Cabo San Lucas We reserved a trip with CaboEcoTours in Cabo San Lucas. The trip was advertised as a kayak/snorkel/zodiac trip on a catamaran with a bar-b-que lunch and open bar. We booked online using a credit card but I was told to pay cash at the time of the tour. Even though at that port they used tenders, we were easily able to make one of the first transits of the day and checked in with CaboEco (really EcoCat) about 1.5 hrs early. The check-in point was really easy to find right on the main boardwalk. That gave us time to shop, exchange UD dollars for pesos (1US for 12.2 pesos as of 3/24/10) and look around. The catamaran could book 100 and I counted about 64 guests on our tour. Drinks started right away abut I had to wait a little while for non-alcoholic drinks to be available for the kids. No icy-blender drinks but lots of juice and pop for mixing. Everyone was fitted for snorkeling prior to reaching the beach which was about an hour’s ride away from the port. It looked like a real beautiful beach but the guide said that because 3 other tour boats were there already we couldn’t go to the beach but just snorkel. They had everyone jump off the boat and swim to the area with fish. We were not asked if we wanted to kayak or zodiac. Life vests were offered but not required. Only a couple children used them for snorkeling and by the time I reached the snorkel area I wished I had worn one. We did see fish but not many and the water was semi cloudy. They blew a horn when they were ready for us to come back. I did see a couple kayaks in the water when I came back and a small inflatable motor boat tied to the ship with a crew-member fiddling with the engine. I think that must have been the zodiac. We spent a total of about 1 hour at the beach that we were not allowed to swim to. I also never saw more than a dozen people on the beach so I question there might have been another reason why they didn’t want us on the beach. While we were swimming, they fired up a propane bar-b-q, like I have in my back yard, and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. The meat was joined with a potato salad (kind of warm) and a tossed salad. This was not the kind of “Bar-b-q lunch” I expected but after all the swimming, it tasted really good. It got a little wild on the way home with the tequila shots flowing freely and my teen boys got to see a body shot up close but not personally. We got a really good deal on the trip so it was worth what we paid. Make sure you use the bathroom before boarding. The ones on the boat are not great. All together, I wouldn’t repeat the tour because once was enough but it was a value for the money and I would recommend it if you want to spend the day away from port and not spend a lot of money.
In Puerto Vallarta we booked a sailing on the MARIGALANTE PIRATE SHIP through Puerto Vallarta Tours. It was the best! It was a continuous, interactive experience starting when your personal pirate meets you at the cruise ship until you step off the dock. The service was wonderful the food was great the entertainment was professional and engaging. The snorkeling was the best. The crew feeds the schools of fish at the private resort beach we are taken to assuring that you will be swarmed by hundreds of vibrant blue and yellow fish in your diving area. The crew swims with you and dive down to the ocean floor to catch puffer fish with their bare hands. They bring the fish to the surface and share the wonder of them with us. The beach is set up with an open bar, beach chairs, umbrellas and games. A special treasure hunt is put together for the little kids. Kayaks and a very exciting banana boat ride are available also. We had plenty of time at the beach to enjoy ourselves. On the boat ride back we were served a very delicious well prepared lunch. There were lots of interactive games, dancing, prizes and even some whale watching while we traveled back to the port. This excursion was the best part of our trip. It was not offered by RCCL but my sister took it with NCL last year. I was glad I was able to find it online. I had two comments or concerns to express. 1st, I had a hard time making sure that we would make it on time due to our port docking schedule and local time changes. Everything worked out alright and we were docked over an hour before we set sail on the pirate ship but we were nervous. 2nd, I had my tip in cash ready for my personal pirate prior to boarding but at the end of the sailing we were told that we were to tip the “crew” also which included the captain, entertainment, chef , & gift shop staff? I had to decide to not tip my pirate as much as I’d planned and split his tip with the crew or come up with more cash for the crew tip. I had planned a +20% tip so I felt okay splitting it 15/5 between my pirate and the crew. This was a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Puerto Vallarta. Decidedly a trip worth repeating next time we're there.
