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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Posts Tagged ‘safety in playa del carmen’

Ch..Ch..Changes at the Luna Blue Hotel

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 24, 2011

The New Luna Blue Hotel Swimming PoolLuna Blue, one of Playa’s oldest boutique hotels, is now one of it’s newest. We’ve recently made some changes that you’re going to like, and we’re excited about them.

Some might say, “why mess with a good thing?” After all, we’ve won our share of awards and accolades over the years, we have a 93% positive rating from TripAdvisor, and most of our guests return again and again.

The truth is: we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We think there is always room for improvement in any endeavor. So we’ve spent the last several months making the Luna Blue even better. We’re hoping our guests enjoy the changes as much as we’ve enjoyed making them.

Our Newest Addition ~ a Tropical Lagoon Swimming Pool

The New Luna Blue Hotel Swimming PoolFor years we talked about whether or not to put in a swimming pool. This year we finally did it. And is it ever a beauty!

We placed our new pool in the sunken garden portion of our property just beneath the deck where our bar sits. The pool nestles against the garden’s tropical waterfall and is overhung with palm trees which help shade the water from the heat of the afternoon sun.

There are patios at either end of the pool for lounging, sitting and sunbathing. And of course when the bar is open, Jorge will be glad to bring you one of our famous margaritas to sip poolside. Just ring the bell.

We think the pool will be a perfect place to sit beside and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning…to cool off after a hot day…or for a romantic twilight dip. The pool will also be the setting for occasional pool parties and afternoon barbeques.

We think everyone–local visitors and guests alike–will enjoy the new pool scene at the Luna Blue.

Starting the Day is Easier at the Luna Blue

Morning Breakfast SnackNot everyone has time for a leisurely breakfast. Some folks want to start the day quickly as they head on out to scuba lessons, a tour of Chichén Itzá or just to get the best spot on the beach. For them our new breakfast counter is perfect. Coffee or tea and some of our locally baked sweet breads offer a quick snack on the go as they head out the hotel gate to enjoy Playa del Carmen.

Or if you want to start the day a little more slowly (and after all you are on vacation), then take some of our Chiapas mountain grown coffee and a piece of coconut, orange, Mexican chocolate, carrot or banana bread down into the garden to sit where the orchids bloom and the birds serenade you.

Fast or slow, whatever your pace in the morning, you are going to enjoy starting the day at the Luna Blue.

The Essence of the Tropics

New organic bath products at the Luna Blue HotelWe have searched for a number of years for the best bath products. We have always wanted something that was as uniquely tropical as our hotel is. Recently we found what we have been looking for.

It is a special line of new handpicked environmentally-safe organic bath products. We have chosen the flavors and scents we think best represent the Caribbean/Mexican ambiance of Playa del Carmen: Honey, Mexican Chocolate and Coconut.

You will find our new body lotions, shampoos, conditioners and soaps waiting in your room. We are so pleased with the quality of these products we have proudly put our name on each one. Luna Blue Bath products…the essence of the tropics.

Changes Inside and Out

Outside, we have redone the reception area with new stone patterned tile and we have filled the garden with new plants. We have even started growing some beautiful orchids which are attached to the trees in our garden. We also have some new hard wood Adirondack chairs and tables handmade by our favorite local carpenter, Lucio.

Inside, you will find new paint and new art. And to help insure a peaceful night’s sleep in paradise we have placed Sealy Posturepedic brand hypoallergenic cushion top mattress covers on all our beds.

It’s All About the Beach

Beach Club at Grand CoralThe number one reason people come to Playa del Carmen is for the blue water and white sand of its beaches. Our beaches have been called the best, the prettiest and the sexiest beaches in the world.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy the beaches of Playa del Carmen is by spending the day at one of the beach clubs which dot the shore. At a beach club you can find food, drinks, restrooms, showers and all sorts of amenities to make your day on the sand a perfect one.

At the Luna Blue we now offer access to FOUR of Playa’s most popular beach clubs to help you get the most out of your vacation. Our guests have special privileges at Mamita’s Beach Club, Indigo Beach Club and Wicky’s Beach Club.

Our newest addition is the Beach Club at the Grand Coral (formerly Blucacao Beach Club). With an excellent restaurant and bar, two swimming pools and a beautiful section of unspoiled beach, this beach club should be on everyone’s “must do” list. And our guests have free use of the facilities.

