What am I still doing in Cancun?

The adventures of an American single mommy working and playing in paradise.

September 5, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
2 Comments

TBEX Comes to Paradise (Cancun)!

 

Photo: bestday.com.mx

Photo: bestday.com.mx

I must admit, I am not normally into conventions and the like, but when TBEX, “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals”, asked me to be an ambassador for their Cancun event, well I must admit I was totally flattered. (Flattery will get you everywhere).

So, I’ll be attending TBEX on Friday, September 12 (my birthday). The event actually runs Thursday, September 11 (the opening party is being hosted by amazing Xcaret Park) through Saturday, September 13. I would have liked to have attended all of the events, but duty calls… they invited me because I am a local travel blogger after all and Bebé and I are spending that weekend on Isla Mujeres.

“TBEX is a must attend show for new media people in travel. If you are in the travel industry
in any sort of marketing, public relations or content creation capacity, you need to come to TBEX”

-Gary Arndt, blogger, Everything-Everywhere.com

If you use my discount code (Kristin20)  you can get 20% off your TBEX registration fee. See the website for convention details. The blog has a lot of juicy information about TBEX Cancun speakers and special events and offers.

September 1, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
2 Comments

Jolly Roger Pirate Cruise in Cancun

A couple of weeks ago I took three little boys (one not as little as the others) on a booze cruise! Kind of. We went on the Jolly Roger Pirate Show tour. It’s a cruise on, well, a pirate ship, that’s actually appropriate for all ages.

tours Cancun

pirate ship Cancun

things to do in Cancun

activities Cancun

The tour is about 3 1/2 hours long. Guests are served dinner and the price includes all you can drink. (The Piña Coladas are gooood.) For dinner adults have the choice of lobster, steak, surf & turf, grilled fish filet, chicken cordon bleu, vegetarian ravioli or vegetarian lasagna. Kids choices include hot dogs or chicken nuggets.

Jolly Roger Pirate Show is available every day and the cost is $85 USD per adult. Children (one child per adult) ages 12 and under are free.

All kinds of silliness happens on the boat… games, music and an impressive swordfight. There’s never a dull moment. All three kids and I really enjoyed the tour and there were a lot of other families on the cruise. There are some pretty cool surprises too but I won’t ruin them for you.

living in Cancun

Awww… buddies.

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Their best pirate faces… aaargh!

jolly-roger-pirate-show-cancun-5Piña Coladas (virgin of course)… these boys are already in training for Cancun’s world famous nightlife.

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family activities Cancun

Tip: It’s best to get there early to get in line so you can get a good seat.  We were on the second level which was fine but sitting on the main floor might be better.

Jolly Roger Pirate Show is the #1 Cancun Attration on TripAdvisor. com. Ahoy mateys!

August 21, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
2 Comments

Our Yearly Visit to Michigan & Chicago

Bebé and I recently returned from our yearly summer visit to the US. We visited various places in Michigan and we also went to Chicago. We even took a daytrip to Wisconsin! We stayed at four houses and had one unexpected overnight stay at a friend’s when I drank (way) too much.

As much as I enjoy these visits, and believe they’re important for both Bebé and I, they’re always a bit stressful. I never get to see everyone that I would like to and every year that makes me feel extremely guilty. In addition, Bebé, who is still just 4 years old, has trouble adjusting to the break from his regular schedule.

We lost my grandmother,  Bebé’s great-grandmother, just a few days before our visit, so this year a funeral was part of our visit as well. I will do a post honoring Grandma soon. She deserves her own space here. I already miss her so very much.

Instead of posting tons of family vacation pictures, I’ll share just a few of my favorites. You’ll notice I have a sweater on in a lot of them. For the most part it was chilly (downright cold for us) during our visit.

I took this from the plane when we left… score! Cancun is breathtaking from above. Cancun from above Each year I take pictures of Bebé and my nieces in the same place (2012, 2013). Here are this year’s shots. They are growing up so fast. ice-cream-Grand-Haven Grand-Haven When I describe Lake Michigan to Mexicans, I always feel like I have to clarify that’s it’s a lake, but it’s a HUGE lake. You can’t see across to the other side. Ludington-Michigan My beloved second hometown, Chicago, as seen from my friend’s balcony. Chicago-2 Chicago I just realized that my friends have awesome balconies! Check this one out… the gargoyle horns were a happy selfie accident. Chicago-3 And this one… the shadow is their highrise building! Chicago-4 Superman saves Chicago. Superman I already desperately miss everyone, but I feel fortunate that we are able to visit once a year.

whale-shark-tours-Cancun

July 10, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
11 Comments

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun

I finally did it. I swam with the biggest fish in the sea! On Saturday I swam with the whale sharks (or well whale shark in this case) with Carey Dive Center on Isla Mujeres.

