This was my first cruise and I was excited about my trip to the Mexican Riviera. Many of my friends had told me of their cruise adventures on other cruise lines and I finally made up my mind to take one. My travel agent at AAA found this deal. She will be punished. Mind you, I had to pay 200% because I'm single, but that was my choice. I also flew first class from Seattle to LAX, again my choice, so this was a pricey vacation.
Just as the plane pulled away from the jet way, the pilot announced that there was a mechanical difficulty and we had to get off the plane while they found another. I panicked because I knew I had to be at the ship by 3:30. I knew I would miss the RCI bus. Blessedly the airlines provided a car and driver in LA and got me to the ship in plenty of time.
Because of the hustle at the airport, I tipped the driver my last $20 and forgot to go the the ATM to get big money for the trip. More about this later. Getting on to the ship was no problem. As I was told my room wouldn't be ready for a while I was encouraged to go to the Windjammer Cafe and have lunch; lunch being dried out hamburgers on stale buns with equally stale french fries. I was hoping this wasn't a harbinger of vittles yet to come. I wandered around the ship, which was very clean and polished trying to avoid the dozens of unsupervised children running and screaming. (I can complain about this, I'm a school principal.) This was a problem throughout the whole trip.
I finally went to my stateroom, which was on deck 7 and was greeted by a very nice steward. I found all of the crew very helpful and friendly. Not so much the officers. The room was larger than I had imagined. It was all very dated, sort of a latter day Motel 6, but immaculate. The bed was comfortable. The balcony was great.
I awakened that morning at 4AM in order to make my plane and slept through my 8:30 seating at dinner. So, I just ordered one of the five things on the Room Service menu. I was disappointed in that. I called a friend of mine who had just returned from a cruise on the Princess Line and she said their room service menu was long and varied.
The first day at sea, I was awakened by the Captain's morning announcement, which was sort of a radio hee-haw program in Norwegian. I hope he hadn't spent too much time writing it. I went to the Windjammer to have breakfast. Breakfast was ok, but there's not much you can do to ruin it. After breakfast I decided to wander around the Promenade which I think is the equivalent to a "on the water mall." I went into the Duty Free store, which had nothing I was interested in and the General Store where I did want to pick up some Tylenol. However, when I saw that the Tylenol was $12 for what I normally pay $3.99 for, I decided to live with the pain and pick some up in Cabo.
Next, I stood in line to make a reservation for a shore excursion. I told the woman which excursion I was interested in and that I had a few questions. She went through her spiel. I asked my questions, which she didn't answer and then repeated her story again. I repeated my questions again. She didn't answer them and started on that damned memorized speech again. I thought the hell with it and bought the package, which was a trip to a resort in Cabo with a bed on the beach, drinks, and lunch, and a near death experience. That shut her up.
Pool Time. I thought it would be a good time to get some sun. I went out to the pool area and there were two tiny pools filled with kids and their even more immature parents. I can't imagine how they thought 3000 people were all going to get into these pools. I walked a little further and found an adults' only pool. I found myself a nice deck chair, settled in with a book, fell asleep, and, of course woke up lobster red. I hopped into the pool and I know I heard the sound of sizzling. (This was entirely my fault.) I didn't know pools on ships were filled with salt water. That was a big surprise. I dried off and went back to my chair, now pulled into the shade and read my book when the waiter came by. I ordered an iced tea. He said, "Sorry, we only serve alcoholic drinks. You'll have to go into the Windjammer Cafe to get iced tea." I couldn't believe that.
Lunch Time. I went back to the Windjammer Cafe. The food was almost mediocre. It was just a little north of the "Hometown Buffet." It didn't stop me from eating, but friends told me stories about the fantasies of cruise food. This was not it. Soggy wraps, cold soups, iceberg lettuce, two dressings, I could have stayed at home for that.
Now back to the ATM. I went to the ATM machine at the Guest Services desk and there was an "Out of Order" sign on it. I went to the Officer at the Guest Services Desk and waited while he polished his cufflinks and ignored me for 10 minutes. Finally, he glanced up and I asked him quickly if there was another ATM machine on the ship. He says, "There are machines all over the ship. Try the one at the end of the promenade." I waltzed down to the end of the promenade and there is, indeed, an ATM machine with an "Out of Order" sign on it. Apparently, all of the ATM machines are out of order which sort of concerns me when I leave the ship in Cabo the next day.
I go back to the Guest Relations desk where the officer is now giving himself a manicure and has been joined by a colleague. I told them that all the machines are out of order. Officer Attitude No. 1 says, "That's too bad." A sneer accompanied that statement. My father was an Air Force General. He would never have spoken to anyone from the lowest enlisted man to any civilian in that manner. That young man needs some sensitivity training.
