Radiance of the Seas - March 22 - April 2, 2010
!Excellente! My husband, myself, and our three girls (4, 9 and 11) decided to try an 11 night cruise out of San Diego down the Mexican Riviera and then stay an extra 5 days to visit the San Diego Zoo and Seaworld. It was great! We have a few tips for those doing a family trip below, and what to expect. The review is a bit lenthy so I've tried to separate it into sections:
Booking - First off we booked directly through RCI by phone 6 months in advance to get outside connecting portside cabins and luckily the $200 cabin credits x2. Deck three is nice and quiet! We don't know why it's priced lower than Deck 4's outside cabins. On Deck 3 you have cabins above and below so you don't hear too much. After booking and putting down our deposit we watched the prices and called when the category H price dropped twice (always on a weekend so the travel agents just wouldn't have caught them). We ended up paying about $4100 CAD (plus $500 USD for tips) for the five of us for 11 nights! The cabin credits went towards gift store purchases, babysitting at the Late Night Party Zone, a 7 bottle gold wine package and Pets At Sea. After we put down the deposit and then started to search for flights. We booked those as one-ways on Expedia and the Westjet website as we avoided some tax that way (about $300 CAD/pp). Our 5 night 2 bedroom suite at Homewood Suites Liberty Station was booked through my Gold Visa points ($210/night + tax otherwise). We booked a mid-sized rental car for 5 days with the Entertainment Book coupon for $170 USD which was much cheaper than a mini-van (just use the shuttles instead to move all your luggage to the airport). Altogether with meals and using our AAA card for the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld we spent just over $9000 CAD for our 17 day holiday. Not bad when you compare to a two week all inclusive for 9- $11,000 CAD with no excursions. Our cost also included the Stone Island Tour and other activities which totaled about $600 US in Mexico. However, if you want to swim with dolphins be prepared to pay a lot more. We mostly look for a nice beach and order beer and snacks when in port.
Two person outside cabin adjoining cabin 3078 with three beds. Great for a family of five if you book both. Good sized room, quiet but close to the Centrum elevators. Portside with a nice big porthole about 4 feet in diameter with room-wide ledge great for holding more stuff such as hats and books etc. Darkening shades worked great. There is an outhouse smell in the bathroom but just bring a deodorizer for the trip and you'll be fine. Very clean and in good repair. Room 3078's shower nozzle needs repair though (but no smell in this bathroom).
The ship tenders near the Land's End area and the process of getting a ticket for the early tenders wasn't really necessary as they don't give you a set time but rather the tender number. We saw a sea lion on our way to the dock.... Walked the gauntlet through the tour and timeshare vendors, waving my Johann and Sandra booked Glass Bottom Boat Tickets. Carlos Charters for $9/adult and $3/child (5-12) and the 4 yr old was free. There were some fish we could see through the bottom of the boat but only in a certain area. The captain spoke some english but tended to speak mainly spanish as the other family were Mexican. We saw Lover's Beach and the Sea Lion rock...and the cave where "2 go in and 3 come out", as well as Divorce beach on the other side. At one point the Sea of Cortez crosses over to the Pacific Ocean. The water taxi then took us to Medano Beach where we managed to get right up to the sand to jump off without getting too wet. They offered to come back for us at a set time for no extra fee but we wanted to walk back through the marina area and check out the restaurants and shops (the marina is a bit circuitous and looks deceivingly close but it did take about 35 minutes to walk back in the hot sun. Probably we wouldn't do that a second time.
After you get off the water taxi, the vendors come at you right away while you're still trying to figure out where to go... we ended up at the restaurant nearest to the pier, Baja Cantina - the beach chairs were better than our bed on the ship. If you ordered drinks they didn't charge for the chair or the palapas. The beer wasn't the cheapest but 6 Pacificos for $20 US was still better than the ship. The music DJ was pretty good with lots of 80's songs we know and like. The sand wasn't too great there (large and grainy) and the water was a bit rough and not too warm, but it was a gradual slope. Friends rented a waverider for $90/hr approx. There was parasailing too but $55 US. We stopped to pet the tiger cub/lion cub and leopard cub for $10 USD ($25 USD for photo) but the kids will remember that more than anything else. The tender back was quick.
We rode the little shuttle, to the terminal, and walked the gauntlet through the tour and timeshare vendors to find our Johann and Sandra booked Stone Island Tour Guide. He was good at making sure the over 30 people booked got on the red trucks to get to the other marina. Scary location but we got on the catamaran quickly and off we went. The harbour trip was nice and informative, another sea lion rock, fun to watch them push each other off the rock, like king of the castle.