Why limit yourself to some resort that offers only one beach club when you can have your pick of four of the best?

Still the Best Deal in Town

Don’t think that just because we have made some improvements our rooms will cost more. Our prices have actually gone down this fall!

Right now rooms are as low as $49 per night through October 31, 2011.

And with our advance prepayment rate, you can SAVE 10% on bookings for this coming winter and spring.

We still offer a full range of room types from our cozy budget-minded Courtyard Nook rooms to our full studio Garden View Deluxe rooms with kitchen. Every room has a private bath, daily maid service, unlimited bottled drinking water, outdoor terrace or balcony and air conditioning. Most rooms have refrigerators.

You can’t beat the Luna Blue Hotel’s combination of quality accommodations, great service and low prices.

Some Things Never Change

Great Destinations Guidebooks has said the Luna Blue Hotel “has a lost in time quality that’s not easy to find in a modern resort.” That hasn’t changed. We are still an oasis of tranquility in the midst of Playa del Carmen’s busy tourist zone.

We have made many improvements to the Luna Blue Hotel, but the things our guests have always loved the most have not changed. We still have the best location, only a few steps from the shops, restaurants and bars of 5th Avenue. We are still a quiet garden hideaway. We still have one of the most popular bars in town. We still provide the personal service of a small, friendly, English-speaking staff. Playa is still safe and secure. For those of you who have concerns about safety in Playa del Carmen, please refer to our recent blog entry, Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen 2011: The Truth. At the Luna Blue, we are still your doorway into the beauty of tropical Mexico.

Friendly, comfortable, intimate and unique. That is the way Playa del Carmen used to be…and still is…at the Luna Blue Hotel and Bar.

Posted in Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Nibble Your Way Through Mexico…at Taste of Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 16, 2010

Sex on the BarHow would you like to eat and drink at dozens of different restaurants and bars…all in one afternoon? No, you don’t have to race around town from place to place ordering meals and beverages until you burst. Instead, you can spend the day enjoying the special tasting menus offered by 40 restaurants and bars at the 2010 Taste of Playa food and drink festival.

The Taste of Playa
This year’s annual Taste of Playa culinary festival has gathered together some of the most popular and critically acclaimed eateries and bars in all the Riviera Maya. From 3-9 pm this coming Sunday, November 21, 2010, they will be offering incredible samples of some of their signature dishes and drinks to the hungry public. This year among those offering a taste of their best will be our own Luna Blue Bar!

As most regular readers of our blog know, in addition to operating one of the Mayan Rivera’s favorite hotels, we also run our own little bit of “Margaritaville”-style paradise called the Luna Blue Bar. We designed “The Blue” (as we affectionately call it) to reflect our dream of what a tropical bar should be.

The Luna Blue Hotel Bar
We have swings instead of stools around the bar, a palm-thatched roof overhead and a deck overlooking our cenote/waterfall garden. We have local musicians play in the bar a couple of nights a week, and play satellite radio (Caliente Latin, Reggae and Radio Margaritaville) the rest of the time. Occasionally we will have fresh bunches of bananas and coconuts from our garden piled up for people to enjoy. And hanging from the rafters are dozens of thongs and g-strings…traded by lady visitors for a shot of tequila and the chance to leave a little of themselves behind at “The Blue.” It makes quite the sight.

Like any great tropical bar we have our own versions of some of the most popular “umbrella drinks”…like Papa T’s Margarita and the Playa Colada. We also have our own special recipes that stand out as something unique and different. We will be offering tastes of two of the most popular of those signature drinks this Sunday at Taste of Playa: The “Sarita-B-Careful” margarita and the “Sex on the Bar” cocktail.

The Sarita B Careful Margarita
When we first moved to Mexico and met our dear friend (more like a daughter) Sarah, she would entertain us with her stories of partying late into the night and dancing on the bars around town. The only problem was that after a drink or two our girl would be too tipsy to keep her balance and would invariably tumble off the bar with resulting scrapes and bruises. We were always telling her…”Sarita, be careful!”

We remembered those stories when we came up with our very first signature drink and decided to name it in honor of our sweet but clumsy friend. The Sarita B Careful is a sugar rimmed margarita on the rocks featuring pomegranate infused tequila. It is tart, with just the perfect balance of sweetness. Sarah, by the way, has retired from bar dancing, is happily married to a wonderful guy and has a beautiful new daughter. If you come to the Taste of Playa this Sunday you can taste the drink named for her.

