TripAdvisor Review: Mayan Adventure

As the third (and likely, the final) TripAdvisor review of our Mexico vacation, I offer my recap of our day on the Mayan Adventure Snorkeling Tour with Aventuras Mayas.

My husband and I booked the Mayan Adventure Snorkeling Tour via the travel rep at our hotel during our April 2010 vacation — we’d known we wanted to go snorkeling, but didn’t know where. I’m so glad that we ended up with this tour!

Our guide, Julio, drove our tour group from Playa del Carmen out to Akumal, our first of three snorkeling locations. There, he distributed life vests (manually inflatable), masks, and individually-wrapped breathing tubes. After renting some slightly suspicious-looking snorkel gear on a previous vacation, I was glad to see the focus on hygiene.

There was also a focus on environmental awareness, mainly centered around sunscreen. My husband and I had been told by our travel rep that only biodegradable sunscreen was allowed; truth be told, though, the guides would prefer that snorkelers not wear sunscreen at all, since even the biodegradable versions need sunlight to biodegrade. We’d already slathered it on in our hotel room previously, though, and I can attest that most of it had washed off by the time we got to the underground cenote at the end of the tour. Julio suggested that those who are highly susceptible to sunburn simply keep their t-shirt on, although he didn’t force us to shower off any previously-applied sunblock.

We snorkeled in three locations: an ocean inlet, an open cenote, and an underground cenote. Julio made sure to point out all the potential dangers and wonders of each spot. We were especially glad that he showed us a map of the ocean inlet, as my husband and I got separated from the group and had to find our way back on our own! (Both of us wear glasses, and there were several red-shirted tour guides for various groups, so one red guy started to look like another…) Apart from that minor scare, the snorkeling at Yal-Ku Lagoon was beautiful.

Our Tour Group

The open cenote that was next on the agenda included a diving platform and a zipline, for the adventurous types. I passed on both, but my husband did the zipline and loved it! Several people jumped off of the diving platform multiple times. Not as many fish as in the lagoon, but the water was crisp and cool and refreshing.

The underground cenote was even colder, but was completely breathtaking. A few beams of natural light filtered from above us down into the deep, and the crevasses below us seemed to go down forever. The beauty was amazing (and was, unfortunately, too dark for my underwater camera to capture).

Lunch is included in this tour, which we hadn’t realized at the time of booking. The food was delicious yet basic: chicken, tortillas, rice, beans, all fresh and very welcome after a morning of snorkeling.

I brought a camera with an underwater case, but there were some staff photographers at certain locations — at the zipline and diving platform, and in the underground cenote. They took some candid shots at the open cenote, and some posed shots of couples and family groups at the underground cenote. The price of the photos was extremely reasonable: about $20 for a CD-R of the candid and posed shots, plus some stock photos of the cenotes and wildlife.

Overall, this was a fabulous experience. Highly recommend!

Snorkeling Self-Portrait

TripAdvisor Review: The Royal Playa del Carmen

As the first of several reviews I’ll be writing about our experiences with the businesses and services in and around Playa del Carmen, QR, Mexico, I chose to review our resort, the Royal Playa del Carmen.

Despite a few negative experiences I felt necessary to point out, I gave the resort a rating of five out of five. My review reads, in part:

In a nutshell: The Royal has spacious rooms, a beautiful beach, delicious food, and impeccable service. There were negative points, of course, but the positives far outweighed those.

We stayed at the Royal for six nights, and ate at every restaurant at least once. Maria Marie, the French-Mexican fusion restaurant, quickly became our favorite; we’d had little to no prior experience with pricey French cuisine, and discovered that we love the selections at Maria Marie. Second on our list was the 24-Hour All-Inclusive Snack Bar, oddly enough. They had hors d’oeuvres that were appropriate for the time of day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night), plus beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, so it was a great place to stop in at off-times: for an early breakfast before a tour, or in the afternoon if we were planning a late dinner.

Regarding our room (Junior Suite): It was easily the largest and most posh room we’ve ever stayed in. The ceilings were amazingly tall; the bed large and comfortable, with plenty of pillows to choose from; the AC worked splendidly, as did the ceiling fan; and the double jacuzzi was much appreciated.

[The] negative points really were far outweighed by the fabulous experience we had at the Royal. There were beach chairs both in the sun and the shade (which we, as pasty white Midwesterners, highly appreciated), with servers who brought us beverages as we read books and surfed the internet on our smartphones using the resort’s free wi-fi. The service at all of the restaurants was nearly impeccable: never before have I had my chair pulled out for me AND my napkin laid on my lap. The food was delicious and attractive, and the desserts (especially anything involving chocolate) were absolutely amazing. And whenever we were at a loss as to where to go or what to do, we’d simply stop into the Lobby Bar and enjoy the comfy chairs, the breeze, and a few drinks. (And the wi-fi.)

As far as relaxing, resort-style beach vacations go, this was an amazing experience. I would definitely recommend the Royal to anyone who is considering a vacation in Playa.

For my full review, along with photos of The Royal, visit my list of reviews on TripAdvisor. They take a few days to approve reviews, so it should be posted by early next week was posted on Wednesday.

Vacation Slideshow

Finally! All the vacation photos are processed and posted!

Yes, I know they were all digital. And, yes, they still needed “processing.” Deciding which ones to post. Tweaking the color and contrast until the images are just like the ones in my memory. Cloning out pimples and other indignities. Stuff like that.

If you watch the whole slideshow from start to end (199 photos and two very short videos), it should take about a half hour of your time. We did take about a half hour of video on our MiniDV camcorder, so I’ll probably be editing that down and posting it to YouTube later, too.

FYI, you’ll need to either watch our vacation media online or contact us for a private screening at the Schnuth abode, because we’re not planning to host a Post-Vacation Mexican Fiesta this year. We’ll be happy to join individuals and couples for dinner, possibly drinks, and a screening of our vacation video (once it’s finished), though. In fact, we encourage that.

When We Arrived

Towel Art: Cake
[Taken 20 April 2010 | ΒΌ sec at f/4 | ISO 200 | 18mm]

There was a cake made out of towels on our king size hotel bed, sprinkled with real rose petals.