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

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Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

Sun, Sand and Margaritas…Beach Bars in the Riviera Maya

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 20, 2014

Everybody loves beach bars.  A little grass shack selling rum, tequila, and beer on a white sand beach only steps from some blue water…what’s not to love?

Playa del Carmen, along with the whole of the Riviera Maya, has one of the largest collections of great beach bars in the world.  Playa’s central and northern beaches are jam packed with clubs, restaurants, and bars of all types. And outside of town along the Caribbean coast you can find even more terrific places to eat and drink next to the sea.

Of course everyone has their own ideas of what makes for a great beach bar. Some like it simple with a little bar, an umbrella and a shrimp taco or two. Others prefer something more upscale with a brick pizza oven and maybe a pool. Some beach bars have live music, while others offer only the sound of the waves.

Most travel sites and blogs have at one time or another made a list of what they think are the best or top or favorite beach bars along our coast. Recently USA Today listed what they thought were the Five “Coolest” Beach Bars in the Riviera Maya.

The article listed some of our favorite places but missed some really great ones. So we decided to add our favorite beach bars/clubs along Mexico’s Caribbean coast to the USA Today list. Our additions are, in no particular order…

Bad Boys Beach Bar in Playa del Carmen

Bad Boys Beach BarAlong the length of Playa del Carmen’s central beach are literally dozens of beach clubs. They range from funky to fashionable and almost all of them are worth stopping in to spend a day in the sun. However, Bad Boys Beach Bar has a special place in our hearts. It was one of the first beach bars in Playa, started long ago by the late, much beloved Playa legend Captain Dave. It hasn’t changed much since those early days. There are decent hamburgers, and sausages grilled by Cowboy John; they serve good, cold drinks; and play fun music. But the real draw is the atmosphere. In this day of big screen, glass and chrome monstrosities crowding the Caribbean, Bad Boys continues the legacy of the of the laid back, toes in the sand, palm-covered beach life of which we all so often dream. It is a classic part of the old Playa del Carmen. And remember…guests at the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on food and beverages at Bad Boys.

La Playa on Xpu-ha bay

La Playa Xpu HaAt first you might wonder if you took a wrong turn. Once you start down that awful twisting pothole-filled dirt road hemmed in on both sides by the jungle you might think that the trip was a bad idea and you should turn around. Don’t. That crappy road leads right to one of the most beautiful bays on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and one of our favorite beach bars. La Playa is an old school club with palm thatched umbrellas and faded loungers looking out over blue water. Their shrimp tacos are some of the best around and the beer is cold. Best of all, La Playa offers a chance to escape the madness of Playa del Carmen’s tourist zone for a beautiful, open uncrowded stretch of beach.

El Paraiso Beach Club in Tulum

El Paraiso Beach ClubThe name says it all…paradise. Down in Tulum on the still relatively undeveloped north end of the beach, El Paraiso has everything you could ask from a beach club/bar. The menu is good and the drinks are of a decent size. There are plenty of staff members to take your order and keep your glass filled. You can choose from tables and chairs, loungers or big cushy beds laid out on the beach. But El Paraiso’s claim to fame is its location. It sits on a pure white sand beach with a spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea. In the distance to the north are the ruins of the Mayan Temple. To the south are miles of uninterrupted shoreline for your strolling and swimming pleasure. If you want to get back to the beauty of nature, get to El Paraiso.

The Beach Club at Grand Coral

Beach Club at Grand CoralThe name is misleading. While owned by a giant mega resort, the Beach Club at Grand Coral is actually out on a pretty deserted stretch of beach by itself (about a 50 minute walk north from Constituyentes downtown or a 10 minute taxi ride). But once you get there you will have all the comforts you need. The restaurant serves up some of the best food on the beach in Playa. The bar is cool and hip and has a waterfall as a backdrop. There are two shallow but good sized swimming pools surrounded by loungers and sun beds. All of this sits on a platform raised above the beach so you have fantastic views of the ocean. Or if want, you can walk down the steps to take a spot on the deserted beach. This is one of the classiest beach clubs and one of the least known. This is a real hidden treasure. Another reason we love this beach club…guests from the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount.

There are so many great things to see and do and experience when visiting the Riviera Maya, but the number one attraction is and always will be the beaches. Beach clubs allow visitors and locals alike the chance to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean shoreline with a little comfort, something to eat and a margarita in hand. These four beach bars are our favorites, but there are many, many more. Part of the fun of visiting Playa is making your own list of favorite places. We suggest trying a new beach club every day of your vacation on the Riviera Maya…and you still won’t see them all.

Coming to paradise and need a cool place to stay? Check out the Luna Blue Hotel…three-time winner of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Best Bargain Award, and Playa’s favorite small boutique hotel. And always book directly with the hotel for the best prices and availability.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

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Getting Naked in Playa del Carmen, Again

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 13, 2014

It has been our observation over the last decade of running a small hotel in paradise that people on vacation like to let loose a little and do things they might not do at home…like parasailing, drinking too much tequila or even getting naked on the beach. That last one seems particularly popular.

