"IF THEY BUILD IT,
CRUISE SHIPS WILL COME..."
Just so you understand, this lovely
little village is the ENTIRE Costa
Maya. Let me fill in the missing parts for
you. To the left of the village is forest.
Behind the village is forest and to the
right as well. As far as the eye can
see, one big forest.
Where is the city? There is no city.
Where are the other buildings?
There are no other buildings. Where
are the people? A few people live in
this village. The rest live in small huts
hidden in the forest. Putting things into perspective, this
attractive shopping center is all there is
as far as the eye can see.
What's going on here?
One day back in the Nineties, peace-loving
Indian descendants living in a tiny nearby village
known as Majahual were Mayan their own
business when a stranger came to town.
The stranger was scouting for a new location
to build a Tourist Trap. He discovered
the waters just beyond the village were so deep
that huge ocean liners the size of mountains
could dock within a hundred yards of the
shore. That made this place special in
a very unique way.
The stranger quietly shared
this knowledge with his investment group.
Even though this village was in the
absolute middle of nowhere and the area
natural beauty, the clever investment group
purchased the land at ocean bottom prices
and began to build a world-class pier.
Then to complete the make-over, they built
this bizarre Pink Village next to
out of nowhere came
Maya, Resurrection of the Mighty Pink Mayan
it was true. Here in the absolute middle
of nowhere, a brand new tourist trap had
magically been carved out of the Mexican
Snap crackle and pop, soon
rich American tourists were being trapped
and harvested on a regular basis. It
was a miracle indeed.
The SSQQ Cruise group has visited Costa Maya twice.
By coincidence, both times (2004, 2006) we came here when a hurricane made
visiting the Cayman Islands, our scheduled port, impossible.
Located on the Yucatan Peninsula about halfway between
Belize and Cozumel, Costa Maya became a convenient stop for any cruise ship
looking for an excuse to dock someplace with next to no port fees.
The cruise ship, of course, could care less that no one had ever
heard of this place. It was their legal responsibility to dock
at three places. If the Caymans weren't available, then Costa
Maya would do just fine as a simple alternative.
jaundiced eye might conclude that Costa Maya was created one reason
and one reason only - the cruise industry needed a
new place to dump tourists whenever a hurricane diverted their ships
from the promised itinerary.
I don't know what these developers were smoking or drinking when
they thought of putting this place together, but they had to be
proud of themselves. The place was busy. Their concept
seemed to be working.
Talk about a deserted location! So you ask again, 'Why
did they pick this place?' Two reasons actually.
First there was the unique opportunity to plunk bring the
massive cruise ships right up to edge of the shoreline.
Anyone who has ever been forced to "Tender" knows this kind
of walk-in accessibility is a huge advantage for any port.
For example, the mysterious Cayman Islands (we
haven't actually seen them since 2002) require small boats
known as 'tenders' to ferry passengers back and forth from
the ship to shore. If you have 2,000 passengers and
the boats carry 100 at a time, this process is
The other reason for this choice is invisible to the
mainland tourists. Unless you are a scuba enthusiast,
you probably had no idea that one of the greatest scuba
sites of the entire world is nearby. 20 miles out to
sea lies Banco Chinchorro, the second largest reef in
the world. Previously you could only reach this spot
from Xcalak which lies further south on the coast. The
six hour round trip boat ride was a real deterrent.
The emergence of Costa Maya has reduced the trip to under
The Chinchorro Reef is a veritable Davy Jones
locker. During the Colonial period, sailors dreaded passing
near it . The route from Colombia to Spain by way of Havana, Cuba,
required ships to pass dangerously close to the bank. The
treacherous winds and
unpredictable currents doomed many a ship.
So far, the remains of 18 ships that sank between 1600 and 1800 have
been discovered. Sunken ships and the incredible sea life
that populate the reef indicate why the Chinchorro Reef is
such a hugely popular dive location.
The Mexican government is deeply committed to protecting this
reef. Currently only 150 divers per day are allowed to visit. The
Costa Maya developers want permission to develop a water taxi system
to drop thousands of tourists daily onto the Reef. Not
surprisingly, a real fight over the environment is brewing. Stay
For the present, however, Costa Maya is still
in its infancy.
If the Pink Village had more than 200 residents, I would be very surprised.
That is how small it is. I honestly believe the two times I have
visited, the tourists out-numbered the people who live around here
by 10 to 1. If there had been even one hint of gold, I imagine
we could have done a Conquistador impersonation and seized the
place. Touristas - let us Unite and Conquer!
Costa Maya made me laugh. I became fascinated
with this odd 'Made For Tourists' theme village. What was it
doing here? It was like finding an amusement park in the North
Pole or the Sahara Desert. This was the silliest thing I
had ever seen.
Little did I know that one day this
beguiling outpost on the edge of civilization would one day lead me to the
greatest Crisis of my fledgling writing career....
I first visited this mysterious place
on my Honeymoon cruise in 2004. No one
had ever heard of the place and we soon
found out why. Marla and I
went ashore with her brother Larry and his
wife Roz. We crossed a long yellow walkway to
enter a colorful tourist village. This village had
huge walls all around it. I was
surprised not to find a moat.
Inside the protected tourist village were
tee-shirt shops and Margarita/Cerveza
cantinas everywhere you looked. Plus
there were a couple "Costa Maya Realty"
you were in the mood to purchase a few acres
of farm land next to a deserted beach.
I was curious about this charming tourist
trap built absolutely in the middle of
nowhere. I could not figure out why
someone would spend all this money on a spot
with so little natural beauty. I
wanted to get the scoop. So during my
2004 visit, I actually visited a realty
company. They told me this was going
to be the next Cancun. This area was a
beautiful diamond in the rough just waiting
to be polished.
Costa Maya was on a path to explode in the
real estate market. Wealthy gringos
just like me were
flocking to this spot to buy their
valuable piece of Mexican Paradisio! I
was skeptical, so they said to be sure to
come back in a few years. That would be the
exact moment I would REGRET not buying
This was a very good
sales pitch except I have long known that
'realty' and 'reality' are not always the
same thing. When I looked at
this map, I frowned when I could not
find 'Costa Maya' even listed (I had to
guess where it was). Not on the map? That was strange.
