Scuba Trip #2 – Cozumel Palace [All Inclusive Style]

After getting certified in 2017 and doing our first Scuba trip in Grand Cayman we were ready to go again.  We added Nitrox/Enriched Air diver to our certifications last fall and looked forward to going to Cozumel with the couple that we went to Grand Cayman with.

They organized group trip to take advantage of a third room free deal at Cozumel Palace.  So after spreading the cost of the two rooms across 3 couples, our out of pocket was less than $2000.00

That included 7 nights of all inclusive goodness, meals and alcohol.  It also came with $1500 worth of resort credits, which we used primarily for scuba, and a couple’s massage and still left the resort with almost 300 credits for the next visit.

Our other out of pocket expenses were:

  • $450 each for the flights.
  • $350 for a baby sitter for Matthew while we did the morning dives (coverage from roughly 8am to 1-2pm each day).  We were initially told they had a kids program for Matthew to be in while we dove.  Turns out that wasn’t accurate. They do, sort of have a kids club, and Sonya who runs it was great, but it’s only available in the afternoons and you cannot leave the resort while your kids are in there.  Meaning you cannot leave your kid(s) there and go dive.  We were forced to hire a babysitter which they set up for us for $10/hour.  Mrs. Martha (the sitter) was amazing and worth every penny.
  • Tips for Scuba, spa, occasional exceptional service plus the required dive T-shirt.
  • We also rented a Jeep ($99) to run around the island including a visit to Chankanaab marine park (admission was free and provided by the resort), a little beach time looking for sea glass, visit to Coconuts for lunch and then downtown for some shopping.
  • $72 for parking at the Airport (economy)
  • The on-site dive shop/operation is run by Aqua Safari. We were able to use the resort credits for our morning two tank dives.  The out of pocket expenses you have to pay were $16 per person for taxes plus $2 per person for the daily marine park fees ($36 total).  They picked us up every morning at the dock on site.  We also had a $14 daily up-charge for Nitrox, optional, but it was completely worth it.
  • We also completely avoided the time-share/membership sales pitch. Though if you could get through it, you could score a free jeep rental, and/or other freebies.

Resort Review

Outside of cruise ships we had not previously stayed at an all-inclusive resort. Given the ‘value’ our expectation weren’t very high.

First, the resort is small, some might say ‘intimate’.  I think there are only 169 rooms? There are 3 onsite restaurants, which really means there is only one, but it’s divided up into 3 sections; the fancier higher-end, dress code required Italian restaurant, as well as a Mexican and Oriental themed restaurant.  There is an additional buffet outside, so I guess, technically 4 places to get some food as well as room service 24/7.

Drinks were also included, beer, wine, and mixed drinks.  The  liquor was weaker, so you needed to get two of what ever it is you wanted.  Seems that’s run of the mill for all-inclusives though.

The resort was nice, very clean overall.  The rooms were exactly like what is pictured on the web-site.  We had two double beds, an in-room Jacuzzi tub, nice sitting area, and balcony with hammock. Read that again, two double beds. Had it just been Claudine and I we’d been good.  Claudine drew the short straw and shared a bed with Matthew and didn’t sleep well the entire trip.  The rooms could have easily held two queen beds.  We wanted to get one of the loft rooms with a king and two doubles but they didn’t include those in the buy two get one free special that we were part of.

The outdoor pool area was clean and nice, again exactly as pictured, not a lot of marketing magic going on.

Note: there is no beach, but you are on the ocean.  There’s a great area for swimming and snorkeling and at times there is a life guard on duty.  They have snorkel gear on-site and paddle boards for kids 14 and older.  Matthew and I spent two long afternoons snorkeling.  Lots of good wild life to be seen in their little area.

Food quality: On a scale of 1 to 10, and I’d put Royal Caribbean meals about about an 8/9 on average.  I’d put the Cozumel Palace food in the 5-8 categories. Some stuff was pretty good.  Breakfast, with made to order omelettes was well above average.  Most other meal items were average to above average.  Nothing was really exceptional though.

Service: Service was spotty, when you got service it was good, but there were too many times when we had to go to the bar (while sitting at an outside table) to get a drink or get someone’s attention.  Same with food at the outside bistro.  Once you ordered food it got there fairly quickly, but you had to work to get it sometimes.

One of the couples did the $300 romantic dinner which included Surf/Turf Steak/Lobster which they said was excellent.

At the end of the day the value was still amazing.  Once we back out our scuba costs which we used credits for the bulk of it, it was a great deal and we’d gladly stay there again.  We know how to work the system now. We know when we need to be at dinner to not have to be on a wait list, and how to get someone’s attention.  Every one of the staff that we interacted with was great.  Martha the sitter took good care of Matthew and he eventually knew . just about everyone that worked there.

The Diving:  I would rate the actual dive staff a 10 out of 10.  They really took care of you on the boat.  From helping with your gear to the dive masters being super attentive.  The went out of their way to help Tammy who was 6 weeks from having a knee replaced.  From making her transition to and from the boat as easy as possible to getting her in and out of the boat after dives.

