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By Tony & Cheri, Live from the Luna Blue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Christmas in Playa del Carmen

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 10, 2011

It’s Christmastime again, and Mexico, like the rest of the world, is celebrating. Here in our home of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Caribbean coast we have found that celebration is a unique mixture of holiday customs drawn from America, Europe and Mexico.

Mexico’s historical Christmas traditions have usually been centered around the religious nature of the holiday and have focused more on church, family and friends and less on the commercial rush to buy things so often seen in the United States. That’s something we enjoy. While the stores are more and more filled with holiday gifts and toys, there still does not seem to be the near hysterical feeling that one must find the perfect gift or buy the latest electronic gadget in order to make the holiday special.

Instead there is an emphasis in Mexico of taking time to enjoy people during the holidays. Schools, city offices and many businesses shut down from the middle of December until after the new year to allow people to spend more time at home.

Christmastime is made a little easier for folks by the fact that business are required by law to give a Christmas bonus called an “alguinaldo” to employees. Many employers also give a little more or give gifts to their employees, as well. A common present given to employees is a dispensa. This is a package or box of practical items for the home. It could include foods like rice or beans, cleaning products or other things used in the household. Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club will sell pre-packaged dispensas, much like fruit baskets or boxes of candy can be found on the store shelves in the US and Canada.

With the holiday vacations from work and school, people have more time for socializing. Many families host “posada” meals to gather together their friends and loved ones. Posada means “inn” and refers to the inn that had no room for Mary and Joseph. Guests ask to be admitted to the dinner but are told there is no room until they produce a statue of the baby Jesus. A traditional dish for a posada meal is Chiles en Nogada, a poblano chili stuffed with rice, nuts fruits and meat, covered in a creamy walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds. It is one of our favorite dishes in Mexico.

Of course children are a big part of any celebration in Mexico, especially at Christmas when the little ones expect wondrous gifts to appear. Traditionally it was not Santa Claus who brought gifts to good girls and boys, but the three kings, the same kings who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. However, in modern times Santa Claus has become a popularly-accepted figure, and children in Mexico now often receive gifts from both Santa on Christmas Day and from the Kings on Three Kings Day (January 6th).

It’s also common for children in Mexico to go caroling. They take a branch from a tree and decorate it with tinsel, ribbons and a picture of Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe. They then go through the streets singing. On 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen the little ones, usually accompanied by an older sister or brother (who often stand nearby talking with friends on their cellphones) go door to door or even table to table in a restaurant singing an enthusiastic but often humorously tuneless version of a Spanish Christmas carol like Peces in El Rio (Fishes in the River). They hope for a reward of a few pesos before going on to the next table.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas the town of Playa begins to decorate. At the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) a giant Christmas tree can be found right next to an large inflatable Santa Claus and a life-sized nativity scene. In fact you can find decorated trees all over town.

When we first moved to Mexico, we brought our own artificial tree with us as we had been told the Christmas tree was not a custom which was celebrated in this part of Mexico. That was true back then. However over the last five or six years the custom of having a decorated tree has caught on among locals. Fir trees are hauled in by the truckload and can be seen lined up for purchase at Walmart and Mega stores.

Living here in Playa del Carmen we have been able to continue our own beloved Christmas traditions while enjoying the slower, less commercial feel of Mexico’s version of the holiday. However we must admit, our first Christmas in Mexico wasn’t exactly idyllic.

Our first Mexican Christmas occurred only a few days after we had our grand opening as the Luna Blue Hotel. We had been working frantically for months trying to get the property ready. We finished only a few days before Christmas, and when December 24th came every room was occupied. We worked late into the evening that night to get everyone checked in and taken care of. Then we walked home to the little house we had moved into the week before (up until then we had been living in the hotel while we renovated it). We had not even unpacked yet and were sleeping on a mattress on the floor among piles of boxes.

We had not put up a Christmas tree or bought a single present. We had just been too busy and there had been no time with all the demands of getting ready for the hotel to be opened. We had been too busy to even go food shopping. There was no turkey or ham or a single candy cane to be found in our little house.

When we realized we hadn’t eaten all day we headed out to find a restaurant, but by then it was 11 o’clock on Christmas Eve and everything was closed. We finally gave up walking the deserted streets and went home to have peanut butter on white bread for our Christmas Eve dinner. Then we got a few hours sleep.

