Hawaii or Mexico vacations with children?

reno_fanApril 25, 2006

After standing in line for hours at our local amusement park, DH and I realized we have NO desire to go to Disney World this summer as we'd planned. I cannot even fathom having to stand in the heat and wait on rides! We may need to postpone Disney until fall or winter break.

So we're switching gears, and thinking maybe Mexico or Hawaii. Neither of us have ever been, and we don't really know if that kind of vacation would be boring for the kids (13, 12, 8), or if there's enough to do water-wise to keep them busy.

Our travel agent found us a pretty good deal for someplace in Riviera Maya; all inclusive 5 days for only about $3500.

Anyone have any input as far as what to expect on a vacation like that?

Or another destination that doesn't include standing in absurdly long lines?


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We've done both places when our kids were very little, and had a much better time than when we tried Disneyland! Lines and heat don't make for a fun vacation in my opinion.

Our kids have been travelling since they were 5 months and 2 yrs old.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 9:35AM
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I've been to Hawaii (several islands) many times and Mexico twice (once in Puerto Vallarta and once in Cancun/Playa del Carmen). We prefer Hawaii for these reasons:

You don't have to worry about drinking the water (altho, to be fair, most resorts in Mexico have perfectly fine water) or eating the food.
You can use US money.
You don't need to speak Spanish.
There's more to do away from the resorts.
No beach vendors and very few timeshare salespeople.

I think you'll have more fun if you don't have to "worry" about these kinds of things. Both destinations have similar things to do. We don't have kids, so I can't comment on particular activities for kids.

I stayed at an all-inclusive resort near Cancun for two nights and would never do it again. Way too expensive for what you get (we don't eat three big meals each day, so it's not a good value for us). The food quality was marginal and mostly cafeteria/buffet style, the restaurants had no air conditioning, the pool was freezing cold, and it took 20 minutes to walk from your room to anywhere. That said, however, an AI resort may be more convenient for a family. You won't be spending a lot of time looking for places to eat or driving to activities.

So overall, I guess it depends on how you want to spend your vacation. If you like exploring on your own and really experiencing the area, Hawaii would be better. If you're happy just hanging out at a resort, then Mexico will probably be less expensive. (There are a few AI resorts in Hawaii I think, but there are many more to choose from in Mexico.) Also keep in mind that many hotels and resorts in the Riviera Maya area are still recovering from hurricane damage. You may have to listen to construction the entire time you're there. Check out tripadvisor for recent reviews and comments.

Please feel free to email me if you want more info or photos. (I'll be away from my computer for a few days, but will check back in on Friday.)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:20AM
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Where we are, travel to Mexico is so much easier than to Hawaii- double the convenience factor when flying with kids.

If your agent can assure you that the area you're considering on the gulf side of Mexico is not recovering from last year's hurricane damages, I'd think that was a good bet. (Pacific side is rocky-but beautiful- gulf side is white sandy beaches- better for kids) Uxorial's caution about 'listening to construction noise' is great advice- do your homework.

We understand Spanish and speak enough to get by- DS is fluent- but heavens- tourism is the area's bread and butter. English is spoken by hotel and restaurant personnel who deal with their guests- and understood by most of the rest of the workers. Not a problem.

Both older kids were in Mexico for spring break and never even changed out $$- the locals preferred getting US dollars. Beach vendors were not a problem for them- a polite 'no, gracias' and a shake of the head sends them on their way. As for the water- no one on either of their trips got sick (one was in PV, one in Acapulco) but that could be due to the fact that they played it safe and only drank beer or margaritas. Sigh.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:43AM
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Another option is a cruise. Lots of ships are really geared for kids activities, and that leaves the parents free to do their own thing. Now, what can be nicer than that? ;-)

Here's a link to a bunch of other links about cruising. Lots of great info here.

