Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cruise Review - Part 2 (finally!)

Day 7 – October 30
The worst thing about our next port – Zihuatenejo – was that we were only there 5 hours! It was an absolutely beautiful, tropical place and apparently a lovely little town – quieter than some of our other ports – with interesting shops, galleries and sights. But the kids aren’t really into sightseeing yet, so once again we decided to hit the beach. The ship has to dock in the harbor so we took a tender to the pier where we hired a water taxi who’s driver promised us “the best beach for kids” which turned out to be Playa Las Gatas. The water was warm, calm and clear so we decided to rent snorkels and see what we could see. Morgan wanted to try snorkeling too. We’d forgotten her floaties so weren’t sure if she’d be able to do much. But the water was sooooo salty that she discovered that she could float easily. She figured out how to use the snorkel in no time and swam all over the place seeing lots of colorful fish. Zachary was also able to see fish splashing around by the rocks. We spent hours, not just at the beach, but in the water. This was the one place that we’d really like to go back to someday!
After dinner, we took Morgan to the Kids Club and took Zach out for another show and dancing. Zachary was always happiest at the disco. By the end of the cruise all of the bands knew him by name. Many people commented on how both he and Morgan have a natural sense of rhythm. Sure didn’t get it from their parents!

Playa las Gatas

Ship from shore!

Snorkel girl!

Day 8 - October 31
After the natural beauty of Zihuatenejo, it was a bit of a letdown to see that the pier in Puerto Vallerta is basically in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. So we were glad that we chose this port to do our one ship sponsored (meaning: expensive!) shore excursion. We’d booked the “pirate boat adventure” where we would get breakfast, lunch and a show on a pirate ship as well as snorkeling, beach time, and an open bar. When we got off the ship we were greeted by Lucas our “personal pirate” and were escorted to the pirate boat for breakfast. Morgan was a little bit nervous at first, but soon got into it mugging and “Arrrrrrr-ing” with all the pirates. She was so enthusiastic that she was chosen to participate in one of the games. She went up on stage – by herself – and said her name and where she was from and then danced for everyone. Unfortunately, next thing I knew was that I had to join her on stage while she fed me baby food with us both in blindfolds. At least we got t-shirts out of it!
The pirate show itself was pretty silly and hard for Morgan to follow because it was bilingual and I don’t think she could keep track of when they switched between English and Spanish. But there was enough yelling and sword fighting and cannonballs (“candy-balls” as Zach says) to keep the kids entertained until we reached our snorkeling area. We snorkeled right from the boat and had to wear lifeboats so it was a little disappointing for Morgan & Zach. Their vests didn’t fit well and Morgan’s snorkel wasn’t the right size either. (We should have got Morgan some snorkel gear at home and brought it with us.) But Jon saw some great fish including a puffer fish!
After snorkeling we went to the beach and spent some time there. Zach & I splashed in the tide pools and Morgan & Jon took a banana boat ride. Then we went back to the pirate ship for lunch. Poor Zachary was sooo hungry because we didn’t bring any snacks to the beach and lunch wasn’t until after 1. But then he feel asleep before the food was served. Luckily, the pirates were nice enough to pack up his hot dog so he could have it as soon as he woke up.
Once back on the cruise ship it was time to get ready for HALLOWEEN! The kids club was going trick or treating and Morgan was so excited. She refused all week to tell anyone what her costume was because she wanted it to be a surprise. We got her a pink eye patch at the pirate gift shop to complete her “Princess Pirate” look. And Zach wore my old Oshkosh overalls with a matching hat to be a train engineer. He had no idea what he was supposed to be, but it was still cute. The kids club paraded all over the ship collecting candy. Morgan was very good about making sure she got some for Zachary who wouldn’t carry a bag. Zachary decided that he does not like Halloween. Even now almost a month later he tells us every day “Halloween SCAAAARY! No like Halloween!”. But Morgan loves it and was even brave enough to go through the haunted house that the teen club (there were maybe 4 or 5 teenagers on board) put together. Personally, I’m with Zach on the whole Halloween thing and was quite happy not to have to deal with school parties and trick-or-treating. I think I’d like to go on vacation every Halloween!

Morgan and her personal pirate.

Dancing on stage.

Tired little matey.

Princess Pirate Morgan.

Engineer Zachary.

