Blame it on Mexico! (Or How to Survive a Hurricane with Lots of Drinking)
Updated: Apr 26
So being from Texas, I have made countless trips to Mexico; Its’ border, its’ capital city and of course, the Yucatan peninsula and all its great hotspots like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. While I wouldn’t say I am an expert on travel there, I feel like I have some relatively good advice on things to plan for when headed down south for a beach vacation in particular. Even so, this last trip caught me by surprise. And with its many near fiascos, it had come to a point where I felt like I might be in my own type of Truman Show, where things kept happening to the point of comedy.
Firstly, being it was 2020, my husband and I could not have been more ready to escape the mundanity of every day life that this pandemic has forces us all into. We had a fairly large group of family and friends that we were meeting, 7 nights in a very upgraded room and adults only all inclusive resort in Playa we were headed to, so everything was set to be perfect…
We should’ve known when the cab we ordered the night before to take us to the airport for an early flight, didn’t show up, that things were going to get bumpy. It should be noted, that the weather at this point was reporting on a mild tropical depression they had named Zeta, but it was projected for Cuba and some the other parts of Caribbean, so nothing for us to worry about.
Flights went smoothly, as we splurged for the comfort of first class airfare on our points, and proceeded to prime ourselves for the week by boozing it up on the way down there. We were giddy when we landed and customs was a breeze. We were promptly picked up and delivered to our beautiful resort, The El Dorado Royale by Karisma. Then, we sat by the pool, meeting friends and family and taking full advantage of the all inclusive package at the Presidential Casitas exclusive pool 32, where we waited to check in to the Presidential Class suites a few of us decided to reserve. Life was good – all smooth sailing! First day/night was a blast, though I can’t say I remember much of the dinner we had later that night.
Headed into the second day, again, things were going off without a hitch, but that pesky tropical storm we heard was changing its course to land in Mexico and had been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane… Say what?!!! Well, we decided the best way to handle bad news is the same as handling good news, with a drink in hand, as we speculated how bad it might be. However, no one at the resort had so much as mentioned that we’d need to evacuate or anything at this point, so it still seemed like it might not be too much a concern. After all, the guy at the activities desk said, we were all set to go diving the next morning and the conditions looked good. How bad could it be?
That night, fiasco number one struck in the form of an UDI, an “unidentified drunken incident.” Our suites had these amazing infinity edge pools on the second story where my hubby, brother in law and sister had been sitting most of the late afternoon indulging in tasty tequila beverages. We’d been in and out of the rooms of course, which were so elegantly decorated and embellished with slick as s!*t marble floors. In an effort to combat what would inevitably be someone’s doom, I had put down every towel in the room. Problem solved!
The fall took me by surprise. Like, really, really by surprise. We were showered, ready to walk out the door, when I rounded the corner of the bathroom to make one last check on the lipstick, and BOOM! Out of nowhere the floor leapt up to smack me right in the face… first. That’s right, lip stick tread marks all along the floor and “safety towels” because I had some momentum apparently.
My sister, quick to act, helped me up, as I was seeing stars, and I immediately felt the huge hunk of tooth that was not only missing, but still in my mouth from my left lateral. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed that I looked a bit like I’d been ridden wet and hung out to dry with my lipstick smeared across my cheeks and a huge chip in my smile. Sexy, right?
Needless to say, I had to take a knee for a few minutes to shake that one off, but never one to give up, I pressed on, went to dinner, albeit, a little later than originally planned, and even made it to the show afterwards like a trooper.
Next day, I was miraculously not black and blue. Somehow, being buzzy must’ve helped me be more pliable, but my shoulder must’ve taken the brunt of the fall, which I didn’t realize the night before, as it felt terrible. Well, at least I had a good reason to get a massage now!
As we evaluated my condition for diving and thought better of it, with my head and shoulder, we noticed that the surf outside had picked up overnight, like big time. This was the first clue that it was probably not a good day for diving, but ironically it was us cancelling the trip and not the other way around, which leaves me questioning the safety of that particular tour operation.
Deciding we needed a second breakfast after room service, we ventured out to grab a bite and walk around to figure out where we were going to be setting up camp for another day passing time with frozen beverages in hand. Mission accomplished, we wandered back to our room for supplies when my sister caught us and told us that she’d just been told by our butler that we were going to be evacuated from our rooms in 30 minutes, because Hurricane Zeta was headed straight for us. Not the news you want to hear on your vacation…
My first thought, “Oh Hell no!” I’m not moving for a Cat 1, and my second, “If they’re really going to make us move, I’d better take advantage of every amenity in my room… And I did just that, because 30 minutes in Mexico, is really 3 hours. Meanwhile as we took advantage of the jacuzzi, outdoor shower and private pool, we proceeded to compile a list of things to survive the night. And that ladies and gents is why you are reading this blog really…
Here are the top 10 things for surviving a Hurricane in Mexico:
1) Bottles! Mexico’s government mandates all resorts stop serving you alcohol during evacuation procedures and that can be extended to the days following the disaster. Order some bottles, because you’re going to need them. We had a mini hurricane party we needed to prepare for, after all.
2) ICE! Our butlers were able to procure us a couple of small coolers of ice, which came in handy for a variety of reasons over the next few days.
3) Beer… Lots of it. You need some variety from drinking cocktails all the time.
4) Water, water, water and other beverages (for mixers)… Trust me, order at least 20+ bottles, if you can get your hands on them. You will use that easily between two people. We didn’t have water for a few hours the morning following the hurricane, so we used it to wash up, as well as, for drinking.
