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1
Trip Reports / 5 days Playa Del Carmen / Cozumel
« on: June 26, 2019, 08:56:16 PM »
Trip  Report:  Disclaimer: please ignore my spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. my keyboard is being annoying and i don't have the patience to fix ti up


EWR-CUN United Business Class 30k aeroplan miles + a bit under $75

Upon landing in Cancun passport control is simple and we were out within a few minutes.  Luggage was waiting beside the carousel which meant quickly leaving the airport. at customs they opened all our stuff and searched for fresh meat or fish. we had cans of tuna which they saw and said was ok. (A frum guy saw us and told us they search anyone jewish looking)

Upon leaving the airport there are a million services (taxi, excursions, hotels) asking you to use them.  we passed them all and just before leaving the airport there are about a hundred official looking ppl with badges and all offering information.  They told us to use Super Shuttle to get to Playa Del Carmen (PDC) and had them offer us one way to pdc at 1025 pesos and 40% off return if we pay then.  i said no to the return and took the Super Shuttle one way. they put us (just 2 of us) in a large van with wifi.  before going into their van there were many others offering taxi rides and the official rate is 780 pesos if you take a taxi, but we already paid for super shuttle.

Mexican ppl are very nice and always happy and in good spirits. Most Speak a little english and always want to help.

Almost everywhere you can pay with dollars or pesos however ymmv on what kind of exchange rate you will get.  exchange places will be between 1-2 pesos below the current rate (19.5) and most official places will require a passport to change funds. Major shops accept cc but most smaller places (and all restaurants we went to) don’t  accept CC. some places will charge 3-6% to use CC. Withdrawing funds from an atm (even a large bank) comes with a 3-6% fee as well.

One of the cool things in PDC/Cozumel and i have to imagine same is for Cancun is that there are flat rates for common routes for taxis so you don't have to bargain with the driver and wont get ripped off.

there are 2 chabad Houses in PDC one on Calle 20 and one on Calle 10.  the one on 20 seemed more vibrant and welcoming but about a 5 minus walk from other restaurants while the one on 10 is within 1 block of 3 kosher joints. by chance we only went to the one on 20 but not for any specific reason

We arrived at our  hotel uneventfully the Anah Condos by Baitna its 5 really short blocks from Chabad on Calle 20 and about 7 minutes walk to beach, mostly Israelis staying there. we chose this hotel bc there were a number of options with a private pool. the hotels with points leave lots to be desired based on availability in pdc. they were very comfortable and helpful with shabbos as there is no eruv  so we couldn't carry our key. they opened our door for us with a smile all 3 times we left on shabbos.

we picked up bottle water at corner store for really cheap as is most things in Mexico. there are many places to eat in pdc. we picked up shabbos food from the Chabad house, $90  for 2 pple included 2 fish mains and 2 meat mains and included a choice of 7 out of 12 different salads. salads were in 16 ounces containers. also included was 2 large  challah and 2 rolls and a bottle of grape juice and paper goods.  food was delicious and an absolute bargain and portions here as well as everywhere were quite large. the chabad house has a very friendly vibe and large shabbos meals for all the backpackers.  its not fancy but very homey and welcoming.  there is also a small supermarket in the chabad house with cholov Yisroel and  Israeli style snacks from bissly to bamba and chocolate and others.

Playa Del Carmen was really smelly. west of 5th avenue (the main street with all the tourist shops and malls and bars - no cars allowed just foot traffic) smelled like sewage and east - toward the beach smelled from the rotting seaweed on the beach.  the entire beach of PDC and I’m assuming all the way up the coast to Cancun  is filthy and full of seaweed and not swimmable. Mexico is trying desperately to figure something out but meanwhile i gagged when i got to the beach and ran the other way.
5th avenue is really about nightlife and great for clubbing so pdc is not a good place for children or a romantic getaway. at the end of 5th ave there is a mall with American shops but  Mexican pricing. stores like Zara at full price in Mexico are about 40% cheaper than in the USA.
Around Playa there are tons of Starbucks ( Their coconut milk is O-U) and 7-Eleven (Slurpee only in cherry or Blue Raspberry.  we didn't get any bc i haven't verified if its kosher).