Plus it seemed to me the landscape around
Pink Port Costa Maya was really boring!! Take a
look for yourself.
I took this picture from my cruise ship.
As you can see, we are in the middle of
NOWHERE with the
bizarre PINK CITY
carved out of the countryside on the right.
Have you ever seen a less inviting stretch of beach?
After the rocky beach, the next thing you notice is
a vast expanse of the shortest trees on earth.
Some of those trees near the shore are barely larger
than bushes. This area must be the
flattest piece of earth on the planet. There are no mountains.
There are no hills. The horizon suggests that
maybe the earth is flat after all, so most tourists stay in the
Pink City or risk falling off the edge of the earth.
There is a forest, but it is not exactly a 'Rain
Forest'. There are no caves. There are
no rivers with exciting waterfalls and rapids
perfect for kayaking. There is no nearby
snorkeling that I know of. There is no beach
of any particular significance. In fact, there
is practically nothing to do at this place except
buy tee-shirts, drink beer or get on the bus for a
grueling four hour round trip to see some
mosquito-infested ruins 60 miles away.
I just couldn't figure it out. Why did they
THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
What possible reason could there be for this simple
fishing village to suddenly become a destination for
a cruise ship carrying several thousand wealthy
As I mentioned
earlier, the whole thing started when some speculators pooled
their money and decided to build an expensive
state-of-the-art dock. Suddenly a little
Mexican fishing village completely cut off
from the world had a world-class pier worth millions of
If they build it, cruise ships will come...
Well, sure enough, in 2000 the first cruise ship did
come... and immediately wrecked their brand new
dock. I kid you not.
Don't ever let someone tell you that
building Tourist Traps is risk-free. I
am sure someone had a heart attack when this
This set-back delayed Costa Maya's debut on
the Caribbean Cruise Circuit for another year.
dubious start, they went back and rebuilt the pier.
If at first you don't succeed...
As I said, I first set eyes on Costa Maya in 2004.
Judging from what I saw then, Costa Maya had a
lot of work ahead of it before it took its rightful
place as the next
What was this weird place anyway? Was "Pink"
the official color of the Mayan Empire or what?
I have heard of state flowers and state birds, but
never of a state color. Pink here, Pink there,
I am not joking when I say this place looked like a set
from an Indiana Jones Pink City of Doom
Or was this the place where Mel Gibson filmed
Apocalypto? Maybe one night Mel was
"Uh, Mel, what color
do you think should we paint the
Village for the Spaniard fight scene?"
the hell cares! Hey,
can you pass the Tequila? Color?
I don't give a damn. Paint it pink."
In defense of Costa Maya, I am sure that Las
Vegas was no great shakes when it started out.
And look at Dubai over in the Persian Gulf.
Both places started as deserted sand dunes
no one wanted. And maybe
they are right about Cancun and Cozumel starting out
the same way. You start with some beaches and
crystal blue water and build the place up
So as our ship approached Costa
Maya in 2006, I was very interested to to see how
well the resort gamble
had paid off since my first visit in 2004.
A part of me
was secretly worried that those realty sharks were
right. Had Costa Maya become a lush Mexican
Riviera since the last time I was here? Was I
a fool not to buy my own stretch of beach at sea
As we approached, I looked out
on the landscape from the cruise ship with intense
curiosity. Yup, same old short trees.
I was deeply relieved to see the place looked just
as boring as it did two years ago.
Oh, maybe there
were a few changes. For example, the place looked a little more
pink. I guess they believe bright pastels on every building
will improve tourism.
As all of you know, I am something of an expert on
"Color Coordination". I have to say
I have never seen a more
color-coordinated town in all my life. Despite
a veritable panoply of pinks, purples, oranges, and
one structure clashed! What an amazing
accomplishment. Obviously someone with
exquisite taste had designed this pretty tourist village.
But despite brilliant colors more vivid than any
rainbow, there was practically no new development in
the town since my last visit two years ago.
I let out a sigh of relief.
Ha, good thing I didn't let those swindlers get my
money! The next Cancun? Oh please, don't
I also couldn't wait to take another look at the
trees. The first time I saw Costa Maya, I
couldn't figure out why all the trees were so short!
I mean, these trees would make Hobbits look tall.
Look at the picture - the trees are so short,
you can see thatched huts towering above the tree
Curious to know why the trees were so short, in 2004
I asked my friend Iqbal, aka Mr. Know-It-All,
to explain this phenomenon. Sure
enough, Mr. Know-It-All had an instant answer that was
Iqbal said that hurricanes roll through this area on
a steady basis. At
least once every two or three years, some big storm
hits this area and flattens the trees.
For example, Iqbal pointed out that Cozumel, which was just up
the coast, had been hit about five years in a row
Iqbal said the really tall trees
would be the first to get knocked down in a hurricane. Stand
up and be the first tree to get blown away! Natural selection
demanded that the shortest trees had the best chance to survive in
this coastal town.
So the runt trees will inherit the Yucatan coastline. ***
Tell me the truth, would you have
thought of that explanation off the top of your head?
I know I tease, but what I am about to say is on the level.
It is no accident the first two letters in his name are IQ... the
man is so intelligent! At the same time Iqbal is so humble and
down to earth that I cannot help but tell the world how much
I admire this guy.
As we neared the shore, I looked to see if there were any tall
trees. Darn it. Not even one semi-big tree. Give me just one lousy big tree and I was going to taunt Iqbal. You
see, even though I admire him, there's some dark side that makes me want to
be smarter just once!
One of these days I am going to get the courage to ask Iqbal if the
Cayman Islands really still exist. They keep scheduling the Cayman Islands but we
always end up at Costa Maya instead. I think the Caymans have
gone 'Atlantis' on us. Why don't they tell us
(***2007 APOLOGY FROM RICK - The
2006 passage about the runt trees was a
prophetic for my comfort.
"Although Dean swept over
Yucatan as a rare Category 5 hurricane, which is capable of
causing catastrophic damage, the storm’s top winds were
relatively narrow and appeared to hit just one town: the cruise
ship port of Majahual.
