Sea Days to Mexico (nearly not)

24.02.23 Sea Day

Although already practised in the routine of the Crown Princess’s sea days we still woke early, joining other early birds for breakfast. Sea conditions were fairly rough causing the ship to move randomly, walking around the decks was fine though stairways demanded the use of the handrails. During the morning we managed a couple of blustery laps around deck 7, but by the afternoon the bow section had been cordoned off due to the fierce crosswind.

On the mainland USA, they were having a winter storm with heavy snowfall in California and many other mid-western states, and we were heading into it.

The evening meal was formal and for the first time in a couple of days, we chose to eat in the Da Vinci, followed by a performance in the theatre of one of the ship’s instrumentalists.

25.02.23 Sea Day

Yesterday, Sue complained of having a sore throat and today she woke with a headache, and I had a tickle in the throat and a blocked nose. We decided to have a quiet day.

After a very late breakfast, we watched a lecture on Volcanoes in the theatre before having coffee and returning to our cabin for a nap. We woke at 2.30 pm then went for lunch in the buffet before again returning for another nap in the cabin.

Both feeling a lot better, we dressed for the evening meal at 7 pm, then sat in one of the lounges and played cards until returning to the buffet for dinner.

On our way to the theatre for the evening show, we stopped in the casino for Sue to gamble the two quarters she had in loose change on the Baccarat machine. Amazingly, she won $7.50, promising to return tomorrow when she was sure she would make her fortune. The show was a colourful song and dance affair, the main interest being the couple sat in front of us who were no doubt soon to be on their way to the divorce court as soon as we dock in LA.

26.02.23 Sea Day

We again woke late, feeling a lot better, refreshed from our lazy, sleepy day, we emerged onto the deck to be greeted by a bright but chillier day than previous. After breakfast Sue attended a lecture on Hula while I chose to watch France versus Scotland on the TV in the cabin, a brilliant game and unlucky for the Scots.

The afternoon followed our usual format; brisk deck walks, card and board games, and watching a film. On previous cruises, we have got ourselves involved in organised quizzes and clubs, but we are happy to have a more relaxed than an active cruise, I think it must be an age thing. We haven’t yet chilled out to a day consisting of cycling through sessions of sunbed and eating, and finishing with sleep, as it appears many on board do.

The evening show was an amazingly clever and humorous performance by Canadian ventriloquist Don Bryan, that had me and many in the audience in tears of laughter at times.

27.03.23 Sea Day

Rising late for breakfast seems to be getting to be a habit, the sea was calm, and the sun was shining in a clear sky, there was a chill to the wind that made us glad that we chose to wear fleeces. On each circuit of the deck, we stopped to watch a lone seabird using the draft of the ship to swoop and hover alongside before arrowing down into the waves, creating an instant streak of froth and bubbles as it snapped at its oblivious prey. All but once it emerged on the surface to throw back its head with fish in its beak and swallow it whole. According to the captain’s morning announcement, we were still 700 miles from the coast of Mexico, it’s a long way to come for breakfast!

The rest of the day was filled in with our preferred activities, there is something comforting about having a routine and not having to think too hard or make a choice. However, when you don’t fully engage your brain on what you are doing or going on such a huge ship, we do spend quite a bit of time retracing our steps because we have gone up instead of down or aft instead of the bow, mildly annoying, but we need to burn those calories, so it’s ok.

Lunch became interesting when an American mother and daughter joined us. The mother was a spritely 94yrs, and both had been ardent Republicans but after Trump’s election and subsequent performance through the pandemic, his misogynistic attitude, and his affront on democracy, they have now become Democrats. They were intently interested in our view on US politics, which seemed to match their own.

The evening’s formal meal became a British affair as all six of us at the table were from England. One pair we had shared a table with the previous evening and the other couple we had on our very first night. It was the first time the table conversation didn’t begin with an inquisition of who we were, where we were from, and what countries we have visited. Usually, we are seated with a couple of American pairs, or more often, Brits and Americans. Despite there being a large contingent of Koreans on board, they avoid formal restaurants, sticking to the buffet where they can seat themselves in large groups of eight or more. The nation as a whole seems to develop a very strong family or group identity, evident by the loud and excited conversations to be heard at a distance.