Day 9 – November 1
Our last port was Cabo San Lucas. It was easy to tell we were no longer in the tropical part of Mexico because the view from our stateroom looked a lot like San Diego! But in the other direction was the dramatic looking landscape of Land’s End, so that is where we decided to go. The water taxi drivers were skeptical because the beach over there has no facilities or restaurants or Burger Kings, but we insisted. We found one with a glass bottomed boat and negotiated a deal for a sightseeing tour, snorkel gear and a few hours at Lover’s Beach. He even directed us to a truck where we could get tacos to bring with us for lunch. (Though he, too, was surprised that we didn’t want hamburgers.) We saw the rock formation “el arco” and lots of fish and sea lions. Land’s End is where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean and as you get close to the pacific side, the water gets really rough! The Sea of Cortez side (that’s where the beach is) is better, but it was still too strong for Morgan to snorkel. But she had fun “body surfing” with her floaties on. Even Zachary figured out a way to body surf. He’d hold my hand and then when a wave hit us he’d lift up his feet and let his lower body get tossed around by the surf. It was a bit rough on my shoulder, but fun. Even the couple of times when the waves were stronger than I expected and we both went tumbling up the beach.
The kids both love the beach now. I don’t think we’ll be able to get away with not taking them to the beach for another summer. Morgan was so inexperienced in the ocean at first that her only point of reference was The Little Mermaid. She referred to the beach and the ocean as the “surface” and the “sea”. As in, when she was tired she’d say “I’m ready to go to the surface now” and after she’d rested she would say “now I want to return to the sea.” Morgan & Zachary were both so sad that this was their last day at the beach.
Back on the ship, the kids had another dinner with their kids club so Jon & I had a nice meal in the “fancy” dining room. The meals are long and leisurely with several courses and very nice service. Of course, that means that with the kids the meals were very stressful, so it was nice to go by ourselves and really enjoy it.
Late that night was something they were calling their “white hot ice ice” party or something like that. I guess you were supposed to wear white and have a party. Obviously we did not attend because as the parents of 2 kids under 5 we do not own anything white. I think it was all just a ploy to sell white clothes in the duty free. By this time we knew that NCL doesn’t miss an opportunity to sell you things. From the pictures in the photo gallery the next day it looked like about 30 people were at the party! It didn’t help that it was at 10:30 and I don’t think many of the passengers stay up that late. It wasn’t a very party oriented crowd. Every day the schedule would advertise DJ Tony “rocking the house” from 11:30 on. I think DJ Tony probably has the easiest job on the ship.

Land's End

El Arco

Morgan and the sea lions!

Zach on the beach!

Day 10 & 11 – November 2 & 3
Our last two days at sea were mostly uneventful. On the 2nd we took the kids for one last time in the pool since it was starting to get cooler as we sailed north. It was so windy that even sitting in the hot tub was uncomfortable because of the water being blown into your face. Then there was the family pizza making party which provided one of the better meals on the ship! The show that night was called “Cirque Pan” – a music/dancing/acrobatics extravaganza inspired by Peter Pan. Morgan went with the kids club and Jon & I took Zach who we knew would like it. He really did like it – except when some of the pirates ran through the aisles right past us. I think he’d had enough pirates on the trip already! The show itself was pretty good, except that I can’t remember the part in Peter Pan where Wendy sings “Lady Marmalade”. This was also the night of the midnight chocolate buffet, but we were too tired to check it out. By the time we went to bed, the ship was starting to rock pretty strongly and early the next morning we were woken up by a message from the Captain saying that they were helicoptoring a sick passenger off the ship so to stay inside. Too much excitement at the chocolate buffet, I guess.
By our last day onboard, we were ready to get home. Ten days was a good length of time, but I don’t think we would have lasted any longer. The ship was rocking like crazy all day. We took Morgan to Kids Club for an hour before lunch and she spent the rest of the day in bed totally seasick. I don’t think she was the only one because the ship was so quiet – very few people out and about. Zach felt fine, though, so we just took turns trying to entertain him and keep him out of the room so poor Morgan could rest. Unfortunately, on one of his outings he got his fingers caught in the elevator!!! It didn’t close on his hand, he just got it stuck on the side where the door slid open. So we almost went the whole trip without a visit to the medical center! Luckily, his hand was not broken, the doc did not charge us and Zachary got a latex glove blown up like a balloon. What a way to end a vacation!
Tuesday morning we sailed into San Francisco bay around 6am. We had chosen to disembark at 9:20 using the color-coded system that they had set up. They were supposed to call our color “orange” at 9:20 and then we would be able to get our luggage from the pier. Of course, they skipped orange (at this point we thought they were just trying to make us mad) but we left anyway and our bags were easy to find and we were on our way home. The kids both cried as we drove away, but once we got home I think they were glad to be back. Zachary kept shouting “Zach play with toys?!? Zach play with TOYS?!?” I think the boy thought he would never see his toys again.
So we survived. We even had a lot of fun. I think we’d definitely do a cruise again someday – probably when the kids are a little older. If Zachary were at least 4 I think it would be much easier. And next time we have to bring grandparents with us. (And aunts/uncles too!) It would be nice to spread the kids around a little more. We probably wouldn’t sail NCL again, though. Nothing major went wrong, but there were a whole bunch of little irritating incidents which, when put together, don’t point to a very well-run company and certainly not one with a customer-service focus. But we didn’t let that run our good time!

Towel bunny!

Sick Morgan

Back home in the bay!

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