New Year’s Eve Trip to the Grand (Again)

New Year’s Eve in Mexico. At the Grand. Again. I can’t quite remember when we got the idea to do this. I remember after last year, we said that while it had been fun, we weren’t really sure it justified the much higher cost it involved. The Brown’s, Dave and Tessa from the UK, who I spent time with when I was here on my solo trip back in May, were going to be there. I really wanted Zung to meet them. We knew that we’d have to find a money tree first. We talked about it for several months.

Then we found the money tree! We also talked about going to Napa, instead. Right after New Year’s is actually a very inexpensive time to go there. But Dave and Tessa wouldn’t be there, and that was really the deciding factor. We threw caution about the high rates to the wind, and booked it.

The holidays were very stressful for me, with all the decorating and dinners and entertaining. Probably one of the most stressful I have ever experienced. However, I was a happy mama for Christmas because I had all my kiddos home. Nicholas has been able to come home from Italy both last year and this year, and his girlfriend, Tizzy, arrived Christmas day. Patrick’s girlfriend, Cat was here this year and her brother, also Patrick, joined us.

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That’s Cat on the end, with our Patrick, Tizzy with Nicholas. Patrick K and then Zung. In front is Susie, holding my sweet Sophie and me holding Sohpie’s ear.

Sitting down to Christmas dinner is always great, because then I’m done for the day with nothing left to do but eat and drink.

A couple of days later there was a quick, cold trip to Vail with all the kids again. While there, I found the AMAZING dress I had been looking for, for New Year’s Eve. It was a screaming good deal too. We came home to pack bikinis and sunscreen instead of the scarves and turtlenecks we’d needed in Vail. Well, I was packing bikinis. If Zung had packed a bikini that would have been just weird.

I’d been tanning for a couple of weeks. I know that is so bad for my skin, but burning is worse and I do unless I pre-tan. I decided this year to get a Mystic tan, which is a spray on tan. I was happy with the results. This way I would have some color for New Year’s Eve. For Christmas Susie had given me a gift certificate to the nail salon we go to, so we booked mani’s and pedi’s together.

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I make the always important, but difficult choice about shoes.

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We were flying out on New Year’s Eve Day, and our flight left at 8 am, which meant a       4 am wake up call. Somehow, that always feels earlier and is certainly colder in the winter. It also does not leave any time for vacation mimosas. Boo!

I always wear a down jacket and snow boots to the airport. We park in the garage. I do a quick change into a leather jacket and sandals and make a fast dash inside the terminal. We check in and head for the terminal where our airline is located. We have time to quickly get some fast-food breakfast sandwiches. They were not the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten. Definitely a eat to live moment.

We board the plane and settle into our seats. It is too early for rum and cokes. So I have  a rum and o.j. Or two. Don’t judge Plus, the Oreos as my snack of choice that Southwest so thoughtfully provides at no additional charge.

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We doze for a bit. It was an occasionally bumpy flight, but in 3 1/2 hours we are landing. The immigration line is almost non-existant. We only have to wait for a few minutes for our bags. Even the Customs line is quick. We get the green light.

We go outside. I look for a sign with my name for our transfer. I can’t find it. I remember I was supposed to get a text with a code to exchange with the driver. I have not received said text. Then I remember that I have to turn on my Data Roaming for this to be able to happen. As soon as I do this, I get the text. I find our driver, or rather the guy who takes us to our driver. We load up our bags and head for the Grand.

You know, this is my 23rd trip to the Grand, and I still get excited when we see this sign.

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We have almost arrived at our second home.

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Travel Day

Well, this will be a short post, because I didn’t take notes. I do remember we went to breakfast with Helen and Chris. Other than that, I just can’t say for sure.

Overall, it was a good trip. It almost always is being at the beach. I love Mexico. It stole a piece of my heart that first time we came for our 25th anniversary, and stayed at the Royal Hideaway.