Let me tell you, it was AWESOME. Yep. All caps.

On Saturday morning I took the 7am ferry from Puerto Juarez to Isla Mujeres. I sat up top outside and it was beautiful and peaceful, albeit a bit windy.

ferry Cancun Isla Mujeres

There were a lot of other people heading to work, etc. but they all sat down below. I figured out why upon arrival, the outside seats were wet. Oh well, I was going to be getting wet anyway.

When I got to the island I took a few minutes to take some pictures. It is so peaceful early in the morning.

Isla Mujeres day trip

seafood Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

downtown Isla Mujeres

The Carey Dive Center tour leaves from Bally-Hoo, a very popular restaurant located right on the marina dock. Coffee and juice are included with the tour. I was pretty excited just about the boat ride. I rented an XXL (groan) wetsuit (my friends had informed me that it’s difficult to swim in the life vests) for 100 pesos and we were on our way.

Isla Mujeres Restaurants

Cancun tours

It was an bumpy hour long boat ride out to open ocean, but I chatted with a nice lady from Mississippi the whole time, between giggling about the water that was spraying me in the face. On the advice of a friend I had taken Dramamine. No reason to risk this bucket list adventure being ruined by puking your guts out.

Now it seems that some days they find 30, or even 300 whale sharks, and other days, they are a bit more elusive. I noticed Captain Jorge was communicating with other boats but so far there were no whale sharks to be found.

Then we got lucky and found one.

I was the first one in the water, mostly because I speak Spanish and nobody else understood when the captain ordered two of us to get ready. Our guide Sergio (I think he is part fish) jumped in first to follow the big guy around so we wouldn’t lose him. I jumped in behind him and literally screamed with joy into my snorkel when I saw the enormous, breathtaking creature in front of me. He was probably about 20 feet long and absolutely majestic.

whale shark

Photo: Ron Herrman

The whale shark looked like he wasn’t moving at all, but I had to swim hard to keep up with him, which was really difficult because the water was quite choppy. Plus I was really excited and noticed that I was breathing really hard. I swam alongside him for 5 or 10 minutes, but then I was really tired and needed a break so I got back into the boat.

whale shark tours Cancun

Suddenly there were like 12 other boats there. Word had gotten out. When they asked us who wanted to get in again, most said no. I was a little nervous about how tired I was, but I knew that I was not going to give up another chance to see the whale shark. So I told myself to relax and control my breathing. After I jumped in with Sergio, I looked at him, he pointed, and the whale shark’s face was right there! It was literally like 5 feet away.

This time it was a whole different game. I swam calmly next to the whale shark, so very close to him, and studied the eye I could see, and how long he was. Then, he moved up, stuck his whole mouth out of the water, and came back down again in a swirl of thousands of bubbles.

I kind of wanted to stay in the water forever.

swimming with whale sharks

Photo: Ron Herrman

After those who wanted to had a second swim, we headed back to the island. They handed out sandwiches and during the ride we saw dolphins (the first time I have seen them in the wild) and huge sea turtles, um, “doing the cuchi-cuchi” as the captain said.

After snorkeling a reef close to the island we dined on ceviche, right on the boat. A friend later pointed out the humorous contradiction of snorkeling to see fish and then eating sushi.

tours Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres water

We were back at the marina by noon.

This was a once in a lifetime experience. Except I am going to do it again.

whale-shark-tours-Cancun

Note: It is important to note that if you ever have a chance to swim with the whale sharks you should never touch or disturb them in any way. Wear biodegradable sun block or no sun block at all. One woman on our boat touched the whale shark and a person from another boat got in directly in front of him and the big guy ran into him. I felt so protective of him. It is important to respect all creatures, especially in their natural habitat.

