Final thoughts of the Grand Sunset Princess

After our first (written) and second (audio) impressions of the GSP, we are now back home in rainy Chilliwack, filled with memories of our amazing stay at the Grand Sunset Princess.DSC_8624

The first thing that stands out in my mind was the heat and the humidity. The Friday we were there, it was 37 degrees C (98 F) with *100%* humidity! For this poor Canadian, that’s “center of the earth” hot! But I was smart enough to drink lots of water (and certainly my fair share of beer!) and stay out of the sun for the most part.CPHfQoXUkAA35ar

DSC_8889The two most memorable things were the beautiful grounds and the wonderful, friendly staff. The grounds were immaculate. Everywhere I looked, there was something beautiful I wanted to take a picture of. Not just the plants but all the animals wandering around too.DSC_8757

We were really worried about the weather reports for our week there, both before we left and while at GSP but, even though “rain/thunderstorms” were predicted for every day of our stay, we couldn’t have had better weather. Although it did seem to be cloudy over the island of Cozumel for our entire stay. We even saw lightning!DSC_9161

Neither Kim or I are particularly social (it’s the Brit and Canuck in us respectively) but we did talk to a few people and everyone else seemed to be having a wonderful stay. GSP had a lot of Brits from north of London, we heard a lot of Southern US accents, particularly from Texas, and there were quite a few Russians, too. Interesting mix of people.IMG_7224

The restaurants seemed a bit hit and miss and their limited selection was a big downside. Having to make reservations in advance was a minor annoyance – after all, I have no idea what I’m going to want to eat two days from now nor at what time I’m going to be hungry! – but we managed just fine.

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Neither of us like the Miso restaurant (we didn’t sit to watch The Show), feeling the food was too salty and not particularly interesting. The Fondue place was OK (NEEDED MORE CHEESE!) and we really liked the Italian and Steakhouse restaurants.

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But for romantic ambiance, you can’t beat the (poorly named) Chill Out Bar. You have to pay for your meal (about the price of a nice meal in Canada) and, while their menu is as limited for selection as the others, they really made it worth it. We were offered a complimentary mixed drink (some kind of champagne cocktail) and then, after we ordered, cute little “amuse bouche” (hors d’oeuvres). The food was delicious and they followed dinner with another complimentary cocktail.

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For the nerd in me, the biggest advantage was, now that we had eaten at the COB, we had free access to it for the rest of our stay which meant not only another private section of the resort, but also the same kind of beach chair waitress service (but not the food) of the Platinum Beach and FREE WIFI! Sadly, it was about as good as the free wifi you get in other hotels which is to say, pretty slow and spotty. But you’re not there to work, are you!? (well, *I* was but you shouldn’t be!)

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Another downside was the snorkeling – there really wasn’t a whole lot to see. There is no coral reef easily accessible from the hotel’s beach.

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That being said, the hotel offers (for an hour at a time) free snorkeling gear and free use of the sailboats and kayaks. Jet skis are $50/30 mins.

I never did find out how much parasailing was.

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There was a wonderful variety of birds and animals for me to photograph – Pelicans and terns were fishing in front of us, Coaties by the dozens, turtles, iguanas, lizards and even the occasional monkey, crocodile and capybara!

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Another (very minor) downside were the folks walking by all day trying to get you to buy silver or jewelry or, and this guy was the worst, sunglasses. DUDE! I’m looking at you – THROUGH SUNGLASSES! Stop asking me if I want to buy your cheap ones! 🙂 But they weren’t as (mildly) aggressive as the vendors in Playa del Carmen and they were nowhere near as bad as the very handsy vendors in Egypt. A polite, “No gracias” and they were on their way. But you fended them off all day long.

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Some of us were less successful in the “fending off” area. 🙂

The other downside, and this was a huge one for us, was the almost complete lack of tipping by hotel guests. That was very disappointing. The staff were wonderful and friendly and obviously worked very hard to make our stay as enjoyable as possible and yet, it seemed as if no one but us ever offered the waiters and waitresses a couple of bucks for their service.

