This is the review of our recent trip on the Mexican Rivera and then to LA and Palm Springs. I like to write them in a timeline fashion as it they also serve as a diary of what we did!
Friday, 1/27/2006 - Tampa to San Diego
Our flight for San Diego departed Tampa at 8:30am with a plane change in Dallas-Fort Worth arriving San Diego at about 1:25. All flights were on time and the time in Dallas gave us time to grab lunch - the airline food is far to rich for our taste! ;-) I was able to get the same seats on all flights, both out and back.
We collected our luggage and walked out to where the courtesy vans for the rental car companies and hotels stopped and waited for the Holiday Inn by the Bay van to come. It came about 15 minutes later and took us directly to the hotel - less than 10 minutes ride. We checked in but our room wasn’t ready yet so we checked our luggage with the hotel and decided to head out to the Gaslamp area. While checking our luggage, Sue and Brian recognized us and Sue came over and introduced herself. They were also waiting for their room. We chatted for awhile and decided to meet about 6PM in the lobby bar with the others that could make it. We then walked to Horton Plaza, went through some of the stores then walked through the Gaslamp area scouting restaurants for dinner. We found a place called the Napa Grille at Horton Plaza that looked really nice and the menu appeared to be what we thought of as ‘California cuisine’. It was past 4PM when we headed back to the hotel to see if our room was ready.
Our room was eventually ready and probably was ready when we originally checked in but the computer hadn’t been updated. We were in the South tower on the 7th floor, directly across from where the Oosterdam would dock the following morning.
We freshened up then headed down to the bar about 6:00PM. We found Sue and Brian again, exchanged beads and started looking for the others. Sue said she was bringing red beads with a red chili pepper on them and I brought green beads to go with. We went into the bar and walked around but didn’t recognize anyone and no one recognized us. Just as we sat down, Ike and Silvy were at the next table and recognized us by the beads. They introduced themselves and we moved to a larger table in the back but with a view of the door. Shortly there after we were joined by Leann and her mother-in-law Margaret (I recognized Leann by her big hair!). Mary and Vito came over after that and introductions and beads were exchanged. We had a drink together then we left to go to dinner. Ike and Silvy left also (they hadn’t even started to pack - they live in San Diego) and met us in the lobby and graciously offered to drive us to the restaurant with a tour of the Gaslamp area - very kind and much appreciated after having walked there and back once already that afternoon!
Dinner was very nice and the wine was wonderful. We were both tired from the walking and travel and decided to head back to the hotel and bed. The one-way distance from the hotel to Horton Plaza is 1.3 miles so we walked more than 4 miles that day.
Saturday, 1/28/2006 - Sailing day
We both awoke during the night and I was up and looking for the ship at about 4:30AM - it wasn’t there!. We were still on Florida time (3 hours later). I went back to bed then was up at 5:30AM and it still wasn’t there. At about 6:30AM, it was already there and tied up to the pier.
We got up, showered and dressed and were out of the hotel by 8:00AM. We decided to walk back yet again to the Gaslamp area since there was a Ralph’s grocery store there where we could pick up a few last minute things, including champagne (on sale with a Ralph’s card!) and flowers for formal night boutonniere’s. San Diego was very quiet at 8:00AM and only a few people seemed to be getting off the ship. On the way to Ralph’s, we walked past a little restaurant called the Brickyard Cafe and had breakfast there. It is right on the tram line and we sat outside.
After getting our champagne, water and flowers at Ralph’s we headed back to the hotel to fill out luggage tags and finish packing. We (I) have a superstition where we don’t fill out boarding paperwork until the day of sailing - can’t explain it - it just is! (I also have to watch Now Voyager! with Betty Davis before leaving on a cruise!) We checked with the concierge to find out about the hotel van that will take you over to the pier and got our names in the noon departure time slot. If you didn’t over pack and wanted to, you could easily walk across the street to the pier. We waited in the lobby for our time and got a short ride across the street. There are porters available but all were tied up when we were dropped off about noon so we just walked up to the luggage bins and they took our luggage there (you had to walk past these to get into the terminal so a porter wasn’t really necessary unless you needed help with your luggage - all ours has wheels). We then walked into the terminal.
When you enter the terminal, you need your cruise ticket and photo ID out and available. Once you get into the terminal, you will find a very long, snaking line filling up the floor of the terminal. While standing in line, you need to get out and have available the following:
* Cruise ticket
* Immigration form*
* Credit card form that came with tickets
*There is an immigration form that comes in your document folder or you can fill it out online on the Holland America web site (www.hollandamerica.com). If you fill it out online, MAKE SURE YOU PRINT IT AND BRING IT WITH YOU! If you fill it out and DON’T print it, you will have to fill out the paper form. I don’t know why they can just get the information from the web site but they can’t! Ike didn’t know this and although he filled it out online, he didn’t print and bring it. They had stop at the tables (mentioned next) and fill out the form in their document folder.