According to some travel experts, clothing optional vacations–once considered only for swingers and nudists–are now the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry.

That trend is even reflected here on our own blog. For the last three years “The Naked Truth About Playa del Carmen,” about topless and nude sunbathing on the Riviera Maya, has consistently been the most popular post on our blog. It has been viewed by thousands so far and is still viewed by close to 2000 people a month. It obviously struck a chord.

Enjoying the sun

 

The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled The Top 5 Clothing-Optional Resorts in the World, confirming that showing a little skin while on vacation is now part of the mainstream of middle class tourists.

Not surprisingly, of the five resorts listed, two of them are in the Riviera Maya. It seems our little stretch of tropical heaven is the Mecca for folks wanting to bare all on the beach.

Of course not everyone wants to spend their vacation locked away in a giant mega resort, surrounded 24/7 by naked strangers. We have found most people just would like a chance for a afternoon or two enjoying the sun, sand and sea without the restriction of swimsuits.

So here are some alternatives to spending all of your vacation and all of your hard earned money at some All Inclusive fortress simply because it has a nude beach:

Topless sunbathing and swimming is still regularly accepted throughout most of the Riviera Maya beaches, even in the newer upscale clubs in central and northern Playa. Along the coast, La Playa Beach Club in Xpu-Ha and El Paraiso in Tulum still draw topless (and in Tulum, sometimes nude) sun worshippers. Luna Blue pool.  Photograph by Ken Bartle In addition, at least one clothing optional resort, Hidden Beach Resort in Tulum, offers day passes to non-hotel guests. This way you can experience the intimacy and charm of a small hotel in the center of town and still have the opportunity for that day in the sun getting an all over tan.

Hidden Beach allows for complete nudity in pools, on the beach and in its restaurants and bars. A day pass for 8 hours costs $100 USD per person, and only couples are permitted. However, guests staying at the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on the day pass. The pass provides for all you can eat and drink in a nude atmosphere for the day.

Some smaller adult-only hotels also may have policies concerning clothing optional swimming or sunbathing. Here at the Luna Blue, guests may be topless if they wish in and around the swimming pool.

And finally, despite the growth and development of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, there are still some undeveloped beaches where you can swim in the all together. No, we won’t tell you where they are here (we would like to keep them a secret as long as possible) but if you are a guest at the Luna Blue, we will draw you a map to these beaches. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone else though. Naked on the beach in the Riviera Maya If you are going to head for the beach for some au natural fun, the general rules we set forth in our previous blog are unchanged…

  1. Topless sunbathing and swimming is still regularly accepted throughout most of the Riviera Maya beaches, even in the newer upscale clubs in central Playa. However, it is still the minority of people who do it.
  2. Complete nudity is NOT tolerated on most of the Riviera Maya. The exceptions are deserted beaches where there are no beach clubs, some areas just inside the Sian Ka’an preserve, sections of the beach in Tulum (particularly the north end near El Parasiso beach club and the Hidden Beach Resort.
  3. Going bare is NOT a practice of most local Mexicans (although young tourists from Mexico City seem to have a different view). Limit your exposure to designated clothing optional hotels, tourist area beaches or completely deserted ones away from where local families may gather.
  4. USE SUNSCREEN!

As always, enjoy your time in paradise no matter what you wear or don’t wear.

Even legendary troubador Barefoot Skinny likes to go topless when playing at the Luna Blue Bar
Legendary troubadour Barefoot Skinny
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Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 5, 2014

It happens every year on June 1st: the annual hurricane season arrives. Officially, the hurricane season (or the tropical rainy season or storm season…whichever you want to call it) runs from June 1st until December 1st. And every year, many people ask us here at the Luna Blue about how this affects travel to our beautiful part of the world.

People unfamiliar with weather patterns south of the border often wonder if it is safe to travel at all during this time. They also worry that if they do visit, their vacation might be ruined by constant rain. The reality is that with some planning and precautions, travelers can enjoy summer in paradise. Here are some facts and helpful hints about visiting Playa del Carmen during this time of year.

Great Weather and Low Prices

Summer can be a great time to vacation in Playa del Carmen. The air temperature during June, July and August is generally in the high 80’s during the day and the mid-70’s at night. The water temperature is slightly less, with average temperatures in the low 80’s. In other words, the days are warm and long, the nights comfortable and the Caribbean Sea is perfect for swimming.

The summer months also see fewer tourists, so the beaches, restaurants, bars, and tours are less crowded. There are some days you may have a part of the beach all to yourself.

In addition fewer tourists means lower prices. Hotels and tours in particular will offer lower prices during this time period.

