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February 7, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                          Cancun, Mexcio
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Buenos dias from Mexico! This week we travel to a destination where over three million Americans travel to each year: Cancun! I was invited on a special trip for Club Medís re-opening party after Hurricane Wilma devastated the region a year and a half ago. Youíll be impressed to see how our Southern neighbors have made lemonade out of lemons. If you want to see the new, improved Cancun, bring your bathing suit and dancing shoes -- itís party time! Donít worry if youíre in a hurry or have ADD; thereís a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this weekís story. Also, our good friend Debbie Cloyed (from "The Amazing Race") found a great getaway for coastal Southern California residents when she drove two hours inland to Temecula Valley for a fun and relaxing weekend; check out her story.

MIAMI AIRPORT
Last week we left off in Coconut Grove, Florida (hereís the link to the archives). My taxi driver dropped me off at Concourse C, underneath the American Airlines sign for passengers bound for Canada, Ecuador, Haiti and Mexico. TIP: Miami International Airport is huge. If youíre flying American Airlines Ė the primary carrier -- be sure to tell your driver where youíre flying to, so he can drop you off at the right spot. Americanís check-in line for economy class moved much faster than the first class/elite AAdvantage membersí line. I moved over as soon as I realized this. It should be the other way around, but Iím just giving all you elite flyers the heads-up. At security, the TSA here makes most passengers step into new puffer machines. Theyíre really loud, as they quickly blow air on you to check for explosives. Once I cleared, it was time to get food. I was starving, and knew I would not get a meal on the plane. There were only a few choices, so I settled for a $5.85 hot Cuban sandwich (roast pork, ham, cheese and pickles) for breakfast.

CANCUN AIRPORT
Flight time to Cancun was only an hour and 20 minutes Ė who knew Cancun was so close? To expedite the Mexican immigration process, be sure to fill out the bottom of the passport/customs form that everyone seems to leave blank. I saw so many passengers not allowed in the immigration line until the entire form was filled out Ė talk about wasting valuable beach time! After getting checked baggage, thereís one more hurdle: customs. Here a Mexican official points to a button linked to a street light, which randomly decides if your belongings will be searched. Itís almost like a game. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the green "pase" light illuminated. Si!

GETTING AROUND
If youíre getting picked up by your hotel, just keep walking. Ignore the screaming salespeople behind the Tours Information or Travel Advisors booths. And if you donít need help with baggage, just say "no gracias" in stride to the army of blue-shirted porters. I walked all the way until I saw a man holding up a Club Med sign. After checking in with him, your vacation officially begins. For starters, they hand you a cold towel and bottle of water from a cooler. Then itís a 15-minute ride to the resort. If you stay at a different hotel, a taxi costs around $20. Shuttle vans are $9. I donít recommend renting a car because traffic is bad, parking is expensive, and if you want to see Mayan ruins the hotels have daily excursions. If you want to go into town, a bus operates frequently for just 7 pesos (65 cents). TIP: The driver will make change, but you need to pay in pesos.

FYI: If you donít book your air through Club Med, Club Med charges an additional 460 pesos ($46) for roundtrip transfer.

MEXICAN PESOS
1 USD = 10.98 pesos (itís easiest just to divide all prices by 10). Most people and stores take US dollars, but some give change in pesos. If you stay at Club Med, you donít even need to change money. I didnít.

CANCUN
Cancun is located at the southernmost tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo. Cancun is 131 miles west of Cuba, and 640 miles south of New Orleans. It is divided into two sections. The Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) is on a 17-mile-long island, on which hotels are piled almost on top of each other. El Centro (Cancun City/Downtown) is where most of the Mexicans live.

SNAKES: Cancun means "snakes nest" in the Mayan language. I assume the area used to be crawling with these creatures, but I donít think that's the case any more. I didnít see any, or hear of anyone spotting one.

POST HURRICANE
In October 2005 Hurricane Wilma destroyed 95 percent of this sunny Caribbean coast. The 145-m.p.h. winds of this Class 4 hurricane sat atop this area for three days. Amazingly no one died, but the hotels were totaled and the east-facing beaches washed away. Wilma caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, but the Mexican government made sure Cancun bounced back quickly. After all, it brings in a third of Mexican tourist revenue, amounting to 15 percent of Mexico's total revenue. Apart from the few trees you see down driving from the airport, it is difficult to know there was a catastrophe. The beaches have been replenished with more than three million tons of sand, which in some areas doubled the beach size. The area's 100 hotels (totaling over 26,000 rooms) took advantage of the opportunity to remodel and upgrade their facilities. Now Cancun is better than ever. Itís more sophisticated and more luxurious. It looks like college partiers might get the shaft, though, because hotels now cater more toward convention-goers and high-end travelers.

THE SAND: I heard that a Belgian dredging company was brought in to pump sand off the ocean floor to restore the beaches. Unfortunately, in many places the composition of the sand has changed. Itís not the soft, powdery stuff it used to be. Instead itís grainy, with shell fragments and broken coral. Ouch!



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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

Collage Of Trip

 

Miami Airport

 

Hot Cuban Sandwich

 

Going To Cancun

 

Plane To Mexico

 

Club Med Baby!

 

Cold Towel Anyone?

 

Drive To Resort

 

What Cancun Used To Look Like

 

Funny Cancun T-Shirt

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