You will eventually get to an area with tables set up and HAL red coats. One checks to see if you have everything required and properly filled out. If not, you go to one of the tables and they help you get your paperwork in order. If you do, you bypass the tables and get back in line on the other side! This line eventually leads to the check-in desks. We of course had all our ducks in a row and bypassed the tables! They did give us a Norwalk Virus form that we had to fill out while in line asking if we had any of the symptoms of Norwalk now or in the prior week (fever, vomiting, the other end, etc). If so, you probably wouldn’t be allowed to board - how many are going to be truthful at this stage?
We wore our new beads to the terminal and numerous people asked us what they meant. If you want some attention, wear beads!
We finally got to a check-in desk (probably no more than 20 minutes but it seemed longer!). We were assigned to stateroom 5182 (cat. AA, aft verandah) and that was printed on the immigration form. However, upon check-in, we were moved to stateroom 8033 - same category but a side facing stateroom. When we were initially assigned 5182, I called my TA and asked her to see if there was a side facing stateroom of the same category available. HAL said there wasn’t and didn’t think one would open up but we could fax a request in and if one opened up, they could move us. After finding out several of the CruiseCritic group members were in surrounding staterooms, I asked my TA to cancel the fax which she did. However, apparently HAL kept it on file. The only problem I had with this was that our luggage was all labeled for 5182! The check-in agent said that the stewards are supposed to check the name on the tag to the ship manifest and not pay attention to the cabin number on the tag (like that’s ever going to happen!). We expected our luggage to end up in 5182 anyway! The check-in process gives you a folder with your key cards (also act as your onboard charge cards) which have your life boat number and dining table assignment/time imprinted on it. Ours were both poorly printed so that we could see the dining table assignment at all and Eric’s didn’t even have his life boat printed on it!
We did the boarding photo (only one we bought) and went aboard. When you board, they scan your card which logs you in as being on the ship. Any time you leave the ship, they scan your card to know you are no longer onboard. During the check-in process, they take your photograph digitally and that pops up on the security screens every time your card is scanned at security. My card wouldn’t scan! I was instructed to go to the front office and have my card reprinted. Once past security, we headed to the front office and they reprinted my card for me. By this time, the announcement that staterooms were available was made and we were escorted to our room by the white gloved stewards (the stewards are at the midship elevator lobbies). On Holland America ships, you can begin boarding at 11:30AM (usually) but staterooms may not be ready until 1:30PM, in which case you can eat in the Lido, sit in a bar, etc until your room is ready.
We got to our room and no luggage was yet there. Stateroom 8033 is on Navigation deck (#8) forward on the starboard side. It is the first stateroom where the side facing stateroom recess into the superstructure. The stateroom just forward of us had the angled verandah. Our stateroom had four closets with a safe in one, desk with a cupboard on one side and a small refrigerator on the other. The fridge was full of soft drinks, mixers and small bottles of liquor. We removed all the cans and set them on the desk so we could put in our water and champagne. It got things cool but not cold and you couldn’t adjust the temperature that I could find. I left a note for the steward to please remove the cans as we didn’t want them - he did that evening with no problem during turndown service. There was an adjustable height coffee table, loveseat and chair in the sitting area. The verandah was about 4 x 8 and had one large chair, one smaller chair (no cushion on this one), an ottoman and a small table.
We checked things out and decided we were hungry so went to the Lido for lunch. The lido has several stations set up with menus of what is available at each station. The menus vary by day.
We found the choices to be many and varied and all the food we had during the week from the Lido was very tasty.
We ran into Sue and Brian in the Lido confirmed the time and place for the sail away party. We looked around the ship then checked back for our luggage - not there. Eric wanted his card reprinted since much of it was missing so we went back to the Front Office and had that done. I notified them again about the room change and our luggage and they said they’d inform the steward for 5182 to be on the lookout and see that it got moved to our new room - I didn’t have high hopes!
