Peg traveled often during her business career and now she travels for pleasure. Share the adventure along with some of her favorite photos.
What is it about being aboard a cruise ship that's appealing and fun?
From the moment you move beyond the embarkation process, which is like standing in line at Disneyland, the journey begins. Your personalized crew card is issued, which ties to your primary credit card for purchases aboard and makes shopping easy.
There’s also a new process that uses a personalized medallion scanned to allow access to everything from your cabin door entry to shipboard purchases. Once the process rolls out, it will replace the crew card. At boarding, an identity photo is taken by crew members to link you with your card/medallion and identify you as you move on and off the ship.
While you're waiting for the steward to deliver your luggage to your cabin, you can use this time to explore the ship. And what better way to find all the best places than as a stowaway? Despite tight security, it is possible to stowaway, that is, if you're really, really small.
For photo purposes, we brought along a canvas squeak toy, a gift for a relative's pet once the cruise ended. Speedy joined us at meals where he was recognized as a celebrity. Waiters and servers delighted in remembering his name and posing for photos with the little toy.
Balcony mini-suites have a full tub in the bathroom, a large closet, a writing desk, mini-refrigerator, blow dryer, hide-a-bed sofa, and a super comfy bed along with two large-screen TVs and a side chair. Lounge chairs on the balcony make for a relaxing and sea-worthy view. Highly recommended over interior cabins.
Each night we used the online ordering app to request coffee, juice, and cereal to be delivered to the room for our early morning pleasure. Promptly at the time designated, we were treated to a light tapping on the cabin door and our steward would deliver the goods as promised.
Afterward, Speedy joined us for a full-sized breakfast in the Horizon Court where he was recognized and posed for photos.
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Speedy often joined us at meals where he was recognized as a celebrity. Waiters and servers delighted in remembering his name and posing for photos with the little guy who boldly went where many have never gone before. He fit nicely in a cargo pants pocket where his little feet often betrayed his hidden status.
Along the walking paths, in the elevator, the theater, the shops, on the bridge of the ship, and even at Bingo games, he attracted the attention of those who vied for a chance to meet and share a photographic moment with the little guy.
Much like life, the destination is not nearly as important as the journey. Cruising on the open seas is refreshing and enjoyable, allowing much time to relax and renew energy depleted by the daily rigors of work and worry. Aboard ship, the concentration moves from task completion to enjoyment and discovery.
Food and Dining
One of the first areas to explore includes the many fine-dining venues. Poolside, there is a pizzeria serving up slices of freshly made, thin-crust pizza. Take a seat along the rail and watch the flow of seafoam rush past as the ship makes its way forward. The wait staff eagerly come to fetch a drink order for you to enjoy and there is no fumbling for cash or a credit card. All your payments are funneled through the cruise card you're assigned prior to boarding.
If hot dogs, hamburgers, or chicken sandwiches sound good, stop by the outdoor kiosk poolside where fresh food is grilled in front of your eyes. There's also a kiosk with soft-served ice cream. With the same excitement one feels at a carnival or fair, the many smells and sights keep the senses dancing.
Poolside servers are eager to bring guests the beverage of their choice. This lovely server, Ruby, posed for a celebrity shot with Speedy. Alcoholic drinks are available for an additional charge or beverage packages can be purchased for each guest. Iced tea, lemonade, milk, and other non-alcoholic drinks are included with meals.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Approaching Cabo is a treat in itself with land appearing well before the port. Photos of the gorgeous coast are a favorite for cruisers who flock to the rail as we grow closer to the bay.
The ship remains in the bay as Tender boats take tourists to and from the ship. At the port is a small shopping market with places to eat and drink within walking distance.
Off-ship excursions are available while the ship is in port. Rather than take a chance with unregulated local tour guides, stick with sight-seeing trips offered and arranged by the cruise line. That will keep you safe while on foreign soil. Hawkers are everywhere trying to promote their island and port tours.
Just say, "No, thanks."
The Blue Line in Mazatlán
At the port in Mazatlán, the ship provided a shuttle to the Blue Line walking tour which led through the side streets near the pier. At regular intervals, there were English-speaking volunteers to assist in answering questions and keeping tourists on the right path to the square. We were cautioned to stay on the Blue Line.
