We were up at our usual time. This time round, we had a excursion booked through Disney Cruise Line and headed straight to our meeting point, which was the Cadillac Lounge. We tend to avoid Disney Excursions as they are often overpriced and not very well organized. However, at Puerto Vallarta they offered an excursion that combined whale watching with snorkelling an sea kayaking at a national park. The price for this was fair as well so we decided to go for it.
This was the best organized excursion that I have ever been on. Soon after we got to the Cadillac Lounge, we were asked to pick up towels and then one person from each party was asked to come forward with the excursion tickets, all photo IDs and all Key to the World card. Each party was checked off the list and was given a character sticker. There were two people doing this so the job was done very quickly. There was one family missing so we waited for a couple of minutes, but then we were escorted down to deck 1.
This is where we had a real surprise. I had noticed big sliding doors in the tender lobbies before, but they were always closed. So I just assumed that they were leading to some crew only areas. That morning, the sliding doors were open and there were more x-ray machines and terminals to swipe the Key to the World cards. People who left the ship independently used one side and people on organized excursions used the other side. This sped up things quite considerably.
At the bottom of the gangway, we were met by a representative of the tour operator. He then escorted us the short distance to where our excursion boat was docked. This was quite a sizeable catamaran. The whole process from official meeting time to sitting on the boat had taken about 30 minutes.
There were two different excursions offered on the boat. Most people were on the snorkelling and sea kayaking option that we had booked, but there were also some people there for scuba diving. They had people from two cruise ships as well as some people that were staying in hotels and resorts around Puerto Vallarta. Once everybody was on board, one of the crew explained a bit about the schedule for the day and about the whales that we were hoping to see.
We were hoping to see Humpback Whales. We were told proudly that all the Humpback Whales in the Pacific are Mexicans as they were all born in Mexico. They migrate down to Mexico from Canada and Alaska every winter to breed and give birth. While they are down there, they do not eat as their main food source is not present in Mexico. The people on the boat had a real passion for the whales. They were not quite so keen on the Killer Whales that arrive in Mexico in February as they hunt the Humpback Whale calves.
I was very impressed how well organized and regulated whale watching is in Puerto Vallarta. One of the staff told us that operators offering whale watching tours have to be lisenced. Lisenced operators have a special flag that they fly and the coast guard does check for this. We did actually see a coast guard boat going after some smaller boats on the way back. We were also told that no boat is allowed to come closer than 200 yards to the whales, but the operator we were with is voluntarily staying about 300 yards away. I appreciated this even more when I saw how whale watching is handled in Cabo San Lucas. Our operator also had a spotting plane to look for whales and the pilot was in radio contact with our captain to tell him where the whales are.
We sailed past the Wonder and out to sea. As soon as we had cleared the port, the crew came round with orange juice, pastries and coffee. This was a nice surprise. We knew that we would get lunch on this trip, but breakfast had not been mentioned. While we were finishing breakfast, we saw the spotting plane overhead.
Shortly afterwards we saw our first whales. We saw a mother, her calf and their "body guard". We were told that mothers and calves were usually accompanied by a single male, who helped keeping them safe from predators. The males do that in the hope that they will be first in line for breeding with the female in the next season. The captain had put the boat in idle so we had plenty of opportunity to look at the whales. They also had a professional photographer on board, who took photos throughout the trip.
Once the whales had moved on, the captain put the engine back into gear and we continued our journey towards our destination, Marietas Islands. Marietas Islands are of volcanic origin and are a breeding ground for a large number of marine birds. One of those, the Blue-footed ****y, only nests there and on the Galapagos Islands. Access is restricted and the islands are protected.
As we continued our journey, they encouraged people to come forward and get their wetsuits. We had brought our own so we did not have to go through the hassle of finding one that fits. They also came around to give out snorkelling gear and life vests. I did not really have any intention to snorkel. My only previous attempt at this at Discovery Cove did not go particularly well. Still, they convinced me to take a snorkel and mask. I could not get any of the flippers to fit. I have a very high foot and the tops of the flippers hurt my feet. So I declined them.
Once we were all equipped, we got an introduction talk as a number of people on the boat had never snorkelled before. We got talked through how to put on the various pieces of equipment. We were also told what we were likely to see. This included stingrays, King Angels, Puffer Fish and a whole lot of other tropical fish. We were reassured that there would not be any sharks. We were told that they had evolved and were selling time share in downtown Puerto Vallarta.
