We took the overnight train, Southwest Chief, from Flagstaff, AZ in both directions to/from San Diego. Had not been on a train in a bunch of years. Very nice. Trains are better designed - no "clickety-clack" noise and the suspension on the car made the ride very smooth. Breakfast and snacks okay and dinner very good. Shower to small for anything bigger than a zipper so we did sink baths with a lot of creativity. They have Amtrak K-9 Corps who roam the cars looking and sniffing. The Union Station in LA, the station in Flagstaff and the territorial style station in San Diego were beautifully refurbished and were really eye candy. We spent a lot of time at Union Station just looking at the architecture.
Embarkation in San Diego was a breeze. Arrived there at about 11:45AM and was on the Lido enjoying a beverage and the ambiance by 12:05. Disembarkation was late. They kept paging the same names over the PA system to report to immigration. Since our train didn't leave San Diego till 3PM, there was no problem for us, but others may have missed their scheduled flights.
They finally began calling passengers by number/color at about 9:30AM. We disembarked at about 10:15AM Not HAL's fault but I sure would have liked to strangle those whose names were called to immigration repeatedly! Cabin service was perfect. They have a new system where they pair up two stewards. They have a few extra rooms but it was the best cabin service we have had on any cruise. Thanks to cabin stewards Mulyono and Herry.
There seems to be more variety in the menus in the main dining room. Nice to have some new choices. Pinnacle Grill has a new menu, too. We had lunch and dinner there (one time each). They have more light choices. All the meat they usually serve was still there, but new stuff, too. Crab cakes and lobster were great. Lido for breakfast and lunch still has many, many great choices. Asian food was tops. Lido Grill burgers and hot dogs, etc a nice change from Lido or main dining room when you wanted something small and nicely done.
There was some confusion in the tender ports due to lack of communication. They have leased water taxis for the day in Cabo but didn't tell the passengers. Almost everyone in line balked a bit because they thought they had inadvertently gotten mixed up with a tour group. The first anybody was advised that there were no tenders, only the water taxis was when we were going down the steps to board. Things got backed up a bit while they explained over and over about the water taxis. Would have gone much smoother if they had told everybody in advance. Another communication problem - in an effort to speed things up at a tender port, they offloaded passengers simultaneously from both sides of the ship. A great idea, but passengers got mixed up - didn't know which way to go resulting in passengers milling around a bit until they understood that they could board the tender/water taxi from either side. Again, a communications problem. Could have been totally avoided by letting passengers know in advance. Small problems, and easily fixed.
We took the tour out of Loreto up to the old mission in the mountains. It is now one of our favorite tours. Four wheel drive for two hours to get there. Through stream beds, up, over and around boulders and through some delightful oases along a very primitive road up to about 5000 feet elevation. Just before we arrived a the mission we looked behind and there was the Ryndam, in the extreme distance, looking very much like a child's toy. We had lunch at a small restaurant with homemade foods from the mission's bounty of fruit, olive and fig trees and the animals they raise there. Homemade goat cheese, home cured olives (the most delicious!), two beef/bean burritos, and for desert homemade fig jam on top of a butter cookie. Was a most satisfying and delicious lunch.
The new port of Guaymas was a lot of fun. There was a high school band on the pier when we arrived at 6AM and locals lined up along the fence enclosing the port facilities. Buses every half hour back and forth from pier to the main plazas. Seemed like almost every single local family showed up to hear the music and participate in the dancing and demonstrations. Happy locals totally mixed in with the cruise passengers and a good time was had by all. A great new port for HAL. Will be interested in seeing how they develop Puerto Penasco (North of Guaymas)as a port - supposed to be finished in 2010. Weather was perfect all along the itinerary. HOT in Puerto Vallarta, though. We had a great time.