Of course, the downside of traveling in summer is the threat of rain and storms.  However it is important to remember that rain storms do not occur every day or even every week.

We Have it All…Rain and Sunshine

We do get summer storms which can last for several days. That can certainly put a damper on any vacation. However, the average number of days of rain in the summer months of June-Aug. is 16 days per month, only slightly higher than in the rest of the year.

In other words, these months have about the same number of sunny days as rainy ones. And of course a forecast of rain doesn’t mean there will be rain from morning until night. In the tropics we often have rain showers or a thunderstorm sweep in off the Caribbean Sea only to quickly pass though, leaving the rest of the day bright and sunny.

As for tropical storms and hurricanes, the truth is they don’t threaten Playa del Carmen very often.

These types of storms occur every year in the Caribbean Sea. Some years there are more than others. This year the prediction by the experts is that we will have fewer storms than normal.

Playa del Carmen Has Not Been Struck by a Hurricane Since 2005

There will absolutely be some large storms between now and December somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean sea. However not all tropical storms become hurricanes, and not all hurricanes grow to be major storms that threatens life and property (a Category 3 storm or greater).

Not all hurricanes will make landfall, and of those that do threaten areas of land, few if any will be in the area of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen. The last hurricane to make landfall on Playa was almost a decade ago with Wilma in 2005.

The established historical tracks of summer storms in the Caribbean do NOT pass over Playa del Carmen in the months of June, July, August, October, and November. Storm tracks do cross the Riviera Maya in September, which is our wettest month of the year and the month when the vast majority of hurricanes and tropical storms happen in the Caribbean.

This is not to say that major storm will never hit Playa. We are simply saying that statistically it is a rare event.

Avoiding a Vacation Disaster

But what happens if a major storm does threaten to come ashore near Playa del Carmen? If you are already here on vacation you may have several options. The first is to leave town. As hurricanes build out over the ocean before moving towards land they are usually seen days in advance, allowing for evacuation of those who wish to leave.

Or if you are in a secure location, or the storm is not of great strength, you may be able to simply wait it out in your hotel or in a designated shelter area. Hurricanes are usually fast moving storms that sweep through in a day or two.

If you are planning a trip and a major storm is threatening before your arrival, you may want to change your travel plans. However be aware that most airlines, hotels, and resorts do NOT usually offer refunds for cancellations or changes due to weather problems.

Because of this we strongly suggest that anyone traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season ALWAYS purchase insurance which will cover your costs if weather keeps you from traveling. That way, if you do have to cancel or change your vacation plans it won’t be a total loss.


Getting the Right Weather Information

No one can tell you with any certainty what the weather will be like in Playa del Carmen (or anywhere else) next week or next month. Trying to determine in June what the weather will be for the second week of August is simply guesswork. However you can keep an eye on the weather in the immediate future by checking several reputable weather websites:

These sites will provide you up to the minute detailed information about weather in the area.

We hope you now see that with a little planning and some basic precautions there is no reason you cannot plan your summer vacation in the paradise of Playa Del Carmen. And remember… a margarita sipped sitting under an umbrella tastes just as good whether it is rainy or sunny outside.

Happy travels!

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The Awards Keep Coming In

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 28, 2014

Luna Blue Hotel Wins Certificate of Excellence 3 Years in a Row

Lately our little hotel in Mexico, the Luna Blue, has been receiving a lot of recognition from the people who matter the most to us…the traveling public.

We have just been awarded a 2014 Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel website. This comes shortly after we won the prestigious TripAdvisor 2014 Travelers’ Choice Award for Best Bargain Hotel earlier this year.

We’re very proud to say that the Luna Blue was the only hotel in the popular Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen to receive a Travelers’ Choice Award for Best Bargain Hotel in 2014!

Luna Blue Hotel wins 2014 Travelers' Choice AwardFor a small 18-room hotel owned by an American couple living in the paradise of Mexico’s Caribbean coast to receive such honors is very gratifying. These days, the travel industry seems to focus more and more on large all-inclusive properties and giant chain hotels. So when a small place like ours wins these awards, it shows that people’s opinions matter at least as much as corporate marketing campaigns.

What makes these awards especially meaningful to us is that just over a year ago, we were engaged in a David and Goliath dispute with the giant online booking site Expedia. Expedia’s unfair attempts to stop people from booking with our hotel caused us a lot of damage and worry. Yet, after the story of our battle for survival caught the attention of social media site The Verge and news sites such as SFGate and others, the story of a small independent property going against a mega corporate giant went viral. Expedia was forced to back down and leave us alone. Winning these awards is made all the sweeter for having survived this difficult time.

The Travelers’ Choice Award is awarded to less than 2% of all hotels worldwide. The Certificate of Excellence is given only to the top 10% of hotels worldwide. Both are based on consistently high reviews and ratings from hotel guests. This is the third consecutive year the Luna Blue Hotel has won a Certificate of Excellence and the second consecutive year it has won a Travelers’ Choice Award.