Sex on the Bar–the cocktail
When our bartender Jorge first came up with this new drink recipe, we had some taste testing at the bar to see what people thought. Everyone raved about it, and one guest laughingly proclaimed, “This is better than sex!” With that kind of inspiration, it didn’t take us long to come up with a name. The drink is as good as the name promises… a combination of sweet tropical fruit juices, hibiscus flower-infused tequila, and almond-flavored liqueur. It may not be better than sex…but it’s darn close.

When we thought about how to promote this “sexy” drink, our good friend Renata came to mind. Renata is often a featured guest at our holiday parties where she appears in brightly colored bikinis to help serve drinks, hand out gifts and pose for pictures. She is always a hit with the crowd. So we asked her to help us advertise our new cocktail. The result is a series of “Sex on the Bar” posters which will be available for purchase at our Taste of Playa booth. Stop by for a taste, and then take a little “Sex on the Bar” home with you.

The 2010 Taste of Playa is a not-to-be-missed event and will be held at Parque Fundadores (5th Avenue and Juarez) between 3 pm and 9 pm on Sunday November 21. VIP pass holders will be allowed entrance at 2 pm. “Playa Pesos” will be on sale at the event for 10 pesos each and will be used to purchase “tastes” from each restaurant and bar, with most costing either 1 or 2 Playa Pesos. You will be amazed at the array of foods and drinks which will be offered for tasting. And make sure to stop by the Luna Blue Bar booth to say hi and try one of our special cocktails. See you there!

A special note: Yesterday morning there was a terrible incident here in Playa when a gas explosion at a large resort outside of town killed several people and injured several more. At this time authorities are investigating possible causes, including the build up of natural gas under the building or perhaps a faulty gas tank. Many people who love Playa are already offering condolences and prayers to those, both visitors and locals, who were victims of this event.

Sadly, some people are using this tragedy as an excuse to once again denigrate Mexico and warn people not to visit here. Such comments now circulating around the internet are simply the result of ignorance and/or bigotry. We urge you to condemn such stupid remarks and to join us in offering our prayers and best wishes to the victims and there families. All of us in Playa are greatly saddened by this tragic accident. We hope the injured recover quickly and that the families of those who died will find some peace.

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

Mexico: Safety, Health and Money

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 28, 2009

Ahhh....the gorgeous blue water of the CaribbeanHere at the Luna Blue Hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico we like many in the tourist business are wondering if 2010 will see a return of visitors to the Yucatan, or whether the fears that scared many people away from this part of the Caribbean earlier this year will continue. We know for sure that some people still have questions about crime and illness in Mexico…we see it in the statistics from visits to our blog where entries written months ago about safety issues are still the most read and sought out. And we hear it from people in the US when we travel there…”You live in Mexico? Aren’t you afraid?”

No, we are not afraid to live here. We continue to love our life here and enjoy running one of the area’s most popular small hotels. And we are not afraid to recommend this part of paradise as a travel destination whether with us or at one of the other fine resorts or hotels in Playa. And so we are going to end this year by once again talking about safety in Playa Del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera.

Crime

Mexico’s government is in a battle with drug dealers. That battle is sometimes very violent, and some innocent people have been hurt and killed. But the battle being fought (and won) by the Mexican government is NOT taking place anywhere near the tourist areas of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, the Caribbean coast which stretches from Cancun to Tulum. The violence which erupts between drug dealers and the police is primarily centered on the border of Mexico and the southwest United States. It is over this border that guns are smuggled to Mexico and drugs are smuggled to the US. The competition over these smuggling routes between drug dealers and the disruption of those routes by law enforcement has caused much of the violence which is so sensationally reported by the media.

Imagine yourself on this beach...However, the Yucatan resort coast of Mexico has not experienced this type of drug-related warfare. We always remind people that Mexico is similar in many ways to the US. It is a huge country with borders on two oceans. It is divided into many separate states with sovereign governments under a single federal structure. Its people are diverse with different racial backgrounds, economic classes and cultural histories. Like the US it is difficult to pick one part of Mexico and claim it is representative of the whole country and people. Yet often the media of the US and Canada do exactly that, portraying Mexico as a solitary existence where drug dealers and banditos rule the country. While this may sell newspapers and cause people to stay tuned to the channel, it is simply not true.

