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Trip Report Trip Report, Fiesta Americana Feb 4 to 10

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Guitarcrazy

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Cozumel Dive Trip, 4 Feb to 10 Feb


My wife and I were exactly one year from our last trip to Cozumel. Last February we stayed at the Cozumel Palace and dove with Salty Endeavors. The pandemic canceled our next two planned trips, so we were excited to return to Cozumel to dive again. We were both fortunate to have been vaccinated so we felt more secure traveling now.

We booked our trip through Delta Vacations. There are probably cheaper places to book, but I have status with Delta and we usually get upgrades, so I stay loyal when possible. We booked GTF to SLC to CUN. We were not able to fly into Cozumel direct unfortunately. We were a bit worried about the ferry trip over to Cozumel as we heard that the lines were long and the ferry is crowded.

ChuckP brought up some charter flight options, so we decided to look into those. We spoke with FlyCancun and decided to give it a shot. Fly Cancun has a fleet of small aircraft (Cessna 182, Cessna 206, and some larger turboprops) and we were told we could get a private one way flight to Cozumel for $450 total. There were no additional taxes or other costs, except for a tip.

On the day of departure we had good weather and departed close to on time. We arrived in SLC and had an hour to make our next flight. We were on an A-330 and were upgraded to First, which has lay-flat seats. Nice way to start the trip. We arrived in Cancun on time, and we proceeded to customs. As many have noted prior, we were told that we needed to fill out an online questionnaire and show the QR code upon clearing customs. We went through the normal customs process, retrieved our bags, and then were told we could exit. We did not show the QR code to anyone, and we did not even do the usual red light/green light process. We were told that Fly Cancun would send a driver to pick us up outside the terminal.

We had some language difficulties apparently, as we were not able to find our driver outside the terminal. We called and were told that he was there, but we were unable to locate him. We made several more calls and still had no luck locating the driver. A local taxi driver was nice enough to try to help, and he asked the driver to send us a picture of his location. From that photo the local driver was able to determine that he was not in the area immediately outside the terminal (Margaritaville kiosk area), but was outside of the controlled area where the private pickups occur. Once we figured that out we went left from the main terminal exit, and then found the driver. He spoke very little English, and my Spanish is not a lot better, so I guess that is understandable.

We made it to the private FBO and met our pilot and boarded the plane. We were put on a Cessna 182, squeezed our bags in, and quickly departed for Cozumel. The flight was very enjoyable, and we had a beautiful tour of the coast and then the arrival into Cozumel. I am a pilot by trade so it was a fun trip. In all, it took about 25 minutes to arrive, and we were approximately 2 hours earlier than our expected arrival had we taken the taxi ride to Playa and the Ferry.

We took a taxi to the Fiesta Americana, our first time staying at this location. Check in went smoothly, we were immediately scheduled for our free Covid test, and then went to our room. We were given a Master Suite, which was a huge 2 room suite. It had two rooms, two bathrooms, and two balconies. It was honestly way more space than we needed, but very comfortable. I was a little surprised by the condition of some of the resort. The doors on many of the rooms were damaged and swollen from water intrusion. My guess is the hurricane must have damaged a lot of the doors and due to the small occupancy numbers they haven’t been able to replace them all.

There were 3 restaurants available for dinner meals, Italian, Mexican, and Asian. We ate at all 3 and found them all to be good. None were as good as our favorites downtown (Kondesa, Guidos, La Cocay, Casa Mission), but they were good and service was great. I actually thought the food at Cozumel Palace and Grand Park Royal was as good or better, but we were at those properties pre-Covid, so can’t comment on how they would compare in today’s Covid environment. They have a beachfront Cevicheria that was very good, and breakfast was at the beachside buffet.

The property is very nicely set up. There is a large ‘beach’ area with loungers, beds, and some beds that are cantilevered out over the water that are a great place to hang out when not diving. You can jump from the bed into the water and then climb the ladder back to your bed if you are so inclined. The pier is very convenient and all dive ops can use it to pick up their customers.

Covid precautions were widespread, although like many things in Mexico, a lot were strictly for show. They have you step in a tray with sanitizer, and then another one to dry your shoes when you first arrive. I am not sure it does anything, and nobody makes you do it other than the first time you arrive at the resort. They bring your utensils in plastic bags to minimize touching them, but the bags are prone to fly away in the wind and end up in the sea, which I was not a fan of. All around Cozumel they would take your temperature, although I noticed nobody really looked to see the temperature after taking it. You could tell they were doing their best to follow the procedures, but not really using the data to do anything. On the flip side, everyone in Cozumel wears a mask and is very conscious of the pandemic. Even people riding scooters or driving in their own cars wears a mask. The only people you see without masks is tourists, the vast majority of which are from the US. We actually felt safer there than at home, as we were mostly outside, socially distanced, and everyone around us was masked.