With this talk over, we could see Marietas Islands in the distance. We sailed past them and found out a bit more about the islands and the species of birds that can be found there.
Then we dropped anchor a little way off shore. I had not bargained for that. I had assumed that we would go snorkelling off the beach. We got changed and put our snorkelling gear on and then proceeded to the back of the ship where steps led to two platforms that were just above the waterline. Graham was in straight away. I needed a bit longer to muster the courage to follow him. The water was very chilly, but with the wetsuit I was fine after the initial shock.
I managed to catch up with Graham, who had swam further away from the boat and we headed towards the group. Our guide was encouraging various fish closer to the surface so that the group could have a closer look. This was far too crowded for my taste so we swam away from the group.
I mentioned that I had one unsuccessful attempt at snorkelling where I had ended up swallowing quite a bit of water. I also have a bit of a phobia of putting my face in the water. I figured that if I had all the snorkelling gear, I might as well use it. It took me a few attempts to actually put my face into the water, but in the end my curiousity was stronger. I kept seeing some beautiful fish flitting by near the surface of the water and I wanted to have a closer look. They turned out to be King Angelfish and are truly beautiful.
Once I had overcome that fear, there was no stopping me. Initially, I would alternate short bursts of snorkelling with periods of coming up to breath without the snorkel. In the end, I would only come up to the surface every now and again to check if I was still going in the right direction. I saw all kinds of tropical fish including clown fish (Nemo), but also bigger fish like manta rays and a grouper.
Shortly afterwards, they were calling back people for the sea kayaking. We had been told before we got off the boat that we would have the choice of either participating in this or we could just carry on snorkelling. We decided to stay out there snorkelling. The people who had opted for the kayaking explored some of the caves and then headed to a beach, which is one of the few areas where humans are actually allowed to be on the islands.
I was glad that we had decided to stay out there. Shortly afterwards, we saw Whitetip Reef Sharks. I had encountered them before at Seaworld and Discovery Cove and was not worried about them being there. Graham said that when he first spotted them, one was looking straight at my toes. Whitetip Reef Sharks can grow to up to 1.60 m and are curious about people, but not aggressive. There have been some cases documented where Whitetip Reef Sharks have bitten humans, but all those instances have been linked to harpoon fishing. In our case we and the sharks just looked at each other from a respectful distance. We did not bother them and they did not bother us. It was amazing to see them in the wild even though I am not really into sharks.
We decided to swim towards some caves to see what might be around in that area. However, by then I had been in the water for well over an hour and I did start to feel a bit chilly. I decided to slowly make my way back towards the boat. When I swam over a submerged rock, I saw thousands of smaller tropical fish.
When I got back to the boat, there was the little matter of getting back onto the boat. I was not really looking forward to this. I have very little upper body strength and I thought I would struggle with this. I did not have to worry. The two platforms that we used to get in the water were linked by a shelve that was just below the surface of the water. I managed to pull myself up on this without any problems and from there, it was just one easy step back onto the platform.
When I got back on the boat, the crew relieved me of my snorkelling gear and the life vest. I then headed to the front of the boat where we had been sitting to get changed out of my wetsuit and dried off a little. I spoke to two of our table mates, who were also on this excursion. Soon afterwards an announcement was made that lunch has been served and the free bar was now open. Lunch consisted of various breads, cold cuts, cheese, tuna, salad, olives, pickles, jalopenos, various condiments and fresh fruit. After the exercise in the chilly water this tasted like a gourmet meal. I also had a margarita to wash this down.
Graham came back on the boat while I was in line for lunch. He took his wetsuit off and joined the line as well. As soon as lunch was served, the local seagull population moved in. It was quite amusing to watch them. We also talked to some of the people around us.
Once everybody had their lunch, we started to head back to Puerto Vallarta. Just before be left, another excursion boat arrived. We had not left the islands behind for long when we saw more Humpback Whales. This time we saw a female and a group of males competing for her attention. This was an amazing display with lots of flips.
We also saw some dolphins that came right up to the boat and were riding the waves that we were making. I had great fun watching them.
