April 6th 2010 (Tuesday)
Today is our day at Puerto Vallarta, a port town towards the South-West of Mexico. Before the family woke up, I had finished packing for the Shore Excursion (tickets, charge cameras, identification documents etc.) and also had a few rounds on Deck14 with a cup of coffee in hand. Later, while we were having breakfast, we saw dophins swimming alongside the ship! The kids were pretty excited …
I am seeing a trend with my breakfast. Sausages and eggs are a staple! For obvious reasons, this is not something one can have on a daily basis. But on vacations, I treat myself to heavy breakfasts.
The family then went on Deck15, to see the ship arrive at the port. We started seeing land and it was pictures galore. At around 9AM, we all left A338 and went down to Deck4 as instructed. Man, was it crowded! Also, we felt the Mexican heat for the first time. Holding on to Joe in this heat wasnt easy. Very soon we set foot in Mexico for the first time and we parted ways. Rosemary and Rhea went for the “Kids Dolphin Encounter” tour and myself and Joe stood in line for the “Puerto Vallarta – City and Coastal Drive” tour. I was carrying Joe in one hand, had a pretty heavy backpack (snacks for Joe, water etc.) and the tour guy was asking me to fill up some “form” with the other “free” hand, while walking! I tried to tell him, “Yeah! You try doing it …”, but the language barrier did not help 🙂 Inside the bus, it was all nice and comfy. Our guide was Raul and I must say, he was very entertaining and made the tour a real treat. He is a native of the town and I noticed that he called Mexico, “Me-hi-ko”.
We soon reached Malecon (the beach walkway). There were beautiful sand sculptures on the beach. It was very hot and sunny.
We then walked to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the way, I noticed that I had to change Joe’s diapers. We went into the public restroom in the City Hall (which was on the way) and because it was not very clean, I somehow managed to do a diaper change while ensuring that neither Joe nor my backpack touched anywhere! By the end, I was sweating like an NBA player after a Double-Overtime game 🙂 After visiting the church, I entered a candy store (forced by Joe!). Most of the candies were marked 35$, 40$ etc. I thought, “Man, these guys are fleecing tourists …”. It turned out to be in Mexican Pesos 🙂 That was better … I also bought a big bottle of water as Joe was looking a bit uncomfortable. As with any tour, then came the “Tourist Trap” part. We were taken to a Jewellery Store (“the best in town …”, “great discounts …” blah, blah …). They gave us some pretty lousy Margaritas and what was supposedly Pineapple Juice. I think I accidently have a 2-year-old some alcohol (because both the glasses tasted exactly the same)! Joe suddenly started to look very comfortable and happy, which confirmed my fears! 🙂
While we were waiting for the other tourists to come out of the Jewellery store, I went into a store across the road and bought some painted tiles as souvenirs. They looked awesome.
Soon, we embarked on the Coastal Drive. The villas and hotels were very nice, with spectacular views. Apparently, the real estate prices have gone through the roof (recently), because lots of foreigners were buying vacation houses here. During this drive, Joe fell asleep (it was his regular nap time). This meant that I couldnt get down at a few scenic spots. We were supposed to be back at the ship by 2PM and I noticed that it was already 1.30PM. After the coastal drive, we went to a seaside restaurant where we were supposed to get “free drinks”. I took a risk and went a bit down the street where a crowded roadside food stall was present. I ordered a few different kinds of Tacos (by “pointing to the menu” of course!) and they were great!
I forced Joe to drink a lot of water. By the time we got back to the port, it was 3.20PM (ship leaves at 4PM!). But since it was ship’s own tour, I was not too worried about missing the ship, only about Rosemary and Rhea being pissed off waiting for us. Luckily, both of them had a great time with Dolphins and were in a happy mood. Rhea tried to coax some souvenirs from stands right next to the ship. I was thinking, “Yeah, right! Buy souvenirs from stalls right next to the ship. I am sure that will be economical”. I somehow managed to wiggle out of that “dangerous” situation. Princess staff (including our guy from Goa) were handing out “cold towels” to wipe our faces with. Nice! After the security checks, we were soon back in A338. After a while, we went up for a coffee/tea break. We had a nice view of the harbor. There was a Wal-Mart in that part of town. Wal-Mart is there everywhere!
While Rosemary took the kids to the pool (and fed them their Ice-cream Cones), I stayed back and watched some TV (“The Office” and “Paul Blart – The Mall Cop”). It was “Italian Night” at Horizon Court. We had Chicken Ravioli, Roast Pig, Garlic Shrimp, Scones and some Italian Pastries.