We did 5 days of diving with Salty Endeavors, our usual operator. Every day we had good weather and did not lose any diving due to Norte’s or other issues. We dove Punta Sur for the first time, and it was spectacular. The first half of Punta Sur had huge towering coral heads, and some of the best swim throughs we have done. We had light currents and saw a lot of great wildlife. About the middle of the dive a blacktip reef shark cruised by, maybe 70 to 80 feet away. After that we entered a large open spot with much greater currents and no coral heads. We were pulled down to 100 feet by a down current, but it was gradual enough that we did not have trouble getting back to our planned depth. We then entered some more coral heads and saw more wildlife on the end of the dive. I have been to Cozumel 9 times, and this was the first time we went to Punta Sur, but we will definitely dive it again.

We also dove Palencar several times, and spotted a hammerhead out in the blue at the end of Palencar Horseshoe. It was probably 100 feet away, deep, and moving quickly, but the divemaster and another diver in the group were closer and both said it was clearly a hammerhead. Wish I was closer and could have gotten a video.

We had numerous Eagle Ray encounters, and they were very relaxed. Previously it seemed as if the rays would quickly move past us but this trip they seemed to stay among us longer than usual, and seemed less concerned. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, or due to lower numbers of divers, but it was great to see them up close.

We took our predeparture covid test on the 8th, and it was very much a non-event. We showed at the appointed time, they put the swab in your sinus cavity, and then said to check back in two hours. We were given a manilla envelope with our results inside, both negative. We were now able to return to Montana, unfortunately (30 below zero, but that is a different story).

The day of departure we checked out, and proceeded to catch the 11 am ferry from Cozumel to Playa. The ferry was not too crowded, and we felt safe during the trip. We then caught a private transport to Cancun and checked in for our flight. We were asked for the test results, which we gave them, and that was it. No additional hoops, just the standard process for leaving Cancun. The flight was on time and we departed for SLC.

All in all it was a great trip. We had some great dives and made some new friends along the way. I felt safer in Cozumel than I feel going to the grocery store or Home Depot here at home. We are looking at possibly returning in May to celebrate our daughter’s graduation from graduate school. I know this post is long, but I hope it will help some who are considering whether to return to Mexico. We were told by numerous locals that the island is only about 30% of usual occupancy, and the people are definitely feeling the negative effects of the lack of tourism. To us, it seemed very possible to travel and dive safely. I might feel different if we weren’t immunized, but as it is we feel good about the trip and returning.
 

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Guitarcrazy

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More photos
 

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ColoDale

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Eagle ray shot is good. I like the clarity and lighting.
 

Guitarcrazy

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Thanks. I have a TG-5 with Sea and Sea YS-01 and a video light. I also had the Backscatter wet wide angle on for the whole trip. I think I will try to do some macro next trip. This is also the first time to try to use the strobe and it was frustrating. Some photos came out good, a lot were underexposed, and some were terrible. I don't know exactly why, but I guess I need more practice.
 

ReefHound

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Just a note on temp scanners, the ones I've seen and the two I have all emit a short beep on temps under 100 with green background, and a continuous 1-2 second tone on temps over 100 with red background. So there's no need to really look at the temp. They don't care if your temp was 97.2 or 99.6. It's pass or fail.
 

rick00001967

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"The only people you see without masks is tourists, the vast majority of which are from the US. everyone around us was masked."

i will just leave this here.
 

Guitarcrazy

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Most of the places we went they held the scanner to your wrist. My wife is a nurse, so she really got a kick out of that. Not exactly the desired placement of the scanner.
 

ggunn

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Most of the places we went they held the scanner to your wrist. My wife is a nurse, so she really got a kick out of that. Not exactly the desired placement of the scanner.
I went to a doctor appointment a while back when the outside ambient was in the 30's. When I walked in the nurse pointed the scanner at my forehead and it read in the 70's.
 

ReefHound

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Most of the places we went they held the scanner to your wrist. My wife is a nurse, so she really got a kick out of that. Not exactly the desired placement of the scanner.

The problem they face is they are often not in an air-conditioned indoor environment. If one is hot and sweaty, measuring the forehead will give a cool temp that would indicate you are dead. I found it more reliable to measure the ear or neck. Measuring the wrist may be their way of ensuring that everyone passes. In other words, the intent is to give the appearance of screening rather than actually screen anyone out.
 
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