Day One was spent scurrying around collecting all the things on the packing lists that hadn't actually been packed yet, and then finally shutting the door behind us to head for the airport. If we didn't have it by then, it was too late. Everything went smoothly at the airport, and we even met a nice plump little Rottweiler puppy that was on his way to a new home. While we didn't see any more cute animals, the rest of our travels went exceptionally well, with no delays, but both planes landed early, so that was nice. Air Canada also has screens in the backs of their seats now, with a touch screen system to choose what you'd like to watch. We're actually looking forward to the flight back so that we can all watch the 'other' movie that we didn't choose on this leg!
We picked up our luggage and headed to the rental car bus stop to find the Budget transportation. We were discussing how we were going to find our hotel, as I had forgotten to print out a map, but as we approached the car rental lot, we could see it about a block away, so it was no problem. We rented a mid-size, which was a nice car, but we found that it wasn't really designed for men who are 6'2" - my husband couldn't adjust the seat low enough so that he didn't have to kind of lean down to see everything he wanted to. It certainly did the trick though.
We checked into the Crowne Plaza LAX with no issues at all, and since we were hungry, it was nice to find that they had fresh made pizza and Krispy Kreme donuts still available after 10pm. We took our luggage up to our room then came back down to get some food. The pizza was delicious!!
We got up really early since we were still on home time (2 hours later) and started puttering around. I went down to the business centre, which offers free internet connection (you can also pay to have it in your room, but for the little time I actually needed to confirm some locations, it was easier to just take an elevator ride). By the time I had come up with my addresses and maps, everyone was dressed and ready to go, so we headed out the door. We called down for our car (valet parking $16 or self park for $12), checked out and loaded up. Off we went!
We had a really productive day. Our first stop was a store I always shop at when I'm in an American city, since we don't have them at home and their jeans fit me better than any others. I bought three pair!! We left with two huge bags between my daughter an myself - and big smiles of course! We grabbed a bite before hitting another store to find some sandals for my husband, and then bought a case of bottled water and some caffeine free diet coke (my drink/mixer of choice). We also found a big red polka dotted Christmas ribbon on sale that I pulled apart to tie onto the handles of all of our luggage. My mom suggested it so that when we disembark we'll have an easier time finding our cases in the jumble. We then headed to the most important stop of the day - a Build a Bear store!!! This is just one more thing we don't have at home. Our little animal lover found a cheetah that has a WWF tag, and told me that a portion of the price goes to help the animals, so I thought that was nice, of course. She then found a 'Hannah Montana' outfit for her... and a guitar purse... and some other accessories. When we were in line waiting for her to be stuffed, the clerk asked what she was going to name her and she thought about it. I suggested that she call her 'Hannah' and she liked it... and went back to find a blonde wig! Ha ha ha She ended up calling her 'Hannah Cheetana', which I thought was really cute and clever, and the clerks seemed to like it as well. I told her they would very likely tell people about her cheetah and the name and she thought that was pretty cool.
That was our last shopping stop, so we headed down to San Pedro to check into another Crowne Plaza. Once we'd dropped off our luggage, we drove over the awesome bridges and into Long Beach, where we returned our car. From the Budget location there, we walked to PF Chang's, which serves one of my top five favorite restaurant dishes in the world - Kung Pao Scallops. We also found that they'd added a special grill section to their menu and tried a NY Strip marinated in a sesame soy sauce, cooked medium rare, cut into thin strips and served over bok choy... it was incredible. (Not as good as the scallops, mind you, but definitely something I'll order again.) Our waiter, Roy, was terrific! Since it was still fairly early and the restaurant wasn't particularly busy yet, he was able to spend some time chatting with us about all kinds of things, and we really enjoyed him.
We cabbed it back to San Pedro ($20) and my husband and daughter went swimming (outdoors - I'll bet people thought they were nuts!) while I had a nice hot bath and waited to hear from some of our roll call friends. They called while I was still alone, so I stopped by the pool on the way down to let my family know where I would be. Bean24 and her husband were waiting in the lobby and we found a comfy spot in the lounge. My husband eventually joined us with a walkie talkie, and of course being a bit of a novelty, our daughter used it quite a bit. It was a great pre-test for the cruise. Now we just have to hope that the ship itself doesn't interfere with the signal and we'll be great. We had a really enjoyable evening with our new friends and we're looking forward to seeing them on the ship. We've planned an excursion in Acapulco with them and some others from our roll call so we're all really looking forward to that as well.
Here I sit, the only one awake, getting a good start on my journal. The sun is shining, the bags are just about all ready, and now all I can do is wait. The hotel shuttles start running at 10:30am, but I don't want to get there too early, so we'll hang out here for a while longer. (Well... they're still asleep so that shouldn't be a problem for them! Ha ha ha) I guess I'll get started on that book...
We caught the hotel' shuttle promptly at about 12:15... I think... It took longer for them to load our luggage than it did to drive to the terminal. Once there, we opted to port our own luggage down to the drop off, but I think it may have been faster to just wait for a porter. In any case, we got rid of our bags and headed into the terminal. We were given a number because the crowds were so big, but then were called to enter the latitudes line. I asked if anyone wanted my little number tag, but nobody took it. I still have a little yellow '12'... maybe there's going to be a draw.
