Day One 11/11/2005
Woo..Vacation starts today! My flight was scheduled to leave Oakland at 12:45pm, the actual departure was at 1:15pm due late plane arrival. I thought that laptop was broken after it didn't turn on after getting through security and spent most of time waiting for flight talking with HP on the cell phone. I couldn't get the laptop to work and was seriously bummed out since I had hauled it with me to use the wireless onboard the ship. It was a very full flight, but nicely uneventful.
I arrived in San Diego at 2:30pm. One of the handles on my luggage was broken, but Southwest has a luggage policy that does not include handles, so I was out of luck.
I watched the Holiday Inn On the Bay shuttle leave the airport as I arrived at the shuttle stop. It was only a 15 minute wait for the next shuttle, so no big deal. The Holiday Inn On the Bay is very nice. It doesn't feel like a Holiday Inn. I've heard people complain that the rooms are small, but mine was quite large and very comfortable. I really appreciated having individual thermostats in every room and a completely non-smoking floor that included the balconies. If you stay here, get a South Tower room 8th floor or above to have the best view of the cruise line terminal and ships. I had a room on the 6th floor and my view was of a lovely Palm tree that blocked the view of a Celebrity ship. Still, with a view of a palm tree, I'm not about to complain.
The hotel offers free wireless in the lobby and the rooms. My laptop decided to start working again, (yeay!), so I was able to take advantage of a reasonably fast connection.
I had a decent sized balcony with two chairs and a table. The hotel was very quiet and I didn't hear any other hotel guests, well, until 2am when a male/female couple just below me came home drunk. They proceeded to have a very loud conversation with their balcony door open. They finally went to sleep (or passed out) around 3am. With the balcony doors closed, I didn't hear any traffic noise or train noise. Planes started taking off around 7am, but the noise was fairly muffled. I did hear the Oosterdam dock around 6am, but that was a happy noise!
The hotel has two restaurants and one deli type store with breakfast, cold beverages, coffee and espresso drinks and sandwiches that's open from 6am to 7pm.
Seaport village is an easy 15 minute walk from the hotel. It's a pretty walk right by the water and Seaport village is a cute shopping area. I walked down to Seaport village and wandered around for bit. Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up and out to Anthony's Seafood Grotto for dinner.
I got to Anthony's around 6:00pm and was told that there was a 40 minute wait for the window seat that I had requested. No problem, I had my book and I love people watching. Even though I'm traveling and dining solo, I still wanted a window seat. I'm glad that I asked for one as the restaurant is one big open room with multiple rows of tables. I'm claustrophobic and being in the middle of a crowded room would have not been relaxing. 20 minutes later, I was seated at my window table, which was absolutely perfect. I had an inattentive, crabby waitress, who I think was annoyed that I was a solo diner. I ordered a glass of wine (or two), cup of clam chowder (free with coupon from Anthony's website)a salad, grilled red snapper with a baked potato. I also took a piece of cheesecake back to the room with me for a late dessert. The meal was very good with the clam chowder full of clams and very tasty. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly and was very fresh. The only disappointment was the cheesecake, but it may have suffered by being held outside the fridge for 3 hours in my room.
By the time I was done with dinner, it was 7:30 and freezing! I had wanted to go for a walk to help settle dinner, but it was too cold! So, I had a luxurious evening doing absolutely nothing productive. ?
Day two 11/12/05 - San Diego Happy Birthday to me!
I woke up around 7am and lazed around until 8am. From my obstructed view balcony, I saw the bow of the Oosterdam!
Woo! With my balcony doors open, I could hear the rising ding Ding DING of the Oosterdam's announcement system. I felt like I was on the ship already! I picked up some yogurt, fruit and a very good Mexican mocha (espresso, chocolate, cinnamon and steamed milk) from the hotel's deli and had breakfast out on the balcony.
After breakfast, I wandered down to the Marine time museum and boarded the "Surprise" a tall ship that was the ship n the movie Master and Commander. I also went on the Russian submarine.
The sub was very tiny and difficult to move around in as to get from section to section; you had to climb through a small round hatch. I couldn't imagine living on the ship and dealing with the very tight quarters!
By the time I was done touring the ships, it was time to board the Oosterdam! I got my bags and walked across the street at 11:00. There was a very short line to get inside the terminal. Be aware that the security checks your documents before they allow you on the pier, before they allow you into the embarkation building and then again when you check in. They really want to make sure that you belong there!
They also handed out Norwalk Virus surveys asking if you've had any symptoms of GI Upset or fever over the last 7 days. I hope that people would be honest about their symptoms, but I have my doubts.
The terminal is a huge warehouse with a small store selling touristy crap and a bar that had many crew members at it. There are two lines, one for suite passengers and one for non-suite passengers. There are around 20 stations for passengers to check-in, register their credit card for their shipboard account, have their picture taken and get their room key. It was here that I learned that I no longer had the 6:15 dining time I had been expecting and instead had been moved to 5:45pm. I was not happy and was informed, that any dining changes were to be made on the ship that afternoon.
I was onboard the ship by 11:45 and dealing with the crowded Lido. It was an absolute zoo with everyone dragging their wheeled carryon's while trying to manage trays of food. I found a quiet table by the pool and enjoyed my first slices of delicious crispy HAL pizza. The special pizza was "California" and it had jalapeño's in it. I love spicy food and this was very good. I had a little pineapple soft serve ice cream with fresh pineapple chunks and strawberry sauce for dessert.
