First of all, many thanks to all the contributors to this forum. Your suggestions made it possible for us to have a great trip!
Our flight from Fort Lauderdale on Spirit departed four hours late, due to a back up caused by Tropical Storm Bonnie. Interestingly, JetBlue's comparable flight went out on time.
Our transfer with USA transfer was perfect.
Check in with Privileges Aluxes was a little frustrating as we waited for about 30 minutes and it was quite warm! The frustration mounted when we saw our TINY room. We paid $125 through Orbitz for the Super Saver Bed and Breakfast. We had stayed there last year and were lucky enough to get a free upgrade to a suite. We had no such luck this year. They told us the Super Saver Bed and Breakfast rooms are all like ours. When I say tiny, I mean much, much smaller than a typical Holiday Inn room. One advantage was that the walk from bed to toilet was literally 2 steps. I tested this. We inquired about an upgrade and they told us it would be an extra $30 a night. That just wasn't in the budget so we figured we would just tolerate it. The most frustrating aspect was the bathroom. The shower sprayed water all over a good portion of the bathroom. Also, we had a lot of wet scuba gear, none of which was prone to drying in the very damp bathroom. There were not many towel racks or hooks to dry things. I brought a couple of those cheap plastic hooks from Walmart and hung them on the closet doors.
More positive aspects of the Privileges Aluxes: The room was kept very clean. It was nice to have a refrigerator, even if it was small. The manager and staff of Sabor were very attentive and helpful. The manager even told me a little about the traditional breads they had for breakfast.
Some negatives aspects of the Privileges Aluxes: I absolutely would not recommend the Super Saver rooms for scuba divers, as you will be tripping over your gear and it will truly smell! As a side note, two members of our group stayed at Ixchel Beach hotel for $100 per night and their room was easily two to three times bigger than ours, with a larger refrigerator.
While some members of the front desk staff were helpful (sorry I don't remember their names), some were not. For example, I asked politely for help locating the phone number of Enrique's Unique Dives. One staff member tried to say she could not help, but another did finally help when I suggested she look in the phone book or on the internet. I called down and politely inquired if they knew if La Tigrena was open for dinner. The staff person said she did not know that restaurant, as if that closed the subject. I politely suggested that she look in a phone book or on the internet for the number so that we might call them. She put me on hold and then told me simply, "I cannot help you." Trust me when I say I bend over backwards to be polite to people, and this did me no good in this instance!
Food: We had one meal at Coyope. We enjoyed the live music and fajitias. I am long overdue in improving my Spanish but generally speaking I try my best. Anyway, the waiter seemed to take our order somewhat inaccurately. I asked for fried mushrooms and got fried cheese. Also, we received an extra beer and bottle of water that we did not order. I am certain that when I improve my Spanish, little mistakes like that will be less frequent. Also the waiter took a reallllllllllllllllllllly long time to get us our check, but "C'est la Vie" and who is going to get upset?
On 7/24/10, the heavens smiled on us for our whale shark tour! We went out with Carey Dive shop to the area that is called "the blue water" as contrasted with the "green water" we visited last year. This meant excellent visibility and dozens of whale sharks! What a treat! We got in the water in pairs several times and saw these giants up close and personal. Also we saw a manta and a turtle on the way there. Our second stop was at the Avalon Reef for snorkeling. The water was a bit choppy so swimming was a bit challenging. We saw an octopus and a couple of flamingo tongues. Also, our tour included coffee, drinks, ham sandwiches, fruit, chips, and ceviche.
For dinner we went to the Sunset Grill. The waiter let us know that our dinner would take quite some time, so we enjoyed chips and guacamole while we waited. My mixed salad and grilled chicken were excellent.
The weather did not cooperate for diving on 7/25 so we revised our plans and took the golf car to Punta Sur and Hotel Garrafon de Castilla for snorkeling. We saw a large southern stingray and watched people get stuck half way down the zip line.
For dinner ,we went to Brisas where once again my salad and chicken dish were high quality.
On 7/26, we took a snorkel trip to El Farito where we saw a barracuda, squid, large parrotfish, flamingo tonges, and an eel. It was this trip that I was somewhat confused about, since I thought the divemaster meant we would go to Sac Bajo for a second stop, but we actually only got in the water once.
For dinner, we went to Cafe del Mar where the view was great and the food was OK.
The morning of 7/27 was beautiful but it was time to go home! Once again USA Transfer was perfect.
Hope this was helpful, and thanks again to all the contributors!