The Luna Blue Hotel is located in the heart of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We are a place for travelers–not simply tourists–and we cater to those who want to explore the beauty, food and culture of Mexico and not be limited to the cookie-cutter experience of giant Vegas-style mega resorts. We will work hard to always be Playa del Carmen’s best bargain hotel and will continue to be grateful to our guests and friends for all of their support.

After we won the Traveler’s Choice award, we celebrated at the Luna Blue Bar and asked guests to pose with the award. The photos here are from that night.











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The “Old” Playa del Carmen Just Keeps Getting Better

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 25, 2014

The View from Bad Boys Beach ClubThe Luna Blue Hotel and Bar…”a last little piece of the old Playa del Carmen”…is thrilled to announce the legendary Bad Boys Beach Club as the newest addition to the family of quality beach clubs that welcome the guests of the Luna Blue Hotel with special discounts and values.

It’s a perfect coming together of two of Playa del Carmen’s most iconic establishments.

This little resort town of ours here on the edge of the Caribbean Sea has seen quite a few changes over the years. It has gotten bigger, fancier and more modern in some ways. And that’s fine…because we know the Playa that we all fell in love with–the old Playa Del Carmen–is still here. Both the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar and Bad Boys Beach Club are part of the tradition of the palapa-covered, laid back, sometimes funky, always fun Caribe-Mexican vibe that made Playa famous to begin with.

We invite all our guests and friends to join us under Bad Boys’ Jolly Roger Flag for great drinks, food, and music on the sand. Guests of the Luna Blue Hotel enjoy free use of a lounge chair and umbrella at Bad Boys when they spend a minimum of $150 pesos for food and beverages (about $12.00 US) AND Luna Blue Hotel guests get a 10% discount on their food and drink orders!

This is just the beginning. Watch for some fun announcements of promotions and parties in the days ahead as the Luna Blue and Bad Boys take you back to the real Playa del Carmen. As Mike Grabow, Playa’s favorite singer-songwriter, says…“This is where you want to be.”

Bad Boys Beach Club

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St. Patrick’s Day 2014…when the Luna Blue turns Green!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 6, 2014

It happens each year, and St. Patrick’s Day 2014 is no different…the Luna Blue turns into the Luna Green for Playa del Carmen’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day Party.

This year, as always, we will be combining some great Irish traditions with the some south of the border style. St Paddy’s Day in paradise means there will be tequila shots and corned beef sandwiches on homemade rye bread (made by Playa’s very own Grumpy Bakers), Margaritas, Guinness, our very own special St. Paddy’s Day cocktails, and green bikinis in the pool.

It’s a unique Irish-Caribe-Mexican combination you can only find at the Luna Blue.

We are proud of our Irish heritage, grateful to our adopted country and happy to be the biggest and greenest St Patrick’s Day celebration in town.  The bar and pool open at 12 noon to the tunes of our own special Irish playlist. Live music starts at 3, and the party ends at 11 pm (so our hotel guests can still get some sleep!). There will be giveaways, lots of fun, and some interesting surprises. As always, women in green bikinis will get a free drink, and the first green bikini we see in the pool on St Paddy’s Day will receive a $200 peso bar tab!

Please be our guests on March 17th, 2014 at the Luna Blue….home of Playa del Carmen’s original St. Paddy’s Day party. And if you’ve never been to a St. Pat’s Day party at the Luna Blue, here is a slideshow of past years to show you what you have been missing. Don’t miss the fun!

St. Paddy's Day 2014 at the Luna Blue in Playa del Carmen

Once again….St. Paddy’s Day at the Luna Blue 2014!

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What a Difference a Year Makes

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 21, 2013

Jaime Garcia, our most senior employee, with our 2013 Travelers' Choice Award

What a difference a year makes!

It was just a year ago that our little place, the Luna Blue Hotel, was struggling to avoid being crushed by travel industry giant Expedia as it bulldozed over small hotels like ours throughout the world. Things looked grim. But here we are less than a year later still thriving and now receiving accolades from some of the biggest travel sites on the internet. Quite the turnaround, if we do say so ourselves.

Early this year the Luna Blue Hotel was awarded its second Travelers’ Choice Award for “Best Bargain Hotel in Mexico” by TripAdvisor. It is one of the most sought-after and prestigious awards in the travel business. Then not long after that honor, About.com (one of the world’s most popular websites with 90 million visitors a month) named us the “Favorite Bargain Hotel in Mexico.” We are proud and pleased with these awards. It’s always wonderful to be named the “best” or the “favorite” on any list or in any category. To have it happen twice in the same year is a something very special.