The VIM was a disappointment. But it wasn’t all bad, by any stretch. While the best part of the stay there was spending time with friends, there were some high points.

Things I liked about VIM:

-The dinners were good. Not great, but good. I have a really high bar for food, so it’s unlikely that any AI is going to reach the great level. I would say it is about on the same level as the Grand. It might even be a bit better, but more likely it is just new menus for us that made it seem like it might be that good.

-The wine was drinkable. I prefer having the wine list and options that the Grand has though.

-The bar we hung out in was nice with a nice selection of drinks. I think many people would think it was maybe a bit too quiet. I like that though.

-The second room we were in was nice. The swim out was actually a swim out. Unlike what they called a swim out at Secrets last year. You’d have to read that trip report to know what I mean.

-The buffet food was not bad. It was pretty average, but not bad.

-The grounds were pretty

-The water was nice to swim in. It was warm and mostly calm. I think this can vary though. The last day it was rougher.

-I liked the jewelry store.

-Overall, service was pretty good. I can’t say our first impression was good, with them trying to upsell us to their Prestige Club, or whatever they call it. a first lunch was initially a fail, but after complaining, it immediately improved, and that server was great the rest of our stay. There were definitely ups and downs with service, but overall, I feel like the service we get almost anywhere we go in Mexico is really good.

-They had Havana Club

Things I didn’t like about VIM:

-They cheaped out on the glass of welcome champagne. This really makes a bad first impression.

-The first impression went from bad to really bad with the upsell at check-in and then giving us two double beds. Honestly, this wouldn’t even have felt so unsatisfactory if they hadn’t tried the upsell first. It felt like punishment for not going with the upsell.

-The lobby has air that smells sickly sweet. It was so bad that I started to dread going in there.

-The first room was laid out so the flow was really disrupted by the sofa.

-Our first room had only one sink in the bathroom.

-The napkin with the welcome cake in our room was stained. While this doesn’t seem huge, again, it was early in the game and therefore made a bad first impression.

-While I was impressed that the Customer Service rep replied to me so quickly when I emailed about the almond milk, there was no follow through with actually fulfilling my request. This was worse than just telling me that they didn’t have almond milk. Then I would have brought my own.

-The resort is very large, which means not only lots of walking, but it made it hard to find things. Three days was definitely not long enough to feel like we knew our way around.

The only towel hut is by the pool. If you are a beach person, there is the hut with towels, but they are only for the prestige guests. This borders on obnoxious to have a hut with towels as you arrive at the beach, but to be told you can’t have them.

-The whole making us move on our last night had so many things wrong with it, I will not rehash it here. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know what happened.

-No Havana Club in our room.

-No Daniel. I guess he can’t be everywhere.

In the end, we would not return. We have also decided that we are not going to any other resorts for as long as the Grand is making us happy. Vacation time is too precious.

We considered this resort when it first opened, after we had been to the Grand once. On the feedback of the TA we were using at the time, we decided to go back to the Grand. I guess the rest is history. However, I wonder what my impressions would have been then.

Next Mexico vacation will be at the Grand. Come back next time for the start of our New Year’s Eve celebration!

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Dinner at VIM

I’m sorry this post is so late. I have been having major problems with WordPress. I wrote this post yesterday and then lost the whole thing. Long story, but here I am, trying again.There is lots of time to write when you are laid up with a common cold.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog.

The ocean water is really nice. When we have had enough beach, we go back to our new and improved room. We get in the pool that is our swim-up.

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There is no one else around and it is quiet and relaxing.

Zung gets out to take a shower. When it is time for me to get out, I have a very hard time hauling myself up and out. A really hard time. I wonder how a really drunk person manages this?

I eventually am successful, and take my shower. After getting dressed, I go in search of ice to chill the bottle of bubbles while we are at dinner. I have some difficulty finding the ice machine. After I find it, I get the bubbles into the ice.

We go down and since we are a bit farther from the restaurants, and running late,  we get a ride to the Japanese restaurant, which is where we are eating tonight. Everyone else is already seated. We are sitting at a Hibachi table.

