Author Topic: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda  (Read 1047 times)

Offline @Yehuda

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A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« on: August 09, 2018, 12:19:16 PM »
Introduction / Trip Planning

As my wife had recently got her first job and was in a 6-month probation period with no vacation, I dreamily flipped the pages of my calendar waiting for February to come and free her schedule. The way things turned out, she had a wedding in California right after President’s Day, so she took off the beginning of the week to attend, and we used the end of the week to go somewhere with our then 9-month old baby. The plan was to meet somewhere between NY and CA, and after some research, we settled on Cancun. Warm weather, beautiful resorts, pools and beaches, plus Kosher food and a Chabad for Shabbos sealed the deal. I booked flights and a hotel fairly easily and then shortly before the trip, my in-laws told us they would be willing to watch our daughter while we went away! I rushed to cancel all the flights and re-booked us to stop in Denver to drop her off – the extra flight time and cost was worth it to have our first few nights alone since she was born and while on vacation, no less! Thanks Bubby and Zaidy!

While there are several locations in the greater Cancun area to choose from, I decided to just stick with the Cancun Hotel Zone and limited our hotel choices to those within walking distance of Chabad – Intercontinental, Aloft and Hyatt Ziva – with Hyatt winning due to pictures, reviews and our ability to secure an awesome suite in advance.

Our final itinerary looked like this: (cost per person)
JFK-DEN Tuesday on DL for me + baby: 11.5k DL + $5.60 + $85 E+ covered by Ritz CC
DEN-CUN Wednesday on SW for me: 11k SW + $33.64 + $15 Early Bird check-in covered by Ritz CC
LAX-CUN Wednesday on DL for my wife: 12k MR
CUN-DEN Sunday on UA for me and my wife: 21k MR (got E+ because no other 2 seats next to each other available)
DEN-LGA Sunday on UA for all of us: 13k MR

4 nights at Hyatt Ziva Cancun – 25k a night plus suite upgrade


Tuesday

On Tuesday night, with my baby in her Doona, I drove to Queens, parked near LGA (since our return flight was to LGA), took an Uber to JFK and caught our flight to DEN. Having a baby with me, we were the first to board the plane. This was my first time not converting it to a car seat before boarding to see how far down the aisle it would fit. The flight attendant gave me a look and tried to stop me, but I reassured her that I would fold it when we got to our row. We made it past business class, but then got stuck at E+.


Emuna in her Doona

I was anxious flying solo with a baby and of course she woke up when I had to take her out at security, and of course this was the first flight she wouldn’t sleep in the Doona, but fortunately we had an empty seat in our row and eventually I got her to fall asleep while lying on the seat. We arrived to a fresh coat of Denver snow, got to my family and went to bed.


Wednesday

In the morning, I said my goodbyes, wished my mother in law good luck :P and headed back to the airport just about the same time that my wife was on the way herself to LAX. Cancun here we come!

Everyone seems to have a story in CUN, so let’s get to it. I was set to land about 2 hours before my wife, although in a different terminal. I figured I’d have plenty of time before she arrived. Having T-Mobile in America, I assumed I should have free roaming in Mexico, but when my phone didn’t connect to any service upon landing, I started getting nervous. How was I going to find my wife in a foreign country without phones!?


Shot from the plane upon descent

Fortunately, I had wifi on the plane and was able to get in touch with @Yehoshua before deplaning who helped me change some settings, and I got connected! However, service was terrible in the airport (wasn't much better outside the airport either) and most of all, I still had no idea how my wife would figure those settings out… There was a long line for immigration, but it surprisingly went very quickly – maybe 10 minutes. Baggage claim on the other hand took forever. Bags were coming out so slowly, and after about 30 minutes, mine finally popped out. I saw a mosquito here, but fortunately, it was the only one I saw on the entire trip. I headed towards customs to hit the infamous button for green or red (although I only brought snacks with me), and on the walk, I immediately realized that Cancun is really centrally built around tourism. Signs and kiosks everywhere advertised the many adventure parks and then I entered the Hall of Taxis. While reports indicated that I’d be harassed here, I found that each taxi company had a stand on the side and were not really that pushy if you walked through with confidence – although, yes, they were all dressed very official-looking to make you think you had to use them. I had pre-booked roundtrip car service with Canada Transfers as they had good reviews and were the cheapest at just under $50 for 2 people when you paid in MEX. Once past the taxis, I stopped an airport employee to ask how to get to the other terminals. He opened a stanchion for me and said go through these doors to find the free shuttle. I asked him, “What about customs?”, flashing my papers, to which he simply replied, “Oh, I don’t need those.” ??? So, I just went through the doors and found myself outside the airport. No button for me!

