Cancun – 10th June 2018

June 10th 2018

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I’m currently staying at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun resort in Punta Cancun.
I’ve only been here 5 hours and I’m already ready to write a post about how fabulous this resort is!! (And no I’m not getting paid to say that)

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I’m actually here for work, for what Travel agents call a ‘FAM trip’ or a ‘Famil’
Basically we head off to these wonderful cities somewhere around the world and experience the destination so we can then sell it to our clients. This might mean we experience a certain hotel chain (eg Playa Resorts), tour (eg, Top deck or Contiki) or a cruise.
If you’re picked for a FAM, it’s an awesome way to test out a product before you sell it – not to mention you only pay a a couple of hundred dollars or nothing at all to experience an awesome short vacation.

Since moving to Canada, I’ve seen how much of a market there is for travel to Central America and I really struggle to sell Cancun or anywhere in Mexico because I’ve never been before! Coming from NZ, it’s not really a popular destination as it’s so far away for us to travel to.
However, Canadians love an all-inclusive resort!

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If you’re reading this from New Zealand you may ask yourself, what is an all inclusive??It’s basically a package (usually to Mexico or the Caribbean) where your flights, transfers, accommodation, all your food & drinks, nightly entertainment and activities are included in one set price.
You can buy these all-inclusive packages online or through a travel agent (such as myself)
Most resorts in Mexico are ‘all inclusive’. Depending on where you stay, you can experience the best all-you -can-eat food and drink all the while relaxing in the pool or at the beach.

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I have been absolutely spoilt and have started off my FAM at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun which is a 5-star all-inclusive luxury resort situated on the beautiful white sanded beach of Cancun. The resort has beautiful spacious rooms, 17 restaurants, lounges and bars and 3 infinity pools overlooking the ocean. *heaven*

Let me take you back from the beginning of my exciting day….
This morning I woke up to the bright early time of 5am. I had a flight to catch at 8:30am so I had to be at the airport 2 hours beforehand.
After quickly repacking my stuff into a bigger suitcase (I had originally just packed a carry-on bag the night before) my lovely boyfriend Nathan got out of bed to drop me off at the airport. Thank God we only live 9 minutes away because we were basically there when I realised I forgot my passport!
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After quickly driving back home and finding it in a cupboard somewhere, Nathan took me back to the airport and waved me goodbye.
I met some of the other girls from the FAM trip and we all got breakfast at the fast food chain A&W. (Just some healthy stuff like pancakes, toast and eggs haha)

After our semi-satisfying breakfast we went to the convenience store at the airport and grabbed some snacks for the flight before sitting down in the sun and watching the planes take off. Vancouver airport is very quiet on a Sunday may I add! There was literally no one around but the people waiting to go to Cancun.

Our Westjet flight was delayed due to some technical difficulties but we were soon on-board and taking off at around 9:30am.
I’d never flown Westjet before but I’m so happy I did because I thought they were great! The flight attendants were funny, the pilot stood at the front of the plane before we started flying to introduce himself and they even played some Mexican music when we landed in Cancun. Not to mention the legroom was great!
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You can pay for Economy plus if you like (where you get extra leg room and neighbour free guarantee) but I was sitting in the row behind economy Plus and I thought I had so much leg room already! Not to mention I lucked out and had no one sitting next to me the whole flight.

The flight from Vancouver to Cancun took around 6 hours. They don’t provide food on-board but you can purchase it if you wish or pre-order it before your flight.
The also don’t have seat-back entertainment but you can bring your own tablet or smartphone and download the Westjet App.
Here you can connect to in-flight wi-fi and watch TV shows or movies on the app which is really easy to use.

20180610_145226.jpgOnce I arrived into Cancun, the baggage collection was really easy. As it’s not Cancun’s peak season, the airport there was pretty quiet too. I was advised that as soon as I left the terminal there would be lots of companies holding their signs up trying to get me to stay at their resort or to catch a taxi with them so I was prepped beforehand to just ignore them and find the transfer company that had already been organised.
When I found them, everything was seamless. We used Best Day Travel for their transfer service and they were great!IMG_20180610_190956_810.jpg

I got a cold towel as soon as I met them, along with a cold bottle of water. They loaded my suitcase into the van and even attached my neck pillow to it so I wouldn’t lose it (it’s the little things I appreciate)
The ride took about 25 minutes to Hyatt Ziva Cancun from the airport. We passed many of the resorts I usually sell through work but the Hyatt was definitely one of the better ones!