What makes these awards even sweeter is the fact that both sites base their results on the opinions of actual travelers. It makes us happy to see that travel choices are not yet completely controlled by giant international mega-corporations but are still ultimately where they should be…in the hands of those who love to travel.

About.com Readers Choice Award Winner for Favorite Bargain Hotel in Mexico - the Luna Blue HotelOf course we are also thrilled that these awards show that people recognize what an excellent choice our hotel is for travelers. Being a bargain…a great value…has always been our goal.

When we first started on this adventure we knew our hotel would never be a fancy, luxury property. That wasn’t our style. But neither did we want a bare bones “budget” property. We believe people want and deserve a little comfort when on vacation. We wanted a hotel for people like us…simply a nice place to stay that average travelers could afford. To us that is what “bargain” means: a good deal for a good price.

In keeping with that idea, we have always tried to keep our rates some of the lowest in town. For example, compare the nightly high season price of a standard hotel room (not the most expensive room nor the cheapest…just the basic mid-range room many people want) at the Luna Blue Hotel with some of the other popular small hotels in the area.

Luna Blue Hotel…$90.00
Aventura Mexicana…$188.00 Riviera del Sol…$176.00
Casa Tikul…$160.00 Hotel Cielo…$125.00
Acanto…$153.00 Hacienda Paradise…$122.00
Hotel La Tortuga…$139.00 Hotel Bric…$125.00

 

In fact, our most expensive room–the Garden View Deluxe room with a full kitchen sleeping up to 4 people–is less expensive than all of the other listed hotels’ “standard” rooms!

All prices were taken from the respective hotel’s website, are exclusive of tax and are for the same high season time period. Not all the well-known small “bargain” hotels in Playa are listed here. Some of Playa’s small hotels don’t publish their rates but require you contact them for a quote. This gives them the chance to increase the rate on a moment’s notice if they want. We don’t deal that way. Our rates are always published on our website. What you see is what you get.

Of course no two properties are alike. Each of these hotels offers its own type of atmosphere, amenities and extras. At the Luna Blue we offer amenities we feel certain will help our guests get the most out of their vacation. Each standard Tropical Hideaway room has a queen bed, unlimited free bottled water, a refrigerator, air conditioning, safe, private bath, ceiling fan, daily maid service, either a porch or balcony, free or discounted use of four local beach clubs, a free margarita at our very popular bar, daily free breakfast snack of coffee, teas and locally baked sweet breads and use of our garden and pool.

Luna Blue Hotel wins 2013 Certificate of Excellence Award from TripadvisorObviously, price and amenities don’t tell the whole story. The fanciest place in the world isn’t worth staying at if the service isn’t good. We are suitably proud of our own reputation for great service. Our multi-lingual hotel staff speaks English and is renowned for being helpful and friendly. And as owners who live here in Playa, we personally look to the comfort and safety of each guest…which may be why we have one of the highest “Excellent” rankings on TripAdvisor in all of Playa del Carmen.

We think our outstanding service is also one of the reasons we also were awarded a third major award this year, our second “Certificate of Excellence” by TripAdvisor…an award given to only 10% of travel businesses worldwide.

Yes, it’s been a wild 12 months…but in the end we are confident that there is still a place in the world of travel for the small independent property like ours. We are thrilled to be recognized for the value we offer to travelers who come our way, and we are happy to still be here in Playa del Carmen, wishing “Happy Travels” to all our readers and friends.

Come join us in paradise.

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Heading for the Beach? The Luna Blue’s Newest Beach Clubs

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 5, 2013

Beach Club at Grand CoralPlaya del Carmen has what many consider to be the best beaches around. In order to help our guests get the most out of their stay here in paradise, the Luna Blue Hotel has always offered discounts and passes to some of the most popular beach clubs in town. From time to time those clubs change based on feedback from our guests and from the clubs themselves. Here is the latest news on our associate beach clubs.

First and foremost we are very happy to announce the reopening of the Beach Club at the Grand Coral (formerly Blucacao). This beautiful upscale club has long been a favorite of our guests for its pristine, uncrowded beach, its two shallow infinity pools and the restaurant/bar overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The beach club was badly damaged earlier this year in a fire and has been closed for several months. However it has now been completely repaired and is open once again, bigger and better than ever. Guests staying at the Luna Blue Hotel receive free use of the beach club facilities including use of the pools, pool side loungers, beach chairs and umbrellas. The restaurant does have one of the more pricey menus on the beach, however it also features some of the most interesting and highest quality dishes around. Best of all, guests from the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on their food and drinks. And the setting can’t be beat.

