Diving in Cozumel 2003
For our third trip to Cozumel we decided to try something a little different. Previous trips had been on Continental via Houston. We would leave LAX at 1:30 a.m. and arrive in CZM at 11:30 a.m. The return trip was harrowing in that after arriving in Houston we usually had less than 30 minutes to collect our bags, clear customs and board the plane to LAX. Air fare the first year was about $520. Last year some got about $580 and some paid over $700. This year the fare looked to be about $790.
When I started checking prices I found that round trip airfare to Cancun (CUN) was considerably cheaper than travel to Cozumel (CZM). The price was so cheap we extended our planned trip to include 3 days in Playa del Carmen and two days of Cenotes diving for the same price as our old itinerary of 4 nights in Cozumel alone!
I found websites that described catching a private van at the airport which drops you off very near to the ferry. Sure enough, Luka, our top business magnate, was able to negotiate at the airport in CUN and we paid $12/person for the van. At the drop off in Playa del Carmen, you will be greeted by friendly people with modified bicycles willing to haul your bags to the ferry terminal. We each tipped the guy $5.00, which we later found to be a gross over payment. The ferry cost $8/person. Departure times are shown below. The last two ferries leave at 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 pm. Arriving at CUN on the 5:10 pm flight allowed us to catch the 9:00 p.m. ferry. The return from CZM was much the same, except one hard working guy was able to haul all of our bags (SEVEN DIVERS!!) from the ferry terminal to the Colibri and asked for a TOTAL of $5.00. Once at the Colibri, we booked a van to the airport and paid about $17/person for the return trip.
Total cost for this trip, minus food, drinks, film developing and taxis, was about $1,500 per person.
|I booked our flights direct from the Mexicana
website. Everything went smooth except we discovered on our return
trip that the seat numbers that I was assigned on the website did not
even exist on the plane. Although the plane was fully booked they
found seats for all of us after we boarded. I suspect the computer
knows how many seats it has, it just doesn't know where they are!
Beware. I noticed that each time I checked a price on the website, particularly their Mex-E-Saver fares, the price went up. I suspect their server detects activity for a particular flight and attempts to jack the price up. I would leave the computer for an hour or two and the prices would be back down where they belonged.
I was able to get two Mex-E-Saver fares of $413.40 round trip, after taxes. The others were $491.40 after taxes.
Service to Cancun was good. Free headphones and a movie. Food was okay. I was happy. Service coming home to LAX was a little lacking. But overall I guess I was happy and would fly them again.
|This hotel goes through frequent name changes. Just since I've
been going there it has been known as Fiesta Inn, Costa Club and Hotel
Brisas. In the last year it looks to have used the names Reefscape
and Magic Sunset and now goes by the name Hotel Cozumel (8-Mar-2004)
I booked the rooms through HotelsDiscounted. We have stayed here the last three years. As I had heard, the beds have been vastly improved with the addition of a foam pad on top of the old Flintstone Rock mattresses. We like the fairly close location to downtown and very clean accommodations. This time we stayed in the rooms directly behind the pool and found that they have no elevators back there. Makes checking in and out with scuba gear a little more of a challenge.
The taxi fare from Brisas to town goes up every year. In 2001 it was $3.00, last year $3.50 - $4.00 and this year we paid anywhere from $4.00 to $10 for the large van that could carry all seven of us.
Rates were reasonable for this kind of resort. We paid $89/room with to beds bringing the total after taxes to about $100/night. I would definitely stay at Brisas again.
|I would guess this is a fairly new operation, but we had
read the newsgroups postings and had other feedback from friends.
Their claim to fame is their use of steel 120s. We had one 90
minute dive and a deep dive where the extra capacity made for a
very safe adventure through Devil's Throat. Partners Oracio,
located in Cozumel, and Sabine, located in Kentucky, have strived to
make this a very flexible operation that accommodates their customers
every wish. They offered Nitrox, and we used it. Their boats
had oxygen on board and an analyzer to verify Nitrox content. When
we were there their boats we small, fast rented boats. The only
problem we had was our first day when there were some large swells and
they closed the coast to these smaller boats. We walked over and
booked a dive with Dive Paradise, which brought in a huge boat.
LU's small boats are ideal for 6 people and a little tight, but very "doable" for the 7 of us. Our DM was Jeremy, a native of Minnesota who has lived in Cozumel for a few years now. He was extremely safety conscious (maybe too safety oriented, if that's possible). Every day started with a "where do you want to dive today", which was perfect because we had been to CZM enough that we had a good idea of where we wanted to go.
Here's a quick story that demonstrates their excellent service. Three of us left our sunglasses on the boat the last day. I contacted LU and Oracio hand delivered them to our hotel in Playa del Carmen.
We did two tank morning dives and one tank night dives. This makes for a long day with the steel 120s. Our old schedule with 80s would be to do 2 tanks in the morning and be back at the hotel by noon, followed by a night dive starting around 5 or 6. Because of the additional bottom time and longer surface intervals our schedule worked out to be: depart at 8 a.m., dive, then lunch on the beach at a small resort, followed by the second dive and back at the hotel around 2:30 and then back out for the night dive at 6. Not much time to relax, but a TON of bottom time.
Rates were $80/ two tank morning dive $45 for the night dive. Nitrox (EAN 36) was $10 / tank and they have four tanks that they can fill once per day.
I would really recommend Living Underwater to the advanced diver looking for bottom time!
|I think we all liked this hotel. The staff,
Veronica and Simone were terrific. The cabana rooms are 1 bed room so
we all stayed in the hotel proper with 2 beds per room. No
elevator. You are right in the middle of Playa del Carmen and
there is lots to do there. I used HotelLinks to book the Colibri.
If I go to Playa again I will stay at the Colibri. Rates were very reasonable ($65/room with two beds).
|These guys are pretty well known. Their service was
excellent. I dealt with Debbie and there was never a glitch in the
planning. We dove Chac-Mool and Dos Ojos. They resisted going
to Dos Ojos because of the distance but finally relented.
Dive Aventuras offers pick-up and drop-off at your Playa del Carmen hotel for an additional $7.00 round trip per day. We took advantage of this offer.
We got an excellent rate from Debbie that was probably a mistake. She honored her quote and never complained. I believe this company is extremely trustworthy and would use them again without hesitation. Check out their website for their posted rates.
|I'm not certain exactly how this operation works, but
here's what I think. Phone calls and email are routed to travel
agents who work from home. I called the 800 number and was
connected to Patrizio. The process works like this: You request a
hotel, the agent then contacts the hotel to verify availability and a
few days later you get a confirmation. Patrizio answered every one
of my emails and returned phone calls promptly. I paid for two
days in advance with the remainder due at the hotel. The advanced
payment did not include local taxes.
If I plan another vacation, HotelLinks and Patrizio would be way up on my list of booking agents to use again. Overall, I was very happy.
|Seemed like a very professional outfit and I had no
problems. There was a last minute (as in day before departure!!)
question of whether I had rooms at Brisas and was able to call their 800
number talk to an agent who assured me everything was okay and gave me
Brisas's confirmation numbers.
I paid for the rooms up front with nothing due at the hotel. Again, I was happy and would use these guys again.
Ferry Departure Times
Cruceros Maritimos del Caribe