The day after Christmas got off to a rough start. First of all, the temperature was somewhere in the neighborhood of 19 degrees (F) when we got up, and there was snow everywhere. Of course, we knew about the snow and were expecting the temperatures. We had driven through a blizzard (I’m exaggerating, of course, but, hey, I live in Texas) when we went through Weatherford on the way to Mineral Wells for Christmas lunch. So we knew it was going to be cold. The good news was that there had been no more precipitation during the night, and the sky was only partly cloudy.
The tricky part was when Stephanie woke up. She got up in a pretty foul mood, claiming she was really not ready for this day, and that she wished she had never agreed to go to Cancun. This escalated into a pretty major meltdown and went on for close to an hour. I was trying to get my morning devotion done before time to leave, but this was seriously infringing on my time. However, there are things that are more important, and sometimes, getting the family together on something has to take priority. I finally got Steph settled down and got her to agree to get ready and go, and made a deal with her that she didn’t have to go on the Hummer tour on Friday. I would gladly trade throwing away $150 over $2000!
So we were all ready to hit the road at about 7:45am. We loaded up the car and got rolling. The roads were mostly clear, with only a few isolated patches of ice along the way. In short, we got to the drop off place in plenty of time. Now, what we do when we go on trips like this is, we drive to Christi’s work place, park the car, and get on a van that her company provides, which shuttles us to the airport. Free van, free parking, win-win! We did decide to stop at a McDonald’s on the way for some breakfast. This turned out to be a very good idea.
We got to Christi’s work building a little early, but were able to go inside, out of the cold, to wait for the van. The van came, and we got to the airport at about 9:15am, roughly two hours before our flight was to leave. We got checked in very smoothly, with no issues at all. They have really streamlined that process!
Then we hit the line. The Line. We had 90 minutes to get to our flight, and we were looking at a very long line to the security check-in. I mean, it looked like the line for the Texas Giant at Six Flags the year it first opened up. I started to panic. Keep in mind that I had already been panicking for days about the weather, then panicking about Stephanie’s meltdown that morning, and so forth. I was pretty much a nervous wreck by this time. I tried real hard not to worry, because, it’s absolutely, 100% useless. Nevertheless, I am, sadly, a perpetual pessimist. Fortunately, the line moved somewhat quickly. When I say “quickly,” I mean that we got through it about the time our flight was to begin boarding. We had not issues getting through the checkpoint, and headed to our gate, with only a brief stop at a Jamba Juice because Christi wanted a smoothie. It didn’t matter anyway, because when we got to the gate, they hadn’t started boarding yet! They claimed that the flight had arrived a little late, so the cleaning crew was still cleaning the cabin, and so forth. Which means that they were lying to us the whole time that they were claiming that the flight was “on time.” Thank you, American Airlines.
It was well after our scheduled departure time of 11:10am before we even started boarding, but board, we did, found our seats, and got our carry-on baggage stored properly. The flight was uneventful. Except that I didn’t realize that we would be over the ocean for about half the flight. Not that it bothered me at all (it did not), but I have never flown over the ocean. I hadn’t actually thought about it, so it took me quite by surprise. At one point, the ocean was covered by clouds, which looked like white, fluffy icing. It was quite beautiful. When there weren’t any clouds, I could see boats out on the ocean.
We finally began flying over land again, and we saw the most beautiful, blue water. I’ve never seen ocean water so blue. Blue-green, actually. I guess “aquamarine” is a very good name for that color. We flew over miles and miles of forest as we finally made our approach to Cancun. In fact, as we approached the runway, it appeared that we were going to be landing on trees, as we did not see any tarmac until we were almost on the ground. This was almost as unnerving as the time I flew to San Francisco. If you’ve ever done that, you know exactly what I mean. The plane is almost down, and you still can’t see anything but water!
Landing in Cancun was nothing like landing in DFW, let me tell you. We were at the gate within ten minutes of landing! In fact, I’m pretty sure the plane never stopped until we hit the gate. At DFW, it sometimes takes 30 minutes or longer between landing and gate arrival. We got off the plane, and it was, well, hot! What a difference. It was just over 80 degrees when we landed, and quite humid.
Since this was our first international flight, this is all a new experience for us. We had gotten our immigration form (tourist card) at DFW and already had it filled out (both sections, which is very important…the bottom section is for the return flight). We received a customs form on the plane (all in Spanish), and had that filled out, as well. We were not carrying any items that had to be “declared.” When we got off the plane, there were dozens of people in the area between the plane and immigration, furiously filling out the bottom portions of their forms. But we went right through them all, because we had done that. The immigration area is quite large, but there weren’t many people there, so we got through it quickly, got our passports stamped and headed to baggage claim.
We found the baggage claim quickly, and within minutes, retrieved Stephanie’s bag. We waited. And waited. I saw some bags come around three or four times. Once again, I began panicking (that’s four times, now). When it seemed hopeless, I looked over to my left, between the two baggage claims areas, and, standing in a group of luggage, on the floor, were our other two suitcases. How they got there, I haven’t a clue. (Hey, that sounds like a Jimmy Buffet song.) Breathing a sigh of relief, we headed to customs. The customs line looked long, but it moved faster than any line I have ever been in. Let me tell you something. The U.S. could learn a thing or two from Mexico!! As we approached the security check-point, they kept opening more lines! Contrast that with any place in the U.S., where, as things get more crowded, they close lines.
