Tao Contemplates Cozumel: Beauty, Booze, and Scams


A view of the sunset as we sail away from Cozumel

I love Cozumel.

First off, I love Cozumel. Sunshine, Mayan history, gigantic margaritas, beaches I’d be happy to die on, and people who love living on this island in Quintana Roo. (I threw that in there because Joan Didion named her daughter Quintana Roo and I love that she did that. I also love the letter Q.)

What, no horses? Sad face. 


My horseback tour through the Mayan frontier is canceled, so today’s dispatch arrives from the brand new pier, the shopping-heavy entry almost exactly like the ones that dominate nearly every Caribbean cruise port. They are equal parts fun and ridiculous.

Do you like tequila? Día de Muertos ceramics? Colorful tote bags that say “COZUMEL?” Small cross-body purses that say “COZUMEL?” Shot glasses? Tiny sombrero hats wrapped in cellophane with a tiny bottle of tequila and two regular-sized shot glasses? (Stocking-stuffers!) Would you think less of me if I said I almost bought a few of those? It was the sombreros that turned me off, not the cheap tequila or probably made-in-China shot glasses. I have standards, people.


The water is particularly changeable in Cozumel; very green when shallow, blending to aqua at snorkeling-depth, and shining royal blue when stretching away from shore. So lovely to watch while I drink my big, red, fruity, rum-type drink from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant.

The many, many dining options at the Cozumel pier

two glasses

Two big drinks, two big glasses to take home! Culture!

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company! Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville! Señor Frog’s! and… did I say Señor Frog’s?

I don’t know what’s going on at Señor Frog’s, but the music is loud and hoppin’, someone is shouting trivia questions, and nearly everyone of every age is wearing a balloon-animal hat or balloon-flower bracelet. You read that correctly. Balloon bracelet. I’m just waiting for someone to run outside seeking hand sanitizer, their wrist covered in red welts from their latex allergy, and screaming “THE MUPPET SHOW!” because they’re in pain, but they desperately want that 1st place trivia t-shirt featuring. 

I reaaalllllly want to eat there, but it’s so, so crowded. Bubba Gump it is.

Shopping + me = sorry my head just imploded from the vacuum-suckage where my brain used to be

It is widely understood that I hate shopping. I don’t trust my choices. I could be reading a book or playing Dungeon Keeper or writing literally anything and my time would be better spent. I especially hate choosing AND standing at the same time, man, I’m only a human person.


This is where they told me that if I used a credit card instead of cash, there would be a 16% tax. I said, sixteen?  She said, $85 with cash, but with card $100. Do people think blondes can’t do math or something? Also, no. Another store said if I used a credit card, there would be a flat four-dollar fee regardless of what I bought. That kinda makes more sense for a small business I guess? Other stores had no CC fee at all. I’m sure this is all perfectly legal.

 I’m inspired, though, because of the Glory of Xmas and Nu Year’s. I buy a few things. My motto is, when you’re not sure what to buy, just buy a lot of stuff and probably something will work out. Even though none of this can be returned. You gotta admit, it’s all quite pretty.

stuff i bought

Some stuff I bought. Note the cross-body handbags that say “Cozumel!” The skulls are very nicely crafted. I’m not sure what’s going on with that Jake Gyllenhaal-looking kitty; it’s not the same quality as the skulls, but I like it.

I take a dip in the shallow, rougher-than-usual water, which is perfect–cool and bracing when I enter, refreshing but comfortable while wading. After this, I walk into a jewelry shop filled with Mexican .925 silver. I begin to slide a bracelet on my wrist to judge the effect, and notice my arm is bleeding; not that much, but I’ve apparently scratched myself on some coral or something in the ocean.

A man eager to make a sale approaches me, sees the blood, is appropriately horrified, then returns with a paper towel. I thank him, press the paper towel to my arm, take forever looking around at pretty things while staunching blood, then proceed to buy myself a hammered silver choker, a fire opal ring, a Zultanite ring, and a pair of Zultanite earrings.