The next day we arose early to go the the hotel to clean the rooms and take care of the guests. Finally in the late afternoon of Christmas Day we finished our work and went down to the beach to swim in the warm Caribbean Sea. After a dip we laid down in the white sand side by side…and fell asleep. That nap beside the ocean was our Christmas present to each other.

Since then our Christmas celebrations have become a little less exhausting. With our wonderful staff and with the hotel now being well established we now happily have more time to enjoy the season.

We put up our tree early (Before Thanksgiving this year!) and decorate it with ornaments we have picked up on our travels around the world. A lot of the decorations are tropical themed…things like a snorkeling Santa, tropical fish, and Santa flying over palm trees. This year we also topped our tree with a large colorful mermaid.

We decorate the house and will have friends over for dinner or drinks through the holiday time. Christmas Eve we will call family back in the US and then settle down with some treats and a few favorite videos (A Charlie Brown Christmas, Love Actually, The Night of the Meek and a few others). Then we will get some sleep because…of course…we will have to be at that hotel front desk early Christmas morning. Yes…that is still part of our tradition. And afterwards we will go down to the Caribbean Sea. That too is part of our Christmas celebration now.

What we have learned living in Mexico is that how the holidays are celebrated is not as important as making sure they are filled them with love and happiness. So however you celebrate the holidays…be it Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or Buddha’s Enlightenment Day…we wish you peace and joy.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Owning a Saloon in Mexico: The Luna Blue Bar Story

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 29, 2011

Luna Blue BarWhen we first thought about opening a bar in Mexico, we simply wanted a quiet little place for our guests to have a cocktail in the evening before and after visiting 5th Avenue.

We did have some strong opinions about how our bar should look. We wanted it to match the old-school tropical ambiance of our Luna Blue Hotel. So we decided it would be open air, with ceiling fans, a roof made of palm leaves, and–in the Caribbean tradition–swings instead of stools around the bar.

We also decided there would be no TV and no DJs playing music we didn’t enjoy. Instead we installed satellite radio and turned it to Radio Margaritaville. We wanted our bar to be funky, laid back and tropical. In short, we built the kind of place where we ourselves would want to drink margaritas.

After building the bar, we designed a few special drinks with the help of our good friend Eric Rogers, one of San Francisco’s best bartenders. We have great top shelf margaritas like the “Papa T Margarita” and twists on old favorites like the “Playa Colada.” We also have unique drinks nobody had seen before (but have since been widely copied) like the “Beso Cubano” (Cuban Kiss) and our all-time most popular drink, the “Sarita B Careful” margarita made with pomegranate infused tequila.

Leon J Morton at the Luna Blue BarOf course one of the most important parts of a bar is the bartender. And we found the perfect one in Jorge Sierra. Jorge is honest, hardworking, speaks perfect English, loves people, always has a smile and pours a strong drink. And he is creative. He is always coming up with new ideas for drinks like our very popular “Sex on the Bar” cocktail. Yes, Jorge is the inventor of Sex on the Bar!

Once we had the bar built, the drinks figured out and a great bartender hired we looked around the place and decided we needed one more thing…live music. After all what is a margarita in paradise without some good tunes to listen to? Since we couldn’t get Jimmy or Kenny, we hired local musicians whose music we liked…guys who played funky or bluesy or plain old good rock n’ roll.

Over the years the best musicians in Playa have performed at the Luna Blue. Chris Bolister, “Bad” Brad Ryan, most of the Nasty Bastards at one time or another, Barefoot Skinny, Pako Mondragon and Mike Grabow (who wrote “Where I Want to Be” about the Luna Blue). You can currently see Mike Grabow every week at the Luna Blue Bar. Even the infamous local legend Sharkey has growled “House of the Rising Sun” at the Luna Blue Bar.

This coming holiday season we are going to keep up that tradition of great music while trying to expand the type of music that is available here in Playa del Carmen. And one type of music that Playa needs more of (and we can’t get enough of) is the BLUES!

