Wednesday, April 6, 2011

There's something about Cancun

The pool at Live Aqua
Those of you who know me know that my tastes usually trend towards the lower end of the creature comforts scale. Not big on linen napkins and room service and pampering. Service staff hovering over me attentively make me nervous. I guess I see myself in their shoes and all things considered you can always blame my Soviet Latvian upbringing.
Some of my best vacation memories, memories that I truly love and cherish, might sound like vacation nightmares to others. There was the time in Dahab when the room we stayed in was so dusty and hot (and then there were the fleas) that we just dragged the straw mattress off the bed and down to the beach and slept under the stars. There was the time in Guatemala (for which Hector still keeps apologizing when he really shouldn't) when after some interesting bus mix ups we found ourselves stuck in some small town in the middle of the night waiting for a ride watching the local constabulary and ladies of the night playing chicken across the main drag. Then there was the time in Cayman where we ended up doing a forced seven mile march expecting the restaurant we were going to to be right around the corner which never quite came (all ended well and we even got a ride from the owner back to our hotel when he heard our story).
Long story short I am not really about the finer things in life. You know that line about the luxuries and comforts of home? Well. If that's what you want then why leave home?
And Cancun is anything but the above. When you think of Cancun think of Las Vegas but instead of casinos you have the beach as the main attraction. Instead of slot machines you have the timeshare bandits. Instead of the strip show shills you have the tour and excursion shills. And both places have buffets and scantily dressed eye candy. Both places are designed to separate you from your spending cash as effortlessly as possible. So what is it about Cancun that attracts me? I've been around 6 or 7 times now and each time I seem to upgrade to a higher level of creature comforts.
Part of it is that its just so easy. Here in the US try any travel site and you'll see an endless list of packages for Cancun. They say that competition leads to savings for the consumer so here's your proof. Then there's the beach and the water. Its one of the few places in the world where I find that the reality of the place matches those glossy pictures in the travel magazines. And then there's the diving. While Cozumel is the place for the diving its only a short ferry ride away.
Live Aqua
This time around we stayed at the Live Aqua. There's something about Live Aqua as well, but almost in the reverse. Don't get me wrong. Its a great hotel. Elegant and beautiful. Great service and good food, etc. But there's something just a little bit off that I just can't put my finger on it. As most resorts in Cancun it has a "theme" and for some reason they selected a semi "asian" theme. It just didn't seem to work for me. Cancun to me is a "hot" place. Its a city on the make. It makes no bones about trying to hustle you, but its done with a nodge and a wink. You know you are being hustled but your in on the joke. Live Aqua is something I'd expect in Japan or Norway but feels out of place in the city of "almost free today" and Senior Frog and Carlos and Charlie's.

Ben is either counting the sharks or making sure he still has all of his fingers.

 The highlight of the trip, however, was finding Scorpio Divers. Since the local diving in Cancun isn't the greatest usually I don't spend too much time looking for a dive shop. I just go with whatever is closest to the hotel and offers at least one trip to Cozumel. According to google Scorpio Divers was the closest (turns out it really wasn't), but google's mistake was my gain. Scorpio Divers is run by Ben and Jorge and both of them just love diving and it shows. Its the nature of the beast that most people who work in the diving industry start getting a little jaded when they dive with their customers since they dive the same spots day in and day out. It becomes a job. I dove with both Ben and Jorge and each time they seemed just as excited about the diving as the paying guests. Just ask Ben about sharks and he gets as excited in anticipation as the greenest of divers prior to his first open water dive. The best sign of a good business is how much repeat business they get. When ever I get back to Cancun and plan to go diving I promise they'll get mine.

More pictures.