Miracle on the Mexican Riviera, May 16-23
Saturday, May 23, Day 8: Long Beach
I didn’t take any notes for disembarkation day but we got up around 6:30-7:00, showered, dressed, and went to the Lido for a quick breakfast. We then did our final packing and brought our bags to the dining room to await priority disembarkation, as part of FTTF (“Faster to the Fun”). FTTF normally costs $60 per party but it was included as part of our booking through Rich’s employer.
We were off the ship by about 8:00 a.m., made our way through customs, and on to the parking garage where we retrieved our Jeep. We stopped in Baldwin Park for gas and Barstow for a quick bite of lunch and were home around 1:00. It took normal than longer because we got caught in the “L.A. to Vegas” weekend traffic, especially on a holiday weekend. We normally are travelling the opposite direction on our SoCal weekends and it didn’t occur to us, we’d be getting in that dreaded traffic returning home from the cruise.
We really needed this cruise and a whole week away from everything. We were so excited by the cruise that we had booked a second one on Princess. And while we had a big blast of fun, one cruise a year is probably enough for us. We’ve cancelled that Princess cruise and are focusing on our summer trips to SoCal and fun around our new backyard hot tub. But when we cruise again, we’ll probably return to Princess.
Here are some of the highlights:
- The steak, Caesar salad with anchovies, Tuna Tartare at Nick & Nora’s Steakhouse
- Small bites at Taste
- Huevos Rancheros, Mac n Cheese with Fried Chicken, and Coffee Cake and Coffee-flavored muffins at Sea Day Brunch
- Olives, meat, cheese in salad bar
- Soft serve ice cream at Swirls
- Butter Pecan ice cream in the dining room (to die for!!!)
- Burgers and hot dogs from the Grill out by the pool
- Baked potatoes in buffet and dining room
- Cocktails and snacks at Alchemy Bar
- Antar from Nick & Nora’s Steakhouse
- Nenad – Dining room head waiter
- Returning to PV after 34 years and Rich’s first
- Las Caletas – wild boat ride, relaxing on the beach
- Swimming in Cabo
- Dining poolside onboard ship
- Falling asleep to the motion of the ocean
- Watching the ocean from our stateroom balcony
- Nadi, room steward
- French fries from the Grill
- Cookies from Horatio’s buffet
Less than Best
- Pizza – we’d raved about this previously – couldn’t get enough of it – but this stuff was terrible. Tasty cheese but way too thin and floppy
- Danish – like day old store bought – terrible!
- Our one meal in the Main Dining Room (shrimp was limp)
- Baked potato and creamed spinach in Nick & Nora’s Steakhouse
- Every breakfast except Sea Day Brunch
- Desserts (except ice cream and cookies)
- Fellow passengers (the late night/late morning party hearty crowd was on board this cruise, far more than our 3- and 4-night cruises, which surprised us)
Friday, May 22, Day 7: Day at Sea
This morning it was cold and windy and we set our clocks back to Pacific Daylight Savings Time. Too cold to be outside, the passengers were inside the ship and every place was crowded. This is the problem with West Coast cruises – you can lose a couple of days of pool time getting to/from warmer climates. I’ve had warmer cruises in May but this seems to be a cooler year.
Coffee and continental breakfast arrived at 7:30 a.m. but it was too cold/windy to sit out on the balcony. Bummer! Who wants to eat breakfast inside the cabin? But we ate our breakfast anyway and started packing at around 9 a.m. There were a lot of things we wanted to catch on our last night of the cruise so it was good to get the packing out of the way.
At 10:00 a.m. we headed for the Main Dining Room for brunch at sea. This time we were seated in a low-ceiling area near the window. We preferred the more open space on our previous brunch. After we ordered, we heard a drum banging, banging, banging. So, of course, the woman with the little boy banging on a small drum were seated next to us. :)
We had our waiter track down the bar server and ordered two Bloody Marys.
BLOODY MARY BAR
Have the bartender whip you up a unique creation or create your own special drink from the menu items below. And who says you have to stick with vodka? Try it with rum, gin, or tequila for a “Bloody María.”