We went to Stone Island on our own. Outside of the taxi terminal at the dock entrance turn left. Walk the sidewalk until you get to the end of that street, maybe 3 long blocks. There was a large sign pointing out the Stone Island water taxi. We paid $2 each for a round trip ticket. The beach was beautiful and it had great sand. We lounged around and played in the water. The lounge chairs we claimed were great and we expected to have to buy lots of food but the couple of hours we were there no one came to take our order?! We had a few geocaches to find and one was at Benji's Pizza just across the little bay from the main beach at Stone Island. Two of my sons decided to swim to Benji's, one having an unfortunate encounter with a spiky sea urchin on the way. I walked back to where we were dropped off by the water taxi, turned left and walked the berm to the end. Here we found the secret to Stone Island. Eli, your typical blond California surfer dude runs Benji's Pizza. He runs around in board shorts and bare feet at an open-air restaurant on the sand. It was so laid back and relaxed that when Eli would come to take your order, he was more likely than not to just sit down and start shooting the breeze, totally forgetting what he came there to do! We ordered a half Hawaiian, half Shrimper pizza that was to die for. The sand at this side of Stone Island was not as smooth but it was much quieter and there were no beach venders bothering you. Don't miss Benji's Pizza at Stone Island in Mazatlan!
We arrived in Acapulco on Palm Sunday. Many people toured the Catholic Cathedral and received intricately braided and twisted palm leaves in honor of the day. We had researched the location and meeting times for our own denomination of church and found that a chapel was only 5 blocks from the cruise terminal. It is amazing what you can find on Google Earth! Three of the 4 of us knew a little High School Spanish but that didn't come close to helping us understand 3 hours of services with no interpretations. We were given a Spanish hymn book and since the tunes were familiar we just sang along in Spanish. They did have a missionary from Hermiston, Oregon there and he helped a little but he had been in Mexico speaking the language long enough that he really had to think hard to switch back to English. It was really fun and we felt very welcome. Not a normal cruise vacation experience but one we will always remember.
We planned a day at La Playa Las Gatas because I read that there was a reef to snorkel there. First, we wanted to shop in Zihuatanjo. All the normal boardwalk shops were there with their 3/$10 t-shirts (that shrink 3 sizes in the first wash) by the dock but the beautiful street shops of Zihuatanjo don't open until 10 or 11AM. It was early so we took a water taxi over to Las Gatas. The droves of locals at the dock would like to sell you water taxi tickets for up to $20 per person. Don't pay that. Right at the shore end of the dock is a blue building with a window where they sell round-trip tickets for $3.50. It is clearly painted on the wall of the building and I walked pass it 2 times before I asked a fellow cruiser getting on a taxi where he got his ticket. Once you get over to the beach you are expected to tip the driver of the taxi. At Las Gatas we found rocks under the water but very few fish. The beach was beautiful and the sand was very fine. The beach is wall-to-wall restaurants with their lounge chairs actually in the water in order to claim as much beach space as possible. We found the price of food and drinks outrageous and some places charging $5 to sit in their chairs even if you ordered food and drinks. We stayed a couple hours and it became so crowded and our service so poor we decided to leave. The restaurant we landed at lied about having a fresh water shower (it was saltwater)and took a 20 peso tip out of our change when we paid before leaving. When we returned to Zihuatanejo the shops were open and the shopping was great. Wonderful silver and carved stone and lots of choices. Unfortunatly, we were all chafing from the saltwater and were quite too uncomfortable to shop much. I do need to note that we found out that because it was Easter week in Mexico, the whole country was on vacation. The crowds at Las Gatas along with the high prices and poor service were hopefully due to the fact that the beach restaurants were planing on making a lot of money that week and didn't need to be nice, people would probably be willing to pay them what they wanted for chairs and such.