Mexico Part 1: Isla Mujeres

The penultimate leg of our honeymoon was the trip south from New York to Mexico. Extremely sad to be leaving the city and the best hotel I’ve experienced, The Bowery, we arrived just a four-hour flight later in Cancun, the party town popular with American students on Spring Break and families looking for all-inclusive resorts and holidays, a Mexican-Miami or Vegas on the beach.

We thought we were on our way to paradise, Isla Mujeres in fact, and my interest peaked when I heard it translated to the ‘Island of Women’ (sorry darling). An incredibly overpriced US dollar taxi later we embarked onto the ferry at Gran Puerto terminal, the same terminal that also managed to take a healthy $50 from us for sunscreen.

A Mexican veteran sat aboard the ferry and played acoustic guitar, strumming and passionately singing along to what seemed quite authentic songs. He then finished as the ferry came in with a crowd favourite, Ritchie Valen’s “La Bamba”. Even I was quietly clicking my fingers and humming in approval.

The obligatory taxi chaos scene greeted us on arrival. For a small island there were a LOT of taxis. We knew our hotel was a short walk of 600 metres but the stifling heat meant jumping in an even hotter taxi, sans air conditioning. On arrival at the hotel, the Privilege Aluxes, all we envisioned was jumping in our private pool on our terrace in “The Penthouse Suite”. The strangely cheesy, sleazy supervisor unsettled me, and there would good reason for this later.

A fellow staff member was summoned to take us to our room. Still positive we were taken to the elevator. I tried to tell myself the beer bottles and plates with congealed food left outside rooms were not a bad omen. In the room we went, it was huge, modern and clean, but strangely cold in atmosphere and décor. As we were taken onto the terrace I looked at the tired-looking spa and thought it was different to the pictures I had seen. But my wife did not say anything so we remained polite and I was content enough, ready to don the boardies.

As soon as the porter left my wife explained: “This is not the room I booked.” It was the Honeymoon Suite, not the Penthouse Suite and did not have a private pool, the only reason we upgraded. Sensing a potential upset I made light of it. Of course it must be a mistake. We rang the Reception. After some chatter they asked us to come downstairs to discuss. No problem, we would be moved in the next ten minutes surely. We trudged downstairs.

The hotel supervisor sat at his desk and spoke. He tried to explain in a condescending tone we were now in the Honeymoon Suite one floor below as “you are on honeymoon”. Four times, with each time becomingly progressively louder, I explained that’s fine but we booked the penthouse, the top floor room (of which there are nine) with our own pool and large terrace that was an extra US $70 per night. He tried to blame my wife saying in our “special notes” we mentioned that we are on honeymoon and of course he put all emphasis back on us.

After our own little Mexican standoff he just sat there in silence and shrugged. I showed him the email booking confirmation with Penthouse Suite and the list of all the amenities including private pool. He sat there almost smirking. No offer of an explanation why they had double booked (clearly someone else wanted the room for a longer period so they bumped us down and hoped we would not say anything). No offer of a discount or drinks vouchers or a free meal or even an apology. We sat there stunned and then walked back to the room. The wife was upset of course as she explained she wanted the best for our honeymoon. I would have my revenge in the form of review site Tripadvisor later.

Apart from the pool the rest of the hotel’s offerings were all-inclusive, resort-style and the restaurants on offer were bad. They cater purely to an American-style clientele and the nachos we ordered at one of the bars were soggy and doused in mayonnaise. If you like good food do not come here, however we did have some great tasting authentic, fresh Mexican food just two streets down on Calle Miguel Hidalgo for less, usually around US $70 including drinks at Lola Valentina and La Terraza. And after spending most of our one full day by the decent pool, some good memories were salvaged. Leaving Isla Mujeres, which for the record didn’t actually have that many women but plenty of sweaty men, Tulum was calling.

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