Garnishes: sea salt – black pepper – horseradish – lemon – lime – celery – olives – pepperoncinis – worcestershire sauce – tabasco sauce® – tabasco (jalapeño, chipotle & habanero) – cholula hot sauce (red, orange, green), melinda’s habanero xxxtra hot sauce – valentina hot sauce.
Available table side, or walk up to our fully-appointed bar. Regular bar prices apply.
But, thankfully, she was a thoughtful parent and she took the drum away from him and had him sit on the other side of her so he wouldn’t disturb us. We heard a European accent so we weren’t surprised that a European might be more thoughtful than some American parents.
Rich ordered the Flamin’ Tomato Soup and the Mac n Cheese with Fried Chicken.
Flamin’ tomatoes soup: Grilled tomatoes, puréed into a smooth soup that’s smoky, rich and bold.
Mac n’ cheese: The only thing cheesier than the jokes on this menu is our mac n’ cheese. And it’s up to you to tell us what you want mixed in: fried chicken, steak or applewood-smoked bacon.
Flaming Tomato Soup
Mac n Cheese with Fried Chicken
I ordered the fruit plate and Huevos Rancheros.
Fresh fruit platter with cottage cheese (or plain): You have to be healthy sometimes. Maybe today’s that day.
Huevos rancheros: Delicious chicken quesadilla, topped with fried eggs, manchego cheese, and mucho más Mexican flavors and other words you wouldn’t understand.
Lame Fruit Plate
Out of the bread basket, Rich chose some kind of yellow cake thingie and I tried a muffin. I bit into it and OMG – it tasted like coffee and was simply amazing!! I grabbed another one but by the time I thought to take a photo, it was almost gone. :)
The Huevos Rancheros, not something I’m usually drawn to, were awesome! Rich took a bite and said that if there had been one more brunch at sea, he’d have ordered these.
After brunch we toured the ship, took some photos, checked out the Alchemy Bar for later and stopped in at the library, hoping to find a book to read on the last day. I’d expected one of the shops to sell books but the only books were Dr. Seuss books – not exactly what I was looking for. I found a Nora Roberts book and we checked out the Bar Menu and tried out some of the seating in the Alchemy Bar.
Alchemy Bar Menu
Rich relaxing in the Alchemy Bar
We then made our way past the Atrium and on to the cabin to relax. The ship was very crowded.
Crowded Atrium Bar
We relaxed and read in the room until about 5 p.m. We got dressed and made our way to the Alchemy Bar. This is one of the new Carnival 2.0 enhancements and we’d admired it throughout the cruise. It’s designed with a modern, cool vibe – unlike the older Joe Farcus aspects of some rooms. The Alchemy Bar was often empty when we walked through it so we were happy to see other people hanging out there. We learned this was a popular place to have a drink before the Early Seating in the Main Dining Room.
We found a small table for two and perused the menu. Rich ordered the “Fiery Tropical Passion Martini” and I, of course, ordered the “40 is the New 20.”
FORTY IS THE NEW TWENTY
A martini tastefully prepared for the young…and the young at heart.
Pama Pomegranate Liqueur, Grey Goose Vodka, cranberry juice and citrus.
FIERY TROPICAL PASSION MARTINI
Feed your fever with this feisty dose of Patrón Silver Tequila,
Patrón Citrónge, spicy mango purée and fresh citrus.
Our server delivered our drinks with a tray of olives, almonds, and cheese – so delicious, we’ve tried re-creating this at home.
A woman came up to us and asked me if my drink was a Cosmo. I told her it was “40 is the new 20″ and that totally confused her. She walked up to the bar and asked, “What’s she drinking?” The bartender said, “40 is the new 20.” Still confused, she said, “I’ll have a Cosmo.” She did not get the cool snack tray that we did. :)
We sipped and snacked and watched people thundering by as they proceeded to the dining room. And this is where we made our big mistake. We should have gone to the dining room, gotten our beeper, and then ordered a drink. Because by the time everybody thundered past us, there were a lot of people ahead of us. We were given a beeper with an estimated wait time of 30 minutes.
Around 7 p.m. we were seated in a booth for 4 that we had all to ourselves. We were still underneath the low ceiling on the opposite of the ship by the ocean view windows. Our main server was excellent. The menu was not so excellent. We’ve had better food in the dining room on the Paradise, but it’s always hit and miss. But this is where we know that Carnival is not here to please us – we are not their customer. The food is more like Long John Silver’s than a real restaurant dinner.
