The Leica Q is the Best Travel Camera Ever Made – Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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The Leica Q is easily the best travel camera you can buy, even in 2020, thanks to its full-frame sensor, incredible optics and compact body. To challenge myself (and to lighten my gear load) I traveled to resort in Mexico for a week to see if the Leica Q is more than enough to meet my high expectations for this camera.

As going on vacations is not something I tend to do on a normal basis and as unhealthy as that sounds (it is unhealthy), it wasn’t until recently when I had finally went on a real vacation outside the country.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Amy’s family on their official Nguyen family vacation this year down in Mexico and if I remember correctly, it was also the first time both Amy and Jen brought their significant others with them on what is usually reserved for friends only.

Riviera Maya

The resort district of Mexico straddles along the Caribbean coastline of the state of Quintana Roo, located in the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. Historically, this district started at the city of Playa del Carmen and ended at the village of Tulum, although the towns of Puerto Morelos, situated to the north of Playa del Carmen, as well as the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, situated 25 miles to the south of Tulum, are both currently being promoted as part of the Riviera Maya tourist corridor.

The location we stayed in was about an hour south of Cancun, on the Playa del Carmen.

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This coastline is famous for its large scale, all-inclusive resorts and a historical tourism base of smaller boutique hotels as well as the many fine-dining restaurants available on or near the beaches. Luxury travel entities have been instrumental in increasing luxury villa rentals and yacht charters in the area, however these only represent a small fraction of the total tourism accommodation typically available.

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A major attraction throughout the Riviera Maya are coastal and reef aquatic activities dependent on the coastal water and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (also known as the Belize Barrier Reef) which begins near Cancun and continues along the whole length of the Riviera Maya continuing southward to Guatemala. This barrier reef system also happen to be the second longest in the world.

Activities at the most visited locations include jet-skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming in cenotes, swimming with dolphins, zip-lining, horse riding, sailing, and guided jungle tours. Archaeology is also a big tourist draw in the area, including the popular archaeological sites operated by the Instituto Nacional de Archeological (National Institute of Archaeology…if that wasn’t obvious) such as Tulum on the coast, and Chichen Itza and Coba located some distance inland. The self-named ecoparks of Xcaret and Xel-Ha also include some smaller archaeological ruins as part of their attractions, but these natural water theme parks operated by private business consortia attract much larger crowds due to the diversity and range of activities provided, such as swimming with captive dolphins.

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This coastline has the second longest  barrier reef system in the world.

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Grand Palladium Resorts

The Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa is one of the five All Inclusive Hotels that make up the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya resort. It is a 5 star Luxury Hotel made up exclusively of suites that complement the numerous communal areas, services and facilities that are available in the resort.

We stayed at the the White Sand section of the resort, which is one of the three available here in Riviera Maya. It apparently takes its name from its location in front of the extensive private beach covered in white sand, which is great since something about white sandy beaches just oozes relaxation.

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What is different about White Sands compared to its counterparts are its amenities in this part of the resort. Amenities such as the Zentropia Spa, which is available for all guests of the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya Complex and it is also near “La Isla”, the pool exclusively for adults. This is why the Grand Palladium White Sand Resort and Spa is the best alternative for guests who are looking for a hotel with spa in Riviera Maya.

Furthermore, all sports and relaxation facilities, the beach, pools, restaurants and bars like the Hemingway that includes “premium” beverages. We definitely took advantage of this perk since everything was inclusive, including alcohol.

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While we’re on the topic of alcohol…I must admit…we did a lot of drinking.

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Private Bar for Travel Club members
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Earnesto
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Clubhouse for Travel Club members

One of the perks we had during our stay was our “Travel Club” membership, which you can differentiate compared to the other guests by a blue wristband. Something that you will notice that different resort packages come with different colored wristbands, which all depends on the extras you pay for as part of the stay.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Complementary transportation from and to the airport
  • Private Check-in for members and member–service line available during your staying
  • Exclusive areas for members use only
  • VIP treatment at Zentropia Spa & Wellness Center, including:
    · Welcome ritual
    · Complementary access to wet areas
    · 20% discount in treatments
  • Booking priority at a la carte restaurants
  • Exclusive Premium drinks for members only
  • Welcome gifts in your room
  • Complementary Home Tour
  • Special birthday or anniversary dinner if you are celebrating in our Resort
  • Palladium Dollars for extra expenses
  • Preferential rates in all the other Palladium Hotel Group hotels such as Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza, Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel, Sa Talaia and Ayre hotels.

It really is hard how to tangibly explain these benefits as the service that people will receive from the resort staff is some of the best in the world. There are only a few times when I can say there were instances where it paid off to be a Travel Club member over the typical guest pass, such as on-call transportation around the resort, the exclusive club house on the beach, and priority seating for meals. Despite these benefits, anyone will feel like royalty thanks to the impeccable service that the staff provides.

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There are 25 bars located around the complex…

The Villas

Not everyone will comment on their rooms during their stay at a resort, but in this particular situation, it is worth mentioning.

Our rooms were located inside a large three-story villa, just walking distance from the beach, and one of my first reactions when I opened the door to the room was, “…wow.”

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Courtyard in the Villa
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King Size Bed
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Rest of the Room

The rooms were very and well decorated, enough so to impress a clean guy like myself, but that wasn’t the only impressive part. The bathroom was also very well “catered” you could say and definitely has that luxury villa feel with the brick walls, with an over-sized bathtub and an adjacent shower that was big enough to comfortably fit two people.

Going back to that previous conversation about the impressive service by the staff here, I had situation that really stuck with me during my stay here.

The Mysterious Cleaning Lady (Part I)

On one of the days during the week, Amy and I went out for breakfast before we headed to the beach (what else is new), but we came back into the room to change into our swimsuits. To our surprise, the room was already cleaned and bed was made.

” Oh ok – cool…”

(to be continued)

The Beach

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I’ve decided that I wanted to take a nap before heading to the beach, therefore Amy went off and I took about an hour nap. I got out of bed, changed, and met up with everyone else and proceeded to hang out by the beach for a few hours until we all came back to get ready for dinner.

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The beach in general was what you would expect along the Caribbean coastline: sunny and white sands.

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The Mysterious Cleaning Lady (Part II)

After spending a few hours working on the darker shade of my skin, it was time to head back into our rooms to get ready for dinner.

The room was cleaned and the bed was made.

“Wow…”

I mentioned this to Amy as I was impressed on how quickly (and often) the maids cleaned and stocked the bathroom supplies. This is the first time I’ve been at a resort where they cleaned the room more than once per day.

We all showered and went out for dinner.

(to be continued)

Food

The food on the resort was pretty impressive for buffet based meals. Buffets include a wide range of foods from all over the world, including your typical western based foods like hamburgers and french fries. The low-light prowess of the Leica Q made it really easy to capture those sub-par lighting conditions that you frequently get indoors.

One of my favorites during our stay was the great Japanese hibachi we had on our last weekend at the resort. The hibachi chef performed your typical tricks with great flair, but our particular chef was also pretty hilarious which added to the experience.

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What we usually do every night after dinner is walk around one of the three resorts within the complex, depending on where we’re eating, and take in the live shows and performances that are happening all around the resorts.

The Vendors on the Resort

One thing you’ll notice is how the resort allows a handful of vendors to sell their personally handcrafted gifts within the resort, a tourist trap no doubt, but the trinkets were nevertheless very beautiful and unique to the Mexican culture.

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I’ve really overloaded this post with a lot of words (over 1,500 by the time you read this sentence) with GBs worth of photos. That’s probably why I had forgotten to update this post from almost two years ago since it was exhausting to type out.

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