This is a nice picture of us. This is a rental dress that I really liked. There was another picture that I had to delete that showed a wardrobe malfunction. Oops.

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It was a decent cooking show.

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The food is decent. I love that we get dipping sauces.

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Although this hotel is not one we would return to, we enjoyed our dinners, and our time with our friends. Which, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about. That said, I told Helen that we are never going anywhere but the Grand again.

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We go to the bar for a bit. We never last long. Zung and I go back to our room, open the bottle of bubbles and sit outside. It is very peaceful and nice.

We go to sleep and hope for a good night’s sleep since tomorrow is travel day.

 

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Moving Day

We go to breakfast with Chris and Helen.

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They have my almond milk. Yea! I have never been so excited by milk before.

I go to the lobby to exchange some money. I ask what time our room will be ready. The guy yesterday said noon, but I don’t trust anyone at this point. This guy tells me it will be ready at two. It’s a good thing I asked.

The lobby has this very sickly sweet smell. I feel sorry for these guys who have to sit in there all day, as I can barely stand it for the few short minutes I am in there.

We go back to the room and I get into my swim suit. Zung is staying to work for awhile. I go to the palapas in the Prestige section, or whatever the heck they call it. For the regular special guests, who have paid more for the privilege of sitting in that section. they have cards with their names and room numbers on it. Their is nothing with our names, so I ask the guy, who is the same guy who reluctantly gave me towels yesterday. He tells me the number of our palapas. They have put us in Siberia, the palapas that are furthest from the good swimming area, and the entrance and exit from the beach. There are a lot of rocks right in front of us.

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The bed and chairs are not set up with towels either. You get a bed with pillows and a palapa roof, that may or may not give you shade, depending on the time of day,  two plus regular chairs, for, I guess if you want to be able to sit up. I go to towel guy and ask for towels. He tells me he has none. He says there is nothing he can do. He promises to bring some when they arrive. He asks if I am the person who was unhappy about something. I explain why they are giving us the use of the palapas for the day, and say the no towel situation is not making me any happier. I feel like he is classifying me as “not one of the true special guests”, and he is not going to treat me as one.

We all have some towels that we got yesterday. For hotels that ration towels, I turn in my used towel at the end of the day and get a clean one, so I don’t have to do it in the morning.

I go back and we sit on our one towel. This whole thing is such BS. However, we try to have a good time. There is good drink service. Ricky comes over and we chat for awhile. Then he is off. He and Mary like to partake of all the activities.

Chris and Helen come down and we have some drinks.

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It starts out as a sunny day and then we get some sprinkles. Rain, not the stuff you put on ice cream. Then it pours. Are we having fun yet?

The weather clears. Zung comes down and we go in the water.

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Chris has brought some bread to feed the fish. Not sure how good bread is for them, but they love it and swarm around him.

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He gives Zung some bread, and Zung has a ball feeding the fish. He’s like a little kid.

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You can see how close they come to him.

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I’ve never seen him have so much fun in the water.

Ricky and Mary show up after we get out of the water. We go to lunch. There is an open air buffet right off the beach, so for some variety we go there. The food is decent. However, I know this isn’t my plate because I don’t like mushrooms. Must be Zung’s.

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We have a really great time. Ricky has had t-shirts made for all of us. I was going to wear mine, but I was still wet when I put it on. The guys all have theirs on. Here is Ricky in his.

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We do two Scooby shots. I don’t know what is in them, but they match the shirts in color.

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At 2:30 I ask the hostess to call the front desk and see if our new room is ready. There is no way I am going to sit around in our room, waiting for them to come get our stuff.

I am feeling pretty good. That won’t last long though. They say the room is ready and the bell boy will meet us at the old room. We walk to the building and, OMG! They have boarded up most of the entrances. We have to walk all around to several entrances to find one that is open. I can already feel myself getting very aggravated. They have already started demo. Fortunately, the bell boy arrives right away. The new building is walking distance and he lets us into our new room, which is quite a bit nicer than the old room.