While waiting for the shuttle, a cabbie approached me and said, “Oh the shuttle – that won’t come for another 40 minutes, here I’ll take you for $10.” LOL, I could tell I was going to love this place. A few minutes later, a local joined me in line and said the shuttle never takes more than 15 minutes. Sure enough it showed up a few minutes later. I had to go to the last terminal on the route, so the ride took a while and by the time I got to my wife’s terminal, she was supposed to land in 20 minutes. Security wouldn’t allow me to enter the arrivals section of the terminal ??? and said everyone has to exit this way, so I should just wait there and my wife would come out. Something didn’t seem right as there weren’t any of the pre-paid taxi companies standing here, and I was told that they all hang out together outside the terminal. Finally, an airport employee helped me and got me past security by showing my voucher for Canada Transfers. I walked just a few steps past him and found myself in the obvious exit of the terminal, with maybe 20 car companies waiting to pick up their guests.



Turns out I was waiting in the Friends & Family pickup area and could have just walked around the corner to find the actual exit myself. Sheesh. I found the friendly Canada Transfers greeter and waited for my wife, figuring she’d be at least another 45 minutes based on my experience. However, she just walked right out a few minutes later having blown through immigration, bags and customs. Her phone fortunately picked up cell service on its own after a little while, but I still had to turn on roaming for it to actually work. She wasn’t too happy with this littler surprise, but b”h we found each other and were handed cold towels as we stepped into the shuttle to fend off the insane humidity. Having a 10 seater was probably more than we needed, but it seemed like most taxis here were this large. Off we went for the 30 minute ride to the hotel.

Along the strip, we passed by all the points hotels – Ritz, JW, Westin Lagunamar – and pulled up to the Hyatt Ziva, where the driver gave our name to the guard and from that point on, the staff always referred to us by name.



With a globalist suite upgrade, we secured an upgrade to the Club Oceanfront Corner Suite, which was awesome – huge room with a closed off bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a balcony with a hot tub!




First bathroom







Master bathroom



We had ordered food from Chabad, and it was waiting for us when we arrived. Chabad's meals have to be delivered by about 5:30pm, but the hotel stored it for us and gave us our sealed food when we checked in at about 8pm. The shnitzel sandwich and Cancun burger were great and large enough that we had leftovers to store in the fridge. Because of the humidity, I found the material of the bed linen to be uncomfortable and sticky (even with the AC on), although my wife didn't complain. We turned on the Olympics and watched for a bit before falling asleep.


Thursday

We woke up early and of course checked in on the baby. :)

Being in the Club Tower, we had our own check-in lounge with breakfast, snacks throughout the day and bar. They had Kosher cereal and milk and some fresh fruit.


Zucaritas every day

During breakfast, it was pouring outside, and the staff didn't ease our concerns when they said it sometimes rains like that all day. Fortunately, it cleared up within an hour, and we were ready for a day in the sun. The lounge leads directly out to the pool and beach. What I didn't realize at first was that this was just one side of the hotel and that the other side had an almost identical pool layout. Everyone is allowed to use either pool, but ours was generally emptier. This side also had a much wider beach with more room to find your own space.

As the Hyatt Ziva is at the top of the hotel strip, you don’t see any hotels to one side of you as you look out to the ocean, giving it a more private feel. They built a rock wall jutting out into the ocean to protect the beach from disappearing and to kill the waves, so swimming was a lot easier than it would have been, although plenty of waves still made it around. The view from our room was so, so gorgeous.


Lots of beach space




Looking back at the hotel (Club Tower on the right) from the beach


View of the adults-only Turquoise tower next to us with some rooms that open up to a semi-private pool (shared among 4-5 rooms).