The few people who had not evacuated Majahual fled ahead of the
storm. Dean demolished hundreds of houses, crumpled steel
girders, splintered wooden structures and washed away parts of
concrete dock that transformed what once was a sleepy fishing
village into a top cruise ship destination."
can see from the USA Today report, in August 2007, just one year after I originally wrote this story,
Hurricane Dean with its powerful Category 5 winds came through and
flattened every tree in the area. Costa Maya took a direct
hit. Although fortunately no one
was hurt, the devastation in this area was serious. I originally thought only the tall trees got knocked
down, but this time ALL the trees got knocked down. In other
the trees in this area are short because every few years the entire forest has to start over! Plus
now that pier has to be rebuilt
I freely admit I feel a lot of
sympathy for the people of this area. I know the hurricane
damage isn't my fault, but I still have a twinge of guilt for
I ask my
readers to please forgive if what I write seems insensitive.
It stops being funny when people suffer.)
THE SECRET OF THE MIGHTY WALLS OF COSTA MAYA
On my first trip to Costa Maya, I
was told never to go outside the Mighty Walls of the Tourist Village.
I could see fear in the eyes of the local people. They were
hiding something. There was
something OUT THERE they didn't want to tell us
about. This was
definitely a mucho grande secreta.
not for the life of me figure out what they
were so paranoid about. Finally I
remembered the automatic weapons of the
military in Cozumel I had
seen on my previous trip. Maybe
there were rebels out there! Or maybe they didn't want to
us to know there were serious Mexican Banditos outside the wall
dying for the chance to relieve us of our Tourista
dinero and our valuable Rolex watches.
Whatever the story, they couldn't actually talk
about the Banditos and take the chance word would
get out about the danger. This place needed
all the tourists they could get. They did not want
to risk discouraging people from coming here.
All I heard was, "Don't go out
As a result, in 2004 none of us dared to take a
They scared us into huddling together for safety inside the
However this year was different.
I was curious this time to learn the truth.
This place was more imposing than a
castle! I stared in
confusion at the massive 20-foot pink wall
that surrounded the place. Was this
DEFENSE of some sort sort? Where's the moat?
Maybe they didn't need a moat.
What army could ever attack the place? A surprise attack was out of the
question. The trees were so short a bad guy would
have to crawl on his belly not to be seen!
onrushing soldiers would be blinded by the pink wall. Mayans
protected by sunglasses would run out from their gift shops
and effortlessly chop their enemies to
investigation, I eventually learned the truth.
The massive wall was NOT a defense.
This poor village needed no defense - this
so boring that Conquistadors and Tourists
alike couldn't wait to leave. The secret was
that the countryside was so sadly unattractive they
had to build a wall so NO ONE COULD SEE OUT.
Oops. I accidentally let the secret out,
Sorry. It is so hard to keep a good secret
Reason for the Wall was that no one wanted us to
notice there was
absolutely nothing to see
except a bunch of short trees and abject poverty.
They were so concerned about selling real estate
that they did not want anyone to discover that the
countryside was absolutely devoid of anything to see
but stubby trees and poor fishermen. Hmm. Realty
I am reminded of Jamaica. Everyone is poor there
too, but at least this mountainous island is so unbelievably
beautiful that people keep coming there anyway.
For example, take a look at the lush rolling
beauty of Jamaica.
I quickly concluded poor little Costa Maya definitely wasn't going
to win any resort beauty contests, that was for sure.
We had not
ventured past the walls in 2004, but in 2006 we took some pictures of the
Costa Maya surroundings.
Here is a look at what you have been missing.
Countryside of Costa Maya
Welcome to the extraordinary
beauty of Costa Maya! I have to be honest - I
think I would rather visit Jamaica.
Give me some hills, for crying out loud. This flat land with its stubby trees just isn't my
cup of tea. I mean, it's okay for farming, but
why would I want to travel a thousand miles on an
expensive cruise trip to see a place so utterly devoid of
I mean, aren't vacations supposed to
be about seeing a vision of Paradise? Without
our dreams, how can we
tolerate 51 weeks a year of living in Houston, a
former swamp transformed into the
concrete and billboard capital of the world?
Heck, I can drive from Houston to San Antonio and see equivalent
flat farming landscapes for a lot less money.
By the way, just in case you think I am deliberately
withholding the truly
of Costa Maya countryside, guess again.
What you see is what you get.
The area is
an unending panorama of peaceful farmland and simple buildings.
we have a picture of a woman so
overcome by the beauty of the scenery
that she passed out.
MY CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE BEGINS
I know what you're thinking! You are thinking what kind of moron
I am to be knocking the places we visit.
You know, the more I think about it,
you may be correct. I have
become increasingly worried that I am not a very
good travel writer. My travel
marketing skills do seem kind of weak.
"Well, heck, after all the terrible things he writes, I'm not going on any more of Rick's
stupid cruises. Why pay all that money? He just makes fun of every
place we go!"
Are you surprised that I would say something
bad about a place I visited? Well, I
feel terrible, but I
just can't help it. I have so little
imagination sometimes I can't think of anything nice to say.
They say if you can't say something nice,
then don't say anything at all.
But then we wouldn't have a travel write-up. I always end up telling things exactly the way I see
them. But if I am negative, how smart is that?
After ten cruises, I have had
experience at writing travel stories.
They say practice makes perfect, but I don't seem to
getting any better at this Travel Writer stuff. You
would think with all the practice I get, I would improve a
little. I guess not.
Now as I wrote this article about Costa
I could not help but notice this story seemed to be further evidence I haven't learned much about
promoting our travel business. I
worry that maybe I am just not cut out to be a travel
You see, I have been receiving quite a bit proof that I have been a terrible
travel writer from the get-go.
VERA CRUZ 2001
For example, back in 2001, I wrote some less than flattering
things about our visit to
Thanks to Google, 4 years later, my mean words
about Vera Cruz came back to haunt me.
Subject: SSQQ Cruise to Veracruz
From: John Todd
Sent: Saturday, July 02, 2005 5:59 PM
I have lived in Veracruz the last 20 years and I
came across your web site via google. I
took the chance to read the trip reports
on your visit here in 2001.
For the last 3 years I have been doing tour
guide work in Veracruz and find it to be one of
the most interesting places in the world!