At one point, we were advised to walk toward the center of the street to avoid the big dogs housed in nearby fenced yards. They like to lie in wait and sneak up on the unsuspecting tourist.
All along the walking trail were colorful, picturesque houses, flora, and traditional decor. Following the blue line to the Juarez Market, we passed Cantinas, museums, and art galleries. In the square, authentic costumed Aztec dancers performed and posed with visitors. Later, the breakdancers put on a high-energy hip-hop show.
We were the only people who seemed to take refuge at the church. At the altar were fresh flowers from a recent funeral and an aura of solemn reverence.
Photo opportunities abounded in the Square where Speedy ventured to take in the sights. A popular spot, this butterfly structure had a rickety iron staircase with no handrail. Despite the risk, people lined up to climb to the top and pose for a photo.
Dockside on Wednesday at Puerto Vallarta
Disembarking at Puerto Vallarta was easy with the dockside access to the port. No tender ship transport was necessary, just a quick walk to the ship-side waiting area to wait for our number to be called. Then down the gangplank and off on our own.
Walking in Puerto Vallarta
The heat was on once we got off the ship with hordes of taxi drivers hacking for fares to take us downtown. We elected to walk to the "nearby" flea market, toted as a ten-minute walk. After 20 minutes of fruitless walking in bus fumes on a narrow sidewalk with traffic only inches away, we turned around and went back to the ship but not before we passed an unfortunate homeless person sleeping on a bus bench.
Should've Taken the Cab
Every few steps on the street a taxi would pull up next to us and ask if we wanted a ride. We could see other tourists flying by in taxis with the radio music blasting.
Sea days are perhaps Speedy's favorite time aboard ship. After a hearty breakfast, he set out to walk off the calories on the Sports Deck, Level 18, where a walking and running path stands ready for action. The slower group, like us, stepped aside even for the fast-track walkers as we meandered along at the speed of a turtle. Even so, we were happy to report a weight loss of a couple of pounds due to our diligence after over-indulging in rich food.
When not walking, Speedy joined in ship festivities like Bingo, Movies under the Stars, Theater presentations, the Casino, Mariachi band performances, line dancing, contests, and more.
Traditional Dining and Specialty Restaurants
Guests choose their preferred dining time and are assigned a specific table each night should they choose to eat in the dining room. We were treated to delicious food at the Allegro Dining Room with excellent service from our designated wait staff, Anastasia and Yury. Originally from Ukraine, they've been sailing and working on cruises for over seven years.
Formal Night Dining
We opted for one dinner in the Crown Grill which requires reservations and a small upcharge to dine ($29 per person). Proper attire is required. Not so formal as a tuxedo, although we did see patrons who wore them. Shirts with a collar and a dinner jacket are preferred for the formal night dining experience.
We were first seated at a busy two-top table near a large family reunion. The Maître ‘D cheerfully moved us to a quieter booth at our request where we enjoyed an incredible meal.
Tips for First-Time Cruisers
There are thousands of reasons to sail away on a cruise ship. Here are a few tips:
- Be sure to bring along anti-motion sickness medication. The Sea Band wrist straps worked well for me using an acupressure method.
- Bring any prescription medications in your carry-on luggage to assure you'll have them when needed.
- Bring along over-the-counter medicine that might be helpful like Day Quill, Tums, Aspirin, or Dramamine. Purchasing these onboard is expensive. The medical center is also available when needed.
- Carry on an outfit for the first night's dinner in case your luggage is late arriving.
- Pack a swimsuit to enjoy the pool on boarding day while it's relatively undiscovered.
- Order the water package to have bottled water ready in your cabin. Bring a few powdered or liquid drink additives for a quick, inexpensive beverage.
- Try out the International Cafe, open 24/7 for late-night snacks, Panini sandwiches, and delicious desserts like chocolate mousse.
Take a tip from Speedy the Stowaway and use your time wisely while on board. There are so many things to do and see you'll never be bored. Between the movies under the stars, the theater productions, the games and contests, the dance lessons, line dancing, musical performances, the Casino, the miniature golf course, the sports deck, the pool, and all the lounges, there's something for everyone.
© 2019 Peg Cole