After the 4:30PM lifeboat drill, we had a message left from the Front Desk asking me to come down if I was onboard since I wasn’t showing as having come aboard. Apparently when the new card was made, I wasn’t logged in as having coming aboard - so once again it was down to the Front Desk! We then headed up to the aft pool bar for sail away. Since my jacket (and the beads for the group) were in my suitcase, I was chilly! This didn’t help the cold I already had! We met up with the rest of the CruiseCritic group, chatted, ordered a drink and smiled and waved for the videographer! Mr. James Deering, the ships’ hotel manager, came over and introduced himself. He said he was following the thread on the CruiseCritic site and recognized us by our beads! He said he watches the boards and likes to see what people are saying, their thoughts and opinions. He stayed with us for quite awhile. Sue mentioned our luggage problem and he took down the information and said he’d take care of it - it’s good to have contacts in high places! He also gave each of us his card with his cell phone number on it and wanted us to call and let him know when we got our luggage.
When it got too cold, we left and checked back at the room but still no luggage. We decided to walk down to 5182 and see it was outside in the hall or if whoever was in the room had it. No luggage in the hall and no one answered when we knocked. The check-in agent said that room was empty! We did find the invitation to the Pinnacle Grill for that night that my TA gave us in the mail holder by the door, however! We had found several items (invitations, shore excursions, etc) for the people who were supposed to be in 8033 and returned those to the Front Desk. We then checked in at the Pinnacle Grill to confirm our 8:30PM reservation that evening. We also went to one of the shore excursion terminals in the midship elevator lobbies and bought our shore excursions. These terminals are touch screens â€“ you insert your ship card, choose the tour, number of tickets and it spits them right out. Very easy and nice â€“ no more forms to fill out and no waiting in line.
We pretty much figured our luggage wouldn’t get there in time for dinner but at about 6:45PM, we had a call from the Front Desk asking if our luggage arrived. I again described what it looked like and suggested they open 5182 and look for it there! At 7:10PM, we had another call that it was found and was being brought up to us. After all 4 pieces were in the room, I called Mr. Deering back and let him know. We unpacked and got ready for dinner.
The Pinnacle Grill is an extra cost restaurant option on Holland America ships. It costs $20 per person except the first night which costs $10 per person. The food is Pacific Northwest with heavy emphasis on steaks and fish. The menu doesnâ€t change. The Pinnacle Grill on the Oosterdam was beautiful and elegant. We had a window table which is nice in theory but you can’t see anything at night! The service is great and the food is excellent. They have a nice if limited wine list. You have a choice of appetizer, salad, entree and desert (all food is covered in the $20). They have a choice of sides to go with the entrees to choose from and all are portioned for one person. I had the Thai chicken soup and mushroom ravioli with sides of asparagus and creamed spinach. The ravioli was in a cream sauce with lots of asparagus so I was inundated with asparagus that night! I couldn’t finish my entree so didn’t order desert. Eric had Dungeness crab cakes, cedar planked halibut with crabmeat, a side of asparagus and espresso.
I was pretty exhausted from all the excitement of boarding and not getting our luggage so we back to the room and went to bed. It had to be after 10:30PM anyway. The bed was turned down, the drink cans removed and a chocolate was on the pillow - what more could you ask for?
Sunday, 1/29/2006 - At Sea
Today started off cooler that I would have liked so it was jeans and long sleeved shirt for me. We had breakfast then walked around deck for awhile. We scouted out the ship and before you know it, it was almost time for lunch! After lunch, I sat in the sun on the verandah in my swimsuit and napped while Eric went to the library. He found the library to be very well stocked and it entertained him for the afternoon! I awoke about 4:30PM and went back into the room to find a champagne bucket with a bottle of champagne had arrived while I was on the verandah (good thing I was clothed!). The card said it was from the captain and Mr. Deering - how thoughtful! Tonight was the first formal night. We took our time getting ready for dinner and went to the Crows Nest (deck 10 forward) for a cocktail before dinner. Since we hadn’t been to the main dining room yet, we didn’t know where our table was or who our table mates for the week would be. We went to the dining room at about 8:15PM and were the first to arrive (table 165, lower level aft). The table was set for 6. A few minutes later, Rhonda and her mother arrived. They also had been in the Pinnacle the night before so this was their first time in the dining room as well. No one else came so we had the table to ourselves. Everyone got along great and we were one of the last tables to leave the dining room! Off to bed - tomorrow was Cabo San Lucas!
Monday, 1/30/2006 - Cabo San Lucas
Our tour in Cabo San Lucas was the Pirate Ship Wale Watching tour. We had to be in the Vista Lounge by 8:30AM. We met up with Brian and Sue. The ship anchors at Cabo San Lucas so we had to take tenders to shore. Everyone was given a different colored sticker with a number on it depending on which tour you were with. When it was time for you to go to the tenders, your color and number were called. Weather was a little cool but clear and beautiful.