(THIS GUY MUST BE ON
I think you guys really missed the boat when you
came here (ACTUALLY I WAS
TERRIFIED I WOULD MISS THE BOAT AND BE
STUCK HERE), because for the last couple of months
my website has gotten over 12,000 visits from 81
countries. There is really a lot to see and do
here that doesn't cost that much extra.
For many people, Vera Cruz is not the "legendary
armpit" of Mexico. (OKAY,
SO MAYBE THAT STATEMENT WAS A LITTLE HARSH. NOW
THAT I HAVE SEEN COSTA MAYA....)
If you like dancing, they dance the sultry
tropical "Danzón" each night on the plaza in
Veracruz. (MAYBE I SHOULD
OPEN UP A STUDIO BRANCH)
As for snorkeling there are something like 6
dive shops here and a national marine park
within a 10 minute boat ride from the malecón.
(MY FRIENDS WHO ATTEMPTED
TO SNORKEL IN 2001 REPORTED THE FILTHIEST BEACH THEY HAD
Veracruz is known as having some of the
best seafood in the world
(OH PLEASE) as well as the widest
variety. Much better than what you can find on
any cruise ship.
The music and typical costumes of the dancers of
Veracruz is well known throughout the world. The
dance troupes are plentiful and even invite the
audience to join in and learn how to dance "La
Bamba." You didn't mention trying the
seafood or sampling the local music.
My own experience with cruise ships (Holland
America had cruise ships docking since December
2002) is that their own people are probably
outsourced and don't know what's here. Plus they
won't spend the time to research the area and
don't know what they are selling.
(OR MAYBE THEY KNOW MORE
THAN THIS GUY REALIZES)
At the same time, among the people who have been
here to Veracruz, your own article leaves the
impression that your own organization and trip
coordination efforts were poor. You could have
done a lot better and don't have to blame
Veracruz for your own lack of preparation and
communication among your own customers
(LACK OF PREPARATION? I GUESS THE
HURRICANE THAT DIVERTED US HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE WAS ALL MY FAULT.
I SHOULD HAVE PREDICTED A VERA CRUZ
LANDING WITH ESP).
Among those of us who know Mexico and Veracruz,
the articles on your web site about your
experience here don't give your own company a
good image. (HE'S RIGHT!
I AM HURTING MYSELF BY TELLING THE TRUTH!
WHY DO I HAVE THE
CURSED HONESTY GENE? WHY CAN'T I LEARN TO
FIB LIKE OTHER TRAVEL AGENTS?)
You may think your article is "cute" but your
"editorial comments" are unnecessary and make
you and your customers look a little silly in
their ignorance of this area.
(UH OH, I HOPE MY
FIND OUT I MADE THEM LOOK STUPID TOO!)
You guys are poor mouthing your own lack of
imagination, and not the lack of interesting
things to do here. (I
GUESS HE HAS FIGURED OUT
I AM THE WORLD'S WORST TRAVEL WRITER.
A GOOD B-S GUY WOULD HAVE FOUND SOMETHING TO
PRAISE, BUT NOT ME. HOW
I am originally from Houston and
I like Veracruz.
It looks like most of your passengers also
enjoyed their time here, too.
(WE CAME HERE
BECAUSE WE HAD NO CHOICE. ASK LEROY - HE HATED THIS PLACE SO MUCH HE
NEARLY STARTED A PROTEST RIOT ON BOARD THE SHIP.)
If I can help you with anything in Veracruz, let
John Todd, Jr.
John Todd's letter, I had two impressions.
First, John is probably stretching the truth a
little. Nah, make that 'a lot'. I don't
believe a word he says. But at least John has
the sense to say the right things. I mean,
everything John says is exactly what you would
expect a good Travel Writer to say.
John is willing to say
whatever it takes to lure naive, unsuspecting
tourists to his location!
can't I write like that? What is wrong with
me? These doubts are killing me.
Second, all I can say is thank
goodness for Marla. How she overcomes my lousy
travel write-ups to make each SSQQ Cruise a big success is a real testament to her ability.
With a handicap like my stories, how does she do it time and time again?
Behind every man who
praises his smart wife might be some moron who would
be lost without her. I worry constantly she
will accidentally notice what a lousy travel writer
I am and dump me overboard.
I have a favor -
don't tell her how bad I am.
It is NOT EASY feeling insecure.
As if I didn't
have enough to worry about, early in 2007 I got another email criticizing my
crummy travel writing style. This writer
came all the way from KatchaMan, Alaska! First
Vera Cruz, now Alaska. I seem to be offending
people across the earth. You don't suppose I
say anything that invites these kind of letters, do
Oh well, here is the letter. (If you wish to
read the original story this woman refers to, see Katchaman,
Date: 1/18/2007 10:05:04 PM
Subject: Ketchikan Alaska
Hi, my name is Catherine. I was looking for
information on the Internet, and I came across
your website with a story about Ketchikan.
I live in Ketchikan. I've lived here for 40
years. My parents came up as tourists, fell in
love with the place, and moved our family up
What your husband wrote about my town was pure
We certainly don't think of this
place as "Katchaman". Our men are
hard-working, strong, independent guys who
certainly aren't going by "caught" by anyone
unless they do the catching first.
Furthermore we haven't lived off of salmon
fishing and logging for years. Where did
your husband get that from? Or did he just
make it up like all the other nonsense he wrote
I can tell you the true story about the place if
you'd like to hear it.
For instance, the brothels closed down 50
years ago, but that small fact didn't stop your
dirty-minded husband from being preoccupied with
Speaking of brothels, now that I am on the
topic, one of the locals bought an old brothel
a few years ago and fixed it up as a tourist
Since then, every horny male tourist that visits
Ketchikan manages to drop by to check it out. I
am surprised your husband didn't visit it.
of them show up expecting to get some.
how disappointed they are to find a museum with nothing more
than a bunch of faded sepia-colored pictures of
some really fat ugly women.
It is people like your husband who hurt my town
with their uninformed, negative stories. I
am sure he thinks he is cute, but I don't think
what he said was amusing at all.
The Alaskan woman
definitely did not appreciate my lousy
writing ability. This woman was so
irritated she emailed MY WIFE!
