Hola! If you’re following me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, then you know I just returned from Cancun, Mexico, where I attended the TBEX conference. I landed after a short three hour, 35-minute flight from New York. It was my first time in Mexico in years and one of the reasons why is that after the gang shootings and beheadings, I didn’t really have a strong desire to go. But as soon as I landed, it dawned on me how much I missed this place. Most Mexicans are really warm – especially the people you meet right outside of immigration, since they are all trying to get your business! But honestly, most Mexicans are extremely friendly. The only ones that aren’t necessarily (in my experience) are the immigration officers so here’s a tip: Make sure you complete the entire immigration form (including the back side) so you don’t get pulled out of line to finish.
Taxi to Hotel
I ran into a few friends on the plane who were heading to the conference as well. Some had prepaid the shuttle service, which was $12.50. When I called to book, they said it would take 45 minutes to get to the hotel and that if I wanted to hire a car service, it would be $70. That didn’t seem right since Google Maps said the hotel was close to the airport so I stuck with my gut and didn’t book a car. It was a smart move because I ran into friends and we all shared a taxi. I asked three different companies about prices and they all quoted me $14 USD for a Super Shuttle or $56 USD for taxi. You can pay in US dollars. Taxis are a rip since it really is only a 12-minute ride to the hotel but when you share your transportation with three people, it’s obviously a better deal and you don’t have to wait. BTW: Our driver was very nice and spoke little English. He also had a pacifier on his keychain and told us that he doesn’t have any little kids. Random, I know.
The host hotel for this year’s conference was Moon Palace in Cancun. It’s a solid four-star, all-inclusive resort. I didn’t have to pay for my accommodations since my beautiful wife was speaking and her room was covered, but for those that did have to pay, prices were all over the place. One of my colleagues paid $199 a night, which is a great deal considering all meals and alcohol are included. That includes the mini bar in the rooms, which come with four bottles of booze. Dangerous, I know. But I was surprised I didn’t see that many ridiculously drunk people … except at the Expedia party, where everyone let loose and had a great time. I did see some incredible deals for the resort on my deals page, which is powered mostly by TravelZoo.com.
Moon Palace Food
Moon Palace in Cancun is huge. I have no idea how many square miles it is but I do know it’s divided into three sections: Moon Grand, Sunrise and Nizuc and has a total of 2,457 rooms. Natalie and I were in the Sunrise building, which is a good quarter-mile walk from the Nizuc side. We visited the Nizuc building to go to Los Caporales Mexican Restaurant for dinner one night. The restaurant was great; don’t miss the homemade guacamole, which is made tableside. The whole resort has 19 restaurants and I found the food to be good. Not great (except for some dishes at Los Caporales). But there was an enormous selection so no matter if you are a vegetarian or not, there’s something for you. NOTE: Because it’s an all-inclusive resort, you have to wear a wristband, which scratched me once in a while and cost $75 to replace if you lose it! Can you say rip-off?
Moon Palace Ice Cream
The best and worst part about Moon Palace is that everything is included. You aren’t even supposed to tip but we did since we heard the hotel workers don’t make a lot of money (but you wouldn’t know it since they all seemed happy). I was able to keep my portions down but what really killed me was the ice cream shop that also made homemade crepes and cones. Some of their ice creams (coconut, caramel, and chocolate) were really good. So were the fruit pops (my fave were watermelon, pineapple, and chocolate). Don’t get the coconut. But this café always seemed to be open so no matter when I walked by, I got sucked in. Even if it was for one of their chocolates. The hardest part is that everything was included so there wasn’t a charge. Ugh! Now I’m home eating salads, yogurt, and granola trying to minimize my waistband so I can fit into my bathing suit.
All the rooms were nice, clean, and have marble floors. Our room had a king-size bed with the perfect duvet for me – light and cool cotton. The free WiFi inside the hotel worked great (though not at the conference center) and the bathroom came equipped with a hair straightener, which of course means nothing to me but my wife said is a big deal for women. The main feature of the room is the huge, double whirlpool tub in the middle of the bedroom. Strange place for the tub but great if you’re traveling with your significant other. The only thing we didn’t like about it is that the water smelled a bit like sulphur. And be careful not to put too much bubble bath in like we did, because when the jets went on, we almost lost each other in there. Our room looked like an Ibiza dance floor at 5am. I did love the fact they offered free phone calls to landlines (not cell phones) to the U.S. and Canada. One thing that could be annoying is that you can hear hallway traffic and there always seemed to be people working. Most rooms had hammocks on their balconies but for some sad reason, ours did not. They offer 24/7 room service and everything is, yes, included.
I have no idea how many pools are on the property but there was one super long one outside my balcony that I saw only one person use the whole time I was there. Everyone seemed to like hanging out at the main pool. My favorite was the Flow Rider, which I had tried before on the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. It’s a lot of fun since you can try and surf (or boogie board, which is kind of lame in my opinion). After three hard falls, I finally got up on my feet. The trick is to have someone hold your board while you get on. Good to know: Cancun 10-day weather forecast.
The biggest disappointment of the resort is that it’s built right on the beach (650 feet of beaches) but the water looked terrible and I didn’t see one person in the water or even on the beach. It’s a shame since the beach in front of Club Med Cancun (down the road) I remember was beautiful. Maybe the hurricanes changed it all?
The hotel also has a spa, which is a little too big for me. There are 39 treatment rooms and I’ve never seen so many men in a relaxing room before. They also give everyone tickets so they know who you are. It was well run but felt a bit like a factory to me.
There are a lot of other activities I didn’t see or take part in, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, the Wired Teen Lounge, NOIR nightclub, a fully equipped gymnasium, and new kids’ club dubbed “The Playroom”. I did spend a fair amount of time in the Moon Palace Arena where the conference was held. It’s a great space for a conference but it had a funky smell, the air conditioning was way too cold and the WiFi didn’t work most of the time. But they have hosted world-renowned artists there, such as Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Usher, and Ricky Martin.
Though not everyone in the group liked the hotel I really enjoyed it. I think Moon Palace is an easy vacation for Americans to make and yes, it’s safe. You won’t necessarily get a true feeling for Mexico unless you leave the resort but if you’re just looking for a safe, all-inclusive family vacation that will be fun for you and the kids, this resort is a good option. I also encountered many honeymooners here so if you’re just looking for sun, sand and poolside relaxation with a margarita, again, it’s a good option.
Good to know: For the hotel to arrange a taxi to the airport it costs $35 and takes 12 minutes. You don’t need to leave super early if you have carry-on luggage, have pre-printed your boarding pass, and have elite status or a first-class ticket.