Mexican Riviera Cruise

Trip Start Oct 14, 2013
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Trip End Apr 13, 2014


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Where I stayed
Holland America MS Veendam

Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nov 9 - 16
Kilometers at sea: 4029 


Greg and I finished the Mexico leg of our cruise today, seven days along Baja California, known as the Mexican Riviera. There are 1400 passengers on board, and approximately 600 crew members so the service has been first rate.

Our first day we sailed from San Diego toward Cabo San Lucas. After the mandatory life boat drill we explored the ship. It was a good opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the ship, its shops, theatres, and eating areas. After dinner we watched the showcase entertainment: music and dancing.

Our next day was a full day at sea. In the morning we attended a presentation given by the shore excursion manager. I had booked our excursions before the cruise started (less expensive and less people) but these presentations also give us a general overview of the areas around the ports and so are well worth attending. Then I attended a cooking demonstration by John Coletta, a chef based in Chicago. He cooked polenta, poached eggs, and caramelized sea scallops. He was very entertaining. I learned the secret to a good poached egg is to drop it into a deep pot of boiling water. Someone asked him where he gets his scallops for his Chicago restaurant. He said he only serves the best scallops and they are from Nova Scotia! The night's showcase presentation featured Broadway classics sung by the ship’s entertainers.

Monday we were in Cabo San Lucas. It was Remembrance/Veterans Day so Greg attended the short service in the showroom. Then we left the ship and began our guided tour of the town. The town is quite small (population 65,000) but it has an incredible boardwalk along its waterfront. It also has a Costco and a Super WalMart. The tour continued with a boat trip out to Land’s End. This is the very tip of the Baja California peninsula. So we were in the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side. On our town tour there were only Greg and myself. The boat tour started with a group of young people from Ontario that just wanted to go to a beach so we dropped them off at a beach and then Greg and I had a private boat tour of the area. After our tour we walked a short distance to a store that gave us free tastings of various tequilas. Then we walked along the boardwalk, stopping to eat nachos and drink margaritas. The chartered fishing boats were returning with their catches and we saw barracuda and other fish we didn’t recognize but the largest by far was a 400 pound marlin that was lying on the boat platform. It was huge! Then back on board for supper. After supper the showroom entertainer was Andrew Norelli, a comedian who interacted with the audience and put on a really funny show.

Tuesday we were in Mazatlan. Mazatlan (population 600,000) is a much larger city than Cabo San Lucas. Again we had booked a city tour in advance. We were waiting for the gangway to be positioned so we went up to the promenade deck to look over the city. Well, there was quite a hoopla on the dock. There were musicians, dancers, dignitaries, and armed guards. What a sight. We left the boat and were waiting for our tour guide when Greg asked a tourist information person what was going on. She said that ours was the first cruise ship to visit Mazatlan in three years. The dignitaries we saw included the governor, the mayor, the Canadian and American ambassadors, the Minister for Tourism, and others. Wow. As we waited, the governor came over to our small group, introduced us to various dignitaries, and then asked us to join them for breakfast. We explained that we couldn’t because we were about to start a tour of their city. He seemed genuinely pleased that we were interested in Mazatlan. Then the tourist information people could not do enough for us, making sure we were comfortable while we were waiting, and calling the tour company to ensure that they were on their way. What a fantastic welcoming. Our guide did arrive, and the dozen of us had a great tour of the old town and new town, visiting an amazing Catholic Cathedral, a hacienda that is now a museum, a craft and food market, flower market, shrimp market, jewelry store, and tequila outlet. Mazatlan is the shrimp capital of Mexico and we saw a lot of shrimp, separated by size. The largest shrimp were about the length of my hand and cost about $2 each. We also stopped to watch the cliff divers. The divers jump from a height of 42 feet into seven feet deep water. They rely on tips for their income so before they jump they whistle or call out to get everyone’s attention: "I’m going to dive now". They dive into the water then run along the shore collecting tips. Almost everywhere we stopped there was a film crew videotaping us and other tourists. I am sure that we made the evening news.
That evening there were two showroom presentations The first was a Marriage Game, involving three couples from the audience. It really was hilarious. The second presentation was the Filipino Crew Show. They sang some of their native songs, and also performed some of their native dances. The show started with a moment of silence. Many of the ship’s crew are from the Philippines and some of them do not know the whereabouts of their family in the wake of last week’s typhoon. It is very distressing.