June 23, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
5 Comments

Schools in Cancun

Recently I have only posted about the beach, resorts and concerts. Yes, we did do all those things, but they sure aren’t part of real, day-to-day life for Bebé and I (OK fine well maybe the beach and pool are, but only on the weekends), so I thought it was time I posted about something more, well, practical, like our experience (so far) with school in Cancun.

private schools in Cancun

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know I have had a great experience with Bebé’s daycare. I must admit I was a little worried about him starting school. I mean, I didn’t even understand the way the grades (kindergarten, 1st grade, etc.) are organized. To be honest, I still don’t have a great grasp of that concept. I do know that children start school at age 3 and go to “Kinder” 1, 2  then 3 (Bebé stayed at daycare and skipped Kinder 1, he is 4 years old now). Then they move to “el Primero de Primaria”. (See what I mean?!) I don’t even know what these grades correspond with in the US, but since he’s 4, I figure it’s essentially preschool, although some of their activities seem pretty sophisticated for preschool.

Cancun schools

Bebé goes to a private (read: ya gotta pay) school. The general consensus in Cancun is that public schools are subpar and anyone who can afford to pay for a private school sends their child to one. Here is a basic breakdown of our experience so far…

Hours:  Kinder students go to school Monday through Friday from 8 am until 1:45 pm. Primaria kids start at 7 am (That’s gonna be fun!) and I assume they finish later.

Activities:  Bebé has started to learn how to recognize/read short words and add. They also work on the usual, letters, colors, shapes and more. The school is bilingual (Spanish and English).  I really like that he also has swimming, physical education, music, French and computer classes. They do various shows and presentations thoughout the year as well. The school is not affiliated with any religion.

elementary schools in Cancun

Homework:  I must admit I found it to be really obnoxious that they give 3-year-olds homework almost every day, which is one of the reasons I kept Bebé out of school until Kinder 2, but it turns out that it’s not so awful, and he generally completes all of his homework at daycare aka “homework club”.

Grades/Conferences: Grading is pretty straightforward with Exellent, Good, Satisfactory and Needs Improvement-type categories. I noticed that no additional comments are added. There are no official conferences but parents can request one anytime.

schools in Cancun

Teachers: Bebé has many teachers! He has two main teachers, one for Spanish and one for English, and a different teacher for each of the specialized subjects. I can tell that he really likes all of his teachers, who he calls “Miss” or “Prof”.

Vacation: Mexican kids only get 6 weeks of summer vacation! They also get two weeks at Christmas and Easter and many other one-day official holidays throughout the year. In addition the last Friday of each month is an “education day” for teachers, so kids don’t attend school.

private school in Cancun

Cost: This school is middle-of-the-road as far as cost. The cost per month is equivalent to a little over 200 usd per month, plus an inscription fee, books, uniforms and other costs for costumes and other things that come up throughout the year. The price goes up each year.

I’ve noticed that a lot of parents here move their children from school to school. There are many children in Bebé’s class who will not return his school next year and many young adults I have met have told me that they went to 2 or 3 different high schools. I’m not sure what is the cause of this phenomen but I will investigate.

The most exciting and important point here is that Bebé loves going to school. Plus, he was chosen for “flag detail” for the upcoming school year due to his academic and personal development. Stay tuned for the post about the ceremony. :)

May 15, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
5 Comments

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya’s Kids Club: Little Big Club

A couple of weeks ago Bebé and I spent the weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya and of course I did a post about it but I wanted to do a separate one about their kids club, the Little Big Club, because well, it’s really cool!

The Little Big Club is a separate building on the resort grounds.

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya kids club

Inside a little rockstar’s dream awaits. There are separate Barney, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine areas.

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya Little Big Club

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya children

Bebé the Builder.

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya families

There is an enclosed kid’s pool as well.

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya children's poolThey also have a place to watch movies, restrooms and Nintendo wii.

The kids’ club is open with scheduled activities (sandcastle building, Spanish time, arts and crafts, sing along) all day from 8am until 9pm. They will even take your kids to meals if you’d like.

One of the most exciting things about the Little Big Clubs are the meet-and-greets with the characters. Bebé used to be terrifed of them, but not anymore!

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya kids

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya children

The “La Hacienda” portion of the resort (“Heaven” is the adult only portion) is family friendly. The restaurants, nightly shows and daily activites are appropriate for all ages. Bebé and I especially enjoyed kayaking in the protected cove at the beach.