Once we got through processing and onto the ship, we were heading for Versailles, but were told that the line was really long, so we decided to go to the reservations desk and look at menus instead. We decided that tonight was the night for Cagney's and easily made a reservation for 6:00. We then headed up to the buffet and got there just as the announcement came that our cabins were ready. We decided to eat, since we were there. We got in line and we weren't there for five minutes when the line got held up at the rolls... the baskets were empty and someone came and took them to be refilled. I asked the woman ahead of me if she was waiting for rolls and she said,'Yes.' I said,'Well, it doesn't look like we're really holding up the line yet,' because there were still people waiting for the hand carved roast beef, and she said,'Well this is ridiculous. Three baskets and nobody noticed they were empty?' (There were actually still some rolls in one of them, just not what either of us was looking for) I said,'Well, it's very busy; it happens,' and smiled. She wasn't having any of that, though. She said,'No, I've been on this line before and I see nothing has changed.' I decided at that point to just move on and come back for rolls. I didn't want to spend any more time near such a sourpuss than I had to!!
All I can say about Cagney's is Mmmmmmmmmm!! I took my camera to take some pics of what we ordered, but the battery was dead. Hopefully I'll be able to get some shots of some later menu selections. My husband and daughter had the shrimp cocktail, which was HUGE. There were only four tails, but they were a LOT bigger than anything we ever get at home. My daughter took a bite of one and then said, 'There, now it looks like a regular shrimp.' I had the crab cakes. YUM. 'nuff said. My husband enjoyed his beefsteak tomato salad while I thoroughly enjoyed a delicious bowl of clam chowder. For entrees, my daughter had a filet mignon that appeared to melt the moment it hit her mouth, and my husband and I had the blackened ribeye. I couldn't finish mine! I did find the strength to choke down some cheesecake, and it was WELL worth it. The crust was absolutely divine. My husband loved the bananas foster and our daughter had a chocolate decadence something, with which she was offered ice cream... and asked for chocolate... then I made a joke that she would probably like some chocolate sauce on top of the chocolate on top of the chocolate, so... that's how it came. It was thick, dark, and rich. She couldn't finish it, so our server, Alla (not sure I spelled it correctly) brought her some plastic wrap so she could bring it back to our room. She even offered to get her an entire new one, but by that time, even my daughter was fairly chocolated out.
After supper, we came back to the cabin and changed. We met and introduced ourselves to our steward, Agus and asked him to please remove all the minibar stuff and other goods from our room, and to bring an extra pillow. My daughter also mentioned that 'we' like the NCL chocolates, so he found some of those for us as well. I handed mine to a little boy in the hall. I was STUFFED!! Our daughter went to the Kid's Crew to meet some new friends and we went off to the early karaoke. I was surprised when we got there to see very few people in the room, but I'm a ham, so I love dead karaoke. The fewer singers, the more turns I get!! I had a blast, and even did a request for someone in the audience. They're having another session later tonight, so I'm going to head back with a few of my own cdg's. The song list is pretty good, with some songs that I rarely see anywhere, but it's still missing some of my favorites, so I'm glad I brought them along.
On our way back to our cabin, we saw Agus in the hall and he called a greeting to my husband, which I thought was nice. I was glad we'd taken the time to introduce ourselves. My husband then went and picked up our daughter from the Kid's Crew a little early because she had been dying to swim all day. We would have gone earlier, but we thought it was a good idea to go to the Kid's Crew on the first night so that she could meet people, and she came back having made three new friends! One is even into Webkinz, so I'm sure she'll be riveted when our girl tells her about the near tragedy in the Calgary airport! The kid's activities for 6-9 year olds look great, so she's looking forward to a lot of activities, including High School Musical karaoke, Family Pizza making, and the Kid's Crew talent show.
The late session of karaoke was really dead... I was the only singer. Four lovely ladies watched me sing a song and asked for an encore, but after that, we decided to forego it for another night. The staff assured me that it would pick up over the course of the week. I wandered over to the Carousel, where there was dancing, and met a nice family. I was going to join them in the hot tub, but by the time we got outside it was closed for the night. Instead we went to the Blue Lagoon, where I sampled the buffalo wings and a hot dog, and all were great.
On my way back to my cabin, I met another woman celebrating her birthday the same day as me. Quite a coincidence!Day Four
Our first day at sea we slept in until after 9. None of us really felt like getting dressed and heading out, so we ordered some room service (pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich; daughter ate her crusts and explained that she liked everything about this pizza, even the crust; the grilled cheese was off the kid's menu and had no crusts - but had three slices of bread with two sections of cheese and was yummy. It was served with potato chips and cold slaw, which was also delish)
We attended our CC Meet and Greet at 11 and finally got to put faces to all the other names we'd seen - and a few more, since there were some groups that had just had a spokesperson on the boards. It was a really nice time, and the hotel director, Rosita, came and met us. She asked if there was anything she could do for anyone, so I explained that it was my birthday Tuesday and that I really wanted reservations at Teppanyaki, so I wondered if she could pull some strings to ensure it, and she took down all my information and said she'd call me. Later when I was back in my room, sure enough my phone's light was blinking and she'd made the reservation. I thanked her profusely. I can't wait! A couple of our CC friends are going to try to join us, so I hope they'll be able to get in as well.
Shortly after the CC M&G, we attended the Latitudes cocktail party. We were introduced to the captain and the officers, and they gave out some door prizes. We enjoyed canapes and assorted beverages - rum punch, bellinis, yellow birds, and whiskey sours. The canapes included caviar, so I brought one back for our daughter, who has been talking about maybe being able to try caviar for a few months. She adventurously tried squid and octopus on the last cruise, so she wanted to keep up the tradition. We got a little video of her reaction with our still camera, and it was as expected… at least she didn't spit it out.