I booked my spa treatments and signed up for a series of three yoga classes on sea days at 9am for $33. I also got the thermal suite package for the entire cruise and signed up for internet. If you get the internet package on the first day, you get 20 bonus minutes.
The cabins were available at 1:30 and I got my first look at the C-GTY that I booked, I got cabin C-1077. I miss having a balcony, but the cabin is very nice. Best of all, the wife got me some beautiful surprise birthday presents. She got me a dozen long stemmed roses, the "birthday package" that included a HAL mug filled with chocolates, balloons, flowers and a beach towel. HAL left a note that they didn't have any beach towels on the ship, so they gave a credit to my shipboard account instead. My cabin smelled like roses and they were so pretty. I met my cabin steward, Indra Maulana, who was very nice and very invisible. I looked for him after my luggage arrived at 3pm because I had some things I wanted pressed, but I never found him again that evening and only saw him once or twice throughout the week! He was also very pleasant and called me by name the rare occasions when we saw each other.
The Maitre D' was available outside the Explorer's Lounge from 1:30 - 4:00pm to deal with any dining issues. There was a HUGE line as many people were upset with the dining changes. HAL eliminated the 6:15 and 8:30 seating, so there was only 5:45 or 8:00pm. Some people who, had requested to be seated together, were now split to different tables and a few groups were split to different seating times!
I had been assigned table 312, a table for 6 at 5:45, when I had asked for a 6:15 seating at a table for 10. I looked on the dining room map to try and find my table and table 312 didn't exist! There weren't any tables with number above the 200's. I asked a nearby frazzled steward where my table was located and it turned out that table 312 is also known as table N. Weird.
Once I found out that the 6:15 time had been eliminated, I just walked away. There was nothing I could do. It turned out that I had wonderful tablemates and we all entered the dining room at 6:00 every night, just before the doors closed, so the timing change didn't really matter.
Sail away was at 5pm and there was a party at the aft deck pool. So, with a margarita in my hand, I waved goodbye to San Diego.
A little word about the ship. It's beautiful! There are delightful fresh flowers all over the ship and the art work is exquisite. There are some patches of worn carpet, especially on the edges of the main stairs. The midship elevators also have quite a few scuff marks on the walls, but when you consider the ship sails with 1800 passengers each week, some minor wear and tear is no big deal. The crew is constantly polishing and cleaning something. They re-varnished a large section of railing on the Promenade deck while in San Diego port. The staff is very friendly, always saying hello or good evening. There is some drink pushing, but it's manageable.
It's very obvious that some bartenders do NOT like the soda card. I asked for a Diet Coke with a lemon and showed my soda sticker on my room card and the bartender at the Lido bar sighed and rolled his eyes! The passenger next to me and I just looked at each other in amazement. The bartender handed me my fountain soda without the lemon and I asked again for the lemon. He hesitated and I thought he was going to ask me to pay for the lemon slice! He reluctantly slapped a lemon slice in the glass and handed it to me. So far, the only not so great service I received was when I asked for a soda on the first day.
Dinner was at 5:45, I got there around 6:00 and there were only two other people at my table for 6. They were traveling with a group of 20 who had tables around where we were sitting. They all work at the same dental office together and travel every couple years as a group. They pretty much adopted me and we hung out together throughout the week. They were all very nice, although I think we drove our waiter nuts because we kept moving to different tables throughout the cruise. :) This is the big advantage to traditional dining for a solo cruiser. If we had had "leisure dining", I never would have met my new friends and would have missed out on getting to know some really wonderful people.
Anyway, back to dinner. Our server was BamBang H. Apparently there are four BamBang's on the ship as it is a common name in Indonesia. He was very nice, professional and friendly. He remembered everyone's names and any specific preferences that they had. He also recommended certain dishes or would gently steer people away from dishes that weren't so good that day.
For dinner, I had a smoked salmon appetizer, mushroom and spinach salad and grilled mahi-mahi. The dinner was excellent. I ate lots of fish throughout the week and it was all very good. I asked for the Indonesian hot sauce, called Sambal, and while it tasted very good, it smelled awful! BamBang was surprised that I knew about sambal and every evening he made sure to have it available for me. The first night he had to go all the way up to the Lido restaurant to get it!
After dinner, I went and saw the show which was very cheesy, but they tried hard. There was also a comedian who played the hardware store employee on the show Home Improvement. I can't remember his name. I thought he was mildly amusing, but there were people absolutely rolling in the aisle.
After the show I wandered through the shops, nothing very interesting. I also listened to the Champagne Strings and walked along the Promenade.
The ship was really rocking the first night and passengers were falling into the walls. The motion was very significant. Thank goodness for Bonine! Clocks were set ahead one hour at 2am.
