Friday, May 13, 2011

Mexico...My Little “Secret” (Part 1)

I find it interesting that a major all-inclusive resort chain would choose to name one of their products “Secrets.”  No business anywhere of any kind wants to be a secret.  Maybe their goal was to aim for a name that would conjure up an image of exclusivity. That might well be the case with AMResorts when they decided they would build their first Secrets Resort and Spa in Mexico’s Riviera Maya back in 2003.  You get a sense that they almost like to keep their resorts a “secret” when you compare even the size of their gated entrances to those of some of the other big name resort players throughout the Cancun/Playa del Carmen area.   

But before I get into my review related to the resort itself and share my little “secret” with you, let me start by offering some tips on how best to navigate your way through customs and beyond once you arrive in Cancun.  First...have your customs and declaration forms filled out BEFORE you get off the plane in Cancun.  Sometimes this is unavoidable since Mexico does not always equip incoming planes with the proper number of forms needed.  But that was not the case on our latest American Airlines flight and, to much surprise, several passengers were huddled in a cramped gate area immediately off the plane because they did not have their forms pre-filled out before they landed.  The Mexican officials will not let you head on down towards the customs area unless you have your forms filled out.  So try really hard to get your hands on those forms before landing in Cancun.

Then, once you have navigated the customs and immigration area with luggage in tow, head straight through the sliding doors and outside to the transfer and transportation area with purpose.  If you are traveling to Mexico for the first time, do NOT wait until you arrive in Cancun before you start considering how you will get from the airport to your hotel or resort.  This will sound like an understatement to those who have been to Mexico before, but vendors in Mexico are pushy!  If you don’t know where you are going or what you are doing, they will sense that like a lion smells food on the Serengeti.  Make sure you have your transfers pre-arranged before arriving in Cancun and then follow your transfer company’s instructions to a T.  Vendors inside the airport (after you leave the customs area) will act as if they need to see your reservation or confirmation to “help you make sure you know where you are going” which they don’t so keep your eyes looking forward and walk with purpose past their nonsense and out to the area where you were told to go. 

We chose USA Transfers again for this trip and they were wonderful.  They greet you by name and offer clean and well-maintained vans for their shuttle service whether private or shared.  Their prices are reasonable as well. Various other suppliers that I use such as GOGO and Pleasant Holidays all use reputable transfer companies and have clear instructions to follow so, again, make sure you have your transfers pre-arranged before heading off on your vacation.

Second tip to consider.  Take along about $100 to $200 in US dollars and try to take along small bills such as $1’s and $5’s.  Even though most resorts will advertise that “tips are included,”  most every employee still expects some form of small gratuity when fetching you a beverage or calling a taxi etc.  If you go down with larger bills and then try to buy something to get change, you will most likely be given pesos in return.  So try as best as you can to set aside some money just for tipping.

Third patient for crying out loud.  Remember that you are the visitor.  You are the tourist.  Your ways are not their ways.  Your customs are not their customs.  Mexico has its own speed.  Schedules can sometimes have a plus or minus of 15-30 minutes (usually a plus).  Be patient with that and with the drivers and guides that you come across.  Remember that English is NOT their national language and the fact that many of them speak both Spanish and English means they are probably more intelligent than you and I.  So when your bus makes it 4th or 5th stop, take a deep breath and remember that you are in Mexico where life is harder for most of its citizens and they have the same goals as you and I which is to provide for ourselves and our family and try to live as comfortably as we can and at peace. 

Fourth and final tip...spend a day away from your resort.  The local economy is better supported when tourists remove themselves from the confines of the resort.  Taxi drivers, tour guides, local vendors and artisans reap the benefits of your visit when you buy their wares or use their services.  These service providers and vendors are mostly those who have called Cancun and Playa del Carmen their home for most of their lives versus some of the employees at the resorts who may have been transplanted in because of their education and their ability to speak English fluently. So get out and experience more of what Mexico has to offer.  While their sales techniques can be a bit much compared to what we are used to in the United States, you will still meet some of the nicest, most hospitable people found anywhere on the planet.  So get out there and see what they have to offer.

So now please stay tuned for my review and observations of AMResort’s first resort of the Riviera Maya...Secrets Capri Resort and Spa.