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya kayaking

Bebé did not want to leave the Hard Rock Riviera Maya, but then again, neither did I.

Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-20

May 12, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
6 Comments

Living the Rockstar Life at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

A couple of weeks ago Bebé and I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. (Yes I know, poor us!) Let me tell you, the place seriously rocks! We arrived on Friday and this was our view. Score! Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-9 Our suite was luxurious, complete with robes and slippers and a personal liquor dispenser (from which I did not dispense one drop), a stocked mini bar (we drank a lot of the water, juice, Diet Coke and beer) and a private balcony with a hydro tub (which we never even used)! The first evening we headed to the Mexican Fiesta which consisted of a buffet and a show (and margaritas). I had the most handsome date of all. Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-4 After dinner, we went to the lobby to hang out a bit. Bebé found some kids to play hide and seek with, and I drank beer and took some pictures. The lobby is filled with rock memorabilia. Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-25 Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-28jpg Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-6 Then it was time for bed. At home Bebé has his own room and his own bed but he likes it when we are on “vacation” and get to cuddle and sleep together. The king size bed was huge and so comfy. Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-27 The next morning we awoke excited about our day.

Spoiled! Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-5 After breakfast Bebé spent a little time at the Little Big Club (will do a separate post about that) while I took some pictures. Look at this place! Heaven! (Which ironically is the name of the adult-only side of the resort.) Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-13 Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-7 We spent most of the day at the pool…

This does not suck.

This does not suck.

And then headed to the beach to take out a kayak. The beach is protected by huge rocks so the water is calm and tranquil. This was the single most awesome part of our weekend. We did it both days. I was afraid to take my phone or camera out so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures. Well except for these. :) Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-2 Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-3 Bebé was EXHAUSTED after our fun-filled day so we went back to the room to rest before dinner. There was a surprise waiting for us… Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-17 Pooped! Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-8 That evening we ate at the Asian restaurant, Zen (YUM) and then saw the breakdance show, which Bebé absolutely loved. When we got back to the room there was another surprise waiting for us… Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-16 We spent Sunday in pretty much the same way as Saturday, and we would have no problem spending a week or two like this. Plus, BONUS, Bebé learned how to swim underwater while we were there!

I’ll say it again, the Hard Rock Riviera Maya ROCKS! Hard-Rock-Hotel-Riviera-Maya-20

Marc Anthony concert Cancun

April 28, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
4 Comments

Marc Anthony in Cancun!

Marc Anthony is one of my favorite singers. I have been listening and dancing to his music for over 15 years. Marc is known by many English speakers for two things 1) his 1999 English language album Marc Anthony (I Need to Know) and 2) for being married to Jennifer Lopez, but Marc is world famous with Spanish speakers for his Spanish language Salsa music.

When I heard Marc was going to perform in Cancun, I freaked out. Yes, I freaked out like a teenager. I realized my usual press ticket (which I am always extremely grateful for) wasn’t going to be good enough this time. So waited until the exact moment the tickets went on sale on Ticketmaster and I spent a small fortune on one… in the 6th row.

I obsessively listened to his new album, Vivir Mi Vida, in the two months leading up to the concert and got butterflies everytime I saw his face on a billboard or the back of a bus.

And suddenly, it was April 17.

Since I hadn’t been able to convince any of my friends to spring for “diamante” ticket, I went to the concert alone, but ran into a dear friend and her husband who were sitting (Yeah right, who sits down at a concert?) in the same section. We chatted excitedly and slammed a few beers…

Marc Anthony live in Cancun

And suddenly, the stadium lights went dark, and there he was.

I screamed, I sang, I danced, I never sat down.

Marc Anthony concert Cancun

And I was CLOSE. So very close.

Puerto Rican Salsa singers

Marc Anthony Cancun

Marc Anthony concert Cancun

I waited for Marc to look me in the eye. At one point I yelled and asked for a song,  “I love you Marc! Que Precio Tiene el Cielo!” and it was the next song they played (yes I realize I just got lucky, the set list had been decided beforehand), but he didn’t look at me.

Marc Anthony tour Mexico

Marc Anthony Que Canta Mi Gente

And then, it was over, he was singing the last song, Vivir Mi Vida, and I decided it didn’t matter that he hadn’t looked at me. This was one of the single most memorable evenings of my life.

