NOTE: I was meant to publish this back in 2021, but I never got around to it. It has been sitting in my drafts – I guess better late than never. Enjoy!!
Hi friends! If you’re reading this, I truly hope you and your loved ones are doing well, keeping safe, and thriving. I know it has been a hot minute since I came your way with a travel post but as you all know, our world completely halted due to COVID. If you’re an avid reader, you will remember that I came back to the U.S. after 4 weeks in Southeast Asia around mid-January 2020.
I personally think I was extremely lucky because just a couple of weeks after being back home, most countries were shut down due to the Panini (Pandemic). Some folks who were out of their respective countries were stuck for several weeks, some months, as governments closed airports. Imagine being stuck in an expensive place such as Maldives for weeks. YIKESSSSS!
My last round of travel before the world shut down was around first week of March 2020, I believe. A year later, I am finally back in the air but not for work – for leisure. I put in a week of PTO for work and originally the plan was to drive down to Virginia Beach as I wanted a bit of sunshine but when I checked the weather, it looked like it was going to rain all week down in VA. I was really sad because I was looking forward to the trip (not the drive LOL) but I ended up canceling my hotel reservation. Still thinking about a place to go, I went to IG and made a quick post asking how folks were traveling out of the country so easily because it looked like everyone had visited Tulum or Puerto Rico in the last few weeks.
One of my IG “followers” (I think this is so weird so I tend to refer to my IG followers as friends), Marianne, mentioned a couple of places did not require a COVID test so I went to do some research. To my surprise, she was completely right. To me, I couldn’t understand a government allowing tourists to enter without a negative COVID test but if a good chunk of your economy relies on tourists, I could see why they would allow visitors, even during a global pandemic. While I did some research on where exactly to visit, I also searched to see if I could take a COVID test on that same day, Sunday. I was being really optimistic because it was a Sunday and I knew most places required an appointment but thankfully, CVS had a couple of openings and I quickly went to get my test. NGL, I was extremely nervous about taking the test because I had watched multiple people get tested and it looked extremely painful. Thankfully or not thankfully, the test at CVS was self-administered so I did not put too much pressure on myself and followed the instructions.
With my COVID test out of the way, I went back home to do some more research on places I could visit. I narrowed it down to Mexico (even though I have a “do not visit the same country twice unless absolutely necessary” policy. If you want to read my Cancun blog post, click here) and Jamaica; but Jamaica did not have a lot of good Marriott properties that screamed “relaxation.” LOL. With Jamaica crossed off, I went back to research Mexico and decided on Tulum. As I was researching hotels in Tulum, I somehow came across Cozumel, Mexico and fell in love with the location and the Marriott property. With the hotel in mind, I went to research flights and was extremely bummed when I did not find a nonstop flight from Philly to Cozumel on United Airlines. Of course, American Airlines had a direct flight but I try not to fly AA because they are always delAAyed. Get it? LOL
Anyway, once I received my COVID results on Monday, I immediately booked my flight and hotel. Since nothing is promised at this point and I’m genuinely not sure when else I can travel again (LOL), I decided to use some of my points to book my flights:
- PHL – CLT – CZM: $281.47 but I used 18,764 points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
- CZM – PHL: $270.24 but I used 27,024 points from my AMEX Corporate Card
For hotel, I booked the king room with ocean view at The Westin Cozumel for 5 days, 4 nights. I used 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for one night and I paid the rest on a cash rate: a little less than $600. With the logistics out of the way, my sister did my hair later that night and I was set to go! Thank God for big sisters o. One thing I am terrible at is hair – so I’m really glad she can assist me; even if I have to beg her and make an appointment. LOL.
As Daddy drove me to the airport around 6am (shout out to him!) the next day, I checked in for my hotel and sent a message to the staff at The Westin to see if I could get an upgrade due to my Ambassador Status. They stated they did not have any upgradeable rooms and I said alright no wahala now, at least I booked ocean view so I can take nice sunrise and sunset pictures / videos.
The journey to Cozumel was pretty good overall. The second leg of the trip was a bit bumpy due to rain in Charlotte, but I have experienced worst turbulence than that and I knew Baba is always sending His angels to guard me so no shaking. Once I landed in Cozumel, I took a taxi to the hotel ($5) and proceeded to check-in. I politely asked Moises (the staff rep checking me in) if there were any rooms available for upgrade and after a few minutes, he mentioned he could give me one of the The Cabanas since I had Ambassador status. I was overjoyed and, on the inside, I was jumping up and down but I politely said thank you. He told me the room was not ready and I had to wait while housekeeping finished cleaning the room but I had absolutely no issues with waiting. While the room was being cleaned, I used that time to connect with family and friends and sent my hotel address to my family in case of emergencies.
Once the room was ready, I was escorted to the cabana and it was sooo lovely! It reminded me of my room in the Maldives as it had a plunge pool with direct access to the ocean. It was truly magical and so beautiful! The room did not have a tub (standing shower only) and for a second, I thought about switching back to my original room because I was really looking forward to soaking in the bathtub and had even packed some of the bubble bath soaps I won from a giveaway sometime last year. I’m glad I decided to stick with the cabana because it was so gorgeous and offered the most amazing views!
For the next 5 days and 4 nights, I did absolutely nothing. I did a bit of work for my business (making sure clients received their orders, procuring ingredients, etc.) but nothing too serious. I just slept, ate, read, danced, and just enjoyed my own company. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am a BIG FAN of The Westin brand overall. With their focus on luxury wellness to Sleep Well, Move Well, and Eat Well, it really fits with my Rich Auntie Sammie vibe. The Westin Cozumel not only offers stunning views of the ocean, but the staff and their customer service is top notch. Another thing that I really liked about the staff is that they allowed me to fly my drone without any reservations – as long as I was safe. I had a big problem with the staff at The Westin Maldives where they did not allow me to fly my drone and I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted the beautiful drone shots I always see on Instagram and other travel blogs. Anyway, see below for a couple of food pictures I managed to take. Breakfast at The Westin Cozumel was fantastic, but I think their lunch and dinner menus could use some work. They have two onsite restaurants and one (Las Gaviotas) was closed, so I had very limited options for lunch and dinner. There were a couple of places outside of the hotel but as I mentioned earlier, I really didn’t feel like moving around much. When I go back to Cozumel (using when instead of if because I really really liked the property), I will try the local restaurants for some variety.
Escaping to Cozumel, Mexico was honestly the best decision rather than driving to Virginia Beach. Traveling consistently for 18 months straight before the world came to a complete halt in March 2020, I was honestly terrified of getting on a plane again but I’m glad I gave it a try. Although I’m not ready to travel regularly for work yet, if the place I’m traveling to will be somewhat empty compared to Cancun / Florida and the likes, I might be more inclined to jump back on a plane but until then; I will stay in my house until I get the vaccine.
Thanks for reading! I hope to share more travel posts (abroad and within the US) as the world begins to open up again. I do plan on making a vlog of my trip to Cozumel so hopefully that will be up soon! If you have any questions or need pointers for your trip to the Cozumel, Mexico please comment on this post or email me directly: SincerelySamuella@gmail.com. I don’t have a partnership with The Westin Cozumel but I really like the property and recommend it. Happy to answer any questions you have!
Stay adventurous, dear friends, and always remember to stay golden.
Rich Auntie Sammie