Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 7 nt Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera "sisters" Cruise: Cabo; Mazatlan; Puerto Vallarta

Dec. 6-13, 2009 became our first 3 "sisters" vacation. It was the first time Carolyn and I got Jane (our sister-in-law) to come along with us. I'm very glad she was able to make it. Carolyn and I had done this same itinerary last year on Holland America so we knew a bit of what to expect---at least from the itinerary. At first I was a little disappointed to be doing the same itinerary, but it turned out to be alright. We were able to do some different things and since I was more familiar with the area, I didn't mind not doing organized tours.

Pre-cruise I met up with Jane at LAX and spent the night in a LaQuinta Suites Inn for $60 for the night. My flight from STL ended up being a little more exciting as Texas was hit by a 6 inch snow storm the night before. Some day I'll learn not to schedule myself through Texas in the winter (was stuck there during a couple ice storms in the past, as well as a couple snow storms)! But I ended up being able to catch a flight to Denver (where they're equiped for winter weather) and then on to LAX, getting there only about 40 minutes late.

Sunday morning we met up with Carolyn at the embarkation station. We were there early, so were able to register quickly and sit around outside for a couple hours visiting before boarding the ship. Jane and I did walk over to the Queen Mary (now a hotel there) and enjoyed wandering around in it. They were having a buffet breakfast there and there were lots of x-mas decorations, even carollers. Looked like it would be a neat place to spend the night. I found out after we got back that the firm Angie works for is doing some renovating to it.

Embarkation went quickly and easily. Fortunately we didn't go on the cruise the 2 weeks before this one or the one after it as there were problems. 2 weeks before, the ship had run into another ship in Puerto Vallarta, then later in the week the captain had a heart attack and they had to turn around and head back to Cabo making them several hours late getting back into Long Beach. The cruise after ours ended up staying over night in Puerto Vallarta after the ship ran into a dock and had to have repairs done before it could leave. Fortunately nothing unusual happened during our cruise.

Here we posed for our first of many pictures. It was a bit chilly that day---probably about 60 degrees---not what I expected for Long Beach. Soon we were on the ship and heading to the Lido buffet for lunch.

One of the things I'd read a lot about this ship was the "pink" decor. That didn't seem to be that bothersome to me, but I did think the pink zebra doughnut shapes all over the place were a bit tacky. Especially since it kept leaving us with a desire for doughnuts and there weren't any on this ship.
This was the biggest ship I'd been on at 113,300 tons, 952' long, holds 3006 passengers and has 15 levels. Perhaps too big for the captains, too?!

We were assigned the first dining slot. In a way that's good in that you can get by with just eating breakfast and dinner, but it did seem to cut into a lot of evening activities---like watching sunsets and catching the last hours of daylight by the pools. Jane and I did use the jacuzzis, but ended up having to go after the evening shows. Then we did usually look for a snack after the pools closed, but the only place open late night was the hamburger/hotdog bar and the pizza bar---all of which we tired of quickly. We did have a very lively lady at our table for 4. Her name is Lucy and she was very active on the cruise critic website. She made a point of getting up and dancing with the waiters every evening and said this was her 48th cruise. Here she is coming back to our table after the evening dancing.

The nightly entertainment was ok. Not fabulous, but not bad. I thought the famale lead singer had a fantastic voice, but the choreography seemed somewhat lacking. There was also a comedian who was ok.

The 2nd night was formal night so we dressed up and wandered around seeing if any photographers could make us glamorous.

I actually liked this one so I purchased it. It's been a long long time since I had a studio portrait taken of me.

We had hoped to spend more time at the adult only pool and jacuzzis, but it seemed a bit cool for the pool and the jacuzzi was usually full. Jane and I did go to the jacuzzi here a couple of times, but mostly hung out at the jacuzzis on the 10th level above the Lido pool and big screen. It was a little odd not have a jacuzzi by the main pool and no pool by the jacuzzis we hung out at the most.

The Lido buffet was quite good. Maybe not as good as I remember Holland America being, but good enough to keep me happy. Jane and I ate breakfast there everyday while Carolyn usually slept in. They had a Mongolian Grill there at lunch, at least the last couple of day. Since Jane and I are big fans of that, we did wait in the long long line Sat. afternoon to get our fill. It was very good. A little known about area above the Lido buffet is the Rotissieri. It was very good, too. We did have lunch there one day. This picture was taken from up there looking down on the dessert bar of the Lido buffet.

Speaking of desserts, here's just one of the many choices off the dinner menu. I found the mahi mahi fish to be quite good as well as many of the desserts. I did think the chocolate lava cake that they're so famous for was a bit too sweet and gooey for me, but this raisin rum cake was great.

Another of the ships dancers and singers performances. Seemed like there were fewer variety shows on this ship then most of the other lines. Other than the comedian, I believe all the entertainment was put on by the ships performers. Their last real performance, Vroom, was really good. They also performed with kareoki contestants who won their try-outs as different singers such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Elton John, Brittney Spears, ... . That show was somewhat entertaining, but the kareoki talent wasn't nearly as good as I've seen on most of the other ships.

During one of the shows I remember seeing a laser show, but now I don't remember which one it was. I do like laser shows, though.

After our days of running around, it was nice going back to our room. It was quite large for a cruise ship cabin! Even with 3 of us in one cabin we had plenty of room. There was no tub, but the shower was configured in such a way as to seem pretty roomy. The desk was very long with a safe and a fridge built into it, as well as 4 or 5 drawers. The closet was large and had plenty of hangers for what little we brought. There were also several shelves on one side of the closet for more clothes. There was a hair dryer as well as complimentary accesories like shavers, toothpaste and antacids. We did have to leave them a note to separate the 2 twin beds, but they got to it pretty quickly.

The 3rd bed was the couch with the back cushions taken off. I took the couch and found it to be quite comfortable. There were even drawers under the bed which we didn't use.

After 3 days of cruising at about 21 knotts, we arrived into Puerto Vallarta on Wed. morning. We had decided ahead of time that we would take a cab to the Malecon (boardwalk area) not too far from the ship. So when we got off the ship we found a taxi (not hard to do) and told him we'd give him $8 to take us to the Malecon.

Our taxi dropped us off at the far end and we walked our way back slowly.

The waterfront was beautiful. We even waded in the water a bit.

The water was quite warm and inviting.

All along the Malecon were some pretty interesting sculptures. It was sort of like walking through a sculpture park with an ocean next to it. And it was free!

I'm not sure what most of the sculptures are, but they made for an interesting walk. We got to spend about 20 minutes in this area last time Carolyn and I were here when we were on a city tour. I looked forward to going back here and spending more time along the beach.

We also spent time on the other side of the road running along the beach. There were lots of tourist shops and restaurants all along the way. We even stopped into Hard Rock Cafe to get a cold drink and share a nacho before heading back down the Malecon. They even had really good live entertainment while we were there.
When we'ld gone far enough, we caught another taxi back to Walmart across the street from the port. There we got a few things like bottles of soda, nose spray (getting ready for the head colds that plagued me the rest of Dec.), lip screen, post cards, ... . Note, they will take your American money but will only give you pecos back.

After going back into the secure area of for boarding the ship, I noticed an internet cafe. Since the price of the internet on the ships is ridiculous, I found the port internet cafes a great place to spend about 15 minutes. After firing an email home, we were heading back onto the ship. We boarded too late for dinner in the main diningroom, so settled for dinner in the Lido buffet.

Next morning we woke up in Mazatlan. Jane and I headed to breakfast, giving Carolyn a little more time to sleep. When we went back for her, she cancelled out on us. We had planned to go to Stone Island and spend the day on the beach with a pina colada or margharita or 2, but our plans ended up changing. Jane and I disembarked and planned to try and find the Gold Zone and get our free charms from Diamonds International, then come back and go to Stone Island. Instead, we were confronted with a city tour guide that offered us a tour for $20@ which we decided to take . It turned to be a really good tour. Much better then the bus load tour that Carolyn and I went on last year for twice as much.

It took us to many of the same places as the tour we took last year, but Jane wasn't with us last year so it was all new to her. At this lookout there were beautiful vistas of the ocean. We were able to get away from the vendors by hiking down this trail.

Being in an 8 person van for this tour, we were able to go places the bus couldn't, such as this area for a overlook of our ship.

We did the cliff diving thing again---we didn't dive, just watched.

We also went to a section of town the busses couldn't go to that they say is their "European" section because of the design.

Carolyn and I had gone to this church on our last tour, but this time it was nearer to Christmas and it and the surrounding area was decorated for Christmas. I loved this huge tree made out of bottles of colored water.

We were told about a huge flea market on the other side of the church so we were able to check it out quickly, too.

Since all was going well with the tour, the driver asked if we'd like to extend our tour and go to lunch. The 8 of us agreed and were taken to this restaurant in the Gold Zone. We were given a free drink (did get my pina colada and it was very good!). Jane and I also shared 2 appetisers.

Back at the ship the sun was beginning to set so I went up to the lido deck and caught a sunset before joining Jane and Carolyn in the diningroom.

Aside from the mahi mahi which I got 3 times, this was my other favorite meal---flank steak. The grouper fish dinner was good, too. On one night I had prime rib but it was cooked much more then I'd prefer.

Here are our waiters (Hector Lito and ?) entertaining us as we ate dessert. Is Carnival the only line that does this now?

Next morning we woke up in Cabo. Again Jane and I went to breakfast waiting for Carolyn to get up. After checking on her, she said for us to leave without her again. This was a tender port and a short stop (all aboard by 2). Jane and I wandered around the shops and she picked up more Christmas presants. We also hit Hard Rock Cafe for a free burger and a couple more drinks.  There's much more to Cabo then I realized from my last trip here.

As we tendered in, I marvelled at the beaches just past the town. If I get back to Cabo, I hope to spend some time on the beaches here.

This is a view of the town from the tender. Once you get back off the marina, the number of street venders declines significantly. I even found another little internet cafe along our way and was able to spend another 15 minutes on the net for $1.

As we left Cabo, we got to see the famous Arch.
After another day of sailing, we were back in Long Beach. There I parted ways with Carolyn and Jane. They flew home together out of Long Beach and I caught my shuttle back to LAX. There I was able to catch an earlier flight and get home a couple hours sooner. Thus ended another pretty great vacation.

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