We rushed her off to the Kid's Crew in the afternoon, since they were having a birthday party and cake eating contest that she didn't want to miss. After that, we wandered into the buffet to grab a bite and found one of the stations with pizza, pasta and the like. I had some pizza and went to the kid's buffet to grab a hot dog as well. I found out my daughter was right - the pizza IS good! From there we went to the Atrium, where there were people sitting everywhere watching a football game on the big screen. Apparently it was some kind of quarter final or something… I was there for the $10 sale and bought myself a new watch and a necklace and earrings set. It wasn't long after that the Kid's Crew was ending, since they were having family bingo and we weren't interested in attending.
We picked up our girl and she and I changed into swimsuits and headed to the pool. The band, Xcite, was excellent, and as the ship slowly rocked, the water in the pool followed suit. It was really nice and relaxing… although many of the other passengers clearly thought we were a little crazy going in the water when it was so cold. Coming from Canada at this time of year clearly gives us a much different perception of 'cold'.
We retired to get ready for supper around 4:45. We chose to try Aqua, and when we arrived there about two minutes before it opened, there was a line up the stairs (the stairs are opposite the entrance) I was happy to see that once the line started moving (when the restaurant opened), it moved steadily. We were seated by 5:40. My daughter had the mango and melon appetizer and loved it. My husband tried the lamb sausage and was also impressed. I chose to have a soup and salad rather than an appetizer, so while they were eating those, I was loving the Jamaican black bean soup. After that, my husband tried the same soup while I ate a Caesar salad, and it was really good. All three of us had the NY Strip Steak for an entree, and as in Cagney's, they were all cooked exactly as ordered. They came with potted onion (which was like candied onion served in a zucchini 'pot'), a scalloped type potato, a slice of Portobello mushroom (wish there had been more!), and some green beans. The presentation was lovely and all of the food was scrumptious. Near the end of the meal, our daughter started to get a bit antsy because she wanted to go to the balloon game night at Kid's Crew, but she needn't have worried. We were finished our mouthwatering desserts (warm apple bread pudding that I highly recommend for my husband and I, and a caramel chocolate confection for our daughter that she highly recommends) by 7:00. (the entire meal, including the wait took 1 ½ hours).
After we dropped her off, we puttered around until it was time for karaoke again. I had promised the hosts that I would come by and sing one song before we headed out to the pub crawl. This evening's crowd was much bigger, so I hope that continues for the rest of the cruise. After my song, we headed over to the Red Lion pub to join the other pub crawlers, and the fun began. How the pub crawl works is that you are given raffle tickets for being in the pub crawl, for any drink you purchase, and for doing things like singing with Al Ventura, the entertainer in the pub. I sang once with him with my husband along and once by myself, so I accumulated a nice mitt full of tickets. We also moved from bar to bar, stopping at the Carousel and ending up at the Spinnaker in time to watch the newlywed/not so newlywed game. I eventually won an NCL bag full of goodies. I'm sure it will come in handy when we head off on our Acapulco excursion on the boat.
My husband had left to pick up our daughter and stayed with her in the cabin, so it was nice to have made some new friends on the pub crawl. I learned that another woman in the group, from Australia, was also celebrating her birthday Tuesday. I find it really interesting that I've now met two other women on the cruise celebrating their birthdays, and we all share the same one!
We all slept in - big surprise! I woke everyone up a little after 11 and asked who wanted to try Ginza for lunch. My husband decided to stay in bed but my daughter was all for another food trying adventure, so we got dressed and off we went. We were the first ones there. I was struggling with the menu, since I couldn't decide which appetizer to try, so our server said she would just bring them all!! The only thing my daughter wanted, though, was to have the squid without anything on it that it didn't have to have (which meant no onions, I think). Well, we had a table full. I think our favorites were the tempura and the squid - they both had the same deliciously light coating, and the tempura dip was so good… my daughter used it all, finishing it up by dipping the squid in it. The chicken in lettuce wraps was new to me and delicious, and everything else was wonderful as well. It was no surprise when the main course (teriyaki steak - mine with sauce, hers without) arrived and it was nothing short of succulent. Once the meal had been rounded out by a simply amazing banana spring roll dessert (banana wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and fried, served with ice cream and strawberry dipping sauce) and fruit sashimi, there was no doubt that we would have to bring Daddy back at the next available opportunity.
Shortly after lunch, we went to the Kid's Crew (6-9) 'High School Musical Karaoke'. Apparently it was only their second week, and they actually used the regular karaoke lists, but did have a High School Musical CD that they sang along to… lucky for them, we arrived with karaoke CDGs for High School Musical 1 and 2, as well as Hannah Montana. The kids had a blast and our daughter felt like she was a bit of a hero. It was a great afternoon. We returned to the room to pick up my husband for the family pizza making, and I called to find out about the items I had sent for pressing on the first night, since my formal was among them. I had misunderstood that they were to be back the second evening by 6 and instead they were due today, so I asked if I could get mine earlier since we were meeting friends for supper at 5:30. Reception called laundry for me and then called me back to say they were on the way. I waited while the other two headed off to make pizzas, and the clothes were here within five minutes. By the time I joined them, though, my daughter's pizza was already in the oven! I declined to make my own since it was so close to supper and came back to the cabin to get ready for formal night.
