We had a horrible experience with Cozumel Charters and Jim Wilson. Basically a broker. Here is our story:
We booked one of the biggest boats we could find thru this broker. The web page and our specific reservation promised a mix of snorkeling, and fishing. Well in advance we said we wanted bottom fishing (not deep sea fishing/trolling) and snorkeling. Our first warning sign that we may be in trouble was when they emailed us TWO DAYS before the trip that the interior of the boat had not been renovated as expected and the air conditioning was out in the bathroom and bedrooms and there were various issues with the cabin. Don't get me wrong they were very nice to let us know and were attempting to explain the situation to the best of their ability but it was still disappointing. They offered us another boat but it was twenty feet LESS than the super luxury boat we booked. They had nothing else. Our party included 3 eighty year old family members and the alternative was simply too small so we were STUCK with what we had booked (or we would have had to cancel entirely which they offered). That would have been even more disappointing. They did not give us enough warning to find another boat from another company. When we showed up, the captain who spoke limited english said that he had not received any information regarding our trip but that "this boat is not for snorkeling and bottom fishing". Shockingly, he and the two mates had NEVER been on the boat before…the mates had been called to work the boat 2 hours before the trip began. The "dock manager" convinced us that everything would be fine and basically pushed us into the boat. They didn't know where anything on the boat was, and no one even had a fishing or filet knife! They had no bottom fishing rods so they went across the marina to retrieve a couple but the drags were shot on them and they were of poor quality. Even if we had the best tackle it wouldn't have mattered - they were obviously clueless as to how to bottom fish and only comfortable trolling. We gave up and went snorkeling, which was a disaster. Cozumel has some of the most beautiful reefs in the world, but they took us to a shoreline near a hotel where someone had dumped 3 large piles of concrete onto the sandy floor of the ocean where we were surrounded by tourists from the hotel, and that was our snorkeling trip! 50 kids from the hotel and us. No swim ladder on the boat so we had to wrestle up my father in law back into the boat. Just weird and Bizarre. Please note that we were out in the ocean when all of this happened and it was too late to cancel. The mates apologized to us for the trip. My brother attempted to resolve this issue through numerous emails with the company but they became defensive and continually ignored our details and evidence of our bad trip. Finally, after much back and forth, they told us they would never refund even a penny of our trip because we were "rude". The fact is that they were shockingly offensive and sarcastic in their responses to our emails. We'll now have to battle it via the credit card company and in public forums such as this which we wanted to avoid. TRUST US. AVOID THEM! Undoubtedly you will see a response from "Jim Wilson" after this post (who our captain and mates had NEVER heard of) which says the same thing all of his responses to negative criticism say "We are the number one company in Cozumel, we tried to make it right" etc. but the fact is that we were trapped at sea with faulty equipment and a clueless captain on one of the biggest boats in Cozumel. The best advice we can give is to go direct and find a boat that you can talk to and arrange details directly with. This is simply a BROKER. If you avoid them you won't suffer the same fate as us and show up to a situation where no one was informed…we fish all over the world and this is the only time we have had a bad experience or posted a bad review. It's one thing to not catch fish. That happens all the time. It's another thing to pay A LOT of money and not receive the services promised.
Unique Suggestions: Go direct!
Fun Alternatives: Fish off the cruise ship dock!
Make sure to return your rented jeep or car with a full-tank gas, otherwise they will be charging you in dollars instead of in pesos.
Also, when you pump gas, make sure to ask whether the gasoline is paid in dollars or in pesos! The gasoline boy here where I pumped gas fooled me! I will never forget. He collected dollars from me instead of pesos and he devalued my dollars.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure to have dollar exchange at the start of your visit so you can pay in pesos.
If you happen to arrive with a cruise ship (we were with royal carribean), don't go to the shops right across the street from the docking area. If you show ANY interest in anything there, they will hound you and follow you to the point of where you feel uncomfortable. My dad almost got suckered into a $200 dolphin necklace, this guy followed us through 5 shops. I'm sure they posed no danger, but it was not fun.
now, i had no problems with the "boardwalk area", right after you pass through the gates from the ship. i had a fabulous time hanging out there.