Here is a link that might be useful: cruise links

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:49AM
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I second Fairegold's suggestion for a cruise -- We did that two years ago with our boys - then 13 and 8 - and we all had a FABULOUS time. We got two adjoining cabins, had meals together, could let the two boys roam to some degree on board the ship, and had lots of great day trips. Only a few lines -- Got to snorkel and scuba dive, go inner-tubing through the rainforest and a series of caves, party on the beach, eat way too much great food... I think it was the best family vacation we've ever had.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 11:16AM
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I'd love a cruise. However, pricing options for a family of 5 including airfare to port (we're in landlocked Oklahoma), plus 2 staterooms (most cannot accomodate a family of 5; they require 2 rooms, or pay an exorbitant suite rate) was almost $10,000! And that quote was pretty much standard across the board. It varied from $8500-$11500. I just cannot stomach paying that much for a 6 day vacation, and these were not even the Disney cruises or anything out of the ordinary. It's the double rooms and airfare that get us.


Good points about checking post-hurricane construction. I'll definitely check into that.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 11:34AM
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reno, that price seems way off for a cruise. Check out the Disney cruises - - I'm pretty certain they have lots of rooms that can accommodate five. And while it would be squishy in the room, you really will never be in there except to sleep.

Between Hawaii and Mexico, I would hands down go to Hawaii. There is lots to do besides just beach, and you don't have the same safety issues to worry about when you travel off-site. You can explore volcanoes and rainforests, go snorkeling/scuba diving, check out Pearl Harbor. Hawaii is on my short list.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 11:59AM
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I agree about checking more on cruises. That does seem way off base. Most cruise packages include airfare, too. Your travel agent isn't trying hard enough, IMHO. Check out some of those links that were in my previous post.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 12:10PM
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We spent a month in Puerto Morelos (about 25 minutes outside of Cancun), and it was a great spot. No vendors on the beach and no timeshare folks.

Timeshare folks turn up in tourist areas in the US as well. In Hawaii, we had quite a few approach us.

It is much cheaper to spend a few weeks in Mexico (at a good condo or resort) than it is in Hawaii.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 1:05PM
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Our 7-day 6-night Western Carribean and Mexican Riviera cruise leaving out of Houston (you could drive, Reno) was $4,000 for a family of four.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 1:57PM
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Okay, I'll check into the cruises further. But from OKC to Houston is like 10 hours! Eep!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 3:06PM
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But Reno, the flight to Hawaii from parking at the OKC airport to arrival in Hawaii would be at least that long, no? Although you would either have to leave the night before or veeeery early in the a.m. to make it before the ship sails.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 3:23PM
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But with a Southwest Airlines special rate (21 day advance purchase,round trip), you could still make out like a bandit flying all 5 and taking a $4K cruise- beats $10K!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 3:26PM
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I must not be searching properly. I cannot find any cruises below about $1000/per person. Add that to airfare for 5, and we're back up to the 8500-10k range.

What am I doing wrong?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 4:35PM
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Cruise packages often include airfare. And airfare per person should not be $1000.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 4:45PM
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reno, I just did a sample search for you on travelocity.com with a 7-night cruise on royal caribbean out of Galveston, inside stateroom, with air from OKC, and it came out to under $1100 per person including airfare. It would be about $50 less for the third child in the second stateroom. This was for July 30. The website wouldn't let me book it online for 2 adults/3 children - - you have to call travelocity to do that for some reason. The flights were only $237 to Galveston, which made a big difference. Here is the text copied from the website, to the extent you can make it out:

My Trip So Far - 2 Adults Total Trip = $2,069.74

Departure Sun, Jul 30
5:00 pm 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise
Itinerary: Roundtrip Galveston
Ship Name: Rhapsody of the Seas
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean Int'l
Stateroom: N, Inside Stateroom # 2535

Return Sun, Aug 6
7:00 am

Sun, Jul 30
7:00 am
9:41 am
Oklahoma City, OK (OKC)
to Houston, TX Hobby (HOU)
Adult Fare Rules
Sun, Aug 6
2:16 pm
6:14 pm
Houston Hobby, TX (HOU)
to Oklahoma City, OK (OKC)
Adult Fare Rules

