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Monday, February 6, 2017

Travel between Lansing, Michigan and Cancun, Mexico via MiamiAir booked through Apple Vacations (destination Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an in Riviera Maya )

January - February 2017

This post could easily become extremely long. I have condensed the information somewhat to focus on the main points. If you have any questions, or would like more details, just ask!

Although our travel experiences include over 15 resort stays in Mexico and the Caribbean (some before I started this blog), this was our first experience with Apple Vacations and MiamiAir. You can find separate posts in this blog for Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an and our excursions.

Booking through Apple Vacations with MiamiAir charter flight

We booked our vacation over the telephone with an Apple representative, since we had not booked with them before, and I had a few questions. If you want to have access to your Apple Vacations booking online, I suggest booking online instead. I found out afterward that you can access your Apple Vacations booking online, if you book online; however, you cannot access your itinerary and such for reservations that have been booked over the telephone.

We booked this trip at the last minute because we happened upon an amazing price--$839 each for 7 nights, including air. We then paid an additional $78 each to upgrade our airline seats to Preferred Perks Plus roundtrip, which is similar to first class. The airline upgrade said it included the following per person each way: fresh meal/snack box, two standard alcoholic drinks (21yrs.), and preferred check-in, security, boarding and seating. Without Preferred Perks Plus, there is a fee to select seats, and another fee to check bags ($40 roundtrip per bag when purchased through Apple beforehand--$50 at the airport).

The telephone number provided in our travel documents to check flight status before heading to the airport was incorrect. The telephone number Apple Vacations provided was for Norwegian Air. The telephone number on the MiamiAir website to check flight status is: (305) 871-8001.


Miami Air in Lansing, Michigan

Departure from Lansing, Michigan via Miami Air 

The MiamiAir website provided the following information for check-in: Ticket counters will open 3 hours prior to departure. Check in locations are as follows: Lansing, Michigan Capital Region International Airport (LAN) – Main Terminal, check-in counters located at Door 2. I also found this news story about the Apple Vacations/MiamiAir/Lansing Airport relationship.



Lansing is a small airport, so we arrived a little over 2 hours before our flight. MiamiAir check-in was straight ahead from the entrance at Door 2, just to the left of American Airlines. An Apple representative met us, requested our names, and directed us to the check-in counter. I thought my GOES membership had been applied to our travel because my boarding pass printed with TSA pre-check (I had given my GOES information to someone at Apple Vacations when booking this trip, although she had not sounded like she knew what to do with it at the time). I am not sure what kind of "preferred security" we were supposed to have received with our Preferred Perks Plus seats; my husband did not have TSA pre-check on his boarding pass, and there is no preferred security lane at the Lansing airport. Since it is such a small airport, this is not needed for speed, although it is nice to have TSA pre-check to avoid removing shoes, etc. and going through the body scanner.

Top Flight Club; K-cup machine did not work during our visit
The airport was not busy, and we were settled in the Top Flight Club exactly 2 hours before our scheduled departure. There is no charge to join the Top Flight Club, and there is a link to join on the Lansing Airport webpage. The airport started to get busy about 1 hour 45 minutes before our scheduled flight departure.

MiamiAir

After passengers had boarded the plane, the Apple Vacations representative boarded the plane and handed customers in Preferred Perks Plus seats coupons for beverages and snack boxes. We received coupons for the outbound and return trip. On our outbound flight, we were told champagne has an extra cost when using the coupon, and on the return trip this was included. The menu in the seat-back pocket was not the same on both flights. On the outbound flight, champagne was listed for $12, and other alcoholic beverages were $7. On the return flight, all alcoholic beverages were listed as $7. There were two snack box choices, which were similar to the ones on Delta flights. MiamiAir does not have Bloody Mary mix, and the Bloody Marys we ordered were prepared with tomato juice. Non-alcoholic beverages, pretzels, peanuts, and biscoff cookies were complimentary for all passengers.

The flight was comfortable, and we thought the $78 upgrade was worth the cost. We were in row 1, only because that was the only row with available seats when we booked. We prefer to sit in row 2 or 3 since there is no storage in front of the seats in row 1. If you prefer the first row, the seats on the port side (A - C) have considerably more legroom than the seats on the starboard side.

Arrival in Cancun

This was our third time flying into Cancun, and it was our first time arriving on a charter plane rather than a major airline. Arriving on a charter plane was not any different than arriving via a major airline, although I suggest booking a flight that arrives before noon, if you are booking your own flight. We landed just before 2:30 p.m. About 15 flights had arrived less than 30 minutes before our flight, and the area was packed. It took us 30 to 40 minutes to get through immigration. Our luggage was all off the carousel by the time we got to baggage claim, and we had to hunt through many pieces of luggage scattered around on the floor to find our bags. MiamiAir had not provided us with the baggage claim number, and the information was not posted correctly on the board. We found our luggage around carousel number eight.

We waited in another line to get through Customs, and then we waited in the Apple Vacations line outside the airport another 20 minutes, or so. Apple representatives were standing on the right with signs after exiting the airport, and they directed us to the long line on the right. You can read more information about what to expect when arriving in Cancun in my previous blog posts from 2015, and 2011.

