Thursday, March 23, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017–La Paz, Mexico–Partly Cloudy - 72F

Distance from Mazatlan, Mexico to La Paz, Mexico: 272 Nautical Miles

This is our first trip to La Paz, Mexico.

La Paz (population 225,000) is the capitol of the Mexican State of Baja California Sur. 

Azamara Quest is docked at Puerto de Pichilingue – the Port is supplying complimentary busses to the Bus Terminal in downtown La Paz.  The busses run every 30 minutes between the port and city.  The Bus Terminal is in a central location and just a few blocks away from the Malecon, the boardwalk that runs 3.5 miles along the beach.  John Steinbeck put this area of the Sea of Cortez on the map by putting out two books, “The Pearl” and the “Log from the Sea of Cortez” – a non fiction log of tour he took in 1940.

The sail in was very picturesque -


Not sure if I felt safer or less safe by the presence of a Mexican Gunboat that escorted the ship into La Paz.


We tried to get off the ship quickly so we would have a good chance to see a lot of La Paz.  To make us feel welcome at this port, a Mariachi Band did it’s stuff right there on the port. 


Mariachi Hello

The best way to describe La Paz is that the area around the port is basically a desert.  Lots of sands and lots of cacti. 



There are interesting breaks in the terrain on our way to La Paz.  One really nice one is a fancy golf course – you can tell it’s a desert course since the only green color is on the fairways and greens.


Tee It Up in La Paz

La Paz was an interesting town to walk around in.  We found the main square, which was an obligatory photo op.


While the Malecon runs several miles along the beach, only a small portion of it abuts La Paz.  If you get confused as to where you are in Mexico, this city supplies a sign giving you a clue.


Ellen in La Paz

There are a number of statues and installations along the Malecon.  One impressive one was a huge bird and I had to get a picture of it.  The other statue below was shot from the bus on your return to the port.


Statues Along the Malecon

It’s true that a lot of business have gone south to Mexico.  On that really hits home is the relocation of Thrifty Ice Cream stores from California to Mexico.  The Drugstore business apparently did not survive but the ice cream is alive and well – we have spotted Thrifty Ice Cream locations in at least three Mexican cities.  Although we are fans of the ice cream (especially the 15 cent cone our kids used to love), we decided it wise to pass on the ice cream since we have a lot of cruise ahead of us.


Thrifty Ice Cream – Blast From the Past

Another interesting local in La Paz is “Iron Man” (no not the Iron Man).  The armor looks a little thin but still worth a picture.


Me and the Tin Man

After about a couple of hours wandering around the city, it was time to go back the bus station.  Here’s an interesting observation – the La Paz Bus Terminal has two sets of washrooms – one that costs a peso to use and the other free.  Who has to use what – we could not figure it out. 

The bus ride back seemed shorter than the one to the city and soon the Quest came into view.


After a late lunch, we spent the rest of the day out on the open deck.  I finished Val McDermid’s detective novel, “The Skeleton Road”, about the Balkan Wars and a murder in Edinburgh.  It was very good and I should have figured it out earlier than I did but the author did a good job of confusing me.  I started a couple of books that I gave up on early and settled on a historical fiction novel- “Dust and Shadow” by Lindsay Faye , which inserted Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson into the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888.  Lots of facts, some terrific descriptions of London and Whitechapel, and amazing dialogue.  

A perfect, no cloud in the sky, day and one that begs for photos.


Moon over La Paz



View from Deck 5

After dinner in the Discoveries Dining Room, we took in the first production show:  “Stage Door to Dreams”.  We have seen this show several time but the songs and dances are great and it never grows old.


Stage Door to Dreams

It was still warm on the deck as we sailed away so I took a picture of the moon over the Sea of Cortez.


A nice, warm day in La Paz.

Saturday–February 11, 2017 – At Sea – Entering Sea of Cortez – Cloudy - 71F


A beautiful day at sea as we turn the corner on Baja California and sail into the Sea of Cortez

I got someone to get me some sour cream for breakfast – odd sour cream but not yoghurt.  Complemented the waffle and cottage cheese perfectly and the iconic breakfast combo is complete.  Ate on the back deck again.

