We're on our way! The flight is mid-morning (9 AM) but with the new travel restrictions on liquids on luggage we try to leave more time for checking the bags. Our group of 7 has expanded by one - my 16 year old babysitter is now coming with us.
We make it to the airport in time. Check-in is not nearly as awful as I was imagining and it's actually nice not to be dragging the bags all over the airport. I packed extra clothes in our carry-ons just in case. I even have time for a cup of coffee in the airport.
The flight isn't bad. The middle one has problems with her ears on the descent and is in a lot of pain. I adjust the ear-plugs I got her; it seems to help.
Cancun airport is a study in controlled chaos. It doesn't take us nearly as long as I thought it would to get through the airport. The lines look hideous but aren't that bad; they're long but they move pretty steadily. A porter comes up to us and takes the bags. This isn't what we wanted - because he'll be expecting a tip - but it helps us find our tour company and get where we need to be to meet our van. Since we're such a large group we have a van almost all to ourselves, which is nice with the kids.
The trip down to Playa in the van is uneventful. The highway is straight and smooth; the scenery is unimpressive. The kids wonder why there are so many signs in English even though we are in another country. We see McDonald's, Burger King, and Sam's Club.
Our hotel is located in the Hotel Zone in Playacar - a private gated community which borders on the town of Playa del Carmen. There is a golf course, small houses and condo-developments. The streets are lined with palm trees and neat sidewalks. My kids wonder why it looks familiar till one says it looks like the development in Florida where their great-aunt and uncle live. The Hotel Zone looks like the Vegas strip without the neon - one enormous hotel after another. The kids "oooh" and "aaahhh", till they see our hotel. Then they are just silent in awe...
It really is gorgeous. A huge open air lobby with reproductions of Mayan artwork, including two huge statues at the entrance. The kids love the Scarlet Macaws; that and the waitress circling with the mango juice keep them busy while we check-in.
They have given us the rooms I e-mailed in advance for: Building 11, second-floor, interior view, adjoining. Me and two of my girls with the sitter in one room, with my friend, her two, and my extra in the other. The room is on the small side but comfortable enough. There isn't enough storage space for clothes - only a couple of shelves in the closet. The beds are hard. The shower is huge with a large showerhead. We can see both the beach and the pool from our balcony and there is a neat little drying rack attached to the wall so you don't see towels and swimsuits hanging over the balcony railing. The mini-bar is free and there is plenty of bottled water.
The weather is muggy and overcast but we change into our suits and hit the beach buffet, then the pool. The beach buffet is ok - we're starving (although Continental did give us a cold cereal breakfast on the plane; more than the bag of peanuts or pretzels I expected). We only take a quick glance at the beach and head for the pool. It's huge and deeper than we expected but the kids pull out their "snorkle gear" and start practicing.
Dinner is at the buffet - to get there we hike up through the jungle trail; the kids see all kinds of animals (peacocks, some sort of other large birds, some large rodent-type things, and lots of iguanas) so it takes a while. It's lobster tail night. It's amazing - we all eat like pigs. It's only about 8 PM but I can't keep my eyes open. The kids want to go see the show but it's hard enough finding our way back through the jungle path to our rooms because our eyes are half shut. The hard beds don't stop me from falling right to sleep.