According to the US State Department, the violence brought about by the drug cartels is centered in Ciudad Juarez, which sits on the northern border of Mexico across from El Paso, Texas. The distance from Ciudad Juarez to Playa del Carmen is approximately 2300 miles. This is about three times the distance from Chicago to New York, around twice the distance from New York to Miami and about the same distance as Los Angeles to Pittsburgh. And while there are travel warnings from the State Department regarding travel in the Mexican border areas with parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, there are NO TRAVEL WARNINGS for the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

We ask again as we have before on this blog: would you cancel your trip to Disneyworld in Orlando because of a crime wave in New York? Would you avoid vacationing in Los Angles because of drug problems in Pittsburgh? We think most people would say “no, of course not.” Yet those who use the drug crimes of central Mexico to say the Mayan Riviera is unsafe are doing that exact type of thing. They are painting all of Mexico with a single brush, and that is unfair and untrue.

Of course our little section of paradise has problems with crime just as every city in the world does. But as the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council 2009 report found, “The Yucatan Peninsula has not suffered the same level of escalating violence seen in other parts of Mexico.” And if you find safety in numbers, remember that the State Department says that over 3 million Americans (and countless more Canadians, Europeans and South Americans) visit Cancun every year. The vast, vast majority of these tourists will never suffer anything more dangerous than sunburn.

Traveling to a foreign country always involves some risk. Using common sense about how you behave, where you go and how much you drink usually lessens those risks considerably. Travel to Playa del Carmen is no different and no more dangerous than travel to any large city in the US.


Health

The beach in Playa del Carmen, MexicoThe single most devastating blow to Mexico’s tourism in the Yucatan this year was undoubtedly the swine flu/H1N1 scare. We say “scare” because the flu itself was never a problem in this part of the world. The real problem was the hysterical reaction of the media and the internet community.

When the swine flu epidemic hit Mexico City, the Mexican government and health workers responded in the best way possible. They announced it was happening, took immediate steps to isolate it and invited in international health organizations to monitor and investigate. Mexico’s reward for such exemplary behavior was to be publicly chastised as a “Typhoid Mary” among nations.

Bureaucrats and politicians trying to look important joined forces with a sensationalizing media and an internet full of self-appointed guardians of the public health to basically call for a boycott of Mexico. By the time it became apparent that the flu was present everywhere in the world and was milder than the seasonal winter influenza with a much lower fatality rate, the damage to Mexico’s tourist industry had already been done.

However, in the end, we did learn some important things. We learned that Mexico has a modern health care system which was ready and able to meet a medical crisis. We learned that Mexico has a policy of transparency when sharing information and seeking assistance. And while the swine flu never reached epidemic proportions here in the Yucatan, we saw doctors, hospitals and government offices were on alert and ready to deal with any problem that arose.

However even with this crisis now passed, there are those who are still concerned about medical care in Mexico. To those folks, we can say that Playa has a number of excellent medical facilities including the Red Cross hospital, the ultra-modern Hospiten hospital, and numerous emergency care facilities. We can also say that we personally have found the health care here to be of the highest order. For example, Dr. Eduardo Rovirosa, who is our family doctor and is on call for guests at our hotel, has seen us through any number of illnesses over the years, and we know him to be the equivalent of any physician in the US n terms of skill, training, and dedication. We think he is typical of the medical community in Playa.

Being ill on vacation can be a scary experience, particularly when you are in a foreign country. Rest assured that competent modern care is available in Playa del Carmen should you ever need it.


Why Mexico?

Along with fears of crime and rumors about exotic illnesses, another reason people think they should avoid Mexico is the economy. The “staycation’ media blitz by the US hospitality industry has pushed the idea that it is cheaper to stay home in the US for vacations this year. We have already spoken about the safety issue…now let’s talk about money. What does your dollar buy you on vacation in Mexico?

Isn't this better than a snowbank?The peso/dollar conversion rate reached an all-time high this year when it skyrocketed to 15 to 1 against the dollar. The current conversion is still around 13 to 1. With the current conversion rate, a dollar spent at home in the US is worth only a dollar, while in Mexico it is worth a third more! And not only is the dollar worth more, but there are also deals to be had. With the drop in visitors this year many hotels, restaurants, and tours are offering discounts and deals that will carry over into 2010.

As a result of the tourist-friendly economy here, Mexico and the Mayan Riviera are ending up on more and more top ten lists for travelers concerned about cost. Budget Travel magazine and US News and World Report’s Money section are just two of the national publications recommending Mexico as a money-saving travel destination in the coming year.

