Our flights were on time and after an uneventful van ride from USA Transfers, we arrived at Puerto Juarez. Our daughters (ages 7 and 10) were starving, so embarrassing enough, our first purchase in Mexico was lunch from McDonalds at the ferry terminal. We caught the 12:30pm ferry and this being our first time traveling to Isla, spent the time enjoying and wondering at the many colors of the water, especially as it changed color with the sun and clouds.
We had a tricycle porter bring our bags to Nautibeach Condos, which was definitely worth the small price (gave him 12 pesos a bag). It would have been quite a hike with 4 large rolling suitcases, 2 rolling carry-on bags, and 2 hot and tired kids. However, when we went to the front desk at Nautibeach, we had an unpleasant surprise. We had booked our trip though Orbitz.com, since it was less expensive than booking the airfare and rooms separately. On the Nautibeach website, it states to email them in advance if we’d be arriving before their normal 3pm check-in time so that they could try to have our room ready in advance. I kept meaning to do this the week before we left, but didn’t finally send an email until the day before leaving for our trip. Luckily, I had sent an email because when we arrived, the person at the front desk said that my email was the first they’d heard about our reservation, and in addition to that, they were at full capacity. Not exactly something you want to hear when arriving for a family vacation. He said that they had a room they could put us in for that night, and that the manager was on the phone with Orbitz and would come by to speak with us shortly.
Before I had the time to call Orbitz to see what was going on, the manager, Joaquin, came by try to explain what had happened. He said that Oribitz’s reservation “system” is to send an email to the hotel’s reservation manager when a customer makes a reservation and Orbitz provides a credit card number for the hotel to bill the charge back to Orbitz. He said that Nautibeach never received an email from Orbitz regarding our reservation, and Orbitz should have realized that since Nautibeach never charged our reservation back to Orbitz (our reservation was made with Orbitz in December, 2010). He said that they had one room available for only that night, but that they were full to capacity for the rest of our trip. He had been on the phone with Orbitz for several hours already that day after seeing my email from the day before and that the only solution Orbitz was offering was to refund my money for the hotel portion of the trip. He said that he was working on finding us other accommodations close by and would know more by later that afternoon.
I was fairly upset at this point, so I called Orbitz to get their story and see what they could do for us. However, after calling Orbitz and listening to them blame the hotel for the problem for several minutes, I said in as polite of tone as I could muster, “At this point, I don’t really care whose fault this is. I booked my trip through Orbitz. I’ve arrived with my family here, and after tonight, we might not have anywhere else to stay for the rest of the week. I am a very unhappy Orbitz customer. What can you do for me?” And to my disbelief, their only solution offered was to refund our money for the hotel portion of our trip. When I asked, “How does that help me find a place to stay for the rest of our trip?” the Orbitz rep didn’t have an answer. It was only after I asked “You’re a travel company, can’t you check to see if any other hotels on the island have vacancies?” that the rep bothered to look at other hotels on the island and said that he could book us at Hotel Bahia Chac Chi for a lower price than what we’d paid, which while it had pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor, was not even close to what we had booked originally, which was a 2 bedroom condo on Playa Norte. I asked if that was my only option, other than a refund, and the Orbitz rep said that it was. Pissed off at Orbitz, but at least aware that we had another lodging option, I told him that the manager was looking into lodging options for us and that I’d get back to them.
Luckily, Joaquin came back shortly and said that he’d been able to book us a Suite Deluxe room at Privileges Aluxes, just around the corner for the next night through the end of our stay, with a king bed for us, and a roll-away bed and couch for our daughters, breakfast included. He also said that we were welcome to use the pool and beach chairs at Nautibeach during our stay. This definitely helped to de-stress us, as we’d read a lot of good things about PA on TripAdvisor, but also just to know for sure that we had somewhere to stay. After that, it really felt like our vacation began and we changed into swim suits and headed down to the beach.
For families with younger kids, Nautibeach seems like an ideal place. The pool is probably only 50-60 feet from the ocean and our kids would go back and forth between the pool and the beach for hours, playing. Then, your room is a very short walk away if you want to head back for anything. Our room for the night at Nautibeach was definitely dated, but having separate bedrooms and a kitchen was nice. I also liked that each room in the condo, as well as the veranda, had a ceiling fan. Another plus was that each room had a 5 gallon jug of purified water. There were lots of families staying there, so our kids found several playmates, which was good because they tend to have a hard time playing together for more than an hour or two at a time without fighting and it’s not fun to be the referee.
For dinner, we walked down to Brisas Grill on Medina, getting a table in the sand, and watched our first sunset on Isla. The guacamole, grilled grouper, and coconut shrimp were all very good and the sunset was beautiful. After sunset, they had a band playing, so we stayed to listen for a while, then walked to Frese for gelato and I discovered a new favorite treat, coconut gelato. This started a nightly routine for us, where we’d either eat dinner at a restaurant with a sunset view or else we’d go out for drinks and chips to watch sunset, then go to dinner, and then gelato. I think I put on at least 2-3 gelato-induced pounds over the course of the week.
I'll get the trip report up for the rest of our trip later this week, which should be less verbose.
Some tips I'd recommend after our trip:
– Always call or email the hotel far in advance of your trip to confirm your reservation, especially if you didn’t book with the hotel directly. Don’t rely solely on Orbitz or any other booking agency without confirming with the hotel as well. Even better, don’t book with Orbitz. I know I won’t again.
– If you don’t have international roaming on your cell phone plan, a good cheap option is an AT&T Go Phone prepaid phone. We bought a refurbished Nokia phone for $7 from AT&T’s website and a $25 calling card, so for a total of $32, we got a phone and roughly 100 minutes of calls from Mexico to the US ($0.25/minute).Edited: 29 March 2011, 13:06