The whole tourist area of PDC is small and about 20 minute walk end to end and very easy to navigate. we only used taxis when moving with luggage.
We had breakfast in Mas Pan. a milchig place with a limited menu and not great but ok.

For the most part we felt pretty safe at all times.According to the locals all crime is only in the north near the border and there is no drug crime in the PDC/Cancun areas.
on a few occasions we were offered weed/coke on 5th ave.

we left Pdc for Cozumel in the afternoon and our taxi dropped us off at the ferry terminal at 1:50
this left us with 10 minutes to buy tickets and get about 2 blocks length from the drop off to the terminal. which we made just in time with a lot of running.

The Ferry leaves every hour on the hour and  takes about 40-45 minutes. there are 2 companies, Winjet (orange) and Ultramar (yellow/blue) the prices below are for Ultramar, i don't know what winged cost.  on the way to Cozumel winter got there just before us on the way back we beat them by about 5 minutes.

tickets for the ferry can be purchased all over the place by ppl trying to sell trips to different places, but i didn't even bother. i went straight the ferry company which has numerous stands all over. the area of the ferry port. prices were $22 RT PP and $27 Rt for First class. the difference is  a)skip the lines b)sitting indoors on leather seats vs outdoors on metal seats. like suckers we purchased the first class.

We sat one way indoors and on the return we chose to sit outdoors to enjoy the breeze.  at no point did anyone ask for proof we purchase first class tickets and totally could have gone indoors  with regular tickets.

As smelly as pdc was and not cut out for a romantic getaway, thats how different Cozumel was. 
The smell was fresh ocean, streets were clean, and the water pristine. Cozumel was absolute paradise.

the first thing we did was walk to chabad which is about 3 minutes from the ferry port. when we walked in there we were greeted with ices (its was 90-92 degrees everyday but not too humid) the atmosphere in the chabad house was incredible, they greeted everyone as if they have been waiting for them all day and are so excited to see you. they have a bracelet for sale for 50 pesos which get you 20% off at all 4 kosher restaurants and they guide you to the right ppl to get you all excursions at great prices. 
 
There are 4 places to eat and a kosher super market with cholov Yisroel milk and yogurt and cheese as well as meat and chicken.
Jerusalem Grill  - in the chabad house. nice and clean and delicious food. low priced
Sombrero - A falafel shwarma joint just downstairs from the chabad house - cheap

Chocolatte - a milchig breakfast joint open from 8-8 delicious food and decent price - also downstairs from chabad house
Cafe Rimon  - Milchig cheap with a huge menu- 2 blocks from chabad

Jerusalem Grill was out of most items on Sunday bc most Mexicans don't work Sunday so they are understaffed, but the vibe was great.  Tuesday nights they host a meal  $10 pp and many Israeli backpackers come. it was a really nice atomsphere and I'm glad we joined.

Sombrero - they were out of food by the early evening so we didn't get to eat there. Word is don't go in the eating bc the shawarma is dried out by then.

Chocolatte  - good food good vibe we wend there 3 times and enjoyed every time. good AC as well.

Cafe Rimon. - they had a huge menu but most of their menu items are Mexican food made with corn tortilla and they didn't have it so we could barely order. however the food we did order was delicious.

We stayed at the Westin Cozumel which is a 95 peso taxi ride about 5 minutes from downtown. There are 2 rooms with private pools Cabana1 is in front of Cabana2 the private pool infant of cabana1 is open to the beat and about 3 feed or less from the water, the issue with it is that the pool is visible to the public
we got the cabana2 room which is completely secluded and about 45 feet from the ocean.the pool is about 8’ x 8’.  the Westin is a standard Westin which is 4+ star with mini fridge and great service and very clean plus all amenities you would expect from westin. The hotel personnel are ready at your slightest request to make your stay incredible.

Every time we had to leave there was a taxi waiting outside and charged us the same 95 pesos.

The hotel offers free snorkeling and kayaking in tier beach. we saw many beautiful fish and even barracuda and an eel. for the most part there were never more than 10 ppl at the beach at a time. the roof pool was entirely empty when we went there as well.

I would suggest picking up your own snorkel tube as the  one the hotel provides is the cheapest type and disinfected between uses. the life jackets, flippers and goggles are all fine.

