Monday, February 02, 2015

Star Princess Puerto Vallarta Mexico

The last port of our Princess Mexican cruise was Puerto Vallarta. There was so much to do there that we had some tough choices. The first order of business was to watch the local pilots turn this giant ship around and dock it in small quarters. The view of the shore changes as the the ship turns.
Star Princess docks at Puerto Vallarta

We decided to spend a day at a resort in "Old Town." I copied this from Avril's "log" which describes our day famously.

Puerto Vallarta - Thursday

We decided to do something we have always talked about – we took the cab to Old Town and arranged to spend time at a resort hotel called Los Arcos there.  For a total of $45 for both of us – we got two chairs, a small table, an umbrella (which they set up), towels and 400 Pesos credit for food/drink.  We had use of a beautiful pool area, access to gorgeous bathrooms, food and beverages which are ordered from your lounges and served beach side.   Plus, the people watching was fantastic – parasailers launch from the beach;.  a couple of guys were cutting up fish off the back of their jet ski. A half  dozen gray pelicans loitering nearby, until a  small white dog came charging down the beach and the pelicans stumbled over each other trying to launch themselves into the air.   At the end of the day, we closed our account.  We each had two large margaritas and I had a hot dog (delicious, served with fries, a slice of bacon, chopped tomato, onion on a toasted bun with just a teeny bit of mayo) – we spent 202 pesos of our 400 allotment – you don’t get the $$ back, you just have to pay any overage.  A great day.

Los Arcos Puerto Vallarta Mexico
While on the beach, vendors come by and try to sell you an array of goodies. I bought a knock off pair of sunglasses that looked remarkably like very expensive Oakley glasses. My son later called them Foakley's, fake Oakley's. Another vendor specialty is fish and shrimp on a stick served with lime wedges. Avril was intrepid enough to try some. I found out later that these barbecue fish on a stick are called "pescado embarazado" translation "pregnant fish!" I found a  Puerto Vallarta  promotional video on YouTube that featured  the very vendor who sold to us. 
Pescado Embarzado Puerto  Vallarta

 Exhausted we cabbed it back to the ship. The vacation was not over, we had three days at sea before returning to San Francisco.

Two days later, after a morning of activities, we decided on pizza for lunch. Here is another story from Avril's log describing  my observation of a fellow passenger.

Saturday -  Do you remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding – where Toula is explaining to her aunt that her fiancĂ© is a vegetarian?  Her aunt replies, “What, he don’t eat no MEAT?!  It’s OK, I make him lamb …” 

There is a little pizzeria at the back of the ship – they make reasonably good pizza – everyday, you have a choice of Margherite, Pepperoni, Cheese or the specialty of the day.  Dad was in line to get the today’s special, which was had Buffalo mozzarella, ham, artichokes, mushrooms.  In front of him a man said in an indiscernible accent, “I want the vegetarian pizza.” 
Pizza technician: “I don’t have a vegetarian special today, but I have cheese.”
Man:  “I want the vegetarian pizza.”
Pizza technician: “I don’t have a vegetarian special today, but I have cheese.”
Man:  “Will it be out soon?”
Pizza technician: “I don’t have a vegetarian special today, but I have cheese.”
In the meantime, the special of the day pizza came out of the oven and the man said, “I want that vegetarian pizza.”
Pizza technician: “But that is not vegetarian, it has ham on it …”
Man : “I want that vegetarian pizza with ham.”

  Real life is full of chuckles.  J
Yes we are excited to cruise again!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Princess Mexico Cruise La Paz

Our ship  docked at Puerto de Pichilingue, an industrial port about ten miles away from our destination of La Paz. We had  breakfast and shot photos of the port before  boarding free buses that shuttled us into town. The buses have tour guides on board that give a humorous narration about the local area. I always put a tip in  the bucket at the front of the bus.
Puerto de Pichilingue
 We arrived in La Paz as a parade celebrating Mexican Independence day had just ended. There was still lots of activities from the celebration and photo ops abound.
La Paz Mexican Independence Day November 2014
 Along the Malecon there are beautiful statues and sights galore. We always stop at the artisan marketplace  a few blocks from the bus stop. Avril loves the selection of gorgeous  handmade jewelry at incredibly low prices. 
Malecon La Paz Mexico
We walked and people watched and had a grand time. We searched for beauty everywhere.
La Paz Mexico Courtyard 