We met our friends at 5:30 at Versailles. Again it took us less than ten minutes to be seated. We were looking at the crowd outside the dining room, all dressed beautifully, and we agreed that it looked just like traditional dining, as people waited for the dining room to open. The only real difference was that someone seated everyone rather than finding their way to their assigned tables. Service was really good, and the waiter bent over backwards to make sure our daughter was happy. She wasn't too sure about the menu, and when she tried the beef Wellington, she didn't like the pastry and the rest, so he wanted to bring her something else, but she declined. She had just eaten a pizza after all. Just to be on the safe side, though, he brought her three desserts. She tried the honey crème brulee, she had some chocolate ice cream with sauce, and she also had some cheese. He called her 'Princess' all through dinner, and truly treated her like one.
The rest of us all had both the beef Wellington and the seafood extravaganza. They first brought us one plate, then the next and we all basically got to choose which sides we wanted and which we didn't. It was all delectable. The lobster, shrimp and scallops were cooked to perfection and not the least bit rubbery. I loved every mouthful and the rest of our party concurred. For dessert, the honey crème brulee was the hands down favorite, and my husband and I also tried the warm apple streusel pie with butter pecan ice cream, which was also delectable.
Impatient to get to the evening's fun in the Kid's Crew, our daughter rushed me out and we agreed to meet the others after coffee in the Carousel Lounge, where I wanted to take pictures of my daughter on a carousel horse. I couldn't have picked a better scene for a little girl in a party dress. The pictures turned out perfectly, and our friends were able to take pictures of all of us together as well. Then it was back to the cabin to change for Kid's Crew, and off she went. I also changed out of my formal, and promptly fell asleep! When I awoke, I was determined to go out and have a 'drink of the day', a 'tropical itch', which came in a gorgeous souvenir sling glass and also came with a back scratcher, which I thought was too amusing to pass up. I found some of my pub crawl mates and enjoyed their company for a while before retiring with happy thoughts of Acapulco.
We go up early (before 9) so that our daughter could go to the Pirate morning at Kid's Crew and we could go and sign up for the murder mystery. I figured out the easiest alarm system was room service, which also meant my daughter had something to eat before heading off for a morning of play, so it worked out very well. Since we were up, we then took advantage of Versailles' breakfast menu and I enjoyed the eggs benny I'd been looking forward to for months. We walked right in; I think most people go up on deck or through the buffet for breakfast. We tracked down our little pirate - everywhere I looked I had just missed them. I would ask 'Have you seen a parade of pirates?' and people would say, 'Oh yes, and we heard them too! You just missed them… they went thataway!' I eventually ran into a couple of little pirates and their mom told me they'd made it back to the KidZone, so I went there and picked ours up. We met a group from our roll call in the Atrium and waited to hear the word that we could go ashore. Once we had the okay, we headed down to the gangplank and outside to Acapulco! We had a short delay while one of our party went back for a key card, but it was it was so darned good to just be out there in the gorgeous Mexican weather, it was no problemo! We went through the terminal and Eduardo from Fish R Us was waiting for us with a sign. I simply cannot say enough good things about Fish R Us. I intend to cut and paste my review of our excursion with them to as many places as I can around the 'net because they deserve as much positive advertising as they can get. It was truly a fantastic day.
They took us in two vans back to their office and explained some things about what we would be doing and suggested that anyone hoping not to use the yachts head might want to use their bathroom before we left. We paid Eduardo and headed to the boat. Our captain, Freddy, was originally from Texas, so everything he told us as we cruised around was very easy to understand. Our first stop was the cliff divers. Apparently we'd missed their early show, so Fish R Us made a call and were able to arrange one just for us. I hope all the other tourists who got to watch were grateful!! We were lounging around on a beautiful yacht, with drinks in hand (I had something called a 'Poloma', tequila and Fresca, which was delicious), and had the best view I could imagine for the show - right on the water where we could see everything. We all felt like we were a LOT better off than the people standing on those balconies in the hot sun, surrounded by other hot tourists, and as it turned out, some other girls from our roll call were actually among them and took a picture of our boat because they thought it was so neat. Two boys swam out to the boat for pictures and tips, and then we got to watch the spectacle. I can't imagine going to Acapulco and not seeing the cliff divers. They are truly amazing to watch, especially when you have the view that we did of the water as it moved in and out.
From the cliff divers, we went to a secluded cove, where they dropped the water trampoline and threw out float beds and pool noodles, and offered scuba equipment. We got to keep our snorkels, which say 'Acapulco' on them. I just used a mask and snorkel, no flippers. There were a few jokes about the size of my feet… I really didn't need them, though. I found a nice place to float and just watched as schools of fish swam under me. It was delightful. Once back on board, we were served a delicious lunch. We had barbecued chicken (that Freddy said was 'buzzard' for the kids and we all commented on what delicious buzzard it was), burgers, bacon wrapped hot dogs (my daughter unwrapped hers and pronounced that it had a 'tan'!), and fish strips, as well as macaroni salad and tossed salad, and of course there were condiments and tomato and onion slices for the burgers and dogs. It was a fantastic spread and really yummy. The drinks never stopped flowing from the time we left the dock until the time we got back.
After lunch, we had a nice cruise of the bay, with Freddy continuing to tell us all about what we were seeing and the other two shipmates clearing plates and keeping drinks fresh. It ended far too quickly for all of us, and was truly one of the best tours I have ever been on. I should mention, also, that they don't usually offer their 'Fun n Sun' cruise on Mondays, when we were in port. Eduardo answered every correspondence from me (there were many) and assured me that if I found a group that wanted to go, they would offer the tour, and fortunately, we had enough on our roll call on Cruise Critic to make a tour and they put it together for us. They were professional, on time, friendly, accommodating, and most of all, FUN!! They really gave us an afternoon to remember, and I really can't recommend them highly enough. I hope that anyone reading this will consider contacting them for future tours. They also offer deep sea fishing. You can check them out online.