5) Room service, the earlier you can get in an order, the better! We ordered a lot of sandwiches, wraps and chips that we could stash in the mini fridge, as there was no food service after 4pm. They will bag these up for you, if you ask nicely. They did have boxed meals they were handing out at the main lobby. We didn’t go, because we stocked up, but we heard from others in our group that they’d run out, so some folks didn’t have anything for 12+ hours.
6) Cards and creativity… There was a curfew for us to not leave our rooms after 5 pm, and for good reason. The surf and winds had picked up significantly, and being the innately curious beings humans are, they had to enact rules to keep us all safe from wandering the grounds as coconuts fell, trees and cabanas got ripped up and storm surge lashed the beaches. That is all to say, you are going to be cooped up for a long time, and you better have a way to entertain yourselves. I ALWAYS bring cards on trips, except this once. Luckily, we still had some internet and could play a few games of PSYCH on our phones and made up games like charades to pass the time in our rooms.
7) Get a room at the back of the resort, if they give you an option. We did, and we were perfectly fine, but most people decided to do the Hurricane Huddle in the main lobby with cots. We said, “No thanks!” and signed that waiver, releasing them from responsibility gladly, to save us from being hunkered down for hours with 400+ people in the midst of a pandemic in incredibly uncomfortable quarters.
8) Flashlights… You may or may not need them. We actually had power most of the time, because our resort had self sustaining solar energy power. Not all resorts are like that though, and you will want some source of light to maneuver if the winds take out the power.
9) Buy travel insurance! You should be doing this habitually anyhow. Trust me, it can save your butt. In this case, we are getting reimbursed for additional expenses and lost money due to this disaster. Travel insurance is good to have for a variety of reasons of which I will write about more thoroughly in another blog someday.
10) Sense of humor! You’re on vacation… Sometimes things go great without a hitch, sometimes stuff goes downhill… Have a laugh about it. Don’t let it ruin your trip. As the saying goes, make lemons out of lemonade.
That should get you through 8-12 hours of a hurricane. Now, it should be noted, had we been gearing up for a Cat 2+, things might be really different, but one thing I actually learned in all of this was that depending on the speed of movement of the actual hurricane (not the winds in it), can determine the real level of damage it can afflict. Remember what Harvey did to Houston? Not pretty. Two weeks prior to our trip, our resort had been hit by a Cat 4 hurricane. However, because it was come and gone within an hour, the resort sustained much less damage, even though winds were so much higher. Zeta on the other hand, pounded us for 8+ hours, and the resort looked a lot like me on our second night there. In fact, it was not too dissimilar, as the staff was not expecting near the damages it caused, kind of like I didn’t expect the floor to hit me so hard. I’ve included some video to give you an idea, but truly it was more astonishing in person.
To give you a sense of it all, the sand was washed up way into the resort from the beach, most of the cabanas both on and off the beach were pulled up out of the ground, where their bases had been buried several feet deep. Most were missing their palapa roofs, if not fully, at least partially, and some of the big palm trees around the resort were downed. Plus, there were coconuts and palm leaves everywhere, as well as, other debris in all the pools, lazy rivers and some of the waterfront restaurants and bars. The most devastating part were the huge amounts of coral that got ripped up and thrown on shore. These were big, lovely corals that you knew had taken a long time to grow, and most sadly were the poor baby sea turtles that got washed up. They’d just gone through a hatching season there, and lots of the turtles were impacted with the rough seas, but luckily some did survive, thanks to the rescue efforts of staff and guests early the next morning.
Long story short here, the resort staff was impressive in their clean up efforts. They had a hot breakfast buffet going the next day, as huge crews worked tirelessly over the next three days cleaning up and slowly re-opening pools and additional restaurants. Miraculously, by our last day, things had seemed to return to more of a normal feel around the place and the ocean was swimmable again. We did make it out to Tulum too, which is worth the trip for some culture too, when the weather recovered.
What we didn’t expect was that the end of the resort that we were previously on would be completely trashed and uninhabitable. That was the story we were told anyways, though we did see new guests getting into the Casitas side of the resort towards the end of the week. So, again, travel insurance will hopefully kick in for us, as we spent 5 days in a significantly different room with less amenities, and a possessed TV that turned itself off and on repeatedly without explanation for two days.
All said, our group made it out unscathed and managed to still have a good time over the days following. Though as it would go with 2020, and this trip in particular, our trip had one last curveball to send our way. Our plane had mechanical issues and after three hours of being delayed, we were told they’d have to fly a part from Miami to fix it. Three hours turned into ten while we waited and missed our connection from Miami to Tampa. Our only option at that point was to catch the redeye out of Miami the next morning to finally make it home. This is where number 10 in our list is most key to your survival… Keep your sense of humor. At that point, while frustrated, of course, my husband and I just had to laugh, feeling like we were starring in our very own comedy movie. We’ve had so many great travels without obstacles, but this one just kept delivering them.
Other good to knows about Mexico:
1) Bring sunscreen – duh! Yes, you can get it at the resort, but you will pay 3x the price you would for it at home.
2) Take a YETI cup or your preference of beverage container; They’ll fill it up, saving you trips to the bar, and it has a bonus for the environment, since you’re not using multiple plastic cups.
3) US dollars in small denominations. All inclusive doesn’t also mean tip inclusive (most of the time- check with your resort beforehand). Take care of the people taking care of you. This should be a no brainer, and trust me, a few dollars goes a long way towards people going out of their way, to make sure you’re taken care of. I’d recommend bringing at least 100-300 in ones and fives for bartenders, waiters, drivers, room service staff, and housekeeping. Have some tens and twenties on hand also, if you are getting premium services from tour guides and the butlers that handle all your needs from unpacking your luggage to ordering room service for you.
Well, that is all for now. Until then, keep smiling, keep dreaming, and keep traveling!