Every year we play the “we should lay low and not travel during the winter months” game. Yet every year, about 3 weeks prior to our anniversary in March, “deh foot get hot”, as my island friends like to call it. I get the itch to travel someplace warm…soak up some sunshine… dig my toes in the sand… satisfy my need for a snorkeling fix. Who am I to resist the call of the islands?
Oh, but where to go? So many choices, not enough time. This time of the year we can only manage to get away for a few days due to work commitments, so we need someplace we can easily get to.
Grand Cayman? Easy to get to, love the snorkeling, and oh, to get a taste of Norma Jean’s barbecue again!! Alas, we remind ourselves that the weather and water were too cool the last time we went in early March. Bahamas? Again, way too cold in March. Turks and Caicos? Not only cold, but also over-hyped and we are over it. Where to…where to…
I searched and searched, but everywhere seemed to take a full day to get to from the Wash DC area. I almost pulled the trigger on St. Lucia, someplace new that we have not been to, but the lack of previous research on my part led to indecision on which area and hotel to stay in. Then I stumbled upon a terrific AA Vacations package deal to Cozumel. Visions of more AA miles racking up on my account just like a slot machine was whirling in my head. Yes, my name is Moosie and I am an AA miles junkie. And Cozumel! Cozumel!! We had fallen in love with this little island on our first trip last year and vowed to go back. Of course we vowed to go back for a longer stay, as last time we were only there for 4 nights, and now we are looking at only 3 nights. Eeeks! Well, what the heck, let’s go for it we say!
Our travel day started by getting up at the unMoosie hour of 3 am!! in order to be at the airport by 4 am for that crack of dawn 6 am flight from Washington Dulles to Dallas Fort Worth. Check-in was a breeze, no lines at all. Even better, they had first class upgrades available for a minimal additional cost for the first leg of our trip. Whoohoo! Happy Anniversary, Hook! Your Moosie came through again!
Our layover in Dallas passed by real quick, just enough time to grab some Starbucks and freshen up at the Admirals Club lounge. Soon, we were boarding and Cozumel was a mere 2 1/2 hours away! Even with having to sit in cattle class the second leg of our trip (err, I mean “main cabin”), the flight was quite comfortable and we were in Cozumel before 1pm local time.
Immigration was a breeze, and even Customs wasn’t so bad, even though we were transporting cat traps (oh wait, cat “cages”) for someone who was sending them to the Cozumel Humane Society. We were well prepared on how to get through efficiently and with minimal hassle, thanks to all the tips from the C.H.S. volunteers who coached us on what to do and what to say. For several days I had been practicing saying ‘howlas de los gatos por Humane Society’. Of course as luck would have it, I got the red light for the additional baggage search. It was a good thing that I had spared no packing tape when I packed the boxes in the duffle laundry bags. The lady at the red light station did not have scissors to cut the tape and after attempting for a minute to rip the tape apart and my repeating “howlas de los gatos por Humane Society” for the upteenth time, she gave up and waved us through. (Side note: It really was no hassle at all bringing stuff in for the Humane Society. If you are an animal lover, please consider bringing in supplies for this worthwhile organization who is doing great work for the animals in Cozumel. http://humanecozumel.org/ )
For those who have not been to Cozumel, you would think that after Immigration and Customs your relaxing vacation can start. Oh no. Before you can do that my friends, you have to survive getting past the timeshare sharks lurking just outside the doors. Yep, unless you’ve read the Trip Advisor forums and have paid attention to the super helpful tips that the regular forum posters provide, you can easily fall victim to the various offers to help you find transportation to your hotel. And man oh man, are they ever persistent. And they all wear official-looking polo shirts that say “Tourist Advisory”. Uh huh, tourist advisory misery! Our first time last year, Hook almost got nipped by one of these sharks. After I had repeatedly told him not to talk to anyone and that we had to go find the “Collectivo” service desk. I had to forcefully pull Hook back and drag him away. This year, we were well-seasoned travelers and looked on with pity as we saw a couple of newbie couples get hooked by the swarms of sharks.
Once you go through the exit doors from Customs, head to the right and find the Collectivo service desk at the far end of the terminal. This is where you will purchase your ticket for the shared van service for transport to your hotel. Taxis are not allowed to pickup passengers at the airport.
Do not, I repeat, do not let your guard down and start talking to the “nice” people trying to help you find a ride. These are timeshare salespeople. Your “free” transport, or car rental, or whatever it is they are offering will cost you many hours of precious vacation time. Keep repeating, No, Gracias, and keep walking.
We made our way to the shared van service desk and bought our tickets, US$10 per person to the north hotels zone, and stepped outside to find our van. Next stop, Hotel Playa Azul…