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As soon as I walked in to the resort, It was so beautiful. There’s these gorgeous steps leading down to the infinity pools and you can see out to the ocean from whatever room you’re in. We got a welcome drink on arrival and the bellboy took my bag to my room which was helpful.
I then had a quick 15 minutes to get ready before I had to meet everyone else downstairs for our A La carte dinner. I made such a mess in the bathroom with my stuff scattered everywhere but I made sure to take some pictures beforehand to show how nice everything was!

20180610_184657.jpg20180610_184717.jpgThere was a special set menu for us at dinner time. I’m like the fussiest eater ever (hate seafood with a passion) so I wasn’t overly fussed with the menu. Thankfully, the staff and cook were so nice about it they made me my own chicken dish with vegetables

After dinner we were free to do as we liked. Some of the group went off to the bar to have some drinks whereas me and a few of the other girls went to Pastels, the dessert parlour.
This was my heaven! Hyatt Ziva has a parlour open until midnight every night serving everything from donuts, cakes and candy floss to ice-cream and gummy lollies!
20180610_215145.jpg20180625_134536.jpg20180610_215159.jpgAfter sampling a few treats, it was off to bed!
I know, call me crazy but I was sooo tired. It was hot and I’d been traveling all day, all I wanted to do was to go to bed and enjoy my clean comfy room.
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Remember how I said I left the bathroom in such a mess before dinner?
Well when I got back to my room, I noticed that the housekeeping had tided everything up for me before laying chocolates next to my bed and turning down the duvet.
It’s honestly the little things like that, that I appreciate when it comes to staying at hotels and resorts. Sometimes you don’t remember what the room looked like, however you do remember how they may have left a little note in your room to enjoy your stay or maybe the staff went out of their way to make sure you had a wonderful time. Customer service is a massive thing for me!

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By this stage, it was around 11pm when I video called my boyfriend back in Canada to brag about how much of a great time I was having already 😉
It was then that I remembered that the resort had 24 hour room service….
Now, you might know from reading my blogs that I don’t really splash out on hotels all the time. Most of my travel has been staying in hostels and maybe the odd air b’n’b to save some money so to know that I could deliver food to my room and it wouldn’t cost me a thing was an absolute treat!
This is one of the fattiest things I’ve probably done in my life, I wasn’t really that hungry but I ordered room service just because I could.
I looked on the menu and decided on some guacamole and chips, potato tacos and a strawberry cheesecake.

20180611_000748.jpgI felt like a queen!
I had a bite out of everything, washed it down with a beverage from the mini bar and then headed off to sleep.

My first day in Cancun wasn’t too bad at all!
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Part 2 coming soon!

Castaway Resort – Rarotonga

Stayed: February 2017, 5 Nights
Room: 2 Bedroom Deluxe Suite
Overall Rating: 8/10

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Although it’s not right on Muri Beach where all the more popular resorts are located, Castaway is a hidden little gem located on the western side of Rarotonga.
This resort is known for it’s helpful staff and friendly owners. Whatever you want to do or wherever you want to go, they’ll point you in the right direction with a smile on their face.

The resort is home to a decent sized pool, a bar located next to the water on beautiful white sand and a yummy little restaurant.
I’ll be honest, there is no spa and it’s not super glamorous in terms of beach bureaus located on top of glistening clear waters but it’s defiantly somewhere I would stay again if I just want a holiday to Rarotonga with my family or a nice little break away.

As there were four of us staying in Rarotonga, we where looking at either two rooms next to each other or a nice two bedroom place which we could all enjoy.
When I was booking my accommodation, I was e-mailing the owner of Castaway Resort, Michelle, and she suggested that we get one of their two bedroom suites for our stay.

I was pleasantly surprised with how big the suite was when we arrived!
Two big bedrooms right next door to each other with two bathrooms as well so we never had to share.
One bedroom was the ‘master bedroom’ and had an en-suite, small closet and a chest of drawers with a mirror.
The second bedroom was a bit smaller and had a queen bed along with a single bed (I’m assuming for families with kids) and their bathroom was just across the hall way.

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My boyfriend and I got the Master Bedroom while our friends shared the smaller one.
We all found them to be very comfortable, the only problem our friends had was they didn’t have an air-con unit in their room like we did so they had to leave their door open at night to cool down from the one in the lounge.

