David and JoEllen leave Quartzsite, Arizona very early Saturday morning and drive 260 miles to LAX and pick up our two children, Angela and Marcus. Marcus is first to arrive in Los Angeles from Denver at 9:30, Angie follows about one hour later coming in from Grand Junction, Colorado. We are booked on a Mexican Riviera cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines sailing on the ship Norwegian Star. Our itinerary has only three ports, with three sea days. David and JoEllen have been looking forward to spending a week with the kids! Grandpa Bill is watching and feeding Toby the Cat while we sail south.
This is our 8th cruise with NCL, the 4th cruise for Marcus and the third for Angie. We got a credit card after the first cruise 12 years ago, our 20th anniversary, that give us dollars back on future cruises. Most of those trips were paid by using our Lattitudes Mastercard. This has been a great deal for us as we use the card for everything, paying the balance off each month. Unfortunately, the game is being changed in January 2009 and the points will not be the same, so we will look for another deal giving free vacations.
We drive to the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal located in San Pedro just 18 miles from the airport and leave the Mighty 350 in the parking lot at $12 per day. Our ship is waiting, a large vessel, carrying 2,240 passengers and 1,084 crew. The Star is 971 feet long with a gross tonnage of 91,740 and a cruise speed of 24 knots. We have 2 inside cabins, slightly larger than our 5er bedroom, with a bathroom that is much larger than our own; the shower is even equipped with a sliding glass door! When the cabin steward slides the beds together in David and JoEllen's room, it becomes a large king size bed. We spend the days exploring the massive vessel with 13 superb choices for dining, with tempting selections that range from Asian fusion and French Mediterranean to all-American, 10 different bars, a movie theater, a library, a spa, a fitness center and two pools with 6 hot tubs. There are 10 decks with passenger access, a floating resort hotel. Did we mention 13 restaurants? We're not kidding when we say there is everything onboard.
There is a mandatory life boat drill the first day. Everyone goes to their cabin and gets a lifejacket, then proceeds to the assigned life boat station. This is always a fun time for people watching!
Our first dinner onboard is at the Ginza Restaurant. We all love sushi. For those of you who are thinking 'GROSS', this is not only raw fish. Most sushi consists of vegetables wrapped with sticky white rice and maybe some seaweed wrap. When fish is used in sushi, it is usually cooked. We started with this boat of mixed food, then ordered additional sushi rolls to try out. Sashimi is the raw fish; there was plenty of that as well. Soy sauce, pickeled ginger and wasabi paste is used as flavoring. The cover charge at this restaurant is $15 per person, we more than ate our monies worth!
Most visitors hire water taxi's to take them to this beach just outside of Cabo San Lucas, Lover's Beach. There are hundreds of glass bottom boats shuttling tourists to and from the marina. The NCL Star anchors off this beach in the Cabo harbor and we take our ships lifeboats to the docks. There are two other cruise ships in the harbor with us today.
Los Cabos is not actually a town. It is the name Mexican tourism officials bestowed upon two once-remote Baja California communities: Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo as well as the stretch of coast that connects them known as "the Corridor". Cabo San Lucas, with a population of 60,000, is the faster-growing of the two towns. New hotels and condos have filled the landscape along the 20 mile corridor adjacent to the beautiful beaches.
We prefer the uncrowded, and by searching the internet before leaving, David found out about Playa Chileno 12 km from Cabo. We walked into downtown, stock the cooler with Modelo beer at a local grocery, and hire a taxi van for our first MisAdventure on land. There is a restroom and palm umbrellas at Chileno Beach, but no other services. We pick a spot under one of the umbrellas for our base next to a dead, dried fish someone has made into a 'work of art'. This is a beautiful beach, but the sand is a little rough for our taste. David and Marcus toss a nerf football around, Angie does a little snorkeling, and we all explore the tidal pools looking at the sea creatures, enjoying the sun and sandy beach. Lots of sunblock gets used today!
We hop on a taxi back to Cabo for a late lunch and margaritas. A local native working the tourists 'guides' us to a place called El Pescador where we order fish ceviche and shrimp. A traveling band of troubadours serenades us with a Mexican melody while we eat, drink, and enjoy the local scene in downtown Los Cabo San Lucas. Great food and tasty tequila!
We sail away with a beautiful sunset on Playa del Amor, Lovers Beach, and El Arco, the rock formations at Cabo, a wonderful end to a day at the point of Baja California!
Mazatlan is the northernmost link in the Mexican Riviera Resort Chain. Mazatlan sits on a small peninsula nearly 1000 miles south of the border with the USA. Several steep hills border the otherwise flat city. Many of the old buildings here date from the 1800's, when the bustling port and the silver mines made the city rich.
Today we venture out to Stone Island, just offshore. We first walked to the Embarcadero Playa Sur, a ferry station, and board our 'ferry'. For $2 US each, round trip, we are given a ride on an outdated small fishing vessel across the harbor to the island. We arrive to a large, empty beach and walk a mile or so along the shore. No other tourists are here as it is early in the morning. We are looking for Molokay's Place as the reviews on the internet recommended, among 20 or 30 small beach bars along the shore. We are befriended by 'el parro', an ugly dog, who walks with us down the beach and leads us to the place we were searching. Our friend then lies under our table to wait for scraps. We are drinking Pacifica Beer today, and for a $20 incentive, the waiter makes sure the ice bucket is full of beer and ice the rest of the day. Shrimp are on the menu for lunch, cooked various ways all on one platter, and are delicious.
Another day, another port of call. Today we are at Puerto Vallarta, a city with a long history. In 1525, 20,000 Indians met the Spanish explorer, Francisco Hernandez de San Buenaventura, and his party on the shore. Each native carried a flag made of bird feathers. In turn, the Spanish produced four 'banderas', (banners), including one that depicted the Immaculate Conception. This display supposedly subdued the Indians, who laid aside their feather flags while a Spanish priest prayed for their souls.
Only a few U.S. residents ventured to Puerto Vallarta until the 1950's. In 1963, director John Huston chose Puerto Vallarta as the film location for Night of the Iguana, which starred Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Ava Garner.
We are tendered onto the docks for a full day of MisAdventure. We find a small beach bar not too far from the marina, and start the day with a beer. We then walked down the beachfront about a mile and a half into downtown Puerto Vallarta passing oceanside resorts and local vendors of tourist trinkets, walking the same paths that the vendors walk. This walk to downtown is not recommended, as you must pass through several rough and rocky spots along the seawall, timing your journey with the incoming waves. We reach downtown and stop at a place for refreshments (picture above).
Continuing on, we come to the 'Malecõn' (boardwalk) and spy a Cuban Restaurant, La Bodeguita del Medio. We feast on a lunch of shrimp, grilled mahi-mahi, rice, beans and other scrumptious food. One must sometime overlook the local appearance standards to find really great food. This place is covered in graffiti and would probably scare away most customers. Probably should have ordered 'Mojitos' as well!