Traveling to Cancun During a Pandemic

Sunday, November 15, 2020

It's been 11 months since our last flight and we are ready to fly again.  Since the pandemic hit hard in March, we have not traveled by plane.  We tried doing some road trips at the end of the summer and found it was easy to travel and still keep socially distant and safe.  After we got back from our Vermont trip, I started doing a lot of research of where we can travel to that is safe (ex: low cases, high health precautions) and without complications and obstacles (ex: getting a negative Covid test within X hours of your flight).  At the time, I found that Mexico is our only option that did not require a Covid test if we wanted to take a quick tropical vacation.  Specifically, in Cancun the cases have been low and in September they have moved from an orange light to a yellow light (allowing hotels to increase capacity from 30% to 60%).  Cancun is known to have many high end resorts so they take safety and health precautions very seriously.  We wanted to stay at an all-inclusive resort where we'll have direct access to the beach, pools, food, and drinks without having to go outside of the resort during our stay.  I'll explore Mexico some other time.  In comparison to a road trip, our biggest hurdle was the flight.  I've heard about many people flying again the past few months.  I follow many travel blogs and groups that discuss their domestic and international trips and gathered knowledge of how things have been.  I even followed my resorts facebook fan groups and read all these discussions of people who have already been to the resort since reopening earlier in the summer, currently at the resort, and planning to visit the resort.  I wanted to make the most of my trip and also learn about all the ways I can prepare for it.  

The public is advised to not to travel so we don't spread the virus.  By quarantining before we leave and after we come back from the trip (or you can take a covid test for peace of mind), I think it's possible to travel safely and minimize chances of catching or spreading it.  We have not seen any friends or family for several weeks and we are able to work from home after we get back.  If anything happens, it will be on us and we are taking that risk. 

The Flights

Busy at CUN airport

To Cancun: Normally we would be flying out our airport EWR but I had $200 credit and 12,500 AA points with American Airlines which flies out of JFK.  Our $500 for two flights ended up to be $240 out of pocket.  Our flight was at 9am so the airport was not crowded, we got through security with no issues and nothing out of the norm.  Unfortunately, since we were flying on a Saturday, it was a full flight and AA does not block the middle seat anymore.  I was nervous about this but everyone wore masks and kept to themselves.  The 4 hour nonstop flight went smoothly and we landed at noon in CUN airport.  We got through customs quickly, handed in our immigrations form which was stamped and given back to us.  You have to give this portion back when you leave.  There's temperature checks to walk past and designated isolation areas.  We met with our arranged shuttle when we got out and it took about 25 minutes to get to the Cancun hotel zone.  We made it!

We booked with USA Transfers which is a very popular service for round trip transportation from the airport to your hotel.  Cost was $55.  You can prepay or pay in person. 

         

To New York: Our shuttle was schedule to pick us up from our second resort at 11:45 am for our 2:10 pm flight.  It arrived early at 11:30 and we got to the airport in 30 minutes, filled out a health form and went through security.  Our flight was on a Friday and I'm so glad we did that now instead of the weekend.  The flight was empty!  There were only about 20 people spread out.  After landing we went through global entry with no issues and no questions.  At the exit we filled out a health form with the NY Department of Health.

The view when you walk through the lobby

Hyatt Ziva Cancun

We stayed 3 nights at the Hyatt Ziva All-Inclusive and then 3 nights at Live Aqua All-Inclusive.  I will review Hyatt first.  We decided on Hyatt Ziva so we could book with points.  For 81,000 ulitmate rewards points we upgraded to a Swim-out King Room and booked using our Chase Sapphire Reserve's Travel Portal.  Initially my plan was to transferr to Hyatt to book a Standard resort room at 25,000/night since rooms normally cost $350-$500 at Hyatt Ziva.  But cash rates are so low now, it costs less points using the Reserve's 1.5% redemption in the Chase Travel Portal.  For example the cheapest room dropped in price to $336/night on Expedia, making it only 22,400 points/night using the 1.5% redemption.  Overall, I'm very happy with my first hotel stay booked on points! 

Ziva is a family friendly resort compared to Hyatt Zilara, an adult only resort.  After reading many reviews it seems Ziva has the best beach (it's at the tip of the hotel zone with a beach on both sides), supposedly better food, and is a newer more modern resort in comparison.  With low capacity now there wouldn't be many kids and it wouldn't bother us that much.

Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 60,000 points if you spend $4000 in 3 months.  Here's my referral link if anyone is interested.