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As we’d never been to Rarotonga before, we found the staff to be very helpful in providing us with information and advice on things to do and places to eat. I feel weird even calling them ‘staff’ because the ladies in reception where the most chilled-out, friendly bunch that it just felt like you where staying with friends.

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As we went in the low-season, the resort was pretty quiet (as in we were sometimes the only people in the pool) so it was never over-crowded or very noisy.
The only noise we had was from the room next door to ours on the first night – a group of lads had flown in and drunk lots on their flight so where having a bit of a party. The owners had no problem sorting them out the next day however to ensure that everyone else at the resort had a pleasant and relaxed stay without being kept up all night.

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In the peak season from April – October, I can imagine the themed dinner nights that Castaway provides have lots of people attending. Every night they have something different for their meals, Monday night may be Pasta, Wednesdays may be Mexican and Sundays may be a BBQ night.
We attended the BBQ night on the beach and there was a really great turn-out from people at the resort and other holiday makers from the area (as you can eat at the restaurant even if you’re not a guest)
The food was a buffet of meats, salads and rolls along with some yummy ice-cream and banana cake for dessert after wards.
And if you get hungry during the day, the Beach Bar also have a range of little nibbles you can order such as spring rolls, calamari rings, chicken nuggets and french fries for an afternoon snack in the peak season.

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Pro’s

  • Decent sized rooms
  • Adults only
  • Lovely people who work there, always kind enough to book us activities or recommend things to do
  • Great price
  • Very clean
  • Free local phone calls from your room – great to book dinners etc.
  • BBQ’s available for personal use down near the pool so you can save money on eating out
  • If you don’t feel like the free continental breakfast – you can order pancakes, eggs or french toast off the menu for something a bit different
  • Always felt safe, eg; the rooms had a fire extinguisher, torch and a safe to put your valuables
  • Beach Bar
  • Private Beach
  • Amazing sunset right on the beach
  • Snorkeling gear available for free
  • Easy free parking across the road for guests
  • Themed dinner nights right on the beach
  • A Happy Hour
  • Bus stop literally right outside the resort
  • Bonfires on selected nights on the beach
  • Towels available for swimming
  • Large decks for the Deluxe Suites
  • Proper hair driers in the bathroom – not those small ‘hotel’ ones you always get
  • All rooms have a little kitchen with fridge, sink,  microwave etc…
  • Can book massages & nail services through Reception for an ‘in-room treatment’
  • Little Library at the reception where you can trade in your book for one of the ones available
  • Pool with sun-loungers
  • 10 minute drive from the airport

Con’s

  • No unlimited Wi-Fi (however you can buy a Bluesky SIM card for around $50 for more data)
  • The beach is swim-able but not the nicest in Rarotonga
  • Steps going up to the two bed-room suites. Not really a Con, but wouldn’t be suitable for wheelchairs
  • TV’s only have 1 channel
  • About a 20 minute drive to Muri Beach but if you have a car/scooter it’s not too big of a deal.
  • In the low-season, the bar/restaurant isn’t open until a bit later

If you’re planning on going to Rarotonga on a budget and want to stay somewhere friendly, clean and spacious I’d defiantly recommend Castaway Beach Villas.
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here (even if it did rain like crazy for the last couple of days haha!)

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Day 20 – New Orleans

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On Monday it was off to New Orleans!
I can’t remember how the bus ride was but I most likely just slept most of the way.
It’s great to have a little nap on the bus because I’m all prepared for our nights out!

imageWe arrived into New Orleans around 4pm and went straight to pick up a local tour guide.
Apparently if you’re not a registered tour guide of New Orleans you can’t ‘legally’ give tours – which is why our Contiki Guide had to organise someone else to do it for us.imageWe did learn a lot about New Orleans though!
Such as how it got it’s name (after the Duke of Orleans) and that it was established by French colonists way back in the day. This is why New Orleans has such distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture everywhere.
While we drove through the city, we got to see the ‘French Quarter’ (the oldest area of New Orleans) where all the streets are named in French and there’s lots of markets and restaurants to eat at.
We also drove past Bourbon Street which is famous for it’s nightlife in the French Quarter. There’s live jazz music, Burlesque Clubs, DJs, bars and clubs at night-time which I’m sure we were all about to experience that night!

imageNew Orleans is famous for their Mardi Gras festival too!
I thought it was just a one-off event but apparently it’s a whole season like Christmas is. They have a day called Fat Tuesday which is the biggest day for Mardi Gras. The date it falls on moves around so it can be any time between Tuesday Feb. 3rd and March 9th.

