Saturday, March 9, 2024

Back to San Francisco

After 16 days with stops in Kauai, Oahu, Kona, Hilo and Ensenada we returned to San Francisco.

Click the picture below to see a photo album with some of the best photos from this trip. The album has a summary slide show or you can click any photo in the album and scroll through the pictures manually. The manual review displays a description for each picture. For more detailed information including date and location, click   ⓘ   or   ⋮    during the manual review.

Click this link to see more pictures in the Back to San Francisco photo album.

Thursday, March 7, 2024


After five days at sea we reached Ensenada Mexico. Hawaii cruises from San Francisco have to visit at least one foreign port before returning to San Francisco. In most cases that is Ensenada.

We'd been to Ensenada before and had considered not even getting off the ship. But Elizabeth found what turned out to be an excellent beer tasting tour. We lucked out even more by being the only two people on this tour, so we had a private tour for the price of a group tour. One other perk we ended up having was having pretty much the entire tasting area to ourselves since our tour started before many of the places we went to even opened. I hadn't realized how vibrant the craft beer culture is in Ensenada. They even have a beer festival once a year.

Our first stop was at Cardera and Bruer Tasting Room. Although it normally doesn't open until 1pm we were there around 11am. This tasting room is actually for two breweries, Cardera and Bruer. Their beers have won many awards and they were excellent. They were also brewing some barrel aged beers for the upcoming beer fest, but we weren't able to taste those.

Our second stop was at Chikilla craft beer. They also had an excellent selection of beers including one they don't normally serve, which was made from distilled beer. They used a beer that didn't quite turn out as they wanted, so they distilled it. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

The beer mugs you see in the picture above are owned by regular customers. For a small price you can have your own beer mug. And of course, you get a discount if you own one. According to the website they have "18 regular beers, 14 seasonal beers and more than 10 special beers." Although the first stop had slightly better beers, if you're going to one place I'd definitely recommend this place! The first beer tasting room did probably have almost as many different beers since it was two colocated breweries, but the second stop had the advantage of being colocated with a sushi restaurant.

Our third stop was actually at a deli to taste the beer of another brewer, Wendlandt Brewing, which doesn't open until 5pm, after our ship leaves. Regardless, we still tasted a Wendlandt beer at the deli and Elizabeth was able to get a cheese and meat plate to tide her over.

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

Friday, March 1, 2024

Hilo Hawaii

We hadn't booked any excursions for Hilo so we decided to walk 1.5 miles to Liliʻuokalani Gardens, with a stop at Coconut Island. On the way there we saw a turtle swimming in Reeds Bay near the shore.

Coconut Island is a small island park accessible via a short pedestrian bridge from Liliʻuokalani Gardens. If you look closely in the picture below you can see our ship in the distance.

Liliʻuokalani Gardens is a 24 acre park with scenic Japanese gardens.

We also visited Hilo Brewing Company but didn't take any pictures. Unfortunately when we were there they had been experiencing some equipment failures and didn't have any of their beers available. They did have four guest beers which were actually pretty good. They also had a separate area that sold some food. The tacos sold there were excellent!

A word of warning. Although Hilo Brewing was only a 1.5 mile walk from Liliʻuokalani Gardens, once you get away from the shoreline Hilo isn't a very walkable city due to the lack of sidewalks, narrow streets and sometimes heavy traffic. We took a Lyft from there back to the ship and if we had it to do over again, I think we would have taken one from Liliʻuokalani Gardens to the brewing company instead of walking.

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

Thursday, February 29, 2024


Our next stop was Kona on the big island of Hawaii. We walked a bit over a mile to the Old Kona Airport Beach, a beach visited mainly by locals. I was hoping to find at least some snorkeling, but it turned out not to be a very good place for that. Still, it turned out to be a fairly uncrowded beach with scenic views. Although it's not too far from the tender boat docks, the heat and humidity made it a bit of a slog.

The above picture is a panorama best viewed in Google Photos. To do that, click on the picture which will take you to the album with the picture. Then click on the picture within the album and click on it again to enter viewing mode.

Next we headed to the Kona Brewing Company, not too far from the ship tender boat dock. Because the cruise ship was in port that day, they were very busy. We were lucky to get one of the first come, first served tables in the bar area. A restaurant table would have been a 45 minute wait. The food was pretty good, but the beer was even better. I tried a couple of their standard beers and a couple of the limited edition beers, all very good.