Upon disembarking the tender, Mexican authorities search bags you have with you looking for any fruit or vegetables - these are not allowed off the ship in Mexico.
I’m not good with facts and figures of a historical nature but the pirate ship was built back in the mid to late 1800’s and had been motorized after the turn of the century. There were pirates onboard - well, people dressed like scurvy pirates but no peg legs and not really that scurvy! We sat in plastic chairs around the deck and elsewhere and we were soon off. We motored out past the famous arch and a sea lion colony. There were numerous other boats also looking for whales.
After awhile, a whale was sighted and we headed in that direction. Unfortunately, the smaller faster boats would be right on top of the whale and cause it to swim away. There is supposed to be a clearance that all boats are to keep from a whale but it is not enforced in Mexico. We ended up seeing several whales. The sails were hoisted and the motor cut and we sailed around in the perfect calm of the Pacific for about 45 minutes! Very relaxing. Music was playing and a history of the pirate activity in Cabo was given by the captain.
After we returned to the dock, Sue and Brian decided to walk into town to have lunch before heading back to the ship. We were invited to join them. The sun was quite strong and the temperature was warming up. The locals try to sell you fishing trips, ceramic whistles, silver jewelry, pictures with an iguana, etc. Just walk past and say ‘No thank you’ if you’re not interested. They are not aggressive. Be aware that the timeshare hawkers are there also!
Sue wanted to go to Cabo Wabo which is a nightclub, restaurant and bar. It’s not right in the port area but a few blocks beyond the port. We eventually found it and had a very enjoyable lunch.
We walked back to the port area and stopped at a couple jewelry stores but quickly returned to the ship. I took a nap and Eric returned to the library. I got on the Internet from the ship and spend $13 dollars cleaning up my e-mail box and trying to send a message to my TA. Not successful - the AOL server rejected the message each time!
We had received an invitation to a private cocktail party from Mr. Deering and the Captain - apparently all the CruiseCritic members got it. It was scheduled for 7:00PM. There was also a listing in the daily paper for a ‘Friends of Dorothy’ party at the Olive Pit bar at the same time. We would have liked to go to that as well but decided that an invitation from the Captain and Hotel Manager took precedence, and besides, we got their invitation first!
For those that don’t know, ‘Friends of Dorothy’ is an informal gathering of any gays sailing on the ship. It may or may not be attended by ships personnel and it doesn’t include free drinks. You simply gather at the place listed to meet others who are sailing. Mr. Deering said that it is usually automatically added at least once in the ships paper but if it’s not and anyone wants one listed or additional listings, just let the cruise director know. I asked him later in the week about the company policy about these meetings. There was quite a stink on the rec.travel.cruises newsgroup as well and CruiseCritic and CruiseMates boards about HAL’s policy in listing these meetings - some people posted that they were told there is a company policy against listing them (some even called corporate to inquire and were told the same thing). He said there is no company policy against listing them and it is up to the cruise director to put them in the paper automatically but if someone wants it listed, let the cruise director know. There should be no problem getting it listed. If you don’t now, HAL is and has in the past chartered their ships to gay travel provides (RSVP for one - they have the Westerdam for 2 weeks in Feb.) for all gay cruises. He said it would be very bad business to upset your customer base by refusing to put the listing in and claiming a company policy against it. He also said that this whole business was caused by one cruise director on one ship. Many internal memos went back and forth throughout the fleet about this!
The captain and Mr. Deering greeted everyone in the Crows Nest and we were offered champagne, wine and hors d'oeuvres. We stayed until about 8:15PM then headed down to the dining room.
Dinner was wonderful again.
Tonight after dinner we went to the Explorers Lounge to listen to the string quartet play and have after dinner coffee (with liquor!). The music was nice but the players came around pushing their CD’s which I found offensive. It is one thing to tell people they are available but another to walk around sticking it in your face and telling you it costs $20! We didn’t go back again - partly because of this but also because we didn’t have the time!
Tuesday, 1/31/2006 - Mazatlan
Today we arrived at Mazatlan and docked in the commercial harbor. We were on the bird watching and estuaries tour that departed at 8:30AM. We again gathered at the Vista Lounge, got our stickers and went out onto the pier when our tag was called.
We boarded a bus that took us to a motor boat with a canopy cover where we spend about half of the tour. Our guide was great and explained about the ecology, wildlife, birdlife, etc of the harbor and mangrove swamps we traveled through. One interesting thing he said was that shrimp farming is very big business and there are shrimp poachers. The poachers steal shrimp from the farms at night, raise them up to the size they want then sell them on the street. The problem is that the food they use to feed the shrimp is some form of dry dog food that somehow turns toxic in the shrimp and you end up eating it which makes you sick! You should never buy shrimp from anyone selling it on the street - only in markets.
