch, table to eat on and two queen beds. If I stood on the patio located on the back of the room, I could lean around the corner and see the sandy beach and ocean. The room itself came equipped with a mini bar that had water, soda pop and beer. We were given big fluffy bath robes to use and a mini spa was in our bathroom. The room also came with an ironing board, iron, and hair dryer!

Not bothering to unpack, we dumped our things in the room and headed back to the beach. This was going to be my day in the sun. But first I needed to stretch and reconnect with the majestic ocean and the white sandy beaches by a long appreciative walk of one of natures many wonders. Being around the water brings out the little girl, and I am in absolute awe of the endless waves of water. Periodically I run into the waves smiling and gleeful like when I ride on the back of the grocery cart as I go out to the parking lot. As I walk, I feel very much at peace with the world.

An hour later, I meet up with my daughter. So different this trip is. My daughter is out catching up with the world of 20 something's and me, who is usually the one out there meeting new people and establishing new relationships is either walking the length of the beach, splashing in water that reflects like a mirror or laying by the pool enjoying a pina coloda or an ice cold bottle of water. Around 5 pm, my Spanish male friends show up. This time MIKEL, translates that his newly wedded wife speaks English and will be there shortly. A few minutes later, just as he promised, Raquel walks up.

Raquel is great! She scolds the boys and translates all the crazy Spanish drinking songs they sing. This of course, calls for more drinks and picture taking. We part after a while with the promise of meeting up and going to the disco-tech. First though, a nice dinner is in order at the Reef Grill. This delightful ocean front restaurant serves BEEF FILET 8 oz., RIB EYE 10 oz., T-BONE STEAK 12 oz., ARRACHERA 8 oz. ,PRIME RIB 12 oz. PORK, RIBS 8 oz.,SURF AND TURF BROCHETTE beef filet and shrimps, HALF CHICKEN, FISH FILET fresh catch of the day. Lobster can be bought for an extra cost. The rest, however, is part of the all inclusive deal and does not cost extra. The wait is staff is the best. Service is prompt and always served with a smile. After some picture taking of the staff, my daughter and I head to the disco-tec. Off she goes with her new found friends while I am beckoned to come join the team of Spaniards in a game that resembles Jeopardy. They have this idea that I am going to be an asset....not..we lose. We then find out the disco tec is still not open. Disappointment! We had been told it would be a karaoke type of disco tec. I can't sing but enjoy watching others and love dancing. So, I hang out at the bar with Raquel. She tells the bartender he must make her an unusual drink. He does this and calls it a Raquel special. She decided there must be a special Sandy drink...Special Sandy is not near as good as special Raquel. I find out from Raquel that her newly wed husband works at a car factory in Spain. Before they came to Mexico they went to NYC where Mikel, took pictures of every kind of car and vehicle he saw including the garbage trucks! He was just so fascinated by it all. After many more laughs and pictures, its time to say Bueno noches.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Continued- Day 2 Mexico









As you leave the airport to go outside, there are many Mexican attendants that will offer to help you with your bag. If you are on a limited budge, a smile and a polite no thank you, I can get my own bags is ok. Otherwise, these attendants will happily assist you for a tip.

After a 10-15 minute wait, our van pulled up and we were on our way. Our stop turned out to be the first one. I would have to say we were about 20 minutes away from Cancun. As soon, as we arrived, the Mexican attendants were out there helping us with our bags. Since I have been to Mexico many times and stayed at resorts such as the Riu', I was pretty immune to the expansive lobby and marble floors. My daughter, however, who had only gone with me once to Mazatlan and a 2 star resort had a look of absolute amazement on her face!

Checking in was a little rough. Our room was suppose to be garden view and it overlooked the jungle and tennis court. The refrigerator was not stocked with the appropriate drinks, the room key didn't work, and we never got our inclusive wrist bands that allowed us to eat and drink however much we wanted. We did get everything straightened out that day except being in the right room. As much as I tried to get this straightened out it wasn't working as Andre' said the resort rooms were full and he could not move us. He did tell me to come to the desk first thing on Monday morning and most likely could get moved. As, I mentioned, I have been to Mexico many times, and knew he was not putting me off. Mexico does not function well on Sunday as it is family day. I also, didn't know it till the next day, but Andre' was not only a new staff person but had been a lawyer until the swine flu hit Mexico.

After getting settled in our temporary room, my daughter and I dressed for the beach. Our room was at the front of the resort. On our way to the beach we walked down some open hallways that had pools of water on both sides. Water always makes me feel at peace so I liked this a lot. The resort itself, has marble floors, table size plants and bouquets of flowers every where. We get to the pool area and it is shimmering blue. The pool has a swim up bar, as well as a beach bar. We grabbed a drink, and off to the beach we went. Ahhh, the water...it always excites me to be at the ocean. the water in front of our resort was clear enough to see my feet....and warm...I should have born a fish! After we splashed around in the water, we met some Spaniards direct from Spain. They had met up with a Mexican hotel vendor who happily translated Spanish for us and after some discussion, thought we might meet up later at the disco-Tec.

Dinner consisted of a buffet the first night at Caribbean Marketplace. Amazing amount of food to choose from. Anything from traditional Mexican food to spaghetti. I choose the Mexican food as I can get spaghetti at home. There is, of course a sumptuous buffet of international cuisine to chose from but I am in Mexico. therefore, must have their food and fresh fish. I also must try a desert. I am always shocked when I try something that looks yummy sweet turns out to be more flat! How do they do that?

