Carnival Spirit, 5 nights, Feb. 12-17, 2012 sailed from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. A friend and I shared a super cheap cabin category 1A, inside. Cabin 1255 is the same size and shape as more expensive interior cabins. As this was just a quick cruise, the cabin was fine though I always prefer a balcony.
The cabin location worked out well, we had quick access to the elevator aft, and also to the dining room one level up the stairs.
San Diego Hotel: I booked Vagabond Inn San Diego Mission Valley for Saturday Feb. 11, 2012 on Priceline bidding $40. My bid was accepted and with taxes it came to about $53. However, upon arrival the bed was a king. We needed 2 beds, so I was told the clerk would only charge me $15 more to switch to a room with two beds. He actually charged my credit card $22.50, something I did not know until my statement came. The room was very spacious and quiet as it was at the back of the hotel lot.
Cruise Parking: I made reservations for parking my car during the cruise with San Diego Airport Parking Company, which can be found online. The price with their online coupon was just $7.75 a day. What they don't tell you is that the day begins at the time you check in, and the day count ends when you check out. There are no partial day prices of which I was aware. If you don't get you car picked up by the same time you checked in, you will be charged for another day. I still think their service is great as are their prices. Their shuttle was immediately available to take me to the cruise ship. They were very helpful, clear, and professional and I will always use them in the future for any travel plans out of San Diego.
Whale Watching: In Cabo, we walked to the end of the pier and saw a booth advertising whale watching. We learned that they were asking $35 per person. That seemed like a fair price, though in Mexico everything is negotiable so we got the price lowered to $30 each. Some of the others in the group paid $35 each, but that included the rental of a snorkel, fins, and mask. It also included being dropped off at Lover's Beach so they could snorkel, and then picked up a few hours later. We too were given the option but decided it would be too tight of a time squeeze to get back to the M.S. Spirit before it debarked for the night.
The whale watching company was Eagle Divers dot com. We began with an up close tour of Land's End. I was very pleased when the boat captain noticed I was trying to get some photos without other boats in the picture and he made a point of waiting until I could, and also of positioning the boat for an optimal picture.
The whale watching boats communicate via radio with each other, so although we were told our boat would be going north on the Pacific side, our captain headed north in the Sea of Cortez. I noticed because I am familiar with the area, and also because the land was on our LEFT side. The captain never told anyone, but it did not matter. We were out there to watch whales. The day was sunny, but the sea was very choppy. I noticed that our captain made the effort to minimize the choppiness of the ride.
I was actually surprised at how far north he took us, which was aways past Chileno Beach. We went north and then east and after awhile we spotted whales spouting. Soon we were near a lot of whales, who seemed to put on a show for just us as we were the only boat out there upon arrival. We got to watch many whales spy hop, dual fins up in the air, and quite a few jump up high and spin before crashing back into the sea on their backs. I took great video and photos, as did everyone on the boat (there were about 11 of us so the boat never felt crowded).
The captain stayed a long, long time to allow us all to keep watching. There were about 3 other boats before we left. He then took us to Lover's Beach and dropped off the snorkelers, offering again to drop off anyone that wanted to stay.
It was a great trip, being just about 500 feet from the whales. The captain was very respectful of the whales. I think the bad rap that the Mexican whale watching companies get is unjust. I found this trip followed the same rules I have seen followed in the U.S. regarding respect for the whales.
The boat had shade or sun, life jackets (though we were thankfully not required to wear them) and a bottle of water was offered to us.
Restaurant in Cabo: After the excellent whale watching, we walked through the pier huge white building complex, turned right and found a taxi. We negotiated a fare of $8 (which I thought was high, but taxi prices are always higher near the pier) to go to "Maria Corona Restaurant." Their menu can be found online along with a picture of inside their quaint but large restaurant. Each plate was a work of art, very beautifully presented. The mole sauce was mouth-watering, and I was able to have it on cheese enchiladas at no extra cost. The little tacos were surprisingly filling, with 3 on a plate and very unique ingredients inside such as squash blossoms. I had a mango margarita. It was a bit small for the price, but potent and tasty. We ordered the guacamole, which was prepared tableside. It was yummy, and I liked that the server asked how much of each ingredient we wanted added. The flan melted in my mouth and was worth the price just to see the presentation. Each dish we ordered was delicious. I cannot recommend enough going to this restaurant. It was worth every dollar. The atmosphere was pretty subdued when we were there for mid week lunch, but I can see where it would get louder and busier at night.
