Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I'm Alive

I feel like I have started to write this post so many times and then end up deleting it.  Where have I been you ask?  Well . . .

as you guys know, I finally followed my dream and became a travel agent back in the Spring.  It has been absolutely wonderful and I love every, single minute of it; however, it does keep me very, very busy.  Over the summer I went into the office two days a week but once Kanin went back to school then I scaled it back to just one day a week.  I thought that once the Fall got here and we got back to a more normal routine that I would have some breathing room but that just hasn't been the case.  In fact, I think it has gotten even worse.

Beside my travel agent gig, I have also been merchandising for a book company for Michael's Crafts.  That job is only supposed to be part-time but I currently am servicing 4 stores.  Between 20-25 hours a week at Michaels (AFTER Scott gets off work so I never even leave the house until after 2:00pm) and going into the travel office 1 day a week, I barely have time to breathe.  Add to this that Gracie has started dance, Kanin is playing baseball, and poor Boo Boo is STILL not potty-trained . . . I am definitely not winning any Mother of the Year awards.

I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that something has to give.  I barely have time to do anything "fun" with the kids.  My justification for keeping the merchandising gig has been that it practically paid for our vacation and Christmas is only a few shorts months away and it would be really nice to use all of my money for Christmas presents this year but I just don't know how much longer I can keep up this facade that I can handle everything.

I have missed blogging.  I've missed reading all of YOUR blogs.  Thank God for my real-life friend Holly at Where We Can Live Like Jack and Sally or I wouldn't even have known that my original favorite blogger, Sarah from Clover Lane, had had another baby.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the work and there is no pity-party going on here, I just wanted you all to know that I am still here and I am still breathing.  I've been told that help is on the way with the merchandising job so I am hoping that over the next couple of weeks that I will at least be able to write once a week again.

And just because every post deserves a picture, check out my Sweet Baby.  I could just eat him up.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mexican Vacation 2012

After so many months of planning and waiting, we finally went on vacation last week.  You can read my review, HERE.

The kids were excited to ride on an airplane.  While they've all flown before, Kanin is really the only one who remembers it.  We got up around 4:30am and drove to the airport so we could check in by 6:00am.

After a 3 hour flight, we landed in Cancun.  We then rode about an hour on a charter bus to the resort. 

We checked in and received a welcome cocktail and a cool, damp cloth.

The kids had never seen the ocean before and they loved it.  This was my favorite part of vacation to see my babies swimming in the ocean.

There was a cenote, naturally-formed pond, right on the property.  The fish were washed in with the big waves and we could snorkel in it.  We went down several times and fed the fish.

The swings at the beach bar were a big hit.  You could sit on them and look out at the ocean.  When the tides were high, the waves from the ocean would hit up and splash our feet.

Everyone had fun with these little sand crabs.  They were all over the beach.

All of the kids loved the pools, too.  They spent hours and hours swimming.

The town of Puerto Aventuras had a marina where you could swim with dolphins, manatees, sea lions, and stingrays.  It was short walk from the resort and we walked up there a couple of times to look at the marine life, shop, and eat.

Scott got the kids head flashlights so we could look for crabs at night.

Kanin and Daddy played baseball on the beach.

Caleb and Gracie loved the trampoline.

The Explorer's Club was a big hit with Caleb and Grace.

Kanin went snorkeling for the first time and loved it.  He even got to hold a starfish.

 Even though we were a little disappointed in our resort, we had a great time together.  It was so good just to spend an entire week and do nothing but focus on each other.

Travel Review: Dreams Puerto Aventuras

My family of 5 (me, hubby, and 3 kids ages 8, 5, and 3) just returned from our vacation yesterday. We went from August 22-27. I want to be upfront and say that I am a travel agent so I admittedly tend to expect certain things when I research and take my own family on vacation.

I had never stayed at Dreams property before but have heard good things about the family of AM Resorts. The 3 reasons I chose this resort is because #1 they accept 3 year olds in to the Explorer's Club #2 unlimited al a carte dining and #3 no reservations for dining.

While we had a great time being together as a family, I would say that we were somewhat disappointed in this resort as it is rated a 6 Golden Apple (Apple Vacations' highest rating). I am going to try to be as thorough and fair as possible in this resort so that you can get a true understanding of why I gave it a 4 star rating.