Indigo Beach ClubWe are also very pleased to announce the return of the Indigo Beach Club to the Luna Blue Hotel family. Set on Playa’s central beach at the foot of Calle 14, the Indigo Beach Club offers a lovely arrangement of loungers, tables, beach chairs and umbrellas. Guests of the Luna Blue Hotel may receive free use of beach chairs and umbrellas after 11 am, when the breakfast crowd clears out, with a $150 pesos minimum food or beverage purchase. In addition, Indigo has a new young chef, Rubén López. Rubén, who many may know as the head chef from the upscale Negrosal, has put together a series of upscale tasting menus of various prices for the evening hours. For those on a honeymoon—or just feel like they are on a honeymoon—there is a special “Romantic” tasting menu with a private seaside, candle-lit setting and private lounge. We can’t wait to try it. Maybe for our upcoming anniversary. :) The food at Indigo is not only top-notch, but it’s beautifully prepared as well. Guests of the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on all dinners as well as all of the tasting menus.

On the north end of Playa we continue our association with the Canibal Royal Beach Club. Set in a cozy little cove on the shore, Canibal Royal offers not only a perfect beach setting to catch some rays, but also has a two floor restaurant with spectacular views of the ocean and a fascinating menu not seen elsewhere on the beach front. Luna Blue Hotel guests receive free use of a beach chair and towel at Canibal Royal with a minimum food or beverage purchase. And after sunning, drinking and dining at Canibal Royal, don’t forget to head up to the giant third floor hot tub to soak under the sky while looking out over an unspoiled view of the Caribbean Sea.

Wicky's Beach ClubFinally we continue our association with Wicky’s Restaurant and Beach Club. Wicky’s sits in the middle of all the action of Playa’s beautiful central beach. You can stroll on the shore, bar crawl or just people watch from your own lounge chair. Wicky’s offers one of the best and most upscale menus in Playa whether it be a traditional American breakfast or a “surf and turf” dinner. Dine on the deck or sitting on the beautiful white sand beach. Luna Blue Hotel guests receive free use of beach chairs and a 10% discount on food and beverages at Wicky’s Beach Club. During high season there is a small minimum food or beverage purchase required.

We are very happy to offer our guests use of such a diverse group of beach clubs. Of course both Playa’s central and north beaches are dotted with various beach clubs where you can rent chairs and umbrellas for just a few pesos. We recommend trying as many as you can. By the way, due to a difficult and unresponsive management and repeated problems with service, we are no longer recommending Mamita’s Beach Club to our guests. This was a difficult decision, but our concern is always that our guests receive consistent and high quality service.

For the most current information regarding the amenities of the Luna Blue Hotel, including our beach clubs affiliations, please check out our website. Do no rely on information found elsewhere on the internet. Hasta pronto from Playa del Carmen…where it’s always summertime. :)

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2013 About.com Readers Choice Awards – Go Playa del Carmen!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on February 21, 2013

About.com Finalist - Luna Blue HotelWe just found out that our little hotel is a finalist in the About.com Readers Choice Awards for Favorite Bargain Hotel in Mexico!!  Woo Hoo!   We didn’t even know we were nominated…so many thanks to whoever entered us!

And how cool is this..this year Playa del Carmen is well represented in other Mexico categories as well.

Michele Kinnon’s “Life’s a Beach” blog is a finalist in the Favorite Mexico Blog contest (her 2nd year in a row).  Michele’s longstanding blog is certainly our favorite Mexico blog…she always seems to know the coolest places to go and see, and her family is always doing interesting things.  We have no idea how someone who works so hard still finds time to enjoy Mexico and then blog about it, but it’s something we aspire to.

Mitch and Shawn with Yucatreks are battling for the title of Favorite Mexico Tour Company.  Yucatreks is a small tour company with lots of personality–small, interesting tours that people rave about.  Not those giant cookie-cutter busloads-of-tourists tours but intimate, personal and fun.

Show us all some love and let people know that our little corner of the world is the an amazing place to visit.

Click here to vote for Luna Blue Hotel for Favorite Bargain Hotel

Click here to vote for “Life’s a Beach” for Favorite Mexico Blog

Click here to vote for Yucatreks for Favorite Mexico Tour Company

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Tony & Cheri

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Tony & Cheri

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Nightmare with Expedia Continues

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 22, 2013

Quite a bit has happened since we wrote a blog last month detailing our difficulties with travel industry giant Expedia, Expedia: Bad for the Traveler, Bad for the Hotel, mostly due to the power of social media.

Tony & Cheri, Owners of the Luna Blue HotelFor starters, our story seemed to touch a lot of folks. In fact so many people liked what we had to say and shared it with others, that our blog eventually went viral. Thousands of people have read our story and many have e-mailed Expedia to complain about how we were treated.

The blog was first shared on various Facebook pages and then by internet news networks Hacker News and Reddit.com. Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge online news service interviewed us and wrote an excellent article about the situation: One Small Hotel’s Long Nightmare with Expedia.  Next came the The Daily Mail, London’s second largest newspaper, which posted an online story about Expedia’s bad behavior towards us.  And it just kept going.  Blog after blog picked up our story and shared it; people throughout the world tweeted and retweeted our story on Twitter, and it was spread all around Facebook.  Most recently we were interviewed on Blogtalk Radio by Canadian Travel Expert Deanna Byrne: David vs Goliath. Small Independent Hotel Battles Expedia.

