December 13 - we agreed to meet Bob and Judy and Diane and Larry R. (they are all from Swan Lake) at 1:00 under the big Pier 93 sign to board the Crown Princess. We were all early!
Then Larry discovered that his phone was missing. There was a mad scramble. We couldn't catch the cab. He used the parking supervisor's phone to call the cab company - they didn't know the cell number of the driver so we had to wait until he called in. Larry and Maureen waited outside the terminal for 1 1/2 hours for the cab company to call. They never did. Unfortunately, since Larry had had the phone battery replaced there was no longer any security on the phone. All his information was at risk! We finally decided to go on board the ship. It turned out that with Larry's new Elite Princess status he received 150 free minutes of WiFi on board. He also bought an extra 100 minutes for $25. He sent e-mails to the cab company and kept calling his phone. No one ever answered (either way) and finally the phone just kept going to voice mail which meant either it was off or the battery died. There was nothing else we could do. We met the others for a drink for sailaway, a bite to eat at the buffet and called it a day. We have a nice room at the rear of the ship. Diane and Larry are in the room next to us and Bob and Judy are down towards mid-ship on the starboard side. We all have balconies - the only way to sail!
December 14 - The sound of the wake from the ship through our open door helped us have a really good sleep. This was the first of two full sea days. The weather was good and the sea fairly calm. We went to a shopping show at 10 am which was interesting but focused mainly on jewelry. Pizza for lunch. We also discovered a two for one happy hour from 3-4 at the Wheelhouse Bar. This was the first formal night. We had some trouble with the line for Anytime Dining. At least we had known this time to make a reservation but it was still lined up. The best we could get was 7:30. Our waiter was Von and Assistant was Anthony. They were a lot of fun. We started a set of shot glasses in a nautical theme. Baileys for $3 each including the glass. After dinner we went to the production show. There's a lot of talent on board. We had to move our clocks forward one hour before we went to bed.
December 15 - The Wheelhouse Bar had their British-style Pub Lunch today and we went for fish and chips. Pretty good and quite crowded. We had to move our clocks forward another hour before we went to bed.
December 16 - We arrived in Puerto Vallarta at 10 am. We had all chosen the City Tour and that left at 10:45. Our driver was Carlos and our guide was Jose (aka Pepe). Pepe was very knowledgeable and quite entertaining. The first stop was a Tequila Factory out in the countryside where we had six samples. The Tequila brand is called "Hacienda Dona Engracia". They distill Tequila Silver, Tequila Extra Aged, Tequila Dona Engracia and they also have three flavoured Tequilas (Peach, Almond and Coffee). You could have a full shot glass or just "poquito", a little bit. There were a few little shops in addition to the tour and tasting, as well some excellent tacos for lunch. Tequila made from the Blue Agave has been discovered to have properties that help prevent obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. All of the Blue Agave grows in the mountains.
We then drove back into town and stopped at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It's a beautiful big church with lots of gold and tile. It was built between 1903 and 1987. Some then went on a short walkabout, down to the ocean and along the Malecon. While many of the streets are cobble-stoned, the Malecon is a modern promenade with sculptures and beautiful views. We got back on the bus and continued for a short time longer.
Puerto Vallarta was discovered by Cortes in 1525 but was largely unsettled for the next 300 years. It began to prosper in 1851 when it was used more as a port. It still remained small until Hollywood discovered it - John Huston filmed The Night of the Iguana in and around the city. We had an amazing dinner at one of the specialty restaurants on board the ship, the "Crown Grill". Our waiter Bogdan was perfect. The steaks and lobster were incredible and huge. Bob and Judy couldn't make it but the rest of us shared samplers of five different desserts as well. Clocks went back one hour during the night.
December 17 - We arrived in Mazatlan at 7 am, went for breakfast and we were off the ship in time to meet Doug, Pam and Cliff from Swan Lake at 8:30. He met us with Anthony and a red pick-up truck with two rows of seats in the back. Larry sat up front with the driver. We were in and out of that truck several times during the day. Our first stop was at the flower shops in El Centro (old downtown district). There were quite a few of them and they were filled with flower arrangements. Next we stopped at the Shrimp Lady, an amazing 1/2 block of buckets of shrimp of all sizes. Then we visited the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. It's the world's only Roman Catholic Church with the Star of David in each of its 28 stained glass windows. Inside the Cathedral contains a collection of baroque altars, gold leaf (24 carat gold) murals, crystal chandeliers, religious sculptures and an organ specially built in Paris. It was built in 1856. Another highlight there was meeting one the many blue-shirted Canadian volunteer tourist information people. A short walk from there was the Mercado Pino Suarez - a huge indoor market that sold lots of goods as well as produce and fresh meats and fish. We tasted a piece of smoked mahi mahi. Larry H. used to be a butcher in his younger days was amazed at the sides of beef that were just sitting out on tables unrefrigerated with many flies all over the place.