I stopped at a convenience store and purchased bottled water. Normally I purchase water the cruise ship sells  at the exit to the ports. U.S dollars are widely accepted in La Paz. As a rule we always carry sun screen, wind breakers, hats and cameras in our Eddie Bauer traveler daypacks.  It is prudent to carry a little cash, credit card and identification when visiting. Exhausted we boarded the bus back to the ship. We had  a bit of lunch before our nap.
Lunch selection Horizon Court Buffet Star Princess
We decided to have dinner in the Crown Grill, the upscale steakhouse on board the Star Princess. It was a $25 charge per person extra. I would say it was worth every penny, an extreme meat experience!
Crown Grill Star Princess
Nest up on the blog Puerto Vallarta!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Star Princess Loreto Port of Call

The second stop on our ten day Mexico cruise was Loreto. This port, like Cabo, requires that you board a tender boat to take you into the port. We have not been to Loreto before and were pleasantly surprised at the quiet beauty of this little town. It is not the bustling circus of activity we found in Cabo. Apparently this town has not been "discovered" by the mass of tourists. Kind of hope it stays small. As our tender drops us a fleet of cabs await us but we just hoof it along the shore. Directly to the right of the entrance to the port is an uncrowded beach where two lovely ladies relaxed in the sun. This photo could be a marketing tool to attract the young crowd to Loreto. Beautiful scenery in Loreto! Avril reminds me that I have shoes older than these lovely ladies. I appreciate everything beautiful!
Beach Port of Loreto

A short distance away is the La Mision Hotel where I grabbed some photos of their scenic grounds. They have a bar and restaurant with a great looking menu. I'm told they cater to the eco-tourists that flock to this area. I think it would be a great place for a wedding party.
La Mision Hotel Loreto Mexico
We followed the crowd from the ship to an avenue with shops and restaurants where we succumbed to a souvenir wooden bowl. I believe it was Avenida Miguel Hidalgo.  A quick stop at the church to say thanks for our blessings.
Loreto Mexico
Loreto Mexico

After a bunch of walking I decided to cab it back to the port.The cost of the ride $5! Between my horrible Spanish and the cabbies pretty good English I learn that a lot of American retirees are buying property here because the dollar goes a lot further. We will keep that in our memory banks. Back at the port we snapped a few final pictures. Avril is an avid bird watcher and wanders away from me in search of birds. She spotted a blue footed booby and exclaims such. She startles an elderly Chinese man as she points at the bird and says booby! He appears mortified and tries to put distance away from her. Crazy women and booby!  We laughed about this the rest of the day. We headed back to ship and just before sunset we went up top for photo ops. The last tender boat is returning with the crew from shore. The wind has picked up the swell and the boat rises to the occasion.
Star Princess Tender Loreto Mexico
Sunset Loreto Mexico
It was wine o'clock! Then we ate dinner.
Dinner Star Princess
Next up La Paz!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Star Princess Cabo San Lucas

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas on November 17, 2014. It was the first port on our Star Princess ten day Mexico cruise.  We got up early to shoot photos of our arrival.  Cabo had been hit by Hurricane Odile back in September and we had overheard a fellow passenger say the Cabo  Arch had fallen victim to its fury.  I'm glad to report that it is still there in all its magnificence. The weather was a bit hazy but we got some really great shots.

Fishing boats Cabo San Lucas 

Star Princess Bridge Cabo San Lucas November 2014
El  Arco "the arch" Cabo San Lucas Nov. 17, 2014 Star Princess
We decided to celebrate our arrival with a light breakfast in the Piazza.
Breakfast Star Princess Piazza

Because the port is shallow,  the ship anchors out a ways and we board smaller tenders to travel into town. The short boat ride has some great views.
Cabo San Lucas Nov. 2014
Once in town we just wander happily taking in the sights. The Dia de los Muertos decorations are colorful photo ops. We enjoy margaritas and snacks at Solomon's Landing before taking the tender back to the Star Princess.
Dia De Los Muertos Decorations Cabo San Luca

Solomon's Landing Cabo San Lucas

Tender to the Star Princess Cabo 
Before we know it sunset photos beckon us. Then it is time for dinner!