The boat itself was very clean and well maintained.  They provided towels, bottled water, and fruit between dives during the surface interval.

Some of the drift dives were a bit ‘exciting’, like hopping in the fast lane of the freeway with no way to get off.  We’ll eventually get used to it but some of the currents were pretty aggressive for our newbie dive status.

Palancar Caves, Palancar Reef, Paradise Reef, Chankanaab Reef were all amazing calm dives.

While we will look at other options on the island, we’d would definitely stay at Cozumel Palace again if the right opportunity were to present itself.

Our return to the 8th wonder of the world.

Almost 8 years ago to the day was our first trip to West Baden. Can’t believe it’s taken us 8 years to get back.

I really don’t want to ruin it, but the days after Thanksgiving, well the place is empty. We did the Saturday/Sunday/Monday thing and had the place to ourselves again. There probably weren’t a dozen other guests at the hotel on Sunday. What a great way to spend a long weekend.

This trip we didn’t spend any time at the casino.  Instead we ran around antiquing and checking out the French Lick Winery.

I did skip the massage this time and let Claudine use all of the spa credit for herself.

West Baden 11/27/2017


Cruise 2016 (Oasis of the seas)

This year Claudine and I decided we needed our own vacation.  So just like 5 years ago we booked a cruise.  This time on the Oasis of the seas, Royal Caribbean’s largest ship to date.  (At the time I’m writing this the Oasis class is still the largest ship, there is dispute over which one of the ships is actually the largest, it might be the Allure).

This blog post will be about the highlights of our cruise, it’s not going to be a review of the cruise or the ship.  That will come later.  The short review is simply this:

We love cruising, we love the all inclusive nature, with the opportunity to see multiple ports of call, good food, good atmosphere, add in the rocking of the boat and it’s the best sleep you’ll ever get.

This cruise was not without its challenges.  In short, it is unlikely we’ll ever cruise on the Oasis again.  We might try the Allure, but not the Oasis.  This has nothing to do with cruising itself, but Royal dropped the ball more than a few times on this trip.   We heard from plenty of other passengers including a few that had previously sailed the Oasis and other Oasis class ships that this was below their normal expectations for service and quality.  It is unclear to me if this is a company wide issue or if it’s an issue with this ship.  In the past we found our trip on the Freedom of the seas to be a 10 out of 10, the same ship (Indy) was more like an 8 out of 10 with respect to service/entertainment.   Using the same scale, the Oasis probably only scores a 6.5-7, and that’s not ‘awesome’.   Still at the end of the day, you’re on a cruise ship!, and it was still hella fun, and still an outstanding value.    Details on this will come later.

We booked our 7 night, Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Oasis of the seas through Costco.  Including flights from Cincy to Fort Lauderdale we were all in for a little less than $3000 USD ($2400 for the cruise/$600 air fare).  This was an upper ‘superior view balcony stateroom’.  I’m sure this isn’t the ‘ultimate deal’ but it was in our minds a pretty good deal.

Continue reading “Cruise 2016 (Oasis of the seas)”

Europe 2014 (Part 5 of 6) | Germany – Munich

Monday morning started off well, we got up early and got to the airport and through security with plenty of time to spare.  We had breakfast at the airport and it was surprisingly good.   Our last shot at English breakfast, but again, scrambled eggs on smoked salmon hit the spot for me.

Shopping there was pretty much a bust, given the exchange rates it just doesn’t make sense, and I’m not paying £30 for a T-Shirt (almost $50 us).  I’m just not going to do it.

We arrived at the Munich airport on time, made it through customs without an issue and collected our bags.  Straight to the rental car facility, which had a line, but was uneventful.  Thank you Budget for not doing the same bait and switch that Alamo in the UK did.

We retrieved our car and were off, straight to the office.


Like the UK office, our Munich office isn’t in Munich, it’s technically in Hallbergmoos, near the airport about 3o minutes north of Munich.  The highlighted area in the map above shows where we spent our time in Germany.  As far north as Landshut, and as far south as Innsbruck, Austria.

Upon arrival spent the day handing out new laptops and prepping for the router swap.  Claudine just hung out in the office embracing her down time watching some flicks on the iPad. We took a break about 4pm and headed to the hotel to check in, and change. We headed back to the office to to the dirty work after hours.

Upon completion it was late, like 10pm late.  We hadn’t though through where we’d eat but I was pretty sure the hotel restaurant would be closed.  On our way to the hotel we spotted a little Italian restaurant and popped in there.


The place was about closed but they seated us, and didn’t speak a lick of English.  Only German and Italian, but from a German/Italian Menu you can pretty much figure out what you want.   My Rosetta stone was coming back to me and I could pick out a few things, we used google translate on the iPhone for a few key words.

Best Calzone I’ve ever had.

The following morning, Tuesday, I headed into the office and left Claudine to explore Freising on foot.   Of course she found a yarn store and met a new friend.

