Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico


As part of our recent cruise on the Ruby Princess ship to the Mexican Riviera, we visited three western areas in Mexico--Puerto Vallarta--click here to see that blog post--and Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Puerto Vallarta, but I believe each subsequent area we visited won our heart over even more.

Mazatlan has the nickname "Pearl of the Pacific" for good reason. It is a shoreline town lined by a seaside promenade, miles of beaches and picturesque islands and blue lagoons. Old Mazatlan, called the Centro Historico (Historic Center), is full of beautiful turn of the century buildings, cafes, markets, churches and shady plazas.

(All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

The Ruby Princess Cruise Ship was able to enter the port and allow for a quick and easy disembarkation close to a market area where we were able to join our optional bus tour excursion group that we had prearranged. Our tour guide was very personable and spoke English perfectly.

Our tour guide was very proud to show us one of the major resources of the Mazatlan, the Shrimp Market area. The local Shrimp Fleet is the largest in Mexico, as well as the commercial fishing fleet.  The Pacific shrimp that are harvested are known for their jumbo size and delicious, sweet taste.  

We were next able to get off the bus and visit the giant indoor Central Market, called the Mercado Pino Suarez. What an amazing place! There are aisles filled with fresh seafood, chickens, beef, pork, fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, cheeses, and other food staples. There are also numerous stalls that sell tourist items such as hats, t-shirts and souvenirs. Stairs lead to a balcony where small restaurants can be found that serve local cuisine.

Near the market is the beautiful Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

We went inside to see the beautiful interior. Our guide told us two interesting facts about the basilica. The very large chandelier that hangs from the ceiling above the altar is filled with thousands of lights and is only lit during very special occasions due to the expense of the electricity needed to light it. It can also be lit if a church member pays to have lighted for a wedding, etc. Our guide told us he paid to have it lit to celebrate a special anniversary mass said for his parents.  He also told us to notice the Jewish Star of David that is part of the stained glass windows.  His explanation was that at some point in time the basilica needed money for construction, and a Jewish donor gave a large donation. The windows contain the Star of David symbol as gratitude for the gift.

The Malecon (boardwalk) of Mazatlan is one of the longest in the world, at 13 miles (21 KM) long. 

Along the shoreline one can see picturesque cliffs, beaches, monuments, gazebos, buildings and hotels.

(Click on photo collage to enlarge)

Our tour also included a stop to watch a brave young cliff diver. Holding our breath we watched him climb a tower, pose and then dive off into the rocky water below. It was a relief to see him surface and swim to shore.  He works for tips, and a collection was taken up from the watching tourists. What a way to make a living!

My favorite part of Mazatlan was the historic Old Mazatlan--the Centro Historico. Here many old buildings have been restored, or are in the process of being restored into stores, restaurants, cafes, and residences.

The beautiful tropical weather allowed for a relaxing outdoor stroll of the area to enjoy the music and street performers and beautiful gardens that were filled with flowers.

Our tour bus drove by the highest natural lighthouse in the Americas--the El Faro Lighthouse. It is located at the peak of Cerro del Creston, at the southern end of the peninsular city of Mazatlan, Mexico.  It is also one of the highest operating lighthouses in the world.

 We stopped at a silver shop where we were given the opportunity to shop and then at the end of the tour we were returned to the market outside the port. The shops were open and the plaza was filled again with music and dancing. As we sailed away on the Ruby Princess from Mazatlan we enjoyed our final view of this pretty seaside city.

The last stop in Mexico on our cruise was Cabo San Lucas (Cape Saint Luke). It is a city located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur.  

Here, the harbor was too narrow for our cruise ship to enter, so we had to tender ashore on smaller ships.  Our visit to Cabo San Lucas was the shortest on the cruise, as it was to last until sail away at 4:00 PM that day.  We left the ship early to join an excursion we had pre-planned to cruise the shoreline.

