Thursday, November 24, 2022

November 3, 2022 – Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro – Sunny, Breezy, and Cool – 60s

The ship danced all night, and I got up before dawn and got a shot of the pier area as the sun was coming up.  We are not in the usual terminal area and it looks like our luggage will be in that tent.

Ellen and I went up to La Veranda for breakfast at 6:30 AM and I got my pancakes and cottage cheese and scrambled eggs for the last time on this voyage.  Even on disembarkation day, this combo was delicious.

At 7:30 AM, we grabbed our carryon bags and went to the Horizon Lounge to be checked out by CPB agents (mine just said “have a good one”).  From there, we went to the theater to wait until our tag color and number was ready to disembark.  Disembarkation was done by scanning our suite cards 

and not by facial recognition.  We found our luggage quickly (small ship benefit) and went to the bus area.  We found out later that our bus had gone to the wrong pier so we semi-froze waiting for the bus to arrive.  After some time, the bus did drive up.  The driver and a port agent polled everyone as to airline (meanwhile Ellen got us seats).  Here's our last look at Mariner from the bus pickup area.

The ride to LAX up the Harbor Freeway took about 30 minutes.  This left us plenty of time to go through the kiosk, check our bags, screen through TSA, and get to Gate 51A Terminal 5.  Our plane, coming from Charlotte, NC arrived a few minutes late, 

so we boarded AA813 about 15 minutes late.  This time the plane was full – we still had legroom seat, 9E and 9F, but the guy next to me on the aisle was pretty big and might have crossed into my air space a few times.

It was a short taxi and soon we were in the air.  No marine layer today so the views were spectacular.  

I sat in the middle seat the whole flight.  We had procured some tuna and bread from the ship and Ellen turned that into a wonderful lunch.  Along with the tuna, I had a Bloody Mary (it comes with the seat) and a Diet Coke – a crazy combination but I liked it.  The flight was generally smooth even though the radar indicated some storms along our route.

I was able to make it through three hours of the flight without a restroom visit - I thought it best with 30 to 45 minutes to go to take that break now (nobody wants to circle ORD waiting for clearance to land).  Going through the aisle is always amazing with all of those legs stretched out in the aisle – it’s like the hurdles.  There are also shoulders and heads to dodge.  We had some great flight attendants and the passengers all behaved themselves.  We wore masks but there might have been a handful of passengers masked on this flight – the flight attendants did not wear masks.

We arrived in LA around 7 PM or so.  Our bags were some of the last ones to emerge.  I used the American Taxi app to schedule a cab but got a message that no cabs were available at the moment.  I then called 303 Cabs and told someone on the line that we needed a cab, and she told me that Cab 404 would meet us on the upper (departure) level is about 15 minutes.

We went to 3E Upper Level and waited – very few cars were driving by and even fewer taxis.  I had gotten a text from “Pablo Escobar” our cab driver and recently deceased drug cartel jefe that he was on his way.  After a few minutes I called the cab and he said he would be there in 15 minutes.  It was a bit longer than 15 minutes but a “Niles Flash Cab” #404 drove up and it was Pablo.  The fair would be $41 ($2 less than American) and we were on our way.  We got home OK – he was a good driver – and we were back in our Condo.

A very nice – too short – cruise on a beautiful ship with a wonderful Cruise Director and great food.

November 2, 2022 – At Sea – Cloudy with Intermittent Showers – 60s

A very blustery day as we continue up the Baja Peninsula. 


There are rain showers driving some hardy people off the pool deck.  The wind was so bad last night that the table on our veranda was turned upside down by the room steward to keep it was going airborne and into the Pacific Ocean. 

Today, I tried to shake things up at breakfast by getting up to La Veranda just as it opened and ordering an omelet with cheddar cheese, onions, and tomatoes (I like to get there before all the ham omelets hit the pans).  I had a bagel with the omelet.  Based on my experience with breakfast on this cruise, I have to say that I was disappointed with the omelet and there were very little in the way of veggies and the only thing I could taste was the cheddar cheese.  I should have stayed with my pancakes, which have never let me down.  I did supplement the omelet with some scrambled eggs but that didn’t really help.  The coffee was good.  And while the breakfast wasn't that great, I did get a seat with a wonderful view.

