Mexico – The First Week!! 1996
FANTOME In Mexico
The First Week!!
This is a trip report of the first (10/27/96) Mexican voyage
I had just completed the two week voyage from Antigua to
Mexico. I was making use on the pool at the hotel next to
the dock the ship uses ... the hotel has an arraignment with
WJ'er to let pax. use their facilities. I walked over to the
dock to catch the 4 pm tender back to the ship. While I was
waiting, I talked to some of the "inaugural cruise" pax.
Their first question was, "Why was the ship so far out?" The
reason was that you have to go out two miles to find more
than 15 ft. of water at Cancun. At four I got on a tender
with two 150 horsepower outboards and was back on the ship
in less than ten minutes.
The new pax. found, except for the Mexican snacks,
everything was pretty standard WJ'er. The pax. mix was about
the same as the reposition - 75% couples; 25% not traveling
as couples. There were three people in their 80's. One new
thing we all found in our cabins was a loose leaf binder
describing the 17 shore tours what would be available.
(Shades of the big steam boats.) You are asked to select the
tours you will take by Monday morning.
I took no tours in the three weeks I was aboard (we had
them on the reposition too.) The feedback from others
indicated that I didn't miss much; but you must read the
descriptions and decide for your selves. The most praised
tour was the "Indiana Jones Adventure" which featured a tour
through the jungle and snorkeling in caves with guides and
hand held lights. The "Jungle Jet Boat" tour was said to be
fun. The "Chichenitza Tour" was popular; but you only got
two hours at the site and 6.5 hours on a bus. But they did
show a "Ace Ventura" movie on the bus!
Two of the new pax. were Gary and Sheila, a couple I had
sailed with on Flying Cloud the week of the famous, and near
deadly, "shootout at the Bath & Turtle Pub". They both
remarked that things were never dull when we sailed
together. How right they were.
We sailed for Isla Mujeres that night and ran aground at
8:45am. A reef/sand bar extends several miles off the
northern tip of this island. Hurricane Lilly had shifted a
lot of sand around in the vicinity. The charts became
useless; but we didn't know that. We went aground early in
the morning and strong wind and seas from the East made it
impossible to back off. Shortly after running aground, I was
talking with some people sunning on deck and one asked when
we would get to Isla Mujeres, I replied, "We have been there
for 15 minutes.<G>" The seas were washing onto the lower
deck and the pounding on the sand bar became unrelenting. I
went to my cabin and got my wallet. The only things I wanted
to save from the ship were in there. A number of things
might have happen, and most of them were bad. If we had
encountered rocks as we were pushed further onto the bar,
the holing or cracking of the hull were possibilities. If
the ship began to turn sideways and the waves hit us broadside,
things could have gotten very uncomfortable ...
reminiscent of Yankee Clipper in Hurricane Klaus. After
three hours, a shrimp boat pulled us across the reef. (The
reef/bar was about 300 meters wide, and we only had 100
meters in front of us.) We were afloat and anchored off Pt.
Norte and were free to explore the Island ... but how we
would get to our next stop was very much up in the air.
This was our only wet landing. Bicycles and mopeds were
available and there was some shopping. I found a trip to the
southern end of the island by bicycle was fun. (14 pesos per
hour) There was the ruins of a Mayan temple and a light
house. Lots of things to see and places to stop in between.
After returning the bikes, we had a pleasant swim at the
beach where the launches picked us up.
I write this as if I were doing these things alone, but
actually I was always with other people from the ship and I
enjoyed their company immensely ... I seldom sailed with a
nicer group of passengers in my 63 weeks of WJ'in.
The next morning we were still at anchor. We were to be
led by a small boat to another opening in the reef later
that day. There were many rumors about problems with the
Mexican government and damage to their reef. Some of the
rumors involved fines or payments in significant $ amounts.
I asked Captain Sean what was going on so my report could be
accurate. Hr replied "It was company business and just
business as normal in Mexico" At first I wasn't happy with
the answer; but then realized that it was the only answer he
should have given. If minor Mexican officials had any hint
that WJ'er might pay them off in some way to avoid
inconvenience, the line of people with their hand out would
form on the left.
30 hours after running aground we picked our way back
across the reef, with a small boat leading the way, and out
to deep water. At 3:15pm the sails went up and we were on
our way to Playa Del Carmen. I imagine "Amazing Grace" never
sounded better to Sean and his fellow officers! Just after
the sails went up, Captain Paul Maskell (I call him WJ'ers
Captain of the Captains) walked up and said "Hello Tony". I
said "How did you get here?" It seems WJ'er Miami had Paul
on his way shortly after we went aground.
Wednesday found us in Playa Del Carmen. While many
went off on their all day tours, I did some shopping. This
was by far the best shopping of the trip ... Bargaining for
price is the name of the game. I found it fun and easy. The
stores are mostly in a six block area which is closed off to
traffic. The street is Avenida 5 (fifth Ave). After shopping
I went back to the ship for lunch and then spent the rest of
the day at the beach. A very nice beach is located next to
the ferry dock, which the ship's launches use. That night I
ate on the ship and went into town for the evening. I had a
snack at a restaurant and heard a report (Favorable) about
the Chichenitza tour. Most folks came ashore at night, shops
stay open until about 10pm.