We got out of the boats and went ashore for a bathroom break then got into a tractor pulled cart with a canopy. We were pulled out to the beach, watching for different birds all alone the way - one special treat was a roseate spoonbill. We ended up driving along the water to the restaurant where we had lunch. When we got out of the boat, we had to choose our entree: fried fish, cheese quesadilla, or a combo of both. The restaurant would be called and the food ready when we arrived.
We arrived and had tables reserved. We chose our drink, had chips and very good salsa then lunch. We had free time to walk on the beach, go in the water (too cold for us!) or relax in the sun until we drove back to the boat. There was also the requisite shopping opportunity recommended by the guide!
Our bus ride back to our boat (different boat in a different location) was interesting as different trees and plants were pointed out to us. We boarded our boat and went back to where the bus dropped us off earlier in the day. We got back on the bus and went back to the terminal area. The terminal had plenty of shopping available but most all the stores carried the same things so once you saw one store, you saw them all! To get back to the ship, you MUST take the little train cars as you can’t walk back (not that it’s far but because of security). Eric bought some of the vanilla - one dark in color, one clear. We were told by the guide the clear was pure but that some of the dark was colored with caramel. Both bottles claim to be the real thing so we’ll see!
We spent the afternoon relaxing, napping, and reading.
Leann and Margaret wanted to have a cocktail party for the CruiseCritic members and that was this evening about 6:30PM. They were in 5186, aft suite port side of deck 5. Sue and Brian also had a cocktail party at the same time, 5187, aft suite starboard side of deck 5. It was kind of like a block party with people going back and forth between the suites. Hors d'oeuvres provided by the Neptune Lounge, wine and champagne was the menu. We brought down one of the bottles of champagne we bought in San Diego. Mr, Deering and Linda the port shopping advisor were present as well. A good time was had by all.
We were by ourselves this evening for dinner in the dining room. Food was very good as was the service. Off to bed early â€“ our tour in Puerto Vallarta met at 6:30AM!
Wednesday, 2/1/2006 - Puerto Vallarta
We anchored again today. I was up very early to get ready for the tour and saw them drop one of the tenders. It was still dark! The Carnival Pride sailed in and got the one and only pier to dock at. In the near distance was the Norwegian Star that also anchored.
We ate a quick breakfast and went to the Vista Lounge for our tour. We were going zipping!
When we first got our tickets, I saw this tour and thought it sounded like fun. Eric really liked the idea as well. After awhile, I thought I wouldn’t like being 70-100 feet off the ground in a tree, zipping between the trees on a pulley! I put off ordering the tour. Once we boarded, and I had a drink in hand, we booked the tour - I was now committed (or should be!).
We tendered in, found our group, and were taken by bus to the offices of the tour company. No one at the tour company seemed to know what was going on and it was at least 45 minutes later before they called us for the tour. We boarded open air covered busses (each held about 12 people) for the 30-40 minute ride to the zip site. This ride is not recommended for those with bad backs - it’s VERY rough at times! After being inundated with car exhaust in the city, we got out to a road that led up into the hills. The temperature dropped by about 20 degrees (take a sweater, jacket or sweatshirt!). We got to the site and had waist harnesses installed by the guides as well as helmets and gloves. They put it all on, take it all off and tell you to not touch the equipment. You are cinched in pretty tight and if you’re a guy, make sure your goo-goo (as Stewart from MAD TV would say) is adjusted properly or you will be in pain!
We then went for a demo and lecture on how zipping works. The guides were very enthusiastic and fun. It was recommended that you wear mosquito repellent (they are big!) but I didn’t and wasn’t bitten. The guides ask that you wash your hands as the repellent damages the equipment. After the demo and lecture, it was time to head for the tree tops! The first two zips were practice. You were led up to the ropes, your roller thingies were attached to the ropes and you were attached to the safety line. You are basically suspended by the harness from the zip ropes at the waist. You put your weakest hand on the harness and your strongest hand behind your head. This hand is your break hand. You basically loosen your grip on your break hand and you slide along the ropes between the trees - you can get going very fast. As you approach the next platform, they indicate when to start breaking and all you have to do is put your palm against the rope behind your head and you start slowing down (remember you’re wearing leather gloves). If you close your hand, you’ll spin around backwards. Too much pressure and you stop before reaching the platform and you’ll have to pull yourself to it. Too little pressure and the guides will have to stop you!
Once you land on the platform, they unhook you from the rope, hook you up to the safety line on the tree and you move to the next rope to zip again! My back decided it didn’t like this at all but I managed to get through it. There were about 10 zips, one Tarzan swing (you can ask them to not spin you around - it makes you VERY dizzy!) and a rappel down to the ground at the end. The rappel was what worried me the most but was actually very easy.
Once you’re back on the ground (total time in the trees about 45 minutes to 1 hour), you walk back up to the start point (15 minutes but they can get you the yellow jeep if you don’t/can’t walk it). There is water, fruit and crackers and the attempt to get you to buy the DVD of your zip adventure. They film the whole way so you’re in the DVD. For whatever reason, part of the tour didn’t get filmed and I really didn’t want to have a copy anyway. It was $40 + $15 shipping and would arrive in about 2 weeks.
The ride back was really rough on my back and by the time we got to the tenders, I was having problems standing up. We rode back to the ship, had lunch then I took a Valium and slept the rest of the afternoon. Luckily this was our last stop as I was afraid I was going to have serious back spasms. Eric went back to shore and shopped around until about 5:30PM. I woke about 5:00PM. My back was still tender but better than when I went to bed.
Dinner in the dining room again and again we were by ourselves.
It was early to bed for us.
Thursday, 2/2/2006 - At Sea
My cold started to get back at me in full force. The cold wind during the ride to the zip tour didn’t help. We kind of hung out, shopped onboard and attended the Cruise Critic meeting that Mr. Deering put in the paper.
This meeting was open to all and was basically a question, answer, advice and opinion conversation with those that attended (about a dozen or so) and Mr. Deering. He wanted to know what we liked, what we didn’t, any problems, suggestions on improvements, etc. He also answered any questions very frankly and honestly - if HAL didn’t do something well, he said so. Very interesting and informative. He told us he was going onto the Westerdam in February to be the Hotel manager for both of the RSVP charters and was looking forward to it - he said the crew really enjoy the RSVP charters and have a great time.
At the end of meeting, Mr. Deering received a phone call. It appears that there was a passenger with a fractured femur that needed shore side hospitalization and he was off to talk to the captain about either pulling into a port or arranging an emergency evacuation.
Read, nap then dress for cocktails in the Crows Nest with the group. This was the second formal night and we had made reservations in the Pinnacle Grille for 8:30PM tonight. Tonight I had the field green salad, petite fillet, creamed spinach and escalloped potatoes and the lemon sponge cake for desert (I just couldn’t fit in the chocolate lava cake!). Eric had a wonderful Delmonico steak, baked potato and creamed spinach - no dessert. Food and service were wonderful as usual.
We spoke to Nancy and Linda who were left at the table by their husbands who went to play bingo! We then ran into Ronda and Bob from our zipping tour and we all went to the Lido to see the dessert extravaganza. Neither of us could eat a thing but the display was very impressive.
I was feeling very tired and achy so off to bed.
Friday, 2/3/2006 - At Sea
I awoke at about 4:00AM coughing my head off. I eventually got back to sleep and stayed in bed until about 10:00AM. We got up, dressed and had a late breakfast. I was feeling very poorly. I decided that I would have to visit the infirmary. We went back to the room and I lay down and slept until about 2:30PM. We got up and had pizza for lunch. I then went down to the infirmary. When I said I thought I had a sinus infection, they told me to come back at 5:00PM when the doctor was there as they couldn’t prescribe anything other than pseudafed which I already had.
An announcement was made about 7:30AM that a small boat was signaling for help and the ship was stopping to render assistance. I went out to the verandah to see if I could see anything but it was on the other side of the ship. The day was gray, cold and choppy. Another announcement was made about 30 minutes later stating that another boat had come the assistance of the first boat and we were back on our way. Later in the morning another announcement was made saying that two passengers needed shore side hospitalization and that we were heading back to San Diego at fastest speed and would arrive between 2 and 3 in the morning.
Eric did all the packing this afternoon and although he offered that we could just fly home the next day (we were going to LA and Palm Springs the following week), and although I gave it serious thought, I stuck it out and decided to continue the trip. At 5:00PM, it was back to the infirmary and I was seen by the doctor. I didn’t have a sinus infection just a bad cold and he gave me 12 ibuprophen and Robitussin DM for the cough. The bill was only $93! I decided it was worth it since I had easy access to a doctor on the ship and would have to find one on land. The ibuprophen really helped and I was feeling better before dinner. I tried the Internet again still without success and incurred another $12 charge! Internet access charges are way too expensive on ships in my opinion (NCL was 95 cents per minute / HAL was 75 cents per minute both with a $3.95 one time set up charge).