Throughout the whole of the return journey, the crew came around with drinks. I think I had 4 or 5 Margaritas and a Mai Tai in the end. I think the drinks can't have been particularly strong or they would have had to carry me off the boat. They were tasty though. About half way into the journey back, they put on cheesy disco music and were trying to get people to dance. I could have done without this, but I just turned around and faced the railing. They also came around to sell CDs with the photos from the day and t shirts. We passed on the t shirts, but we ordered a photo CD. At $30 this was a bit of a bargain. Postage via DHL was the same again, but it was still good value and I love the photos.
All to soon, we arrived back in Puerto Vallarta. We went right past the Wonder. We had wait for a dock to become available as many of the excursions arrived back at the same time. We managed to get some close up shots of the Wonder.
Once we had docked, we said goodbye to the crew and then walked the short distance to the Wonder. We headed back to the cabin to hang up our wetsuits and swim stuff to dry and to drop off our other stuff. I took my camera and we headed up to deck 9. I took a few photos of Puerto Vallarta. We then settled down with a couple of non-alcoholic drinks. Graham had a Virgin Pina Colada and I had a Lava Smoothie (Pina Colada Mix and Raspberry Puree).
We watched the sail away and listened to the horn and then I headed down to deck 4 to get the limited edition pin for the day. The line was a bit longer today then I had been used to, but it moved quick enough. I had no trouble getting my pin, although I was one of the last people that did. This pin had Dale on it together with the cathedral in Puerto Vallarta.
Once I had my pin, I headed back to the cabin to drop it off and to pick up the stuff that I needed for the Rainforest Room. I then spent a happy couple of hours relaxing in a heated tile lounger and in the warm sauna while reading my book. Once I had enough of this, I got showered and changed into my Mexican dress.
I headed down to the atrium for photos with Mickey and Minnie. I was hoping that they would be wearing their Mexican outfits, but Sorcerer Mickey and Princess Minnie had come out instead.
They also had a black backdrop out combined with a red armchair. I had some portraits taken by myself and when Graham joined me before dinner, we had some more portraits done as a couple.
Dinner that night was the Mexicali Menu and this was new to me. It is a shame that this won't be on offer for the Mexican Riviera Cruises as it was delicious. Graham had Chorizo Enchilada, Caesar Salad with Jalopeno Croutons, Veal Shank with Spanish Omelette and Scallops with Truffle Risotto. I chose Chorizo Enchilada, Pinto Bean Soup with Spare Rib, Sirloin Steak with Roasted Tomato Salsa and Potato Cake, a side order of Three Bean Chilli and Dark Chocolate Mousse for dessert.
After dinner there was a Mexican themed deck party, Minnie's Fiesta Grande, but we decided to give this a miss. We headed back to our cabin, where we found a towel monkey and the last gift of the cruise, a beautiful windchime with the silhouette of the ship and characters in their Mexican outfits.
We allowed ourselves an extra 30 minutes in bed this morning. When we got up, we had already dropped anchor. Cabo San Lucas is a tender port. We had no particular plans for that day and when we headed down to breakfast, I checked out the tender boats. They looked OK.
We had breakfast in Triton's that morning. Graham had his usual of fruit with Granola and yoghurt followed by Scuttle on the Run. I was a little bit more adventureous this morning and had Belgian waffles filled with whipped cream and Dulce de Leche with fresh watermelon on the side.
We had brought everything that we needed to go ashore. So we headed straight up to the Buena Vista Theater. This was the meeting point for people that wanted to go ashore, but were not on an organized excursion. When we got there, they asked if everybody in our party was present and checked our photo ID and Key to the World cards. We were then given our tender tickets and were sent to a member of cruise staff inside the theater who told us where to sit down. When a tender was ready, they received a radio message telling them how many spaces there were available and they then called people by row. This was extremely well organized. We were in the second group of people to be called after we had arrived. We were escorted down to the tender lobby by a member of crew. Once we got there, they collected our tender tickets and swiped our Key to the World Cards. Then we got on the tender boat.
The journey across to the port was pleasant. I managed to take a photo of the Wonder with one of the anchors slightly lowered. The landscape around Cabo San Lucas is pretty stunning. So I enjoyed the trip across the bay. The highlight of this short trip was when I suddenly spotted a sea lion near our boat. I had never seen a sea lion in the wild before. The sea lion was following one of the boats that were used for deep sea fishing. We found out later that a whole family of sea lions lives in the port area and that they are fed by the fishing boats.
