Throwback Thursday – #tbt – Our Tropical Vacation History

Some people go every year, some people go whenever they can afford it, and some people won’t never go to one, thinking they’re fake, inauthentic holidays.

Shea and I are in that middle category – though we don’t go every year, we’ve been on a handful of all-inclusive vacations over the years – averaging out to one every three years or so basically (but we’ve also been to Hawaii twice in that time though not for all-inclusives.  And our other “hot” holidays during past winters were to Edmonton and Winnipeg so we’re not counting those either!) 😉

Here’s the rundown…

February 2000 – Oceano Palace – Mazatlan, Mexico


  • 19 of 76 Hotels in Mazatlan on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 260
  • Carrier: Booked through CAA I think but can’t remember carrier – possibly Sunwing?)
  • Why we went: Shea’s parents had gone the year before on their first all-inclusive vacation (technically, they were on European plan and only got breakfast and lunch but not dinner) and highly recommended it to us.
  • Who we knew: A high school classmate of mine happened to be there with his cousin.  In those pre-Facebook days, I have no idea how we knew we’d be there at the same time.  But we were and even though we were in different hotels, we still connected for a couple meals, some beach time and a pub crawl.
  • Memorable moment: This was definitely our “Spring Break” getaway.  From seeing one party animal guy who passed out on the beach the first day who was lobster red the rest of the week to doing a pub crawl with my classmate and his cousin which ended up with more than one person in our party vomiting to the fact that we were woken by the sounds of blaring soca music by the pool below us every morning, it was a non-stop party.
  • Unique feature: Everything felt unique since this was our first trip – all you can eat buffets!  Unlimited drinks!  Poolside activities!  Oceanview room!  Beach vendors bugging you to buy stuff!
  • Villas or hotel style?  Hotel style.
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  Tie: Attended a bull fight/Seeing the skinned animals hanging unrefrigerated in the central market stalls.
  • Injury Report: Broke a toe when the waves pushed me into some submerged rocks just off shore.
  • (Un)sexy moment:  A severely intoxicated woman on an all-you-can-drink harbour cruise falls out of her top while riding a wave rider
  • Beer of choice: Pacifico
  • Internet access?  Nope.

March 2003 – Copacabana (now Adults-only Catalonia Royal Tulum) – Mayan Riviera, Mexico

  • 3 of 4 Hotels in that area of Mayan Riviera on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 288
  • Carrier: Booked through CAA, can’t remember which carrier we traveled with.
  • Why we went: To get married!
  • Who we knew: We had a wedding party of fourteen in total – Shea and I, both sets of parents, Shea’s brother and a buddy, two of my aunts, one of my mom’s cousins who ran a small hippie B&B three hours south of where we were plus one of her guests who happened to be from Saskatchewan (and who ended up taking better photos than our wedding photographer!)
  • Memorable moment:  Other than getting married?  The whole trip was one memory after another!
  • Unique feature:  Had an amazing wedding supper where they closed off a section of their outdoor a la carte Italian restaurant and we had an awesome meal, great wine, tres leches cake for dessert, flaming coffees, hand-made flower roses for Shea from the staff and much more.
  • Villas or hotel style?  Villa style.
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  My brother-in-law claims the black eye he showed up with after a late night out came from a tropical insect’s bite. 😉
  • Injury Report: I got sun stroke at Tulum on our second last day and had to leave our Mexican a la carte that night to go back to the room to shiver in between bouts of Montezuma’s Revenge – the only time I’ve gotten really sick on a tropical holiday.
  • (Un)sexy moment:  Briefly consider hitting a strip club of dubious provenance the night before my wedding ceremony but think better of it after realising the high entry fee might be for more than just paying to see the strippers! (Full disclosure: my wife was with us, she was offered free admission and that made me even more nervous for some reason!)  I also got distracted by a topless woman on the beach while doing the walk-through the day before our wedding.
  • Beer of choice: Dos Equis, Regular and Dark
  • Internet access?  I don’t think so.

