Friday, February 2, 2024

Back in San Francisco

Back home in San Francisco! I woke up early enough to get a picture just after we'd passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. The picture from last year was better though.


Back home in Port of San Francisco after an enjoyable 10 day cruise in Mexico!


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Back in San Francisco photo album.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

At Sea

Our last days on the cruise and we were going through a part of the Pacific Ocean that, in my experience, often seems to be unsettled. In this case the ship was rocking enough to cause some very big waves in the pool, even though it was partially empty. They were actually in the process of emptying all of the water out of it for safety reasons.


The ship also had a "cooking" show, which was more of a comedy show, the last day at sea. That was followed by a parade of the wait staff and cooks coming on stage. This is all part of encouraging people to give the staff a good rating on the surveys that are sent out on the day you arrive home.


The Princess Theater stage show was followed by a parade around the Piazza, on a low mid-ship deck, where the staff waved flags indicating their home country. There were quite a variety of countries represented.


One of the main points of this show was to get people to provide high ratings for the cruise in general and also indicate one or more people who you think provided exceptional service. We generally keep track of the names of the people who we think provided great service. This in general includes our room steward, the wait staff, and often the hostesses. I know our cruise was off to a rocky start with blaring music in the hallways at 6:30am on the first morning of the cruise, and chaos in the dining room waiting area the first two nights. But they more than compensated for that during the remainder of the cruise and by the end of the cruise we had an assigned table and the hostess for the dining room remembered our names, which I find impressive given how many people are aboard and how frequently they get an entire new shipload of passengers. The crew really do work hard and the pay is not the best. Good recommendations can provide them with some perks, one being they're more likely to be rehired on future cruises.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the At Sea photo album.


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Cabo San Lucas (almost)

We almost made it to Cabo San Lucas, our last stop on this cruise. We did make it to the port but unfortunately, due to high winds we were unable to get off the ship. This is fairly common in ports that require tender boats to get between the ship and shore. Oh well…


At least we did get to see El Arco (the arch) as we left Cabo. It was a bit disappointing, but after three very active days, it wasn't too bad to have a day to rest. Also, the light on El Archo was a bit better than the previous year. And the main tour we would have had was a boat tour to El Arco. So in one sense we had part of a tour without paying for it.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Cabo San Lucas photo album.


Monday, January 29, 2024

Mazatlan

Our next stop was Mazatlan. I was up bright and early to catch the sunrise a bit before 7am.


We had booked a tour with the cruise line for this stop, "Panoramic Hiking Views to El Faro Lighthouse." You can see the lighthouse at the top of the hill in the picture below. It looked quite a ways to climb and our hike was going to start at the base of the climb. It was a bit intimidating. One note: El Faro Lighthouse is redundant, since Faro is Mexican for Lighthouse.


Small four to eight person open air pickups took us from port to the base of the hill where there is a paid entrance for El Faro. Our tour guide took the time to take a picture of each couple who wanted one atop the sign. One of these days I may get ours from Elizabeth's phone pictures. If she ever shares them.


The tour guide, faced with a wide range of athleticism and age in his tour group, did an excellent job of adjusting the walk to make it enjoyable for all of us. With numerous stops on the way up and extensive talks at each stop, he kept the most in shape from outrunning and demoralizing the least fit and oldest among the group. It helped that at each stop he would also tell us how far we were and how far, sometimes how many steps, to the next stop. Everyone in the group made it to the top, even a lady in her 80's.


Two more stops up we had made it to the halfway point. Look closely and you can see the cruise ship back in port becoming smaller and smaller.


A couple more stops and, before we knew it, we'd reached the top. And the cruise ship was even smaller. Not an easy hike, but not nearly as taxing as two days previous when we walked to The Hill of the Cross Viewpoint in Puerto Vallarta, which felt like a death march compared to this informative and almost leisurely walk up the hill to the Faro.


After burning all of those calories it seemed only fitting that we should refuel at an authentic Mexican restaurant. The tour guide took us to a local restaurant, La Puntilla, that wasn't as touristy as most and was only a short walk from the cruise port. We had the shrimp and octopus ceviche along with coconut shrimp. It was all very tasty and super fresh. Even the octopus was tender. Washed down with a Negra Modelo beer (or two), and sitting in an open air patio by the water, it was a pleasant end to a wonderful day. If we go to Mazatlan again I'm not sure if we'll do the walk up to Faro, but I'm sure we'll visit La Puntilla again!