There is the long awaited king bed.

 

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There is a sitting area with a sofa that does not get in our way when we need to get to the bathroom.

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Outside, there are two, very nice lounge chairs.

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The bathroom is larger and nicer too. It has two sinks, a large soaking tub

The bell boy says that someone will be coming shortly with our keys. I have another, oh no, thought. But the Customer Service guy (who looks like he is twelve) brings the keys right away. He is very pleased that we have gotten such a nice room. He clearly doesn’t get how unhappy I am about the whole thing.

There is a bottle of bubbles, that is not on ice, and a plate with chocolates.

I just want to get back to the beach at this point.

We are disoriented as to where we are and ask the concierge how to get to the beach. He points in one direction. It ends up being the long way, and takes a long time. It gives me lots of time for my aggravation to grow. The whole thing has taken an hour out of the last day of our vacation.

When we finally get to our chair, they have finally made them up with towels. Lots of towels.

We are determined to enjoy our last couple of hours on the beach.

Can you bring me a drink please? Better make it a double.

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Helen’s Birthday Dinner

Before I begin, I want to give a shout out to my daughter Susie. She is an elementary school teacher (I bow down to her!), an avid yogi and runner. Yet she has still found time to write her own blog. She writes about her travel adventures (learn all about how Costco is one of the keys to making Hawaii affordable) as well as other helpful topics. You can find her blog at http://www.milehighdreamers.com. Check it out.

We meet up with Chris and Helen.

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In case you are wondering, this is a Rent the Runway dress.

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We walk to the bar, where we are going to meet Ricky and Mary. I explain how we got dinner reservations and about having to move. I am still pretty hot about it. Spoiler alert: I stay pretty hot about it for the whole trip.

I have gotten Helen a birthday present. I am so excited about giving it to her that I ditch my plan to wait until dinner. I don’t even wait until Ricky and Mary get there. I give it to her as soon as we sit down in the bar. I may not have even waited until we were all seated. I looked long and hard for this present.

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She had bought herself a blue topaz ring not too long ago, and I bought her earrings to match it. I am SO proud of myself!

Ricky and Mary arrive. We ask our waitress to take a group picture.

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I take a picture of my pretty drink.

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We all walk to the French restaurant. They indeed do have a table reserved for us. They even have a private room set aside for us, which is very nicely decorated with rose petals.

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The food is good and the service is good.

We order some wine. They never do bring the promised bottle of house sparkling wine.

Obligatory food pictures.

I can’t remember everything we ate, but this was paté with some kind of foam. I’ll be glad when the foam trend is over. I can’t say that I think it adds much to food. In fact, I think it is about over. Probably because it doesn’t add much to food.

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I think this was a filet.

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Probably crepes suzette. That is definitely a blast from the past. The Grand has these also at their French restaurant.

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During dinner the customer service guy I spoke with on the phone comes in with  balloons for Helen. You can see them in the mirror behind her. They also bring her a special birthday cake.

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They had the harp player come in and play a song for her. It was the Happy Birthday song, and another song that was very nice. I love harp music. The song that was not Happy Birthday sounded so familiar. It was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t think of it. Finally we asked and it was A Thousand Years. Love that song.

So, back to the customer service guy. He is cute as a button. But he has more annoying news. He says he isn’t sure they will get the almond milk before ten, tomorrow morning. Which is a problem because I would be eating breakfast before that. And while they have made Helen’s birthday dinner very special, which was very nice for her, Zung and I are the ones being inconvenienced. I show my disappointment, and he says he will see what he can do.

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After dinner we go back to the bar for a bit. We go back to our room early so that we can pack. Again. We pack almost everything and then go to sleep. I can’t say our first full day has made any better impression on us than our day of arrival. If anything, it’s worse.

They have one more day to make up for it.

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