March 2004 – Riu Palace – Cancun, Mexico

  • 28 of 78 Hotels in Cancun on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 956
  • Carrier: Booked through CAA, possibly Sunwing again?
  • Why we went: A scheduling snafu with our wedding trip the year before led to us getting a travel voucher which we had to use within 12 months.  We booked a week off, waited until only a few days before our scheduled days off then booked the best deal we could find which was a newly opened, high end $2000/person resort marked down to $1000/person.
  • Who we knew?  Nobody.
  • Memorable moment: Actually, the trip across to Isla Mujeres was the most memorable part of our time in Cancun – just one of those days with perfect moments you remember forever.
  • Unique feature:  The only all-inclusive that had not just beer, pop and water in the in-room fridge but also in-room hard liquor dispensers (which unfortunately were local brands that tasted like paint thinner so we didn’t indulge too much after trying them the first time). Also the only infinity pool we’ve been in so far as well as our first (but definitely not last) swim-up bar.
  • Villa or hotel style?  Hotel style (and we were on the top floor with an ocean view which was awesome!)
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  Paid to get our photo taken holding a lizard on the beach.
  • (Un)sexy moment:  Sitting at swim-up bar, the bartender goes “Look at that” and gestures.  We look up and see two people copulating on their eighth floor balcony.
  • Beer of Choice: Corona at the time but now Dos Equis I think
  • Injury Report: Is this the trip where I once again broke a toe, this time tripping over a cable that was running from a telephone pole to the ground?
  • Internet access? I paid to use Internet on a desktop computer at a mall across from our hotel, maybe $5 for half an hour or something?

March 2011 – Blau – Varadero, Cuba

Pace Joins A Cuban Band

  • 4 of 48 Hotels in Varadero on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 395
  • Booked through CAA and flew on Air Transat maybe?
  • Why we went: Family vacation on Shea’s side
  • Who we knew?  Her parents and her brother and sister-in-law plus their son who is Pace’s age
  • Memorable moment: Doing a private tour into Havana with a local “tour guide” 
  • Unique feature:  Drunk Russian tourists singing at the lobby bar to all hours of the night which was awesome considering the hotel had an open atrium running from the top floors to the lobby.  The first resort we visited that had a bidet? 😉
  • Villas or hotel style?  Hotel style.
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  Went swimming with penned dolphins.
  • (Un)sexy moment:  Well, it’s humbling to say but I was at one of the heaviest points in my life during this trip so I think I was the unsexy moment on a daily basis. 🙁
  • Injury report?  I probably broke a toe at some point.
  • Beer of choice: Cristal
  • Internet access?  It was expensive and basically like dial-up so we didn’t bother even trying.

February 19-26, 2015 – Grand Palladium Palace – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

  • 30 of 102 Hotels in Punta Cana on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 1815 (across three sister resorts with full access to all)
  • Carrier: Booked through with our TD Travel Visa, flew with Air Transat
  • Why we went: Shea’s parents were talking about a trip back to a resort they’d previously visited.  We said we’d join them since Sasha flies free, not being quite two yet.  My parents decided to go as well so it turned out to be a bit of a re-visit of our beach wedding twelve years ago.
  • Who we knew?  My parents and Shea’s parents.
  • Memorable moment:  Seeing Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band live at the Hard Rock Resort in a beautiful outdoor setting.
  • Unique feature:  The Grand Palladium is three resorts in one and you can use all three resorts’ restaurants and amenities interchangeably (some resorts like the Riu chain in Cancun allowed clients in the “upper” resorts to use the “lower” ones but not vice versa.)
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  Sasha may or may not have chased the on-site flamingos.
  • (Un)sexy moment:  My dad had a Montezuma’s Revenge-type moment that could’ve ended *really* badly but luckily was fine in the end – er, pun not intended – due to a nearby empty hotel room that was accidentally (and almost unbelievably) left unlocked by the cleaner after his own room card didn’t work! My mother-in-law also made me some knitted swim trunks as a joke that were even anatomically correct. Oh, and Sasha accidentally pooped in the main pool so I had to take quick action to minimize that disaster too.
  • Injury report: Shea’s mom broke bones in her foot slipping on the boat during a snorkelling excursion on our second last day.  Didn’t go to the doctor on-site as we heard it was expensive and paperwork could be complicated. So she gritted it out with rum for medicine until we got home.
  • Beer of choice: Presidente
  • Internet access?  Our rooms weren’t supposed to have it but we got upgraded to a the higher end resort of the three and ended up with really good signal in our room.

December 27, 2015 to January 3, 2016 – Iberostar Varadero – Varadero, Cuba


  • 3 of 51 Hotels in Varadero on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 386
  • Carrier: Booked through with our TD Travel Visa, flew with Air Transat
  • Why we went: My parents offered to take us as a (very generous) Christmas gift (of course, they also said they were using our inheritance to take us so there’s that!) 😉
  • Who we knew?  My parents (we didn’t see them though we looked as we were de-planing and they were waiting to fly home but my sister and brother-in-law had gone over Christmas week with their kids then we checked into the room that they checked out of to be there with my parents for New Year’s.)  Two of my regular library patrons were on our flight down and back but their family stayed at a different resort.
  • Memorable moment: Being at a resort over Christmas/New Year’s is both new and memorable compared to always going in February/March before.  In fact, the entire New Year’s Eve day is pretty special – we did family pictures throughout the resort then went for appetizers, an amazing supper and then a massive entertainment show, just for NYE, that ends up with everyone from the crowd being invited on the stage which temporarily transformed into a nightclub!
  • Unique feature: Possibly the biggest pool of any resort we’ve stayed at?
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment: Watch a man bring in a freshly caught fish to a restaurant where a chef eagerly take it from him.  Also, I think a small sand crab that Grandma caught for the grandkids to look at may have met an untimely end?
  • Injury Report: I probably broke a toe.
  • (Un)sexy moment: She took some teasing for it but Shea having enough bathing suits to wear a different one every day (plus more!) which was definitely a sexy moment in my eyes!
  • Beer of choice: Cristal
  • Internet access?  Apparently it was free in the lobby but I don’t think I even bothered to try to connect.