That evening we left port around sunset, a bit after 6pm, cruising by the lighthouse one last time. A beautiful end to a wonderful day!


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Mazatlan photo album.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Manzanillo

Our next stop was in Manzanillo. We pulled into port early in the morning while it was still dark.


For this stop we booked an excursion with the cruise line which would take us by bus to a number of stops. The first stop was a salt manufacturing site.


Our next stop was a brick manufacturing site. In the picture below you can see that ad hoc kilns they build from previously fired bricks, to fire new bricks. I'm not sure how constant the temperature is for these kilns and I'd be hesitant to use them for building a house to live in.


Our last stop for the day was lunch in El Pariso, Spanish for The Paradise. Although it may have been paradise years ago, these days it looks a bit storm battered. Some of the buildings down the way from the restaurant were closed and half of their foundation was missing. Still, the weather was sunny and the day fairly nice, so the surf was still a safe distance from the table where were ate.


And of course, to commemorate our day in Paradise, we had to take a picture of us with the sign.


Back to the ship, we walked around the nearby port a bit before returning to the ship. The sailfish in the photo below is the most famous sculpture. But the foreground shows a row of Zodiac Sculptures done by Sebastián, one for each sign of the zodiac.


And of course we had to take a picture of ourselves in front of the Manzanillo sign. This view, by the way, is rare to find. Why? Because it was difficult to get a picture of just ourselves with the sign, there were so many others taking selfies in front of the sign. So what we did instead was go around to the back of the sign and take a selfie. This actually resulted in a mirror image of the sign which I corrected by editing the picture to make it a mirror image of the original picture. I think it turned out really nicely and it's something I'll keep in mind for future photos.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Manzanillo photo album.


Saturday, January 27, 2024

Puerto Vallarta

We arrived at the port in Puerto Vallarta early in the morning, close to sunrise. It was an interesting port, maybe one of the few in the world where you can see super yachts, with a helicopter no less, parked across the street from a Walmart. We didn't go to the Walmart or the more upscale shopping mall next to it, but it did seem to be a very popular place for many of the passengers and crew.


We took a taxi from the port to what we expected to be the base of The Hill of the Cross Viewpoint. Be careful. They charge $5 per person and after the taxi driver agreed to take us there he picked up three more passengers during the walk to the cab. Those three were going to the Malecon, which is a walk along the ocean. The driver then stopped at what he said was in between the two points, but in actuality was only a block from the Malecon and ⅓ mile and, even worse, halfway down the hill from The Hill of the Cross Viewpoint. The taxi driver didn't want to have to spend a few more minutes driving up some of the smaller residential streets to drop us off, instead preferring to stay on the main road and get back to the port for another fare. Oh well… At least we got a good workout, though it was a climb of almost twice as high as we had expected.

At the top of the steep walk up the hill and then up a series of steps was a mural on the side of a cafe. We later heard that it doesn't keep regular hours, instead being open when the owner feels like it and otherwise closed.


The beautiful view from the top of the hill is well worth it! Check out the Puerto Vallarta photo album for more photos including a couple of panoramas.


Even the elevated platform itself seems to be a work of art. After the long climb up the hill, the steps to the top of the platform seemed easy.


The final portion of the walk up the hill is a series of steps. There's a funicular there, but it seems to have been out of service for most of the last few years. The website previously linked to shows a working funicular and a set of paths on both sides of the funicular, but the steps on one side of the funicular no longer seem to be used and are now overgrown with vegetation, as shown in the picture below.


We took a different path down the hill, one that was pedestrian only and led us to a restaurant, Si Senor, where we met David, a gentleman feeding pistachios to the parrot Nola. David has spent four months a year for the last 20 years visiting from Canada during the winter months. The mural of Nola shown in the picture below is quite amazing. When you view it with the naked eye it appears to be an abstract pattern. But if you take a picture of it, the mural is transformed into an image of the parrot Nola, as shown in the picture below. David also introduced us to the artist and the artist's girlfriend, who are also shown in the picture below.


For a number of years David had volunteered in the construction of the tile murals at Tile Park. It's a bit of a walk from the restaurant where he met us, but he offered to take us there since he was heading that way in any case to try to find his wife. There are a few more pictures of tile park in the Puerto Vallarta photo album but they don't really do it justice given the limited time we had to photograph it. But the preceding link to Tile Park provides a number of pictures and even a youtube interview with the artist.


