Any diver that has been to Cozumel has likely looked askance at the sunburned pod people disgorged by the continually arriving cruise ships, blaming them for the changes to what was once a sleepy little dive paradise. For the last week or so, I have been here in Cozumel and there have only been one or two cruise ships. There used to be 5 or 6 per day.
The cruise ships haven’t been stopping here because of the swine flu scare. You might get the swine flu in Delaware – there have been multiple cases reported at the University campus in Newark, but it’s unlikely that you will get it in Cozumel. Unfortunately, the entire country of Mexico became off-limits, even though the flu didn’t cover the entire country. After one month without cruise ships, they have just started to trickle back to the ports. Hopefully, they will continue to show up.
Until then, those stores that remain open have nobody to mess with except us divers. We are staying at a hotel a few blocks from the square in San Miguel. The walk there isn’t fun, as we have to walk past 15 or twenty store fronts where everyone wants us to come in and buy something. We smile and say “no thanks” as we walk past them, but we feel sorry for the shop owners. They’re just trying to make a living. Unfortunately, the folks that usually buy their stuff haven’t been allowed on the island.
Those stores that we did venture into held no bargains. Monica had her heart set on a couple of those highly-decorated and colorful plates – the kind one might hang on a wall, not eat from. We tried a few stores – the prices were about the same at every store – about $30 each. We went into a small store where Monica saw a polished stone pendant in a color that she liked – it was $90. A piece of costume jewelry for $90!! Didn’t even come with a chain. It seems that the vendors are trying to make more profit on less sales – one way to stay in business, I suppose….
I did some diving with what was once Blue Bubble Divers. Everything but the name seems to have been integrated into Roberta’s Scuba Shack operation. They don’t have a location in town anymore, but credit goes to Scuba Shack for coming into town to pick me up in the morning for diving. It was a nice experience, and they treated Monica really well – she tried the Discover Scuba course. She was a little apprehensive, and her instructor, Juan, had the patience of a saint.
I dove on Monday am with a group of 5 Belgian guys. They were really nice folks and one of them spoke excellent English. We had an awesome dive day, seeing the usual reef life, a couple of turtles, a shark, a toadfish, etc. On the second dive, we had to deal with a current that made it seem more like flying than diving at times. Unfortunately, a minor but painful soft-tissue injury to a baby toe kept me from diving any more (can’t wear shoes – couldn’t imagine wearing fins) this week, leading to long periods of enforced idleness at different beach locations on the other side of the island. Of course, in this tropical climate it’s important to stay hydrated, so I probably consumed my share of XX lager, often with the assistance of a wedge of lime. Sucks to be me.
In keeping with Cozumel tradition, we rented a red VW for a few days. The car was $30 per day. A cab ride to the closest beaches (crappy ones) and back will cost you at least that much (we did that on Sunday). I have no idea what it might cost to get a cab to the other side of the island where the nice beaches are. Cabs, once inexpensive and plentiful on the island, are still plentiful. It’s also funny how none of the drivers ever has change, either…..
On Sunday, while we were at Paradise Beach (crappy beach here on the lee side of the island), someone made off with my wife’s sunglasses – the first time that I have ever had anything like that happen in many trips to Cozumel. We were in the water for a few minutes and when we returned, they were missing. Now, Latinas don’t take sunglasses lightly. Monica was p*ssed. We can replace them when we get home, but the idiot that stole them won’t get very much use from them, as they were prescription glasses. First time anything like that has happened to me here. A shame….. The only thing being stolen from the beach at the other side of the island were unattended tortilla chips – we saw this bird helping himself.
Our hotel is nice. Due to an electrical problem on our first day, we were upgraded to a much larger place. It has an extra room, an extra bed, a nice balcony (I’m typing this from there right now) and a mini-split (almost noiseless) instead of the noisy window A/C that was in our original room. The staff is nice and helpful. We get a continental breakfast every morning delivered to the room at the time that we request – coffee pot, orange juice and 4 sweet rolls or pastries of some sort. We made a quick trek to the local supermarket so we have fruit and some not-quite-as-sweet bread to go along with the supplied stuff.
We were also fortunate to meet Lolla, a former colleague of my wife’s. She works for a store that caters to cruise ship passengers and has been hurting – she was just transferred here from another Mexico location a month ago – just when cruise ships stopped. She’s a delightful woman, and my wife had someone to speak Portuguese with for a few days. Since much of her income is from sales commissions, hopefully cruise ships will return quickly.
All for now from Mexico,