Wednesday we were in Puerto Vallarta. This is the southernmost point of our Mexican Riviera cruise. Our tour today included the city and the jungle. Our guide said that Puerto Vallarta became a popular destination after 'The Night of the Iguana’ was filmed there. Apparently Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor started their affair here and the resulting publicity put Puerto Vallarta on the map. In the city we walked along the boardwalk, our guide explaining the significance of the various sculptures while Greg and I watched the surf and the miles and miles of sandy beach. Then we visited an old church, the market, and a jewelry store. We boarded the bus and followed the coast until we reached a small village in the jungle. Here we visited a tequila brewery and tasted their various tequilas. (Have you noticed a theme here: church, market, jewelry store, tequila tasting; the hallmarks of Mexican tourism.) Before we returned to the ship, Greg and I did some shopping at a Super WalMart that is across the street from the cruise ship terminal. Very convenient. There is a Costco here too but it was too far away for us to walk. I would like to have seen what type of merchandise they have; the WalMart was just like any other WalMart we have been in.  The night’s entertainment was Chipper Lowell, a comedian/magician. He was so good, we laughed and laughed.

Thursday and Friday were ‘at sea’ days. Two days of sailing to San Diego. We spent the time relaxing on deck and attending some of the seminars. We attended the guest chef presentation: porcini crusted halibut with borlotti beans and acquerello risotto pudding with dried fruits. We sampled the pudding and it was delicious. We attended the mariners’ lunch for passengers who have sailed with Holland America before. It’s an opportunity to meet the captain and other members of the crew. We also attended a couple of the Windows 8 computer sessions, using the photo gallery program to improve and organize our photos. Thursday evening was the farewell dinner, a formal night with shrimp cocktails and lobster tails on the menu. Then later in the evening was the Dessert Extravaganza, an incredible array of desserts. On Friday evening the showroom entertainment was the finale of Dancing With The Stars At Sea. It was very entertaining, even though the boat was cruising through some rough seas.

So now we are in San Diego for the day. There are 30 of us who are continuing on to Hawaii later this afternoon. We really enjoyed our Mexican week. Our weather has been good, maybe too good. Temperatures in Mexico were in the mid to high 70s and the humidity was so high it was steamy.The food on the ship has also been good, again maybe too good. It’s hard not to have three full meals, every day. Breakfast and lunches are extensive buffets. For dinner Greg and I always go into the dining room. We usually are seated at a big table so we have the opportunity to meet other people and be waited on. The menu includes several appetizers, soups/salads, entrees, and desserts. And everything is delicious.

We have met many interesting and friendly people, including some who actually know where Nova Scotia is. On one of our tours we met a family from Calgary that were celebrating their
parent’s 50th anniversary. It turns out that the mother’s teaching career was at QE High School, and the mother’s father was the family doctor in Berwick, NS. One of the daughters saw my Halifax Canada Games bag and told me that she was a diving judge at the games so she and Greg had a great conversation. We also met the ship’s security guard that we had talked to in the Barrington St. Atlantic Superstore in May. We met a couple who had just returned to their home in San Diego after being in Baddeck for a wedding. Many of the wait staff we talked to remember being in Halifax (Boston to Quebec City cruise) and said they liked being there. Everyone is very friendly.

On to Hawaii!
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

Barb Samson on

First week of the tour over, what a delight it will be to see the rest of your tour, thank you for your phone call this evening it was so nice to hear from you. I know you are enjoying yourselves by the pictures and comments. Have fun.

Sharon on

That cruise sounds and looks great...a little bit of everything, and it's not near over yet. You seem to have permanent smiles. Good for you. (Sigh! LOL)

Mom L on

This is like reading the perfect dream. You are seeing things that one sees on TV but never dreams that we would ever see. No wonder your smiles are huge.
Am wondering if you got the names of the QEH teacher and the Berwick doctor.

Love

Susan on

Once again, what a fabulous trip you are having and this armchair traveller is really enjoying all your photos and descriptions. Your cruise ship looks fabulous! Glad you are having such a great time and look forward to future entries.

Margie on

Wait a minute I am missing how kilometers travelled today and where is Star II? Looks like you are having the time of your lives. Enjoy.

greg-and-karen
greg-and-karen on

We left Star II in Thermal in our friends' driveway, and drove to San Diego in the Fiesta, about a 3 hour drive.

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