Of course, it’s not just the savings that are attracting visitors. Mexico’s Caribbean coast remains one of the most beautiful places on earth. Recognizing this fact, the 2009 Travel Leaders Company’s annual survey of travel agents in the US yielded the surprising results of having four Mexico destinations in the top ten places for Americans to vacation. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the Mayan Riviera and cruises to Mexico were all on the list.

To top off the year the prestigious Times of London named our own Playa del Carmen the number one destination for a tropical beach vacation in the entire world! It’s hard to see how a “staycation” at home buried in a snow bank is just as good as laying on the white sand of the world’s best beach. We say forget the “staycation” and go for the “playcation”…or better yet a “Playacation!”

The facts seem pretty clear…Mexico is not only safe, it is a world-class travel destination with great value for your dollar. We hope we have cleared up some misconceptions about Mexico, and have made you think for just a moment about visiting a true tropical paradise…our home, Playa del Carmen.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

Posted in Living the Dream, News & Politics, Safety in Mexico, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Playa is Open for Business…Still No Flu in Sight

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 1, 2009

The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of activity in Playa del Carmen. Rumors have run rampant here and on the internet and have covered the gamut of possibilities. Some of the rumors had all of the businesses on Fifth Avenue being shut down, others had bars being closed, and some had the entire city–including government offices and private businesses–being shuttered for the next week. As a result, we were inundated by inquiries by telephone and email asking whether it was true that Playa was now a ghost town, closed down because of the swine flu. The answer is a resounding NO. NOT NOW, NOT NEXT WEEK.

We’ve said it before and we’re going to say it one more time: THERE HAVE BEEN NO REPORTED CASES OF SWINE FLU IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN, THE STATE OF QUINTANA ROO, OR EVEN THE YUCATAN PENINSULA. While the government is taking rational and reasonable steps to prevent any outbreak of H1N1 (swine) flu, life continues to go on in this beautiful Caribbean town as it does every spring. There are tourists in the streets, the restaurants and bars are open, and the beaches are full of vacationers.

Once again, we want to make the point that we understand people’s concerns during this medical situation. We’re sympathetic when people say they don’t want to travel to any place in Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico City. Our response is pretty simple: are you traveling in the United States? There are now more reported swine flu cases in the US over a greater geographical area than there are in Mexico. Yet the Centers for Disease Control still advises avoiding nonessential travel to any part of Mexico, even those where the outbreak has never touched. Yet they offer no advisories against travel between states where there are swine flu cases confirmed. We think the reason for this has more to do with politics than health concerns. But regardless, we still stand by what the World Health Organization is saying: that travel restrictions will not affect the spread of this disease. So we are telling anyone who asks that Playa is indeed open for business, free of any sign of the swine flu and that people should ignore the rumors.

To make the point that it is business as usual in Playa, we contacted government officials, ecoparks, local restaurants, beach clubs, and stores to confirm what was open and what was not. Here’s what we found:

ECOPARKS – Xcaret and Xel-Ha are open, despite rumors to the contrary.

SUPERMARKETS – Walmart, Mega, Sam’s, Chedraui, San Francisco, etc. are all open.

RESTAURANTS – Walking 5th Avenue we’ve seen no restaurants closed. The same is true for the rest of Playa. All of our favorites are open, including Babe’s, Antica, El Fogon, HC de Monterrey and La Pesca. We didn’t see a single restaurant closed.

BANKS – All of them are open. They will close tomorrow for the national holiday of Labor Day but will be open again on Saturday and/or Monday, depending on the specific bank’s normal banking days.

BARS – All bars are open, including the world-famous Luna Blue Bar. 🙂 And don’t forget, if you are going to be in Playa del Carmen on May 5, we’re having the biggest, the best and probably the only CINCO DE MAYO PARTY in town. Live music, Tony’s cheeseburgers, girls in bikinis and Lenny the Wonder Dog. Please stop by and say hello.

BEACH CLUBS – In North Beach we went down to check and saw that Mamita’s, Kool and Blucacao were all open and operating with normal capacity crowds. We checked with our friend Jez who runs Zenzi Beach Club in central Playa and he tells us they were full and the rest of the beach was open with normal business.

NIGHT CLUBS – The clubs that have been closed temporarily are those with the capacity of over 1,000. This includes Dubai, Coco Bongo and Mambo Cafe. Santanera’s indoor facility has been temporarily closed, but its beautiful outdoor terrace is open for business. Other clubs are open for business as usual.