Now, I have a hilarious story. I had been very nervous, because I had heard about this all-important “button” that you have to push at customs. If it flashes red, you get inspected, if it flashes green, you go through. Now, there was one point, where I thought that if it flashed red when you pushed it, you got taken to a room and strip-searched, and believe me, I was TERRIFIED that it would turn red when Stephanie pushed it. If you don’t know about us, she is autistic, and would, literally, freak out. Well, then I found out that they only inspected the luggage, which relieved me immensely. THEN I found out that only the family had to push the button, so if it flashed red, the whole family’s luggage got inspected. Now for the funny part. As we approached the final check-point, there was another family approaching from the other side. Christi let them go first. THEIR LIGHT FLASHED RED!! Ours flashed green (it’s totally random, you see), and we sailed right on through! See? Sometimes it pays to be generous!
We had read plenty of information on the all-helpful “interweb,” so we knew what to expect when we went through the first set of glass doors after customs. There were dozens of guys in between the two sets of glass doors, and as we headed for the final exit to the airport, one approached me and said, “Excuse me, senor! Welcome to Mexico! What hotel you staying?” I waved my hand at him (in a way that said, “Get away from me, buddy!”) and said “NO!” I didn’t look to the right or to the left, we kept walking straight ahead and made it through the second set of doors. You see, these people are there to scam you. They will distract you, and could, inevitably cost you lots of money. We had already been told that our prepaid ride to the hotel would be waiting outside the airport, past the second set of doors.
We got out that second set of doors, and there was a virtual sea of signs being held up. It was crazy. Some had names on them, some only had company names on them. We had been told that the guys that worked for the transport service that would carry us would have the USA Transfers logo, and carry signs that simply said “USA Transfers.” After wading through that virtual sea, we found them. I pointed at one, as we approached, caught his eye, and he came toward us. He had a clipboard, and, lo and behold, our name was one of the ones highlighted on his list! He took us away from that madness and had us stand by a kiosk that had the company name on it while we waited on the van. It was there that we got our first good glimpse of Cancun.
The van arrived, and we headed to our hotel. The ride took about fifteen minutes, just as predicted. We got to the hotel, got unloaded, and headed in to the front desk. The inside of the hotel is beautiful. They had a Christmas tree still set up just across from the checkout counter.
The hotel staff was extremely courteous as we got checked in. The guy at the counter explained amenities to us very well. We initially ordered wi-fi service in our room for two devices (that was extra), but have since cancelled it, because the wi-fi in the rooms is very spotty. There is much better service in the lobby, that is free. Also, while we were waiting at the front desk, a young lady showed up with some drinks on a tray and handed us each one. “Fruit punch,” she said. (We have an all-inclusive vacation, so all food and drinks are included. This is indicated by the grey wrist band that each of us has to wear the entire time we are here.) This fruit punch is about the best beverage I have ever tasted in my life. I have since been informed that it is basically a Tequila Sunrise without the tequila. I guess that would simply make it a “sunrise,” wouldn’t it? We got up to the room, and took a few pictures before we started unpacking. Then we opened the balcony door.
I think I cried a little. Once again, I have never seen such beautiful, blue ocean water. I understand we are on the Caribbean Sea, here. Our room (oh, I forgot to tell you, we are staying at the Iberostar Cancun Golf and Spa Resort), a “junior suite” has a huge balcony with a whirlpool tub (not exactly a “hot tub,” it’s more like a large bathtub with jets in it), and an amazing view. There is a small refrigerator in the room, stocked with soft drinks, water, and beer. We have requested a couple of times that they take out everything but Diet Coke and water, but they have yet to fulfill that request. Also, they don’t seem to have “Diet Coke,” here, but have, instead, “Coca Cola Light.” Not sure what the difference is, but it doesn’t taste as good. Anyway…the room is very nice. We are very satisfied.
After getting settled in, we headed down in search of food, as we had not had anything to eat since the breakfast at McDonald’s that morning. We found, with some disappointment, that the lunch buffet had closed at 3:00pm (it was now close to 4:00pm). But we found a snack bar by the pools that had a few items, so our first meal in Cancun was a cheeseburger and fries. While we were waiting for our food, someone brought a tray of chocolate cake and some cookies, so we ate those, too. The chocolate cake was quite good.
After eating, we took Stephanie back to the room, and Christi and I changed into some shorts and walked down to the beach. By this time, it was getting dark, so we walked along the edge of the water (it has been very windy, so far, so the red flags are out), just getting our feet wet . We found a couple of lounge chairs by the sea and sat in them and just watched and listened to the ocean for a while. To me, there is nothing in the world more soothing than the sound of the ocean.
