Home to San Diego January 17

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Mo and Sue cruising on the Celebrity Constellation

We arrived in San Diego early Sunday morning, with clear cool skies and fresh air. Even though our ship docked at 7am, we didn’t disembark until after 10 am. Once more the heightened terror alerts seemed to slow the process way down, at least that was the excuse given. With a plane to catch before noon we were both getting a bit stressed, but we didn’t realize that the airport was just a few blocks from the dock. Everything went smoothly and we made our flight in time. It helped that our flight was delayed a bit.

Thinking back on the cruise, we decided that we liked many things about Celebrity. Little things cruise 068matter, and the service throughout the entire cruise was impeccable. We especially appreciated the little things like fresh water and ice in our room every single morning and evening and not having to buy bottled water. The fancy folded towels were missing, but water meant a lot more than towel animals on the bed at night! We were also provided with comfy terry robes which were replaced each time we used them.

Our cabin was very spacious and comfortable, the beds were great and the bathrooms were especially roomy.

01_14_Formal (9)The food was fantastic. This was my fifth cruise and it was the first one that met the ideal of what I imagined ‘”cruise food” to be. The Grand Buffet’s twice at brunch was a great idea. The Seaside Cafe salads were always amazingly fresh and tasty. The food in the dining room at dinner was always very good and the service was wonderful all the time. Ice cream was free, but it certainly wasn’t Ben and Jerry quality.

The ship was small, but still felt roomy, and there were lots of places to hang out that didn’t feel crowded. Sometimes it seemed as though there really wasn’t enough entertainment, with the two mid ship bars often closed and dark. We used them anyway to play cards, but it would have been nice to have some afternoon music and light in them.

cruise 063 The production shows were fabulous, top quality shows, with excellent talent. Perry Grant in the piano bar was funny and entertaining, but it would have been nice to have more entertainment overall. It was a quiet ship with an older clientele. I think we saw less than 10 children on the ship, maybe less than 5, and only one baby.

The lectures were informational and entertaining. They had a scrapbooking class but it seemed expensive. They also had language lessons, but the timing was often wrong for trying to get in on the lectures. What I would wish for on a ship would be art classes, watercolor painting, pastels, or something like that. I would also love some cooking classes, and would like for things to be scheduled at different times so you could actually enjoy everything.

cruise 065 We loved the fact that the ship had excellent elevators with clear signs and maps in good locations showing exactly where you were on the ship and how to get where you were going. Getting around was very easy, without having to wonder whether we were fore or aft, port or starboard.

Overall, it was a good cruise and a lovely ship. However, I still find myself looking forward to going again on one of the really big ships like the Oasis of the Seas. It’s funny, when it all comes down to it, some things are good, some not so good, and most cruise lines I have been on have something to enjoy. I think maybe Princess might be my favorite for the time being.

Cabo San Lucas and our final day at Sea January 15 and 16

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Mo and I visited Cabo San Lucas on my daughter’s wedding cruise in 2006 and were unimpressed. On that cruise, we did a sea kayak trip to Lover’s Beach. It was crowded and the tandem sea kayak was heavy and unwieldy in the big waves compared to our sleek personal kayaks. We initially thought we would just stay on board this time and not bother doing anything in port. However, during our previous sea day we decided that another good snorkel trip would be fun, and probably more worthwhile than trying to find a place to snorkel on the crowded beaches on our own.