After dinner we go search out the disco tech. To our disappointment it is closed. But nerveless, we meet some new people from Canada. Our Spanish friends did not show up. After a few hours, I leave for bed. My daughter being 24, stays and hangs out with the people her age. I, am a little disappointed in not finding a new friend on my first night. But there is always tomorrow!

Flight Day 1 Dallas then Mexico!




Four am and I am up, showered and on I-25. Before, I left I considered calling Fort Collin, Colorado's local airport tansportation, Greenide, for a lift to the airport. Unfortunately, between going to my daughter's house for a birthday celebration the day before, taking the dog into the groomers, touching base with the people in my life, and packing, I forgot! Greenride, though, would have been a good way to go. For $35.00 this amazing Fort Collins company, can pick up clients right at their home and take them to the airport. Sometimes, I am told, you can get even luckier and be the only person going to the airport and get a free ride! To check out greenride got to www.greenrideco.com.

I never park right at the airport if I take my car. I use USA Airport Parking, which is located on Tower Road, just north of Pena Blvd. I also use the toll road, E40. The toll road use to have booths with attendants. These days, license Plate Toll customers will be sent a bill for their travel through any lanes. For those vehicles without an Express Toll transponder, cameras will photograph the front and rear license plates and a bill will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle for their tolls. No advance registration is required. The cost for a round trip if you exit at Colorado Blvd to go to USA Parking is $1.80 each way. To calculate your fee you can go to http://www.e-470.com/Default.aspx?pn=PayingTolls.


My daughter and I pull into USA Parking and off we go to the airport. My daughter, who is 24, got a talk from her dad about how important tipping is to drivers ect. Excited, and feeling rich, she generously tips our driver as we exit the van and head on into Denver International Airport, (DIA). Since I have never flown on American Airlines, I am anxious to see how they treat their customers in the wee morning hours. I am some what disappointed to see the sour looks and the lack of helpfulness I am greeted with. Our passports for some reason will not scan at the Kiosk. After several attempts, I let an AA preservationist know our dilemma. With a look of annoyance I am pointed to a line where an older gentleman kindly processes our passports and directs us to terminal C.

After, we clear customs, we board the tram and off to Gate C35 we go. Once at our gate my daughter, develops hunger pains. The hunger pains are followed by, "Oh my God, why does it cost so much to eat in the airport"? "Well, I tell her, this old/new airport has to generate income by charging a pretty good chunk of rent to vendors. They in turn have to make money...hence, we pay the bill!

At 7:10 am, we are in the air and on our way to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport where we have an hour and thirty-five minute layover. This of course, is not much considering we have to change concourses via tram. My daughter, who has not flown in a while, has to get the camera out and take pictures of us in the air. That leads to the discovery that we can take pictures out the window of the airplane wing.....This flight we discover, only gives away one drink.

At 10:10 am we land. After we land, we scramble to find a few Dallas/Forth Worth shot glasses for the boys at home who are sports fans. The cashier in the store who is from Central America, sees my Family Travel Consultant name tag and tells me how pretty the name Sandy is! What a nice mid-morning booster to my day, especially when he has to be in his 20s!

At 11:45, we are back on the plane. We discover once again, that we can take some amazing pictures of the wing of the plane...Its the little things that entertain us! We also discover our seatmate, Peach, is from Japan and on her honeymoon. Peach, is the translation she gives us for her Japanese name. Peach, is in her twenties and a very happy bride who is a swim instructor for children. Her husband also works as a sports instructor. We offer to switch seats so they can seat together instead of across the isle, but Peach declines. We discover that this young couple came on a flight all the way from Negishi, Japan to honeymoon for 4 short days at the Fiesta American resort in Cancun. Being fun loving girls, we were soon giggling and ahhing over each other's families pictures and Peach's wedding pictures that were on our digital cameras. What a way to catch a glimpse into someone's life in a foreign country! Sometimes modern technology rocks! Of course since we had our cameras out, we had to have pictures of the three of us. One is posted on this blog. Before landing, Peach and I exchanged addresses of the old fashioned nature!

Sandy Tanner
Family Travel Consultant/Affiliated with All Inclusive Vacations
970.310.3625
www.familytravelconsultant.com
"All the World is a book, those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine

Paradisus Riviera Cancún- Mexico Adventures- Trip preparation


Cannot believe it..tomorrow, my 24 year old daughter, Tammi and I will be leaving for a resort for 4 days and 3 nights in Mexico, called the Paradisus Riviera Cancún. I was fortunate enought to win some 3 free nights at a Travel Impressions trade show that was held at the Warwick Hotel in Denver. All, I am having to pay for is airfare which I found on American Airlines for $290.00 round trip. As hard as I try, I never am able to find time to pack untill the last minute....This can mean two things. One, I will either have too much "stuff", or I will not take something I dearly want....Yes, you are reading this right. I am a travel consultant who can help others plan and pack but do a horrible job of packing for myself. Back to packing. Since I know I will want to dress up for dinner as the Paradisus Riviera Cancún, has some quality places to eat at. There is the Tequila Grill Restaurant, mexican cuisine, á la carte (reservation required). Then there is the Capri Restaurant à la carte mediterranean menu (reservation required) and the Restaurant Sumire, Japanese à la carte cuisine featuring a sushi bar and Tepanyaki tables (reservation required)
Gourmet restaurant à la carte. Finally, there is the L´Hermitage specializes in french cuisine (reservation required reservation required and only for guests over 16 years of age); awarded "4 Diamonds by the AAA"
At 11 pm, I am finally packed for our 7:00 AM flight from Denver Since this an international flight, we will have to be at the airport two hours before check in. Time for sleep!