Rich ordered Navy Bean Soup for his starter and Mahi Mahi for his entree.
Navy Bean Soup
I ordered a Crab Cake for my starter and Panko Fried Shrimp for my entree with a baked potato. For some reason, they also threw some fries on my plate, too. I did not eat them.
The baked potato, again, was better than the potato in Nick & Nora’s. The Crab Cake was pretty good with some kind of slaw for brightness. The Shrimp was ridiculous and I couldn’t eat it.
Rich said his meal was okay.
And then, for the first time on Carnival, we had a most amazing dessert! Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Oh my goodness! They must make this themselves. It was simply awesome!!! So awesome Rich’s plate was empty before I got out the camera. I think I caught a bite or two of mine on camera.
Rich’s ice cream bowl
What’s a dessert picture without decaf – lol!
We also drank some decaf. This was the first night we’d made it to the Main Dining Room for dinner because, frankly, the menus didn’t look good all week. And it wasn’t that good – not worth sitting there for an hour or two. But the ice cream totally made this night worth it.
After dinner, we headed for the showroom – we hadn’t made it to the showroom all week but we weren’t exactly interested in the new “Playlist Productions” shows that were part of Carnival 2.0. Before this cruise, we actually thought Carnival had some of the best shows at sea. No longer. These aren’t shows. They have a couple of performers lip-synching to some bad music videos. I’d rather get on the stage and do that myself. :)
The music was deafening loud and I was getting a headache so we headed back to our stateroom for one last turndown and bring rocked to sleep at night.
Our last turndown….
Tonight’s towel animal was a heart… Ah…..
Thursday, May 21, Day 6: Cabo
We had coffee and a continental breakfast delivered to our stateroom sometime after six a.m. We showered and dressed and arrived in the theatre to await our escort to the tenders at 7:15 a.m. We tendered and waited on the port dock until 8 a.m. when our excursion guide appeared. We noticed there were more military present on the dock, complete with drug-sniffing dogs.
We were divided up into minivan taxis, which then drove us through town and on to Casa Dorado Beach Resort. Our tour guide gave us a tour of the resort grounds and each family given a key to a suite to relax in. We located a couple of chaises by the pool, thinking we’d go down to the beach when it warmed up. We splashed around a bit in the pool but it was a bit chilly. We decided the beach was where we wanted to be and we wanted to snag a couple of chaises before they were all gone.
Casa Dorada pool
Casa Dorada Beach, Cabo San Lucas
Cabo is like desert on an ocean – cooler and dryer than PV. But it was very nice out and we enjoyed swimming in the ocean tremendously – it was a blast!! We saw a yacht that we later learned belonged to Tiger Woods. I mean, really? Is he following us? First, he lives in Windermere, FL when we do and now he shows up in Cabo? lol!
Mexican beaches are open to the public and I recalled vendors hawking their wares in front of my resort when I stayed in PV years ago. I’d warned Rich about them, but he decided it was working in his favor – the shopping came to him instead of having to track it down. The vendors were far more diverse in Cabo than back in the day in PV when it seemed they were only selling watches. So Rich found a Cabo t-shirt he liked, showed it to me in the water, and I gave him the thumbs up. :)
We then rinsed and dried off to put our street clothes back on for lunch. A buffet Mexican lunch in the resort restaurant was included and we ate inside. It was just okay – not particularly fun. In fact, Mexican woman seemed to be conducting job interviews or meetings or something all around us – not exactly a touristy vibe. I kinda wished we were eating at the little shack right there on the beach.
We tried an assortment of food, such as fish, beef, rice, guacamole, and a couple of frozen margaritas. We took another dip in the pool and then relaxed in the chaise as we dried off until time to meet our group for the taxi ride back to the port to catch a tender back to the ship.
Once onboard the ship, we stopped by Swirls and made ourselves a couple of ice cream cones. Then we went back to our cabin for a rest and a nap at about 1 p.m. We were by 3:30 p.m. for the sailaway from our balcony.