Cabo San Lucas has been rated as one of Mexico's top five tourist destinations. It is known for its beaches, stunningly beautiful shoreline, resort hotels and timeshares along the coast between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, scuba diving locations and marine life.

We boarded our excursion ship and sailed along the Baja coastline, admiring the sapphire waters of the Sea of Cortez and the large weathered cliffs.

We passed the Playa Del Amor (Lover's Beach). Here you can see the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the Baja. Swimming on the Pacific side can be very rough due to the tides, so most tourists will swim on the Bahia de Cabo San Lucas side.

El Archo--the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, is at land's end and is a famous symbol of the area.

Here, the Pacific Ocean meets the Gulf of California--the Sea of Cortez.

I was thrilled to see and photograph it!

I also found the mountainous cliffs fascinating to see.  I imagined all the storms this area has seen over the millennia that have worn them down to jagged peaks.....

...and deep caves.

We sailed around to the opposite Pacific side of El Archo....

...and where we saw resort hotels on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.

An amusing sight we saw on our way back to the harbor was a fishing boat that had a seal hitchhiking a ride on its back.

The seal was obviously hoping someone on board would toss him a fish from the day's catch!

We really enjoyed our visit to Cabo San Lucas and all its surrounding beauty! We were fortunate that our room's balcony on the Ruby Princess faced the shoreline as we sailed away, so that we could relax on our lounge chairs and admire all we saw pass by.  Two days at sea and we were back in Los Angeles.

One of the fun activities we participated in on the sail back to Los Angeles was a cooking presentation by the executive chef of the Ruby Princess and the head Maitre D.'  It was followed by a walking tour of the ship's kitchens where we learned how food is prepared for the thousands of passengers and crew.

Back to port where disembarkation was smoothly and expeditiously handled. We arranged for an excursion bus to bring us to the airport and by the evening we were back in Denver. All in all it was a wonderful cruise! We enjoyed our first visit to Mexico and our first sail on a Princess ship and we look forward to our next cruise some time in the future.  It definitely was fun way to travel and sight-see.

To see more of this series check out these posts:

The Ruby Princess Cruise Ship

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican beach resort city situated on the Pacific Ocean's Bahia de Banderas in Jalisco State. It is known for its beaches, water sports, night life and diverse and friendly population.

(All photos in this post will enlarge, for easier viewing, if clicked on)

As our cruise ship, the Ruby Princess--see prior post-- approached Puerto Vallarta, the morning fog was just beginning to lift off the shoreline and Sierra Madre mountains in the distance. The weather was warm and comfortable in the high seventies to low eighties during our visit at the end of January.

Disembarkation from the Ruby Princess in the port was very easy and convenient.  My husband and I then boarded an optional excursion bus trip for the day to see some of the highlights of the city.

We stopped along the beautiful beach front, to view "El Malecon," which is a long promenade along the beach that is lined with numerous sculptures, restaurants, and boats, which can be rented for paragliding trips over the bay.

Our tour bus then traveled into the "El Centro," the old town center, which is divided by a densely foliage banked river. The streets here were paved with cobblestones, palm trees and large bougainvillea shrubs that were in a large array of luscious colors.

A statue of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

It was easy to see why Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor fell in love with Puerto Vallarta when Richard Burton was here on location to film a lead role in the 1964 movie, "The Night of the Iguana." The interesting tale of their love affair during this period, and the times they returned to spend in a house they bought in town, where they could live without the pressure of celebrity, can be read on this link.  

I loved the old town's picturesque flair, from its flowered balconies, colorful windows, ceramic plaque street signs and variety of silver, leather and ceramic craft shops.

On our tour we visited the very ornate  "Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe --- Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church.

Note the unusual wrought iron crown, hoisted by angels, on top of the steeple. It is said to resemble the crown worn by Empress Carlota of Mexico.

The interior of the church was beautiful -- please click on the photo collage to enlarge it. More about the history of the church can be read on this link.