This December we are bringing back Blues Hall of Fame artist Leon J Morton. Jay (as he is known to his friends) is famous for his traditional roots Blues renditions and his bring-down-the-house performance of Blues-inspired rock n’ roll classics. Jay’s extraordinary performances have been honored by the Telluride Blues Festival and by the National Blues Hall of Fame which has designated him an “Ambassador of the Blues.” When he is in Playa Jay plays exclusively at the Luna Blue Bar.

Jay will be performing his repertoire of classic Blues songs on Friday Dec. 2nd. On Saturday, Dec. 3rd, he will be back offering his take on the best in Rock, Rhythm and Blues, as well as some original tunes. On Sunday, Dec. 4th Jay will be playing mellow and easy at our Barbeque and Pool Party.

Luna Blue BarThen later this month Brent “Guitar” Parkin will be returning to the Blue. Brent is one of the greats on the Canadian Blues scene and winner of the Canadian Recording Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Juno Award. In his forty years of performing he has toured with the likes of BB King, Johnny Winter, Otis Rush and Bo Diddley among others. The Edmonton Sun calls Brent, “one of this country’s best blues guitarists.” The Winnipeg Free Press says Brent is “One of the Prairie’s great blues guitarists.” The bottom line is that Brent puts on a heck of a show every time he plays.

Not only will Brent be a regular at the Luna Blue Bar this winter, but we are especially proud to announce he will perform at our New Years Eve celebration. That will be quite a party.

And we are pleased to announce that Brent has just agreed to play at for us on Sunday, Dec. 4th at our Barbeque and Pool Party. Both Jay Morton and Brent Parkin the same afternoon. We’re very excited!

Of course this year the Luna Blue Bar has something new: a swimming pool. Our beautiful sunken tropical garden pool is open most nights for bar guests to take a dip and float beneath the stars while sipping a margarita or listening to music. We are the only swing bar in town with its own pool. We think that is kind of special.

In the end the Luna Blue Bar turned out to be bigger and more popular than we ever dreamed. But in a lot of ways it is still exactly what we wanted when we decided to build it…it’s still a great place to get a margarita, enjoy a laid back tropical vibe and hear good tunes from great musicians. It’s also a good place to hang out and chat with your friends…or make some new ones. What more can you ask from a saloon in tropical Mexico?

And who knows…maybe someday Jimmy or Kenny will drop by…maybe.

If you’ve been to our bar or one of our events, please share your best memories in a comment below. Gracias!

Jay Morton

Mike Grabow

Barefoot SKinny

Chris Bolister

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Beware of Unscrupulous Charities

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 18, 2011

We received an email at the hotel yesterday from a woman named Karen Johnson asking us if we would donate a stay at our hotel to an organization called the Cancer Relief Association, www.craglobal.org.

We were told they were “planning an online auction to raise funds to provide financial assistance to cancer patients around the world.” It went on to say that they provide cancer patients with grants that assist them in paying the expenses of dealing with their disease. We were asked to send information about our donation to either the email address listed or to their post office box in Florida.

Over the years we’ve contributed time at our hotel to different charitable organizations and functions both here in Mexico and in the United States. So when we received this solicitation, we were open to the idea. Besides, who doesn’t want to help people with cancer? Both of Tony’s parents died from cancer, we have a good friend battling the disease right now, and several of our close friends–as well as Cheri’s mom–are cancer survivors.

However as the email we received was so lacking in information we decided to investigate further. In this time of easy internet scams, we figured we should be a little cautious and confirm we were dealing with a legitimate charity. We also figured that no legitimate charity would have an issue with that.

We looked at Cancer Relief Association’s web site–a single web page–and found very little real information about this organization, other than a note directed to property owners about how a stay at their hotel would help provide money to cancer patients, which we found rather strange. It was very vague. The Paypal link for donations on the website was broken. When we googled them, we found virtually no references to this charity.

So we sent a reply email asking if the Cancer Relief Association was associated with any other cancer research organizations and asked Karen if she would provide us with a link to the website where the internet auction was being held.

The reply stated they are affiliated with the organization Center for Cancer Research Funding, Inc. at www.careforcures.org. Instead of a link to their upcoming online auction, we were told we could view the other items they have listed for auction at http://myworld.ebay.com/bidtofightcancer.

Hmmm. When we looked at the link we found nothing but vacation properties listed for sale on ebay by the user name “bidtofightcancer.” When we were originally told they were soliciting donations for an “upcoming online auction,” we were expecting some sort of event, not simply someone taking bids on ebay.