We decided to just spend the rest of the evening on the ship, and after a little nap, we went to Aqua for supper. What with the ship being in port, we walked right in and were able to request a table by a window. Again my daughter and I ended up ordering the same entree, as it was prime rib night. For appetizers, my husband and I had the summer (fresh) rolls, which came with a yummy sweet chili dipping sauce, and all three of us had the egg drop soup, which was just as good. Our prime rib meals were cooked to perfection, and my husband had gnocchi in a pumpkin sauce that was one of his favorite meals so far. When I saw my daughter's plate, though, I could see broccoli on hers that I didn't see on mine (turned out it was under my meat) and said, 'Hey, where'd my broccoli?' Our server said nothing, but brought out a big plate of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Near the end of the meal, my daughter told our assistant server that it was my birthday the next day, and they all came and sang me 'Happy Birthday' and gave me a cake, explaining that since they wouldn't see me the next day, they wanted to do it while they could. I cried. I'm such a sap!
Our daughter was going to go to the fiesta party at the Kid's Crew, but we decided to go to the Mexican Folkloric show instead, and it was great. There were dances from Aztec through more recent history, and the costumes, the music, and the dancing were all fantastic, including a rope artist that entertained us with his lasso as well. Unfortunately, our daughter started complaining about a sore ear right about then, and the medical centre was closed, so she took some Tylenol and agreed to see if that would help her sleep until someone could look at it in the morning. It was a bit of a coincidence, since I had booked an excursion through the ship online and it hadn't seemed to have shown up on our account. Rather than have them track things down and get us on the tour, I just had them make sure the charge wasn't on our account and we just relaxed the next day.
Our daughter saw the ship doctor ($80 consult fee), and was given some drops and a prescription to fill in PV if she still needs it. The drops seem to be working just fine, though, so hopefully we won't need a pharmacy. We hopped a tender into Zihuatenejo around 11:30 and it was HOT. It was kind of cloudy as well, so it was quite humid. It's not what we're used to, coming from a landlocked area, so it really hit us. We strolled around town a little and looked in the shops, and our daughter found a tee shirt from the local humane society, which was perfect for her. She also wanted to adopt one of the free puppies they had, but of course we explained to her that not only would they not let the puppy on the ship, but taking it back to Canada would be even more difficult! We quickly had enough of the heat and we were hungry, so we came back to the ship. I can't really say anything much good or bad about Zihuatenejo or Ixtapa, since we weren't really able to experience it much.
Back on board, we went straight to lunch and again walked straight into Versailles. My husband and daughter enjoyed a delicious (I tried theirs) chicken strip appetizer, with a sweet coconut coating and an orangy dip, while I enjoyed a crab dip with assorted veggie strips and corn chips. Both were really good. We all tried the chilled Granny Smith bisque, and I found (as I expected) that chilled soups really aren't my thing. The rest of my family loved it, though, and my husband finished mine happily. For lunch, the other two had BLT sandwiches and I had a burger. When my daughter asked to substitute mashed potatoes for her cold slaw, she received a plate without potato chips as well (which the BLT was otherwise to come with) and so she explained to the server that she still wanted the chips, and he brought her an entire plate full.
We were all so full after adding on dessert (ice cream, pecan pie), we came back to the cabin and napped. Between the heat of Zihuatenejo and the meal, we were just dead on our feet. I set an alarm so that I could go sign up for the passenger talent show, and we tried to wake up our daughter for the family pool party (in which the kids were told to 'come get your counselors wet!'), but she was out like a light. When I got back at 4:30 and told her that we had to be at my birthday supper at Teppanyaki in a half hour, she got mad and asked why we didn't wake her for the pool party, my husband and I answered in perfect unison, 'We did!' and we all laughed. Having just barely digested our lunch meal, it was weird heading off to supper, but we all love Teppanyaki grills, so we were looking forward to it.
Teppanyaki was absolutely amazing. On the Star, Teppanyaki seats 12. There are two grills side by side and the twelve seats are around them. Two servers took our orders, and of course, I was a trouble maker. First I asked if I could add scallops on to my surf and turf order, then I requested the banana spring rolls from Ginza for dessert. The server said she would have to check with various others (chef, manager), but that was the last we heard of it, and we got everything we asked for. The chefs do a really good show. They catch things in their hats (my husband at one point commented that he wouldn't want to have to wash their hats), and they do a wonderful egg tossing trick where they throw and catch a raw egg a few times with their flippers, and then catch them on the side to split them so that the egg runs out (but no shell) onto the grill to put in the rice. We loved it, and the food surpassed the show. Everything was cooked to absolute perfection, and the dipping sauces were scrumptious as well. I wish we had more time to do it again, as one of the other couples eating with us were doing. The servers came with another birthday cake and sang 'Happy Birthday' to me again and it rounded out the meal perfectly.
From dinner we headed up to family karaoke, but unfortunately, other than a three year old that entertained us with 'Twinkle Twinkle' and her alphabet, our daughter was the only child there. Also unfortunately, just as she was being applauded for the last song she sang, a group of adults who should have known better started chanting the name of their friend who had sung earlier. As a mother and a person who hates rudeness, I almost said something as I got up to sing with my husband, but my daughter hadn't paid any attention so I decided to leave it. The idea that people their age would not only do something that rude to someone, but to a child, just made me shake my head. I understand that they wanted their friend to sing another song, but to interrupt someone else's applause in that way was just unacceptable, and as I said, to do it to a child was just that much worse. (sorry, rant over!)