Cruise Itinerary
Day Port of Call Arrival Departure
Sun, Jul 30 Galveston, Texas -- 5:00 pm
Mon, Jul 31 At Sea -- --
Tue, Aug 1 Key West, Florida 3:00 am 11:59 pm
Wed, Aug 2 At Sea -- --
Thu, Aug 3 George Town, Grand Cayman 7:00 am 4:00 pm
Fri, Aug 4 Cozumel, Mexico 9:00 am 6:00 pm
Sat, Aug 5 At Sea -- --
Sun, Aug 6 Galveston, Texas 7:00 am --

For larger map, select image.

Your Price Breakdown
Price Summary Passenger 1 Passenger 2 Total
Cruise Rate: $759.00 $759.00 $1,518.00
Cruise Taxes and Fees: $38.67 $38.67 $77.34
Sub-total: $797.67 $797.67 $1,595.34
Flight: $187.91 $187.91 $375.82
Flight Taxes and Fees: $49.29 $49.29 $98.58
Sub-total: $237.20 $237.20 $474.40
Total Price: $1,034.87 $1,034.87 $2,069.74
Cruise Deposit Required: $500.00
Travelocity Flight Amount Required: $474.40
Minimum Amount Due: $974.40
Remaining Balance: due on or before May 11, 2006 $1,095.34

Travel Protection

Please choose one before continuing:
YES! I'd like to protect my Cruise for just $59 Per person
(Available to U.S. Residents only.)
No, thanks. I prefer to decline travel insurance.
We recommend that all customers purchase cruise insurance for just dollars a day. Your investment can protect your cruise purchases(cruise line hotels, and even transfers) from:
Trip cancellation or interruption
Unforeseen baggage handling issues
Emergency medical expenses, and more
Please note that this policy does not cover Travelocity airfare. See complete travel insurance and protection details

Select Express Purchase or Standard Purchase
Express Purchase
If you are a member: Benefits of Logging in
Log-in Name:

Standard Purchase
If you are not a member you will be able to register as you complete your purchase.
If you forgot your password you will be able to use your existing account or create a new account as you complete your purchase.

I used to be a travel agent. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 5:12PM
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Reno- if your travel agent is making a $4-5K profit booking a cruise, you went into the wrong line of business!!

Seriously- we booked a trip to Aruba online for exactly half of what a travel agent quoted us. Sorry to take business from someone, but not that sorry. We did our homework ahead of time and were very pleased with our flight/accomodation package.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 5:36PM
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We've been to Riviera Maya several times and Maui once. I enjoyed both - just depends on what kind of vacation you're in the mood for.

You won't be bothered by beach vendors or timeshare sales (unless the hotel itself pitches you) on the AI resorts along the Riviera Maya. Stick with 4-stars and above for the widest variety of dining & entertainment choices. Most packages have a couple of day tours included so you can see the Mayan ruins at Tulum or Chitzen Itza without paying extra.

Hawaii is more pricy, but if you find a good deal on a beach house or condo you won't have to eat out every meal. Maui is prettier and has a lot more places to explore than the Riviera Maya.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 6:29PM
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Um Paige? How is it possible that you were able to do something in hours that we couldn't do in days, and our travel agent couldn't either??? THANK YOU!

I guess I kept getting messed up with the occupancy thing. Not able to book 5 to a room/having to basically do 2 bids, etc. Every time I'd try it, it would say "No rates available for this time" or something else like that. Or it would say "Sorry! Expedia can only book for 4 passengers". I didn't know quite how to navigate it, which is why I called a travel agent.

So for about $1100 per person, we could fly to to Galveston and sail from there? Sounds good to me!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 7:08PM
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We have a time share in Cancun at a place called the Royal Sands. It is beautiful (I am very picky) and very family oriented. It has everything you need to have a great kid friendly vacation. Huge, apartment like places with large patios/verandas. Best of all, it has an on ground grocery store for guest only, which means you do not have to eat out every meal or live on lunchmeat and cheese.