Beside from these pool rooms, there are a few other rooms in a quieter area of the grounds that have semi-private pools. We opted to have a suite instead of a pool room after hearing from a friend that they’re small pools where you can’t do much but sit on a chair. Knowing we’d spend most of our time swimming around in the main pools (which were also hotter as they’re more in the sun) and when we saw that these pools were small and shallow, we were happy with our choice.


Other pool rooms

On the other (main) side of the hotel, the pools were actually warmer – almost hot! - although more crowded. There was a swim up bar in one pool, a small kids’ pool area that we didn’t see anyone in the entire time and a portion of the main pool that is somewhat covered for shade. There’s also an adults-only pool and bar on the roof. They really do have so many options for pool lovers.


First view when you enter the hotel








Beach on the other side of the hotel, very narrow, much less space to find chairs and spread out

Back on our side of the hotel, we spent hours swimming and relaxing by the pool (warm!), sitting on the beach and swimming in the ocean. The beach was really empty and while it was still kinda cloudy, the water was beautiful shades of blue, super clear and fortunately not that cold.





The rock wall had a warning sign. Holla if you get it!



For lunch, we had our leftovers from the night before which made our dollar go pretty far. I met some friendly bar tenders and with the help of the CRC Kosher Liquor App, we created custom, Kosher, fresh fruit drinks. They were tasty and refreshing, and we tried different combinations throughout our stay. Was really nice to have drinks at the pool (and, maybe against the rules, in the public jacuzzi - other people were doing it first!). Gotta get something for the all-inclusive value!

The hotel has dolphins on premises. Going into the water with them cost a pretty penny, but it was free to watch.







We spent the rest of the day chilling. There are lots of trips you can do in Cancun (see the Cancun Master Thread wiki) like adventure parks, boat tours or visiting the islands of Isla Mujeres or Cozumel, but we really just wanted this baby-free trip to be relaxing time. For dinner we had another delivery from Chabad for more great food.


Friday

After breakfast in the lounge, we spent the morning at the pool/beach. Because it was a sunnier morning, the beach was much more crowded. Not Jersey Shore crowded, but not as empty as the day before. For lunch, we ventured out to Dag Dag for quite the experience. It's about 15 minutes from the hotel, a drop past the Chabad shul. On the way, we looked through the "mall" that Chabad is in (basically just a building full of souvenir shops on the 1st floor, a creepy tours salesman and a second floor that is barren aside from Chabad's room) because Google maps claimed there was a Haagen Dazs in here... there wasn't. At Dag Dag, the door was open, but the store was dark and no one was in there. "Hello?" "Hello?" Out came a frum man, his wife and young local guy. There was no real menu, basically just pizza, nachos and soda. Total was $27 and surprisingly/thankfully, they took credit card. The wife made the food while we sat outside. The owner came out and sat with us ranting about how a new restaurant opened up (presumably Red Heifer, which I think has dairy options during the day) and is stealing all his business. He understandably was very upset, but of course it's inappropriate to vent to your customers about these things, and he just went on and on, while his wife tried getting him to be quiet. He made us very uncomfortable. He went inside when the nachos came out, which were just tortilla chips on a plate covered with melted mozzarella cheese. Worse than I make at home because at least I put some salsa on them too. The pizza came out, and they graciously put black olives on half of it for my wife, leaving half the pie regular for me. The owner came back out and continued rambling while we ate. The pizza was actually pretty good, and the place has the potential to be a cute shop - and of course I'm grateful for a Kosher pizza place in Cancun - but it was very uncomfortable being there.





On the way back from lunch, we passed by a fish spa and decided to go for it, having done it once before in Eilat. At $15 a person, it was way cheaper than at the spa in the Hyatt.



We then stopped in a convenience store and found ice cream bars with an OU, and enjoyed a cool treat on the way back to the hotel. We then got ready for Shabbos, lit tea lights in the bathroom, prepped the door for Shabbos (valuables in safe, tape key card over door jamb, hang do not disturb sign) and headed out for the 10 minute walk to Chabad. As mentioned, Chabad is located on the second floor of the mall. They have a storefront that is half set up with tables for dinner and half a shul. They had a decent Minyan of locals and plenty of tourists. After Davening, we made our way over to the tables, found seats and enjoyed a good meal with a ton of courses. Shabbos meals cost $50 a person for both meals. After dinner, we walked back and called it a night.


