What am I still doing in Cancun?

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

September 29, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
1 Comment

A Weekend at Isla 33 on Isla Mujeres

Bebé and I spent the weekend of my birthday on Isla Mujeres and brought along my friend and her daughter. I had never stayed on the southern end of the island before, and wow, what a treat! I love staying on North Beach but the south end is even more laid back.

We arrived late Friday afternoon and after dropping our bags at the condo, we headed to Chedraui for groceries. We woke up the next morning to a beautiful, sunny day.

We stayed at Isla 33, a brand new condominum complex/resort. It’s not even finished yet!

condos Isla Mujeres

Isla-33-Mujeres-2

resorts Isla Mujeres

Check out the view from the pool! (Insert your feet here.)

hotels Isla Mujeres

After breakfast we took a short walk on the path that was recently constructed along the water. The views are spectacular!

To the right…

day trips CancunTo the left…

activites Cancun

All the kids really wanted to do want get to the pool ASAP, but we convinced them to pose for a few pictures.

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Isla-Mujeres-Mexico-4

Isla-Mujeres-Mexico-2

Then finally Bebé could jump in! (Who am I kidding? He is so not a baby anymore. :( )

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I’m sure it will come as no surprise that we spent most of the day at the pool. After naptime (for all four of us) we headed downtown for my official birthday dinner at Rolandi’s. I never tire of their bread, lasagna, and outdoor seating where you can witness all the action on Hidalgo.

The central plaza was decorated for Mexican Independence Day.

Isla Mujeres plaza central

The next day there was more pool time and then we headed downtown to grab a cart and take a drive around the island. Both kids fell asleep!

A ride around Isla isn’t complete without this shot…

Garrafon Isla Mujeres

When I went to return the cart I took a few shots on my way to the ferry. I could spend hours doing nothing but taking pictures (and drinking cerveza) on Isla.

Isla-Mujeres-Rene-Renee

Isla-Mujeres-window

Isla-Mujeres-mural-2

Isla-Mujeres-mural

I doubt we will ever tire of visiting this little slice of paradise.

September 23, 2014
by Kristin Carleen Busse
1 Comment

TBEX Cancun: Short but Sweet

travel social media convention

A couple of weeks ago I posted about being invited to be a local ambassador at TBEX Cancun, a conference of travel industry professionals in marketing, PR, social media and online community management (I pretty much do all of these jobs in some capacity). So, bright and early on my birthday I headed to the Moon Palace Golf & Spa, and more specifically the Moon Palace convention center to spend just one day at the two-day convention.

Registering was easy, and after the Best Day breakfast I headed to the opening keynote, which for the most part was a discussion about the controversy that had taken place during the planning of TBEX Cancun. I won’t get into it but basically it comes down to… is it OK to swim with dolphins in captivity?

The conversation about responsible travel was interesting albeit a bit vague, mostly because responsible travel is a huge issue/discussion. Things got a bit awkward when a bigwig from Dolphin Discovery stood up to ask some questions, at least for those of us who knew who she was.

I attended three “breakouts”. Each hour atendees could choose from five sessions in the categories of Content, Commerce, Community and two TBEX Business options. It was a difficult decision each hour, because each session applied to something I do. I found each breakout to contain both very basic and more advanced info.

Lunch was fun! I met some fellow attendees and was disappointed that I wouldn’t be around for the speed networking sessions to meet more.

I found the event sparked my creativity, and I can’t wait to use some of the ideas I came up with. I could tell it definitely would have been beneficial to have attended the entire convention, including all of the social events, but at 3:30pm it was time to head to Isla Mujeres for the weekend. More about that later!

Our Weekend at the Beach Palace Cancun

September 22, 2014 by Kristin Carleen Busse | 2 Comments

all inclusive hotels Cancun

I feel like I should begin this post by reminding everyone that five days a week Bebé and I go to school and work (respectively) and I have to do laundry, pack lunches, make dinner, etc.