Day 3 Sunday 11-13-05 At sea
There were heavy seas all night long. The head of my bed faced the window, and the ship was rocking from side to side, so it felt like my head was down, then up, then down, then up..all night long. I got used to it quickly though and with those fantastic HAL beds, I was asleep quickly. I had the two beds pushed together to make a queen sized bed and I could easily feel the split where the beds were pushed together. This surprised me as last time the wife and I cruised together on the Zuiderdam, we couldn't feel that split. It didn't bother me though and I slept better on the ship than I have in years. :)
Up at 7:00am. Breakfast in the Lido - fruit, muesli, coffee, oj. The Lido wasn't crowded at all and the food stations moved very quickly. I've heard negative things about the coffee, but I thought it was excellent. The creamy muesli with the little pieces of dried fruit in it, was as tasty as I've heard. I now understand what the fuss is all about. :)
9:00 - Yoga class. There were 8 people signed up for the class. Most people had done some yoga before, but there were a few that had never tried it. I take yoga twice a week and found the class to be very basic. However, the rocking of the ship made several of the poses very challenging!
10:15 - Tour of the ship's galley. This was a very popular tour and the line extended past the Explorer's Lounge. It's amazing how many meals are made in such a small space! There were samples of some dishes and a lovely presentation of lunch dishes in the Pinnacle Grill.
11:00 - Well Being Massage and Silk Facial. So relaxing! It wasn't the best massage I've ever had, but it was still very good. The only thing that bothered me was that during the facial, the therapist didn't tell me what she was doing or applying to my skin. I asked her a few times and then just gave up. She also gave some misinformation about skin anatomy and causes of rosacia. She told me that rosacia is caused by the water from the shower hitting your face! I had a really hard time keeping quiet about that one and decided to just tell my dermatologist about it. *grin*
1:00 - Lunch. At the beginning of every station in the Lido, at the entrance to the main dining room and the Pinnacle Grill, at the Lido Grill and in the gym, were automatic hand sanitizer stations. I saw several people using them and I used them frequently throughout the day. There were just as many people who didn't use them and I just kept hoping that they had washed their hands recently.
I made a salad from good variety of fresh veggies at the salad bar and then went to the taco bar and added taco meat (a little greasy), beans and guac for a tasty taco salad. I also had to try a small piece of chicken salad in sliced avocados. I got a Diet Coke Can with coke card without an attitude from a soda station set up by the pool.
During lunch I sat by the pool and watched some "wacky pool games", such a golf in the pool. It was quite fun. Then I went to the Therapy. Pool and Thermal Suites. Heavenly
Sunday night was the first formal night and the Captain's cocktail hour. I wore a floor length backless black dress and most women were wearing floor length dresses. About 20% of men were wearing tuxes the rest in dark suits and ties.
4:45 - I stood in a very long line that went from the door to the Vista lounge in the very front of the ship, all the way back past the Queen's lounge to the midship elevators, to have my picture taken with the Captain. He was very nice and offered me "a wing" to hold onto during the picture. He also shook everyone's hand, which surprised me because of Norwalk. The last time we were on the Zuiderdam, the Captain didn't shake anyone's hands.
After a picture with the Captain and two other pictures, I made it into the Vista lounge and the free champagne and hors d'oeuvres of scallops wrapped in bacon, fried shrimp, sausages and other unidentifiable fried nibbles of something. The champagne was quite tasty and glasses were kept full. I had an interesting conversation with a person who identified herself as traveling with her church group. It was only after we had a long conversation about how traveling solo is a great growing experience and how positive thinking can help keep the immune system strong, (she doesn't believe that virus's exist!) that I learned she was a Scientologist. I "came out" as a psychologist and she moved to a different seat soon afterwards. I got a giggle out of that.
5:45 - Dinner. I met my friends at dinner and had a delicious meal of shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, Caesar salad, grilled miso salmon and watermelon pie. I have never ever had such a delicious dessert as the watermelon pie. It was watermelon sorbet with a dark chocolate crust, absolutely amazing.
8:30 - Show. Some dance thing. I don't remember much about it. I came to look at the 8:30 - 9:30 show times as something to do to keep awake until the fun stuff started at 9:30.
9:30 - Karaoke in the Northern Lights Disco. The disco was packed and the karaoke was wonderfully awful! There were a few outstanding singers and then there was the rest of us. :) My dental group friends (with much liquid courage) sang a couple numbers, which was great fun. There was one very tall, very powerful woman who sang a Rolling Stones song and she was amazing. Everyone who sang at karaoke was invited to be a part of Oosterdam Superstar, an American Idol type show that started the next night.
After Karaoke I walked around the Promenade and enjoyed the warm evening weather before heading to bed.
Day 4 Monday 11-14-05 - Cabo San Lucas
I was up at 6:30 am with the sunrise. I had put out my room service breakfast order on the door tag the night before and asked for it to be delivered between 7 and 7:30am.
At 7:25, I called to find out where my breakfast was. They said it would be right there. 10 minutes later it arrived. I think that they forgot about it! I had a cold toasted bagel with cream cheese, non-fat yogurt, banana, coffee and OJ. It would have been good if the bagel had actually been warm, but oh well. The coffee was hot and that was really the important part.
The tour was scheduled to leave at 8am and they ask people to be in the Vista Lounge ten minutes before the tour is scheduled to start, so I ate quickly and ran to the Vista Lounge. Actual departure time was at 8:30am, so I could have had time to enjoy a more calm breakfast.