We then went back to A338, freshened up, and left for the Princess Theatre, for Alexander the magician’s, “The Illusion” show. I noticed that there was such a crowd that many people were standing. Pretty much the whole ship seemed to be there. By far the most crowded show during this Cruise. Seemed like the guy had his share of “fans”. The show was very good. Rhea liked the show so much that she insisted on us buying the magician’s DVD (sold just outside the Theatre). But, unfortunately, it was all sold out in minutes.
Well, that was that.
April 7th 2010 (Wednesday)
Today was our day at Mazatlan, a small coastal town with a lot of history. For breakfast, I found a new combination I liked very much (along with my staples, mentioned above). Corned Beef within a small 9-grain bun. It was so good, I even got Rosemary to like it. We missed the ship docking at the port, because it arrived by 6AM or something and by the time I went to Deck15, the ship was already docked. We were all booked for the “Mazatlan – Old City Tour and Papantla Flyers Show”. By 10AM, we were standing in line to get into the Tour Bus, which was air-conditioned and very spacious. This time, the tour guide was a Mazatlan native, by the name Alma. She, like Raul, was a very good guide. She started off with some basic history of Mazatlan and apparently, it is known as the “Shrimp Capital” of Mexico (and even South America). On the way, she had the bus stop at a Fish Market and showed us the huge Shrimp.
We stopped at a famous local Catholic Church, with some nice artwork and architecture. Alma was telling us that there were 3 Cruise Ships at the dock that day and over 9000 tourists flooded Mazatlan that day. Please note that Mazatlan is a town of about 600K people. “Mazatlecos” is what the locals are called and they eat Shrimp without too much care for cholesterol, heh heh!. I noticed even Alma says “Me-hi-ko”.
She then takes us to a view point, where we have nice views of the sea. There are lot of vendors hawking various souvenirs. This time Rhea pinned me down and I had to buy a couple of items for her. I felt bad for the hawkers who were trying their best to make a living out of their meagre earnings.
Apparently, Mazatlan is also a famous destination for Mardi Gras revellers. Like Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan also had a lot of nice houses with spectacular views. It seems the humidity at Mazatlan reaches close to 100% during July-August. To me, it appeared to be a quiet town with friendly people. Lots of people from USA and Canada retire there. The coconut trees, the houses etc. reminded me of Kerala. For this tour, the “Tourist Trap” was a store called “The Silver Bucket”. After getting some real lousy Pina Colada (for “free”, which explains the quality), we wait outside and roamed a bit here and there to pass time.
We then were led by Alma to see the Papantla Flyers. It was a 45-minute show by a group of Native Americans. We all enjoyed the show and this particular show was for tourists from the Sapphire Princess. There were some “Mexican Carnival” dancers, which was a waste of time and looked like some people jumping around after a few drinks 🙂 At the same time, there also some trememdous rope tricks by a Mexican Cowboy.
Rhea won another round against me (I.e. I had to buy her more souvenirs!). By the by, the Papantla Flyers is a World Heritage Show. After the show, we were taken back to the Port. After tipping Alma well, we moved to a Mexican eatery at the port, for lunch. Though the food was pricey (no wonder, since it was right at the port), it was good.
Since there were 3 Cruise Ships docked at the port, they took us in a tram to each ship. Carnival Spirit, Royal Carribean’s Mariner of the Seas and of course, Sapphire Princess were at the dock.
We went to A338 and had a quick siesta. At 4PM, after having some coffee/tea and snacks. we dispersed. Rosemary took the kids to the pool. I went to a 10 mile jog (Oops, an “extra zero”, I meant “1 mile” 🙂 ) on the Jogging Track. The Jogging Track was a bit more crowded today. After a shower, the family went in search of the Sapphire Library. Unfortunately, the Library was closed (closes at 6PM), but we checked out the place. We then dropped Rhea at the Princess Pelicans. We went to check out the food at Horizon Court. We noticed that there were some yummy-looking desserts like Lime Souffle, Creme Brulee and Swiss Cake. But we did not care for the main courses and hence decided to have dinner at Santa Fe Dining Room and then come back just for the desserts.
We went to the Princess Theatre to see the another Music/Dance Show. It was so-so, nothing spectacular. We left early and went for dinner, to the Santa Fe Dining Room. We had French Onion Soup and Beef Sausage Jambalaya for Dinner. I went to Horizon Court and got a “Dessert Platter” to A338 and we had the desserts in the room.
We retired soon after …