Meanwhile, we emailed the Center for Cancer Research Funding to ask if they were indeed associated with the Cancer Relief Organization and were told by one of their three Directors, Dick Bornman, that yes, the Cancer Relief Association is a program managed by their organization.

So we looked at the Center for Cancer Research Funding website. Unfortunately we encountered similarly vague information as to where and whom the donations actually go and under what circumstances. Internet searches again provided little or no information about this charity.

Sensing a scam, we decided not to donate and sent the following email to Karen:

Karen,

We have decided not to contribute to your organization. Frankly, we have some questions about its legitimacy. It appears not to be associated with any well-known cancer research entity, appears to deal only on marketing vacation properties on ebay, and the organizations’ websites appear somewhat questionable and provide no real information as to who you are or who receives your donations. We prefer to make our charitable contributions to more established organizations.

We assumed this would be the end of it, or possibly that we might receive another email giving us more information to prove the legitimacy of either organization. Instead, a few hours later we received the following scathing email from Dick Bornman of the Center for Cancer Research Funding. You have to read it carefully to appreciate it. The capitalization and emphasis are all his:


Hello Tony & Cheri Head, Owners,

I can appreciate your response, but quite frankly am disgusted with how you worded it. Your hotel would be one of the lower price class hotels that we solicited so to receive your response is quite interesting. Your hotel is no Ritz and Mexico is not exactly highly sought after right now. In other words your number 22 in Playa del Carmen, there are 21 more established resorts in your town alone. Thank god people do not have your attitude or your resort would not be in business. We are a fully registered fully tax exempt organization, in AMERICA, which is more sought after than Mexico to begin with. So in other words from outer appearances both organizations are not the best not the most highly funded and far from number 1. Next time you reject someone do it appropriately and do not do it rudely and outrageously to someone who travels internationally, because I will make sure to inform others of your generosity and your kind words starting with the patients we assist, ending with the resorts that are in the top ten, Karen does not check on the numbers, or believe me we would not have solicited to you in the first place, furthermore most trips we receive have personal connections to someone in our organization, meaning they own a week, or they have spent money there before, nobody internally desires to go to Playa del Carmen right now, and after your insulting response nobody will ever want to spend money at your hotel. Just my five cents, take it for what its worth, and STOP INSULTING CHARITIES, it comes off EXTREMELY ARROGANT AND DISGUSTING.

Yours Truly

Dick Bornman

We were shocked at the nasty personal tone of this email and the spew of negativity against us, our business, Playa del Carmen and Mexico in general! It amazed us that someone representing a so-called charity would act so unprofessionally. It puzzled us that someone would solicit resorts in Mexico and then make comments about how nobody goes to Mexico and how America is so much better.

Finally, we noted with interest that Mr. Bornman had an opportunity to fill in the gaps for us by saying how the donations to his company were processed, distributed, what percentage of money was received by cancer patients and their families, etc. But he didn’t.

And then it got even stranger.

An hour later, someone named Michael L. Galbraith posted a link to a very old negative TripAdvisor review of our hotel ON OUR HOTEL’S FACEBOOK PAGE. Turns out that Michael L. Galbraith is the President of the Center for Cancer Research Funding, Inc.! We of course promptly removed it, reported him to Facebook and then blocked him.

We were stunned by the idea that the President of a so-called charity supposedly responsible for the distribution of aid to cancer patients “around the world” would take the time to play vindictive games on our Facebook page simply because we refused to donate. In the end, the actions of these two individuals convinced us more than ever that we did not want to be associated with their charity, regardless of what name it used.

After receipt of the threatening email and attempt to damage our business, we did a little more research with a public office in the US and learned that the Center for Cancer Research Funding took in over $90,000 US in 2010. We certainly hope at least some of that money actually went to cancer patients and not to line the pockets of such awful people. The fact that the money is tax exempt makes us cringe even more.

We find it hard to believe that representatives of any legitimate charity would act in such a way. After receiving such nasty treatment, we fear they may be scam artists, and we know they are unprofessional. Either way, we certainly hope that anyone who is approached by either the Cancer Relief Organization or the Center for Cancer Research Funding take a long, hard look at their credentials before donating to or buying anything from them.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

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Mexico’s Day of the Dead Alive & Well in Playa del Carmen

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 2, 2011

People visiting Mexico at this time of year will undoubtedly see references to Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The colorful iconic figures of decorated skulls and dancing skeletons may lead some to believe that it is part of the American/European tradition of Halloween. It is not.