Our daughter went off to Kid's Crew right after. It's so nice to see her really excited about going there. The staff are wonderful and all have funny names, like Trouble, Egghead, Slinky, Monkey and Chaos. They are also always very enthusiastic when they see her, whether on the street as happened today in Zihuatenejo, or when signing in. They told her after the second day that if she hadn't come back they would have hunted her down, and I'm sure it made her feel really good to know that they noticed when she wasn't there (we'd slept in that morning) and wanted her around.
I decided that it was time to find the casino and check it out, and I found some of my CC Roll Call friends playing various games. One that appealed to me was called 'Let it Ride' (I think) and you start with three $5 chips bet and are dealt three cards, with the dealer taking two face down. Once you look at your cards, you can ask for one of your chips back, then after the dealer turns up one card, you can ask for another. I decided to give it a try with my 'triple play' - available to all adults on the cruise, you pay $10 and get $15 in chips (these chips are different from the regular casino chips in that you can't cash them in), and I tried it and lost the first hand, so with only $10 left, I moved to blackjack and played about four hands before I lost. It was a fun half hour or so and I decided to send my husband for his triple play so I could do it again, but tonight it was bedtime. I couldn't have imagined a better birthday!Day Eight
We woke up listening to the muffled announcements about tendering in Puerto Vallarta. Our Dolphin Royal Swim at Sea Life Park wasn't until 2pm, so we took our time. We arrived on the dock and found a cab easily. To get out of the cruise port area we had to pass through a big gate and the driver had to complete some sort of form for a guard. The park is a fair drive from the port and it took us a while to get there, and it got exciting when we got close and could see all the waterslides. Our entry fee was included in the prebooked encounters, so we just had to go in and get our wrist bands for the dolphin swim and the sea lion encounter. We had just enough time to do a couple of slides before we started, so we did a fun toboggan ride on tubes, and then while my daughter did the same one again, I took a 'spin' in a ride that looked a bit like a toilet bowl… I slid down a tube that spit me out into a swirling bowl that ended with me dropping through a hole in the bottom into a pool of water. It was really fun!
From there, we joined the group waiting for the dolphin encounters, and followed to the pool where we were given life jackets and separated into groups. Ours got to play with Triton and Belle, who were amazing. We got to pet them, kiss them, be kissed by them, cradle them in our arms, hold their two dorsal fins and be pulled through the water, and then the grand finale - the foot push. It was amazing!
After we finished with the dolphins, we watched the video of the encounter and warmed up before heading back to do the sea lion encounter. We first were introduced to Heidi, whom we would be meeting in person later. Our guide then took us to meet some of the other animals at the park. Unfortunately since we'd arrived late, we hadn't been able to see the shows, but meeting them was pretty cool, too. They had some gorgeous birds, including macaws and toucans. They also had some adorable little monkeys, and we got to see the two newest additions - three month old babies! They were so cute!! We were then taken to meet the sea lions. Our first encounter was with Heidi, who joined us in the water and kissed us, let us pet her, and let us cradle her. We then got to meet Pepe, who is the 'king' of the sea lions at the park. We got to feed him by hand and by tossing the fish into his mouth. He did a few tricks as well, and the trainer taught us how to signal him to smile. One of the best things about the encounter was how much we learned as well. We learned the differences between sea lions and seals, as well as some interesting things about sea lions themselves. It was a wonderful experience.
Of course we purchased all the pictures and both dvds to remember the experiences, as well as some tee shirts with pictures of Belle on them that say 'I swam with Belle'. They match the shirts we got in Cozumel last year after swimming with Marte there. By the time we'd looked at all the pics and dvds and found our tee shirts, we were the last ones in the little store, so we changed quickly and grabbed a cab back to the port. Once back on board, we had to dress quickly to meet for the Murder Mystery. We were hoping that they might be one short and our daughter could fill in, since we'd done it on the Dream and didn't think there was anything in it that would be inappropriate, but the line has a strict age policy, and we understood that. She decided she would rather go hang out in the cabin and order room service anyway, so it didn't matter. This was actually probably the one thing that we did find difficulty with on the cruise - adult activities occurring at a time when there was no Kid's Crew, or starting when one of us had to be signing our daughter in to a session. We made it work, but it took some planning. This one turned out to be simple since our girl wanted to just kick back.
We formed groups and were given the story and our booklets, then marched off to Versailles to play over dinner. The three people in our group wearing jeans (my husband included) went and changed. The game is fun, and it has four scenes, so we started after we ordered and completed one scene after each course. At the end of the meal we all gave our theories on 'whodunit' and then I (as the group leader) opened the envelope revealing the true 'killer'. It turned out to be one of our friends from roll call. It's definitely a fun way to spend a dinner and have fun with some people you may or may not have ever met before. We all enjoyed our meal choices as well, and some of our party discussed trying new things they never had before and how good everything was.
Just as dinner was ending, our daughter came looking for us because she was hoping one of us would take her to get a tattoo. She got one on the last cruise and had seen the kiosk on the first or second day and wanted another. Once she had it (a koala bear) she couldn't wait to go to Kid's Crew and show it off. It was backwards day, so she redressed with everything backwards and we signed her in.