01_15_SeaDay (32) We signed up for a Zodiac boat trip to a snorkel site with a bit of whale-watching thrown in. What a day it turned out to be! The port at Cabo is touristy, busy, but still fun to walk and explore a bit. We saw what we could on foot, and then found a great little waterfront cafe for beer and snacks and people watching.
Our tour didn’t depart until afternoon, so we didn’t feel the least bit rushed. The Zodiac rubber boats are fast and stable, used for rescue work and tourists. By the time we boarded, the wind and waves were getting wilder, and we remembered kayaking through those waves the last time we were here. The boatman was a young, slim boy who seemed to be at home with the boat and as if he knew what he was doing. He took us over the big waves out to Lover’s Beach again, and then along the coast to our first beach snorkel site. The snorkeling here was excellent, with clear water and the waves were gentle. After 45 minutes, the guide took us to another beach where there were more fish. Again, the snorkling was decent, nothing too spectacular, and the water was a bit murky because of the wind and not very warm. We did see some beautiful schools , some Queen angels and other varieties, and there were more fish in this location because they were fed at this beach. By the time our guide whistled us back to the boat, the waves were big and strong and Mo and I were close to the beach. The swim back to the boat was wild and rough, and I was really glad I had a snorkel on or I would have swallowed a lot of water.

01_15_SeaDay (41)Back on the boat, we headed south along the shore, in the opposite direction of the port. It was obvious that the waves were so big that the boatman was afraid to turn around. He went a long way before finding just the right swell to turn us. We whipped around, bounced high, and held on tight. It was a very wild ride, and the next day our bodies were sore but not bruised from all the holding and bouncing. It was great fun.

01_15_SeaDay (4) Our final day at sea was quiet and relaxing, with our usual schedule of eating, walking, playing cards, sunning, reading, and knitting. The morning walk was especially beautiful as we rose before sunrise to see the sun coming up in the eastern sky over the ocean. The rest of the day was sweet. The cruise was a long one, but every single day was a treat, and the extra sea days gave me the chance to really, fully, completely relax. What a great beginning to my life of retirement!
The rest of the photos of Cabo San Lucas are here.

Acapulco, Mexico and then a day at sea January 13 and 14

01_13_Acapulco (3) We arrived early in the morning at the port of Acapulco to foggy, hazy, smoggy skies. Getting from the ship through the gauntlet of hawkers was a bit daunting. Unlike Huatulco, there were no rules about keeping away from the tourists, and we were bombarded with people trying to take us somewhere or sell us something. It was overwhelming. 01_13_Acapulco (9)We crossed the very busy main street to check out the Fort of San Diego, high above the bay. I was wishing that my iPhone could work in Mexico because it was hard to tell where the streets were leading.
We managed to follow the poorly drawn map through the main square, but the entertainment there was some kind of puppet show, and didn’t seem to have a Mexican theme at all. We checked out the Byzantine white church in the square.

01_13_Acapulco (17)We then wandered up the steep streets to the area where the cliff divers jump. It cost several dollars just to stand and watch them, and the show wasn’t going to happen for hours. We walked along the cliffs, found a place to sit and enjoy the view, and tried to cool down a bit. Acapulco was very hot and smoggy and didn’t feel that great. After a bit of thinking, we decided that seeing the cliff divers wasn’t really worth the long wait for a few seconds of diving and we wound our way back down to the beach.

01_13_Acapulco (26) 01_13_Acapulco (23) It was lunch time and both of us thought that some good Mexican food would hit the spot. We walked and walked along that famous beach, and couldn’t find a single restaurant that was open. Finally, after some miles, we found a little open air place that was a fish restaurant, and instead of chips and salsa they gave us bread and salsa. geez. We did at least manage a good Pacifica beer. It was surprising that the beaches were empty and the restaurants closed. Not once while we were in any Mexican port did we hear the traditional mariachi bands that used to be everywhere in Mexico. I missed them a lot, remembering long days at Puerto Vallarta and the sound of the constant music.

Hot and tired, we went back on board to nap, and managed to miss dinner again because we didn’t wake up in time. I found myself feeling grateful for one last lovely day at sea before our cruise was over. Later in the evening, as we reviewed our photos, we were amazed at how lovely Acapulco looked. The smog wasn’t evident, the sands looked lovely. It was a good lesson in tourism; photos can be very misleading!