We are overwhelmed by this amazing response and moved beyond words by the avalanche of support we have received.  To everyone who passed our story along, commented on it, and e-mailed or messaged us words of support or suggestions on how to handle this situation, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Expedia Finally Responds

As a result of this internet activity Expedia finally responded to our situation…kind of.

One common reaction to our blog was a bit of healthy skepticism.  Many people said ‘That’s terrible, but it’s only one side of the story. I want to hear from Expedia.’  So did we.  We had been waiting for a response from Expedia for months.  We never got one.  However it seems that while Expedia could and did ignore all of our e-mails and phone calls, they were less able to withstand the power of social media and the press.  Expedia finally broke its silence on our situation when contacted by Adrianne Jeffries for her story on The Verge. Of course they didn’t have much to say.

The Expedia spokesman refused to comment on our allegations and would only say that: “Expedia … can confirm Luna Blue Hotel and Expedia are no longer working together.

So Expedia says it isn’t doing business with us.  That’s great; it’s what we have been asking for for several months.  But we have just one more question:

Expedia: If we are no longer working together, WHY ARE WE LISTED ON YOUR AFFILIATE BOOKING SITES ACROSS THE INTERNET AS A PARTNER HOTEL AND WHY ARE YOU STILL TELLING PEOPLE WE HAVE NO ROOMS AVAILABLE AT ANY TIME?

Expedia still hasn’t answered that question.

Expedia by Any Other Name is Still Expedia

Photo by Tim SmithShortly after our story appeared on The Verge, and after causing several long months of damage to us, Expedia finally disabled the Luna Blue Hotel pages on the Expedia website.  At least people going to Expedia’s main pages would no longer be told we had no rooms available.  Unfortunately this is a tiny step with little consequence given the size of Expedia’s reach. Expedia STILL continues to list us on dozens of their affiliate sites throughout the internet. The on-line booking site Venere is a perfect example.

Venere is a subsidiary of Expedia.  Like Hotels.com, Hotwire and many other travel sites, it is wholly owned by Expedia and acts a booking site using Expedia’s database.

We have never contracted with Venere and never given it permission to list our property.  Yet Venere/Expedia claims it is a booking agent for our hotel.  When anyone uses Venere to check for availability they are linked back to Expedia which says we have no rooms to rent ever… and then they are directed to other more expensive hotels!  And we continue to be listed, with no availability showing,  on many sites linking to Venere/Expedia such as travelyahoo.com, cleartrip, holidaywatchdog.com, travelpod.com, tingo, reservetravel.com and many others. 

The biggest and most important site to link to Expedia/Venere’s false information is TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel website. It maintains pages about nearly every hotel in an area, including ours, upon which people can post reviews. Also on these hotel pages, TA sells space for advertisers and vendors like Expedia, Venere, Hotels.com, etc.  On our TripAdvisor page Expedia/Venere places a link or tick box which says you can check with them for availability and “best rates” at our hotel. There are two problems with that… 1.) we aren’t doing business with Expedia/Venere and 2.) when you click the link, Expedia once again falsely says we have no availability ever.

Photo by Tim SmithIn other words, anyone looking at our hotel on the largest travel website in the world will be directed to Venere/Expedia and told, falsely, that we have no rooms to rent!   And yet…Expedia says it’s no longer working with us.  To Expedia, we guess “no longer working together ” doesn’t mean that they won’t use our name to fraudulently lure people to other hotels on their site.

We recently asked TripAdvisor to remove this link, which they have temporarily done.  However they removed this link in the past at our request only to have it return shortly thereafter.  Unfortunately TA tells us they really have no control over the space they sell to Expedia. Each month Expedia resubmits its designated links to TA for posting on its pages. Although Expedia/Venere is saying they don’t do business with us, they have been continuing to advertise our hotel each month on TripAdvisor, claiming to be our booking agent.  We will see what February brings. For now, Expedia’s war on small hotels continues.

We Aren’t the Only Victims of Expedia

So as you can see, Expedia’s tiny gesture of removing us from the Expedia page does little to stop the continuing damage they are doing to us. And frankly we are not surprised by this.  Because along with the well wishes and messages of support we have received in response to our first blog, we have also been swamped with people–both consumers and those in the travel business–telling their horror stories concerning Expedia.  For some examples just take a look at the comments people have posted on our previous blog post.  Many of them relate their own nightmares with Expedia and are quite enlightening.