The next day we were at Cozumel. This had been our first
port on the reposition cruise, so I was familiar with it and
liked the Island. My favorite beach was Chankanaab a park
on Cozumel. A cab cost $8 (for the whole cab) and entrance
fee was $7 plus $1 for a locker. (Yep this is not the Flying
Cloud) The park was beautiful and the snorkeling was
excellent. My underwater camera only focuses down to 1 meter
... I had a hard time getting the fish to stay that far
away. You get a "S" shaped lounge to use on the beach and
waiters serve you drinks on the beach ... of course they are
expensive ... a Corona costs just over $1 ... $1.50 with
That night I returned to a great restaurant, "Prima". It
is small, has great pasta and seafood (Try the whole king
crab - get there early because they only get about 20 per
day.). It is located on a side street (109 A. Rosado Salas),
but everyone knows where it is. It also features strolling
musicians, an owner from Chicago - a real character, and
parrots that will sit on your shoulder if you want them too.
One person who dinned there called the dinner "Magical".
After dinner it is a short walk to "Carlos and Charlies".
Always loud, hot, and lots of fun. Most people on the ship
who come ashore, end up there.
The next day we sailed to Puerto Aventuras. This is a
private resort, but allowed us to use their facilities;
expecting people to shop, buy drinks, and lunch ... which
many of us did. I spent most of the day on their beach. Bar
service was very reasonable. Snorkeling was poor and the
sand was mostly ground shells - hard on the feet. The launch
ride is about 0.7 miles and the anchorage is very exposed.
Got drenched on the launch back. (My guess is that if the
winds had picked up during the day, they may have had to bus
the pax. still ashore to Playa del Carmen and pick them up
there. Two pax. who had taken the "Indiana Jones Adventure"
tour missed the last launch. They had stopped for a massage.
We sailed without them, but put into Playa Del Carmen to
pick them up. At about this time we started having
electrical problems. Associated with the electrical problems
were A/C and water pumping problems. I guess they needed the
generated power to run these also. The bottom line was that
we spent the night there and I carried a flashlight with me
as the problems came and went through the evening. There was
some dancing that evening, (no where near the amount we did
on the reposition cruise.).
The next day, plan "A" was to sail to Cancun, but a
weather disturbance might have made the anchorage there
untenable. So plan "B was to sail to Cozumel, where the
cruise would end and we would be taken to the airport by
ferry and bus. More electrical problems (I think that was
the reason.) made us switch to plan "C", which was to stay
at Playa Del Carmen.
That night a group of us decided to go ashore for a
Mexican dinner as a way to extend the vacation one more
night and get away from all the "good byes", Captains
farewells, and flambeaus. It was a pleasant night ashore and
I did some packing and made it an early evening.
The next day I took a launch ashore and after a one hour
bus ride and one bottle of Corona I was at the Cancun
airport. The flight home was very uneventful ... cleared
customs in Charlotte NC. I thought I might have a problem,
because I was traveling alone, on a one way ticket, and I
told the immigration officer I had been to 7 countries and
the form only had room for four. He asked me what other
countries I had visited. I told him and he took a red china
marker and put a "1" and circled it in the right hand
corner. I was ready for a through search of my luggage ...
but the customs officer waved me by after asking if I had
Here are some general notes:
"Senor frogs" or "Carlos & Charlies" ... One or both of
these are located in most ports and are lots of fun. They
make a good place to end an evening ashore, or a place to go
after eating on the ship.
Peter, the Food and Beverage manager, was in Mexico
lining up produce for the ship when we arrived. He was also
at work in the galley making salsa and other wonderful
Mexican treats. The Mexican food on the ship was very good.
Looking back over this report, it sounds like a disaster
... but why did I have such a good time? The answer is the
people you meet on a WJ'er are the kind who just know how to
have fun. We went ashore at Isla Mujeres not knowing what
the rest of the cruise would be like or if we would ever get
away from this Island. But we had a great day and no one
seemed to care if we were stuck there for 30 hours or three
days. As I have said in many of my reports ... "The people
you meet on a WJ'er are different and really great!"
In conclusion, I would recommend that anyone/everyone
should sail the Fantome in Mexico. But don't try to compare
it in "ANYWAY" to the Eastern Caribbean. It's as different
as goings to to Paris or Tokyo. The people are great ... I
could not imagine a more tourist friendly place.
I would be glad to try to answer any questions anyone
might have. For those reading this on an internet WEB page,
I can be reached at BWDF98A@PRODIGY.COM
I will be writing a report on the reposition cruise
(10/13 - 10/26) shortly. I have written them out of order
because of the high interest in the Mexican Itinerary.
Tony in Del.