TOURS – All of our tour operators are open and operating. We have heard of no closures.

Government offices will be closed tomorrow for the national holiday. Schools will remain closed through next Wednesday. The archaeological zones (Tulum, Cobá and Chichen Itza, etc.) will be closed until further notice.

The point of all of this is to reassure people that if they are coming to Playa del Carmen, they will find the resort facilities and businesses open and welcoming. And you won’t be alone if you do come. While we certainly have had some cancellations, we have also had a lot of reservations. A number of guests with existing reservations have emailed us to tell us of their intention to keep them. And, regarding the CDC’s suggestion that non-essential travel to Mexico be avoided, one person emailed us with the comment that his upcoming vacation was “essential” to his sanity. 🙂

Of course, we are hearing from people that they are afraid to come based upon the continuing reports in the news media. We’re puzzled by the fact that Mexico alone is singled out as a place to avoid, rather than New York, California, Canada, and numerous other cities, states and countries where this flu has surfaced. It appears that once more, poor Mexico is being used as the whipping boy by other countries and cultures. We’re going to blog about that more in the future. All we can say is that if you are refusing to travel to Mexico because of swine flu, you should be refusing to travel anywhere because the virus exists all around the world at this point. The good news is that it still does not appear to have a high fatality rate or be a particularly destructive virus. To read more about the swine flu, we suggest this Los Angeles Times article: Scientists See this Flu Strain as Relatively Mild.

We will be blogging more about Playa and the effects that this unfair travel ban has had on it over the next couple of days. Right now we’re just going to offer some pictures of our adopted home to show you what it looks like as of today. Before we do that, one personal note: We’ve removed a certain individual’s comments from our blog twice now. We did so because we thought the comments were exactly the type of irresponsible statements about swine flu that we’ve been reading all over the internet and seeing all over the television and have been trying to counter balance. There are plenty of public forums on the internet where anyone with this individual’s views can set forth whatever claims he or she wants, regardless of their veracity. But this is our blog, and it is not available for abuse by others. We intend to keep it a place for rational and factual information during this circumstance. We hope our regular readers understand and approve.

Now, here are some photos to illustrate that Playa is open for business and being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike:

The parking lot at the supposedly empty and closed Playa del Carmen Walmart

Looking inside the Playa del Carmen Walmart

The checkout stand at Walmart. Yes, it was crowded enough we had to wait.

Fifth Avenue showing tourists moving from shop to shop and restaurant to restaurant

Another view of tourists on Fifth Avenue

Playa Norte in front of the Kool and Mamita’s beach clubs

Another view of Playa Norte

More Playa Norte

Finally, for you guys out there who cancelled your vacation that was supposed to start in Playa del Carmen today, here’s a little taste of what you missed:

By the way, while we were writing this, we heard Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown interview Dr. Roy Gulick, Chief of Infectious Diseases at New York Presbyterian Hospital, who said that at this point the swine flu seems to be no more dangerous than the standard influenza that we see each year. Is it time to start talking about overreaction???

For a link to other other blog entry on this topic, click here.

Posted in News & Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Playa del Carmen, Is it Safe?? Part II…the Swine Flu

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 28, 2009

We thought it time we said something about the swine flu in Mexico. First let’s deal with the current situation in Playa del Carmen as we know it.

As of this morning there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Playa del Carmen or in the larger area of Quintana Roo, the state in which Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum reside. In fact, to our knowledge, there have been no reported cases of swine flu in the entire Yucatan peninsula, comprising the eastern portion of the country of Mexico. This somewhat contradicts the statement of a so-called medical expert on MSNBC TV last night who proclaimed with wild eyes that the virus had “spread through the entire country of Mexico.”

Playa del Carmen itself is calm, except for the kids who seem to be everywhere today. Mexico in its wisdom has closed all of the schools nationwide until next Wednesday. As a result, the kids have a holiday and are making the best use of it. Kinda like snow days we remember from our own childhood. 🙂

There are no other closings or restrictions to our knowledge. Stores and restaurants, clubs and tours, business offices and government buildings are all open for business. We haven’t seen anyone wearing a mask. There is no sense of hysteria or even anxiety about this. The main concern is how the economy will react to the sudden drop in tourism, since so many people earn their living from that industry.