At 5 p.m. we decided we’d check out Karaoke. For one thing, it seemed to be the only entertainment that early. We’d missed shows and the piano bars because everything started too late for us. We’re early birds now. We found a couple of seats in the theatre and Rich noticed a couple in front of us drinking a scotch for him and champagne for her so he ordered the same for us. The Karaoke was more endurable with a drink in hand. :)
Some of the participants were very good but this one woman was unbelievably horrid! And she kept getting up there singing off key with a stupid grin on her face. Wonder how much she’d had to drink? My vocal coach says karaoke is for amateurs – if you’re serious about singing, don’t do karaoke.
After we finished our drinks, we returned to our cabin to get dressed for the second “Elegant” night. Without any dining ressies, we’d have to face some sort of wait, for sure, but we weren’t quite prepared for 30 minutes. We weren’t in the mood for that (we’re not big fans of the Main Dining Room on cruise ships anyway, so we headed to “Good Eats” for a steak and baked potato, etc., and the potato was actually better than at Nick & Nora’s. We skipped dessert – really not good at all on Carnival.
We tried walking the promenade after dinner but it was cold and windy (52 mph) and we were traveling 21 knots – guess we had to haul out of there to get to Long Beach on time.
We watched the second night of the Bachelorette and then Jimmy Kimmel’s take on it on his show with guest George Clooney. We’re really enjoying having access to real TV onboard ship.
It had been a long day and we’d had a blast in Cabo but we were tired and the ship rocked us to sleep for another night. Ah……
Wednesday, May 20, Day 5: Puerto Vallarta Sailaway
We didn’t sleep well the night before. Between two margaritas and a half glass of wine, the ship not moving, but the rhythm of the party boat rocking in our heads instead, we just didn’t sleep well. And, well, tequila always wipes us out.
We ordered coffee but after waiting for half an hour, we wanted to go up to the Lido deck because we needed coffee pronto! We called room service to cancel it but they said it was on its way. We waited a bit more and then said, the heck with this! We changed into our swim suits and threw on some shorts and headed for the Lido deck.
We found the coffee and put together some breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon for Rich, sausage for me and some banana bread that was quite delicious. We ate our breakfast and checked out the Serenity deck. We figured with being in port until 3 p.m. the hordes would be off the ship. The Serenity area was quiet but very hot. The pool looked green and after what we saw happening in that pool before, we decided we’d return to the main pool.
We swam, talked with a friendly kid we called Glen (he reminded us of the kid on “Mad Men,” soaked in the hot tub and chatted with a woman from Pomona where my grandmother had lived when I was a teen. She was originally from Baldwin Park and I mentioned that’s the first place I lived after I was born.
Originally, we’d talked about walking to one of the resorts and hanging out by their pool. It was supposed to just be a ten-minute walk away but we were tired from last night and didn’t want to risk the streets of PV by ourselves.
When we’d had enough sun, we sat in some chairs in the shade near the ocean and an open window and enjoyed the breeze and drank some ice tea. When it was time for some lunch, Rich got us some hot dogs and fries from the grill. He refilled his ice tea and brought an ice water for me.
Around 11:45, we walked the deck and at noon, we returned to our stateroom for a nap. At 3 p.m. the ship began to sailaway from PV and we waved good-bye from our balcony and enjoyed the views of the ocean.
Lovely view from our balcony
We showered and dressed at 5 p.m. and headed for the Red Frog Pub or is it the Thirsty Frog Pub and had a couple of their signature beers, the Thirsty Frog Red or is it the Red Frog Ale (I can’t seem to get this straight.) Anyway, it was quite tasty and Rich proclaims is just as good as the Red Rocket Ale from Big River Grille on the Boardwalk at WDW.
The official name of the beer
The Red Frog Pub
Thirsty Frog Red
The Tiki Bar in the Red Frog Pub
Rich enjoying his Thirsty Frog Red
As tired as we were, we decided we’d stop by the Deli and get some sandwiches for dinner in our stateroom and watch the Survivor Finale, which started at 6 p.m. ship time because we were on Miami time. So at 7 p.m., Rich snuck out and brought back a Pastrami on rye for me and a Reuben for him. My notes also mention pumpkin cake and Tiramisu and milk but I don’t remember if he brought those back or we ordered them from room service. I suspect the former because I think after we ditched the room service coffee that morning, we decided we wouldn’t order from room service again.
