Monday, August 20, 2012

Nicaragua: The all-inclusive resort experience

I'm back in the States, currently nursing a cold that developed while I was supposed to be relaxing on the beach while drinking piña coladas.  Perhaps I can blame my lackluster "resort" experience on the fact that I was starting to feel sick, but I honestly think that the 36 hours I spent at the Montelimar Resort confirmed what I had suspected for a while: that the resort experience is NOT my thing!

Before I go off on a long rant, I should say that there were some positives.  I caught two pretty great sunsets and enjoyed early morning walks on the beach, before it got too hot and steamy.  Plus, I splashed around in what is supposedly the largest pool in Central America.  Large it may be, deep it is not!  I pretty much walked the length of it because it might measure 5 feet at the deepest point.  At 8:00 am on Saturday morning, I was the only person in the pool, a rare treat!  Also, considering our group's needs/goals (traveling with kids, letting them unwind and play on the beach after 2 fairly intense weeks), the resort was more than suitable, and I did appreciate that it was popular with Nicaraguans and people from other Central American countries.  We were the only Americans there, so that at least felt authentic.

Those points aside, this is not an experience that I need to repeat ever again.  First of all, I felt completely trapped at the resort, wearing a stupid wristband that identified me and wandering from my cabaña to the restaurant, to the pool, to the beach.  While we had free range around the resort, it seemed as though we were locked inside a compound which creeped me out.  Didn't the Jim Jones cult live on a compound?  Then there was the food.  Overall, I found the food in Nicaragua to be great, and I ate more than my fair share of good meals and drank wonderful fruit juices.  At the resort, there was a buffet (of course), and everything tasted mediocre, even the fruit.  So, while the food wasn't bad, per se, and there was plenty of it, the quality of the food did disappoint.  The other issue for me was the heat and the humidity.  While I tolerated the weather in Managua because I had no other choice, to "vacation" where it's hot and humid goes completely against my better judgement.  I know that I'm not much of a beach person, in part because my skin just can't take it, so sitting on the beach all day or even playing in the water holds no appeal to me, and those were the principal activities offered up.  Well, not the principal ones - if I had wanted to, I could have taken a dance class, a water aerobics class, played some beach volleyball or water polo, all organized for my entertainment by the resort staff.  I eschewed all such group activities, opting to read for most of the day.  By Saturday night, I couldn't wait to get on the bus the next day to leave the prison.  I mean resort.

Feeling slightly under-the-weather did not, I'm sure, help the situation.  I honestly thought that I might be having an allergic reaction to Montelimar because I felt worse in the room than I did outside walking around.  Now that I'm sniffling and coughing in Boulder, I have to recognize that I was just getting sick, plain and simple.  But I liked to think that Montelimar had provoked my allergies and that I would feel better as soon as I left the gates and they cut off the wristband.  Also, one of the other adults was driving me bonkers and I felt trapped having to spend so much time with him too.  So, overall, I would give the resort experience a solid D.

I am sure that there are nicer places that offer better food and more activities that would be to my liking.  However, I don't plan to find out whether this experience was unique in piquing all of my pet peeves or if any sort of all-inclusive experience would provoke such a strong reaction.  I have a hunch that the latter is true, and I think that I will trust my gut there.

Overall, it is not bad that the relaxing, resort experience ended up being so anti-climactic.  There were  wonderful aspects to this trip that I would prefer to remember as the highlight.  It is also funny because, from time to time, it occurs to me that Michael and I should really "vacation" rather than "travel".  From this experience, I have taken note that I am clearly not a good vacationer - I need more of a purpose or direction to my trips, something greater than the desire to merely relax, unwind, work on my tan and drink piña coladas.  Travel must be more meaningful than that, or that is my way of thinking, and the good thing about this trip is that I have certainly taken away more from this trip than petty grievances towards a resort!


Kimra said...

Mmmm yeah, this pretty much sums up my worst fears about all-inclusive vacations (and why I don't think I'd be good on a cruise). I'm glad you had so many other good, not-pre-packaged takeaways from the trip, though!

ChezJulie said...

David Foster Wallace wrote a hilarious essay about going on a cruise called "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" (from the book of the same title). Highly recommended... might be fun to compare your experience to his.

Since I LIVE in a hot and humid place, it probably wouldn't bother me to vacation in one. But I would find a resort or a cruise totally boring, too.

kilax said...

Do we at least get to see pictures of the sunsets?

I have never been to an all inclusive space. I like to explore, so I have a feeling I would not be happy if I couldn't get out/if it was not safe. I know some people love that though and go to the same resort every year and never leave! It's interesting what people prefer. When we went to Aruba we did not stay at a resort, but went to the resort area, saw what it was like and were happy we stayed closer to downtown/the action.

Kristina said...

Kimra - One of my colleagues commented "This is a cruise on land". I've added take a cruise to the list of activities in which I never want to partake.

ChezJulie - I can't wait to read that essay! Thanks for the suggestion.

Kim - I'm terrible about taking photos. So, no sunsets.
You are right - different people have different preferences. While I don't understand wanting to go to a resort, other people probably don't understand why I'd rather travel a lot and stay in crappy hotels.