However, his compadre does tell me that they can cash a check for me. I never write checks. I pay everything electronically, but something told me to bring two checks. However, the catch is they will have to check with my bank to see if I have the funds, fair enough. However, their computer system is acting up and if they aren't able to verify my funds, they'll still have to charge my Sea Pass $25.00. I told them to forget it. That's enough to buy two bottles of Tylenol.
Dinner: It's time for dinner and I have assigned to the late seating in the Rhapsody in Blue Dining Room with five other single people. I am by far the oldest. They are great people and we get to know and enjoy each other's humor quickly. The one thing we particularly have in common is that we think the food in the Dining Room is horrible. My first evening I order the Chicken Marsala. Now, I have been out before and recognize Chicken Marsala. This was breaded chicken and absolutely no marsala.
The others had ordered steak of some type. I don't eat red meat, so I can't speak from experience, but none of them could cut it. So, back it went and we all tried something else. This went on each night. I finally skipped two nights except for the lobster night. It was okay.
We docked in Cabo and I rushed to an ATM machine right as you get off the ship. It was in Spanish, but it dispensed money and from what it said the surcharge was 34 pesos. I got $300 and when the receipt came out it charged me a $34 surcharge. I wasn't happy about that, but my bank pays all of my ATM fees because it's a private bank. The fact that it was on the terminal dock and the ship's captain warned us about everything else. I was sort of surprised that they didn't say look out for the cash machines.
I went on my excursion. A bus to us to the ME Resort somewhere in Cabo with a strange tour guide. I think it was a time-share for extremely beautiful male and female models. Anyway, 30 of us troop through their space to the beach, which is roped off with a sign that says, "Private Party" (us). The people who live there didn't look very happy and I can't say I blame them. We were invited to use the pool, given our own huge pillows with umbrellas, towels and our own waiters to serve us. I thought, "This isn't so bad." My waiter told me not to go into the ocean because of the jellyfish. So, I just was walking along the shore when this tidal wave washed over me and took me out to sea along with my Ray Bans, wallet, flip-flops. I thought I was drowning and I'm a good swimmer. People came to help me and retrieved my stuff, but I thought I was a goner.
After that, I stuck to the swimming pool with the models. There is no way I can be confused for a model. This pool has little inlets and I would swim into them and there were couples in contortionists' positions looking pissed at being interrupted. So, everyone out of the pool. I stayed in "time out" on my pillow and my waiter kept bringing me lemonade. After a while, they brought us a good lunch. The best food I had on this whole trip, with linen napkins and silver. Impressive. I kept tipping my waiter. The service was impressive.
Because of my tumble in the big water, I developed a pounding headache. (I had gone to the Pharmacia in Cabo first thing and bought Tylenol for five bucks.) I told the tour guide that I wasn't feeling well and that I would take a cab back to the ship. Wrong. She wanted to call an ambulance. I know she was being thorough and worrying about the ship's liability, but I said no ambulance, so we settled on me filling out about 15 pieces of paper where I absolved RCI of any wrongdoing and that I refused medical treatment.
A cab came. He took me back to the ship and the rest of the time, I wandered around Cabo. That excursion wasn't worth $80.
That night I went to dinner at the Windjammer and it was the same food from the Dining Room from the night before just recycled. Chicken Marsala was now Chicken you pick the sauce and a lot of strips of tough steak. That was sort of the theme for the rest of the voyage.
That night I went to the Savoy Theater for what I thought was a grand Broadway review. I felt so sorry for the performers. I know they tried hard. This was a musical revue so off off off off Broadway it was in Kansas. I found it very important to drink during the performance.
I spent a lot of time in the Casino. The Champagne bar was good. As long as you drank, the caviar with all the fixings' was free.
One of my biggest gripes other than the Officers who want to be Captains was the unusual amount of hawking of merchandise down the length of the ship. Diamonds by the foot, gold chains by the foot, watches, wallets. Very pushy sales people. It was very tacky for what was supposed to be a sophisticated cruise line. My largest gripe was the people selling dubious "art". I don't know if that happens on every ship, but I found it to be tantamount to Wal-Mart.
I was very disappointed in Mexico. I had a very hard time seeing past the poverty to enjoy myself. I'm a sucker for a handout particularly when it comes to hungry people, so instead of giving them money I went into McDonald's and bought them a meal. I don't pretend to be any kind of philanthropist, but it just got to me. So I spent my time in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta just walking through town trying to avoid people selling things made in China.
The two days back at sea was boring. I swam. I read. I ate the food I was trying to avoid. Most of all I wondered about the parents who must have told their children as they boarded the ship, "Have fun and we'll see you next Sunday." Against my better judgment, I'm going to try one more cruise in December to the Caribbean. It won't be on RCI.