So while the proposal was not exactly a revelation, the bombshell came when they told us when and where… August 2015…Cancun, Mexico! Sweet! And hey, we’ll already be IN Mexico!
So this long-anticipated, destination wedding extravaganza finally transpired. Last week, we secured Indigo for potential summer hurricanes once again and flew from the closest major airport, Hermosillo to Cancun via Mexico City, a 7-hr trip…from the desert into tropical paradise.
Cancun looks like Florida at first glance, with its flat terrain, vibrant green palm trees and sultry sandy beaches. But Cancun’s exotic nature is palpable. The mixture of Mayan and Caribbean culture, spectacular ancient ruins, mystical underground waterways, emerald jungle colliding with sapphire ocean, striking flora and fauna…top it all off with good Mexican food. In the 70’s, savvy developers foresaw a tourism gold mine and built this Emerald City from scratch. Cuba, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are nearby; Belize is only a 5-hr drive. The roads are excellent, the airport provides hundreds of international flights, everyone speaks English, hotel rooms are modern and, most importantly, the plumbing works. In fact, it’s hard to believe I’m still in Mexico.
We were told there are over 90,000 hotel rooms in the vicinity. Not sure if that’s true, but I DO know there are more shuttle vans on the road whisking tourists from airport to hotel to excursions and back than I have ever seen in one spot. One shuttle driver told us he was teaching his son English (not typically taught in Mexican schools there) so he could get a good job at a resort someday – it just goes to show the major effect tourism has on a place like this.
We never set foot in Cancun proper; we didn’t feel bad about that, I have a feeling it’s like Las Vegas. Our resort was located on a sandy beach about a half hour south of the city and we left it only twice the entire week to go on excursions to Tulum and Chichen Itza. Why? Well…why bother when it’s all-inclusive!
The NOW Sapphire Resort
This being our first all-inclusive experience, here’s all you need to know… Free food. Free drinks. Any time of day or night. Choose your restaurant and order anything, or one of everything. BAM! Why go anywhere else?
Our trip started off on the right note upon check-in as we were greeted with a cold beer and a cold towel at the VIP lounge. Wow, free beer you say? Well, it only got better from there. Nice rooms, open-air/palapa-roofed lounge-bar, a sparkling azure pool to die for, talcum-powder beach, restaurants galore and great service. We were happy campers.
Typical day: Breakfast. Chill in pool. Lunch. Chill in pool with lots of alcoholic drinks. Move to lounge for pre-dinner drinks. Dinner. More drinks. Bed. Repeat 5 more days.
Basically, it’s like staying in a Vegas hotel…except all the food is free, even room-service. With two yummy buffets to choose for breakfast, my highlight was the fresh fruit: mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, plums, pineapple, papaya (except we both hate papaya), guava, kiwi, starfruit and even some really weird stuff (that purple thing with the white pulp and black seeds I learned is dragonfruit or pitaya). Crazy fresh juices too… I’d never had cantaloupe juice before… it was excellent. If they didn’t have it, they’d squeeze it for you. Fresh pastries, croissants, muffins, pan au chocolat (a daily indulgence), cereals, yogurt, your requisite hotcakes, French toast, Mexican egg dishes, and standard bacon/eggs/potatoes, even an omelet chef. And good coffee. Can you tell breakfast is our favorite meal?
Mid-day you could go back to an extravagant lunch buffet, eat at a quickie pool-side bar for hamburgers and nachos, or try their ocean-front, Mexican café with delish fish tacos, ceviche, gourmet nachos and salads.
Dinner required a much harder decision with 4 restaurants to choose from: a dinner buffet, or 3 sit-down restaurants - French, Mexican, and Mediterranean and for one night, Asian. The French restaurant was excellent but since it required the men to wear long pants, I only got to try it once. (I wonder who didn’t want to wear PANTS? Boo.) I’d give the food 4 stars overall - everything was good. But if you didn’t like a dish, try something else! It’s free! (OK, technically not FREE… but I had already paid for the package deal months ago, so in my mind it’s FREE.)