Bus ride and arrival at Sian Ka'an 

After we got to the front of the Apple line, we were assigned to a smaller van with six other Bahia Principe guests; two others going to our destination, two going to Bahia Principe Coba, and two going to Bahia Principe Akumal. Our driver then left us all in the hot van for another 10+ minutes. The ride to Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an took about one hour. Sian Ka'an is on the right side of the road, so our resort was the first stop. We had an extremely rude driver, who did not want to let us out of the van. He kept telling us to stay in the van, and then he told us three times to get back in the van, even though we were telling him Sian Ka'an was our resort. He had also been given this information back at the airport. Apparently, he had forgotten who we were an hour and half later! We arrived at Sian Ka'an a little over three hours after our flight had landed in Cancun. This took about an hour longer than we had expected. The extra hour was attributed to the long immigration and Apple Vacations lines at the airport. The customs line went quickly.

Our Apple Vacations package said it included private check-in; however, we did not receive private check-in or even a welcome. This was the first time we have ever arrived at a resort, when we were not welcomed with a beverage. During our stay, we observed staff greet arriving guests with a glass of champagne; however, this did not happen when we arrived.

When we got to the front desk, we had to fill out a form with our information. Then the front desk agent pretty much just handed us our papers and keys saying we would probably want to get to our room. He did not request a credit card, and he did not verbally provide any information. After I asked, he directed me to the lobby desk for dinner reservations, and he brought me a welcome glass of champagne.


Apple Vacations desk hours for Sian Ka'an posted on-site

Apple Vacations perks and representative on-site

We had difficulty connecting with an Apple Vacations representative on-site, and we received conflicting information about where to meet our representative. Additionally, the desk hours posted at Sian Ka'an were not accurate, and they were also different than the hours Maria (Apple/Amstar representative at Akumal) provided when we met with her.

Two papers we received telling us where to meet Apple rep
I talked with two representatives on the telephone before I met with Maria at Akumal. I tried to ask both of them about the perks we were supposed to have received, and neither representative wanted to talk about this over the telephone. Our Apple Vacations travel documents listed the following perks with our vacation: Private check in, late check out; subject to availability, exclusive concierge, 20% spa discount, exclusive cocktail party. We received a letter at check-in with the 20% spa discount coupon, and I asked about the cocktail party and other perks when we met the rep at Akumal. The representative had to call to find out about the "exclusive cocktail party." She then told us this was on Friday at the pool next to Alux at 6:30 p.m. Friday is the day we arrived, so this information should have been in our welcome letter with the spa discount coupon. We were departing the following Friday in the morning, so we missed this party. As for the other perks, we were told "private check-in" is not offered, and everyone gets an "exclusive concierge" (this meant the butler).
Letter received at check-in

Departure from Sian Ka'an to Cancun airport and MiamiAir check-in

We traveled to the airport in a comfortable air-conditioned bus similar to a coach bus, except it did not have a restroom. Be prepared, as the return trip takes longer than the arrival. Sian Ka'an was the first pickup for the airport, and it took us ½ hour to get out of the Bahia Principe complex. We picked up guests at Coba, Akumal, and Tulum.

Our bus had guests flying with AirFrance and MiamiAir. The first stop was for AirFrance. After we got off the bus at Terminal 3, the MiamiAir check-in counter was at the far left end, on the other side of the Delta check-in counters. Delta check-in was visible from the door where we entered; however, we could not see the MiamiAir counter until we got close. This time, my husband's boarding pass printed with TSA pre-check, and mine did not. I presume this happened because he was checked in first this time. It seems like the boarding passes printed this way because of the seat type we purchased; however, the information did not print on both documents. MiamiAir had a preferred check-in line in Cancun; however, it was not faster than the regular line. We had to go to the immigration counter for document stamps after we checked in, and then return to the check-in counter for our boarding passes because apparently our documents had not been stamped correctly when we arrived. I observed other passengers who needed to do the same thing we did.

We did not observe a TSA pre-check or priority security lane to the gates. In Cancun, you do not need to remove shoes when going through security, although you do need to remove small electronics, like iPads, from your bag. This is different than security in the USA.

The Priority Pass Lounge in Terminal 3 was located right next to the MiamiAir boarding gate. It looked the same as it had when I visited in 2011 and 2015. When boarding for MiamiAir at the gate, it does not matter which class your seats are, because all passengers board a bus to ride out to the aircraft.
View of Isla Mujerus from airplane

Arrival in Lansing, Michigan - immigration and customs

This was an easy and quick process. We had our luggage and were through immigration and customs less than 30 minutes after we had landed. The only complaint about this process is that the area where the luggage comes out was quite crowded. It would be nice if MiamiAir tagged bags for Preferred Perks Plus customers to remove them from the aircraft first, like other airlines do for first class passengers. Several bags were going around on the carousel repeatedly while many passengers were still deplaning and going through immigration. If priority passenger bags had been given priority, many passengers could have vacated the area to allow room for the next passengers to enter.

Another photo of the Top Flight Club in the Lansing Airport

Let me know if you have any questions. You can contact me via this blog, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Linked-in. Please feel free to share this post for others!