According to David, the work on the park is now on hold due to possible local politics and perhaps lack of monetary donations to the right people. During our walk to the park David provided a running commentary on local restaurants and shops, including a number of places being renovated. The work shutdown due to local politics seemed to be a common issue.

After a tour of Tile Park, David took us to the Jim Demetro Galeria where he introduced us to Jim Demetro himself. Jim has done a number of the bronze statues along the Puerto Vallarta Malecon. The picture below is just one of his many statues.


Below are a number of other links related to Jim and his artworks.

So despite the rude taxi driver for the taxi from the port, and thanks in large part to the friendly Canadian David, we ended up have a wonderful day in Puerto Vallarta!

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Puerto Vallarta photo album.


Thursday, January 25, 2024

At Sea

The Mexico cruise starts with three days at sea. It's great for relaxing and unwinding. One of the best shows for the day was a fruit carving demonstration. Click the picture below to see more pictures from the fruit carving demonstration.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the At Sea photo album.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Leaving San Francisco

Jan 23, 2024 - Leaving San Francisco

We did this same cruise last year as part of a combined Mexico and Hawaii cruise. This year we didn't continue to Hawaii after the Mexico cruise, mostly because Princess didn't offer that as an option for this cruise. In the picture below you can see the Salesforce Tower on the left and the Transamerica Pyramid on the right. The Transamerica Pyramid was the tallest building in San Francisco when it was constructed in 1972 until the Salesforce Tower took over that honor in 2018.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Leaving San Francisco.


Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 Trips

It was a busy travel year last year with us spending close to five months traveling, mostly on cruises. Below is a map showing where we were and where I took pictures. Click on the picture below to see a live map with links to pictures for each day. 2023 trips included:

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Back Home From South Pacific Cruise

Although our 35 day North Atlantic cruise from Boston to Rotterdam and back had seemed like a long trip, this cruise was 51 days long - our longest yet. As always, the cruises can sometimes seem very long and are often tiring when you have stop after stop without an at sea day. But at the end of the cruise they seemed to have gone by very quickly. And of course after a few days at home we were ready to go again

Below is a screenshot of a map showing the places I took pictures during our October and November South Pacific cruise. Click on the picture or the link below it to see the map. Click on any of the pins in the linked map to see where we were and click that link to see the blog for that day.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!


Click this link or the picture above to see the South Pacific Cruise map.


Returning to San Diego

And one last sunrise while pulling into port in San Diego.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the San Diego photo album


Monday, November 20, 2023

At Sea

Another beautiful sunrise while at sea.


Although we've been on a lot of cruises, this was the first time we had a tour of the bridge. Since they can only fit a couple dozen or so guests on the bridge at any given time, it was a pretty complicated operation for the ship staff to give the tour to anyone aboard the ship who wanted one.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the At Sea photo album.


Saturday, November 18, 2023

At Sea

Some of the most beautiful aspects of being at sea are the sunrises and sunsets. Below was a sunset while at sea on our way back to San Diego.


Holland America, along with other Carnival cruise lines, have a tradition of making towel animals. Near the end of a cruise they will decorate the entire pool area with the towel animals.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the At Sea photo album.


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Nuku Hiva French Polynesia

After a day at sea we reached our last stop, Nuku Hiva. Although Nuku Hiva is a large island, the second largest French Polynesian island, it is lightly populated with less than 3,000 inhabitants. It doesn't seem to have the same coral reef surrounding it as the other islands we'd visited. As a result, there aren't white sand beaches like on the other islands and no places to snorkel near the shore.

The sun rises early here, but luckily I was up to catch this sunrise shot.


Holland America only offered one excursion for this stop, Taipivai Valley Scenic Drive. The tour consisted of private vehicles, each carrying about 4 people, driving in a caravan to various parts of the island. At each stop a single English speaking guide would describe the stop. The driver herself didn't speak English and few people on the island seemed to speak English

Our first stop on the island was at Notre Dame Cathedral.


Our next stop was at the Mouake Viewpoint which provided a beautiful view of Taiohae Bay where our ship was anchored.


Next we stopped at an unnamed viewpoint which gave us a view of Comptroller Bay.


Our next stop was at a cultural center where they had a number of tiki statues.


Although the island isn't surrounded by coral reefs, they had to show us at least one decent looking beach during the tour. I think it might be one of the few white sand beaches on the island.