Day of the Dead is a pre-Christian, multi-cultural tradition which took root in Mexico centuries ago, possibly as early as the Aztec civilization. And despite its somewhat scary title the holiday is a celebration and a memorial to the lives of family and loved ones who have already passed on. Traditionally there are two days in this holiday. On November 1st children who have passed are remembered, and on November 2nd deceased adults are recalled.

As the first days of November approach, families in Mexico begin preparing ofrendas or small altars or shrines. The ofrenda will often be decorated with photographs of dead family members, along with flowers, candy, and various images of the calavera and calaca…the skull and the skeleton. Skulls are made of spun sugar and decorated like a cake. Paper skeletons are portrayed in all manner of dress and behavior (often comic). These figures are not meant to be scary but to show death is not to be feared but instead laughed at as having no power over us.

As the days of celebration approach, the altar will also be filled with the things the deceased may have enjoyed in life. Alcohol, cigarettes and favorite foods are placed on the ofrenda. We even saw a marijuana cigarette placed on one! Water and a special bread called pan de muerto (bread of the dead) are also included in the gifts to the dead.

The purpose of the ofrenda is to call the spirits of the deceased back to this world so that they might experience the love that is still felt for them here. On the days of the dead families will have memorial dinners or visit the graves of loved ones. It is meant to be a happy remembrance of those who have passed. Sadness is discouraged as it is said tears will make the path back to this world too slippery for the spirits to make the journey.

We fell in love with this tradition when we first moved here to Mexico and found it to be a wonderful alternative to the fear and suppression of death often experienced in Anglo-American culture. We quickly adopted the tradition for ourselves and have built an ofrenda every year since moving to Playa del Carmen.

When we were first visitors to this area we often would stop and admire an ofrenda only to be told all about the deceased individual by the altar’s owner. We cherish those memories lovingly shared by people about their departed loved ones and still remember some of their stories.

On our ofrenda this year we celebrate family and friends who have passed away:

John Vernon Head ~ Tony’s older brother John was only 63 when he passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack this past June. He had lived his life fully as a loving son, brother, father and grandfather to his four children and grandchild. He had been a lawyer admitted to practice law in several states and for many years operated his own law firm. Although a tough-minded and practical attorney, he still delighted in his family, directing great celebrations for Halloween, Christmas and birthdays where he would even bake the cakes. He was as sweet as he was strong.

Tony’s Mom and Dad, Jack and Rosalie Head ~ Rosalie’s picture is her high school graduation picture showing her red hair, green eyes and bright Irish American smile. Jack’s picture is when he was 21 just after he made corporal in the Marines on the eve of WWII. It is inscribed “To Rosalie, The Sweetheart of the Marines.” On the back of the picture of Rosalie is a brown smear. It is Jack’s blood. The picture was inside his shirt on the island of Guam when he was hit by mortar fire. He carried it with him through the rest of the war, and still had it when he returned after the war to marry Rosalie. They remained together until Rosalie passed in 1997. Jack passed away in 2002.

Cheri’s dad, Ed Skultety ~ Ed is pictured on our altar in his US Air Force uniform. He spent twenty years in the Air Force serving honorably in Vietnam. He was later stationed stateside, mostly in Omaha, Nebraska. He married Sally Vernon (Cheri’s mom who now lives in Sacramento) and together they had six children. He retired from the Air Force in 1974 with the rank of Master Sergeant. That year he and the family moved from Nebraska to Pennsylvania where Ed had grown up and where much of his family still lived. He passed away in Pennsylvania in 1985.

Bill and Barbara Oates ~ Bill and Barbara were one of the strongest, most loving couples we ever met. They lived through a time when interracial couples (Bill was black, Barbara white) were often ignored, treated with disdain, or worse. They never complained, never returned the hatred they occasionally saw and never looked back. They held on to each other no matter what. They found a wonderful life in San Francisco where they were known at every good restaurant and decent bar in town. After they got older and ill they passed away within a few months of each other…it seemed they couldn’t live without one another. We miss them very much.