I had another nice turnout for my final talk – “Identifying America’s Fallen Heroes” – 

at 10 AM in the Constellation Theater.  The attendance for the last couple of sessions has been constant and I still think that a lot of guests are watching on TV.  The talk ended on time, and I answered a few questions before heading out.  One of the more interesting comments from a passenger (from France, I believe) was that my speaking voice had improved the ringing in her ears.  A first for me and probably for all speakers.

We had lunch up in La Veranda – we sat inside because of the conditions outside.  Today, the ship was having an Italian buffet and pasta station instead of the normal Grille faire.  We both had the pasta with cream sauce and veggies.  It was Ok but we have had better pasta on board.  I also had some tuna stuffed tomatoes and salad. 

It was difficult finding a warm place to read.  We decided that the “Observation Lounge” – Deck 12 Forward would be out best bet and it was.  While watching the waves and ocean do their thing, we sat in very comfortable seats.  I ordered a signature cocktail – “The Voyager” – which consisted of orange juice, raspberry liquor, among other things.  The drink, named after one of the Regent ships, was really good.  Note to self: If you get on another Regent Ship, check out the signature cocktails.

Since most of our clothes had been laundered, packing was easy.  All we needed was what we were going to wear at disembarkation.  We were packed up pretty quickly since we hadn’t really packed to the limit.  We received our Red 1 Luggage tags, which would get us to LAX via bus. 

We were both not up to dealing with any restaurant tonight so we ordered a Margherita Pizza along with Veggie Spring Rolls from Room Service.  They were both really good, especially the Spring Rolls.  I should note that the Room Service menu is quite extensive and because the ship is small, the food arrives hot and good.

We asked Room Service to retrieve our dishes and we headed for the theater for James Wing’s second show.  There was something not right with James tonight – I think he was sick.  He had trouble speaking, the volume was low, and he kept drinking from his water bottle (which he did not do when we saw him last).  His delivery, maybe due to his voice issues, was not as good and so his timing was off.  I really think he caught a bug.  Hope to see him again – he is very funny.

I put our bags out before 10 AM.  The ship is really rocking so hoping we can sleep.

November 1, 2022 – At Sea – Cool and Sunny – 70s

Up early again (of course) and looking out at a beautiful sky and sea. The temperature outside is dropping pretty quickly as the ship makes her way up the Mexican coast to Los Angeles.  Another wonderful breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs in La VerandaI am speaking at 10 AM in the morning on the way back so the restaurant is out.

We are just off the coast 

- the Baja Peninsula is off the starboard side. 

Talk no 4 is “The Lost Dauphin of France” in the Constellation Theater.  

I got there a few minutes early and since it takes about a minute to set up the computer, I have a little time chat with guests (at a distance).  The folks in the audience are always personable.  I also think that there is a sizeable audience watching me on TV – especially the morning sessions (the photo above is deceptive - the place wasn't empty).  No matter – the talk ran less than 50 minutes, and I was out of there pretty quickly.  I should mention that my knee and leg seem to be holding up to the hour long standing.

We had lunch inside La Veranda because it is quite cool and breezy on the open Ocean. I had another Impossible Burger – this one was prepared perfectly (the last one was a little overdone) and even though I asked for potato salad, French fries appeared instead (they were fresh hot and good). 

There were very few warm locations outside – one possible place to sit and read was the open terrace outside of the Horizon Lounge.  That area was pretty well shielded from the breeze but not perfectly.  We stayed there most of the afternoon.  Ellen certainly looked comfortable.

I ordered an iced mocha latte - not the ideal drink for a chilly day on deck but it was good.

We had dinner once again in Sette Mari and, this evening, scored a very nice window table. We went pretty much when it opened, and it was not that crowded.  In addition to the great appetizers, I also tried the Minestrone Prima Vera tonight.  The soup came nice and hot but instead of the barley and garbanzo beans advertised, it was mostly cabbage.  Nonetheless, it was good.  The main course was a vegetarian lasagna in cheese sauce – it was a little cheesy for me.  I made do with the appetizers and Peppadew peppers (still spicy and good). 