The port in Cabo San Lucas is unreal. It is absolutely packed with expensive boats. It is also incredibly pretty as ports go with very clear water. We walked away from the tender dock and right across from this is an indoor craft market. We bypassed this for now. Instead we headed to a little shopping arcade that was about a block down from the port to use the bathroom. There were only a few shops there including a pharmacy, a Tequilla shop and various water sports related shops, but it was peaceful and pretty with a fountain in the middle. Outside there were various taxis and cycle taxis offering us a ride into town or a tour. We politely declined and headed back to the port area.
In the port area there were plenty of people trying to sell us all kinds of tours ranging from glass bottom boat tours to deep sea fishing. We were not in the market for a tour and declined the offers. All the people trying to sell tours and other services were friendly and polite and backed off when we told them that we were not interested. The same was true for the people selling souvenirs.
Our next stop was the dolphin facility that Disney uses for their excursions. I had not realized that this was right by the port. I was quite impressed with what I saw. This looked like a clean and well run facility. I have to admit that I was very tempted to do a dolphin swim. Unfortunately I had not brought a swimsuit and I decided that it was too much hassle to take the tender back to the ship, get my swimsuit and come back. So I decided that I would do the Trainer for a Day when we go back in October.
We carried on with our walk around the marina. The water was so clear and we saw all kind of interesting sealife in the shallows. We even saw some puffer fish. Apart from the sealife, we also saw lots of interesting birds. Pelicans were everywhere as were Egrets and all kinds of herons. What really amused me was a boat for a fishing excursion that had a banner saying "Fish With the Winners" with a Pelican sitting on the boat right above the banner.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants around the marina, but not many shops. They are for the most in the city centre, which is a short walk away. However, about halfway around the marina, there is a shopping centre. We decided to check it out as it was pretty hot and an air-conditioned shopping centre sounded like a great idea. Well, I could not believe my eyes. This was seriously upscale. Needless to say, we did not buy anything, but it was to stay out of the sun for a bit and to just have a look around.
Once we had enough shade, we continued our walk around the marina. We got talking to one of the guys that tried to sell us an excursion. He had spotted our Disney Cruise Line baseball caps and asked if we had come from the Wonder. We confirmed that we had. He told us that Mickey and Minnie and their friends would be coming over in about an hour to see some of the local disabled children and their families. He pointed to a pavilion a short distance away, which was where this meet and greet would take place. We walked past this shortly afterwards and the line was longer than the worst pin line that I encountered during the cruise. While we walked past there, more and more people arrived. I thought that this was a nice touch. I also would have loved to see the tender boat with all the characters on.
We walked all the way to Medano Beach. We decided that we did not fancy walking all the way back to the tender port so we approached somebody on the beach who was renting out all kind of water sports equipment, but also offered boat tours and water taxi rides. We decided to take a water taxi back. It was only $2 per person. We had to wait a few minutes for a water taxi, but that was fine. We were quite happy to sit down on the chairs that we were offered and enjoy the view.
When the water taxi arrived, we had to wade a short distance into the sea and get onto the boat from the water. The guy who had called the water taxi for us, helped us to get on. The journey back only took about 5 minutes. I had hoped to get a closer look at the sea lions, but we were out of luck. When we got back to dock for the water taxis, there were other water taxis already tied up there. So we had to climb from our boat onto another one and then onto the dock. We were more than a little bemused when the guy from the other boat told us that it was customary to tip people for good service. We assumed that he thought that we had not tipped our skipper, which we had. We had also tipped the guy at the beach. So we told him that we had tipped our skipper. He then told us that we had not tipped him. I know that the tipping culture is different outside of Europe, but I always assumed that you tip to reward service. I had not realized that you are supposed to tip somebody who is in the way and is inconveniencing you.
We decided to head over to the craft market to have a look. This was a bit of a mixed bag. Some of it was typical tourist fare like t shirts, magnets and other mass-produced souvenirs, but there was also a good selection of handmade things including wood carvings, ceramics and embroidery. My eyes were caught by two beautiful embroidered cotton dresses. I decided to check how much they are and then found out that the bargaining techniques that I have perfected in the soukhs of Dubai work in Mexico as well. I managed to negotiate a nice discount for buying both. Graham reckoned that I could have got the price down even further, but I was happy with what I paid.