The show in the theatre was called ‘Magic to Do‘. It was a combination of magic, dance, and an original song produced specially for the Princess Cruise Line by Broadway legend, Stephen Schwartz. It was spectacularly colourful, but Sue and I were both confused. There was so much happening on stage that we did not know what to look at, did we watch the magic being performed, the dancers or the singer/s, or at times, those not even on the stage? If there was a story or theme behind the performance, then it wasn’t obvious. It was a very polished performance; a lot of hard work had gone into the production, but we left feeling we didn’t understand what we had seen and probably missed the links because there were too many distractions going on.

28.02.23 Sea Day

The clocks went forward one hour overnight, we didn’t hit breakfast until 9 am and then followed that by a mile around the deck.

We had noticed whilst walking along the accommodation corridors that quite a few cabins had food trays appearing outside the door set on little tables, recently these had been joined by large red plastic sacks, an indicator from past cruises that their occupants have been isolated. At breakfast, all the staff and crew were now wearing masks. It seems we have Covid on board.

In a break from our afternoon routine, we attended a performance by our fellow shipmates from the Hula and Ukelele groups that have been practising each sea day to show off their skills. Most of the cruises we have been on the finish with a show utilising the talents of its passengers, if not that, then the talent among the crew is exploited. The shows may not be the most professional, but they are always entertaining, and this was no exception. In essence, the Hula dancers performed to the music of the ukulele, and they did a decent job.

Later, while relaxing in our cabin, watching the National Geographic channel on the TV, an announcement was made by the captain that due to poor weather in Ensanada, passengers will not be disembarking. We will arrive at 6 am for immigration purposes but then depart by 10 am and proceed to Los Angeles. Though we haven’t booked a trip we had planned our day in the town, to see the resident sea lions, visit the  Riviera Del Pacifico, once the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in Mexico, and of course, shop for a few memories.

01.03.23 Ensenada

Keen to photograph the sea lions that reputedly bask on rocks adjacent to where the ship berths, I rose early and was on deck soon after we arrived in the Mexican port of Ensenada, situated in the state of Baja California and also known as the wine capital of Mexico. To my dismay as I emerged from the bowels of the Crown Princess I discovered it was raining on peering down from the upper decks there was no sign of sea lions. Our expected berth was occupied by another cruise ship, annoyingly we had a more convenient location just right for those wishing to exit the port quickly and enjoy some retail therapy. Being told we could not exit the ship seemed unfair, especially as I watched in envy, passengers from the Carnival cruiser streaming onto waiting coaches while a few hardy souls in rain gear, splashed past heading towards a line of taxis or on foot into town.

In resignation, I drowned my sorrows in a heartier breakfast than usual and half an hour later was joined by Sue. A little later, as we were circumnavigating Deck 7, desperately peering through the mist and rain, hoping for a distant sight of sea lions, an announcement came over the tannoy. The sea conditions were too rough to leave until 5 pm and tomorrow’s arrival will be 9 am instead of 6 am.  This would cause obvious problems for those with onward travel arrangements, and they were encouraged to contact the Ship’s Services Desk. At the end of the announcement, we were informed that passengers and crew had to be back on the ship by 4 pm. I could imagine the bewilderment of those passengers who had booked trips and then had them cancelled yesterday.

Quickly returning to our cabin, we changed into raingear and left the ship in a heavy downpour. We were going to execute Plan A, no matter what the weather did!

Through a deluge we left the port and headed to the Riviera Del Pacifico, ignoring the waves of despondent taxi drivers as we crossed the busy, near-flooded six-lane highway running in front of our intended venue. With wet feet, we found the large and ancient wooden entrance and it appeared locked, after trying the handle a few times, there was the rattle of a moving mechanism then a creak of reluctant hinges and a moustachioed gentleman beckoned us in.