And then, he looked me right in the eye.

And we sang the line together.

Marc Anthony Mexico

As I left, soaked in sweat, I was filled with the joy of Salsa music, of Marc’s Salsa music, and of connecting with him, for just a moment.

So I bought a t-shirt! Hahaha!

Vivir Mi Vida t-shirt

It was simply awesome!

Here’s a taste of the awesomeness…

Playa-del-Carmen-condominium

April 7, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
8 Comments

A Playa Del Carmen Minibreak Weekend

Wow it’s been a long time since I last posted. Bebé and I have been busy with work and school and exciting things like a new big boy bike and a Spring Festival at school.

Last weekend we were able to escape the routine and spend a weekend in a condominium in Playa del Carmen… and we brought a couple of friends along! The condo was not on the beach, but there was a small (and lovely) rooftop pool and a large inground pool. The condos are very new so there wasn’t really anyone else around.

We spend the first day and a half on the roof. The boys loved it.

Playa del Carmen condominiums

Playa-del-Carmen-condominium

The girls loved it too. (Look amiga, we did get the sunset in this one!)

Mexico bloggers

On Saturday evening, we headed to Playa del Carmen for dinner at Don Chendo (Avenida 30 con Calle 24 y 26). They serve delicious Chicago style pizza and other Italian delights like bruschetta.

Don Chendo Playa del Carmen

Bebé was a bit concerned at first because the pizza didn’t look like the kind he’s used to (you know, Domino’s or frozen lol) but after a few bites he said. “Esta pizza esta muy rica!” (“This pizza is very delicious!”)

Don Chendo Italian Restaurant Playa del Carmen

After dinner we headed to 5th Avenue for ice cream and a stroll but sorry, my camera takes crappy pictures at night!

Before heading home on Sunday we hung out at the big pool. There was a couple there but they left about 30 minutes after we arrived (hopefully not because of us). Score! Private pool!

Playa del Carmen rentals 

Cancun Canuck

It was a much needed albeit short getaway. When we got home Bebé expressed that he wanted to go back to the condo!

I hope everyone likes the blog’s new look!

February 25, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
2 Comments

A Long Weekend on Isla Mujeres

A couple of weeks ago Bebé and my mother, brother and I spend four nights on Isla Mujeres. We stayed at Ixchel Beach Hotel. No complaints there. We had a basic room but it was very nice and included a coffee maker (we MUST have coffee available) and a mini fridge. They had beach/pool toys for children and you could exchange your beach towels as many times as you wanted. (We tried to keep that to once a day but when you have a wet, sandy towel it’s nice to have the option.)

When we got off the ferry, we decided that we would walk to the hotel, with a little help from this nice man. I think “crazy eyes” enjoyed his ride.

 

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The first night it rained a little. Just a little.

 

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And the next day it was a bit cloudy but the weather was gorgeous after that.

 

North Beach Isla Mujeres

 

We ate breakfast at the market almost every day. Cheap, authentic and delicious!

 

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We spent every evening dining and drinking on Hidalgo. It’s such a fun, lively place and I couldn’t get a good picture so I totally stole borrowed this one from http://www.anthrofieldschool.com/.

 

Hidalgo night

 

Bebé spent most of his time on his 6’6″ uncle’s shoulders, but I caught them holding hands here.

 

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One of the best things about Isla Mujeres is, North Beach! Ixchel Beach Hotel is located right on North Beach and they were great about having enough loungers and umbrellas for everyone. We would leisurely move from the pool to the beach and back to the pool again.

 

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Looking up from my lounger…

 

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Bebé was thrilled that Papi was able to join us one day.

 

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This child has loved to sleep on top of people since the day he was born.

 

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The last evening was Superbowl Sunday!

Worlds Collide: Frida + the Superbowl (and a piñata)

 

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Meals: We really enjoyed Barlito, Rolandi’s, the market, the churros guy next to the town square and the baked goods truck guy at the end of Hidalgo. The tostone sandwiches and mojitos at Qubano are a must. So sorry we missed meeting Vivian after hearing so much about her. There are still so many places to try, I can’t wait for out next visit!

It was a weekend we’ll never forget! We miss Grammy and Uncle already.

 

isla mujeres