Saturday morning we woke to our usual gentle rocking sea, and planned another round of our normal sea day routines. Breakfast, walking, checking email, back to the pool deck for hot tub and swimming, then a good read. One of the nice things about gentle sea day cruising is the opportunity to converse with new people.  While in the hot tub we met a very interesting woman from the Peace River Country in the Northwest Territories of Canada.  She was a wheat farmer, an artist, and a teacher, and told us some delightful stories about her life, her husband, and her farm.  The Peace River Country has always been a place I would like to see, so I especially enjoyed meeting her.

01_14_Formal (4)During the late morning we went up to the 11th deck to tan in the cooler breezes. Lunch at the Seaside cafe was a surprise with a great Mexican buffet, best Mexican food we found on the trip. Spent our afternoon in the Martini Bar playing cards and Mo won again! Back to our room for showers before our last formal night, and we had a ton of fun and laughed ourselves silly taking photos in the mirror of our “dress-up” selves.
More photos of our day in Acapulco are here.

A Sea Day and Huatulco, Mexico January 11 and 12

01_11_SeaDay (3) This morning we awakened at 2 am with very high seas. Even though I haven’t been sick at all on this trip, I thought maybe I should be prepared and put on half a prevention patch. I probably could have done without it, though, and by 7:30 I took it off. They just make me feel too strange. The waves were so high that they sloshed all the water out of the swimming pool! We went to the library and I picked up a couple of books, then decided to do our sunning in the morning before lunch so it wouldn’t be so blazingly hot. We tried lunch in the San Marcos restaurant for a change, but were seated at a huge table for 10 and it was so weird that we got up and left and went instead to our usual salad buffet at the Seaside.

Another day of walking, checking email in the computer lab, playing cards in the Champagne Bar, and knitting. Lovely. After another evening walk we listened to some nice music as the sun set. We previously purchased an excursion for Huatulco that included another crocodile river trip, but decided to trade it for a snorkeling excursion. Neither of us particularly wanted to see more crocodiles, and we knew that good snorkeling might not be easy to find on our own. At first the excursion personnel said we would have to take our chances, but within an hour they sold our old tickets and sent new tickets to our cabin. Excellent service. After dinner we went to the casino, and decided to skip the theater show in favor of an early evening.  Our stop in Huatulco was to be a short one, with the ship landing at noon and our snorkel excursion at 1 pm. We skipped breakfast because there was another big brunch planned for the day from 10 to 2. This time we knew what to expect, and how to decide what to eat and where to find it in the midst of all the extravagant offerings.

01_12_Huatulco (37)The city of Huatulco is a perfect little port, perfect little town, perfect weather. It is situated near the older town of Santa Cruz on one of nine beach-ringed bays along 20 miles of pristine coastline. It is part of the Mexican government’s first eco-tourism resort, with an ecologically sensitive plan including strict building codes. Seventy percent of the area is held in ecological reserves to preserve the natural habitat. There was no sewage visible, no pollution going into the bay, and all the drinking water is distilled from sea water. Huatulco was the first port we visited that required a tender to go ashore, but the ride was short and interesting as we traveled into the coves and harbors of the main port. Everything seemed clean and fresh, including the air, with crystal blue skies. Mo and I both said we would enjoy spending some more extended time in the future.

01_12_Huatulco (47) Our tour was via an open air bus/van and instead of just snorkeling, the guide took us to the lighthouse so that we could have a view of the Sierra Madre mountains in the east and the ocean. It was lovely, warm and windy. We then traveled to a small bay with an open air restaurant where we snorkeled with the guide. We saw some queen angel fish, Achilles tangs, blue damsels, and parrot fish, but again the fish weren’t anything as wonderful as what we saw in Kauai last year. The guide led the group into an underwater cave but I had no desire to do that so I just swam back on my own. It was nice to swim without a life vest or fins, and I really enjoyed the snorkeling and the clear water.

After a beer at the beachside restaurant, we went shopping for some nice cotton dresses, and then headed back to the ship. We missed our formal dinner seating and instead had a great burger and fries at the poolside deck. Since a big tropical pool party was planned for 11 pm, we went back to our room for a nap. Our trusty alarm woke us in time to head up to the top deck for the party. The deck was decorated with trees, flowers, palm leaves, and a fabulous fruit buffet.
We had a great time at the party, enjoying the good music

and fresh fruit. I even joined in the obligatory Conga line, and had a great time dancing. The photo is blurry, I know, but I was dancing so fast, as the old saying goes, “As if No One Was Watching”. We didn’t get to sleep until after 2 AM.

