We and very good cruise critic friends fought through various snow storms to make our way to San Diego to board the Radiance of the Seas, a ship we met on two years ago.
Our original flight was canceled due to the weather so we had to arrive in Sunny San Diego early than planned. We stayed across the street from the cruise ship dock at the Holiday Inn. Our room was not the best and the shuttle service was slow to pick us up at the airport (I admit that after driving through a whiteout and catch a plane loaded with toddlers as well as jet lag left us in a critical mood). The location was great though and we caught a shuttle to the zoo, walked to Anthony's to meet cc friends and were able to walk to the ship in the morning.
The ship was as beautiful as ever and remains one of my favorites. We did notice little economies (no mints, lack of welcome back gifts etc). We found a really great waitress in the Schooner from New Zealand named Mary or as we called her HAUN-nee. The crew was very friendly and accommodating. We enjoyed being on the same floor as the entertainers--imagine sharing elevators with Marty Allen. We did find that the drinks were inconsistent from bar to bar and even in the same bar. They were never made the same-some were heavy on the spirits others were light. There were a lot of kids on board and between them and the various parties in the Colony we were never able to pass the pre-dinner hour playing pool. We were lucky enough to be seated with a great group at dinner and are still trying to remember all the jokes. The positive attitude of your traveling companions and your table-mates really make a cruise.
We picked some very good private excursions. In Cabo San Lucas we took Pez Gato whale watching and were lucky enough to see quite a few including a very playful baby and his mama. If you go in whale season do try whale watching. You still get to see Land's End and Lover's Beach but you also get fairly close to the whales (closer than we did in Alaska) all while enjoying the sun and a tropical drink.
In Mazatlan we went to Stone Island with Randi's Happy Horses. She met us at the ship (we did have trouble spotting her sign) and transported us to a small boat that took us to the island where we were matched with horses for a ride on the beach ending in a beach-side restaurant that had fabulous shrimp (lunch on your own). The beach was clean (very clean) wide and beautiful. The two sister guides had limited English, while the brother guide was fluent. Those with abilities did ride with some speed and then doubled back to the group. The rest of us went at our own speed. It was a beautiful afternoon and we are very happy that we did.
In Acapulco we went with Rodolfo Rudy Fregoso/TOUR BY VAN. We were hesitant to venture out in Acapulco on our own and were happy to find Rudy. He corresponded with us in advance and always responded very promptly. His vans were waiting with our names on a large sign at the dock. We didn't get Rudy but he did put us with Sergio (who has his own outfit and freelances with Rudy). Rudy met us and checked on us several times while he was with a larger group (we had two couples). Acapulco was disappointing in that it is large with bad traffic and omnipresent poverty. We were very glad we opted for the security of a private tour. The central market was an eye-opening experience and one I wouldn't have missed. The Chapel was beautiful, the Cliff Divers allowed us to cross off an item from our "bucket list" and were just as impressive as we remember from the Wide World of Sports. The restaurant they guided us to was on a small local beach. We did stay for an afternoon beach break. We took a drive by Rivera's mural on the way back to the ship. Rudy and Sergio were both great and I definitely would hire a private tour in Acapulco.
In Ixtapa we hired a driver at the dock who took us to a resort where we used the beach. He picked us up and took us to a reputable jewelry store and then recommended a restaurant near the pier. There was nice looking shopping and beaches near the ship, but we were glad we hired a driver.
In Puerta Vallarta was the most tourist friendly. We did hire a taxi for the day who took us to a beach about 30 minutes outside of town. We were able to rent a jet ski and the water was wonderful. He stayed with us, brought us back to a restaurant named Margarietagrill which was very good. It was a pleasant and enjoyable afternoon. In hind-sight we would have saved the time and gone to one of the public beaches near the ship, which would have allowed us more time to explore the shops.
Coming back to San Diego we rented a car and traveled to see friends in LA for 3 days. I was a little nervous about driving in LA traffic, but negotiated it just fine with the help of a GPS unit.
We flew back home and found that there was still plenty of snow waiting for us but the break in the sun and sand of the Mexican Rivera was much needed and very relaxing.