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Jo’s Blog: My all-inclusive birthday trip to Mexico

Once a year, Travel Counsellors' elite are spirited away to a suitably opulent locale to be lavished with fine dining, pampering and gratitude for our accomplishments. How delightful!

And so, birthday number 53 unfolded amid the beauty and excellence of Secrets Moxché Playa Del Carmen on Mexico’s picturesque Riviera Maya.

Given my advancing age and dwindling patience for long-haul flights, I'd cunningly utilised AVIOS points to treat myself to an upgrade. However, I regret to inform you that BA Club Class, in my oh-so-humble opinion, pales in comparison to the offerings of airlines like Emirates, Turkish, Qatar and many others.

Yet, my gratitude for the decision swelled when a distressing rumour reached us mid-flight that they had run out of wine in both Economy and Premium. Oh, the horror!

Arriving at the hotel relatively refreshed, my friend, colleague and travel buddy Gill and I, wisely, dodged the 30-strong group check-in with our fellow travellers. Having booked a private transfer, we understood that when it comes to all-inclusive, snoozing is indeed losing.

The Secrets brand from Hyatt embodies adults-only luxury, and the lavishly appointed room and its amenities didn't fail to please. We were graciously upgraded to the Preferred Club section, which came with perks, like a balcony hot tub, access to exclusive restaurants and a fabulous rooftop infinity pool.

Speaking of pools, there are a mere eight to choose from at this haven of self-indulgence, including three man-made cenotes - perfect for escaping the crowds.

My happiest moments involved floating in the water, and the privilege of selecting a pool to reflect my mood and energy was nothing short of bliss.

My irrepressibly eager roomie Sheila insisted that my big day should commence with a bikini-clad beach walk. Despite my mid-regions not having seen sunlight for some time, I threw caution to the wind.

A superb stretch of beach, frequent dips into the Caribbean Sea, and an impromptu birthday serenade from a local spear fisherman had me giggling like a schoolgirl. Top tip: a well-placed palm tree makes for superb swimwear shots! 😉

I would like to believe that our hosts had orchestrated a birthday beach barbecue and DJ, but it was serendipitous and fabulously fun.

With ten restaurants available on the dine-around program, all but one offering à la carte dining, we kicked off our culinary adventure with the contemporary Mexican, Dos Almas, which lived up to expectations.

And for the grand occasion, I had my sights set on the Japanese restaurant, Suki, partly to witness Sheila's reaction to her first taste of sake.

A decade after my last visit to Mexico, I felt compelled to step outside the opulent bubble we'd inhabited for three days and explore the infamous Quinta Avenida of Playa del Carmen.

My yearning for some sombrero action while perusing the colourful knick-knacks was duly satisfied; caution against cultural appropriation hasn't quite made its way to these parts.

As tradition dictates, the final night is the gala dinner. Despite my creaking limbs and aversion to sweat, I joined the party at the on-site nightclub. The password for entry through a secret door in the Pharmacy fittingly matched the state of my head the following morning: 'Aspirin.'

Cancun is a considerable journey for a four-night break, but such is the life of a travel agent, and I'd embark on it all over again in a heartbeat. Gracias Mexico, Gill, Sheila, TC and Secrets for a birthday to remember. Hasta luego.


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