More photos of Huatulco are here.

Another Sea Day and Costa Rica January 9 and 10

01_09_2 (2) We wakened at 7am to the clear fresh skies of the Pacific Ocean and another peaceful day at sea.  Up to the track to walk our morning mile, then down to the rear deck of the seaside cafe for an excellent breakfast.  Spent some time in the computer lab checking email, went to the theater for an interesting talk on the plants and animals of the rain forest, and spent the afternoon sunning and swimming.  Typical for a day at sea, and I barely remember the details.  The day just completely fell into the rhythm of eating, walking, reading, knitting, and just sitting in the sun.

01_10_Costa_rica (3) After a peaceful night at sea, Sunday morning dawned, our day in Costa Rica!  I looked forward so much to this part of the trip.  Mo has been to Costa Rica before, but for me this was just a little taste of a country I hope to visit more in depth.  We were in port by 7am, with the mountains misty and beautiful all around the bay.  We landed at Puntarenas, a small beach town/fishing village on a peninsula on the western coast.  The outing we chose stayed on the drier side of Costa Rica, in order to experience the more rural countryside instead of the hugely popular zip line/canopy tours in the rainforest. Costa Rica is a small country, just about the size of West Virginia but it has three mountain ranges and such an abundance of flora and fauna that almost one quarter of its total land is held as national parks or private reserves. Most Costa Ricans reside in the fertile agricultural plateau in the heart of the country, many near the capital city of San Jose.  We traveled in the western part of the country, the dry side (with only 120 inches of rainfall).

01_10_Costa_rica (11) The day was lovely, with a long bumpy bus ride through small towns and 01_10_Costa_rica (42)villages, on rough dirt roads.  We stopped at a small store and restaurant along the way for coffee and a visit with the wild macaws that live in the trees.  Only partially wild, since they were happy to be hand fed by the tourists while we took their picture. Since it was Sunday, there were people around, hanging out on porches, sweeping floors, leaning on brooms and shovels, and watching us watch them. 

01_10_Costa_rica (79) When we arrived at the Tempisque River, we boarded a long narrow wooden boat with our fellow tourists and the guide to see crocodiles and look for bird life.  It was a bit scary, since the wind was high and the river was wild and muddy.  The boat seemed entirely too small for the rough waves, especially with large crocodiles in the river!  When something appeared on shore, silly tourists were all rushing to one side of the boat or the other, tipping it precariously in the wind and waves.  I wasn’t at all sure that this boat was made for the number of people on it, especially dumb people, and especially in the wild winds! 

01_10_Costa_rica (85) We enjoyed the ride in spite of the scares, hearing howler monkeys, gorgeous birds, a brilliant roseate  spoonbill, huge iguanas, and a very big crocodile.  After we landed on shore, we were herded into brightly painted oxcarts and hauled across the open countryside to an animal reserve. The cattle in Costa Rica, in this part at least, are all brahmas, beautiful soft faced cows and bulls, with muted colors.  I think they were the prettiest cows I have ever seen.  At the reserve, we saw many rescued animals, ocelots, monkeys, toucans, tapirs, peccaries, and some very huge crocodiles.  Our lunch was typical Costa Rican food, beans and rice and wild tasting but good chicken. 

01_10b_Costa_rica (49)On the  way back to the ship, we had hoped to shop for some Costa Rican coffee, but since it was Sunday, all the shops were closed.  We arrived in Puntarenas at sunset for boarding our ship and sailing out of the harbor.  Beautiful.  I would truly love to spend some more time in this country.  The day trips from a cruise ship are such a tiny taste of what is part of a magical, tropical country.

The rest of the photos of our day in Costa Rica are here.