At the sit-downs, we ordered multiple appetizers, plus our meal AND dessert AND drinks – every single time. Because we could. Darn if I’m not getting my money’s worth out of this place. The freedom from not having to think about how much this is going to cost me is pretty awesome. We did have to tip the waiter, which is difficult… how much do you tip someone when you have NO idea how much that 5 course meal cost?
By the end, we had eaten more in one week than we probably had in the last month. Huge breakfasts & lunches, elaborate dinners, plus more alcoholic beverages than we could count. We were FAT, I mean Golden Corral FAT. And a little wobbly. We were ready to go back to the boat and stop the insanity. Except who's going to feed us when we get back????
The Caribbean ocean suffered an invasion this summer – by kelp! Literally, tons of it! Our sparkly clean, sandy beach was littered with mounds of stinky seaweed. Every square inch of warm, murky ocean water was clogged with the brown stuff. No way I’m getting in that!
As quickly as the maintenance guys raked and carted it away, more arrived. They weren’t allowed to use tractors due to potentially disturbing turtle nests. The alternative? Employ the ancient wheel-barrow method with ‘mucho’ back-breaking ‘trabajo’ – those poor guys. Plus it smelled…sulfurous, like rotten eggs. Needless to say, the ocean was under-utilized and under-appreciated this week. By Friday, the onslaught had dissipated significantly, so we took a dip, but not for long. It still smelled and wasn’t all that pleasant. Lounging on the beach chairs and reading a good book was an excellent fallback activity. Plus, we never really missed the ocean (well, we live on it)… we were in the pool all day!
The big pool was gorgeous: multiple water features, in-water lounge chairs, cabana beds, swim-up bar, fresh pool-side snack food just steps away, ocean views and entertainment. But we never used it. Mornings were tranquil, but it got busy real quick and by mid-day the pool was PACKED… and LOUD. Music, water-zumba, hotel staff leading sing-a-longs and doing cruise-ship-style games…not for us. Thank God for the VIP pool. For only an extra $100 total, this VIP Preferred status got us into the smaller “chill pool”. No kids allowed; no games allowed; very few people. Just right.
Picture 24 people – parents, siblings, friends, relatives, spouses, many meeting for the first time, staying at a resort together for an entire week. Vacationing with other people increases, exponentially, potential for disaster; this turned into one of the best vacations ever. How? These were cool people. Chill people. And ‘chill people’ at the ‘chill pool’ made for a ‘chill wedding’. Everyone was just happy to hang out and enjoy themselves, do their own thing and not fuss.
So after eating each meal, we all usually ended up at this quieter VIP 'chill pool'. And we’d be in it for hours… yapping, drinking, loafing on floating chairs, resting on pool noodles, drinking some more, reading, napping or surfing internet on chaise lounges or cabana beds. The water was like bathwater… not exactly refreshing, but close to body temperature - you just didn’t want to get out of it.
Our talented, and patient, pool bartender generated drinks as fast as the speed of light. Sex on the Beach, Dirty Monkeys, Mojitos, Margaritas, beer, tequila shots, everything under the sun and more. While the drinks were a bit watered down (probably a good thing), and the tequila ‘no bueno’, you couldn’t help but get into a festive mood hearing our crowd chant “More Sex! More Sex!” and another round of Sex on the Beach would appear out of nowhere. (Blame the bartender, he started it by asking the question... "More Sex?"). So it should be no surprise that the pool ended up a major player in the wedding of the decade.
Simply Serene Ceremony
The wedding was held on the resort’s sandy beach under a simple wood gazebo draped in sheer white fabric, with the serene ocean as backdrop. The groom…happy and jittery as he waited with the rest of us for the bride to arrive. The bride… reminiscent of the beautiful Greek Goddess Athena, strolled down the aisle in an elegant, Grecian-style gown perfect for this beachy occasion.