There were a couple of small beaches next to the pier where our tender boat docked. The larger of the two, suitable for sunbathing and offering beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, was very crowded. But on the other side of the pier was a very small spit of sand with a roped off swimming area. That turned out to be a nice place to snorkel. Since there weren't very many other swimmers it was also a nice place to get photos of a variety of fish.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2024


I always try to get up early enough to see us pull into Oahu harbor to get a shot of Diamondhead and the sunrise. Although I like the photo below, it wasn't quite as impressive as the last time we visited Oahu.

We'd booked a snorkeling trip that day. Elizabeth, who books most of our tours, is always great about booking snorkeling and beer tasting tours for us, even though she doesn't swim or drink alcohol. This tour took us to Turtle Canyon, just off the shore from Waikiki.

This was a nice tour, the captain and crew were great, but the area was pretty crowded with our group as well as other groups. It was a challenge to get pictures without random body parts from other snorkelers.

The snorkeling trip left from a dock about a mile from where our ship docked, so we walked there from the ship. Our ship wasn't leaving until later that evening so we had plenty of time to visit a nearby brewpub and brewery.

Our first stop was at Off the Wall, a brewpub with a nice selection of local beers. At this brewpub it's easy to sample as many beers as you want. You get a card which you then put in a slot above one of the beer taps and your account is charged by the ounce as you pour beer. It was a great place to sample a lot of different beers 4 to 5 ounces at a time from a variety of local breweries. I tried a few of the Belgian and IPAs as well as a pilsner.

At Off the Wall brewpub I'd avoided any of the Aloha Beer Company beers since I knew we'd be heading there next. It's tough to beat a flight of super fresh IPAs right from the source, and probably fresh from the brewing vat. You also get to taste some of the limited editions as well and the Froot Lupes was one of my favorite tastes of the day. They were all very good and, of course, super fresh.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


After four days at sea we arrived in Nawiliwili Kauai. As you can see in the photo below, the view going into the harbor was beautiful!

We hadn't booked any tours that day. Last time we'd done the helicopter tour, expensive but worth it. This time we chose to walk to the nearby Kalapaki Beach and just enjoy the view. There's a Duke's Kauai there as well, so we sat and I enjoyed a couple of Kona draft beers.

Heading out of the bay was also scenic. And after what seemed like too short of a stay, we were on our way to Oahu.

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

Friday, February 23, 2024

At Sea

Second day of cruise and first of four at sea days before we reach Hawaii. There are a lot of at sea days on this cruise, but once you get used to them you actually enjoy them. Especially if you're retired and not worrying about work. The weather is pretty rough but it helps to see a rainbow, especially the rare double rainbow shown below.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Hawaii Cruise - Leaving San Francisco

Our first day aboard the Crown Princess cruise ship for a 16 day cruise to Hawaii, with a stop in Ensenada Mexico. In case you didn't know, most cruise ships have to have a stop in at least one foreign port if they leave and return to an American port. That's why Hawaii cruises have a single stop in Mexico and most Alaska cruises have a single stop in Canada. When cruises to Alaska resumed in 2021 after the COVID shutdown, Canadian ports were not yet open and so congress passed a temporary law allowing cruise ships to go to and from Alaska without stopping in Canada.

Here we are looking out over San Francisco from our cabin balcony. You can see Coit Tower in the upper left of the picture. We were lucky to have a larger than usual balcony, though it didn't make a lot of difference. To tell you the truth, we rarely were on the balcony anyway. That's why we often stick with an ocean view cabin and use the money we save to book an extra cruise. Still, it was nice to have a ceiling to floor wall to wall window view of the outside world.

Princess cruise lines no longer specifies a boarding time and boarding group for passengers. Instead you can board anytime between 11am and 2pm, though that time may vary depending on when your ship arrives and departs. Nobody really paid attention to that boarding time anyway. In any case, it is usually a zoo when you arrive, especially in San Francisco. First you wait in a long line to drop off your luggage. Then you wait in another long line to go through security, get your medallion and board the ship. If you pay an extra $10 for shipping, Princess will mail you the medallion ahead of time, saving you some time. But to save even more time, arrive at around 1pm after the rush and you'll practically walk on without much of a wait. The only downside is that you have to settle for a late lunch or eat before boarding the ship.

Soon we were on our way, with scenic views of San Francisco, Alcatraz and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

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

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


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


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.