Safety Precautions

I could not have felt any safer at this resort.  They sanitized my suitcase when we entered .  All staff wore masks and sanitizing and cleaning all around the resort.  There is plexiglass at check-in, hand sanitizer and sanitizing shoe mats everywhere you enter.  The packet of disinfecting wipes and bottle of hand sanitizer in the room was a nice touch.  The only thing that seems to be happening at most resorts is that some guests do not wear their masks in public areas and it is not required.  We kept our masks on whenever we were out.  Even though hotels are allowed up to 60% capacity now the resort felt like it was at 30%.  The resort is huge and I felt like there was plenty of space for guests to spread out.  All restaurants were open except for 24/7 snack bar.  There was a weekly schedule that let you know which restaurants were on rotation and the reduced hours.




Service

This was our first time at an All-Inclusive and the service was great from beginning to end.  Staff seem genuinely happy to welcome you and help you with any questions.  Staff would come by your sun loungers to ask if you need anything, help you get towels, and leave you alone if you want to be left alone.  If they see your drink is low they will replace it without asking.  Our room was made every day.  Our mini fridge was not restocked but they will upon request.  We ordered room service for breakfast for two mornings and it came in 30 minutes.  I especially like how they have a device in the room to put in your order without having to call them.  Gratuity is included in the price and we usually are not big tippers but we were happy to tip well, especially during times like this.  There is also an adults-only section with their own bar and infinity pool, club rooms, paid restaurant which we did not pay extra for.

Swim-up room with semi-private pool


Grounds and Room

After lots of research it sounded like Hyatt Ziva has the best location in the hotel zone.  They are at the tip with 360 views of the ocean and hotel strip.  As soon as you enter the lobby you can see all the pools and ocean in your view.  It really does make you feel like your vacation has started.  I liked that it has 2 beaches, a private side and public side one is supposed to be calmer than the other but it was so windy during our stay that I could not tell.  All the bars and restaurants are spread throughout the resort grounds and there is a lot of area to walk and explore.  It gives off the feeling of a resort compared to some other hotels in the area.  I'm glad we upgraded to a swim-out room giving us access to a semi-private pool and sun chairs facing the ocean.  We didn't have to feel like were were cooped up in our room if we didn't want to go outside.  

Day of the Dead celebration

Entertainment

This is not important for us but I'll briefly touch upon it.  Even with Covid they did try their best to provide activities throughout the day.  Durin this first week of November they still had their nighly show scheduled.  They had water aerobics, yoga etc in the morning and other shows and activities like tequila testing, during the day.  It was hard to find out when they were.  There was a schedule in the device in the room but it may be outdated.  There is display boards around the hotel but takes time to look at the rotating ads and military time.  I heard during normal times they have things like foam parties and dance parties.  The kids small water park area also looked open.  This is a great place to come with groups and families.

Lunch at Habernero's with a view 

Food

It seems like all restaurants were opened and on rotation.  You also view the menu on your phone with their QR code and I read the menu is limited with their most popular dishes.  Food was good but I wasn't that impressed.  I would say it's much better than most hotel buffets and definitely better than cruise food.  For a 4.5 star hotel, I was satisfied.  There is El Mercado, the buffet which we went to once for breakfast and as a pre-dinner snack.  I wasn't too impressed and for safety reasons it is not self serve right now.  I preferred going to the restaurants instead.  We tried all the restaurants except for Lorenzo's.  They didn't give the new schedule until late in the day on Saturday so I did not know it would be closed on our last day when we planned to go for lunch.  We didn't care much for Italian food during our stay but just wanted to go at least once to try their pizza.  So we ended up getting lunch twice at Habernero's which we don't mind.  This restaurant was right on the beach and served Mexican food.  We got to try a variety of tacos, ceviche, and tostadas.  Our other lunch was at Chevy's which is like American diner food.  They served typical appetizers, burgers, and milkshakes.  Because of Covid we also have to make reservations for dinner every night.  You can make them for one day in advance.  We went to La Bastille on our first night which is the only restaurant that is dressier and adults only.  I found the food to be ok.  On our second night we tried Tradewinds which is like an American Steak and Grill restaurant.  We enjoyed our meal here.  Lastly, we went to Moongate which is an Asian hibachi and restaurant.  We did not do hibachi and had the regular menu.  I have high standards for Asian food and would rate this as pretty good.  The resort also has a bar restaurant called Tres Cerveza's Brewery, which you can order drinks, wings, and other late night bites.  There is Pasteles, a candy and dessert shop and Casa Del Cafe, a coffee shop with baristas serving delicious coffee and tea and baked goods throughout the day.

Food photos incoming:

Relaxing lunches at Habenero's. Pictured: Passionfruit margarita and mojito, and tuna tostadas


Pictured: Blooming onion, Pulled pork sandwich, and Classic burger at Chevy's

Pictured: Black Angus Beef Steak and Salmon at La Bastille

Pictured: Crab cake, sides, ribeye and octopus at Tradewinds


Pictured: Sushi and Pad Thai

Pictured: Beer, nachos, and wings at Tres Cerveza's Brewery

Pasteles

Casa Del Cafe

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