Sunset Star Princess Cabo

Star Princess Dinner Cabo San Lucas

Our next port of call is Loreto, bon voyage!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Travel Photo Gear on a Cruise

We are always trying to maximize our cruise adventure and minimize our travel packing. Who wants to haul and organize tons of clothes and gear on a cruise? A lot of people do! I see huge bags galore and cringe at the sight of them. We constantly review what we carry and try to streamline our "stuff." I still have a little work to do on the clothing and shoe inventory. Avril's shoe fascination has rubbed off on me, although on this trip I only carried two pairs and wore one.  I believe I have the camera gear thing honed.  All my gear is pictured here except my laptop and charging cords. It fits into my duffle bag that I strap to the top of my small rolling bag.
My Cruise Photo Gear
I could probably leave behind the DSLR but it is still my pet. Always have a camera ready because there are many beautiful photo opportunities on a cruise ship.

Next up we arrive in Cabo!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Tapas Lifestyle Star Princess

I have a struggle every time I return from a cruise. I am so excited about our travels that  I want to shout out to the world what fun we had. On the other hand I try to temper my enthusiasm so as not to be repetitive and boring. We have been blessed to be able to take a number of cruises and sometimes they blur into memory. We last cruised on the Grand Princess and now on the Star Princess. The ships layout is almost identical so it was easy to maneuver our way around. I wrote about "food 101" before and most everything applied on this trip. The biggest difference, food wise,  was the absence of Alfredo's Pizza. You can still get wonderful pizza on Lido deck but in the place of Alfredo's there is Vine's. I was initially sad about this but Vines turned out to be our go to place for the evenings. They have a large list of wines by the glass and with your wine you can have tapas or sushi. The selection of food changes often, so no boredom here. The Vines bar is staffed by the team of Valeriya and Chris who make you feel like you are family. We chose the late dinner time and Vine's filled the gap between lunch and dinner. We noticed there was a number of couples who were regulars each night. I dubbed this fun as "the tapas lifestyle."

 Back at home I have tried to recreate the tapas lifestyle on Friday nights with little savory bites, bubbly for Avril and sauvignon blanc for me. Bringing home memories of fun we had on our cruise.
Vines - Star Princess
I can't help but to put our first night's dinner on display. Our choice of late seating dinner meant no available sunlight but with my trusty Lumix travel camera I was able to come up some good photos with the indoor light.
First night dinner - Star Princess Mexico Cruise

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Cruising on the Star Princess

Princess Cruises new marketing slogan promises you will "come back new." I most certainly returned with renewed enthusiasm for cruising  and  a fond memory of ten days enjoying great food, service and fun. New is good! If only they could make me come back younger!

On this cruise we visited four ports in Mexico:  Puerto Vallarta, Loreto, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas.

It has been over a year since we cruised and two years since we visited Mexico. This journey started in San Francisco at Pier 27, a brand spanking new cruise terminal. We boarded quickly with very little wait in line.  Princess has been kind enough to port a ship in San Francisco year round, which makes for easy access for us. The current ship here is the Star Princess, which replaced  the Grand Princess that we sailed on last year. Depending on the  time of year it cruises to Mexico, Alaska or Hawaii.

We booked our cruise a year ago with an interior cabin,  but we were "upgraded" to an ocean-view room about six months ago. Our cabin was located on Plaza deck five, behind the art gallery and steps from the International Cafe,  serving food 24 hours a day. We are early risers and made a habit of having "breakfast #1" here, usually a pastry or a breakfast sandwich with a coffee drink. At six in the morning the place is empty and we got to enjoy the ambiance by ourselves while we caffeinated. This left us awake and ready for exercise. Avril attended the free Zumba class while I enjoyed a brisk walk on Promenade deck 7.
 More soon.
Breakfast -International Cafe Star Princess