Yeah, that's right, she sent the complaint
to my wife Marla!
luck. I had just finished swearing all
my readers to secrecy only to have this
rotten person take it straight to Number
How did this woman guess that the single worst
person on earth to send her email to would be my
wife? How did she
As I said, I was already feeling insecure.
Remember how I asked you all to promise not to tell
Marla what a lousy writer I am? I
would be in big trouble if Marla ever found out.
Now thanks to this evil
woman from Alaska, Marla must have had second thoughts. What if Marla
were to start looking for a guy who could actually
write and discover her cruise business began to
For the record, Marla simply forwarded the email to
me with this single comment.
From: Marla Archer
Sent: Friday, January 19, 2007 11:28 AM
Subject: Fw: Ketchikan
I think you pissed someone off in Ketchikan.
CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE DEEPENS
Truth be told, Marla never said another word to me
about the Alaska email. She didn't have to.
I was already TERRIFIED! What did Marla really
think of my writing ability? I was too
intimidated to ask.
With the Alaska
criticism haunting me, I continued
to worry about my 2006 Costa Maya article.
Paranoia eroded my confidence. Maybe that Vera
Cruz guy and Katchaman lady were right. I
was too negative. I had absolutely no
natural ability at marketing. Is it something
you are born with or do you learn it in travel
school? How do people learn to write
'positive' when they don't feel 'positive'?
The more I thought about it, the clock might be
ticking with Marla's patience. I decided I had
better find something NICE to say about Costa Maya
or I might end up missing the next trip.
I had a
mission. I began to scour the Internet in
search of NICE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT COSTA MAYA.
It wasn't easy.
MORE ABOUT COSTA MAYA
As I prepared to write some nice
Costa Maya for this 2006 trip, I went to find Costa Maya on a map.
Every map I found on the Internet pointed only to the coastline.
Several maps indicated "Costa Maya" was the red line in the picture
on the left.
Nowhere could I find any indication of a town called "Costa Maya".
Finally I figured out that "Costa Maya" refers to the Mayan Coast.
In other words, the entire red coastline
is Costa Maya, i.e. the Mayan Coast.
Okay, then what is the name of this weird little village that we
visit? It took about 20 minutes of digging around the
Internet, but I got my answer - We dock at a town known as
I found an interesting article about Majahual.
Anxious to please Marla with evidence of serious effort on my part, I decided to add it to the story.
MAJAHUAL (this story reprinted
from the internet)
Just south of the small village of Limones on
highway 307 is the exit for Majahual, which is located about an
hour's drive east on the coast. Some people call it Ma-ha-hual with an
"h" as in "Ma Ha Hal".
The town of
Majahual is a
small fishing village that is gearing up to be the next Playa del
Much of the town has been purchased
by speculators in that hope the boom will
eventually get down this way
like it did in Playa. In fact many of the
new residents are from Cancun or elsewhere.
Real estate is moving in this neck of the woods and
small cabanas are popping up in ever-increasing numbers.
not however transcribe into more people, as many of the landowners
do not live on the property.
In 2000 they finally completed their dock, which was certified to
accept cruise ships. Unfortunately the
first ship that docked crashed into the new dock
and wrecked it. Work to rebuild the dock was completed and
cruise ships are presently docking there.
We were curious why the area's name 'Costa
Maya' seemed to supersede Majahual on all the brochures when
actually the ships landed in the Majahual. One Mexican
tour guide suggested perhaps it was correct marketing to ignore
a name no one could even pronounce.
There is a new airport close to the coast.
However when we last
visited, the power lines had not been strung all the way.
was no power and the airport was dormant. We have not heard of any
flights going to this airport yet, so we assume it is still not
There is a road that runs along the coast.
However it is no longer
under federal control and has become a pot-holed half road
half sand path trail. It is a slow bumpy ride
best suited for an ATV vehicle. However
if you avoid Majahual town and stay at Maya Ha,
then there is a brand new paved road that takes you almost all the
way there. The remaining dirt road is a minor inconvenience and well
worth the drive.
Majahual is best known for its diving with the world famous
Chinchorro Reefs off the coast. The beaches are totally secluded and
However the town itself does not
have an area particularly good for snorkeling.
Since the water quickly gets so deep,
instead of snorkeling, this area attracts a lot of divers.
This backwoods location also seems to attract
bohemians who find the rustic lifestyle appealing.
are numerous American expatriates living in the area
which makes for lively conversation and socializing.
After reading this story, I felt a little
better. Apparently this writer didn't have any trouble telling
it like it is.
If you have
followed this story closely, Majahual is virtually inaccessible by
plane or car. There is an airport that isn't used and a road
full of potholes. Only cruise ships can get it to it!
The town has no snorkeling.
The beaches are secluded for a reason - they aren't very pretty and
no one visits them.
Undiscouraged, investors continue to flock by to cash in on the
next Playa del Carmen although they wouldn't dream of actually
living here because it is a 'backwoods location'. Empty
cabanas are strewn everywhere.
I guess if they can sell swampland in Florida, someone can sell a
few acres of runt trees in good old Costa Maya. You might even
get hooked up to electricity if you are lucky.
And better yet, there are American expatriates living here!
Wasn't that a cheerful way to end the story?
My mind raced to Key West, yet another place I have made fun of.
Key West is famous as the place where Ernest Hemingway wrote
some of his greatest novels. I thought carefully for something
nice to say. Hmm.
Hemingway was a genius expatriate.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if maybe the next Ernest Hemingway came from Majahual?!?
And now that we are on the subject of 'Genius'...
GLOOM AND DOOM -
RICK MEETS THE GENIUS TRAVEL
Encouraged by what I
discovered on the Internet, I probed to see what
else I could find.
and behold, I found some copy that reflected the
work of a truly gifted travel writer. As I read about a
side of Majahual, I felt sick with envy. This
writer was everything I could never be - cheerful,
Whereas my writing painted the picture of a
muddy little village with stumpy trees stuck in the
middle of nowhere, I discovered a writer whose
flowery description of Costa Maya opened my eyes to
a beauty I never knew existed. How I had ever missed
all that stuff?
In the hands of a
gifted Travel Writer, Majahual and its neighboring
area began to sound like the most important vacation
discovery since James Cook stumbled upon the
Hawaiian Islands in 1778.