Fun Alternatives: i recommend getting into a taxi and heading directly into downtown. It seems friendlier & less pushy, and you can stick your toes in the ocean:)
All the major tourist traps are right outside both piers. They will sell you everything and anything. You can get better prices on the other side of the island. i.e. $2 blankets
Unique Suggestions: However you can negotiate prices down. Just make sure that when you are doing this to cover all basis. For an example if your renting a moped make sure the price of refilling gas is included.
Fun Alternatives: Instead of doing an excursion like every other cruiser/tourist, I highly suggest you rent a moped or a car and drive the entire island. It takes 45 minutes to an hour non-stop; or take several breaks along the shore and enjoy the spectacular views and the occational drink of Sol. I just did it last week--the best time of my life. Also if you like to surf check out northside. The problem with surfing is there is a 40 yard stretch of rocks to the waves. A local told me that more up of Northside there are less rocks but I can't confirm that I ran out of time. Also you can stop in several locations and snorkel for very cheap.
My family of 3 stayed 4 nights in San Miguel, Cozumel starting 3/14/2006.
The Time Share talk falls under the category of Tourist Trap ... BUT that does not mean it is entirely bad. The budget tourist might just find the Time Share talk to be a worthwhile endeavor. People who feel that every single minute counts, who hate high-pressure sales with a passion, and who have a lack of patience should DEFINITELY avoid the Time Share talk. People who consider money more important than time, and who have the patience and backbone for a high pressure sales pitch, might want to read on.
My family decided to go for a Time Share talk because of the freebies they offered. We spent 2.5 hours of our vacation at the Time Share talk from the time we left our hotel to the time we were dropped back off at the hotel. In exchange, we got the following:
1) Free "all you can eat" breakfast including yogurt, fruit, chips, sandwiches, and drinks. Value = $15 per person.
2) Free bottle of tequila and Mexican blanket. Value = $15.
3) Discount on a snorkeling excursion. Value = $20 per person.
Wasting 2.5 hours out of 5 days is not too bad and we saved a whopping $120 on stuff we were going to buy anyway. And that was just a snorkeling trip; the cost savings are probably even better for diving expeditions. If you have the patience to sit through the Time Share talk with an interested look on your face, the willpower to end the Time Share talk after you have declined the deal 2 or 3 times, and enough time in your vacation to feel ok with losing 2.5 hours, then this might not be such a bad deal.
Unique Suggestions: If you decide to suffer through the Time Share talk, you might as well enjoy your time. Eat and drink as much as you want, it's free. Act interested, it will keep him talking quickly. Answer his questions quickly and briefly, lying if need be. Doing otherwise will waste your time. For instance, "Name three places you would like to vacation?" can be answered with "Japan, Scotland, and Australia". Whether or not that's true doesn't matter since your only objective is to make it end faster.
If the salesman asks a question that obviously leads to "yes", like "Does this sound good so far?", then say "yes". If he asks for an estimated amount, such as the cost of your current vacation, don't think about it just blurt out a number like $3,000. He doesn't know and it doesn't matter anyway.
Near the end, he will start asking how much you'd be willing to spend on the package. Tell him you don't work that way and you want the bottom line. Usually, you'll get it. Once offered the bottom line price, tell him that you are not interested. He'll try to talk to you more. He may even call over a "supervisor" to talk to you about "affordable options." At any time now, you must put your foot down and say, "Thank you for your time. I've heard your pitch. I've seen your offer. It's a good product but I'm not prepared to purchase it today. I'm ready to leave now." If they do not accept that as an answer, everyone in your party should stand up, push their chairs to the table, and repeat your closing statement again. That should do the trick.
We just returned from Cozumel yesterday.
Loved it. GREAT Diving !!!!
We got home to discover we never bought a Cozumel outfit for our (soon to be born) grand daughter. We bought for the rest of the grandchildren, but never got hers.
I need to find some infant girl's outfit somewhere that says Cozumel on it so I can purchase it and get it shipped to me FAST.
There are a couple of problems with renting a Jeep type car in Cozumel.
1. It is extremely difficult to find a place to park while shopping down town.
2. Since hurricane Emily, you can no longer drive all the way around the island. The road is blocked at the southern end near the light house. Unfortunately when we rented our Jeep, in fact, he encouraged us to take the trip around the island. If the road closure was something new, I could understand, but later we were told the road had been closed for about 3 weeks.
