Sunday, 15 April 2012

Mexican Riviera Cruise

Six months after our marriage on June 28, 2003, Ric and I went on our 'Honeymoon Cruise' from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera. Our 'hotel' for seven days was the Carnival Line 'SS Pride'. I have friends who wont cruise on a Carnival Line ship because of all of the children on board. Yes, there were entire families sailing with us, however, Carnival hires trained child care workers who occupy their charges with all sorts of activities. Also, our preferred dinner sitting was the second one while families with young children choose the earlier one.  With two exceptions, I never encountered any children.

One of those exceptions was at the adult hot tub where we went each afternoon. Suddenly there was a girl of about 8 years trying to climb in so I gently admonished her - the water was way too deep for someone of her small size. Where was her guardian? Lounging on a deck chair over near the far railing with a book seemingly quite unconcerned as to the whereabouts of her daughter!

The second  exception  occurred when Ric and I were walking on the deck and we had to stop - two child care workers were taking the children up to the bridge to meet the captain. They had the right-of-way!

When we boarded the ship in Long Beach our boat was tied up immediately behind a famous ship from a previous era - the Queen Mary! When she sailed the Atlantic she was the largest and grandest of them all - now she is dwarfed by the cruise ships.

We have been on four cruises together and have had no complaint about the service - except on the final cruise. One of the 'gimmicks' common to most cruise ships - or so I understand - is the decoration left behind by the cabin steward when he makes up the cabin for the night.

The cabin's towels are 'sculpted' to resemble an animal. On the 'Pride' it was a monkey.

We left Long Beach in the early evening and, the next morning, we were nearing Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja. We went to the dining room - which is situated in the stern of the ship - for lunch where we were entertained by the antics of the waiters.

This was in early January when the whales were commencing their annual migration to northern waters for food and calving. As we neared the Cape there seemed to be whales all around us - although none of them breached within sight of us. Yet those waiters acted as if the whales were breaching every where so they were running back and forth (the dining room has plate glass windows almost all of the way around) yelling, "There's one! There's another!" . All we saw were the occasional dorsal fin and spurts of steam when a whale breathed air.

During those antics I inadvertently gave Ric a good laugh. I had ordered sushi for lunch and, while trying to keep up with the antics, I was not paying attention to my plate so, as I saw something green, I put a spoonful in my mouse. It was NOT guacamole but wasabi - Japanese horseradish!

For this cruise, Ric booked a balcony cabin so both of us spent a lot of time sitting in deck chairs on the balcony and reading.

And we went to the pool on the top deck daily.

The following morning, when we got up, we were tied up at a pier in the north end of Puerto Vallarta.

This boat was berthed nearby and was loading people for what looked to be a tourist cruise.

There was the usual 'cruise ship tourist' shot while on our way to board a bus for a 'jungle hike'.

To get to the jungle hike the bus traveled south on the Pan American Highway through old and then new Puerto Vallarta.  Dividing the city is the Rio Quayle and, in the middle of it, is an island which the locals have named 'Gringo Gulch' as that is where rich Americans have vacation homes (that included Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton). Half way across we passed a high tree and, in the top branches, were two iguanas. This photo was shot through the bus window so it is not all that clear. The larger one is to the lower left while the second - the smaller of the two - is near the top of the branch.

After a few miles along the highway we came to a viewpoint above the fishing town of Mismalaya where the bus stopped so we could take photos.

We stopped at the viewpoint to look at two off shore islands (more accurately rocks). Not only did we look at those rocks but, to our left, down on the 'village' of Mismalaya. While taking photographs I had to dodge a couple of vendors with their carts loaded with Mexican tourist trivia for sale.

 Obviously the 'village' has become the home for richer North Americans.

As we entered the community, the bus driver, Alejandro ('Alex'), turned the vehicle onto a gravel road for the drive of a few miles inland. When we arrived at our destination the bus was parked and we walked along the bank of a small river to a footbridge over to one of the loveliest restaurants that I have ever seen. We were met by the owner/chef and shown uncooked meat and seafood - the menu items. Ric and I both chose the crab dish. Then we began our hike.

We returned to where the bus was parked (near this relic from an Arnold Schwarzenegger "Rambo" film shoot) and then hiked for a way further up that valley until we came to a plantain plantation.

                                                              Plantain trees

From there we hiked down to the banks of the little river which we had to ford (January but in the tropics so the water was relatively warm).

From there along a trail until we arrived back at the restaurant - but from the opposite direction to which we had left it. At one point there was an opening in the close vegetation and we could see a jungle clad hillside.

After fifteen or twenty minutes we arrived back at that wonderful little cafe and were fed. Ric and I thought that we would receive one or two crabs  each - but four?

This little restaurant in the jungle has to be one of the prettiest 'cafes' that I have seen - ever! If my memory serves me correctly, after we left the host was to begin preparing a wedding feast. These next photos are of the restaurant and its very beautiful setting. It is reached by a footbridge and it is built into the side and top of the stream bank. Some of our group had brought swimming attire with them and had a dip. They said that the water was very refreshing.