We headed from there to the second pub crawl. Some of our friends from the first pub crawl were there, and some new ones we'd picked up along the way were there as well. We got off to a good start in the Red Lion, this time with Riley leading the way. From the Red Lion we moved to Gatsby's, which is a piano bar outside Le Bistro. We were having a great time, talking and laughing, but in my opinion we weren't being disruptive. Nobody was particularly loud, nor was anyone swearing or being otherwise offensive. Even so, a gentleman who was there took Riley aside and told him that he was going to lodge a formal complaint about the noise and made a point of noting Riley's name so that he could know whom to blame. I hope NCL commended Riley on doing the job he was assigned that evening; I thought it was nice of the gentleman to offer to report that he was showing the pub crawler's a nice time. When we realized what was going on, my husband suggested that he give us all a pub crawl raffle ticket for being such good 'revelers', so he did. We moved from there to Carousel, where I convinced Riley that since Charlane had given out tickets for singing with Al Ventura in the Red Lion and he hadn't been there tonight, that he should give me tickets if I sang with Richard Rogers and his keyboard. He agreed, and Richard was kind enough to let me sing 'Johnny B. Goode' with him and it was a ton of fun. The lounge started filling up for 'Joker's Wild - Tell a Joke Night' half way through the song, too, so I was treated to a good hearty round of applause! From there we moved to the Spinnaker to join the Adult Quest game. Our team came second. Due to the cloak of secrecy that helps to make the game a fun surprise for those who dare to seek it out… I can't say any more, but I will say that if you choose to go… be prepared for fun… and not the kind you'd want your kids to see!!
My husband had gone down and gotten the triple play for me, so I grabbed it and went to try my hand again while he went to check on our daughter (she'd been in the cabin since he signed her out at 10). I found a couple of our friends from CC Roll Call playing the 'Let it Ride' game, so I sat down with them and placed my bet. FULL HOUSE first hand!! A full house plays 11 to 1, so there I sat with $165 I hadn't started with. Now, for people who gamble I know that isn't much, but to me it was fantastic! I played a few more hands and chatted a bit, and then my husband and daughter strolled in so she could say goodnight and I showed her my pile of chips. They were duly impressed! I followed them out and went to find our pub crawl friends and spent a bit more time having fun with them before heading for bed.
We again had room service wake us up in the morning and then promptly fell back asleep. I woke up at 9:30 and we grabbed a few bites off the tray before running out to catch a tender since our Whale Watching Zodiac tour with Ocean Riders was at 10:15. We jumped off the tender and walked as quickly as we could for what seemed like miles, all the way around the marina to the other side, where I think we got to the tour office with only about five minutes to spare. The Zodiacs were equipped with seats kind of like little tubes with railings at both ends, so the effect was kind of like riding a little horse. It worked really well for holding on at awesome speeds over the waves and turning back and forth to look out over the water. We saw sea lions, the famous arch and Lover's Beach, then headed out searching for whales. We saw a sea lion just swimming out in the middle of nowhere, as well as two sea turtles. Then we saw the other Ocean Rider Zodiac with another whale watching boat and headed for where they were stopped. The boat left us behind and the zodiacs sat motionless in the water and then they came. We saw three humpbacks and they were magnificent. They're so big, and one came up by itself and then two came up together. Our guides were able to tell us about how big they were and their likely ages by looking at the size of their tails. They were so close to the boat that we felt their spray when they blew out their blowholes! The whole trip was so fun, it was really sad that it had to end. I could have stayed out there all day, but the others on our zodiac had to get back to their ship for an early departure.
After the whale watching, we went to the Hard Rock for lunch and I was amused to see my daughter wanting an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert… we pointed out that we weren't on the ship today and that perhaps we'd wait to order dessert until we saw how full we were from our meals. We didn't have dessert. The portions were HUGE. Eating there gives you a 10% discount in the store, also, so I happily used it to purchase a great tee shirt showing the arch and humpback whales. We then checked the ship's map and found our way to the Del Sol store, which we all wanted to find for various reasons. I wanted a pair of sunglasses, my husband wanted a sunset tee that he'd seen in Acapulco and was hoping they would have for Cabo, and our daughter just wanted anything. Their stuff is really cool. We ended up with my husband's sunset tee, an arch tee for me, a cute tee for my niece, a mermaid tee for my daughter, a pair of sunglasses, and some very cool headbands. I could have bought a lot more as well, but we decided it was best to just leave! They also had a bear in the store whose embroidered foot pads change colour, but they weren't selling them. They gave my daughter a coupon with a web address on it, so we're going to look for it online.
On our way back to the tenders, we had our picture taken with a baby lion for a donation to a wildlife preserve. It was amazing, and for the donation, we got not only their framed pic, but permission to take as many pictures as we wanted with our own camera, so we got a few more stills as well as some video footage. My daughter also had her picture taken with an iguana in a sombrero, and while she and my husband were doing that, I watched a sea lion cavorting in the water right off the pier by the tender. Cabo was a great place.
Back on board, I was pretty tired, so I lay down while the others went for a swim. After that, it was my daughter's turn to rest while we went to supper at Aqua. We again thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and our daughter popped in at the end once more. She had been hoping to try a soufflé on this trip and it just so happened that coconut soufflé was on the menu that evening, so she sat down to try it. It was so good that I ordered one myself as well! We then all headed for the Stardust Theatre for the only show we had actually attended - Cirque Pacific. It was really good!! The dancers were great, the costumes were beautiful, and the Chinese Acrobats were really fun to watch. It was almost 10 when it was over, so Kid's Crew was out for the night, so she just hung out while my husband took his turn to rest and went to see the Second City's Adult improv show. They were excited about the chocoholic buffet and he had agreed to tuck her in afterwards and meet me for Bud Anderson's adult comedy show. I thought Bud was much better than Second City that evening (though everyone I talked to had loved the Second City performance the night before). I can see why HBO is going to film Bud's routine in June.