We are in the Midwest and it is a short flight for us.

We have a great time every year. You can rent a week to try it out if you call them.

The last time I did Disney with my family, it was in August and we SWORE we would never do it again unless it was fall or winter.

I know time shares get a bad rap, but this was a really smart move for my family. We love going back to this place every year.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 7:20PM
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Cruises are GREAT with kids!
I would call the different cruise lines directly, and see where you get the best deal. In the summer, you can cruise the Caribbean, Bermuda, west coast, northeast coast, Alaska, etc.
They do air/cruise packages. Get the kids an inside room with bunkbeds (cheaper)- they'll love it!

You can set up excursions for ALL kinds of activities- snorkeling, fishing, touring, helicopter rides, zoos, rainforests, horseback riding, etc.
On board everything is included- shows, casino, dancing, games, movies, kids camp, etc.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 7:41PM
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reno, I used to be a travel agent. I know what to look for. In your case, the cruise out of Galveston is key because it's cheaper than cruising from Florida. Also, the airfare was cheaper for you. I checked comparable 7-nights from Florida and they were a few hundred more per person, which added up quickly.

Another key is getting two inside cabins (cheapest level) rather than springing for a suite. You don't need the window because you won't spend any time in the cabin. A base outside cabin generally just has small portholes anyway. And Royal Caribbean is a great cruise line for families.

To book it, just go to the travelocity website (more reliable than expedia imo) and enter the date you want and that you want airfare, and make like you're booking for two people. Get the fare, then try to book again for 2 adults and 3 children, and it will give you a customer service number to call. Call and book it through them.

Then only other consideration is whether to get the airfare through travelocity or through the cruiseline. Travelocity offers it both ways. Getting it through the cruiseline means your transfers will be included, and the cruiseline will do something for you if your flight is delayed or canceled and you don't make it to the ship. That's worth something, and it costs something. But you could always fly in the night before to ensure you show up on time. Galveston is nice, right? Oh, and if you decide to go, I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but get the travel insurance! It's so worth it, especially during hurricane season.

For me, it would be the cruise or Hawaii.

Either way, have fun!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 10:39PM
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cruises are great with kids. we've been on 2 Carnival cruises with ours (13 and 5.5) and some other families. You will only see the kids at meals unless you force the issue! :-)

We did the W. Caribbean in Feb--Grand Cayman, Cozumel, COsta Maya and Belize. There has been lots of damage from the hurricanes. Many, many of the hotels in grand Cayman are closed--and the dock was wiped out, so you have to take the tender in. Cozumel was almost completely wiped out and had only recently been re-opened to a few cruise ships--their dock was wiped out as well, so tendering again. (I went to mainlaind Mexico with dd that day for a dolphin encounter--dh and ds went to the beach on Cozumel and were awed by the devastation. The residents have *nothing*) Our driver to the dolphin place was from Cancun and he was telling how only about 7 of the hotels in Cancun were currently open. We ferried into Playa Del Carmen and from there south was not affected very much.

Belize was absolutely gorgeous and we went cave tubing. There is a huge reef, so you always have to tender in from the cruise ships.

Costa Maya is a port created by the cruise ship companies from a strip of deserted beach. Basically a shopping mall with a pool. :-) we headed about 10 min south a little place called Majahual and a great day at the beach.

I'm only going on about this because tendering to the ports takes up a bit of time that you're "waiting in line"... and cuts down on the time actually spent exploring, which is limited already...

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 9:07AM
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You'll need some type of transportation from Hobby Airport to Galveston. As such, you may wish to consider driving. My parents, who are in their 80s, drove from Tulsa, OK to Galveston to catch a cruise; however their trip was broken up by an overnight in Dallas.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 4:13PM
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Okay, so is it lame to only spend about 5 hours at a port city?

I'm envisioning rushing everyone around in the morning, so we can "Hurry up" and go enjoy Cancun for the few hours we're at port.

