I will start off by saying it has been a long time since we have been on a proper vacation! Our last one was in Puerto Rico over a year ago, so it felt really good to get back into it again. So today it was nice because our flight from Chicago to Cancun did not leave until 12:30, so we were able to sleep in a bit. It was a direct flight on American Airlines. We arrived in Cancun around 4 pm and the process of getting through customs was pretty fast compared to most places we have been. Then it was the moment of truth–how would the transfer to the port be that I purchased? We are staying on Isla Mujeres so I had been researching ways to get from Cancun airport to GranPuerto, I found a company called CARM Tours and Transfers. A guy was there waiting for us at the airport and the van was nice, clean, and air conditioned. The transfer to the port was so smooth and I think we only paid about $30 USD (round trip) for the both of us. Totally worth it for the price and the piece of mind. The drive to the port was great we got to see some of the Cancun resorts and pretty much decided we never need to stay there.
Once we got to the port we got round trip tickets for the ferry to Isla Mujeres. I think these were about $11 USD per person. I was worried about getting sick on the boat because I am always getting seasick, so I went to the convenient store to get some chips and soda. I really wanted pretzels because those have been really good at keeping seasickness away but there were none so we got Cheetos and some weird pizza flavored chips. I also found Dr Pepper here so of course I had to get one and take my picture with it because that’s the tradition in every country we travel. Of course at the port I saw my first of many cats.
The ferry ride was great, very smooth. We sat on the top and a man was playing music.
Once we got to Isla we walked to our hotel, Ixchel Beach Hotel. Ixchel was about a 10 minute walk from the port and it is situated on the best beach of the island, Playa Norte. The walk was so hot, I was sweating like crazy! The check in process was easy and fast so we got settled in quickly.
Then we were hungry so we decided to get some food at Mamacita because we got a 10% discount there with our hotel stay. It was not that great. I got a beef burrito but it was mostly filled with a weird variety of vegetables. Don accidentally ordered a cheeseburger because he thought the waiter said it was a steak or something haha. But his cheeseburger looked pretty good. We each had our first of many drinks on the island, a Sol. We also had a few furry visitors while we ate.
Next we went to a bar called Kokonuts. We had giant margaritas there and some tequila shots. We talked to the bartender about American football and Fireball. They actually have Fireball here on Isla. After Kokonuts we walked and got some ice cream. And this was our first night in Mexico.
Today we left for a week vacation in Puerto Rico. We were going to meet our friends, Judy and Steve, in San Juan. Our flight left O’Hare at 8:30 am. I was really excited to go somewhere warm because Chicago had been bitterly cold for the past couple of weeks with highs in the teens. The weather wasn’t so great when we were leaving so we were getting worried that our flight would be delayed or canceled.
Luckily, our flight was on time. The flight from Chicago to San Juan was pretty good. We bought the flight with our American Airline points. I sat next to a guy that kept falling asleep, but when he fell asleep he moved around a lot and ended up hitting me in my side a few times. He was really annoying. One thing cool about this flight was I believe it was the first time we have had a woman pilot. Oh, I almost forgot though…note to self, never agree to sit in the “bulkhead” seating. We switched our seats before the flight because they were not together and the attendant asked us if we were okay with sitting in bulkhead seating. We just agreed to it. It is the row right behind first class. There is no under the seat bag storage and the arm dividers do not move. The seats felt very cramped but we did a have a little more leg room. But never again, if we can avoid it.
We got to San Juan around 3:30 pm. They are 2 hours ahead of us in Chicago. We took a cab to our hotel, the Condado Plaza Hilton Hotel. The cab fare was about $20 from the airport. Our cabbie was cool, he was very proud of his automatic van doors. The lobby of this hotel was beautiful, it had a big aquarium and the whole place was just nicely decorated. Once we checked in we decided to venture out for some food and to check out the pool. It felt so good to be in warm weather! The grounds around the hotel were beautiful and they had a great pool area and their own beach.
We were going to eat at the hotel but then we decided to walk around outside the hotel. We saw so many restaurants. We decided on a place that had Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine. It was okay…I had a steak and was expecting a delicious steak like I had last time in San Juan but it was not very good. It was too well done. The rum punch there was excellent though. I wish I could remember the name of this place but I can not find it on google maps right now. Maybe it will come to me later. Here’s some pictures of the view from the restaurant and our food. Don really enjoyed his meal, it was a fried pork chop.
After dinner we walked around more. We were right next to the ocean so the views were amazing. It was funny to see Christmas decorations and be in a such warm weather. We got some ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s because neither of us had actually been to one before.
We got back to the hotel around 8:30 pm and we were so tired. We fell asleep and around 1 am Judy and Steve arrived. They had switched their flight to avoid the winter storm Electra. They stayed with us in our room the first night. Slumber Party!
Today we woke up around 5 am and quickly got ready. We ran to kinkos real fast to print another luggage tag for the cruise. We decided to check a bag with our fins. Then we got in a cab to head to O’hare.
We had a some breakfast and then had about an hour to spare before boarding. We started boarding on time at 8 am. Once we started moving and getting ready to take off though we sat in one place for a long time. Finally the captain said we had to go back to the gate to get a mechanical issue checked out. That was annoying to hear but also scary.
We went back to the gate and sat. Why is sitting in an unmoving plane so much harder to do than when you are in the air? I get so irritated. Luckily the problem was fixed quicker than I thought it would be. We finally took off around 930 or 10.
The flight was about 5 hours. I hate long flights! We sat next to a family that had 3 young kids. They were cute and luckily they were also well behaved. We landed around 3:30 pm, an hour later than scheduled.
We got outside in San Juan and it was hot! We got a taxi to our hotel. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to get there. I was so tired and hungry.
Our hotel looked very cute when we got here. It’s called Casablanca Hotel. We picked it because we could get a night here free through Hotels.com. The guy at the front desk is from Indiana. He asked how the weather was in Chicago. We found out our room was on the 3rd floor and no elevator. We are used to that by now. I was shocked at how small the room was. It is probably the size of our living room if not smaller with a bed, couch and a tiny tv. It looks nice though.
I quickly changed into some more weather appropriate clothes and got ready to go out. We started walking around Old San Juan. The area is very cool looking and everyone walks. Things are very close. We saw where the cruise ship will take off from.
We were having a hard time finding a place to eat so finally we asked these 2 guys. They gave us 2 restaurants that were authentic Spanish food. We decided on Mojitos. It was pretty good. We had a mashed plantain appetizer. I had skirt steak with fries. Don had a pork chop with rice and beans. The food was good, I ate all of it!
Then we started walking around more. We went down by the water and came to a plaza that had vendors selling food and purses. We got a bag of churros. They were delicious. Then we sat down for awhile because it looked like a concert was getting ready to start. But after sitting for a long while we decided to go back to the hotel because we were tired.
Now we are just chilling in the room. Not really sure what we are doing tomorrow before we get on the ship.