With the ship rocking us to sleep once again, we slept well, which was a good thing since we would have to meet in the theatre for our Cabo excursion the next morning at 7:15 a.m.
Tuesday, May 19, Day 4: Las Caletas
Puerto Vallarta (PV) is such a fascinating port, it’s hard to choose what experiences to plan. Since our ship was going to be docked overnight, we realized this would be a rare opportunity to experience a nighttime excursion, Rhythms of the Night at Las Caletas.
Our excursion started at 4:00 pm with a raucous 45-minute boat ride across Banderas Bay to Las Caletas, film director John Huston’s PV getaway, accessible only by boat. A complementary Margarita made the trip more enjoyable.
Sailing into Las Caletas
After a precarious adventure getting from the boat to the dock, we walked up the pathway past a waterfall and the sign for Las Caletas.
Welcome to Las Caletas
Costume characters from the show were all along the pathway.
We were led up a long, steep path to the John Huston Hut where we chose a table for two under the palapa. Before sitting down, we generously sprayed ourselves with BullFrog Mosquito Coast combination sunscreen and mosquito repellent we had brought with us. We were told beforehand to be sure to use this as we were definitely in a jungle filled with hungry bugs. The fun part of the jungle was hearing the birds chatter at us as we ate.
It’s a Jungle Out There
We were high at the top of a hill looking down at the water below in a nicely shaded area not too far from the buffet line. After we were seated, a server came by and offered us wine. We chose a glass of red. We were sitting so close to the buffet, we were actually the first in line for the food.
Looking into the Dining Hut (Our table is just inside the hut)
The food was very tasty. The highlights of the meal were the steak, cheese ravioli, stuffed potatoes, macaroni salad, chips with guacamole, and the tortillas. This is when the drunk walked by and slurred, “Are you going to eat all that?”
We ignored him. This is not the way we experience Hawaii. But what we did next was much more like it.
A Tasty Meal
When we were finished eating, we were eager to explore the beach and the water. On the way up the path earlier, we spied some chairs overlooking the water. We asked our tour guide where we could find chairs on the beach, and he led us to the perfect spot.
Relaxing on the Beach
We settled down in waterfront chairs under an umbrella on the beach, and we didn’t want to leave — ever. The view of the beach, the water, and the boats was mesmerizing.
View from the Beach
Eventually, Kathy had to explore the other side of the rocks and dip her feet in the water. She soon returned so we could enjoy our romantic spot at the water’s edge.
Kathy in the Water
Eventually, we saw another boat approaching the dock bringing in a load of non-cruise tourists to see the show. We decided to get ahead of the crowd and headed up the path again in the direction of the theater. After getting in line for the theater and each receiving a cold bottle of water, we waited for everyone to get photos taken with two of the costumed characters.
After our photo op, we were led to the front row for an ideal view of the show. The show was entertaining. It started with a rather goofy master of ceremonies, but once the dancing show started, it got better. There was lots of great dancing, acrobatics, and music. The highlights for us were all of the fire dancers, including one that sent sparks flying everywhere, and the violinist playing while flying overhead on a wire.
The show lasted about an hour, and then we headed down the tiki-torch lit path back to our boat and back to the ship. The ride back was wild and exciting in the dark. Kathy had another Margarita, and I tried a Rum Punch.
We were back on board the ship at 10:00 pm where we found our way to our cabin, ordered cookies and milk, and settled into bed, although it was a little difficult to sleep since the ship was docked in port and not rocking us gently to sleep as the ship sailed.
Tuesday, May 19, Day 4: Puerto Vallarta
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and felt excitement in the air so I stepped out on the balcony and was hit with the first wave of tropical humidity. Ahhh… We were getting closer to Puerto Vallarta and I had to sit out on that balcony. I think Rich was surprised when I then woke him up around 6:40 a.m. :)
I was overcome with emotion and began to tear up. This surprised me. Where was this coming from? Was it connecting with my younger self because the last time I’d been in PV was 34 years ago? Or was it connecting with tropical environs, reminding us of our life in Florida? Perhaps both.