I want and need a RELAXING vacation. We had a hell of a year last year, and haven't been able to stop to catch our breath. We need this vacation seriously, and I'm looking for something very laid back. I suppose the actual cruise time would be, but I'm thinking it would be stressful to try to live it up at the port cities, no?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 7:23PM
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You don't need to live it up in the port cities. Most onshore excursions cost extra, so pick and choose a couple. You're in port long enough to do a little shopping, or a tour or some event, but honestly, there is so much to do on the ship that you won't think twice about it. It's the most relaxing way to vacation with kids, because they are so entertained that YOU get to have fun!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 7:46PM
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So the time they give you really isn't suited for lounging at the beach, but more for shopping and touring?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 8:04PM
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"I want and need a RELAXING vacation. We had a hell of a year last year, and haven't been able to stop to catch our breath. We need this vacation seriously, and I'm looking for something very laid back."

Renofan--this is exactly the kind of vacation that we enjoy! We want to get somewhere, unpack and do nothing but walk on the beach, lie by the pool, go out to dinner in the evening and go to bed early (except of course for the older kids who want to stay up all night and sleep till noon).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 8:10PM
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Exactly. You're lounging around the ship, instead!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 8:10PM
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OK, I'm going to switch gears. Reno, I think you need to "Sweeby" this vacation. First decide what it is you want are looking for for yourself and your husband. Will you be happy lounging by the ship pool instead of the beach? Are you about the destination or the voyage? Is relaxing, for you, being on a ship or laying on the beach?Then, factor in the kids. If you find a great place to lounge at the beach, will there be enough to do to keep the kids busy?

I did not realize that Grand Cayman and Cozumel had been hit so hard in the hurricane that you would have to tender in to both ports. The cruise I suggested was short on ports to begin with. I'm all about the destination (and good food, lol). In this case, if you can find a nice condo in Hawaii, I'd do that instead. But that's me - - only you know what's most fun for your family.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 11:02PM
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On the other side, a condo means that you also have to shop, cook and clean up or go out to eat. A cruise means great food 24 hours a day with nothing to do except show up. No transportation issues, as in renting a car. No extra restaurants to have to pay. The price is all included. Heck you can save enough on restaurant bills every day to pay for a massage a day. And what about the Kids? The kids want to go off to the arcade, and you say sure, go. You don't have to lift a finger to entertain them on a cruise ship. Not a finger. They will be so deleriously happy with all there is to do that you will have to drag them home.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 11:47PM
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I'm with you on the relaxing vacation, that's why we've been to the Riviera Maya so many times.

I don't know if the resort area suffered hurricane damage but...

Most of the AI resorts have *kids clubs* with planned activities for the kiddies that are supervised. You relax at the beach or pool, raise your hand when you want an umbrella drink from a cute beach boy or girl, meet DH and the kids for lunch & dinner (or not), check out a show at night (or not). Pick one day at the beginning for an educational tour of the ruins or eco-park and chill for the rest of the week!

The place linked below was our favorite until we discovered one for adults only.

Here is a link that might be useful: Barcelo Maya

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 2:58AM
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let me back up. cruises *can* be relaxing! They can really be anything you want them to be!! I could have passed on Grand Cayman, but it was our first port and i was *dying* to go to the beach! Friends stayed on the ship when we were in Belize and they said that was *their* best day (and they loved the whole the cruise) My dd stayed on the ship all day (7:30 to 4:30)when were in Belize as she was too young for the cave tubing trip--we *rushed* to get her from camp when we got back--and she told us to go away!!!

You can eat "fancy" every night in the dining room, or casual at the buffet, you can sleep til noon, or get up before dawn (very few people are up then--ask me how I know!) you can go to shows and play bingo or hang in a lounge and listen to jazz...some nights we just plopped into a bar or lounge and laughed and chatted for hours whil the teens were in the arcade or disco and the little ones were at "camp" having a slumber party...

bunglogrl--i looked at your link and where that resort is located was not hit as hard by the hurricanes--just north of it is Puerto Adventuras where I went for the dolphin encounter with my dd (5)

good luck on your quest, reno, whatever you decide!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 7:05AM
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namabafo, thanks for the hurricane info. I'll need a vacation if we ever finish this kitchen -- as if we'll have any $$ then. LOL!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 3:41PM
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Okay, update. I cannot even BEGIN to thank you all for your input. I felt as lost as a goose in the fog until I posted here, and now I feel like we're making an *informed* decision.