I wrapped up my work around noon, picked up Claudine and headed to Munich for a Free Guided Tour of the City.  We took the New Munich FREE Tour in English and it was worth every penny. Our guide, Colson, was in Germany playing American football with the Munich Cowboys.  His wife was completing a 3 year over-seas commitment for the company she worked for and he gave the tours for beer money.  They are free but you tip the guide after the tour.   He earned his money.

The tour started at MarienPlatz, in front of the Glockenspiel.



From there we wandered through the city seeing the sights and learning about the Bavarian kings, and a little about the 3rd Reich.  Colson also gave the 3rd Reich tour so he mixed a little of that in as well.




At the close of the tour we got to watch the Glockenspiel do it’s thing.  Our tour guide was right, I can see why it’s the #2 most over-rated tourist attraction in Europe.  After the tour we ended up at the Hofbräuhaus for dinner.


There was an oriental family seated at the table next to us.  They just assumed we were natives and were very happy to have their pictures taken with me, almost all of them.  It was hilarious.


We stood in the courtyard where Hitler painted one of his famous paintings.  Of course we bombed the hell out of the surrounding buildings but the tower remained in-tact.

We even found another Yarn store for Claudine.  I mean I knew it was there, right there and I took her to it, specifically. 🙂


After we the yarn shopping extravaganza we walked around Munich some more than drove around for a bit and headed back to the hotel to get some rest, Wednesday was going to be a big day.

Europe 2014 (Part 4 of 6) | The UK – Not London

Saturday morning we checked out of the hotel early.   We ate breakfast at the hotel each morning because it was included.  Breakfast was good, because breakfast wasn’t an English breakfast.  I ate scrambled eggs on smoked salmon on an English muffin.   This was the last morning hear so I suggested Claudine try a traditional English breakfast.  You can see she was thrilled with it but she tried it, all of it including the baked beans and blood pudding.


Then we were off, out of London and into the countryside.


Which is amazingly beautify, and again questions why in the world so many people in London need to cram into such a small place.  Spread out for crying out loud.

Our first stop (of many) was at Burton on the water.


Where we had probably the worst meal of the trip, and the worst Fish-n-Chips ever.  Extremely fishy, and just not good overall.  When the best part of your Fish-n-Chips meal is the peas, something’s wrong, seriously wrong.  So beware, the restaurant to the left of ‘The Croft” is no good, at least their Fish-n-Chips are no good.

From there we hit Chipping Campden.   Which was cool, but people like live there.



And it’s crowded and I’m talking about right on the main drag are homes.   And if you live in a tourist trap, and you are going to sit on the couch in your undies and watch the tele, you should probably close your blinds.  Just sayin.



The little market hall in the center of town was built in 1662, so older than America which is amazing.

From there more driving, we didn’t really stop for long in any of the other little towns but we did roll through quite a few as we circled back around to Bath.



Bath, words cannot describe Bath.

We got into town about 7:30pm and headed straight for the Roman Bath.IMG_3001IMG_3002

We paid our money and took the tour of the bath.


Sadly you cannot bath, in the bath and looking at the water you can see why you wouldn’t want too.  The spring still flows but I’m not sure where that water’s coming from cause it’s pretty nasty looking.   There was a late night torch lit tour of the bath that we had planned to stay for, but we got a little museum’d out on the self guided tour and hadn’t eaten since 2pm and needed to eat.

We ended up eating down the street from the bath at Bill’s I had the fish pie and it was delicious.


That evening we stayed at the Bristol Royal Marriott.  I would highly recommend this old hotel, if you want an old hotel but don’t want all the old hotel things.   This has been very tastefully renovated.   We got in late and didn’t take any photos of the hotel, at least I didn’t.

We slept well, got up and headed back to Bath.

We toured more of the town, stopped at all the highlights, the Circus, the Royal Crescent, and the beautiful park in front of the Crescent.  There was a 1700’s garden recreated behind one of the homes that was on the Circus.










After spending a good part of the morning in Bath, watching street performers and doing a bit of shopping we headed south, to the Ocean/English Channel to get Claudine some beach time.

Our travels took us through the New Forest, which is an amazing area where cattle, goats, and horses run free, in an open range habited area.  We saw a lot of cattle including bulls, literally on the roads.  I don’t think Claudine believed me about horses running free until we encountered a heard grazing by the road on the way out, some of them, on the road.

We finally found beach at Milford on the Sea.


Rocky beach, but beach none-the-less.

We stayed there for about an hour.




Then we beat feet back to the Marriott at Heathrow for an early flight to Munich the next day.   Returning the rental car was a real treat, the rental car company’s drop off is at the airport or along side of it.  They give you a free shuttle back to the airport, not to a hotel.  From the airport we took a normal bus using our Oyster card left over from the trains to ride back to the bus stop in front of the Marriott.  Thanks for nothing Eurocar/Alamo.

The Heathrow Marriott has been renovated/cleaned up since the last time I was there.  The restaurant food was good, expensive but good.