Anywhere you go there is someone trying to sell you an excursion. there are a million and a half things to do in Cozumel, from deep sea diving to fly boarding, swimming with dolphins to ziplining, jet skiing wakeboarding, horseback riding dunebugying and so much more (really) we chose to relax for most of the time. we decided to take a boat ride on a snorkeling tour. the chabad house gave us a number of someone connected with a lot of excursion companies and she got us a trip for $35 pp. others on our boat told us their hotel charged them 50 for it.  The Westin wanted $75 for that trip.

we went on a boat with a cover to protect from the sun. there were 12 of us in the group and we left the main square at 10 am. they gave us our own brand new snorkel tube - the cheapest type, basically disposable. they took us in a taxi for a 15 minute ride and then from there we got on the boat.  Everyone was in a great mood and we. got underway immediately.
After about 40 minutes we got to El Cielo about 6 feet deep. we all jumped off the boat with Lifejackets and snorkel gear and we swam around for 20 minutes the water like everywhere around Cozumel is cleaner than US tap water, and we saw hundreds of star fish. some as large as 18” across. we also saw a huge majestic see turtle. 
we got back on the boat for about 10 minutes and they served us beer and water and we went to El Cielito which is a massive sand bank the size of a few football fields and about 3 feet deep. here we were given beer in the water and frolicked for about 20 minutes.
Then we went to Columbia which is a series of reefs about 10’  deep and saw many nice fish for about 20 minutes, then to Palancar which is a series of mostly reefs and kinda boring also they are 30’ deep so pretty far away.  Overall it was a blast but there aren't many incredible fish in mexico.
One thing to note is that once you get on the boat they don't allow you to put on sunscreen bc they don't want to harm the environment in the water so make sure you put on sunscreen before getting on the boat.

For the flight back we got food from chocolate well packed and delicious and took the 12:00 ferry from Cozumel to PDC and then a taxi to Cancun we arrived in the airport at 1:45 for a 3:15 flight.  CUN-JFK Delta Cattle Class 14k Miles + $46.
Terminal 3 has one Priority pass lounge that had free wifi and beer. Kinda packed but ok.


Overall, PDC is not a great place to go. there are a hundred better planes in the US. Cozumel is really nice and if you can you are better offf flying into Cozumel with a layover than flying to Cancun and taking an 45 minute Taxi and 45 minute ferry and paying close to 100 bucks to get there by flying to Cancun direct.
 

2
Credit Cards / Re: Credit/Collections
« on: March 04, 2019, 10:50:28 AM »
i have disputed it with verizon. where else can i dispute?

3
Credit Cards / Credit/Collections
« on: March 04, 2019, 09:22:28 AM »
Verizon charged me another month after closing my account. This was 18 months ago, and I told them to go to hell. it has been in collection for over a year. obviously it hit my credit pretty bad.  At this point;
Should I pay the collection agency?
Does it make a difference how much (percentage) I settle for?
Is there anyway to undo/mitigate the damage?

4
not working for me.  im about to stop using this card - I shoulda stopped as soon as they stopped giving 3/$1. and its a shame bc i used to spend 20k/mo minimum

5
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: South Africa Master Thread
« on: February 28, 2019, 09:09:39 AM »
Looking to hire a guide with an open air vehicle for 8 ppl to pick us up from our hotel (near kruger) and take us to kruger for 2 days. anyone have good experiences?

6
One way/Round-trip: OW
Non-stop/Maximum stops/Any: 1
From: NYC
To: JNB
Departure dates: July 20 11pm - July 21 (Must land by 5 pm 7/22)
Class: First/Business
Seats: 2
Alliance/Airline: I have plenty Bonvoy/UR Points

7
Up In The Air / Re: Star Alliance Award Search Tips
« on: February 27, 2019, 03:24:33 PM »
Turkish?
SAA?
AF?

8
Up In The Air / Re: Star Alliance Award Search Tips
« on: February 27, 2019, 03:11:44 PM »
Do elite accounts have access to better award availability?

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Up In The Air / Re: Star Alliance Award Search Tips
« on: February 27, 2019, 11:22:34 AM »
is there a way to create a notification if award availability opens up?