After mulling it over and rehashing the details, ("Sweeby"ing it, if you will...) we're going to the all inclusive Mexico resort, Barcelo Maya Beach Resort on the Riviera Maya. Both travel agents had it as their #1 recommendation, and then again here with Bunglogrl.

Dh is more about the destination; sitting by the beach, snorkeling, exploring Mayan ruins, jet skiing, etc. I don't have a preference, as long as I can bring a stack of books and US Weekly magazines! The kids are all about the destination also. They want to shop the kitschy vendors, see some caves, snorkel, jet ski, etc. They want an island adventure. We're thinking cruise for next year, but land vacation for this one.

So for 5 nights, all inclusive including air, we were quoted $4627. Does that sound right? Of course we'd have to drive to DFW to fly out, but I'm willing to do that.

PaigeCT, do these numbers seem right? Are there any other recommendations you may have?

And again, THANK YOU to all for your valuable input!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 5:59PM
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I've never been to Hawaii but have done cruises and the Mayan Riviera a couple of years ago. IMO, an all inclusive land vacation is ALOT more relaxing. After doing much research we went to the Grand Palladium, second choice being Barcelo Mayo. Just for the heck of it, try getting an on-line quote from Anna at http://www.lonepalmtravel.com/
She's very knowledgable and has the best prices around!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 7:06PM
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Reno, I think you made a good choice. I can't tell you if that's a fair price - - I only sold cruises when I was an agent.

All this talk of the beach - - now I want to go on vacation!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 9:35PM
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Good choice.

I really like the coast of Mexico south of Cancun - the more south the better. In recent years DH and I prefer renting a car and heading down by Tulum and exploring out of the way places. Beautiful area.

The larger all inclusive sounds right for your needs: one price, ativity for kids, beach for you, no stress, all relaxation. You can comparison shop pricing on Orbitz.com or Funjet.com - I think both sites have air&ground and ground only. Pricing varies widely depending on when you go and whether you can snag a charter flight.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 9:17AM
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Sounds like a cruise on land, all-inclusive is definitely the way to go. You'll love it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 9:24AM
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Reno, do you have the option of non-inclusive?

We did one all-inclusive long ago and decided the resort made a ton of $$ on us because we aren't big drinkers, and don't make endless trips back to the buffet. We also usually ended up sleeping in, missing breakfast and having only 2 meals when we knew we were being charged for 3. We have opted ever since for non-inclusive- saved a boatload of $$ and had the option of enjoying other restaurants, as well as just ordering what we'll eat at the hotel. We load a bag with individual boxes of cereals, spoons, paper cups (work as bowls) Nutragrain bars and poptarts (we don't usually eat like this, but hey, it's vacation!!) and a couple of boxes of long shelf-life milk for the first morning. The boxed milk is readily available at most gas stations anywhere- and on our first excursion into town, we have the cabbie stop and we load up. If we remember, we'll ask for a recommendation for a local bakery and load up on breakfast goodies there, too.

We'd heard there were only a couple of gas stations on Antigua, so we packed all our milk for that trip. I'm sure customs wondered what we were up to.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 10:32AM
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We booked our last cruise through Vacations to Go and found some really great rates. They send me periodic e-mails, that, despite my general loathing of smap, I find worth receiving. Here's their latest batch of short-term cruise bookings.

If you've got the time, a 16-day cruise from Galveston to Rome for just over $1,000 per person sounds pretty darn good...

Here is a link that might be useful: Inexpensive Cruises

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 10:51AM
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sweeby, you had a good experience with this site? Whoa! Some great rates!