After the cruise there wasn't a lot to do in town - it wasn't really much of a town. There was a small beach near where the tender docked. But most people were going to the small craft store and restaurant near the tender dock.


After the tour Elizabeth looked in the craft store for a refrigerator magnet while I had a local beer at the cafe next door. The line for the tender back to the ship was very long, in part because due to low tide they were putting only 60 people onboard each tender boat instead of the usual 95. There was some medical emergency onshore, though I'm not sure what it was or how serious it was. On the way to shore the cruise director Kimberly had mentioned that some people had suffered heat exhaustion on a prior stop. Not too surprising considering that the temperature has been in the 80's and 90's with the high humidity making it seem even warmer. When we returned to the ship the Captain himself was waiting for the tender boat asking if anyone aboard our tender had a medical emergency. There was one lady who had seemed to have some problem, maybe fainting, while waiting in line.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia photo album.


Monday, November 13, 2023

Fakarava, French Polynesia

Fakarava atoll, our second to last stop, looks on Google Maps like an upside down capital 'L'. It's so remote that it's preserved many rare species of birds, plants and crustaceans. The lagoon is the outline of a square with land on half of the outline and the other half being coral reef, visible as breakers that break just outside the coral reef. There is a large northern entrance to the lagoon and a smaller southern entrance.

We arrived early in the morning, but the sun was already up as we approached the atoll at 5:30 am.


We walked a mile from the tender boat dock to a resort. The resort had a cafe which was open between 11 am and 3 pm. There were some beautiful stone tables with thatched roofs just outside the cafe as well as a small covered area with a number of tables. We sat on the beach outside the resort area until the cafe opened, just wading in the large shallow, thinly populated reef area. Elizabeth had a blast today since she could wander far offshore without the water being above her waist. There weren't a lot of fish or coral though and the water didn't seem really clear. Still, for Elizabeth, it was a lot better than just staying on shore or in a boat while I snorkeled.


The only downside was the one mile walk, which doesn't sound like much but is pretty tiring in the heat and humidity. Thanks to the covered table area we were able to stay there until around 2pm when we returned to the ship.


I'd later seen some Fakarava trips which took you to a resort on Fakarava. It might have been this one, the Havaiki Lodge, and many of the cabins where guests stayed were right on the beach. Certainly it would be a nice place to spend a few days just snorkeling and relaxing. If you do spend some time here, I've heard that you can see a lot more fish by taking one of the tour boats out to the outer reef.

Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Fakarava, French Polynesia photo album.


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Papeete Tahiti, French Polynesia Day 2

Second day in Papeete we took a Holland America excursion: Ohana Catamaran Escapade. This one was a very large catamaran with maybe 20 or more people aboard. We motored out within the coral lagoon, stopping to gain clearance from the local airport before we passed their runways, then stopping again for snorkeling. We had about 45 minutes of snorkeling on the reef. The visibility wasn't great, though it wasn't bad. The reefs weren't as alive as other reefs we've seen but there were a number of large schools of small fish swimming there.


After the snorkeling they pulled up anchor and headed to the lagoon exit into open water, serving rum punch on the way. Our friends had taken the same excursion yesterday and they had done the snorkeling after a ride just outside the coral lagoon. The downside to that was that they don't serve any alcohol until after snorkeling. So on our excursion we had more time for the rum punch. One of the tour guides, I think her name was Mahana (sunshine in Tahitian) started demonstrating Tahitian dances. I was almost next to her and fearing being "volunteered" decided I had to use the bathroom at that moment. By the time I returned, Elizabeth had been chosen as the "volunteer" but unfortunately I missed her dance. **whew**


We didn't spend too long outside the lagoon before heading back to the ship where we had picked up the excursion. By then it was near noon and getting even hotter. The weather forecast said it was in the high 80's but felt like the high 90's due to the humidity.

It being a Sunday, practically all of the shops were closed. We tried visiting one of the local landmarks, the Catholic Cathedral, but it was also closed.


Given the heat and humidity, as well as the fact that most places were closed again, since it was Sunday, we went back to the Les 3 Brasseurs for another flight of beer. The local craft beer is very good. The people looked a bit more friendly today. Maybe they recognized us from yesterday.


Click this link or one of the pictures above to see more pictures in the Papeete Tahiti, French Polynesia Day 2 photo album