After this, we decided to head back to the ship. They had set up a drink station with iced water and lemonade by the tender dock, which was a nice touch. We did not have to wait long for a tender. On the way back, I got another good look at the sea lions and also at the scenery, which is really very pretty. The sea was a bit choppier then it had been in the morning so getting off the tender boat was a bit more challenging than getting on it had been in the morning.
Once we were back on the ship, we headed to Triton's for some lunch. Graham had Chicken and Vegetable Consomee followed by Steak and Fries. I went for Chilled Tangerine Soup followed by Pulled Pork in Kaiser Roll, Coleslaw and Potato Chips. The also had Mango Berry Margaritas on the menu. We decided to try one each. They were absolutely delicious even though they were of the frozen variety. I prefer my Margaritas on the rocks or even straight up.
After lunch, we headed back to the cabin to drop of my purchases and Graham wanted to get his telescope. I decided to get changed into one of my new dresses and then we headed up to deck 10. Graham managed to find some whales through the telescope. I really struggle using a telescope, but I managed to focus for long enough to get a brief glimpse of the whales. What really shocked me was that some of the little water taxis went very close to the whales. Whale watching in Cabo does not seem to be anywhere near as well regulated as it is in Puerto Vallarta. This can't be good for the whales and I doubt it is safe for the humans to get that close in tiny boats.
I left Graham with his telescope and went around deck to take some more photos of Cabo San Lucas and the ship.
Around the time that we should have left Cabo San Lucas, I decided to head down to deck 4 to check out the pin line. I was more than a little surprised when I found that the shops were already open. Previously we had always been told that the shops were not allowed to open while the ship was in port. What made things worse is that not all of the Disney sponsored excursions had returned. Anyway, I got into line and I thought my luck was in. I really wanted this pin as it featured my favourite character Stitch. Unfortunately a family right in front of me bought two pins each and they got the last of the pins. Fortunately I managed to get my pin after all the next day when somebody on our cruise meet thread mentioned that her family ended up with an extra pin that she intended to return to the shop. When she heard that I was missing the pin, she kindly offered to sell it to me for the same price that she had paid for it.
After braving the pin line, it was time to get my jewellery making stuff. This was supposed to be the last of the workshops. We were going to make a Tinkerbell mobile phone charm, a princess bag charm and a pirate keyring. At the arranged time, only one person showed up. It turned out later that one person had simply forgotten and the other two had never received the message. The two of us who had made it settled down by one of the port holes in the Promenade Lounge, made jewellery and had a nice chat.
All to soon it was time to say goodbye. I took a quick photo of the Promenade Lounge and then headed to the atrium to check out the photo opportunities. They had the white backdrop out again, but I passed on this for now. I figured a white dress against a white backdrop would not work. I did however have my photo taken in front of the ship backdrop and on the staircase.
Once I had my photos taken, I went back to the cabin to drop of my jewellery making stuff, call the people who had missed the jewellery workshop to arrange a new time and then I headed up to the Rainforest Room to relax for a bit.
Getting dressed for dinner that night presented a bit of a challenge. I was going to wear my favourite evening gown, but the top of that is a corset and I had to wait for Graham to come back to literally tie me into my dress. Still, he managed this quite nicely and we made it to dinner in time.
Dinner that night was the Captain's Gala Menu. Graham had Garlic and Herb Shrimp with Spaghetti Vegetables, Oysters Rockefeller and Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast on Fettucine. For dessert he had chosen Banana Creme Brulee. I had chosen Garlic and Herb Shrimp with Spaghetti Vegetables, Beef and Tomato Consomee and Panko-Breaded Pork Envelope, Snow Peas, Roasted Potatoes. I had a Tropical Sundae for my dessert.
After dinner, we said good night to our table mates and headed for the atrium for some photos. We had photos taken in front of the white and ship backdrops and on the staircase. The photographer taking the staircase photos was not busy so we asked him if he could take a photo of us in front of the Ariel statue. On the Magic, we always have our photo taken in front of the Helmsman Mickey statue on formal night. We kind of wanted to keep with this tradition. The photographer was happy enough to do this. Unfortunately at the last second, somebody walked into the shot.
Once we had all of our photos taken, we headed back to the cabin. Graham had to untie the dress again. I took a quick photo of our mystery towel animal and we headed to bed.