As part of the tour we were driven up a steep hill into a lush jungle to the Don Tadeo Tequila Distillery, where the process of making tequila from the blue agave plant root was described to our tour group. We were given small samples of all the flavors to try and a chance to purchase what we liked.  We had a relaxing lunch in their restaurant patio afterward, where we were very entertained not only by the resident parrot, but also a number of tropical birds that flew around the canopy of palm trees above us.

I found it interesting to learn that Puerto Vallarta has become a popular retirement destination for both US and Canadian retirees. Rapid growth in tourist volume has also given rise to growth in condominium, hotel and rental apartment construction.  This growth has spilled over from the city limits to Nuevo Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit, and is becoming one of the fastest growing regions in the Americas.

In my next post I'll show you our visit to the next Mexican Riviera city of Mazatlan, Mexico an equally beautiful resort town where we saw cliff divers perform and visited an amazing indoor market.

To see more about the Ruby Princess Cruise Ship see this post.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Ruby Princess Cruise Ship

As promised, here are more highlights from our seven day cruise on the Ruby Princess Cruise Ship from Los Angeles, California to the Mexican Riviera, that my husband and I took last month.   This was only our second cruise, but I know it won't be our last, as we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Being on a large cruise ship with over 3,000 people is an experience in and of itself. The Ruby Princess had a variety of entertainment and activities and many different dining experiences to enjoy. There is also plenty of opportunity to just relax.  It is up to the passenger to decide how much, or how little you want to do while the ship is at sea.

(All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

My husband and I usually plan our vacations ourselves and do our own research. We are the "hyper" type that get up early and get on the road and push ourselves to do and see as much as possible where ever we go. Going on a cruise is much more relaxed, and was a welcome break for us in that we felt very little pressure. 

We loved walking around the ship to get exercise, and to discover all the amenities. The 1,200 member crew was very helpful and pleasant. Our fellow passengers ranged in age, but were predominantly middle aged to retired, and the very young and the very elderly were also accommodated well. 

A good resource to check out for information about all the Ruby Princess, as well as other ships, is Cruise Critic.  This website is full of great tips and reviews of almost every cruise line and will help you chose what is right for you.

My husband and I chose the "anytime" dining option that the Ruby Princess offers, where we could dine in two of the three main dining rooms at any time during dinner hour and also sit at a table for two if we desired, instead of dining at a larger table with others. We had many a pleasant conversation with other nearby dinners, while at our table for two when we desired or could just concentrate on each other. 

There was also buffet dining available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and casual cafes and specialty restaurant venues that required a cover charge or extra fee.

There were many bars and lounges on the ship where one could sit and talk quietly, or enjoy a game show hosted by the Cruise Director with passenger volunteers.

The Gatsby Casino on board functions while the ship is at sea. We heard someone won a $3,000 jackpot one evening!

There were also four boutiques, which had varied merchandise from toiletries and souvenirs to jewelry, perfumes and clothing. 

The Ruby Princess theater has 800 seats and put on Broadway style shows every evening. The Ruby Princess also does "The Voice of the Ocean," on the last night of the cruise, their own version of  the popular NBC show The Voice. It features passengers who are picked from karaoke competitions done earlier in the cruise.

One of my favorite places on the ship was the art gallery, where the collections were rotated to show different paintings each day. I enjoyed going to the art auction events on the ship, as the auctioneer was very knowledgeable and described the painter's backgrounds. their painting techniques and gave interesting descriptions of each painting being auctioned.

There was such a beautiful array of artwork to marvel at!

We enjoyed many very delicious meals....

...and enjoyed all of the entertainment.

Of course the highlight of the cruise was the three different ports we anchored at in Western Mexico, and the land excursions we went on in each location--more about them in my next post.

So yes, we will cruise again in the future and enjoy the fun again! We may not go on 149 Princess cruises, like the couple who were the first to pour in the champagne fountain with the ship's captain, but we will definitely sail on a Princess ship again!

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