Our Pets ~ We also include on our ofrenda some of the many pets which have lived with us, brightened our lives and given us their love, including Huggybear, Belle, Pixie and Carib and the latest of these, our cat Shammy. Shammy was 21 years (over 100 in equivalent human time) when he passed just a few days ago.

Over the next few days we will take time to remember each of these members of our family. We will treasure those memories and renew our love for them. It is our hope that if the spirits of the dead pass this way tonight and tomorrow, they will feel nothing but the love we still have for them.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar


Posted in Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Another Epic Playa del Carmen Halloween Party

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 2, 2011

Last night was an epic Halloween party as only can be found at the Luna Blue Bar. We think the pictures speak for themselves.

For many more photos, check out our Facebook page.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos! We’ll be blogging again later today about our Day of the Dead ofrenda and our favorite Mexican holiday.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

No Eye….No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 28, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center
Here in Playa del Carmen we’ve been waiting for days for Hurricane Rina to appear.  A week ago no one had even heard of Rina. Then within the last 72 hours we thought we might have a Category 4 hurricane, then a Category 3, then a 2, then a 1 and then….as it turns out….just a tropical storm. That’s life in the tropics!

It’s 5:30 pm Playa time, Thursday, and it appears the rain has finally begun.  Still no wind, and as of now still not all that much rain.  To our knowledge no one here is without power. Now supposedly the brunt of what’s left of Rina is scheduled to pass by us around 2 am tomorrow morning.  The storm is much weaker than anticipated, having lost its eye (no hay – inside joke if you speak Spanish), and the latest word has it passing just offshore, to the east of Cozumel island.

That’s all great news.  Everyone prepared for a hurricane and are now facing just a tropical storm.  Ho hum.   The locals are all posting on Facebook about how bored they are.  But better safe than sorry.

But wait…there’s more!  A look at the tracking map shows Rina passing offshore tonight but then making a big loop out in the Caribbean – going up past Cancun then circling back down past us again (on Sunday) and then heading south to Belize.  This is quite unusual for a hurricane but is probably making those in Florida and the gulf states pretty happy.  That means we’ll probably have some wet weather throughout the weekend but not the hurricane we had anticipated.

Stay safe everyone, and remember:  no storm is gonna keep us from throwing a kick ass Halloween party at the Luna Blue Bar on Monday night.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar



Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hurricane Rina Weakens as it Nears Playa del Carmen!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 27, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by Weatherunderground.com
When you’re sitting in the path of a hurricane, you hope for any little bit of good news. Today we got some. Hurricane Rina is starting to weaken!

Twenty four hours ago we were looking at predictions that a Category 3 or possibly 4 hurricane might strike dead center in the Playa del Carmen area. Since that time, weather conditions have changed dramatically, and Hurricane Rina has begun the slow process of weakening. She is now a Category 1 hurricane, and both weatherunderground.com and the National Hurricane Center are predicting that she will not regain strength before reaching the Yucatan. A category 1 hurricane is not considered to be a major hurricane. Weatherunderground is also predicting that once the storm makes contact with Cozumel it will diminish to a tropical storm as it moves northeast towards Cuba.

This is good news for all of us here on the Yucatan peninsula. However, even a category 1 hurricane is something to be cautious about. High winds and surging waves can still cause damage. We’d like to send the word out to anyone in the Yucatan coastal area to stay inside once the storm reaches us. High winds can turn any loose object on the street into a deadly missile, and surging waves can come onto the beach very quickly–faster than a person can react to get away. Please, under no circumstances should you go down to the beach to watch the storm.

Although this is all good news for the resort areas of the Riviera Maya, it must be remembered that a category 1 hurricane or even a tropical storm can have devastating effects on the rural areas of Mexico and central America. Eighteen people have already died in Honduras from flooding associated with Hurricane Rina. Massive amounts of rain in Playa del Carmen and Cancun may be an inconvenience to tourists but may turn deadly in small inland villages that are not equipped to deal with such storms. Visitors here should never think of Mexico solely as the popular resort areas. Our thoughts and prayers go to those less fortunate citizens of our adopted country who will be suffering as this storm passes through.

