Recently, I celebrated a milestone birthday and my sisters and I thought that landmark warranted an international celebration. Indeed! Our youngest sister, ironically, has enjoyed the largest number of world-wide travels, so we left the travel arrangements to her. A few months and $900 later, I found myself on the soft sands of the Mexican Riviera, enjoying unlimited frozen cocktails alongside my two gorgeous sisters. Mary described the process as amazingly simple.
It began with a visit to Southwest Vacations online. There are many other internet travel sites that provide equal services and comparable prices, but Mary shopped first with Southwest, a name I approved of, recognized, and trusted. Booking a trip with Southwest Vacations was as easy as booking a regular US flight with them. We named our preferred dates, saw the options of marvelous destinations, chose the type of room we wanted, and combined these simple logistics with Mary’s experience. Her knowledge of Caribbean travel and all-inclusive resorts, along with consumer reviews on TripAdvisor, helped us choose our journey’s end. As she clicked through the website’s prompts, Mary even secured transportation from the airport to the resort and back again. Southwest thought of everything! All I had to do was pay for my portion of the trip and obtain a passport. Not long after, my sisters and I left Baltimore, MD on a direct flight to Cancun, Mexico. (Southwest Airlines provides international flights to many destinations from a number of American airports, but Mary lives in MD and the three of us decided to meet there and begin our journey together.)
Flying to a foreign land with a familiar airline like Southwest was a comfortable treat. The procedures and service were standard and enjoyably predictable. The flight attendants were in jolly good moods and generous, upon learning that we were celebrating a special event – with the snacks and beverages. As the four-hour flight approached its end, the crew talked us through the paperwork we each needed to complete to pass through customs without incident. We landed safely, secured our baggage without problem, and navigated through customs seamlessly. Then, the only hiccups we experienced transpired. Because our pilot has transported us so remarkably well, he actually delivered us to Cancun ahead of schedule, and unfortunately, our transportation was not ready for us. The company was expecting us, our names were on the log, and a driver was scheduled to assist us, but because our flight arrived early, we had to wait on the curb for about thirty minutes before he completed his previous run and picked us up. While this disturbed us some, we chatted with other passengers, shared travel stories, and – had we wanted one at the time – vendors provided beverages nearby. Note: Our limited Spanish proficiency did not present a problem for us as we communicated with the airport staff or shuttle service employees. Their English was good, and what Spanish we retained from high school Spanish classes decades prior was sufficient.
Soon, our driver arrived and cheerfully swooped up our bags. We scurried behind him and loaded into the vehicle. The last leg of our short journey was underway, and within about thirty minutes – all filled with friendly small talk and humorous Spanish lessons — he safely delivered us to our resort, the Iberostar Paraiso Beach. The property was beautiful. Open-air lobbies featuring large couches and plush seating welcomed us. Peacocks, swans, parrots filled the landscape with their beauty and songs. Waterways moved through the architecture, complete with beautiful fish and turtles. Generous staff members relieved us of our baggage and offered fruity cocktails in exchange. The front-desk staff greeted us with clear communication and terrific service, maps, and information about the property before connecting us quickly with the concierge, who assisted us with our meal-planning for the length of our stay.
Afterwards, he offered us opportunities to enjoy excursions off the premises, but the resort was so large and lovely, we did not feel the need to leave it. Our beach-front accommodations thrilled us from sunrise to our mid-afternoon siestas. The Caribbean views, clear water, near-by open-air food provisions, complementary snorkeling filled our days, and when we wanted a change of scenery, the enormous pools with their swim-up bars, ice cream parlors, and aquatic games kept us entertained each afternoon. Nightly we dined at fantastic restaurants and enjoyed prompt, complementary room service. If we desired, we could enjoy a live show after dinner or visit the dance club. On-site shopping was available as well.
Our first international sisters’ escape was an exceptional experience. From the easy planning to the affordability, the quality facilities to the amazing people we met, our Southwest vacation with Iberostar was an experience we will seek to repeat when the next milestone arrives.