But whatever was driving the emotion, lyrics to a song just came to me and I wrote them down. Perhaps, one day, I’ll write a melody for it. But writing today’s report, I’m just so excited and never anticipated this level of excitement over PV. Yes, I wanted Rich to experience it but I hadn’t realized how much PV meant to me.
We threw on some comfy clothes and headed for deck 9 where they were serving continental breakfast on the Lido. We grabbed a quick bite and then walked the Promenade on Deck 3, watching the dolphins swimming alongside the ship, leading us to PV.
Then we headed back to the Lido for a hot breakfast and sat out by the pool. We then refilled our coffee cups and brought them back to our cabin and enjoyed our coffee out on our balcony. We wouldn’t arrive in PV until noon and iour excursion wasn’t until 4 p.m. so we returned to our cabin and took a nap. When we arrived in PV, we went up to the top deck and took some photos.
Dolphin splashes in the Pacific outside Puerto Vallarta
So excited to be heading for PV
Our first sighting – such tall buildings – my how PV has grown!
A military boat greets us (we would notice a military presence at both docks at both ports)
Captain positions us in the Port of Puerto Vallarta (this is all new)
Docked in PV – the port side
All new since my last visit
Once docked, people began leaving the ship but we headed for lunch from the poolside grill. We ate our usual burgers and fries with ice tea and then returned to our cabin for an afternoon nap.
At 3:00 we showered and got ready for our evening excursion to Las Caletas, the private hideaway that film director John Huston owned. This was the reason we’d chosen the overnight in PV itinerary – the only way you can enjoy this evening excursion by cruise ship. But because of the recent drug-related violence that has made its way to PV, sadly, the captain informed us that we had to return to the ship by 9:00 p.m. because the gangway would be lifted at 9:30 p.m. (or when the last excursion returned) until the next morning as a precaution.
At 4:00 p.m, we took the elevator down to deck 1 and chatted with a couple in the elevator. They had family in PV and were going to spend the night with them. The last time he’d been to PV was 2 years ago but before that, it had been 35 years!
We made our way to the meeting place on the pier while we waited for everybody to gather. Then our leader took us to the catamaran that would take us to Las Caletas, only accessible by boat. And then the party began and oh boy, do Mexicans know how to party!!
The Miracle docked in the port of Puerto Vallarta with the party boat in the foreground
That 45-minute trip to Las Caletas was a wild one, indeed! We traveled so fast, it felt like we left the water a few times with the sides splashing as we smacked back down. There was loud dance music and an open bar and our fellow passengers were downing them as fast as they could. Rich and I found a seat in the back with a backrest, thank goodness, because most seats were benches and I didn’t think my back would survive that.
We each took a margarita (I’d learned my lesson 34 years ago about losing count of the number of margaritas I consumed in PV – lol!). Besides, there was dinner and the trip back – gotta pace yourself. But the guy who’d sat down next to me was clearly drunk. He leaned over and slurred, “Are you two drunkards?” He kept asking that. We laughed (nervously) and tried to ignore him. Then he tried to carry on a real conversation but he was too wasted. He kept repeating, “I’ve heard great things about this place.”
Unfortunately, we would run into him again on the island and then again when we reboarded the Miracle that night. By then, he had sobered up and ignored us. Ha! This always happens on cruises. People make fools of themselves or tell you their secrets (one incident made its way into Real Women Wear Red) and then, embarrassed, ignore you the rest of the cruise. I love it!
Rich offered to switch places with me but the couple next to him wasn’t much better, downing beers as fast as they could be served. At least they didn’t get stupid drunk. I enjoy a drink or two but I really don’t like to be around drunk people!
It was quite the wild ride, and the captain and servers were partying as much as everybody else (okay, hopefully, no drinking but I couldn’t be sure of that) there were times I worried we weren’t going to make it. The captain was flirting with a woman standing next to him and when the boat got really wild, she’d grab onto his chair. I didn’t know what to expect. There were a few prayers being lifted that night. I asked the stupid drunk guy if we were going to be okay, and he reassured me with, “Of course!” Ha!
But we did arrive safely, although the ride back was even wilder in the dark. The music was louder, the dancing was wilder, and the drinking was harder. More prayers were lifted – lol!
Back to Las Caletas – once we landed on the island, we were then led to where we’d be having dinner and Rich will write about that next.