We landed in San Diego about 12:30 on Saturday. We had booked the HAL transfer, but opted for a cab. We were planning to stop and get some wine and sodas for the cruise. Cab driver would not stop at store despite my requests. There was an airshow going on, so traffic was heavy. We arrived at the ship dock about 1:30. We were pleasantly surprised that the embarkation process was very fast. We went through screening and signed in without any wait. We were onboard and in our room by 2:00! Much better than our previous experiences on other cruises.
We had an aft cabin with a nice sized balcony. Balcony had two loungers and two chairs. We really liked the aft balcony as we were well protected from the wind. Many times it was windy on the lido deck, but very comfortable on our balcony!
We chose the "any time" dining option and went to dinner several nights. We were seated very quickly without reservations. I thought dinner was very good on all nights. Food was better than I remember from previous cruises on other lines.
We joined Mike and Jane from CC in the banner wave. Door on the 5th floor was locked, so we had to sneak out onto the 4th floor bow. Despite some consternation from the crew, we managed to get the banner out!
Saturday night, DW won some money at the casino on the blackjack table. Note-she gave it back and more on subsequent nights. Sunday we both hit the gym in the morning and then met with the CC group in the afternoon. Monday was another sea day, but it started with a slow cruise through Bahia Magdalena. This was a beautiful 1 hour excursion. There were dozens of whales that were spouting and breaching. A little excitement Monday afternoon, as a dancer was injured and the ship had to motor quickly to Cabo San Lucas to take the victim to medical help. (Reports are that the injured dancer was recovering nicely). For us on the ship, we got to stop and view Cabo for an hour or so. A prelude to our visit on Thursday.
Tuesday we stopped in Puerto Vallarta. We did not book an excursion, but took a cab to the malecon. Visited some shops where we sampled and bought some tequila. We stopped at a couple restaurants, including the Cheeky Monkey that had been recommended on CC. Cheeky Monkey did not disappoint. It is across the street from the beach and provided an excellent view, along with cheap ($1) beers. After that we ventured down the beach and to another restaurant (I can't remember the name). Met several cruisers from other cruise lines that were also in port. Had some tasty shrimp tacos and Mexican beers. Before getting back on the ship, we found an internet cafe that offered one hour online access for $1. We also stopped at the Walmart directly across from the pier for some waters and sodas.
Wednesday was Mazatlan. We were not impressed with Mazatlan. The open air taxi had no seat belts and the driver was very erratic. DW was very frightened on the ride to the Golden zone. Golden zone had lots of pushy vendors and a few restaurants. The beach was nice, but overall, we were not impressed. If in Mazatlan again, we will book some excursion, because the Golden zone was not very interesting.
Thursday was Cabo. DW and I had been to Cabo once before (about 12 years ago), but had been told that it had changed a lot. It has. We ventured to several spots that we had visited in 1999, including Slim's Elbow Bar, the Giggling Marlin and of course, the Office. We were happy to see all of those places. The lunch at the Office was very good---shrimp tacos and ceviche. Cabo San Lucas is like two separate and distinct areas---there is the Americanized marina area and the town. The marina is a little overwhelming, but the town is still very friendly. This was our favorite port by far.
Back on the ship, we had a sea day on Friday, and then back to San Diego. The last night at sea was quite rough and a thunderstorm kept us rocking and rolling, but the rest of the week was quite calm. For disembarking on Saturday morning, once again Holland America did a great job getting us through customs and on our way. The bus to the airport was a little slow (I would not book the transfer in San Diego---it is a short taxi ride and much cheaper than the $17 per person each way for the bus).
Overall, I was very satisfied with the trip. Food was better than expected. Weather in Mexico was warm and mostly sunny. Holland America staff was very attentive and friendly. The Cruise Critic members that we met were great: Don and Linda, Rebeccah and Ishi, Mike and Jane and Greg and Bertie. Hope to see them all again on a future cruise!