We were disappointed to see the travel advisory put out by the Centers for Disease Control suggesting that non-essential travel to Mexico be curtailed. We appreciate the CDC and Homeland Security are doing their jobs, and we applaud them for it. However, the travel restriction seems to have more political foundation than health concern. There is an advisory against traveling anywhere in Mexico, not just the areas which have reported cases of swine flu, which is primarily Mexico City. While the US government is advising individuals not to travel to Mexico, there are no advisories against travel witihin the US, despite the fact that there are a number of swine flu cases there over a broader geographical area. And of course, when India, China and the European Union advises its citizens not to travel to the US, our government responds” ‘that’s not necessary.’ As we say, there is a lot of political emphasis here as the different countries weigh in on this issue.

Above the fray of nationalized attitudes, the World Health Organization has taken a different tact. The World Health Organization says that restriction on travel will have absolutely no affect whatsoever in controlling or eliminating this disease. According to the most recent WHO travel updates on swine flu, “WHO does not recommend to restrict international travel. As usual, it is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention.”

Concern in this situation is legitimate and a natural response, but hysteria is not, and hysteria seems to be building, primarily through an overabundance of sensationalized news coverage. There is a difference between reporting the facts and creating a sense of overwhelming danger and impending doom. The other night FOX News led its evening broadcast with a split screen showing Mexico City on one side and the disaster movie Outbreak on the other!

But FOX is not alone in its overhype of this situation as a medical disaster. And that’s not just our opinion. “Of course we’re doing too much to scare people,” said Mark Feldstein, a former correspondent for NBC, ABC and CNN who teaches journalism at George Washington University. “Cable news has 24 hours to fill, and there isn’t 24 hours of exciting news going on. If you scare people, they’ll tune in more.” This quote comes from an excellent article by Howard Kurtz in today’s Washington Post. You can find it here.

Another good article can be found on MSNBC.com from David Whelan of Forbes.com. Mr. Whelan makes the point: “Hysteria and exotic-sounding disease outbreaks go hand in hand. Whether it’s anthrax, mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu or, going back to the 1990s, ebola—news of an outbreak generates fear that’s disproportionate to the risk of catching the disease. In each of these cases deaths, if they occurred at all, were minimal.” He also goes on to say, “…in every year this decade—between 30,000 and 50,000 American deaths were recorded from complications related to the seasonal flu. Another 40,000 people died in automobile accidents. And each year, gunshot wounds account for 30,000 deaths, around 4,000 people drown while swimming or boating and 60 people die from lightning strikes.”

This is not to say that people should not be concerned. They should. This is a health issue they should pay attention to. But at this point in time, we have a virus that has been reported in only 65 people in the US (according to the CDC official report) . There have been no fatalities and only one hospitalization, and all seem to be on the road to recovery. There have been deaths in Mexico City, but only 20 have been conclusively linked to swine flu at this time. In a city of 22 million.

So we are suggesting some perspective and some calm. If you’re worried and don’t wish to travel at this time, that is obviously your choice. If you are canceling an existing reservation with a hotel, an airline or a travel agent, you should contact them immediately to see what your options are. Truthfully, most will tell you that you have no options and will forfeit your deposit. The reason for that is simple. They have no more control over medical circumstances and governmental advisories than you do. Trust us, your cancellation will cost them much more money than your forfeited deposit will cost you. They will still have to pay their employees, pay their overhead expenses and try and continue their business. We know this from personal experience. However, it never hurts to ask, and some businesses in the travel industry are creating some alternative plans for people who are wishing to change or delay their travel. Of course, this is another reason we always recommend people purchase travel insurance.

At our own Luna Blue Hotel, we have had some cancellations, some delays, and a number of new reservations for the upcoming weeks. We are certainly not in a position to tell people they should or should not travel during this time. But we are informing people that in our opinion travel to Playa del Carmen is safe, and we continue to accept and honor reservations. We’re trying to be understanding of our guests’ situations at this time, and so we have modified our cancellation policy to allow guests to change their reservations if they want to come later in the summer.

If you’re planning a trip to Playa del Carmen now or in the near future, we hope this has been of some help. Despite all the hype and fear, the Caribbean Sea is still a beautiful blue, and the skies are sunny. And if you are going to be in town the 5th of May, don’t miss our blowout Cinco de Mayo party at the Luna Blue Bar.

For more recent information on this topic, Playa is Open for Business…Still No Flu in Sight.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

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