On our last day, Kim and I talked about the resort – was the Chill Out Bar worth it? Yes – for the ambiance and the convenience (access was right next to our room) and, for me, the wifi, spotty and slow though it was.DSC_8638 IMG_7376

Was Platinum worth the upgrade? That’s harder to quantify. The room was undoubtedly lovely and right on the beach with easy access and having a concierge to help with any questions was wonderful. But it was a long way away from the restaurants (we walked 75+ kms (46 miles) the week we were there – our average here at home is about 4km a day). The Platinum Gala Buffet on Thursday evening was nice too. If you’re like us and want the peace and quiet of being far away from the action (and by that I mean possibly noisy drunks) and want/need the waitress service at the beach (along with the larger room), go for the upgrade.

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Kim adds that she really enjoyed the private section of the beach with the waiter service and the food right on the beach – no need to go anywhere for lunch! And, while we never took advantage of it, there where masseuses right on the beach if you needed a rub down.

Overall was the Grand Sunset Princess worth our hard earned money? An unequivocal YES. For the price we paid, we could have barely gotten a hotel *room* in any major city in the world, let alone free food and drink. I would have absolutely no reservations in recommending the Grand Sunset Princess Resort to anyone who was thinking about going. We had a fabulous time and couldn’t have had a nicer seven days away from home. And if you knew how much I loved my motorcycle and how much Kim loves her dog Grommit, you’d know how big a statement that is! 🙂

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section or email me directly at [email protected]IMG_7400

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Manhunter

I watched “Manhunter” last night. If you don’t know the movie, it was the first film to feature serial killer Hannibal Lecter (of “Silence of the Lambs” fame).

It is by no means, in my opinion, as good as SotL. It’s very dated and doesn’t hold up well style wise. It is fun to see all the character actors in the cast though and I didn’t even recognize Joan Allen in the film.

As a psychological thriller, it’s very slow paced and William Petersen’s moody stares get trying quickly. The best scenes are actually between Allen and Tom Noonan who plays the bad guy. There’s a point where you think he might be redeemable if only…

The best part was rediscovering the music of a band I loved in the 80s – Shriekback. I wore out their “Oil and Gold” album.

Overall, it would make a good doubleheader flick with the much lauded SotL.

"Black Fish" & "The Armstrong Lie"

I watched both of these documentaries last night.

“Black Fish” was by far the more disturbing of the two.

I recognize it was a slanted viewpoint but even if you ignore everything the participants say, watching such magnificent animals being trapped in their equivalent of your bathtub is heartbreaking.

Proponents of orcas in captivity say their programs are important for conservation and study. I could agree with that to a small extent. But there’s no need for the performances. And if you need study them in captivity, large open water enclosures would be more humane.

I’m in favour of this proposed law that would ban keeping killer whales in captivity for purposes of human entertainment.

“The Armstrong Lie” just made me sad. I was one of those who have zero interest in long distance cycling (I love velodrome cycling) but watch The Tour de France every year, if only for the amazing cinematography (the best in all of televised sports).

I didn’t exactly cheer on Armstrong but I did think he was being unfairly persecuted.

If you ever need to find a visual definition of “moral relativism”, watch this movie. It’s amazing to watch so many people say, “Well, everyone else is doing this bad thing so I should do this bad thing”.

We forget that all of Armstrong’s contemporaries have also been either accused or convicted of the same crimes he was at the same time. Armstrong just had better doctors and held on to the lie longer.

Regardless of the rules Armstrong broke, I still have some small admiration for him if only because not only did he beat cancer (like so many), but watching him race you had the sense that he was very much like other athletes at the top of their game – he would push himself beyond what anyone else would. He wanted to not only beat other riders, he wanted to crush them. He needed to dominant.

And that was his downfall.

Both are very good if very sad movies. I don’t recommend watching them back to back like I did. Your faith in humanity won’t exactly be uplifted.

The Best Cheap Printer – the Samsung Xpress M2825DW

The Wirecutter:

Color is swell, but for most documents, black and white look just fine. Monochrome laser printers are faster, render sharper text, and can even last longer than inkjet printers (no ink purges!). So for students, folks in a home office, and even some small business owners, the Samsung Xpress M2825DW is the cheapest, most efficient way to make hard copies of term papers, tax forms, and anything else that looks great in grayscale.

I’m a big fan of The Wirecutter and their reviews. I’ve bought several items based solely on their recommendations.