I did the Chileno Bay Sail and Snorkel excursion and it was fantastic. We boarded a catamaran for a sail past Lover's Beach and The Arch, before heading to Chileno Bay for snorkeling. It's about an hour ride on the catamaran and it went so quickly because the water and the tropical scenery was absolutely lovely. They provided fruit (apples and bananas) and juice on board for breakfast if you'd like. They also provided masks, fins and snorkels. I brought antibacterial wipes to clean everything and shared with others who appreciated it.
The snorkeling was great! Saw thousands of fish in schools and wandering around solo. They weren't as colorful as the fish in the Caribbean, but I did see lots of yellow fish, purple striped fish and ones with blue tipped fins. I also saw a big eel and what looked catfish with big whiskers by their mouths. I swam from the boat to the shore and walked on the beach for awhile. It felt so wonderful to walk on the soft sand with the warm sun and the sound of the waves hitting the beach.
We had 1.5 hours to swim and enjoy the beach. The crew was professional and kept a careful watch on the swimmers from the boat and a dingy. There was a water slide from the boat to use if desired and many people did desire! They warned us about jellyfish, but no one saw any and no one got stung. The water temp was 81 degrees and the air temp was 92 degrees. It couldn't have been any better.
After swimming, back on board you got a fresh water shower from a hose to rinse off the salt. There were packaged snacks (cheese-n-crackers, chips, and cookies), sodas, and an open bar with alcoholic drinks. The rum punch was very tasty. They put ice in the drinks unless requested otherwise. I saw a lot of people getting ice in their drinks, I didn't, but I'm overly cautious.
On the trip back they played '50s dance music, with lots of Elvis. Many people, myself included, danced back to the dock. It was quite fun. I also saw a friend of a friend from Berkeley California on the catamaran. So she and I chatted on the trip back.
Back to the ship for a swim in the Therapy Pool. I love being on the ship during port days. The ship is so quiet and uncrowded. I had the entire therapy pool to myself.
I had a shower in the gym's showers. I was disappointed with the gym showers. I had heard that they were very good with lots of water pressure, but there was no shower gel or shampoo in the containers and the water wasn't any more powerful than in the cabins. There were lots of fresh towels and pleasant surroundings though.
Lunch - I was trying to eat healthy on this cruise, but the cheeseburger and fries beat out a salad today. After all that swimming, I was very hungry. They do have the best cheeseburgers and the fries were nice and crispy.
I tendered back to shore for some shopping. I was only passenger on the tender, with three crew members, so the tender driver went very fast and bounced across the wake. It was very fun. It's only about a 7 minute tender from the ship to the shore, even with a full tender. So it's really no big deal. I sat in the fold down crew seats by the doors on every tender and that minimized any feelings of claustrophobia or over heating. Those tenders do get very hot and stuffy in the sun as the windows don't open. The tenders are actually lifeboats, so of course they don't want lifeboats with open windows!
On shore, there were very aggressive vendors outside the port area. They walked up to me and kept walking with me, even after I'd said No Thank you, several times. Perhaps being a female walking alone made them more aggressive than they would be if I was with someone or male, I'm not sure. I wanted to walk downtown, but I gave up out of annoyance. I walked back to the port and bought a couple of things from the "Arts and Craft's Market" by the pier where they were less demanding.
There was water and lemonade provided by HAL at the tender dock, which was very appreciated as the weather was very hot.
After I got back to the ship, I fed my Bingo addiction at 4:15. I almost won! I had a bingo, but I noticed it after the next number was called. The rules are that if you have a bingo, you have to call it out before the next number is read. Bummer.
Everyone had to be onboard by 5:30pm and sail away was at 6:00pm.
Dinner - We were all a little sunburned, but very happy from a good day on shore. Most of my tablemates spent the day shopping in Cabo and had some beautiful new bracelets and rings to wear. They said that the prices weren't that much different from the US, so I didn't feel bad for not going into town.
I had tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar (crunchy tomatoes), california green salad with goat cheese and mandarin oranges, grouper with black bean sauce and spinach, and peaches flambe for dessert. The salads were all crisp and fresh. The fish was excellent.
The show that night was actually good! It was a Magic Show by a group called, DV8 Their website is http://www.dv8realitymagic.com/ and if you have a chance to see them on a ship or in Las Vegas, I highly recommend them. I couldn't figure out how they did any of their tricks and I usually can. They were very funny and entertaining as well.
Oosterdam Superstars was right after the show. Again, it was very packed. I sat with my dental group friends and we picked out our favorites. There were many people eliminated that night, but there were several very good singers with high energy. It was a very fun show. If you go to this, get there early to get a good seat as it fills up quickly.
After the Superstars show, it was country music dance night in the Northern Lights Disco. The disco was very crowded and there were lots of people dancing. The crew also taught some line dances, which was very fun. I had another early morning the next day, so I just danced a few dances and then headed off to that wonderful HAL bed.
Speaking of which, I can't remember what nights there were, but I did get towel animals! I got a lobster, an elephant and a swan. They were all very cute and I loved seeing them perched on my bed. I saved them all by putting them on the couch, so I had a little zoo by the end of the cruise.
Day 5 Tuesday 11-15-05 - Mazatlan
7:00am wakeup time. Why it is so much easier to wake up when on vacation? I went to the Lido for breakfast after yesterday's bad room service breakfast experience. My healthy eating plan continued to deteriorate. I had 2 eggs, over easy, bacon, english muffin, fruit, OJ and coffee.
