We'd like to say a huge "thank you" to two Flighties, Breanne Wray and Saj Hossain, for sharing their recent experience with us!
Many of my friends in the industry have asked for my feedback on what it has been like to travel. To say my recent week in Riviera Maya, Mexico was amazing would be an understatement! Here’s what the experience was like.
At the Airport
The airport experience felt very much the same, even if it looked a little different. Checking in, dropping off your bag and going through security hasn't changed, except that you have your temperature checked at least twice and are asked if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 a few times.
The Plaza Premium lounges (YYZ and CUN) have done a great job with social distancing and keeping things clean. You'll need a little extra time at the lounge as there is no more self-serve and limited staff means waiting a bit longer for food and drinks.
All airport staff wear masks and some are also wearing shields. There are a number of sanitizer stations available throughout the terminal.
On the Plane
Onboard our aircraft, the flight attendants are all wearing masks and some also have a cloth cover over their uniform, which is changed between flights. The flight experience was also very much the same, except that food for purchase wasn't offered, and you are handed a bag with COVID-19 essentials and a bottle of water. If you want a meal, you have to purchase one ahead of time.
Arriving in Cancun, you can still expect to be met by a barrage of porters, tour and time share reps, taxi drivers and car rental agencies. Once you find your tour rep, they whisk you away to a quieter area to sanitize your hands and luggage. This is the first of many times you will have a giant glob of sanitizer pumped into your hands. Embrace it. Welcome it. And bring moisturizer. Your skin will thank you.
Masks. They aren't optional. It doesn't matter if you agree with the logic of wearing one. Part of travelling is abiding by the rules and customs of where you are visiting. In the state of Quintana Roo, masks are mandatory. So, you wear one while you are being driven to and from the resort, in public areas, resort carts, bathrooms, etc. Is it hot? Yes. Does that matter? No.
Dining at the Resort
At our resort, Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres, pool and beach chairs are spaced out well, as were restaurant tables. Your temperature is taken and you are asked to wash your hands before being seated indoors. Menus are entirely digital (using a QR code), eliminating a potential touchpoint for the virus. The staff are always wearing masks, even as they are walking through the property on their way to leave to go home. Every building also has a place for you to sanitize the bottom of your shoes.
Buffets as we know them are a thing of the past, which for me is a welcomed change. Staff are there to spoon the food, more evenly portioned, onto your plate for you. My hope is this results in less food waste. Due to resorts operating at a third of their max occupancy, there are fewer staff. Be prepared to be patient because there may be one staff member in charge of two stations so they have to flit between the two. And there may only be one server for two sections of tables. The same goes for pool and beach bars and cart drivers. You will have to wait a little longer than usual.
The resort was at 35% occupancy when we were there, the maximum at the time. Three of the seven restaurants were closed but they still offered special “theme” nights with the menu from closed restaurants (for example, we enjoyed Indian fare at the Mexican restaurant).
Other Resort Amenities
The spa and gym were open, but you had to make a reservation in order to enter both. Pools were all open and daytime activities were offered (water aerobics for example). Nightly entertainment was also available with seats spaced well apart in an outdoor area.
Our Experience Overall
We felt safe and think travelling is worth spending 14 days in quarantine. We are planning one of our exploratory trips further afield (Europe, Asia) for next year already as airlines and tour operators have more flexible rules in case governments make changes to their restrictions.
The benefit of travelling and going to an all-inclusive right now is that you will feel like you have the resort almost completely to yourself. No more fighting for pool or beach chairs, restaurant reservations are easy to make, it feels very clean, and the staff are so very appreciative that you are there, because they depend on this industry to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. Your travel agent and the entire industry behind them will also thank you.