I am happy to say I did some Tao-style bargaining, which is mostly thinking, and more thinking, and more browsing, and looking exhausted until they’re afraid I’ll leave or pass out, and the price starts dropping a little. 

I ask if they can convert the earrings to clip-ons. They say sure! It takes them two hours. They are so badly done, they fall right off. I mean right off. Zero friction. There’s no time to fix them, I’ve already paid, and I’m sure that was their plan anyway.

Let’s take a dog break!


Ahh, thats better.

I take the earrings to the onboard jewelers and they tell me three things.

  1. “These are terribly done. We can’t fix them.”
  2. “These are not Zultanite.”
  3. “How much did you pay for these? Nooooo, these are not Zultanite.

I don’t know from Zultanite. (Update: I do now!) Like tanzanite, I’d never heard of it until I got on a cruise ship. Cruisers are downright crazy about jewelry, booze, and wearing the jewelry they bought while drinking booze. Which I have now done.

The probably man-made glass stone I bought is gorgeous in the rings and earrings. I like it and and I only care about the crappy clip-on conversion job. So I go to guest services to file a complaint about the shop. They put me on the phone with the ship’s jewelry lady. 

Jewelry Lady: “…I keep saying over and over don’t buy from a company not approved by Royal Caribbean, I give all these talks and explanations about how and where to buy, I cannot guarantee purchases from non-approved shops, I feel like a broken record, I cannot recover money for you from a non-approved shop…”

Me: “I don’t expect any money back. I’m filing a complaint so you guys have a record of this particular shop. Just a data point, that’s all.”

JL: “Because I keep telling people…”

Me: “I understand. It’s all good.”

JL: “Okay. Thank you for the heads-up. I always try to tell people never buy from…”

Me: “Thanks, good night!” Click. Where’s my Tito’s on the rocks with a twist?

Lesson learned. Don’t buy from a shop called .925 SILVER .950. That’s my bad. But I’m not spending an hour of cruise ship sun-time to listen to someone talk about WHERE TO BUY ZULTANITE. My brain will never re-spawn after that.

You guys, I tried really hard to talk about Cozumel.

I’ll just say this: Go. Rent a jeep. Drive to the other side of the island where the water is rougher, but there are no casinos, the beaches are bigger and gorgeous, and sometimes you’re the only person on one. Little bars appear at every intersection offering friendship and sparkling water and margaritas. Maybe write or read something.  Enjoy being alive. Luxuriate in your solitude or bring a friend and hug them.

Ugh, that was tooooooo sincere! Here are some of the towel-based life-forms I discovered on the ship.


Here’s me at a hot tub where I met the loveliest couple from Northern Ireland who invited me to visit them and I think they meant it. When I met them for a drink later, they didn’t recognize me without being all wet and chlorinated.


And finally… the creepiest damn Samurai staring at me from the Hibachi place who will terrorize my subconscious from now until Armageddon:

scary samurai.jpg

About taoreader

Writer and Editor. Pianist and singer. Feminist and proponent of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. I don't get it either. I wish I could have dinner with Marie Curie.
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5 Responses to Tao Contemplates Cozumel: Beauty, Booze, and Scams

  1. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go on a cruise where I may meet a towel creature.

    • taoreader says:

      I don’t think there are any cruises where you can avoid the towel creatures. They breed fast with random genetic manifestations.

  2. hotspur says:

    Cozumel sounds NICE. Meanwhile your towel animals reminded me of Bert Kreischer. He’s a comedian who used to leave his hotel rooms tricked out for the maids:

    • taoreader says:

      Holy crap if I went into a hotel room and saw what looked like some guy hiding in the bar cart—my scream would set off the sprinklers.

      I do like the bed face with the cigar.

  3. Tracey says:

    This all sounds wonderful except for the earrings mishap! Maybe a jeweler on land will be able to fix them. It never even occurred to me that earrings could be converted. My ears aren’t pierced so I just never wear earrings. I have to say that you’re kind of making me want to take a cruise. Your descriptions of the water are fantastic.

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