I walked a mile on the Promenade to work off breakfast. 3 laps around = one mile. There were a few people jogging on deck. I didn't see any signs stating No Jogging. The deck was wet, so I was concerned about people slipping, but I guess the runners didn’t have any problems.
By 8:30am, the ship had cleared immigration and I was off to find my group for horseback riding. The ship docked in Mazatlan, which made disembarkation very easy, no tenders! You do have to take a tram through the industrial port to the tourist shopping mall, but it is a less than three minute ride.
We docked right behind a Princess ship. I'm completely biased, but I thought the Oosterdam was much nicer looking. The Princess ship looked like a big box, while the Oosterdam looks like an elegant ship.
Once in the overwhelming tourist mall, I saw a big pink sign with Randi's Happy Horses on it, being held up by Randi herself. She already had a group around her, including EastBay Don and his wife Susan. It was great to meet other Cruise Critic members. We waited for the rest of the riders and chatted for a few minutes. There were only nine riders and we left the port area by 9:00am.
We took two open air taxi's to the pier. I know that there are very lovely areas of Mazatlan, but I certainly didn’t see it. The area around the port is very crowded, poor and industrial. The traffic is positively frightening; with large trucks going very fast and lots of horns honking.
We got to the dock where we would meet the water taxi over to Stone Island. The area by the dock is a working fish market, so I feel like we got a glimpse into real life Mazatlan. This is not your typical nice varnished tourist area. This is the real deal. There were lots of pelicans munching on fish that the fishermen were hauling out of their boats. There was a distinct odor of fishies, but that’s what you expect at a fish market.
We took the water taxi, just across the inlet to Stone Island. You do have to wear lifejackets in the very low riding boat, but that was just fine with me. We got a great view of the Pacifico Brewing company (my favorite beer even in the states) as well as a pretty picture of the Oosterdam and the Princess ship.
Once on Stone Island (which really isn’t an island, but a peninsula),we got on a cart type thing that was pulled by a tractor. Tractor’s and 4x4’s seem to be the most common ways that people get around on Stone Island. Again, the poverty was striking. Randi mentioned that the average daily wage was only $15.
We went to Tony and Maria’s house, Randi’s guides for the horseback riding portion of the excursion, and were able to drop off any bags that we had that we didn’t want to take on the horses. I kept my wallet and my camera, but left a bag with my sunscreen and some other stuff in it, at the house. After the ride, all of our stuff was waiting for us. There was also a bathroom available for those of us who needed it. Just don’t expect cushy American style houses or bathrooms.
The horses certainly are happy and well fed. It’s very obvious that Randi knows what she’s talking about in regards to a lot of thing, but especially the horses. They are very well taken care of and there are “lazy” horses (as Tony puts it) and more energetic horses, depending on your skill level.
I’ve done a lot of riding in my life and was so hoping to get a horse with some spunk. I rode Blanco (Whitey) and he was wonderful! He was so responsive that just a little squeeze with my legs and a little cluck with my voice and he stepped right out. We had a momentary battle at first as he wanted to know if I really was in charge or not, (fences are not for scraping humans off of your back) but after that first bit of resistance, he and I were a good team.
There were about 3 or 4 of us who were experienced riders and the rest who were a bit more uncertain, so we ended up with two groups. The ride was spectacular. The three of us trotted, cantered and galloped our way down the beach and had our own ride. Blanco liked cantering through the water and it was wonderful to go splashing through the ocean with the spray being thrown up by the horse’s hooves. It was like we were the only people out on the beach. There are no buildings or hotels or vendors or anything except coconut groves and the long stretch of empty beach. It was an experience that was beyond words. I cannot say enough good things about this day.
Riding with Randi was the excursion I had been most looking forward to and it certainly was the one that I will remember with the most fondness.
My only suggestion is that if you go on this ride, is to wear long pants. I knew this, yet I made the very wrong decision to wear shorts. Do Not Wear Shorts. By the end of the nearly 2 hour ride, I could feel two spots on the back of my thighs and on my calves were sore. I knew I was going to be unhappy later, but I just had to have one more gallop along the sand. Well, I ended up with two hand sized abrasions on each thigh and about a palm sized abrasion on each calf, where the skin had been rubbed completely off. This was seriously painful. I now understand what saddle sores are. One week later, I still have them, and they make sitting very interesting. My skirts and dresses stick to the sores and when I move, rip the skin off again. So, again, wear long pants. You can always change into shorts at Victor’s.
Speaking of which, Victor's has amazingly good garlic shrimp with onion rings, cabbage salad and rice for $11 plus tip. It’s a lot of food for one person, but I ate it all, well, except for a few pieces of shrimp that I gave to Shadow, the very cute gray cat. Shadow got my 1st two shrimp, but to Anna, the owner’s, dismay. She was really upset that I fed Shadow first, but he was certainly in need of food more than I was. I’m not sure how much the beers are, as I only had one and Randi buys the first drink. There were several vendors that stopped by, Randi lets you know which ones are “family” to Tony and Maria and Anna and she assists with bartering. I bought a pretty silver bracelet for $12 and also got a few hair braids.
After everyone had eaten and a couple of people went swimming and Don, Susan and I pushed a guy’s truck out of the sand, (long story), we reversed our route and went back to the ship.