TRANSFER TO RESORT: I honestly didn't think traveling down there was that bad. The main thing I would say is to ensure that you receive non-stop transfers. It took us exactly 55 minutes from the airport to the resort and back. This should come as part of your package when you book with a travel agent.

CHECK-IN: Check-in was a bit slow but in fairness to the front desk workers, a couple of buses showed up at the same time. They were working as fast as they could and they were very pleasant. We were greeted with champagne and cold towels and they even had kiddie cocktails for all of the children. There were cookies and apples at the front desk, as well. Also, in fairness to the staff, for some odd reason while we were all standing there one of the doors from the Apple Vacation/Photography office mysteriously shattered so they were running around like crazy trying to clean up all of the glass. Immediately I saw at least 6 or 7 staff members grabbing brooms, changing out carpets and putting up barriers so that no one would get cut.

Since our room wasn't quite ready, we were told that we could take full advantage of the properties so we immediately set out to have lunch (more on that below) and go to the beach.

ROOM: We stayed in a family room that had 2 twin beds and 1 pull out couch. The room was large and we had ample space. There was a double vanity and 2 really nice, large closets. The bathroom had a humongous sunk-in tub. The TV, as described in other reviews, was so small that it was hard to view from the beds. We had room 328.
-I was disappointed in this room because I wanted and paid for an ocean view. Being a travel agent, I know that this means that as long as you see a glimpse of the ocean then it is considered ocean view . . . which is exactly what we received. I would say that our room was more of a pool view room than ocean.
-Our room, 328, was the room directly above the staircase leading from the pool to the lobby so it was high traffic, very noisy and loud room. Our youngest son still takes nap and it was extremely loud during the day.
-While the bath tub is awesome because of its size, it is almost too big for families with small children. It was incredibly hard to give them a bath because it was a step up tub with the edge being about 8" wide. It just became very difficult to lean over, turn the water on, try to wash their bodies and hair that finally, I just started getting in with the first kid and gave them a bath. Then I would drain the water, do the second kid and finally take my own shower.
-Speaking of showers, the water pressure was AWESOME and there was ample hot water.
-Air conditioning worked great, almost too great. Several times we were actually cold and turn it off.

BEACH-As stated by others, the beach is small. For our family, that really worked out well because it was easy to keep track of them. Also, there is a reef just a little ways out so we also felt safe allowing our kids to play and swim in the ocean (with water wings).
-My oldest thought the water trampoline was a lot of fun.
-The water was beautiful.
-There are ample chairs and there was no rush to put towels out on the beach chairs. There is also a lot of shade provided by the palm trees so if you want to be in the shade but still look out at the ocean, then that option is available.
-If you walk around out by the Mexican restaurant, then there is a really cute little bar with the bar swings (you've probably seen them in pictures). This portion of the beach was unique as it had huge rocks and the beach was unswimmable. This area almost reminded me of Cabo because the water would pound the rocks and splash up. It was really pretty and totally different from the ocean that was less than 200 yards away over at the beach.
-The natural salt water pool was very cool. We loved going down there both during the day and at night to look and feed the fish. This is a must if you have small kids. You can also get in and snorkel with these fish.

ENTERTAINMENT: I cannot say enough good things about the entertainment staff. They were great! Every single one of them were always happy and engaging. They encouraged everyone to get involved but they were definitely not pushy. Plus, these people worked their butts off. From the time that we woke up until we went to sleep, we always saw them. We finally asked Kayla if they ever get a break. They made the trip so enjoyable.

EXPLORER'S CLUB: The kids club was great. All of the staff members are educated women with college degrees in education. They are patient and kind and my kids loved going there. Kids of all ages attended the kids club. I really liked the fact that each morning they would post the activities so we would take our kids in/out of the club with each activity that they wanted to participate in. Things like making organic salads, movie time, decorating cookies, pool time, and scavenger hunts were all a big hit.