                                Our table was on the upper level and to the left of this photo.

After lunch we were driven back to town and dropped where ever we wanted off the bus. Ric had brought too many pesos with him so needed a bank. The one that was open and able to exchange currency was a branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia! This was near the heart of the city and the Cathedral Church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe so we went there from the bank. It was Wednesday, January 7 which was the day after Christmas for Mexicans. The cathedral was decorated accordingly.

                                      The Cathedral Church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe

                                                               The church interior

I do not know if this is true of other Mexican cities but the beach fronts in Puerto Vallarta and in Mazatlan are lined with statuary.

                            No - that bird in the upper left corner is not a statue but a seagull or a pigeon.

                                                   Ric resting in front of two sea nymphs

Before retiring that evening we went to the lounge to be entertained by  'Jalisco Folklorico' - a local group and they were very good.

When we awoke next morning the ship was entering the port at Mazatlan

The photo above was taken from the balcony of our suite while the one below was taken from up on deck.  

After breakfast we went to one of the lounges where we met our tour guide - Alma. She was very knowledgeable, articulate and had a great sense of humor. For instance - one of the statues found along the waterfront is of a nude woman. Alma blithely said, "I posed for that statue!" A little later when she stopped traffic so we could cross the road I commented on how she could still do that!

First - the usual 'All Ashore Who Are Going Ashore' photo.

Our tour was along the waterfront and then through 'Old Mazatlan' where we were shown historic places and the inside of interesting buildings. First, though, some of the statues.

                                                 No - this is NOT a statue - this is Alma!

I should mention that being a 'tour guide' was a part time job for both Alma and Alejandro (Alex) - they are school teachers.

                                                               An 'involved' statue

 A Mexican Historical Hero (if anybody knows who is represented here, please share).

                 'Goddess of the Sea' - possibly the statue for which Alma claimed that she modeled.

          It is not only at Acapulco where local dare devils dive from a high point into the sea.

Leaving the seashore, Alma stopped the traffic so we could cross over to walk through the streets of Old Town. Near where we began that walk a most unusual vehicle was parked beside the road.

The bay along which Mazatlan is located is vast - and beautiful.

                                A new - and magnificent - house near the edge of Old Town

                Casa Mochado is an historic building and, inside, we found a remarkable little statue

                                                    The 'statue' actually is a fountain.

Our next stop was  at an art gallery. Ric is standing in the door chatting with Sandy Handy - she, and her husband, Mike - became our table mates for the rest of the cruise. They knew that we are a Gay couple and they accepted us completely. On board ship I won a bottle of wine which we shared with Sandy and Mike in celebration of our nuptials.

Ric is standing in the doorway to an art gallery chatting with Sandy Handy and that is Alma standing behind Sandy.

When we finished the tour of Old town Mazatlan we went to see the Cathedral.

                                       The Cathedral Church of the Immaculate Conception

                                                           The Altar area of the Cathedral
                                                      Our Lady's Chapel
In Puerto Vallarta I saw no reference to the peon, Juan, who had the vision of Our Lady of Guadeloupe but he is honored in Mazatlan, The statue pictured below is of the Bishop kneeling at Juan's feet in veneration.

The following morning was our third - and last - Port-of-Call on this cruise - Cabo San Lucas. The town is located a mile or so north of the tip of Baja California. While the community seemed to me to be pretty ordinary, the surrounding scenery was breathtaking.

This was the only port where docking facilities were too small to accommodate a cruise ship so we had to descend  to near the bottom of the ship, step out on a 'float' and then onto a launch for the trip to shore. The man and woman who were sitting next to us in the launch were an elderly couple from Richmond Hill, Ontario! They were in their late 80s or 90s and were a delight.

                                                   The SS Pride at anchor in the bay.

As in the other ports, we were offered a choice of shore tours and we opted for 'Whale Watching' from the deck of a cruiser which carried 100 or more passengers.

The water was choppy and, while we could see evidence of the presence of whales in all directions, none breached while we were in the area. We saw dorsal fins and the exhalations of whales who were near the surface, we did not see one whale leaping out of the water.

A sign that there were whales around and, in the background (almost on the horizon) a great sailing ship. So we didn't see whales close up - but we did see some magnificent scenery. The above photo was taken outside of the bay and on the open Pacific Ocean. The spectacular scenery was back in the Gulf of California.

                                        The cliffs of Cabo San Lucas (Pacific Ocean side)

A beach between the safe Gulf of California and the dangerous Pacific Ocean. The riptides off of the latter beach are notorious.

The rock formations in that area are spectacular. It is possible for a small boat (a launch) to pass from the Gulf to the Ocean through that arch.

                                          Another view of the previous scene.

We did walk from the ferry slip into the city but were not overwhelmed by what we saw. It is not as pretty as the harbor area.

                                          The marina at Cabo San Lucas

When we left Cabo it was an overnight cruise back  to Long Beach. I awoke in the morning just before sunrise and took some photos from the stateroom balcony.

For Ric it was home to Oakland and, for me, home to Toronto.

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