We were back to tourist mall (i.e. hell) by 2:00pm. Some people went into the town of Mazatlan for shopping, others stayed in the touristy areas and others went back to the ship. Just outside of the tourist area, there’s a man with a fresh fruit juice stand. It you go to Mazatlan, do stop at this guys stand. He makes the most delicious watermelon juice that I have ever had. It’s like drinking nectar. It’s very refreshing and at $1 is certainly less expensive than the $3.50 I saw for one beer!
I wandered around the tourist mall, but didn’t really see anything interesting. After I got back to the ship, I swam in the Therapy Pool to relax those tense horse back riding muscles. I also had just a smidge of pistachio ice cream with some chocolate sauce on top. Mm..so good.
Then I headed back to the cabin and watched a movie called "The Perfect Man" and fell asleep for a nice nap until sail away at 5:30pm. We left early because everyone was onboard.
Tuesday night was informal night and that seemed to cause some confusion with my tablemates. People really weren’t quite sure how to dress, so there was a range from casual to nearly formal. Several people took taxi tours to Old Mazatlan and reported that it was very beautiful there. They also said that the taxi drivers told them that only foreigners live in Old Mazatlan. They saw the cliff divers and said that they were amazing. We had a nice time chatting about our day. I had baby shrimp with brandy and pineapple sauce (can’t get enough shrimp), chicken gumbo (very good!), green salad with ranch dressing, perch with asparagus and new potatoes with dill, bananas foster. People at my table had discovered that they could order more than one choice off the menu, so there were many soup choices, entree choices and dessert choices!
The show was “Whyte”, two brothers from England who sang Beatles songs. Well, I left after the first song. They were very out of tune and I'm very sensitive to pitch, so I left. Other people thought that they were wonderful, so other’s perception may vary greatly from mine.
The abrasions on my legs were throbbing by then, so I went to the infirmary where the nurse said “ouch” and gave me antibiotic ointment to put on them. No charge for the visit or the ointment. I went back to my cabin, put on the comply, soft HAL robe and watched the end of Perfect Man that I didn't see before when I fell asleep.
Day 6 Wednesday 11-16-05 - Las Caletas Hideaway
6:30 wake up time. I seriously considered sleeping in and skipping the trip as my abrasions hurt and I was tired. However, Puerto Vallarta called, so I got up. I went to the Lido for breakfast and was walking towards the healthy cereal and fruit, when I passed the Belgian waffle station. The smell of freshly made waffles was irresistible. So I had crispy, light, perfectly made waffles, fruit and lots of coffee.
Tendering for Las Caletas started at 7:45 and by 8:00 I was on shore. PV Adventure tours were right at the pier and we boarded their boat very quickly. They already had people who booked the tour independently from HAL, from hotels and the Carnival Pride, onboard so as soon as the people from the Oosterdam were onboard, we were off.
It was a 45 minute trip to Las Caletas. We saw wild black spotted dolphins jumping in the water. They were beautiful!
Las Caletas is a little cove with a small sand beach with beach chairs, a restaurant, several bars, hammocks, a spa with very reasonably priced massages, ($25 for 30 minutes, $50 for one hour) kayaking, snorkeling, yoga, a nature walk, a little monkey and macaws. While a group headed out for snorkeling, I made myself very comfortable in a beach chair with a good book and some fresh fruit. I had every intention of doing yoga, but that didn't happen as the beach chair grabbed me and held on. ?
The snorkeling crew didn't last long as there were many big jellyfish in the water. EastBay Don and his wife, Susan, snorkeled for awhile. Then Susan and I went out on a kayak and did very well! They didn't give us any instructions on how to kayak, but we figured it out very quickly. There were two rather large gentlemen who flipped their kayak and then swamped it with water, but everyone else seemed to do quite well.
While Susan and I were on the kayak, Don went to a cooking class to learn how to make paella. Then he and I and 40 other people (too many people!), went on a nature walk up in the hills behind the beach. There were several large spiders, causing one inebriated woman to scream in a most annoying matter. Have I mentioned that there’s an open bar included in the excursion? This woman started drinking when she got on the island and didn’t stop until we were docked back in PV. She was really obnoxious. There were several mutterings amongst the rest of us about how to keep her quiet and away from the bar.
The guide, Kimi, was very knowledgeable about the plants and animals in the area and stopped several times to point out insects and interesting plants. He really cares about the environment and is very proud of the beauty that exists in the tropical forests of Mexico. I would have liked to have walked with him further, but it was time for lunch.
Lunch was a buffet including salad, the paella that Don made ;) , rice, beans, ribs, chicken and tortillas that were made right there. They also had dessert of fruit, flan, cheesecake, rice pudding and cookies.
After lunch there was more beach time and just enjoying the beautiful view of the area. All too soon, we had to leave Las Caletas. I do wish that we had more time there. We left around 1:30 PV time and it really was too short a day.
It was a lovely ride back, enjoying the mountains and the fresh air. The crew also provided entertainment, but I just enjoyed looking at the scenery. We were back at the pier by 3:00pm and I was back on the Oosterdam by 3:30.