But as the officiator began her short sermon, for some reason, all I could think of was:
“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togever tooday.” “And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva...” I swear she said “marriage” and “together” and “love” the same way that the Clergyman did in the Princess Bride. OK maybe I just really wanted her to say it like that. Go back and review that tape! It was all I could do not to snicker…
Writing their own vows gave the ceremony added personalization and a touch of comedy as they each tended to instinctively know what the other was going to say before it was even spoken. The final act of filling a glass vase with purple and white colored sand remains a poignant memory, symbolizing their individual lives intertwined as one.
Ceremony complete, the wedding party relocated to an outside reception dinner…at the chill pool! Dusk fell and we had the VIP pool area all to ourselves – an appropriate setting given the amount of time we spent in this same spot all week. We mingled over appetizers, snacking contentedly on amazing bacon-wrapped shrimp while drinking some sort of delicious, electric blue & red colored martini concoction. As we sat down to dinner the sun had set. Just one problem... No longer at the beach with the sea breezes blowing, we are now in a jungle scene… at night… with bright halogen lights surrounding our dinner table. BUGS!
They were everywhere… all over the white tablecloth and crawling into the bread plates that had been sitting there for just a few minutes before we sat down. Needless to say, I didn’t eat my bread. If you didn’t cover your drink with a napkin it was filled with several flying bugs in no time. Playing whack-a-bug was the new sport. Each course served required a focused attempt at eating as fast as you could before your plate became contaminated. The dinner was excellent though, and the little creatures did not dissuade us from attacking our meals.
With the food consumed, bugs ignored and speeches spoken, the bride and groom first-danced and cut the cake. As the cake was served, it began to sprinkle… then pour a little harder. Awwwww…darn it. We all huddled under various canopy beds lining the pool while 2 guests remained seated and refused to let the rain spoil their cake-eating experience. About 10 minutes later, after becoming completely soaked, I can only imagine the thought that probably went through their heads: “Screw it, I’m already wet”.
It’s A Wonderful Life
Remember the high-school dance scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life”? The gymnasium floor cracks open revealing a pool underneath. Unwittingly, Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing perilously close to the edge, assuming theirs must be THE best Charleston judging from the startled oohs and ahhhs of their spectators. At the height of their boogying bliss…“Hey, we must really be good!”… they tumble backwards, right into the pool… yet continue dancing unabashedly. Everyone else gasps and then jumps in after realizing: ‘What the heck. That looks like fun!’
Yeah, it was kinda like that.
So one drenched cake-eater jumps in the pool. Then the other. What?! Crazy people, right? But then another couple jumps in…then another. Ohhhh! No they didn’t! The bride and groom jump in! In full wedding attire! It was all over after that. Our pool-jumping partiers defied the rain and filled the night with child-like giggles of delight, whoot-whoots, clapping, arm-waving, splashing, singing and dancing to Robin Thicke and Bruno Mars. After several minutes trying to take pictures of all this mayhem in the rain, everyone starts yelling at those of us remaining to just get in already! Us old folks (just like in the movie) look at each other, shrug shoulders and join the revelers. Oh, what the heck. That looks like fun!
Dancing and singing and splashing and just generally being merry, we were certain the staff would kick us out soon. But then the bartender took off his shoes, waded right into the pool and delivered us a huge tray of drinks! He continued to do so for the rest of the evening – what a guy – delivering shot after shot after shot. The daddy-daughter and mother-son ritual dances were performed poolside, albeit soaked to the bone, with all of us cheering from the pool.
We danced the night away in the bathwater, in our wedding outfits, until they kicked us out at 11pm. I would not be surprised if this impromptu, pool-party-reception ended up as a promo video on the Sapphire NOW website (either that or the waiter was taking a close-up video of our very-nice-but-scantily-clad wedding crasher, who knows.) One staff member said he’d worked there 10 years and never saw anything like it. (the reception, not the crasher)
It truly was a night to remember… the beginnings of A Wonderful Life. Cheers and much love to my brother and his new wife. May your life together always be as amazing as this week.
Warning: This slideshow contains A LOT of photos. Since most family/friends couldn’t make the trip, I’ve posted pretty much a wedding montage extraordinaire so you all can see what you missed!