If you’re in New Orleans over Mardi Gras, you’ll get to experience all the floats and parades covered in Purple, Green and Gold. These apparently stand for Justice, Faith and Power.
I didn’t know this but by law, float riders must always wear mask. imageNow to my favorite part, FOOD!
New Orleans’s are pretty well known for their seafood and soulfood. As the city is located near the Mississippi River, they have access to a variety of both saltwater and freshwater fish and shellfish.SFS_Beignet-33They also have something called beignets (locally pronounced like “ben-yays”) brought to New Orleans in the 18th century by French colonists. They’re fried square-shaped pastries served for breakfast (or dessert) with powdered sugar on top. Yum!

Another New Orleans specialty is the Praline. A local a candy made with brown and granulated sugar, cream, butter, and pecans. Pralines were one of the more popular recipes adapted from the old French tradition.
When Almonds were in short supply, cooks began substituting the nuts of the native Louisiana pecan trees, and that’s how the modern pecan pralines were born
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Oak_Street_Po-Boy_Festival_2011_Lobster_Po-BoysLastly, the Po-boy’s and Italian Muffuletta sandwiches!
Po-boy’s are a traditional sandwich that’s filled with some type of meat or seafood and served on a baguette either hot or cold. A “dressed” po’boy has added extra’s like lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise with melted butter. You can find these babies pretty much everywhere from the grocery store, deli-counters or neighborhood restaurants.
imagefro-yo-frozen-yogurtWhen we arrived at our hotel after the tour, we all went to our rooms to put our stuff away. My room mate needed the room to make some phone calls (she was going home early the next day) so I let her do her thing and went out for a walk with one of the couple’s from our Contiki,  Brodie & Mark.
We walked down to one of the main streets in New Orleans – Canal Street and got some fro-yo which was refreshing on the hot New Orleans day!

After walking around for about an hour, I went back to the hotel and starting getting ready for our usual Contiki night out.  Lots of the other people on the tour had attended an optional dinner (when I say optional, it means you have to sign up for it and pay for it if you want to do it but you don’t have to)
I’m a bit of a fussy eater (no seafood or pork stuff for me) so I didn’t put my name down.
It worked out well anyways because I had more time to get ready 🙂

Around 8pm, Marcus & Lauren (2 others on Contiki) came to my room and we took a cab down to Bourbon Street to get something to eat.
New Orleans isn’t the best place for people like me who don’t eat Seafood as everywhere we walked by had fish, lobster, oysters etc… I ended up just getting some type of Hamburger somewhere while the others ate the Seafood haha!

After dinner, we met up with the others from our Contiki at a bar on Bourbon Street. When we got there everyone was pretty much “on form” which is Kiwi slang for being drunk and having a good time!
I caught up to their level pretty quickly and we all ended up going to another bar for more drinks. In New Orleans you’re actually allowed to walk around and drink alcoholic drinks on the street and travel from bar to bar with a drink in hand.  Kind of reminded me of Las Vegas… If you don’t want to finish off your drink in the current bar you’re at, just ask for a go-cup and you can take it with you.
A few of us ended up meeting some locals from New Orleans which we hung out with for the rest of the night. My night ended at 3am with shots of patron and tequila and who knows what else!imageEventually in my lovely drunken state I took a cab back to the hotel and as I forgot my room key, my room mate had to let me in 🙈
I got all ready for bed and as soon as I lay down I didn’t feel quite well. It was either from that burger I ate or the litres of alcohol 😒
I then proceeded to spew in the bathroom like 10 times and went to sleep with the hotel bin next to my face. (Sorry Mum I know you’re reading this)

Hahahaha! That was probably the most drunk I’ve gotten on Contiki and I didn’t even think I was that bad.

Also, apologies to the Sleep & Suite Inn in New Orleans for their rubbish bin with no bag in it and my vomit. 🙊🙊

Love & peace xx

More Things I learnt about New Orleans:

  • If you don’t want to go to seedy Bourbon street – Head to Frenchman street instead (it has brass bands and music inside and outside the clubs)
  • Uber isn’t that reliable here
  • Canal Street, once the widest street in the world, was named for a canal that was planned for, but never built
  • The Superdome is the largest enclosed arena in the world.
  • Bars can stay open all night
  • They invented Poker
  • They’re the birthplace of Jazz Music
  • The Tombstones are above the ground in cemeteries as they get quite high water at certain times of the year