They called a taxi for us. The driver asked for $10 to take us back, but he took $8. At the pier we avoided the long lines for the tender by browsing the flea market that is right there. I found that only a few of the vendors wanted to drop their prices to what I know is reasonable. I go to Baja frequently, so I have a good feel for what prices should be. So, if you think an item is too highly priced, just keep looking around and you will likely find the same item at other booths and perhaps one vendor that wants to make a sale. Prices flucuate a lot, so get several prices before buying if you want a deal. This flea market tends to be higher priced as it caters to the cruise ships, so be smart in your purchases.
I bought a bottle of vanilla extract, and also a bottle of clear vanilla extract. They are real extract, though not as strong as pricier ones in the U.S. But they work just fine for many dishes, and the clear vanilla is great for icings. You can boil them to reduce and strengthen their flavor.
I also picked up a few of the wonderful little toy creatures that bob their heads at just a dollar apiece, which is a typical price. I found one vendor with a varied selection of which some I've never before seen. I bought a dinosaur, a sting ray, and a rooster.
In the white pier buildings, I found a great hat shop towards the back, away from the ocean. The hat prices were comparable to REI, and hats were already tagged with the prices.
Day Two in Cabo: Salsa & Salsa: This was a ship excursion that proved to be quite popular considering the number of people in the group (perhaps about 50). We booked it ahead of time online prior to the cruise. If you want to attend it on a non-cruise day it cost $50 per person. But if you want to attend on a cruise day, you have to book through the cruise line and Carnival charged $100. I really hesitated to do such an expensive excursion but afterwards I felt it was worth it though my friend did not.
After a tender ride from the ship to the pier, it was easy to find where to go because of signs held up high as you exit the tender. After a long wait (due to a couple that arrived 15 minutes late-- I personally felt it was wrong for the driver to make 48 other people wait on these two), we were herded two by two to a waiting luxary bus. A short 10 ride took us the two miles to the Pacific side hotel where the event was to be held.
Despite what you may read on other travel websites, we DID not get a margarita thrust into our hands upon arrival. We were offered hisbuscus tea as we entered a pavillion. The tea was good, but I was expecting a margarita as advertised.
People were paired according to whom you came with. I would have preferred being placed with someone that liked hot spicy salsas instead of my friend who would only add half a chile to each salsa, and sometimes none. There was a definite rift between us, as I was the other extreme. We finally tried to make the salsas and I would then add more chiles to mine. That worked out okay, but reduced how much of each salsa we could have.
We made 7 salsas. Margaritas finally started to arrive, but service was very difficult when you wanted a refill. And the glasses were very small. There was only one type of margarita offered: blended regular (not fruit) as advertised. I preferred mine on the rocks, and had to keep asking for that special which took a long time to get refills.
They brought taquitos and very small quesidillas to eat with the salsas. I do not eat meat, so I could only eat the quesidilla. I had to nearly beg for a second one and finally the gal said, "okay, I guess you can have another quesidilla since you did not have any taquitos." I felt they were very stingy on the food. I also wanted more roasted chiles and never could get any.
It was fun to make the salsas, I just thought they were stingy on the ingredients. The woman talking over the speaker was very clear and lively. It was easy to hear her over the crowd.
After the food was cleared away, we were given a salsa dancing lesson. They did an excellent job of dumbing it down. My friend disappeared as she would not dance. I did not have a partner, so I just danced by myself which was fine. At first everyone was lined up to learn, but then they said to partner up. I noticed a lot of people sat down at this point, but I just kept on dancing to learn it more. I had been afraid it would be awkward, but I never felt that way and had a good time.
Afterwards, we were given the choice of an immediate ride back or staying at the very nice hotel for a little over an hour. I stayed. The Pacific Ocean was gorgeous; the soft sand beach nearly empty; and the water wasn't too cool. But you cannot ocean swim here, the currents would drag you out. The hotel offered a swimming pool which had solar heated water. That meant that in January it was just barely warm enough to tolerate. There were nice chairs around the pool, and an open bar.
I thought it was a fun day, but I would not do it again in Cabo. I felt they were stingy on the food and on the drinks, though very entertaining. I might do it again in another port, maybe.
I hope this has helped you with your cruise planning.