February 22 to March 1, 2017 – Sandos Caracol Eco Resort – Playa Del Carmen, Mexico


  • 67 of 211 Hotels in Playa del Carmen on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 956
  • Carrier: Booked through with our TD Travel Visa, flew with WestJet Vacations
  • Why we went: Not having had to pay for our trip last year (thanks again mom and dad!), we’d managed to save enough so that, along with accumulated Visa Reward points, this trip was relatively affordable.
  • Who we knew?  My parents and also a former co-worker of Shea’s was there with her family (including three boys around Pace’s age) plus her cousin’s family so there were lots of people we knew.
  • Memorable moment: Seeing monkeys in their natural habitat every day was pretty cool as was the outdoor “Fire of Life” Mayan history show on Saturday night.  We knew the ocean at Sandos Caracol was rocky but a day trip to sister resort, Sandos Playacar, might have given me a new #1 for “Best Beach ever” – calm turquoise waters and bright white sand.
  • Unique feature: So many – this resort has a cenote and a small river we swam in, authentic Mayan ruins on site, bikes that are free to borrow (but we never got to this activity), jungle trails and probably lots more I’m forgetting (and all of which are things you’d have to pay for as an off-site excursion at most other resorts.) Because there was so much above and beyond what a typical resort has, this was one of the first times I really regretted not doing two weeks instead of one.
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  Seeing some young kid holding a large iguana by its tail as he walked towards the lobby yelling “Mom!  Mom!” was disturbing – doubly so when he dropped it and we saw blood on the animal’s head.
  • Injury report:  Mom had a heat rash and my dad also had a rash which we later learned might be due to a resin from one type of tree that’s in the resort (and could’ve apparently been cured earlier by the resin of yet another tree if we’d thought to mention the rash to local staff.)
  • (Un)sexy moment: Shea and I took a “romantic boat ride” on the Jade River and when we told our tour guide that we’d gotten married in Mexico fourteen years ago, he asked if we’d “made magic” during that trip! 😉
  • Beer of choice: Dos Equis and Sol
  • Internet access?  There wasn’t supposed to be Internet in our base-level, standard room but we managed to pick it up on occasion, especially early in the morning or late at night and if we (funny enough) were in the bathroom over any other part of our otherwise large room!  If we got really desperate for a Facebook fix, we could also pick it up at the lobby and a few other spots around the resort.

February 27, 2018 to March 13, 2018 – Moon Palace Cancun – Cancun/Mayan Riviera, Mexico

  • 24 of 176 Hotels in Cancun on TripAdvisor
  • Number of Rooms: 2433
  • Carrier: Booked through with our TD Travel Visa, flew with WestJet
  • Why we went: We had picked a different hotel in a different country and in making small talk with my parent’s travel agent, we ended up picking this one *very* spontaneously!
  • Who we knew? My parents
  • Memorable moment: TBD
  • Unique feature: Flow Rider Surf Simulator
  • Regrettable animal abuse moment:  TBD
  • Injury Report: TBD
  • (Un)sexy moment: TBD
  • Beer of choice: TBD
  • Internet access? Yes, everywhere in resort.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 3

  1. From Head Tale - 10 “Must Have” Things I Look For In An All-Inclusive Resort on 16 Sep 2015 at 11:59 pm

    […] and I have been on a handful of all-inclusive vacations over the years.  Every place has had its good and bad points but overall, these varied trips to Mexico (Mazatlan, […]

  2. From Head Tale - Friday Fun Link – (Over The) Moon Palace, Cancun on 30 Sep 2017 at 1:26 am

    […] and now, the only question left is whether Shea and I do a week like we have for every one of the previous seven all-inclusive vacations we’ve taken?  Or do we splash out and take advantage of the slight cost saving you get booking a second week […]

  3. From Head Tale - 2017 End of Year Memes: Blog Blows Up, Libraries Live, Seasonal Summer, Tropical Travels on 31 Dec 2017 at 9:40 am

    […] an all-inclusive near Playa Del Carmen which is perhaps my favourite all-inclusive ever.  This was our third year in a row of going to an all-inclusive (with our fourth in a row booked for this upcoming February.) I spent a few days in Waskesiu for […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: