1. Mexican Riviera Cruise 20114/15/11: Holy cow! We dined at Harry Caray’s in Rosemontat the Holiday Inn & Suites where we stayed overnight totake advantage of the free airport parking and 4:30amshuttle to O’Hare for our 6:45am flight to St. Louis.
2. 4/16/11: We caught our 9:30am flight from St. Louis to L.A., landing at 11:35am where wewere met by Princess Cruise reps to take us to San Pedro harbor, a 35 minute drive. Weimmediately boarded the Sapphire at 1:00pm and found our stateroom which is locatedbehind the bridge and on the Lido deck by the food, 2 (of 8) swimming pools, fresh air andsun. Our room was exactly as expected, but also included a happy birthday welcome posterfor Carol who will be 52 tomorrow.
3. We enjoyed thedancing waters and the view of L.A. from the ship’s starboard sidebefore departure which was delayed by 45 minutes. Apparently there was some confusion about whether or not a crew member was assigned to the ship andaccounted for according to Bridge communications. Weoverheard the Captain’s exchange and displeasure while listening to apassengers radio which was tuned to the Bridge.
4. We had to walk down (and back up) 7 flights of stairs for the mandatory evacuation drill. For a ship with a passenger capacity of 2,670 and a crew of1,100, it looks pretty deserted in the central atrium. Notice the maritime heritage depicted in the Art Nouveau glass and brass designs in the elevator artwork.
5. We stood here, above the bridge, at embarkation.
6. This entry from the outside brought us near the spa/fitness center (which we never used but probably should have!). In addition to the art for sale in the art gallery, the ship is bountiful with displayed art, from statues to prints and other interesting Inside pieces. the Western- themed Club Fusion
7. Wheelhouse Bar Club Fusion Grand casino Hearts andart gallery Minds ice cream shop chapel Calypso Reef and pool w/retractable roof
8. Sunset over Santa Catalina IslandLos Brillantes Princess singers and dancers
9. 4/17/11: What a way to celebrate abirthday – a cruise, food, new jewelry, gambling, dancing…so much fun! Breakfast Jim and I learned several in the dances, including a few line Horizon dances and the merengue, Court salsa and cha-cha. Buffet
10. Captains Welcome Dinner on our second night -- also the firstformal night of the trip. Princesss Love Boat Dream How nice to receive a birthday cupcake and the birthday song sung by the waiters and fellow dinner companions!
11. Dancing with Pinky at the late night Rock & Roll party At the Captain’s Champagne Waterfall Party guests enjoyed complimentary Champagne,Mimosas and OJ and music by the band Elements.Cruise Director Tim Captain Nick Nash
12. 4/18/11: Good morning!Ahhhh…relaxation…the goal of this trip.
13. We saw a huge pod of dolphins swim by the ship – at least a hundred of them. In 5 minutes the awesome spectacle was over!
14. A fun dayof games,swimming andafternoon tea!
15. We had many interesting conversations withour new friends from Phoenix -- Mike (aretired Navy Seal and Chief Petty Officer)and his wife Elizabeth (also a vet).
16. We had to set our clocks back one hour so we were able to dance at the disco,Skywalkers, untilthe wee hours of the morning! A couple of women fromCalifornia whomwe met at "tea" earlier today bought Carol a Margarita because theywere impressedwith her moves!
17. 4/19/11 – Arriving at sunrise at our first port of call – Puerta Vallarta.
18. As we arrived we saw a U.S. Coast Guard ship, 2 “pirate” ships, a bull-fighting arena, a Walmart and a Sam’s Club!
19. We were invited to pet andfeed a rescued burro! Hewas so soft and he keptwagging his little tail. Hefelt like a live, large stuffedanimal.
21. Very recently, colder weatherand colder water temps haveforced Pacific Ocean sea snakesto look for warmth in shallowwaters and on sandy beachesalong the coast. They arevenomous to humans and willbite if threatened. Good thingwe didn’t poke it with a stick!
22. The Malecon, the boardwalk along the Bay of Banderas, led us past artists, statues, shops and restaurants.
24. romance on thebeach in insculpture form
25. 9 ft. bronze seahorse sitting in one of the whimsicalhigh backed chairs of “La Rotunda del Mar”
26. “In Search of Reason”features a tall ladder beingclimbed by 2 children (and Jim), reaching down to a mother figure below.
27. These performers did this all afternoon...climb to the top,wrap a rope around themselves which is wound to the centerspindle, then spin hanging upside down as the rope unwindslowering them to the ground while the guy at the top bangs adrum. There must be some sort of cultural meaning behind it.
28. This guy balanced heavy boulders and smaller rocks on top of each other.Sometimes it would take several minutes to find the right balance.
29. Los Arcos
30. Cobbled streets with the familiar sites ofMcDonald’s and Hard Rock Café
31. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, you canvery easily relax here.
32. The jungle-clad Sierra Madremountains serve as a backdrop toPuerto Vallarta, the second-most- visited resort in Mexico. Itattracts almost 3 million visitors a year and has a permanent population of over 250,000. It started as a quaint fishing community (the Cuale River is above), but caught attention during the filming of “Night of the Iguana” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
33. TheCathedral ofOur Lady ofGuadalupe
34. The 3 mile taxi ride from downtown back to the ship was $6 each. The driver originally asked for $20. The Mexican army was guarding the port. Our ship is reflected in the window.
35. We sailed away from Puerta Vallarta at 5pm bound for Cabo San Lucas.We can’t believe the trip is half over! No sickness, greatweather, and quality time enjoying each other and theship’s amenities and entertainment, including guitarist-comedian Steve Moris, a long-time Beach Boys opener.
36. $20 entry per round. Each player is given the same bankroll. 7 handsare played in a round. Jim started in the first round. The top 5 earnersget listed on the board. Jim made it! Players from the next rounds compete to get on the board, eliminating those already on. Jimplayed only one round and had high enough earnings to stay listed andplay at the final table. It was a closegame until the end. That’s when Jim went all-in to build his earnings.Then, in the last hand, he went all-in again and got a blackjack! It was aspectacular ending to the game! He won $500. All of the playersreceived a Princess Players Club hat.
37. 4/20/11 – We won’t arrive in Cabo until noon,so there’s plenty of time to watch the sea andsoak up some sun.
38. Above: We spotted a pair of Orcas (killerwhales) off the coast of Baja Mexico!Right: There are flying fish down there!Later in the trip, while at port at Cabo SanLucas, Jim saw several bat stingrays swimby, but wasn’t able to get a picture.
39. The crew challenged passengers to a game of water volleyball. They offered many other activities throughout the cruise, but we were content to just sit and relax.
40. We’re approaching Cabo San Lucas,Mexico. Millennia ago, it was part of the Mexican mainland. Then a massive rupture of the San Andreas Fault sent the waters of the Pacific crashing into the newly formed depression, creating the Gulf of California and the Baja Peninsula.Cabo is now one of the premier resort destinations in the Western Hemisphere.
41. Our ship anchored very near El Arco, the majestic rock formation carved by the ocean currentsfound at the extreme southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula where the Pacific Oceanmeets the Sea of Cortez. Located at Land’s End, around the corner from Lover’s Beach, it is ahaven for sea lions and a popular tourist spot of Cabo San Lucas.
42. Those whodidnt have apermit to sell on theboardwalk sold through afenced parking lot. Cubancigars, carved whistles andsilver bracelets were popular.
43. Poncho is a well-fed sealion! The local merchantshave trained him to hop onback of their boats for their customers to feed him.
44. If we ever come back to Cabo, we would like to take thesunset cruise on the Buccaneer Queen pirate ship. This 96- foot tall ship has been featured in many commercials and feature films including Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis. The movie was filmed almost entirely onboard.
45. After enjoying another beautiful sunset, we chatted with the magicianJames Michael before his performance. It was hostedby the DeputyCruise DirectorColette. She’s the one who taught ballroom dance.
46. view from the bow4/21/11 - The Holland Oosterdam isnow in port with us. Yesterday’sCarnival ship is gone. The crew is conducting a rescue drill.
47. The ship left Cabo at 2pm to head back to L.A. Only one more day to relax.Tomorrow night we’ll have to pack and leaveour suitcase outfor the porter to take off ship.
48. Carol continued to havegood luck on the pennyslots. $148 and several hitsof over $50.
49. 4/22/11at sea all day art auction One of Carol’s favorite paintings.
50. Our waiters from Thailand, Manook and Danishi, and the Princess chefs and waiters inthe traditional Baked Alaska parade. That’s the head chef wearing the orange collar.
51. Whether it’s Spanish, Japanese or English or anyother, the language of music and fun is universalon a cruise ship.
52. The chefs are decorating the atrium for Easter. We were told the eggs are all chocolate.
53. 4/23/11 – arrival in L.A.’s breakwater at 6:20am.
56. Our Vacation Review: We chose this cruise for rest and relaxation and sun rather than for the ports. In fact, the itinerary was modified in advance with a port stop in Mazatlan canceled due to recent th incidents of violence. We also knew this was a Spring Break week for many. Although our 6 cruise, st st this was the 1 time we used a Hotel Park & Fly program; the 1 time we booked the pre/post travel st with a cruise line; and the 1 time we chose “guaranteed” stateroom rather than picking our own. st Everything worked out exceedingly well. Hotel Park & Fly was no waiting and very easy. Our 1 plane was delayed at O’Hare 40 minutes for crew rest, but the entire flight was the smoothest we’ve ever had. We made our connection in St. Louis with 30 minutes to spare. Timing is everything, though, as exactly one week later the St. Louis airport was shut down due to tornado damage! Princess reps met us at the airport and we were quickly shuttled to the cruise terminal and were immediately boarded. We were pleased to be upgraded to a stateroom on the Lido level where we spend a lot of time. Jim was never sick, though he did wear a preventative motion-sickness Transderm Scop patch. The Sapphire crew did a good job feeding, entertaining, transporting and accommodating its passengers. The ship was actually overbooked according to Colette, but we never felt crowded. There were plenty of planned activities, classes, demonstrations, and photo opportunities. The food and drink was good and plentiful and we enjoyed meeting and talking to our crew and fellow passengers. We had no complaints and our requests were promptly handled. The ports were fun to visit, the people there were friendly and hard- working and we never felt threatened or worried. We were hoping to spot whales and dolphins and did! Disembarkation was efficient and routine and the coach bus was waiting to return us to the airport.Goodbye Our flight home was bumpy, but we landed safely and called for the shuttle which was there in fivePrincess! driver took us directly to the parking garage and soon we were in our car headed home. minutes. The We had a wonderful time together and that’s the best kind of vacation.