Shabbos

We davened again at Chabad and had another large meal for Shabbos lunch. In the afternoon, we read and relaxed on beach chairs. Then we noticed that a wedding was taking place at the gazebo and along with all the other Jews at the hotel, got seats and watched. ;D


Gazebo where wedding took place

Went back to Chabad for Mincha and Marriv, and after Shabbos we went to explore town. We found the actual Haagen Dazs (looked at a few containers that had the normal American hashgachas) and were surprised that it actually had waiter service ???.



It was in another sort of mall, and afterwards, we browsed the shops and picked up a shotglass. Foreign places have the best t-shirts.



The street was full of people, restaurants and bars that were open to the street (don't look in is all I'll say). My wife really wanted to go to Red Heifer (impressively, they were open Motzai Shabbos), but I was the stickler here and because I couldn't get a straight answer on Kashrus, I wouldn't go, so we headed back to the hotel for the night.


Sunday

We had a 1:30pm flight, which left us plenty of time for one last hurrah at the beautiful pools. We packed up and our Canada Transfers ride was there on time. We flew back United to Denver and were so happy to see our baby waiting for us in the airport. We sure did miss her, although I definitely appreciated the break. We said goodbye to the in-laws and checked in at Southwest for our return home. At the gate, we picked up Coffee Bean and headed off into the Denver sunset.




Offline Yehoshua

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2018, 01:37:18 PM »
Nice TR! Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a nice trip.

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2018, 01:43:18 PM »
wow awesome TR!
some things a man can only dream about.....
i feel like a broken tape recorder  :'( :'( :'( :'(
May you slide down the banister of happiness & get many splinters of success up your career.

Online mochjas

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2018, 02:18:36 PM »
Nice TR! Though I think I would rather take my baby with me and skip the 2 extra 5 hour flights

The room looks amazing! Did it have a pullout couch by chance?

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2018, 02:23:30 PM »
Nice TR! Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a nice trip.
Thank you!

wow awesome TR!
Thanks! CUN is a lot easier than Alaska or Antarctica.  :D

Nice TR! Though I think I would rather take my baby with me and skip the 2 extra 5 hour flights

The room looks amazing! Did it have a pullout couch by chance?
Thanks! Haha maybe, but it was our first nights without baby, so it was nice to have the break. Unfortunately our bodies were used to waking up early, so we didn't even get to sleep in. I believe the couch pulls out.

Offline Mordyk

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2018, 02:34:52 PM »
awesome report! i was at the Ziva two weeks after it opened, there were no dolphins yet. this report definitely took me down memory lane. Thank You

Offline Moes Tavern

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2018, 05:58:23 PM »
Great TR!
"I've done some things I'm not proud of, and the things I am proud of are pretty disgusting"

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 06:40:28 PM »
love the pics! great TR!
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Offline ludmila

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2018, 01:17:10 AM »
Thank you, well written TR, enjoyed reading it all.
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Offline Theg

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2018, 07:45:43 AM »
Thank you amazing TR!

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2018, 01:18:12 PM »
Nice!

Felt like I'm back there while reading, your suite looks amazing!

So cool how you bypassed the "button" and so far I it seems everyone goes to dag dag just for the experience

If it's not free shipping it's not worth it.

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2018, 12:04:13 PM »
Thanks for a great TR.  Glad you had a wonderful time -- really valuable to get away as a couple.
Our Dag Dag experience was virtually identical!
We are headed to the Hyatt Ziva in January. We don't have status but hope we might get upgraded to something resembling your great-looking suite.
Thanks again.

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2018, 01:27:39 PM »
Great TR! Thank you.

So where exactly was the haagen daz store in the end?


Offline @Yehuda

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2018, 03:33:32 PM »
Great TR! Thank you.

So where exactly was the haagen daz store in the end?
See here on the Cancun map I created (it's in the Cancun wiki for future reference). There are 2 Haagen Dazs locations. I went to the more-northern one, near the Hyatt Ziva.

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Re: A little R+R in Cancun with @Yehuda
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2018, 03:39:00 PM »
Did you try Red Heifer?
How is their food?