We ran into Rhonda who said they hadn’t been to dinner because her mother was exhausted from the tours they did but they would be at dinner tonight.
Dinner was very good as usual (no wine for me - boo!) and back to bed for me. We finished packing and set the bags out to be picked up during the night.
Saturday, 2/4/2006 - San Diego
We were docked when I awoke at 6:00AM to get up and dressed. Our luggage tags were Green/3. It was estimated passengers would start leaving the ship about 8:30AM. We were really in no hurry and got off around 9:15AM. We ate breakfast early and tried to find Brian and Sue but I ended up calling their room instead and speaking to them.
When disembarking, you had to have your ship card out so you could be scanned off the ship, your passport and customs form. The customs officer basically looks over the form as you enter the terminal and before you get your luggage. We readily found our luggage and ran into Nancy and Linda. We said our goodbyes and rapidly found a taxi to take us to the Budget Rental office to pick up our car.
Our car was ready, and we were soon on our way north to Long Beach and the Queen Mary. Traffic was very busy but I’m sure not as busy as would be during the week. We got to Long Beach about 11:30AM and got our tickets for the Queen Mary. We did the engine room tour then followed another group for part of their tour then went aboard. We decided we wanted to eat first so ate in the casual restaurant located on promenade deck. Food was good, the view was great. After lunch we followed the recommended self tour in the booklet and ended up buying a couple of things in a couple of the shops. We left Long Beach about 3:30PM.
We got to Marina Del Rey before dark and checked into the Marriot. Our room was upgraded to a marina view on the 5th floor. The lobby is very impressive and they have the wall behind the check-in desk that is about 30 feet high staggered with red, gold and beige square block candles with a very interesting scent. These candles are throughout the lobby area. We decided on a restaurant within walking distance, called for a reservation then went down to the lobby bar for a drink.
We walked to the restaurant, Tony P’s Dockside Grill, which was on the water. They have fish, pasta, sandwiches, BBQ, etc. The food was good but it was another long day and time for bed.
Sunday, 2/5/2006 - The Getty Museum
Today we got up, had breakfast at Edie’s Diner then drove to the Getty. All I can say is WOW! It’s amazing what money can buy! Entrance is free but parking is $7. We arrived at 11:00AM and they were busy already. We started out taking the garden tour and wanted to take the architecture tour but missed the last one because we were having lunch - my fault - I thought there was a last one at 4PM. Food was pricey but good. It was a beautiful clear day in LA and the view from the Getty over the city was amazing. We stayed there until about 5:30PM and didn’t get through but about one quarter of it. If they weren’t closed on Monday’s, we would have gone back for a couple more hours.
We needed a couple things at a drug store and ended up on Wilshire Boulevard at a Ralph’s. We got what we needed and headed back to the hotel. The I-405 is under construction and the exits aren’t as clearly marked as they could be (to tourists anyway) so we got lost. We eventually got back on course and back to the hotel.
There was an Indian restaurant a block from the hotel that was well regarded called Pradeep’s so we walked over there. The food was very good and we have a nice meal. Back to the hotel and bed.
Monday, 2/6/2006 - Palm Springs
Today we decided to check out about 10:30AM, have breakfast at Edie’s again then head to Palm Springs. We were on our way about 11:30AM to Palm Springs. Driving in LA is an adventure - extremely busy and so many highways that merge and veer off that you have to pay close attention at all times. We drove past a fire that was in the news to the east of LA and made it to Palm Springs about 2:00PM. We stopped at the visitor information center for a bathroom break and information then headed into downtown. We found a non-Starbuck’s coffee store across from Starbuck’s and had coffee and a snack. We hate Starbuck’s coffee - over roasted and burned to our taste. We then went to check into our resort.
We stayed at The Hacidena At Warm Sands, a gay resort. It’s one of the top upscale properties in Palm Springs and lived up to its advertising. Our room was ready and we brought in our luggage. The resort has 10 rooms, two pools and a hot tub. The grounds are completely private and clothing is optional. The staff was wonderful and available until 7PM. Our room had a dining area, living room with TV and DVD, kitchenette with 2 burner cooktop, microwave, fridge, sink and dishes, pots and pans. There were only 3 rooms rented that night. We went into the hot tub for awhile then called our friends Tom and Patrick. We left a message then relaxed. We were watching TV when a migraine struck Eric. He slept for about an hour and it passed. Our friends called back and offered to pick us up for dinner the next night. We had gotten restaurant suggestions from the resort staff and headed out for dinner about 8:30PM. We ate at Pomme Frite, a French/Belgian bistro on North Palm Canyon. The weather was very cool to our taste so we ate inside. I had steak frite and salad. Eric had a ravioli dish that also came with frites! We split a half bottle of a very good chardonnay - MacCrostee. Back to the room and bed!
