Mexico Day 4: Christmas in Puerto Morelos

We all woke up at pretty much the same time we’ve been waking up the last couple of days but did not feel as rested for some reason as we’d all slept a bit restlessly… too much sun perhaps…

While we did not bring any presents to unwrap, Marie did bring a few items for Caitlin’s “stocking” which lead to the funniest story of the trip thus far… If you read my post from Day 1, you may recall that we were rocking through the security lineup with no problems until the screener came across a small tube of toothpaste, a mascara and an eye liner that Marie had not included in her 1L ziploc bag… and all hell broke loose, alarms sounded, agents with guns descended on us… okay, I’m exaggerating a little. But the previously friendly and smiling CATSA agent lost her sense of humour (and her ability to speak English apparently) and demanded that we unpack significant portions of our bags, blah blah blah. If you travel, you know what security screening can be like… But here’s the funny part. As we’re getting the full treatment for the wayward items, they’ve completely missed the other liquids, gels AND a can of aerosol dry shampoo that Marie had brought for Caitlin’s stocking and had forgotten to put into her ziploc bag… Too funny… but kind of concerning too when you consider how much time, money and technology goes into airport security screening and the hassles it creates for travellers.

After marvelling at Marie’s security avoidance skills (and trying to figure out whether this latest incident should add Dick points for failing to properly pack liquid, gels and aerosols or whether it should subtract Dick points for being an aerosols, gels and liquids Ninja…) we continued with our morning… I think Marie even jumped in the pool. Given that it is unheated and quite cool (I’d go so far as to say cold even), we were all quite impressed… and concerned that Marie had been abducted by aliens and replaced with a doppelgänger… because Marie does not do cold. Ever.

Eventually we sort of dragged ourselves through our morning rituals and headed out into the sunlight for a Christmas breakfast. We had to leave behind our trusty bikes because Ana was coming to collect them at noon (it was around 11am by the time we headed out of the apartment) so we decided to walk the beach into town – a good choice as the sand is quite packed and makes for easy walking and we could watch the massive dark clouds approaching… So we picked up our pace a little to avoid the coming rains and made our way to a place called La Sirene that Caitlin had scoped out for us earlier. We just made the cutoff for breakfast service and placed orders for Huevos Rancheros for Caitlin, a breakfast burrito for me and a Mexicano Eggs Benedict (basically eggs benny with chorizo instead of back bacon) and cervezas and mimosas to drink… As were finishing up our order, the anticipated rains arrived and soaked everything in a brief, but intense tropical rain shower.

We sort of hung out in the restaurant for a while playing cards and generally just taking our time and enjoying a lazy Christmas morning (well what was left of it at least). Eventually we settled up and headed out to do some shopping (Caitlin bought a blanket) and then headed back to the apartment to change into beach wear… Marie and I took a quick dip in the ocean (warm enough but definitely not as clean as our last time year – there was a lot of the sargassum that is clogging beaches all over the Caribbean – but it was still nice) and then I headed back to the apartment while Marie and Caitlin stayed to work on their cancerous glows… err… tans. I don’t do suntanning so I spent the time relaxing in the apartment – I may have watched an episode of Peaky Blinders and probably spent some time organizing photos and working on the blog.

By this point, the afternoon was completely spent and it was time to change into our nicest clothes for Christmas dinner. Marie is a frequent traveller for work and always stays at the Fairmont Vancouver so has accumulated some nice perks from their rewards program… unfortunately, this is the last year of their program as they’ve been acquired by Accor Hotels and their loyalty program sucks (instead of 10 stays for a free night Marie would now have to stay 60 nights to get a free night)… But the last big perk of the Fairmont rewards program was they doubled up the rewards for the final year… So Marie had accumulated $200USD worth of certificates that could be used in Fairmont restaurants, spas, etc.