I got crazy and walked 20.5 laps on Deck 10 after breakfast (13 laps 1 Nautical Mile). There was very little wind and the temperature was perfect. 

An iced decaf latte kept me company in the Mosaic Cafe as I prepped for my next talk.

Talk Number 2 is scheduled for 2:00 PM.  “Forensics and History:  The Mystery of the Romanovs”  drew an audience of 270 plus.  A few passengers showed up early so I had a chance to chat with them before show time.


Getting Acquainted

The afternoon time slot is good because I have the morning to get ready and I have the time for a nice lunch.  The downside is that most of the afternoon is gone.  I try to get into my hanging out clothes quickly so I can optimize my Deck 5 quality time.

After a nice dinner in the Discoveries Dining Room, we attended the early show in the Cabaret Lounge.  We had never seen these guys before but Branden and James (Branden James and James Clark) were terrific.  James Clark played the Viola and Piano and Branden James supplied the vocals (and he is a terrific singer).  They had some cute banter between numbers.  The audience like them and so did we.


Branden and James

After the show, we spent a little time in the Mosaic Café (lattes and tea) and then in the Living Room with Simon.

Seas are smooth.

Friday, February 10, 2017 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Mostly Cloudy – 60s

Smooth seas last night.


Ship’s Position



Changing Weather at Sea

The first breakfast of the voyage – something I always look forward to - was in the Windows Café.  This ship also has waffles, cottage cheese, and preserves (in little bottles).  I will try to get sour cream tomorrow.  The scrambled eggs and oatmeal are also good.  Best of all, it was warm enough to eat outside on the back deck. 

I spent some of the morning tuning up my first talk, which is scheduled for the afternoon.  I also attended the first talk by Michael Hick, the Destination Speaker – he had a huge crowd.  (NOTE: Lou Minter is the Bridge Instructor; Watercolor artist Patricia Langewis and her husband, Cor, are also on this ship).

For lunch, I ordered a seared tuna wrap (no onion rings) from the Patio.  It was really good but I have to remember to get it well done next time.  The Patio also has another favorite of mine – pretzels (and ranch dressing).  Not today but tomorrow and probably everyday of the cruise.

Lee briefly introduced me at Talk 1 – “DNA Testing: Cold Cases Solved”, which was scheduled at 2:00 PM.  That is also the time slot when the watercolor and bridge are scheduled. I estimated that the theater was about 70 plus percent full – about 210 attendees (based on a 300 seating capacity estimate), which was good for a first talk.



“Cold Cases Solved”

Even though the weather was not great, we decided to try and get some steps in on Deck 10.  We did a few laps but had to stop because of the wind.


We Tried

Dinner in the Discoveries Dining Room consisted of Tomato Corn Chowder Soup (good), Green Salad (special order OK), Salmon (good) with Pea Risotto (strange), veggie empanadas (OK), Ricotta filled gnocchi (good), and Bananas Foster (a little too sweet).  We have great waiters, Javier and Joe.  The food comes quick and everything is correct.

Showtime tonight featured the first Production Show by the Quest Singers and Dancers (all of whom are from the US – Meg, DeAna, Ernest, and Jordan – this was the same cast that we saw our last time in the Quest in December).  The show, “Who Wrote the Songs”, recognizes noted composers and lyricists.  The show had to be modified due to an injury to the dance duo guy – this meant that the choreography changed so Hana could dance along and with other cast members.


Billy Joel


Dusty Springfield


Harold Arlen


and Barry Manilow

It’s a good show – we never get tired seeing it.

Finished evening with Simon in the Living Room – peaceful.

Sunday, February 12, 2017 - Mazatlan, Mexico - Partly Cloudy - 82

Distance from San Diego, CA to Mazatlan, Mexico: 962 Nautical Miles

Port Information.  Our first port of call, Mazatlan, is the largest port between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal.  The city has a population of over 500,000 people.  The port authority supplied an open air tram that took us from the gangway to the small shopping center and terminal.  From the shopping area you can walk directly into the city and the city center.