Tuesday, 2/7/2006 - Palm Springs
We decided to do the Palm Springs Arial Tram this morning. The turn off is the same as for the visitor information center. The cost was $21 per adult. There are two trams that run simultaneously - one goes up and the other comes down! The interior rotates as you go along and the walls are all glass. The views are breathtaking! You go from the high 70’s in the desert up to the 30’s at the top. There was some snow on the ground but the day was perfectly clear and sunny. There are viewing areas all over, shops and restaurants and a bar. Walking trails of different lengths can be taken through the forest. Since it’s a state park, you can also get permits to camp there beyond the tram center. It’s rather a large park - several hundred acres. One person we met said they just walked up the mountain from the desert and it took only 5 and a half hours! I guess the ride is free down if you can walk up!
We spent about 3 hours here then headed back to the resort for lunch. An expanded continental breakfast and lunch are included in the room rate. You pre-order your lunch in the morning and they will serve it to you in your room, by the pool or put it in the fridge if you’re not there. The food is ordered from a local deli and you have several sandwiches, entree salads and wraps to choose from. Our food was in our fridge when we returned. We ate then took a nap. A trip to the hot tub while the sun went behind the mountains and dusk was upon us at 4:10PM. The weather was cooling down but not as cool as the previous night.
We showered and dressed and our friends picked us up at 7:15PM. We went to Boscoso and had a very nice meal - and reasonably priced. We showed them around the resort since they hadn’t stayed there before. We went back into the hot tub for awhile then to bed.
Wednesday, 2/8/2006 - Palm Springs
Today were decided to drive around and see what there was to see. We went out Palm Canyon Drive all the way down to Rancho Mirage and shopped at several stores and grocery stores. Consignment shops are fun in Palm Springs! After shopping, we went back to the resort, had our lunch by the pool then swam and napped for awhile. There was a cloud that prevented the sun from shining for the remainder of the afternoon so we went in, changed and drove back to the downtown area to some of the antique shops (not my favorite but I put up with it!) After shopping, we went to get flowers for our friends this evening then back to the resort to change and drive to their house in Rancho Mirage. Part of our trip this morning was finding out how to get to their house.
We found their house fine and went to Shame on the Moon - highly recommended! Dinner was great and the company was wonderful. We left about 11:00PM to go back to the resort. I went back to the hot tub for awhile then to bed.
Thursday, 2/9/2006 - Fly home
We got up, packed and dressed. I took the car out to fill it up and we checked out about 10:30AM. Our flight was at 12:05PM but we both hate to rush.
The Palm Springs airport is small so it’s easy to get around. We returned our car but they didn’t have a remote printer for the receipt so we stopped in to get one at the rental counter. After waiting and determining it wouldn’t happen, we went and checked in with American. We went through security and as we were heading to the gate, an announcement was made that I had to go back to the American counter to unlock my bags! We trudged back to the counter and the agent told me I had to unlock the bag. Our luggage has a 3-digit combination lock built into one of the 3 latches and long ago I put a sticker just below the latch saying: ‘UNLOCK CODE: 180 PLEASE RELOCK!’. With this luggage it’s important to lock that handle as the latches come open very easily. We also have a strap that goes around it. I pointed this out the American agent who apologized and said it was TSA that couldn’t read (she couldn’t either, apparently!). She said we could go back to the gate. So, back through security again then to the gate.
Our flights were on time and we made it home by about 10:00PM. Our dear friends who were looking after the house had left us dinner in the fridge - how very thoughtful! We ate but weren’t really tired since we were 3 hours behind now! We got the computers fired up and checked and cleared the e-mail boxes. We ended up watching TV until about 1:00AM then bed!
This was a wonderful trip. I wish I hadn’t been sick during the cruise but I tried not to let it stop me too much. While the cruise was great, I really enjoyed Palm Springs and the Getty more. This is very unusual for me since I think cruises are about the best thing since sliced bread! We were invited back to Palm Springs over Labor Day and we will probably go, if only to see how hot it is in Palm Springs in the summer! We’ve heard stories!
It was great meeting the group from CruiseCritic.com and I’d recommend others to look for or post a roll call for your cruise. I’m sure the groups can be like dining companions - some are great, some aren’t but since our group was so compatible, I’d definitely do it again. If you decide you don’t like your group, you can always avoid them on the ship!
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