10
Up In The Air / Re: Star Alliance Award Search Tips
« on: February 26, 2019, 07:35:10 PM »
If there is saver availability you should be able to book that

any idea if its doable online or do i need to call?

11
Up In The Air / Re: Star Alliance Award Search Tips
« on: February 26, 2019, 07:34:06 PM »
Update: ANA has partially blocked their Star Alliance search function. See either of these 2 posts for info on how to work around it:
http://www.dansdeals.com/forums/index.php?topic=2569.0
http://www.dansdeals.com/forums/index.php?topic=2569.msg34269#msg34269


-The Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance which gives great options for using miles on partners.

These are the 27 current member airlines:
-Adria
-Air Canada
-Air China
-Air New Zealand
-ANA
-Asiana Airlines
-Austrian
-Blue1
-Bmi
-Brussels Airlines
-Continental Airlines
-Croatia Airlines
-Egyptair
-LOT Polish Airlines
-Lufthansa
-Scandinavian Airlines
-Shanghai Airlines
-Singapore Airlines
-South African Airways
-Spanair
-Swiss
-TAM
-TAP Portugal
-Thai
-Turkish Airlines
-United
-US Airways

-A great search engine is ANA.
-You need to first signup for an ANA account:
https://cam.ana.co.jp/psz/amc/jsp/regist0_e.jsp

-You can then use this link to search for Star Alliance award flights:
https://aswbe-i.ana.co.jp/p_per/sky_ip_per_en/preAwdSearchLogin.do

-Click "Use Star Alliance Member Airlines"
Perform the search, for example type in JFK to TLV.

-By default only nonstop flights are shown, for this route the Continental flights from EWR to TLV are shown.
Click "connecting flights" to display more flights.
Each leg will have:
- Which means that the class selected doesn't exist
x Which means awards are not available
OK Which means awards are available

-Click on the arrows above the flights to go back or more forward a day.
-Click "search again" to change the dates.

-ANA search is far from exhaustive, it does not search all possibilities.  To really search all options do a regular fare search on Orbitz and find all of the Star Alliance options.  Then enter in each leg separately into ANA.
For example search for JFK-IST and then IST-TLV to go on Turkish via Istanbul, or JFK-MUC and then MUC-TLV to go on Lufthansa via Munich, etc.

-If a flight is found on ANA it can be booked with the miles from any Star Alliance carrier.  The only exception is United which intentionally blocks availability when they feel like it, this is called Starnet blocking.  The mileage rate will be whatever the carrier you are redeeming with charges, not what the airline you are flying on charges.

-ANA is the best Star Alliance search engine, but it is worth also using Continental.com.  There are definitely times that Continental.com finds an option that ANA doesn't You do not need to be logged in, just enter the cities and click "reward search." 

-Once you find flights that work you need to call up the carrier on which you have the miles to book the ticket.  Tell them that you called in earlier and already found flights that worked for you, and ask if you can give them the flight numbers.  Sometimes they will let you do this other times they'll want to find the flights themselves. 

-Many agents are unfortunately incompetent and don't know how to properly look for partner availability.  When you get an agent like this just politely hang up and call again (repeat as necessary)

-Every ticketing airline has their own stopover, connection, and routing rules.  They are not always enforced.  Air Canada and USAirways are both pretty lenient and allow for multiple connections/stopovers.  United is pretty strict.

There's lots more, but that's all I have time for now...post your own tips here!




is there an updated version of this info?

12
Up In The Air / Re: Star Alliance Award Search Tips
« on: February 26, 2019, 07:29:49 PM »
can all star alliance airlines book on all others? im trying to book a turkish flight with aeroplan. Or what other options are there for booking turkish?

13
Up In The Air / Re: flying with someone elses ticket
« on: January 07, 2019, 03:07:25 PM »
no. they wont know
Is this from experience or educated knowledge? 

14
Up In The Air / Re: flying with someone elses ticket
« on: January 07, 2019, 01:51:23 PM »
anyone know if the tsa shares info with the airline on who passed through security?
the Q is if one goes through security with a refundable ticket will the airline know that the ticket being used never went through security?

15
Up In The Air / Re: flying with someone elses ticket
« on: January 02, 2019, 09:29:31 PM »
thank yall

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