I returned to my cabin to find plates of decadent looking goodies. My daughter munched on them for the next two days. There were two of the confections that she'd enjoyed so much from Cagney's, as well as a wide assortment of others, although she told me that the buffet on the Dream had been bigger and more diverse. Just based on what I saw on the plates and in the pictures, it did seem smaller, but I think that rather than 'less diverse', this one had just had different items on it. Many of the dishes I saw in this buffet's pictures were different from what I'd seen on the Dream and vice versa. Whatever the case, though, I know that all of it was thoroughly enjoyed.
Our last day was spent at sea. We woke up early to get our daughter to the Kid's Star Seeker sign up, and I spent a couple of hours working on my throat before the adult Star Seeker rehearsal, since I'd been getting hoarser and hoarser since about day three of the cruise. Nothing seemed to be working and we headed down to tell them that while I was raspy, I was going to give it my best shot. My husband accompanied me on the piano and I made it through the entire song except for the high notes at the very end. I spent the day trying different remedies to try to sooth it.
After the rehearsal, we picked up our daughter and we met our friends at Ginza for a final delicious lunch. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, and one of our friends had the sushi, which he thought was delicious as well. After that, we headed straight up to the Kid's Star Seeker show, and all the different age groups performed, some in groups and some solo. Our daughter sang a Hannah Montana song. Some of the older kids did a skit that was really clever, and even the teens participated. At the end, as a farewell, a counselor that was leaving got a pie in the face and it was a lot of fun.
From there, sadly, we returned to our cabin to do some packing. With one case jammed, I got ready for the show. Hoarse or not, we wanted to do it. My husband had practiced for months, I'd been looking forward to it, and I have to admit, the opportunity to perform in such a beautiful theatre as the Stardust was just too good to pass up. We ran into the Kid's Crew problem again, since our daughter was so looking forward to the last night's pajama party and pillow fight, but needed to be signed in at exactly the same time as the talent show. Riley helped us out by making sure we were lower on the performance list so that my husband could take her, though, so it worked out again.
The other performers were wonderful, and I felt kind of bad giving half the performance I could have, but I was determined, and apologized to the crowd in advance. I again made it through the song with just a little cracking at the high notes at the end. When the host interviewed me, I laughed and said that I had started the cruise doing karaoke, but that now I was just 'croaky'. It went well and for the rest of the evening people congratulated me and told me how much they'd loved the entire show. I had heard the same thing on the Dream. People really like the passenger talent shows. Now I'm going to try to convince my niece to come along and do one… I'm sure she'd find herself with a job offer as a dancer. Participants in Star Seeker are videotaped, and their performances are sent to head office, where NCL may award them a free cruise or offer them a job contract. I'm not expecting any calls, but one of the other fellows in the show had been offered a three month contract. He was a professional musician, though, so it wasn't surprising; he was really good.
We went to supper at Aqua with some CC Roll Call friends and then went back to the cabin to pack. We got finished about midnight and went looking for friends to say 'goodbye' to. We found all sorts, both staff and passengers, and gave hugs and exchanged emails with some. One of the couples we'd met won the free cruise draw, so we also took a moment to congratulate them (and call them lucky so-and-sos).
In the morning, my daughter cried because she knew she likely wouldn't see any of her new friends again. We went for a final breakfast in Versailles, and were served by Alla, our very first server from Cagney's. She remembered our daughter as the one who liked chocolate with more chocolate. Unfortunately at the end of the meal, my daughter's watch strap broke irreparably and so there were more tears. We hugged our friends goodbye and returned to our cabin to finish stuffing everything we could into our luggage. We heard them announce that everyone should head up to the Spinnaker for customs, so we headed up and it took us about five minutes total to walk through the room and have our card stamped. I think it was about 9:30 at that point. Back in our cabin, we had one final rest before heading to level 6 midship to make the sad walk off the ship. We took the elevator and it opened on a bit of a crowd. There were people waiting in the main elevator bay as well as up one flight of stairs, with various others sitting on the stairs going down or leaning against the walls. After about five or ten minutes, the crowd started to move steadily and we followed once the people on the stairs had gone through. All in all, disembarkation was pretty painless… unless you count emotionally since it was so sad to leave.
We used Prime Time Shuttle to get to LAX, where we continued to see friends from the ship and enjoyed chatting with some of them until our flights were drawing near. Sadly, it turned out that my daughter and husband had picked up some kind of bugs (I say bugs because they each have different symptoms). My daughter started feeling queasy on the first flight, and ended up being the first person I've ever actually seen use an airsickness bag. It wasn't pretty, but after it was over, she felt better. She tried a little chicken soup on the stopover, but unfortunately got sick again during takeoff on our last flight. After that, though, she fell asleep and we haven't had any more incidents. My husband, on the other hand, had some different flu type symptoms, and while neither look like Noro (based on the fact that they are otherwise able to function and not in as much distress as I understand comes with that), I felt bad for them. My daughter kept saying, 'This is not a good day for me.' My thought is it wasn't a good day for any of us, having to leave paradise, but at least we'll recover from our assorted illnesses.
It was a fantastic trip and I can't wait for the next one. We enjoyed every morsel of food we ate, and we encountered nothing but superb service on the ship. (I wish I could say the same about some in the airports we went through) We did the cruise rewards, prepaying a $250 deposit for a future NCL cruise and receiving a $100 OBC. I guess at least I can look forward to all the research and planning I'll be doing over the next few months until I can decide on which cruise we'll be using it for.