Then we went back across from our ship and got off on Stone “Island”. Kinda funny but comforting to see your ship in dock about a 200 yard swim away! Bought a bag of peanuts from a farmer for 10 pesos and got on the wagon. Not the safest setup, but we managed to hold on. Got to the restaurant and then did the horseback ride. Scrawny horses, not well treated by the guide, he mostly whacked them a lot to make them go. Kinda like riding ornery robots. My girls were afraid of the guide but said they liked the ride though. It was about 25 minutes with 10 minutes on the beach. Long enough to be sore a bit the next day. Then we went back to sit on the beach. Not enough beach chairs, so on the sand. The girls did the banana boat ride and then hurried back as we were told lunch was ready.... NOT! We wasted a lot of time waiting for the waiter. Finally we got it and it was pretty average. The combo was rice, one cheese quesadilla, and a piece of chicken. Open bar was good though. We went back to the beach and looked for boogie boards (activity tokens still to spend) but no boards were left. So we did a bit of swimming but had to leave one of us on the beach to watch our stuff. We ran out of time to use all of our activity tokens. The vendors weren't too pushy, bought two flying barbies for $10 (found them later at a store for the same price). Took the wagon back to the catamaran and we were back on the ship pretty quick, lots of time before sail away. Not a bad deal, but don't worry about getting the food, we could have ordered our own stuff anytime. The banana boat was probably the best bang for your buck (big waves though).
We walked across to Wal-Mart, where we didn't find much worth buying as their prices weren't all that great. Checked out the mall, but again not really worth spending much time here. We grabbed a cab downtown for 40 pesos, a decent price. The malecon is picturesque and lots of stores with the same things. Didn't buy much and went back to the ship. Lots of bars for cheap drinks right before you go back onboard. Looking back we should have taken the kids to the waterslides instead of shopping. Our dinner companions did the dolphin swim and got to use the waterslides as well (through the ship's tour co.) Puerto Vallarta was okay but we should have booked a tour or went to the waterslides instead. The kids get hot really fast so consider that when you decide what to do.
It was okay but not worth getting off the ship. Don't take the taxis for $25 after you get off the ship. Take the bus for 5 pesos each. Stick to the tourist zones. The waterpark here was a ripoff for over 250 pesos each (over $20 each) where the website said 110 pesos. A lady kept getting in my way trying to sell me a waterslide package with food for over 350 pesos per person. A girl of about ten kept fanning my face but was more pesky than helpful....I was close to losing it with her. Actually, all the vendors were terribly pushy. We didn't go in as I didn't bring enough money, so we went to McDonald's instead.
It was fine, so we got back on a bus, and about halfway, the driver stopped to let us off as he was leaving the tourist zone. Another bus came along pretty quick and we did have to get some help from the locals getting this one to stop at the marina. We were so hot we got back onboard after only 2 hours in Acapulco. We could have gone across to the castle as our dinner companions explained, they had a guided tour for free from a person who is a representative for Acapulco Tourism. After we got back the newspapers had reported shootings in the tourist zone, so for now I don't think I'd recommend going much farther than the castle as it's quite close and it's monitored by the staff.
According to the ship's port information sheet the taxi to La Ropa was supposed to be $4 per carload, so I asked the taxi driver “four dollars?” and he said yes so we all got in. Upon arrival he wanted $10. I was not impressed, I was mad. Especially when we got to the beach and we could have almost swam directly across from where the ship tenders to the beach. We should have just taken a water taxi instead. The restaurant also charged $5 for the palapa, plus any food or drinks cost (the nachos were not great, but the beer was cold. The beach itself was good, nice sand, gradual sloping entry but bigger waves than we expected. Luckily our daughters who are 9 and 11 were good swimmers and were in the waves for hours. The four year old splashed around a bit but mostly played in the sand and had a nap on the beach chair. It was a hot day and we should have reapplied their lotion as after we got back to the ship we discovered we had all burned. The vendors were not too bad, but nothing was all that well priced here. I would come back but maybe take a ride into Ixtapa, and check out the hotel zone. Or the water taxi to the other beach.
It was interesting watching the unloading of the containers and the general activity of the commercial port. We left the kids on the ship at Adventure Ocean and took the bus into town for $4 each. I lost the tickets that we needed for the return but they had an english speaking man who understood pretty quick that I just needed to replace them so we could get back and he got them for me right away. We found this place nice and laid back, no pushy vendors at all. We walked up the streets and found lots of interesting stores, including a fabric store with fairly priced children's costumes, and beautiful colourful wedding gowns and christening gowns. We went to the restaurant across from the bus pickup and had a bucket of beer and complimentary chips and guacamole. It was awesome. Caught the last bus back to the ship and got back onboard. We felt very safe here and the people were friendly. Probably my favourite port but not very exciting.