POOL: The pool was very clean and a great place to have fun. I liked the fact that they played quiet, relaxing music in the mornings but around noon then they would turn on more "party" type songs. I read lots of complaints about the small kids pool but we thought it was great. My 2 little ones loved playing in there. The jacuzzi was large enough and had plenty of seats.
-The big surprise and hit for us was the adults-only pool. It was so nice and quiet and hardly ever crowded. There were about 6 or 8 seats in the pool and it had its own swim-up bar.

MARINA/PUERTO AVENTURAS: As others have said, PA is a gated community and it is very safe. It is only about a 3 or 4 minute walk down a little sidewalk in to the marina. Here you will find dolphins, manatees, stingrays, and sea lions that you can pay to swim with. Also, there are several shops and restaurants at the marina. Walking in to this little town is an absolute must.
-One thing that we thought was odd is that the shops were not big on bartering. In fact, one store told me that they would not barter at all. Back at the resort, one of the concierge said it was because P.A. is an affluent community with lots of timeshares and the shops don't feel like they have to barter. Either way, I didn't leave with that $28 bracelet.

I've saved my worst reviews for last. Unfortunately, we were very, very disappointed in both the food and the service.

FOOD: As I stated above, we went straight to eat lunch when we arrived at the resort. I think both my husband and I didn't want to say anything negative on the first day because we didn't want to start off on the wrong note. After a few minutes, though, I finally just said "this isn't very good." Unfortunately, it never did. All week long we were disappointed over and over not only in the quality of the food but also in the selection. Every time we sat down it just seemed like there was nothing to order or nothing that even sounded good. There are 3 exceptions to this and 3 things that I would say to definitely order. 1. At Portofino the cream of mushroom soup was fantastic. 2. At Oceana the clam chowder was great. 3. At the Barefoot Grill, Chef Juan's paella is something that IS NOT to be missed. It is so delicious!! Other than these 3 things, though, there is not one thing that stands out about any of our meals. Our whole family is really in to food (the whole reason we chose an unlimited al a carte resort) and we just got so tired of leaving and still being hungry. It was very, very disappointing.
-One good thing, when it comes to food, is that the room service was good and had more selection than at some of the restaurants. All of our food was always hot and served promptly. Even the french fries were hot and crispy. We ordered room service 2 times for breakfast and 2 times lunch.

SERVICE: The service at this resort was hit or miss. The head water at Oceana was fantastic so much so that we gave him a $10 tip. He was warm and charming and encouraged us to try as many foods as we could. He always made sure our drinks were full and he seemed generally happy and proud of his job.
-Service at the swim-up/pool bar was a whole other story. Most of the time it would take the bartenders a couple of minutes to even acknowledge us. When they did, it was almost like we were a both to them instead of there helping to ensure that they had a job. We always tip every round but by the 4th or 5th time of the bartenders doing dishes instead of waiting on us, we just stopped tipping. It was very, very disappointing.
-Drinks were ample in size and liquor quality.
-The second day we were there my husband and I were drinking Stoli. They ran out of Stoli and then refused to go get more. Not sure why.
-Service at 90% of our meals was this same attitude. We would wait and wait and wait for drinks, someone to take our order, to get food, etc. When you see people on here saying that it took an hour and a half . . . that is no joke!

BEACH/POOL SERVICE: Beach and pool service were non-existent for the first 3 days of our vacation. From Wed-Saturday I did not see one, single server taking drink orders on the beach or at the pool and I certainly was never asked if I wanted anything. Finally on Saturday afternoon, I saw a couple of waiters taking beach orders. Once again, if this is Apple's highest rated resort then I would think that beach and pool service are part of the package.

LANGUAGE BARRIER: I am very respectful of the fact that we were in someone else's country and that they should not have to be fluent in English; however, seeing that most of the guests were from the US, Canada or the UK, we were shocked to learn that so many of the employees spoke no English. I mean zero. There were times that they would ask us to draw a picture of what we wanted. I know a very small amount of Spanish so I was able to communicate a little bit but I got frustrated, too, when our servers couldn't understand the simplest of requests such as to come back to clean the room in a little bit because our baby was sleeping. Or 2 coffees--1 with cream and 1 without.

For all of these reasons, I would give this resort a 4. Food and service being the main reasons why I cannot believe that it is rated a 6 Golden Apple.

I would be happy to answer any specific questions or give you more examples. Feel free to comment or message me.