After sitting a while, we went back to the room, where I changed back into some long pants (guys have to wear long pants at the “premium” restaurants), and went headed to our reservation at the hotel’s Japanese restaurant. We were promptly seated, and the hibachi cook came out pretty quickly. For some reason, a waiter took an order from us, but that didn’t seem to matter, because the cook gave us all some of everything; shrimp, beef, chicken, fried rice, and vegetables. It was tasty, but I’ve had better in the U.S. They didn’t give us any sauce to dip the meat in, but, again, it was still pretty good. We noticed that he didn’t dish out all of the meats, but put some of them on a plate on his cart. That made Christi wonder what happened to that food. Was he taking it home to his family? It was kind of an awkward moment for us…
After dinner, we got the laptop Stephanie had brought (we had never successfully connected it to the hotel wi-fi) and brought it down to the lobby, where we hooked it up with the free lobby wi-fi. There we sat for a while, with her laptop and our iPhones, just playing around. It’s kind of sad, really, that, as we looked around, probably 80% of the people in the lobby (and it was pretty full) were all engaged on some kind of electronic device. There were a few groups playing some games that they had checked out from Guest Services. So, here we are, paying quite a bit of money for this all-inclusive vacation, playing with our laptops and iPhones in the lobby of the hotel. Of course, we were also drinking as much as we wanted from the bar in the area, as well. Yes, I had some alcohol. They serve just about anything you want there, so I had me a Mai Tai. It wasn’t frozen though. But it was still pretty tasty. They also had popcorn! So we had some of that, too.
While we were sitting around, some of the hotel’s entertainment crew wandered around. They are called “Star Friends,” and we had read quite a bit about them. Okay, Christi read quite a bit about them. I heard it from her. Anyway, Arturo and Brisa came around and recruited us for the evening’s show at the hotel auditorium, in an outdoor “tiki hut.” Christi and I had actually been recruited to be part of the show, a game show for couples. We had no clue what we were in for. The show began at 9:20pm. At 9:10, we, along with three couples (all much younger than us), were led backstage in the show area. They began to explain some of the games to us. Heh. We met some charming people during this part, too. We met a couple from Norway! Artur and Kristina. They were very friendly. Then there was a couple from Philadelphia, who had about 20 people in the audience with them. Finally, there was a couple from Delaware.
The first game involved us acting out what happened on the night of our first kiss. Well, first, we had to make an entrance to the stage. Arturo told us that, when he called our name, we should come out dancing, hamming it up, and then kiss and go sit down. So we came out, pumping our hands up in the air, after which I began attempting to emulate Steve Martin’s “wild and crazy guy” routine. I can’t believe I’m telling you this. Then we had to enact our first kiss. We had fun telling everyone that our first kiss was 28 years ago!! We were judged by applause, so since the Philadelphia couple had a bunch of family in the audience, they won. The second game involved the guy being blindfolded and wearing a helmet that had something like a rhinoceros horn on it. The girl had to guide him, by talking to him, to a point where the horn was inserted into a ring that was on a pole, about head high. Christi and I came in second on that game, the Philadelphia couple winning again. The third game was quite awkward. The guy had to stand in a chair, while the girl had to, from behind him, manipulate a ping pong ball up one pant leg, across the front of his pants and then down the other pant leg. Everyone tied on that game, even though the ping pong ball got lost several times. Between that game and the last game, they played a recording of the girls’ voices as they attempted to guide the guy into the ring with the helmet, claiming that had wired each couple’s room with a mic on their first night here in Cancun. This got quite risqué, but I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard. Finally, the last game. Balloon popping. Again, the girl has to do all the work. The guy had to stand up, and the girl had to run across the stage, holding a balloon, and pop it against him, chest to chest. Then he had to sit down, and she had to come back with another balloon and sit down in his lap, popping it. After that, the guy had to bend over the chair, and the girl had to come back with another balloon, and pop it against his backside. Finally, the guy had to lay down on a mat on the stage, and the girl had to straddle him, popping the balloon between them.
Christi and I won that game by at least 10 seconds.
The final judgment, though, was by audience applause. We had been playing the “old people rule” card really heavily during this whole game, and at the end, it came down to us and the Philadelphia couple that had 20 family members in the audience. Arturo had the four of us come forward. Once again, he called for cheers. It was pretty even. Finally, he called for applause only, no cheering. I think our applause lasted a little longer. I also think Arturo really wanted us to win, because he awarded first place to us! Our reward was that Christi gets a free massage at the spa. Not me. Just Christi. But I guess that’s fair, because she did most of the work.
Ever since that event, we are still getting congratulations from people who were at that show. Occasionally, someone will pass by us and just smile. As I’m typing this, we just finished our dinner for night number two, and as we walked into the hotel lobby from the restaurant, we were, yet again, congratulated and told how awesome we were. Handshakes and everything. We’ve had our 15 minutes of fame. Only it was more like 90 minutes.
After the show, we hung out in the lobby for a bit, and then headed upstairs, where we ordered more food from room service. We worked really hard for that room service, because they wouldn’t answer the phone for, like, 30 minutes. After a long, eventful day, we finally hit the sack for our first night of sleep in Cancun.