That being said, one of my awesome jobs includes writing all about Cancun, so a couple of weeks ago we spend the weekend at Beach Palace in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

Beach Palace is one of Cancun’s most popular hotels. In fact, it’s #6 of 174 on TripAdvisor’s list of Cancun Hotels.

We arrived late Friday afternoon and checked out our huge room. I think it may have been the biggest hotel room I have ever stayed in, and it wasn’t even a suite. The room had a huge balcony overlooking Nichupte Lagoon, an in-room hot tub, and tons of amenitites like a liquor dispenser, a minibar stocked with beer, soft drinks, water and juice, and other special touches like a flat iron. (My hair is pin straight so I don’t exactly need one but I know other women will really appreciate this amenity.) Oh and btw Beach Palace’s WiFi is phenomenal. #socialmediaaddict

lagoon view Cancun

Cancun at night

After getting settled in and changed, we headed for dinner at the Asian restaurant, Wok, which is casual but feels upscale. My sushi and tempura ice cream were delicious and they had a kids’ menu for Bebé which luckily included chicken nuggets. He especially enjoyed dessert.

Beach-Palace-Cancun-8

Beach-Palace-Cancun-9

After spending some time at Casino Night we headed back to the room to go to bed.

The next morning we had a yummy breakfast (pancakes, eggs, chilaquiles) at Tequila, the buffet restaurant. I knew once we settled in at the pool we would be there for hours so I told Bebé that we had to visit the rooftop pool first so I could take some pictures. We never spent any time here but the views are spectacular and I hear it is quiet during the day and then gets lively around 4pm.

Cancun vacation

Cancun resorts

Then it was time to choose our chairs at the infinity pool downstairs. Low season was just getting started so we had no trouble at all finding the perfect location. There are two smaller pools downstairs as well, one with a swim-up bar and one with a crazy-fun waterslide. The Kids Club is being remodeled so we didn’t spend any time there, but the activities team kept us busy with water volleyball, water aerobics and Zumba.

Cancun hotels

At one point, a lovely man who was leaving gave us all of his kids’ beach toys. Bebé was especially thrilled about the boogie board.

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Beach Palace has one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches in the Hotel Zone, with loads of beach chairs and a special area for members.

beach Beach Palace Cancun

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all inclusive resorts Cancun

After hours and hours (and hours) at the pool, plus a few drinks (the mudslides are to die for) and lunch from the snack bar (a wrap for me and nuggets, again *sigh* for Bebé) we returned to the room for a nap.

That night for dinner I wanted to eat at La Terraza (a steak restaurant, again casual) but it looked like rain so since it’s outside they closed it. However, they still served me a steak in Tequila. I would have loved to have tried Bocelli, which serves Italian food but it’s formal and let’s just say that Bebé isn’t ready for formal.

After dinner we went to the Stadium Bar for karaoke, which was super fun because it was not with tracks, but with a live band. It was great fun to cheer for the other guests. Bebé did not want me to sing (I have no idea why) but since I didn’t feel like it anyway, I didn’t.

When we got back to the room I filled out the room service doorknob thingy… I will explain this because it is the best invention EVER. In our room there was a doorknob thingy (like a “Do Not Disturb” sign) that you could fill out with your order for breakfast. You can choose what time you want it delivered as well. And well, this was the result…

room service Beach Palace

Scrumptious… and right on time too.

Of course we went to the pool again, but the weather was looking a little ominous…

rain Cancun

so when it started to rain we went to the room and filled the hot tub with warm water and bubbles! When we were finished, it was sunny again.

We checked out at 2 pm (I requested a late check-out) and headed home so I could do laundry, etc., but we had a fabulous weekend at Beach Palace and I can see why it’s so popular.

Just a note… there was an Indian wedding while we were there. We saw them setting it up on the beach on Saturday…

weddings Beach Palace Cancun

Then we spied on them a bit during the wedding that evening. The next day all of the women did a beautiful traditional dance to drums in the lobby! It was a lovely surprise.

Indian wedding Cancun

Now, off to wash the dishes!

This gallery contains 16 photos

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