Photo by Tim SmithThe stories we have heard range from horrible customer service to stories similar to ours… i.e. hotels being listed as having no availability on Expedia when there are plenty of rooms open. However the one that struck us as the most outrageous was the story of Columbus, Georgia. It seems that this small town had a dispute with Expedia, demanding that Expedia pay certain taxes which were required of anyone booking hotel rooms. Expedia refused, and the city of Columbus brought a lawsuit against them.  However, Expedia wanted more than a court decision. It wanted to punish this little town and anyone who did business there. So Expedia wiped Columbus off the map by removing EVERY hotel in the town from all of its affiliated travel sites, as if the town didn’t even exist.  If you went to Expedia and looked for a hotel in the town of Columbus, you were told there weren’t any, and directed to hotels in the next town!  To embarrass the city government and bring pressure on it, Expedia attacked every hotel in that town not because the hotels had done something wrong, but because they were being used as pawns in Expedia’s ever widening attempt to control all travel bookings.  Expedia continued to hide every hotel in Columbus, Georgia from every one of its websites for over five years, until the case was finally settled.

In our opinion this example clearly shows Expedia’s corporate goal is not mere financial success but it is instead to seek complete and improper control of the travel industry market…and woe to anyone who protests or stands in its way.

What to Do?

So people continue to ask: what can be done about this? The answer is we aren’t sure. A lot of people have written and urged us to lead some sort of campaign against Expedia. But that is not our role here.  We work full time to make our hotel a success. It is a 7 day a week/24 hours a day job. We jokingly say that we are the whitest people in the Caribbean. Everyone has a better tan than we do as we never seem to have time to get to the beach. So we are not in a position to lead a crusade.  All we can do is speak out to tell people the truth about what was done to us by Expedia and help educate others about travel companies such as Expedia and its affiliates.

Photo by Tim SmithThe simplest response to Expedia’s misconduct is …don’t use them or their affiliates: Venere.com, Egencia.com, eLong.com, Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, Localexpert.com or any of the websites listed above.   Don’t book your vacation though a nameless, faceless data bank but instead talk to people who actually know about the places you want to visit.  Call the hotel or restaurant or tour operator directly.  Or call a travel agent who specializes in the type of travel or destinations you want.  We don’t suggest this just because we feel that Expedia harms small businesses such as ours.  We suggest it also because you are better off making your own decisions about your vacation than leaving them in the hands of large corporations who do not act as your advocate.

Remember: the claim that Expedia offers lower rates is not generally true.  Expedia may at times buy blocks of rooms from large hotels or hotel chains and offer them at a discounted rate.  However those hotels are unlikely to offer additional amenities or benefits as they have already tremendously discounted the rate to Expedia.  On the other hand, you may get a better deal by contacting the hotel directly.  In dealing with guests directly, hotels–particularly independent and small hotels–may be much more willing to offer discounts, upgrades, specials or promotions if you book directly.  Remember, Expedia has no ability to negotiate with you for hotel prices, special requests or amenities.  The hotel does.  Call them directly.

Don’t Start Your Research on Expedia or Related Sites

Some people say they use Expedia just to get an overview of available hotels before booking directly.  The problem with this is that Expedia ONLY lists hotels it has chosen to promote.   There will be many other fine accommodations which you will miss if you limit your search to Expedia.  If you want to do your own research, which we strongly suggest you do, check out Tripadvisor, which will list nearly every hotel available in an area, since hotels do not pay to be on those pages, and read their reviews.  Or have a reputable travel agent give you options. A travel agent will act as your advocate, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, ultimately leading to a better vacation–which is what it’s all about.

Always remember it is your vacation and your money…don’t let somebody else tell you how or where to spend it. Don’t let some mega-corporation limit your travel choices.

Some Good News

We continue to receive not only messages of support, but bookings as well. The word is getting out and people are finding they can reserve at our hotel by contacting us directly via our website, e-mail or Facebook.  2013 Travelers' Choice Award Winner - Luna Blue Hotel - Best Bargain MexicoAnd we have been contacted by several quality travel agents with whom we have begun working.  Sadly, we we are still getting way too many messages that say “I heard about the problem with Expedia too late. I booked another hotel because I thought you were full.”  So we are keeping up our efforts to tell travelers around the world…we are open and we have availability.

We are also very excited, as this week were were awarded a 2013 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for being one of the best Bargain Hotels in Mexico!  TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards have been given each year for the last 11 years to the world’s top properties.  This is the second time we have won this award, and we are very proud about that.  According to TripAdvisor, “Unlike any other hotel honors, TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice winners are based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions covering more than 650,000 hotels and collected in a single year from travelers around the world.”  Thank you to all of our guests who wrote such great reviews about us on TripAdvisor’s Luna Blue page. We remain committed to offering our guests the same high level of service and accommodations which have earned us this award. 

In closing, once again, we would like to say thank you to all who offered support and helped spread the word. We deeply appreciate it.  Now…come join us in paradise.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , | 24 Comments »

 
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