I'd gotten a little too much sun and the spa was having a milk wrap with massage special. The proteins in milk help to sooth sunburned skin, even better than aloe does. I was sure that there wouldn’t be any appointments available, but I decided to try anyway. To my happy surprise, there was a 4:30 appointment open! Woo! I went to the Therapy Pool and the Steam room as had become ritual after a day in port. Anna, the same massage therapist that I had before, found me in the Thermal Suite and took me to the therapy room. I was massaged and wrapped and generally pampered, which all felt incredibly wonderful. In fact, I was so relaxed that after my massage, i went back to my room and napped for awhile. :)
The Oosterdam was in port until 10:00pm in PV, so they have a BBQ on deck for dinner. I decided to go to the Pinnacle Grill instead. I had a wonderful waiter named Petre. I had originally been seated in the middle of the restaurant, which is an awful spot for a solo diner. I asked to be re-seated by the rail overlooking the atrium and was moved very quickly. This was a much more comfortable spot. Petre was very nice, chatting with me for a bit and stopping by frequently to see if there was anything that I needed. He did the whole presentation of the raw meat (which I find rather amusing) and both of us agreed that 22 ounces of meat is like ½ a cow! *grin*
I had the crab cake starter, petite fillet with grilled asparagus, and the scrumptious volcano cake for dessert. My filet was probably the best steak I've had in a very long time. It was cooked medium rare, just as I had requested and was soooo good. The volcano cake is a warm dark chocolate soufflé and it comes with whip cream that you spoon onto the soufflé and it melts into the chocolate and is just to die for.
After I waddled out of dinner, it was time for the second round of Oosterdam Superstars. The field was narrowed down even further to three finalists. The crowd was wild and we all sang along. The show was a ventriloquist who apparently had been on the Alaska cruises as most of his jokes were about Alaska. I made it through about 20 minutes before heading to the piano bar to sing along with Kory.
Kory is absolutely hysterical. He’s a great singer and everyone in the piano bar sings along. He has a sarcastic dry humor and a great wit. He gets most offended if people walk out of the lounge while he is singing and he isn’t shy about letting people know about his offense! The only way to leave while he’s singing, without offending him, is to dance out of the lounge. Several people in my group danced out, only to dance back in again a few moments later.
The Indonesian crew show was very good, but it started at 11:30pm and by midnight, I was falling asleep. With all of the excitement of the day, it was so nice to retreat to a quiet, soothingly dark cabin and slip into the soft sheets of the HAL bed.
Thursday 11-17-05 Sea Day
I love how relaxing sea days are. I woke up around 8:00 and had breakfast in the Lido. I had heard negative things about the scrambled eggs, so I had to give them a try myself. They are soft scrambled, which is how I like them, so I was very happy. I also had bacon (they don’t scrimp on the serving sizes of the bacon, I always had more than I could eat), english muffin, fruit, coffee
At 9:00 was the 2nd of three yoga classes. It was nice and I added some different poses to stretch muscles that were stiff.
10:00 –I walked a mile or so around the Promenade deck. There seemed to be more people out walking than in past days.
I went to the aft pool and tried to read, but it got way too windy. I couldn’t even hold my book upright. So, I moved to the Lido pool and around 11:00 they opened the cover that they can close over the pool. I thought this was perfect. There was a slight breeze to keep things cool and fresh and lots of sunlight.
They had a brats and sauerkraut buffet set out for lunch. I thought that was an odd choice considering that we were in Mexico. A Mexican buffet would have been much more appropriate. However, I saw lots of people chowing down on big sausages and even bigger hand made pretzels, so the buffet was popular. Not my thing though.
I had a taco salad, tomato with shrimp salad in it and a couple warm gooey chocolate chip cookies
After lunch I went to the Therapy Pool and Thermal suite. I actually fell asleep on one of the heated ceramic chairs in the thermal suite, so I figured I should head back to the cabin for a nap. I slept right through to dinner. Oh, I did watch a little bit of the movie “March of the Penguins”, but I had to turn it off because it was so sad! No one told me how sad that movie is. I was all nice and warm and being pampered constantly and they are showing these little penguins freezing their tails off in the ice and snow! I felt so bad for the poor little guys. Back to the happy stuff. This was the 2nd formal night and people didn’t seem to dress up as much. I wore an ankle length dress and saw many women in cocktail length dresses and men in dark suits. There were very few tuxes.
I had the fresh fruit cocktail with apple “foam”, cream of asparagus soup (a taste of the strawberry soup which was amazing), surf-n-turf with two tiny lobster tails and baked Alaska. They did the fun baked Alaska march and everyone waved their napkins in the air. It’s silly, but fun. ?
After dinner was a Jeopardy type show. The staff person kept getting really irritated at the audience because we kept giving out the answers. The questions were mostly about old TV shows or music questions. I thought it was fun and even more fun due to the staff member’s annoyance.
I went to the Newlywed, not-so-Newlywed show. They had a couple who had been married for 7 months, 26 years and 51 years! The older couple was so cute and the guy was hysterically funny without meaning to be. The people in the audience were in stitches.
Showtime – I don’t remember was this was. The only thing I wrote down about it in my notes was “lame”. I do have to give HAL some credit, it is very difficult to find entertainment that people in their 20's and people in their 90's like. I just found that the choreography to be frantic, even during slow songs and the song choice was lacking. But again, this is very subjective and other people absolutely loved the shows.
I went to the piano bar and played Name that Tune with Kory. He’s always great.
