(This is a portion of our trip report from a cruise we took in February, 1994, our first trip to Isla Mujeres.)
Wednesday was to be Cancun--site of the "BEACH BASH BOMB". Following is a portion of the description of this tour from the ship’s list of shore excursions--"This exclusive excursion departs from the Playa Linda pier, where you will board the party boat for a leisure boat ride across the channel to Isla de Mujeres (The Island of Women). When you arrive on Isla Mujeres you will be transported to a private beach. The Pirate Villa Beach with its sandy BEACHES and lovely PALM TREES will give you the feeling of a Caribbean hideout, where you can relax or swim or visit the solarium. A delicious buffet with typical foods (vegetables, salad, fish tips, spaghetti a la Bolognesa, Chicken in mushrooms, rice mexican style, refried beans, fruit salad, bread and tortilla toasts)....." Things were fine on the rather quiet trip over to Isla Mujeres, except for the darkening skies back over Cancun, where the ship was anchored.
(Overheard on the trip, "They wouldn't let it rain on the ship, would they??" True story.) Once we arrived at Pirate Villa Beach, the trouble began. All 250 or so of us trouped off at the Pirate Villa BEACH, to discover a nice enough looking restaurant, with the appetizing smell of food in large chafing dishes, with restaurant workers running around busily pouring drinks. (One of the attractions for the tour had also been OPEN BAR!! ) Anyway, the trouble began when people started looking for the beach, the sand and the palm trees.
The restaurant was on the water, all right, but the only sand was on top of the concrete in the restaurant area, and one had to jump down a three foot tall ledge down to a rocky bottom to even reach the water. No palm trees ANYWHERE in sight. The only seating available was a bunch of tables and chairs, no chaise lounges, and no open areas to even lie down if one wanted. At first we thought that busses were going to be coming to pick us up at the restaurant, to go to the beach. Once people found out that this was IT, people were slightly upset, to say the least. Everyone was milling around, cursing and talking about getting their money back. Being an opportunistic lawyer, I offered to file the class action suit for everyone to get their money back. (Now, let's see--250 people times $60 PP times 30% contingency fee equals $4,500.00. Slam dunk! I NEVER had a case this easy!
After people milled around for a few minutes, everyone basically decided that this was not what we had paid for, and everyone started heading back to the boat. EVERYONE, except us, decided they wanted to go back to the ship. So, imagine 250 little cruise ship sheep coming off the ferry and 248 little sheep getting back ON the ferry!!! Since we had wanted to check out Isla Mujeres anyway, we decided that we would stay on the island and get our own way back to the ship. We had been to Cancun and Cozumel on ships many times and had just been to Cancun for a four day island stay in January of that year. Therefore we knew quite a bit about the area, and knew that there were regular ferries between Isla Mujeres and Cancun. We talked with one of the cruise staffers, who attempted, without success, to talk us out of staying. He took down our names and cabin number--I guess to notify next of kin, if we never showed back up again. We were glad that we had come prepared, packing our beach bag with some bottled water, our camera, our swimming suits, and some extra money. We changed into bathing suits under our clothes and checked about getting a taxi. We were waiting out front of the restaurant for the taxi to appear when we were called back into the office. The captain of the cruise ship called over the radio to hear us say personally that we were staying and that we took responsibility! I took a picture of the ferry boat heading back out, full of unhappy campers, headed back to the ship. We felt sorry for the dozen or so Mexican workers who had expected a day's wages, plus tips, but instead saw all the prospective money just get back on the boat and sail away.
Eventually, everyone got a credit to their shipboard account for the excursion, along with a letter of apology signed by the cruise director and the shore excursion manager, delivered to the cabin the next day. DARN, there went my class action suit!)
We called those heading back to the ship "chicken s_it's", under our breath, and got into our taxi for the tour. We figured that the first thing that we should do is go down to the ferry dock and find out what time the ferry was running over to Cancun, or more properly, Playa Linda. The ship was tendering into Playa Linda pier, so we figured it would be easiest to just get the ferry back there, although we knew that we could get a taxi pretty cheaply, once we were on the correct side of the water. Our driver checked at the dock and was told, that the ferries left every half hour for Playa Linda. This information was apparently incorrect, as we found out later.
Our taxi driver was a personable guy, nice, and tried really hard with English. He knew most of the standard words, but had some trouble with unusual ones, and we noted his repeating some English words, as if to memorize them. Our driver took us the site of some ruins, where I took some pictures, and where our driver did a quite creditable job of taking our picture. Our driver asked us if we wanted to see the shark. We weren't at all sure that we had understood him correctly, but said "Sure". He proceeded to take us to a small beach area, where there were three sharks penned in some shallow water. The sharks were similar to "nerf" sharks, and had had their teeth removed. One Mexican fellow hopped down in the water and grabbed hold of the LARGE shark, and brought him up out of the water, so that I can take his picture. Then this fellow asked if WE would like to get in the water. Before my disbelieving eyes, Eric said “SURE!” and proceeded to hop in the water. The fellow couldn’t understand why I don't want to join in, but I said no. Under my breath, I tell myself, “I have to take the pictures so that I will have some evidence for the lawsuit I'm going to file against SOMEBODY when Eric comes out of the water, minus some of his body parts.!” Well, I got some pictures, and Eric actually came out of the water with all his parts intact. (We do have pictures of the trip, but they are regular pic’s, not digital, and we’ve never scanned them in... ) Our driver then took us past the site of an underwater national park (similar to Chaakanab Lagoon on Cozumel), to some RUINED Mayan ruins, on the very tip of the island. We took some more great pictures there and got back into the taxi. We decided to head on back to the mainland, just to make sure that we got there, and to get some shopping done, since we hadn't been able to get any shopping done in Cozumel on our day there on the cruise.
We had a few anxious moments at the ferry pier as they told us that the last ferry to Playa Linda for the day had just departed, except for one which was not due to leave until 3:30, which would have been too late for us for us to make our ship. We knew that there was another ferry which docked not at Playa Linda, but about 10 miles down from there on the mainland, so we asked about that ferry. It turned out that ferry left from a different pier, around 2 blocks down. We were told to ask for "The Express", which would get us over to mainland in about 15 minutes, as opposed to usual 40 minutes. "The Express" was more expensive (10 peso each--around $3.33, as opposed to half that amount for the other ferry). "The Express" turned out to be a glorified fishing boat, which held about 20 people--all locals except us. The driver pushed the thing flat out. It was great fun, bouncing off the waves and laughing with the other inhabitants, at each bounce. "The Express'" left us off about 10 miles down from old Cancun, about a $5 cab ride. We took a cab down to the shopping district, and proceeded to use ALL of our money to buy a stunning silver necklace for myself, a bottle of Kahlua for ourselves, and a bottle of tequila as a gift for an attorney friend who had done some work for me while we were gone. We had only brought a certain amount of cash, no travelers checks or credit cards, and we told the fellow at the store where I bought the necklace–“hey, here’s our pockets. We’ll turn them inside out for you. We have NO more money. We’d like to buy that necklace, but we have to have enough money left to get back to the cruise ship! We’ll pay you your price if you pay for a cab to get us back to the ship!” We paid his price and his brother took us in his car back to the tender pier!!! We got back on the tender back to the ship, with NO money in our pockets, and a huge grin on our faces from a GREAT day!!!!!
So, what’s YOUR story from your first trip to Isla Mujeres?????????