"Mozart was brilliant. Salieri was mediocre.
What's more, Salieri knew Mozart was brilliant and that he
himself was mediocre.
The pain of this realization was more than Salieri could bear..."
At first I thought, 'Rick, just print this
article as if you wrote it. No one will ever know! Save
your writing career. Make Marla happy. Let her think you
can write stuff like this.'
That was a tempting thought to be sure, but I couldn't do it.
I was a victim of my own integrity.
confronted by his Mozart, I had enough intelligence to recognize
real talent when it appeared. Although I was in deep pain, I
decided to do the right thing. I would share the work of
the Genius Travel Writer with my readers. If only this could
only be me...
Puerto Costa Maya
(Written by a Genius
When you see the majestic expanse of Puerto Costa Maya from
your lofty perch aboard your ship, you know that you
have arrived in a land of
mystery and intrigue. Costa Maya offers an excellent opportunity
to delve into the Mayan culture and to enjoy the rich natural
resources of the Mexican Caribbean.
Planned with great
attention to detail, Puerto Costa Maya resembles an
ancient Mayan city.
There are three grand pavilions
to host cultural and gourmet
events. Here, local artisans create unique works of art and
culture, and guests can learn to make their own souvenirs.
Beyond the pavilions and their many offerings, Costa Maya
provides access to the natural resources
that make this region
of the Caribbean so completely unique, offering a window into
new and undeveloped areas of the coast.
Puerto Costa Maya is bold and beautiful. It is the newest port
of call in the Mexican Caribbean. Built around the
enigmatic culture of the ancient Maya, and the rich expanse of
the Yucatan Peninsula, travelers enjoy sapphire blue seas,
emerald green jungles, and a wealth of powerful experiences ranging from
diving shipwrecks in Chinchorro Banks, to shopping and floating
down calm rivers at the helm of a kayak.
include explorations of newly unearthed ruins, the ancient masks
of Kohunlich, Fort San Felipe, multi-colored lagoons, and a
treasure of wildlife and culture.
Puerto Costa Maya is the entrance to a marvelous and exciting
world… It's all waiting for you at Puerto Costa Maya!
I have to tell you, after I finished
reading this, I was baffled. Were we looking at the same
Sad to say, I think
we were definitely writing about the same place. The Chinchorro Banks mentioned in the writeup
were definitely off the coast of Majahual. That led me to the
next question - Why the heck couldn't I write that?
I carefully reviewed some of the pearls from
the Genius Travel Writer.
Costa Maya is bold and beautiful.
- the majestic expense of Puerto Costa Maya
land of mystery and intrigue.
- a region
of the Caribbean so completely unique, offering a window into
new and undeveloped areas of the coast.
- Built around the
enigmatic culture of the ancient Maya
- the rich expanse of
the Yucatan Peninsula
- travelers enjoy sapphire blue seas
Costa Maya is the entrance to a marvelous and exciting world
Then I reviewed some of my best passages.
village was in the absolute middle of nowhere and the area
possessed little natural beauty
- I don't know what these developers were smoking
trees were so short a bad guy would have to crawl on his
belly not to be seen!
- The secret was
that the countryside was so sadly unattractive they
had to build a wall so NO ONE COULD SEE OUT.
on the bus for a grueling four
hour round trip to see some mosquito-infested ruins 60
- Why would anyone want to travel a thousand miles on an
expensive cruise trip to see a place that is devoid of
I think this guy had made me look bad. I was feeling a little down in the dumps. You know, writing is not my profession. I am a dance teacher and kind of new to the exciting world of Travel
Writing. But it was still really embarrassing seeing my stuff next
to a Genius.
I was also deeply confused about my true identity as a Travel
Writer. Maybe you the reader can give me some direction here.
think Travel Writers are expected to embellish things a little?
Do you have a problem with that? Or would you rather have your
imagination stroked with hoopla and hyperbole?
For example, my vote for the worst-named country in the
world has to be Greenland. Let's face it - there isn't
anything 'Green' about Greenland. But I am worried that Greenland would end up sounding
like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon if you let the Genius Travel
Writer describe it for you.
Genius would write something like this:
"Greenland is a true Nordic Oasis complete with shimmering aquamarine ice
cliffs and deep crystalline crevasses. This majestic arctic
wonderland is epitomized by Mighty
Beowulf, the legendary Viking warrior whose spirit eternally watches over
this vast expanse of pristine ivory valleys. This
magnificent frontier is a perfectly preserved Paradise
completely unspoiled by any modern day development..."
I would take
one look and probably describe "Greenland" as an ugly barren chunk of
rock and ice so bitterly cold no one would ever dream of visiting.
Whose copy would you rather read?
You don't have to tell me. I already know I am the loser
in this comparison. I might actually be the WORST TRAVEL WRITER
ever. Why do I always tell the truth?
I was confronted by a crisis of
confidence. I had carefully combed the Internet for
information that would make this the best Travel story I had
ever written only to come face to face with my worst fear -
someone who actually knew what they were doing.
I was so depressed. I could not write worth a lick
when it came to Travel stories. Maybe I should pack my
really hurt to
have the evidence thrown in my face that I
was a crummy Travel Writer. Up till now I
had only 'suspected'. Now I knew
beyond the shadow of a doubt that my
inability to paint a pretty picture had led
to my failure.
What was I supposed to do? I couldn't
just quit. I
was the only
Travel Writer SSQQ had. I still had to
try. We could not
afford a really good writer unless we started
charge more for the trip. Not only
would the trips cost more, but a new writer would
mean I would become expendable. Marla
might start leaving me at home to save money and tell me
to stick to dancing.
I really wanted to keep
going on the trips.
I had to get better!!
The Costa Maya write-up was still not
complete. So in this next passage, I
tried as hard as I could to
write something nice about Costa Maya.
Wish me luck.
many exciting trips to take when you visit
Costa Maya, the modern day symbol of a civilization
whose mathematical genius and advances
in astronomy rivaled that of the fabled
Like the Egyptians, the entire Yucatan
Peninsula plus neighboring Guatemala
contains amazing pyramids. If
you enjoy exploring
ancient cultures, you have
definitely come to the right place in charming
ENIGMATIC Costa Maya.
Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
are located about 56 miles from Majahual
Village, just a short scenic jaunt from
your cruise ship.
There is actually quite a bit of mystery
surrounding the Mayans. Despite
several theories, no one is quite sure
why a civilization as advanced as the Mayans
went into decline. Yes, the
Spanish hastened their downfall, but it
appears their culture was already in
recession at that point.
Plus there is the creepy
Mayan Calendar which predicts the end of a
long cycle on December 21, 2012.
The Mayan Calendar was complex and
incredibly accurate. Mayan astronomy
was so good that their measurements of time
and the movement of the planets were the
equal to our modern observations.
Part of the 2012 mystique stems from the
stars. On the winter solstice in 2012, the
sun will be aligned with the center of the
Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000
years. This means that whatever energy
typically streams to Earth from the center
of the Milky Way will indeed be disrupted on
This point marks the end of their Calendar.
And just what is supposed to happen?
Some people say the Earth will flip on its
axis to another rotation. Others say
all the volcanoes will roar into action,
melting the ice caps and triggering massive
Still others such as our scientific
community say it will be no big deal.
All I can say is that I have circled that
day on my own calendar. We will
probably cancel dance classes that day.
Hmm, some of those trees look kind of tall
next to the pyramids. I asked Iqbal and he pointed out that
the trees do grow taller the further inland you go. In
addition, these particular trees have the pyramids for protection
against the wind.
Why didn't I think of that?
As I stared at the pictures of those pyramids
above, one thing that came to mind was that
these are considered 'minor' Mayan pyramids. Minor? Even these minor pyramids
The most famous Mayan pyramid is
located at Chichen Itza which is close to Cozumel. Those
Mayans could really build!
Again, I wondered why the Mayan Empire disappeared. From what I
gather, they had no natural enemies to speak of.
The more I thought about it, the more I wondered what their cities looked
like. Then in a flash I got my answer. Didn't the
Genius himself point out the village was a replica?
I double-checked. Sure enough, that's exactly what he
To quote the Genius Travel
with great attention to detail, Puerto Costa Maya resembles an
ancient Mayan city".
Holy Cow! That is one thing I would have never guessed.
We can finally see what an ancient Mayan city really looked like!
I bet all the ancient Mayan cities must have been Pink!
As you can see from the picture, the
Costa Maya tourist
village is really very cute and colorful.
Look at the size of those giant cruise ships and see how close they are to the
shore! That's amazing.
They can't get a
train, car, or airplane to this place, but a cruise ship
higher than a ten-story building can practically
float onto the beach.
Oh heck, there I go again mentioning the negative
Why not admit it.
I am still feeling a little bitter.
Too bad I am not a gifted travel writer who
can ferret out the hidden gems in this village.
First I tell you how boring the place is only to
hear the other guy describe it as a true Mexican
We are simply not seeing the same place.
Someone is wrong here and I am pretty sure it must
be me who is missing the big picture. I just
can't see the forest from the stumpy trees.
I write that 'The tourist village is
cute and colorful'. That's the best I can
do. Now how trite is that?
What would the other guy say? 'sapphire blue
seas and emerald green jungles...' My stuff is
sounds so mediocre next to words of that caliber.
I just had a dark thought. What
if the writer is a woman!? Oh heck, now that I think
of it, only a woman would write something like "sapphire
blue seas and emerald green jungles."
No guy I know thinks like that.
Can't be a guy. A real man could tell you the
color of every football uniform in the NFL, but what guy knows the color of
gems? Or what guy sees jungles and water and
thinks of gems? Gotta be a woman. So I
checked back on the Internet. Sure enough, it
was a woman all along. I also found some more
stuff she wrote about Costa Maya.
"As your ship
approaches Costa Maya, you are treated to a
vivid tableau of radiant color.
Accompanied by a dazzling rugged shoreline, you
cannot help but stare in wonder at the intricate
web of lush surrounding forest. Puerto
Costa Maya is an exquisite replica of a
venerable Mayan settlement. This
recreation of a Mayan village has finely sculpted
buildings that are modern archeological treasures in
their own right."
There she goes again. I
would have never guessed all those cantinas and tee-shirt gift shops
were 'modern archeological treasures in their own right'.
I missed another one. Burned again. Right there is the difference
between an amateur writer and a pro. So naturally I decided to
take a closer look to see what I was missing. I immediately
spotted something important.
If you look carefully, you will see a GIANT LONG NECK BEER
BOTTLE on top of the finely sculpted Pink structure. That gives us an insight into the Mayan Culture! Maybe the
Mayans were beer worshippers!!! Tecate, Sol, Dos Equis,
Carta Blanca, Corona... Do the archeologists know about this? I think we may have a major new clue to
explain the decline of the ENIGMATIC Mayan Empire!
By the way, here are some more looks at the
finely sculpted buildings that are modern
archeological treasures in their own right.
Oh, there I go again. Why I can't
I just say some nice things and leave it at
that? I can't seem to learn.
I have a
confession to make. After witnessing the true
power of words in the hands of a master, I realize I
desire to become a Writer too. I want to win your respect
and Marla's. Do you
really think I am going to let
a little negativity from some guy in Vera Cruz and some woman from Alaska discourage me? No way.
And so what if the Genius Travel Writer has an edge?
I am sure I can think of something to write.
For example, in the picture below,
seeing my complacent friends seated at the edge of the Costa Maya
shoreline, I had an idea for my first
novel. How about a story where bored Cruise people are too drunk to get out of the way
of a huge monster Tsunami wave? Tragically,
they all get swept away and drowned.
Vacation disaster movies! Peter Benchley made
millions writing Jaws and Spielberg
turned it into a
classic. And what about the
But Iqbal ruined my enthusiasm. He said no one
will believe my story of a Tsunami
hitting a Caribbean resort because there aren't any
tsunamis in the Caribbean (he really gets under my
skin). I need to think of
something better to write.
Here is an idea. What if I were to wrote a
frightening novel about rich, bored tourists from a cruise ship
who are happy one moment, but suddenly encounter
gut-wrenching terror at a
Tourist Trap? Do you think it would sell?
