Tacos in Cozumel
A few weeks ago we took our very first cruise to Cozumel and Progreso (Yucatan) Mexico. A while back in 2018, I received a phone call from my Brother asking if we wanted to just take the plunge and put a deposit on a cruise. Being that it was right after we received our taxes back, we had some money and made the plunge.
Why a cruise?
My parents had gone on several cruises and always come back ranting and raving about them. They always talked about how they were planning the next one. We are also subject to the obligatory photo watching for a couple of hours after they get back. This is how into it my mom is…She has a license plate cover for her car that says “My Other Car is a Cruise Ship.”
For our first cruise, we had decided to go on one of the cheaper voyages. After searching for a bit, we found a super affordable 5-day cruise to Cozumel and Yucatan through Carnival. Even after upgrading to a balcony room and prepaying our tips we were only out about $1200 dollars, which is not too shabby for a 5-day cruise. The great thing about Carnival is that you can make payments on the cruise. I don’t know if other cruise lines do that as well, but in this case, being a super cheap cruise, to begin with it only came out to $100 a month until we left.
We had heard all of the horror stories coming out of Mexico lately, you know, with the Cartels and violence and our current political climate, however, after a lot of research, we came to find out that the area of Mexico that we would be staying at is actually the safest in the country by far. It is far away from the border towns that give Mexico a bad rap. I was not too worried at all but we would get sent everyday news articles about someone else getting murdered by family members. Don’t listen to them.
When you get off the ship, your first impression is, Wow! That’s a lot of sun.
As you walk down the pier you have to go through the Duty-Free stores where you are pitched a million different kinds of liquor, colognes, food, and jewelry. Getting through all of that, you are hit with another array of stores and restaurants. Now, we had made the mistake of thinking that there were beaches right off the boat that we would be able to go and visit. We were wrong… We tried to explore and find a beach to visit. As we walked out of the shopping center, we were hit with actual Mexico. There are a night and day difference from the touristy cruise port and the real Mexico. Do not be fooled, it is not always a Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville.
Once we decided we needed to actually go somewhere, we found a cab and they whisked us away to a private beach about 10 minutes south called Aquarium Beach Cozumel. The cab ride was interesting, to say the least… Now when you arrive at the location they had 3 options for entry, with the basic entry being $17/ person. That goes up to $45/person for Food and $65/person for unlimited drinks and food.
The beach itself was very secluded and beautiful. Palm trees line the coastline, but it definitely isn’t a white sand beach like you see in the movies. A super nice amigo comes up and takes your order for drinks and food. They have the traditional touristy food of Burritos and Tacos with your choice of meat as well as Chips, Salsa, and Guacamole. To be honest, the tacos were to die for.
There was just something about the carne asada with fresh tortillas and cheese that still makes me long for them.
Now on to the bad part of the story.
Every 5 minutes or so, one of the vendors that they allow on the premises will make the rounds trying to sell you stuff. They aren’t pushy, but I did fall for a bait and switch scheme that they played. My wife is a FREAK about Turquoise jewelry. She loves it and cannot get enough of it. One of her goals on this trip was to get a couple of pieces of authentic turquoise jewelry and we had a budget set up for it. One of the vendors that came around was selling beautiful Turquoise rings and my wife fell in love with two of the pieces. Now being around Turquoise as long as I have, I know how to tell the difference between fake and real turquoise. If you run your fingernail along the grain on the stone, if you can feel the ridges and creases, it is a real stone. I verified that the stones were real and had to do the traditional haggle for prices.
I finally got him down to $75 for the two rings. We finalized the deal and I was happy with the purchase. He then went to put the rings in a pouch for us and I paid the man. When we got back to the ship, my wife put on the ring and noticed something was immediately off. There was a chip in the stone. The vendor had switched the rings for fake ones when he went to “polish them up” and put them in a pouch. My fault for letting it happen really.
As we leave after spending all of our spending cash on trinkets and fake jewelry, we are then cornered into being asked for another tip to our servers. So be prepared to be asked for tips everywhere you go. After getting another cab to the cruise terminal, we decided to wander the shops and pick up some more awesome and cheap souvenirs. You can find hand-carved chess sets for $10 and blankets 2 for $10. Believe me, budget a fair amount for picking up these great deals. Some of the better stores at the port will also accept credit cards (and sneak in a few extra pesos claiming its the exchange rate). It is not a matter of IF you will get ripped off, just how badly.
Tips for going to Cozumel
- Plan your excursion beforehand. You do not want to waste any time or money going to someplace that is not sanctioned by the cruise line. It will save you a bunch of valuable time and you will not be ripped off.
- Always Haggle. If you are not a fan of going back and forth, you will pay through the nose. All prices are marked up everywhere you go, so ask them again and again, what is the best price you can do. Be prepared to walk away if you do not like the price and they will come around. They know the game well. If you want the best deals, try and bundle items together. (Pay $50 for 2 items instead of $35 for one.)
- Bring walking shoes. There is a lot of walking involved.
- Once you make a deal, do not let them take the item out of your sight. They will do the old switcheroo on you.
- Do a lap around all the stores before actually buying anything. You don’t want to be carrying bags around all day.
As we pulled out of the port, the sunset was amazing. A symphony of Blues, pinks, and oranges set against the black of the ocean.
It puts life into perspective for you. There is so much more to life than just waking up, going to work, and coming home to watch TV. Go out and find the most beautiful sunset you can. Go find the best beaches to lose your afternoon at. You have not lived if you have not traveled.