Before the news of the hurricane’s diminishing strength, Playa was getting ready for the storm. As we drove around town today, we saw a number of businesses with large glass windows beginning to put up plywood covers. In Walmart, supplies like toilet paper and large jugs of water were stacked prominently in the center of the store. We heard reports from friends that such diverse items as tuna and disposable diapers were in short supply. We ourselves only went shopping for dog food, flashlights, extra candles, duct tape and BBQ potato chips. We found everything on our list readily available.

We went down to the beach to see the preparations taking place at Mamita’s Beach Club. The building was closed up and had been covered with heavy canvas shutters over the entire front facing the water. The beach itself was empty. Normally it is filled with beach chairs, umbrellas, tables and scantily clad people sipping margaritas. Today it was just sand and surf. The water was actually pretty calm, and there were no waves yet. However in the distance we could see darkening clouds indicating that Rina was out there someplace.

Back at our hotel, we talked with some newly arrived guests about what to expect during the storm. We remarked again at how lucky we are at the type of people who come to the Luna Blue. These particular guests come every year and not only showed up today bearing gifts (a handmade necklace for Cheri and some boxes of See’s candy!) but also immediately offered to help if we needed any work done preparing the hotel for the storm. We love our guests.

In fact we didn’t need any help with storm preparation. Our amazing staff of Alex, Jaime and Julian had gotten everything put away. They stacked the stools in the bar and tied them down. They also tied down all the hanging bar swings so they didn’t crash into things when the wind picks up.

We collected our hotel cats, Frankie and Oso, and gave them the honeymoon suite for the duration of the storm. Litter boxes, food and water were supplied, along with a comfortable double bed to sleep on. Some cats have all the luck.

At this point we’re simply waiting for the storm to arrive. We’re receiving occasional showers, but mostly it’s humid and warm with a slight breeze. The eye of the storm is scheduled to pass near us between 2 pm Thursday and 2 am Friday. We should begin to feel the early effects of the storm sometime tomorrow morning.

We’re hoping if the storm passes through quickly and we are clear of winds and rain by Friday night that we will be able to host a “We Survived Rina” party in our bar with our friend Barefoot Skinny providing the music.

Without question, we’ll be holding our annual Halloween party on Monday night. If you’re in town, please stop by. It should be a lot of fun.

We’ll blog again when there’s more news. In the meantime, follow our regular updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Tony & Cheri

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Local businesses busy covering large glass windows with plywood

Large displays of drinking water in Walmart

Canvas shutters on Mamita’s Beach Club

Luna Blue Bar furniture stacked and secured

Bar swings tied in place

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Playa del Carmen Readies for Hurricane Rina

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 26, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center
Good morning. It is very quiet here in Playa del Carmen this morning–cloudy but no rain or wind. Birds are singing in the jungle and tejons (coatimundi) are scavenging in the street. It’s the calm before the storm. While we had a little rain early evening yesterday, it didn’t rain throughout the night as we had expected. In fact it didn’t rain at all.

Hurricane Rina is slowing down and it appears she won’t come visiting until tomorrow afternoon. The bad news is most computer models predicting her path have now converged on the Playa/Cozumel area as the point where she will make landfall.

The good news is that this appears to be a small storm.
While the satellite shows clouds extending out over much of the western Caribbean, the actual area of damaging hurricane strength winds is very small. A slight variation or wobble in Rina’s path may spare us from getting hit with those hurricane force winds.

In fact, the image here from the National Hurricane Center shows that there’s a maximum of 50% chance of hurricane force winds anywhere within the storm!

Of course the area of tropical storm force winds area is much larger, and at 100% chance of the center of the storm receiving them, so we almost certainly will get those…meaning a lot of rain and wind. It all comes down to waiting and seeing what path she takes.

We have several guests in the hotel right now, and we have been talking with all of them about what to expect during the storm. We have given them all candles and flashlights (assuming the power will go out) and plenty of extra towels to help with the water coming in. During a hurricane, when the rain is blowing sideways, water seems to come in from everywhere.

The way our hotel is constructed and placed, it makes a pretty good shelter from any storm. It’s set back from the street and is surrounded by buildings on three sides. The concrete structure has been through Hurricane Wilma and some other pretty good storms without any damage whatsoever. Because of this, our guests feel pretty safe remaining here in the hotel rather than going to a public shelter.