I HAVE A PLAN
that is really a good idea! Forget
my Tsunami story but listen to this.
Last summer there was a REALLY bad
about a talking vine that ate
Mexican tourists. I am not
making this up (Read
If a book this bad can be a hit, it
means there is hope for bad writers
everywhere (Like me!)
Here is the outline. How about
a story with rotten Cruise people
getting tortured? We are
talking filthy-rich, loud-mouth
tourists, right? I mean,
everyone hates rude tourists and
none of you care if some of them get
whacked if that's what they deserve!
First a bunch of half-naked Mayan Amazon
Women use their voluptuous bodies to
lure a cruise ship to their shores.
Then some tourists who
don't really understand the culture
stumble into a sleepy
backwoods Mexican village and behave
badly. Some of the tourists
are very rude. The citizens fight
back. The rudest
tourist of all is captured and
tortured. But we don't mind
because he deserves it!
The tourist has offended the Gods
and the Mayans are forced to take
revenge. Now that is one good
plot line for a Travel Horror
classic! If you think this
could be a hit, read on!
CURSE OF THE PINK
Beware the dangers of Tourist Traps!
The villagers are poor.
They are starving. They desperately
need Cruise Ships to come and spend
thousands of touro-dollars on useless tee
shirts and trinkets they don't need.
They built this big pier, but it didn't
work. The cruise ships float by, but they
don't stop. Despite glowing tributes on the
Internet, once passengers get here, this place is so ugly they tell the
Captain to keep the ship going. The Cruise
people only want to go to really
beautiful places like Cayman Islands.
The Mayan people go nuts watching one
ship after another pass them by. They
are a proud people, but they are desperate. So the
Beautiful Mayan Princess
takes her clothes off and sings songs like
Living la Vida Loca and
Inna Godda da Vida to lure
unsuspecting tourists with the beauty of her
Here she celebrates in triumph. Her
siren song has worked! A ship
Next we see a picture
of authentic Costa Mayan warriors wearing
their war masks!
These warriors are up to something sinister.
What could it be?
This is a Mayan Sacrifice Dance. This
dance invokes an ancient Mayan prayer.
warriors are about to plead to the Gods to grant them a huge wish!
But first they have to find someone to
sacrifice to the Gods. The Gods want
to see some blood.
Not a problem. The Mayan Villagers
have found the perfect person to sacrifice.
yes, we see the warriors have caught
a terrible tourist. They are torturing
him by sticking his head inside the jaws of a deadly
jaguar. This is just moments before they will use this dangerous intruder as a human sacrifice.
And what is this intruder guilty of?
The worst crime of all - wearing ugly tourist
attire that offends the Gods!
Everyone who knows ANYTHING about color
coordination knows that a blue shirt and dark red
shorts do not go with an orange back pack. Even
worse, this hideous costume has clashed horribly
with the soothing pink decor of the village, scaring
away all the other tourists. This guy has to
The Gods are Angry! He doesn't deserve to
live. Die Tourist Die!
Now I think we need to take a
closer look at
the mighty Costa Mayan warriors. Oops, one
of them has dropped his noise maker.
There is SO MUCH MORE to the picture
above than you realize!
These warriors are performing the FORBIDDEN HURRICANE
DANCE RITUAL!! (ps - this dance is
not currently taught at ssqq)
In case you not know the significance of this
ritual, let me help you - by sacrificing a
invoke an ancient Mayan curse to ask the Gods to
send another hurricane to divert more cruise
ships from the Cayman Islands over to Costa Maya.
Now we know the truth behind the mystery. This
ritual is why we never see the
missing Cayman Islands anymore.
In fact, thanks to the Mayan
the Cayman Islands have been blown off the map!
They don't even exist any more!
Will the Cruise Ship
be able to save the missing
tourist? Will a volcano suddenly
explode? Will the world come to an end?
Will Rick ever be able to sell this book? Does anybody care?
MY NEW WRITING CAREER!
You know, I think this Travel Horror story has a lot of
promise. Marla does too. After reading my outline, she suggested
maybe I go to Majahual and do further research. Maybe stay a
while, get to know the expatriates, keep her posted, she would come
visit me on the next cruise.
Hmm. I believe the Travel Genius lives in
Majahual. I won't tell you where I found her
on the Internet, but I can at least reveal her name is Nell. Maybe I should do society a favor
and go seek help from Nell. You won't miss my bad writing, I
promise, and besides you can come to see me on your
yearly cruises. Look for me among the
expatriates, you know, all the guys who don't play
football for New England any more.
I can try to write the next Great American Novel.
Just 'cause I can't write a lick doesn't mean I
don't enjoy trying. It's like sex... I'm not
any good at that either, but I like to try anyway.
Maybe my novel will be about a Travel Writer who lost his confidence
and went as far away from civilization as possible in a
desperate attempt to learn to write well. What a clever idea! Wouldn't that be
practically an automatic best seller right there?
While I am there,
I will seek Nell, my Travel Writing Muse. Does Swell
Nell give writing lessons? I
sure hope so. Like a neophyte seeking his
master, I will hang out with Nell and the other great Travel
Writers of Majahual and get tips on how to write a
Travel story. I will learn to be positive.
I have a vision.
the tutelage of Nell, I will grow as a writer. I will find a
cabana situated at the edge of the sapphire blue seas
and drink tequila which will help me write beautiful Travel stories
(it worked for Hemingway, why not me?)
Even though it would be would be easier to find a lost
plane in the Bermuda Triangle than this deserted cubby hole, I, Rick Archer,
will try to put tiny little Majahual on the world map!
Maybe my Travel writings will help Enigmatic Costa Maya make
people forget Paris and the Eyeful Tower. Instead of the Left Banc, I would have
the emerald green waters of the Mayan Coast for my writing inspiration.
I can persuade Mel Gibson to come back for a sequel!
Together he and I will help the Mayan ancestors of the area build a huge Pink Pyramid
sponsored by Mary Kay Cosmetics here in Majahual. I
predict The Pink Pyramid will become the
newest global phenomenon!
Then in 2012 when the Mayan Calendar predicts the
world will end, all the beautiful people can visit the pyramid and
help Me and Mel and a girl named Nell save the world from going to Hell!