Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tulum tour

One of the highlights of my trip to the Mayan Riviera of Mexico was the excursion to the Tulum ruins. We opted for Amstar’s “Tulum Express” tour, a small-group tour with a maximum of 12 passengers. It cost around $60 per person, which included all transportation and entrance fees.

Secrets Silversands is near Puerto Morelos, about 15 minutes drive from the Cancun Airport, so it was about an hour to Tulum (a little more due to construction). The van picked us up at the resort at 8:00 am, and we returned at 1:00 pm. There were only seven of us in the group. The road is very good but not particularly scenic. There is still a lot of development and construction going on in this area.

The parking lot is a distance from the ruins, with a mediocre craft market. A trolley takes you to the ruins for a small fee (included in the tour) or you could walk. Tickets are required to enter the ruins, and there is an additional fee for video cameras (digital cameras and cell phones with video capabilities were ignored).

This walled city has a spectacular location perched above the Caribbean Sea with amazing views. The reef from Belize protects the shore and creates a lagoon-effect with turquoise waters. The ruins aren’t that old (the city’s heyday was 1200-1500) but it was interesting to imagine this ancient gated beachfront community for the affluent and powerful. There is even a Mayan lighthouse! Nothing remains of the thatched huts outside the walls where the peasants lived. Wooden steps lead to a small public beach. Lots of iguanas wander the grounds.

For those really interested in the Mayan civilization, Chichen Itza (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Coba may be better options, but both would be a full- day trip with much longer travel times. For the rest of us, Tulum is perfect- a pleasant few hours where you learn a little about the history of the region and are back at your resort in time for lunch. Families might enjoy a combo tour to Tulum and Xcaret, an eco-archaeological theme park with cultural demonstrations, or Xel-Ha, an open-sea aquarium.

Click here for my Slideshow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hola from Mexico!

Here is the view from our Junior Suite at Secrets Silversands on the Mayan Riviera. This morning we're going to explore the ruins of Tulum.

Flights from Ithaca on US Airways went pretty well, and the resort is just 15 minutes from the Cancun Airport. The room is very nice, complete with jacuzzi tub and marble shower. Meals have been good, especially the chicken mole. Gotta make time for the spa.

I will report in detail soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

CityCenter Las Vegas

The CityCenter development in Las Vegas is HUGE. They say you'll either love it or hate it but I still can't decide.

CityCenter is very grey and the contemporary architecture is very different from the rest of the Strip, but it is sexy. The public art like this eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (I hope) and Henry Moore's 'Mother and Child" are nice additions. Right between Bellagio and Monte Carlo on the Strip, the location is excellent. Hoards were pouring into Crystals, the mega-mall (correction: "Retail & Entertainment District"). The Mandarin Oriental was having a grand opening celebration which prevented me from snooping.

Pedestrians are justifiably outraged by the design, which forces them to walk the equivalent of three city blocks (complete with huge flight of stairs) to keep their driveway free of human obstructions. Perhaps when construction is completed, they'll implement a better solution.

I admit to loving the molto fabuloso Las Vegas and Caesar's Palace is still my favorite hotel here (best shower ever). So when Vegas goes all urban sophisticate, it feels inappropriate. If CityCenter were in NYC, the piazza-like space would be for people, not cars and there would be a lot more plants to mitigate the grey.

Steve Marcus took way better photos than I did for the Las Vegas Sun, click here for his Slideshow.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Holidays from Vegas

They have definitely decked the halls Vegas-style at MGM Grand in Las Vegas! The conference was great, I learned a lot. A highlight was the 'Speed Dating' sessions where I met with over 75 representatives from hotels, cruise lines and tour operators in a single afternoon!

It was also nice to meet my new colleagues from FROSCH. With 45 locations in 12 states, this huge company still feels like a family business. After the New Year, we will complete the transition by changing logos and email addresses (I'll keep you posted).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Update

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Las Vegas for a conference and will be out of the office Thursday, Dec. 3, and Friday, Dec 4. I will be checking voicemails and emails periodically, and can book travel, but my response time will be slower than usual. The conference schedule is intense but I do plan to check out the new CityCenter, which opened this week.

The following weekend, I am escaping to the Mayan Riviera for some fun and sun. I will be out of the office Monday, Dec. 14, and Tuesday, Dec. 15. I haven’t been to this region since Hurricane Wilma, and plan to tour the ruins of Tulum this time.

For the holidays, the office will be closed Dec. 24–25 and Dec. 31–Jan. 1.

If you have a travel emergency, please call the 24/7 Linden Travel Hotline so one of my colleagues can assist you. The number is at the top of your flight itinerary.

There is still holiday space available and great deals for winter travel, although the prices are starting to increase. Please let me know if I can help make the season special!