We’re telling our guests they should stay in the hotel room their entire time and not try to venture out in the storm. There are many dangers during a hurricane, including being hit with flying debris. We’re making sure they have plenty of drinking water and telling them to have some snacks on hand. All of them seem calm and ready for the adventure. Of course they won’t be alone; our staff will be on hand throughout the storm.

We will get out into town and down to the beach later and report back anything of interest. In the meantime, like most people here, we’re continuing storm preparations while hoping for the best. We’ll be periodically updating our Facebook page throughout the day, so check there for up to date information.

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

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Hurricane Rina Approaches Playa del Carmen Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 25, 2011

Hurricane Rina is currently on a projected path to strike the Yucatan Peninsula and possibly Playa del Carmen in the next 48 hours.

We will be regularly posting updates on our Facebook page and on Twitter (@lunabluehotel, #Rina) as the storm nears. We’ll be offering synopses of what we think are dependable sources such as Dr. Jeff Masters at weatherunderground.com and the National Hurricane Center.

We’ll also be giving a locals’ perspective on what’s happening in Playa del Carmen and will offer comments about our own storm preparation at our hotel and at home.

We’re hoping this will not be a major hurricane. While the storm is growing in intensity, once it makes landfall in Mexico is is expected to diminish in strength. We are hoping for the best.

We’ll keep offering information until the storm arrives, at which point we expect we will lose power. Keep a good thought for all of us here in Playa and on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Tony & Cheri

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

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Halloween in Playa del Carmen: The Best Party in Town

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 22, 2011

Halloween in Playa del Carmen at the Luna Blue Hotel“From ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, May the Good Lord deliver us!” ~ Traditional English Prayer

It’s Halloween again. Here in Playa del Carmen it is time for your every wicked fantasy to take control at the annual Luna Blue Bar Halloween Party! The wildest spirits in Playa will come out to play in outrageous costumes, drink seductive beverages and dance to tantalizing music, all in our garden of spooky delights.

Keep an Eye Out for Mermaids and Sea Monsters

And this year there is something new. Our Halloween party is also a pool party! The Luna Blue’s new sunken garden swimming pool will be open for a dip by our party guests. Just buy a minimum of two drinks at the bar to get a pool access wristband.  So bring a swimsuit… or a costume that floats. But be careful…you never know what lurks just below the water’s surface!

The Return of Barefoot Zombie Skinny

Earlier this month a wild rumor hit the internet that the legendary Caribbean troubadour Barefoot Skinny had met his untimely end in the tropical forests of Belize. Stories abounded that Skinny had been eaten by piranhas, carried off by jaguars or become the love slave of beautiful Amazons.

No one knows the true story, but thankfully Skinny has stumbled out of the jungle still breathing in time to play and sing at our party.  Dead or alive, Skinny is one of Playa del Carmen’s best-loved musicians.  He lives the life Jimmy Buffett only sings about, and if you haven’t seen him perform before, you are in for a treat.

A Night to Let it All Hang Out

Halloween in Playa del Carmen at the Luna Blue Hotel Halloween is a time to dress up, dress down and show off your inner witch, ghost or vampire.  You can strut your stuff at our annual costume contest with prizes and awards for Best Men’s costume, Best Women’s costume…and our all-time favorite…the Sexiest costume.

The only limit is your imagination and (dare we say it) sense of propriety and good taste. Costume contest judging will begin around 9:30 (depending on the sobriety of our judges).

Eye of Newt, Toe of Frog

The cauldron will bubble at the Luna Blue Bar where Jorge, Playa del Carmen’s best bartender. will be concocting magic potions and preparing all your frightfully favorite drinks like the blood red “Sarita B Careful,” the irresistible “Sex on the Bar” and the deadly “Papa T’s Margarita.”

Tequila shots are 2 x 1 (dos por uno) from 6- 9 pm.  The bar will open at 3, the music will start at 8 and the party will go until the witching hour of midnight.

Here at the Luna Blue Bar we love to party…so put on a mask, paint your face, or wrap up in a cape and head on over for the best Halloween celebration in town.

The Luna Blue Bar
Halloween Fantasy Costume Party
What’s Your Fantasy?

Halloween in Playa del Carmen at the Luna Blue Hotel

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

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