Then we drove on to the Plaza Machado (still in El Centro). Flanking the square is the Teatro Angela Peralta, built from 1869 to 1874. It was completely restored 20 years ago. It is named after the opera singer Angela Peralta, known as the Mexican Nightingale. She died soon after arriving and never actually performed in the theatre. Legend says she sang one last aria from her hotel balcony overlooking the Plaza. It has been a movie theatre, vaudeville stage, boxing ring and a parking garage. It now houses a concert hall, galleries, an art school and a music/dance conservatory. Next to it is a quaint art gallery where they make leather masks. There was a lovely little fountain in the middle of the room powered only by the force of the water flowing through her skirt. They also had a free washroom - have to use them when you find them! There was also an International Photo Display upstairs that featured several from Canada - Vancouver Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia. Anthony got a $35 ticket for parking in the wrong place - clearly marked too!
Next stop was the Best Western Hotel. We marched in, up the elevator (only allowed 4 at a time in it), then up four more flights to the roof. Incredible 360 deg view of the city. It certainly showed how big it is. We could see our ship, also the Malecon - a 21 km promenade, apparently the longest in the world. There are statues all along it, the best known the Monumento al Pescador. It offers a tribute as a fishing town - the man symbolizes the strength of the fishermen, the woman represents the beautiful women of Mazatlan and the beauty of the city itself - in the middle is a lighthouse.
We then went to Doug and Barb's place in Zona Dorada (the Golden Zone). Pam and Cliff also stay here and we saw both their places. We had a drink and a bathroom break here. Then off to lunch. It was quite a long drive out of town to Playa Bruja, which is on the Sea of Cortez. We had an excellent lunch. Anthony had lunch here too. From there we drove through a nearby RV park. There were lots of Canadians in it. Each until has some kind of roof structure over its patio. It's right on the water and is apparently quite windy. We went around the corner to Doug's favourite bar and had a farewell shot of tequila from an unmarked plastic bottle. Pretty good.
Back to the ship by 3:30. It was a long but wonderful day. Doug did a great job of acting as our tour guide. It seems he knows a lot of people in town! The weather was nice - cloudy and not too hot all day. As we left, going through a narrow breakwater, we passed El Faro lighthouse. It's on the top of what used to be an island and is the highest natural lighthouse in the world.
Mazatlan was founded in the 16th century by Guzman who enslaved the local Indians. The city as we know it today got its start around 1820 when a group of German immigrants established the city as a port. For almost 200 years Mazatlan has remained one of Mexico's major ports - exports over 40 million pounds of shrimp each year.
December 18 - We arrived in Cabo San Lucas at 7 am. For these early arrivals when you're cruising, you tend to wake up when the feel of engines changes. This was a short half day visit that involved taking a tender to the dock. We hadn't booked any shore excursion and went looking for some Pepsi. On the way we came across some bicyclists pulling two seater carts. We decided to go on an hour tour around town ($40). It was quite a good experience. We saw nice hotels, shops of course and part of the beach area. Juan got us back to the ship in plenty of time. We had a complimentary entry into a wine tasting at 3:00 with Larry's Commodore Elite Status with Princess Cruises. Four different wines and a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc (in another souvenir glass) It turned out that we had to leave port late because there was a leak in the hydraulics that pull up the tender boats. We had to wait about an hour for that to be fixed. This was also our second formal night - lobster night! - and Von decided that all who were having lobster should have two. They came with king prawns too. Not to mention escargot for the appetizer. Always a good night.
Europeans began exploring the waters around Cabo in 1542. A shipping port developed in the 19th century but the abundance of tuna in the area really put the area on the map. A hurricane demolished much of the village in 1941 and during the 50s and 60s was transformed into a playground for the rich and famous and remains that way today. Hurricane Odile hit Cabo in September of this year and a lot of damage is still visible and some of the hotels are still not open to full capacity. For a look at some of the waves check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzXaoBG3JGE.
December 19 - This was our final sea day and the Captain really pushed it. It was a little rocky with a head wind but not too bad. Maureen, Bob and Judy went to the Culinary Demonstration in the morning. It's always interesting and included a quick tour of the galley. Larry went to play bingo and won $29.50 so we went back in the afternoon to try to win the Jackpot. No such luck! We decided to try Sabatinis for dinner. It was supposed to be Italian but it had kind of a weird menu. Maureen didn't feel well so went back to the room and that was probably a good choice because the dinner wasn't that great.
December 20 - We arrived back in LA at 7 am and were off and back in Long Beach searching for a new phone by 10:00. That done we got back to the coach to set up the phone and WiFi and to do laundry. The weather hadn't been that great while we were gone and we had to ask the maintenance guy to come and take some small branches off the roof and slides.
Larry and I would like to wish all our Trip Journal friends a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thanks so much for following us all this time!