Mazatlan From the Ship

It is a short day in Mazatlan and most of the tours are very early in the morning.  No tours for today so, after breakfast, we walked to the center of town (30 minutes) by following a blue line in the middle of the road to our destination.  Also, Americans living in Mazatlan were working as tourist information guides – they were on almost every corner wearing special T-shirts.  You can’t get lost here.  It was a Sunday and a lot of the non-food shops were closed but there were plenty of locals around.

We were in Mazatlan a few years ago but we toured that day and didn’t get a chance to see the city center up close.  One site we stopped at back then was the Mazatlan Cathedral (1875-1890).  I remembered that it features a star of David in each of its 28 stained glass windows.  I asked our guide on that tour about the stars and she didn’t know their origin or significance.  Also, the last time we were here, there was a TV crew filming something in the church.  Pretty quiet today.

Mazatlan Cathedral

Across the street from the Cathedral is the Plaza Machado.  This is the highlight of the Historic District and a beautiful park.  There is some kind of music festival coming to town and there are lots of adverts around pushing the festival.  We found one of these in the form of an installation – a cat of some sort.

Plaza Machado

Beauty and the Cat

“Forensics and History: The Search for the Unknown Titanic Child” is scheduled for 3:00 PM (all aboard is 3:30 PM).  It is a tough time for a talk with passengers returning from shore and tours but the attendance peaked at about 240 or so attendees.

“Search for the Unknown Titanic Child”

After the talk, we spent some time on the open deck, where we also took some pictures of the sail away.

Mazatlan Sail Away

After dinner, we attended Showtime, featuring Comedian Brad Tassell (from Santa Claus Indiana).  He was a very funny guy.  Good to have a comedian as part of the entertainment schedule. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017 - San Diego, CA – Partly Cloudy - 65F

The room was quiet last night. 

The breakfast area wasn’t crowded or noisy and there was a decent selection of items on the buffet.  There were no waffles on this breakfast, but there was an automated pancake maker that made two pancakes at a time on demand.  The pancakes were small but OK – the waffles are still better because you can control the crispness of the final product.  Nevertheless, the breakfast was good.

The hotel supplied a complementary Shuttle to the Pier. The pier was very close to the hotel and the ride took just a few minutes.

We usually check in with the Pier Coordinator (my boarding letter instructions said to do so) but there was no Coordinator (we were told) available today.  We checked in with the passengers, which took somewhat longer than usual.

We eventually boarded the ship and went to our room – 4000 (the last forward cabin on deck 4 port) to drop off our little wheelie and computer. 



Cabin 4000 – Our Home Away From Home

The cabin on the Azamara Ships are comfortable with a large window, a very comfortable, King bed, and comfortable bathroom.  We have never been in this cabin but not having a neighbor to our right would seem to be an advantage.

The Cruise Director of this cruise is Russ Grieve and the Activity Director is Lee Hetherington.  I’ve sailed with Russ before but this will be my first time working with Lee.


Itinerary for the Sea of Cortez Cruise

We had lunch in the Windows Café (tuna scoop and salad) (some of the items on the buffet now have new locations) and then hung out on the deck 5.  The deck has an added benefit in that it is across the bay from the San Diego Airport – I could watch planes come and go all day.


Plane Landing at SAN

Standing on Deck 9 and looking forward, you can get a nice view of the skyline of San Diego behind the ship.


Quest and San Diego

On the back deck of the Windows Café, a local was checking out the new batch of passengers.


After my recent AV weirdness on the Grand Princess, I thought it wise to do an AV check.  I called the AV guy and we met in the Cabaret Lounge after the boat drill to give the system a whirl.  Everything worked fine.  I also ran into Russ and Lee, who were getting ready to tape their morning show.


Russ, Lee, and Me

The Quest was escorted out of San Diego Harbor by a gunboat.  That is getting to be pretty much the procedure.


We had a very nice dinner in the Discoveries Restaurant – Salmon, Cesar Salad, Baked Potato.  Our waiters, Javier and Joe, are terrific and we are going to try and get our same table (in the immediate left corner of the dining room) for the whole cruise.

The Welcome Aboard Show featured one of the Quest Singers, Ernest Marchain.  He put on a fabulous show  including the title number from a play he was in – ‘Starlight Express”.


After the show, we spent a little time in the Mosaic Café and then to our room.

It was great to be back on the Quest.