The building had been a hotel during Prohibition in the USA, where rich Americans could drink and gamble. Unfortunately, shortly after it was finished Prohibition ended and Mexico outlawed gambling. It is presently used by the city for civic functions, the rooms have been preserved as an attraction for tourists. It was a relief to be in the dry, so we took our time perusing the many photos hanging on the walls before Sue investigated the various stalls set around the inner plaza. The building and its fittings and furnishing were imported from Spain and must have been a splendid place to lose your money.

Venturing out into the miserable conditions outside we followed the new and pretty shoreline walkway that began on a wooden bridge that crossed a rather filthy river that spewed muddy water and garbage into the harbour. We soon passed a huge flagpole devoid of its pennant, famed as being the largest Mexican flag in the country, but sadly, during the winter it is taken down for cleaning in Mexico City. Adjacent to the path were restaurants, shops, and boat hire kiosks, none were doing business today. The mile-long route ended at the far end of the marina where fishing boats and pleasure yachts were berthed side by side, here there were also several statues set along a wooden ramp that led to a viewpoint over the harbour.

Climbing the structure we were surprised to see a pelican and its mate sitting unconcerned on top of a couple of fishing boats, maybe waiting for a lift out to the fishing grounds. They seemed to enjoy posing for the photographs we took, but we soon lost interest when we spotted two sea lions hunting among the tightly packed boats. They would flip over and dive into the browny green water, to emerge a little way away with a fish in mouth, violently flick the hapless creature into the air, then swallow it whole before it hit the surface. Only once did we see them emerge from a dive without a fish.

It was a timely reminder that it was time for Sue and I to return to the ship for lunch. Leaving our wet clothes hanging around the cabin from any suitable protuberance we changed into dry ones and hit the buffet. We had earlier in the day spotted a small sandy bay from the windows of the ship around half a mile away, it looked like a good place for sea lions to flop and sleep and we had planned to check it out during the afternoon. Despite the continuing rain, that’s what we did.

Water was now rushing down the streets competing with the traffic, the sidewalks were no better, and large ponds were forming, spilling their contents to join the street race. We were soon soaked. The Mexican authorities don’t seem to understand the concept behind drains, holes that water flows into are many and deep, but they are naturally made through poor maintenance of roads and paths.

Bedraggled, we reached the flooded dirt track that should have led to our beach, but disappointingly there was a high wire fence preventing access. We assumed that this was to prevent nosy tourists from disturbing their sleep so reluctantly we headed back to the warmth of the ship. We would have to be satisfied with seeing just two Mexican sea lions, but that’s OK, sealions are now off the bucket list.

After another change of clothes, we satisfied ourselves with more coffee on one of the upper decks where we could see the Alcatraz beach of just an hour previous. We had brought the binoculars with us and though it was misty and still raining we fancy we could see five sea lions at rest among the rocks.

During our evening meal in the Da Vinci, the captain made another announcement. We had expected to depart at 5 pm but it was now 8 pm and we had not moved. There were 15m waves beyond the breakwater which were not expected to subside until midnight, this meant that disembarking in LA would not begin before 9 am, probably causing even more problems for some passengers with early flights.

We did leave Esenada at midnight and for the first few hours it was a very lumpy passage, but then the sea settled down, and sleep crept up.

We had changed our disembarking procedure to walk off with our cases, rather than collect them portside from the crew. We decided that this gave us more flexibility as we had an 11 am taxi booked to LAX, and it turned out to be so. We were port side in plenty of time to meet our transfer. However, though our driver could text us with instructions, my mobile refused to send any replies. Thankfully, a kindly American lady standing in the queue with us contacted the driver on her phone and we caught our ride.

It was a lovely day in Los Angeles, warm and sunny, the only evidence showing the recent foul weather they had been having was the beautiful backdrop of snowcapped mountains.

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