OK- all you travel mavens- anyone know what cruise lines are good and which are train wrecks?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 1:14PM
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I had a great experience with them -- Since we needed two adjoining cabins, I booked on the phone with them, and the agent I spoke with was VERY knowledgeable and helpful. If I were in the market for another cruise, I would go straight through them and not even shop around...

There are links on here to ratings of the various cruise lines and ships also.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 2:26PM
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Reno - that sounds great. Please report back. We love the Mayan Riveria but that was before I had my son. We stayed at The Robinson Club for our honeymoon 10 years ago and more recently the Moon Palace. In fact, when I conceived my son there and when I was pregnant referred to him as the "mexican bean". So, I look forward to hearing about the place you are going to for families.

I am guessing you have been told but you must go to Xcaret. It is an eco park. We swam with dophins and they have a cave you float through...amazing.

I love all-inclusive - it is so relaxing. Enjoy!!!!

Oh, wanted to add that my father just made a trip in December and he said he was amazed at the recovery they have made since the hurricane.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 4:47PM
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Quick apologies on my post - I can't seem to put a sentence together today!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 4:53PM
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One more thing. Check out Apple Vacations for pricing. They are a wholesaler and you must book through a travel agent. Don't worry the agent doesn't mark up and they have charter flights from many cities.

I don't work for them but did work for Friendly Holidays which was a big Mexican Tour Operator (they were sold) and Apple was always our biggest competitor and by all accounts a good company.

Here is a link that might be useful: Apple Vacations

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 5:02PM
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Cruiseline thoughts from trolling the Net and reading up a lot and taking a couple cruises. Know that ships vary a lot within lines in age and size:

-Carnival - younger crowd, very fun oriented, but a friend found the heavy drinking and rowdiness to be a bit of a train wreck for them
-Royal Caribbean - used to be older, more sedate crowd, now pushing family activity, cut above others in service, amenities. Great spas, gyms, etc
-Costa - Italian owned, more international feel
-Celebrity - older crowd, upscale dining, fancier service with pricing to match
-Princess - like Celebrity, even better food
-Norwegian - casual and flexible, (no mandatory dinner hours/seating, no formal wear nights) family oriented

With kids, I'd look first at Royal Caribbean and Norwegian for good value and family activity... just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 12:15AM
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Just got back today from an awful cruise with DM and DS. Pardon me while I vent for a minute. We travelled from SF to Vancouver on the Norwegian Wind. It was certainly cheap and the freestyle dining was a plus -- but the customer service didn't compare to Celebrity. The food was mediocre and the buffets were always pooly stocked. It's a *no tip* operation, which we thought would be great, but the food servers and stewards were positively surly in most cases. We didn't know that gaming is not allowed in Washington State or Canada so the casino was closed for 1 of the 3 days. It was too windy to dock in Victoria, too windy for deck activities and the staff had made no contingency plans. We spent 3 days reading, watching movies, playing bingo and laughing at high school caliber shows.

We did enjoy Vancouver and the drive to Seattle for a return flight. I highly recommend dinner at the Space Needle.

We'll never pinch pennies on a cruise again. You get what you pay for!

Yes, I did skip out on DH for four days in the middle of our kitchen remodel! DM's birthday -- it couldn't be helped ;-)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 5:36AM
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I forgot to answer the question. $4627 sounds like a great price, Reno. It's nearly $4000 for just the two of us (flying from SF). We've booked through Apple, Suntrips and on our own. We prefer the packages since the price includes a daytrip or two.

Maggie's right about Xcaret - it's the bomb. If you decide to do only one excursion, that's the one to pick.

For great pictures go to Tulum, the ruins are perched on a spectacular cliff. Chitzen Itza ruins are further inland so the trip takes an entire day, but it's bigger and you'll learn more about the Mayans there.

Have a great trip - and no fair hogging the hammock on the balcony!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 7:16AM
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For everything you ever wanted to know about cruising, go to


There are reviews posted by folks, and forums that discuss every little thing.

