One of the few negatives of long-term travel and international work is that I do not see my family and friends as often as I would like. Weddings are an amazing way to catch up with people but the time and expense of traveling across the world for one big day can be onerous and thus I am rarely able to attend. When my cousin invited me to his destination wedding in Mexico I was thrilled as it meant a full week with family in a tropical paradise.
My only experience in Mexico previously had been a short day trip to Mexicali, on the California-Mexico border, when I was very young. I knew that “resort Mexico” would be very different from that border experience and I was excited to see the water and beaches of Playa del Carmen in person.
To get to the Cancun airport I had to fly from my work camp to Sana’a to Dubai to Zurich to Toronto to Cancun – my longest continuous flight itinerary to date. The flights generally went well but I was absolutely exhausted when I finally arrived in Cancun. I had a pre-arranged transfer from the airport to the Grand Sunset Princess Resort near Playa del Carmen so at least getting to my hotel took relatively little energy or thought.
When choosing my room at the resort I decided on a Platinum Suite with a Jacuzzi on the balcony. This option was around US $20 per night more than the standard rooms, but as the Platinum Suites had free internet (vs. pay-per-use internet for a standard room), I figured the additional cost was worth it. The Platinum package also offered me a few other perks such as a stocked mini-bar, access to exclusive pools and bars, and a few other benefits around the resort, but all I really wanted was the free internet so I could check-in with work when I had to.
After arriving at the resort, the young check-in clerk entered my passport details he looked up at me over the computer monitor and said “señor, I wish I were you this week…you’re getting a complimentary room upgrade” which immediately got me excited. I was put in a nice Penthouse suite which had ocean views for no additional cost. All of the rooms at the Grand Sunset Princess I saw were very nice, but I did like the fact I had a Jacuzzi tub both in the room and on the balcony and a large walk-in closet, which was funny given all I had with me were board shorts, singlets, and a couple formal shirts and trousers for the wedding and dinners.
The only downside to my ocean view room was that the Grand Sunset Princess Resort is absolutely massive and most of the bars and restaurants are near the lobby which is on the opposite end of the resort from the ocean and beach. It took me 10-15 minutes to walk between the front of the resort to my room which was inconvenient. There is a shuttle the resort operates to take guests from the beach end of the resort to the reception side and back, but it only runs once every 15 minutes so I usually found it faster to walk the length of the resort rather than wait. I would highly recommend booking the poolside rooms as that is between the beach and the dining areas and right in the middle of the daytime action.
The Grand Sunset Princess was generally great as the size of the complex provided an area for everyone. There were pools well suite for families, partiers, and those looking for some peace and quiet. Since several of the couples in our group had pool-side accommodation, we established our usual spot along a row of lounge chairs there.
Most days we stuck to the all-inclusive program: loads of free sun, loads of free drinks, and loads of free food. There were several restaurant choices and I would consider the food to generally be quite good for an all-inclusive and I always found something worth eating. There were numerous bars sprinkled about the resort and sometimes we even had waiters approach us by the pool to see if they could bring us anything.
Although I researched a number of day trip options outside of the resort, including scuba diving and excursions to nearby Mayan ruins, I only left the resort twice: to visit Puerto Vallarta and experience the Xplor Park.
I do not have much to say about Playa Del Carmen other than that it is a typical developed beach town. Souvenir and designer brand stores line the streets with a plethora of restaurants, hotels, and bars sprinkled throughout. Although it was fun to look at the variety of Chinese and locally manufactured trinkets for a few minutes, I was quickly over the heat and was ready for cold beers. Thankfully, my shopping companions were of the same mind set and we made a couple of stops for drinks and even had our photo taken and put on a tequila bottle. My only purchase of the day was a tropical print fedora to keep my bald noggin’ from burning.
The other day out was to the Xplor Park, a massive adrenaline park that has zip-lines, amphibious vehicles, underground rafts, and relaxing places to just chill out (perfect for a quick snooze if the previous night’s tequila shots begin catching up to you). I must admit that I had a ton of fun at Xplor and it is definitely worth the price of admission. The zip-lines were great and appeared to be well engineered and safely run.
The amphibious vehicles were basically John Deer Gators (utility ATVs) that had been re-designed to look the part of a jungle explorer. There are two different courses to drive and we had such a blast that we drove them three times! The reason they call them amphibious vehicles is because the course goes through water filled caverns and under waterfalls – great fun!
Of course, the main purpose of my visit to Mexico and the Grand Sunset Princess was for my cousin’s wedding. There were lots of family and friends there for the occasion and everyone had a great time. My cousin is a very chilled out guy and I loved it when he told me that we were going to wear Tommy Bahama shirts and trousers along with flip flop sandals for his big day. Nothing better than a comfortable and casual wedding party! The bride and bridesmaids were less casual but all looked amazing in their dresses.
The ceremony was short and very well done and the beach and ocean backdrop was incredible. A nice breeze blew throughout which also kept everyone nice and cool. After the ceremony cold champagne was awaiting and everyone had a good time socializing before and during dinner.
The highlight for me was that the bride and groom made their way down to the 24-Hour sports bar until the wee hours of the morning on their wedding night, still wearing their wedding attire. Nothing confirmed to me more that my cousin had chosen the right woman to be his wife when I saw her chilling out in a bucket chair, in her wedding dress, drinking a beer and eating nachos with friends and family.
A wonderful wedding with a wonderful group of people at a wonderful resort in a wonderful country – guess I could say it was a wonderful experience!