Unique Suggestions: Ask in advance if all roads are open before you sign the dotted line.
Fun Alternatives: If you need to explore on your own, rent a scooter. Although there are more scooter accidents on the island than auto accidents. With a scooter, you will at least be able to find a place to park.
Want goofy crowd participation? Carlos and Charlies is your cup of tea. I, however, like to try things that I can't get back home.
My preference is to step outside my comfortable box and try something less touristy. Emphasis on the less, because Cozumel is built for tourists and it is hard to find something not designed for tourists in some way or another.
Unique Suggestions: Know what you're getting into.
Fun Alternatives: Go to ANY restaurant not aimed specifically to suit a gringo's tastes. I like the one with a yellow canopy on the far right corner of the plaza (if your back is to the water.)
This island has the potential for being the best tourist destination in all of Mexico but they are totally screwing it up by trying to rip tourist (ESPECIALLY Americans) off at every turn. We stayed at Casa Del Mar and after 10 days there and witnessing endless complaints I'm convinced its a everyday scam. Most everyone...including ourselves...upgrade when they make reservations online to get a better room. When you check in they automatically put you in an elcheepo room. If you don't complain all the better for them but if you do stand there and tell them you are not moving from the front desk until they give you the right room. They will tell you none are available at this time but they will notify you when one is. Don't fall for it....they won't notify you. We wound up with the best room in the place because of my wifes insistance. Too bad they do this since it is a very nice hotel. POSSIBLY it is because they overbooked the deluxe rooms....
Many of the megacruise lines stop in Cozumel, the main activity of many of these cruisers is shopping. Near where the ships dock, there are many stores that cater to the cruisers so the prices are high. Since we were there on a Sunday when a cruise ship was not in town, many of these places were closed.
If you take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel there will be lots of sellers waiting for you at the dock. They attack you like hungry sharks and are offering all kinds of things like snorkeltrips, renting a bike or scooter, boattrips and so on. It's like a swarm of mosquitoes and you can wave them away as much as you like, but they keep coming back for a taste of your blood... Some of them have really great offers and are serious tour organisers, but others have lousy deals and should be avoided. We found it better to just run away from them all, and to walk a bit around in the city and check out the deals of the different agencies on our own.
Most resorts, and larger hotels on the island have people waiting by the main entrance who want to sell you fishing trips, car rentals, ext. Watch them carefully with you credit card, they will tell you there is an extra tax to pay with your card, make them tell you exactally what the tax is,watch them step by step figure it out on the calculator and make sure the total you know is right is the one they charge you. Also if you think they are lying about how much the tax is, ask someone at the front desk of your hotel, be sure, becaus any time they think they can gouge you for a little extra $ they will. For example we were told for the low low price of $350 we could go out on a fishing boat, catch all kinds of fish, and keep the catch of the day. In reality, we spent 6 hours on a small private fishing boat bobbing around and only caught 2 fish that we didn't get to keep!
I suppose that your opinion of Carlos and Charlie's will depend on what it is that brought you to Cozumel in the first place. We found that it was full of American men, on the island to SCUBA dive and cheat on their wives...yuck!
Unique Suggestions: Get drunk...
Fun Alternatives: Viva Mexico
Rent a jeep but haggle on the price we rented one and later found out we could have gotten it a lot cheaper.
there is only 1 gas company in mexico and they wont let you pump your own gas so watch the price on the pumps.
only dive at a reputable dive shop. We chose Pappa Hogs
Chances are if you are in Cozumel you probably just got off of a cruise ship. When they drop you off at the port you are immediately bombarded with a fake parade of men and women dressed up in tribal clothing of the Aztec period. They begin by forcing you to take a picture as soon as you get off the ship (only to push on you to buy them later) You continue to walk past the duty free shop into what I can only describe as a Disney version of Mexico. Souveniers shops filled with t-shirts, shot glasses, hats and all the typical tourist trap shops you would except to see at an amusement park! Just keep walking because all of Cozumel is not this colorful.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the rent-a-car place and get a jeep and ride as far into the island as possible away from the port itself.