After reading these forums (which I found out about from a post here on Discussion) I managed to find the best prices on a cruise, (you can't always trust your agent to ask the right questions) and I saved hundreds of dollars on hotel rooms, car rentals, and found the most highly recommended shore excursions.

Heck, one of the posters on a cruise critic forum mailed me a $100 off coupon for our cruise that she didn't need. For free.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 6:51PM
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Demicent, you're an angel- thank you!

Reno, do be careful on the day trip to Chitzen Itza. The bus stops on the way back to have a fixed-menu lunch at the tour bus operator's brother-in-law's restaurant. Eat there at your own risk. Either they are not as careful with sanitation as they should be or they do not have the water-purification system the coastal (large tourist) areas do.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 10:54PM
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reno fan, i think you'll love the riviera maya! If you want more info (and maybe you already know about this), check www.locogringo.com. We took a trip w/our kids to Akumal in Feb., and found this site to be a great source of info. There's a forum (oh no, a forum!) where travelers talk about their experiences staying at the different resorts, where they ate, Mayan ruins, etc. We were very close to Tulum, and we went to Tulum and Coba. Coba was fantastic, and i think your kids would really like it (our oldest is 7, and he loved climbing the 140-ft pyramid). Tulum was a bit disappointing, b/c you couldn't actually climb on anything.

There are lots of great places to snorkel. Your kids are the right age for the cenotes, caves full of water where you can dive or snorkel--there are a dozen of them, i think, spread out along the coast. Also, where we stayed, it wasn't all-inclusive, but there were 4 restaurants right on the beach, very low-key, so we ate on the beach every night.

Let me know if you have questions; we really enjoyed the trip!

(otoh, i absolutely love Hawaii and want to take my kids there, but the 5-yr-old needs to be a better swimmer first...)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2006 at 10:36AM
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We stayed at the Barcelo (The Colonial, not the Beach Club - there are actually 4 Barcelo resorts together) in March. We went for a wedding (so left the kids at home) on this particular trip, but we have stayed at AI resorts with our kids before (they are 11 and nearly 8). Our friends' stayed at the Beach club, and it seemed much busier and noisier than the Colonial. It *was* spring break time though, so perhaps there will not be as many drunken frat boys when you travel, :)

Personally, I love travelling to an AI with the kids (we have been to AI's in the Mayan Riveria, Puerto Vallarta and the Dominican Republic; we also have a timeshare condo that is not AI in Mazatlan that we have been to several times). The buffet restaurants always had lots of choices as far as food goes (my son is a picky eater ), with lots of fresh fruit. The beach front buffets tend to carry lots of "American" food (hot dogs, hamburgers etc) that can be a change from the exotic food overload. The fish is always excellent.

The entertainment at the Barcelo ranged from hokey-lame to very good. Pick chairs up higher but in the first row for best air circulation and view - it can be really hot sitting with all of those people.

There was some noticeable hurricane damage still in evidence on the ride from Cancun to the resort, but the grounds themselves are in quite good condition. When we were there, there was some construction noise as they were rebuilding the pier/headlands. A lot of the actual sand had been blown off the beach, so it was quite rocky in some areas. Bring water shoes or sandals for the beach. There are plenty of chairs everywhere.

The 4 resorts together are *enormous* - they must have close to a mile of beachfront, so there is plenty of room to spread out. Personally, I enjoy beach time with a bood and no one bothering me, so it was easy to get lost away from the other people in our group. There were virtually no beach vendors, which I actually kind of miss.

I did find the prices for souveneir junk quite high at the resort, and very high on the shopping day we took to Playa Del Carmen. The fancy jewelery factory (don't be fooled by their promises of seeing "jewelery artisans at work" - it is primarily a giant showroom) near the resort actually had not bad prices, but a very small silver selection in comparison to the gold (mucho $$).

We probably would not return to this resort again, but only because of the price, as we tend to be three star travellers, LOL. I don't have anything bad to say about the actual resort itself.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 12:37PM
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