When we discovered that Fairmont had a resort near Playa del Carmen (Mayakoba) we had originally tried to use Marie’s free night credit and a suite upgrade credit to really pull together a fancy Christmas stay but the holidays are a blackout period for using the loyalty certificates so that was a no go… We also looked into staying using Marie’s IBM rate (which gets her really good prices on hotels all over the world and especially at Fairmont properties). The reservations clerk was very helpful and was able to offer Marie an excellent IBM rate of only $900 per night… and that was not including meals… While that was a pretty good discount (the room would normally have gone for $1200) it was more than we spend on hotels in a week so that was a hard no… But after some to-ing and fro-ing Marie was able to convince them to let us use her $200USD in gift certificates in one of their restaurants for a nice Christmas dinner… So we’d made reservations for a Christmas buffet dinner in their La Laguna restaurant…

We’d made arrangements with Milko (our apartment host) to have one of his taxi driver friends drive us to Mayakoba (about a 30 minute drive) and then wait for us while we ate (taxis are not allowed to drop off and then come back and get you – the driver has to remain on the property) and the drive us back to Puerto Morelos… all in including a 25% tip this ended up costing us about $60CDN and was totally worth it in terms of convenience – and our driver Adal was very friendly and was an excellent driver and was able to arrange a taxi for us to Cancun for the next day as well so it worked out really well all around. And learning that Christmas Day was a work day for Adal and that the time he was going to be waiting for us was kind of the slow time of his night made us feel a tiny bit better about making him wait while we gorged ourselves..

We arrived a bit early for our dinner reservation and spent some time wandering the expansive grounds of the Fairmont Mayakoba resort… I’m not going to lie… it was ridiculously impressive. They had a big screen set up and were showing Christmas movies for the kids. They had a small boat decorated like a sleigh traversing the lagoon and waterways. They use Disney style multi-passenger golf carts to ferry people around… and their complex of dozens of pools is truly stunning… I will admit, though, that I was sort of expecting animatronic dinosaurs or something… Because for $900 a night there should be dinosaurs or something… Sadly there were no dinosaurs… But we did get a very tasty welcome drink as we entered the restaurant…

The dinner was good. It was not out-of-this-world-blow-your-mind good but was good. They had turkey, and porcheta and beef Wellington and roast beef, and mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts and a pasta station. There was a nice variety of salads and toppings, lots of seafood, a crepes station and a nice assortment of desserts. But drinks were not included (even though the dinner was $65USD per person) and the prices for drinking were painful… $10CDN for a local Yucatan beer, $12 for a bottle of water, $14 for a margarita… And in true yokel fashion, we completely neglected to get even a single picture of the restaurant or the food… I don’t think any of us ate $65USD worth of food but we did our best and with Marie’s loyalty certificates, the whole dinner, including tip ended up costing us $50USD so pretty hard to complain. We were able to get the four-star Christmas dinner experience for a bit more than the price of a bucket of KFC chicken… well played Marie… well played…

We all enjoyed dinner but couldn’t help wondering who actually stays there when at $1200 a night not including food, it comes to more than $10,000 a week by the time you factor in taxes and tips and that’s just for accommodation… And there were a lot of young kids there who – as Caitlin remarked – aren’t going to remember their $10,000 a week vacation any more than they would remember a Motel 8… According to Adal, the Fairmont is not the fanciest (it is one of them) or the biggest of the mega-resorts on the Mayan Riviera (there’s one property that has 3500 rooms) so clearly there is no shortage of people in the world looking to spend big bucks on their holidays. The other knock on the property was that there was little or nothing to indicate that you were in Mexico… If you’d fallen asleep on the plane and stayed asleep on the shuttle van, you’d wake up at Mayakoba with virtually no indication that you were in Mexico…. It’s definitively not our thing but the rooms are packed so clearly we’re the ones out of step here…

After dinner, we headed back to our fancy for us apartment and by the time we got back it was almost 11 so we kind of waddled off to bed… a big dinner plus time in the sun and a restless sleep the night before had us all nodding off pretty quickly after we laid our heads down.

This was not at all like our usual Christmas days but – aside from all of us missing Marie’s Christmas morning cinnamon buns – it was a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend Christmas. Tomorrow Marie and Caitlin are planning to do the rooftop yoga they missed earlier in the week and then we’re off to Cancun to catch our 1pm bus to Valladolid for the next leg of the trip…

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