Friday 11-18-05 Sea Day
At 5:00am there was noise in my cabin like someone scraping paint, from the side of the ship right below my head, or like a giant rat chewing on metal grating. I called the front desk and they wanted to send someone to my room to listen to it. I asked them to just see if there was anything below me that would explain the noise, otherwise forget it. I really didn’t want to have to wake up and be fully functional at 5:00am
I slept intermittently until 7:30 when I gave up and got up. The noise seemed to stop soon after I got up, either that or I didn’t hear it once I was away from the bed.
I went up to the Lido for breakfast - muesli, banana, coffee, juice. There were whales breaching on the starboard side of the ship, so I got a great show with my breakfast.
I wanted to see more whales, so I walked a mile around the deck and just had a beautiful view of the whales and the ocean. 9:00 – yoga. This was the 3rd day of yoga and I was bored with doing the same routine. It would have been nice if the instructor had varied it, even a little bit. I just added my own stuff and it was fine. 10:00 - hot tub at aft deck. The weather was much cooler than it had been in days past. It was still too windy at the aft pool so, I found a spot on deck 10 that was sheltered from the wind. It was nice and warm out of the wind.
For lunch they had an Indonesian buffet at the lido pool. It was very good and similar to Thai food. I like spicy food and this was only mildly spicy, but they did have that tasty sambal available. During lunch there was a build a boat contest at Lido pool. There were some very creative entries! Someone built a boat out of styrofoam food containers and water bottles that held 10 full cans of coke! Highly impressive. There was also a pretty ship made out of half a scooped out water melon with a pineapple sail. After lunch was my ritual time in the T. Pool and Thermal suite. I was so sad to think that this would be my last day enjoying the special treats on the Oosterdam. To completely bum myself out, I went back to the cabin and packed :(
But, then there was another round of bingo to cheer me up. Dinner: This was the first meal that wasn't that good. I had a crab and Artichoke dip (very good), conch chowder (tasted like cambels vegetable soup), greek salad (greek because it had a couple drops of feta and one olive) rare tuna steak (not good at all), pineapple flambé (with only 4 small chunks of canned pineapple). My tuna tasted off and a tablemate had a steak that was obviously spoiled. It’s too bad because the food had been very good up to this point. The Jeopardy-type show followed dinner and again, was a lot of fun. Part of what was so funny was that one of my dental group friends had a large rubber rat that he brought up to the podium with him. The crabby cruise staff wasn’t quite sure what to do with that and it threw her off her usual routine. The rat had fun and actually won the game!
The show was probably the best so far. It combined the three contracted acts, the magic act, the ventriloquist and Whyte (who I still didn’t care for) and they each did 15 minute segments. That was just about enough. The best part was the magicians who are beyond excellent.
Final bingo game followed the show as well as the Win a Cruise for 2 lottery. Someone won over $3k in bingo and two cruises were won. Sadly, I didn’t win either of them, but it was still fun to play. There’s just that anticipation of maybe..possibly..I could win..maybe? :D Oosterdam Superstars was at 11:30 and the Vista Lounge was packed with people. It was the three finalists and they were all SO very good, in their own unique ways. I was voting for a young guy from Oakland California who did his final song with his shirt off! He had a star tattoo around his nipple and that threw the judges completely off. It was so funny! All of them gave a very good performance and had really amazing talent. Sadly, the Oakland guy didn’t win, but a man who had a very good voice and good stage presence did win. So, I guess it was fair.
After the show, I went to the piano bar for the final sing a long with Kory, before one last night’s sleep on the Oosterdam. *sniffle*
Saturday 11-19-05 Disembarkation
The ship docked at 6:00am. My cabin window faced the San Diego pier, so when I opened my blinds in the morning, I got a very close view of the docking. It was a little unnerving to see the pier come so close, but the captain did an excellent job of docking.
I got up at 7:00am and went to Lido for breakfast. It wasn’t anymore crowded than at a sea day. I had seen many Room Service tags on people’s doors the night before, so I suspect that room service was very busy that morning. I had pancakes (fluffy and light), bacon, an egg over easy, fruit, coffee juice. I left my cabin at 8:00am to give steward access to room. I had left an envelope with an extra tip in it as he was so wonderful to me. He saw me later in the hallway and thanked me profusely for the tip. He seemed so overly thankful, that I really wondered just how much of the automatic tip they get each week.
While waiting for my disembarkation number to be called, I walked a mile and watched all the port day activities. They sure do carry a lot of stuff on and off the ship! I had been told that my number and color would be called around 10:00am. Well, at 9:00, my number and color was announced, so with great regret, I left the ship. I had been seriously considering just staying on board, but alas, reason set in and I had to leave. I easily found my luggage and was out of terminal by 9:15. I walked across the street and caught the free Holiday Inn shuttle to airport.
I got to the airport and was checked in and at my gate by 10:00am. My flight wasn’t until 1:00, so I had plenty of time to think about the fantastic week I had just had.
I was still feeling like I was on the ship for about four days after I got off of it! The first two days were the worst and I kept walking sideways in our house! It’s pretty funny. Now I only feel wavy when I’m sitting still.
So, if you’ve actually read this whole thing, I hope that you enjoyed it. I hadn’t quite expected it to get so long, but so it goes. I welcome questions and comments.