We listened to a bit of piano in the Mariner Lounge and then headed off to the theater for the show.  We got those good seats we had the other night behind the last row.  But just as we were getting comfortable a man in a wheelchair asked us to move down so he could be on the end.  Of course, we did that but as we tried to get some distance between us, he and his wife kept inching closer.  But unfortunately, they talked through the performances.  The show – “Blazing Boots” - involved rock versions of country songs – of the first five or so songs, I only recognized one song.  The singers and dancers all looked great in their cowboy and cowgirl gear, but the show was louder than the other shows and the people next to us kept talking.  We stayed for half of the show and then departed for the Coffee Connection for a late-night cookie and coffee and tea.

While sitting and drinking our coffee, Jude passed by and waved and then stopped and wanted to know if I wanted to join her for her morning show.  I said OK (if I had known ahead of time, I would have dressed better) and we wound up chatting about my background and tomorrow’s talk for about 10 minutes.  

She is really easy to talk to and incredibly nice (I told the guests during the interview that she was the best CD I’d sailed with – it’s true).  I left and she continued with her show, previewing tomorrow’s (“today’s) activities.

Then it was time to call it a night.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

October 31, 2022 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Mostly Sunny – 97F


As is generally the case, I was up before dawn through no fault of the ship or the comfort level of the room (we do not appear to have a neighbor on either side of us so that certainly helps).  Puerto Vallarta, probably my favorite Mexican port looked pristine and peaceful right before dawn. 

Here's where we are.

I waited a while until La Veranda opened for breakfast.  I once again ordered the buttermilk pancakes.  The woman taking my order has figured out my pattern so she said she would bring the sour cream along with the pancakes.  The rest of the breakfast had the cottage cheese and jam on top of the pancakes (just like home but better).  Also, the scrambled eggs from heaven completed the meal (I also included some grapefruit slices).  Yummy - I can’t say it enough.

While at breakfast, I watched the NCL Encore come in – she parked next to us – she probably had five times the number of passengers we had.  We had the best berth.

I went up with Ellen a little later and just had some coffee while she had her breakfast.

Mariner is docked right next to the massive and new (pre-pandemic new) cruise port complex.  It was quite an effort to find out way out of the complex because the point is to keep passengers in the shopping area as long as possible.  We finally found our way out of the mall and wanted to see if the spa, we had visited several times in the past had survived the pandemic.  Yegos Spa is literally across the street from the port.  

We got there around 9:45 AM not knowing when they opened.  They were closed and it almost looked like they were closed permanently.  The man who owned the trinket place next door said he would call them and see when they would open.  He said 15 minutes and then a second man just wandering around gave me his phone and told me to talk a Carmelita who worked there.  She also said 15 minutes.  It actually took until about 10:20 AM or so until the first person arrived (Carmelita) – we went inside and a few minutes later, the owner, Martha, arrived (even though I had been here many times, I didn’t recognize her – she looked a bit different and spoke more Spanish than usual).  Ellen and I both opted for the 70 min massage and defoliation special. 

The place was clean, but I wore my mask the whole time (not taking any chances).  We both had great sessions although I don’t think they actually went 70 minutes.  Still, considering the price and quality (both of our sessions were excellent).  We tipped each of the therapists $10 and that seemed to be OK with them.  I put their number in my phone, but I don’t know when we will be by this way again or if they will be here when we do.

We spent all our money at the spa and Ellen had wanted to buy some items from the guy next door.  So, we went back to the ship and got some more cash and a credit card and went back to the shop.  He had put away some items and we purchased them.  On the way back to that store, we ran across a coffee shop called “Shekinah” (the name must mean something other than the female agent of God).  Their coffee was 138 pesos for 500 grams.  That came out, according to Google, to $6.81 cents or $6.18 a pound – a pretty good price (other coffee places on this cruise wanted $17 for 10 ounces).  We went back to Shekinah hoping to buy two bags of coffee, but they had only one.  I bought that one and my bank app confirmed the price.  Authentic Mexican coffee.

I didn't get a chance to get an authentic City Sign, but I did get the one in the cruise terminal shopping mall.

The ship was getting ready for the big Halloween Party tonight.  

There were orange and black balloons everywhere (the official colors of Halloween I guess).  

I also noticed that the elevators still had social distancing stickers on the floor

 - kind of bogus since there isn't any way to achieve 6 ft of separation on these elevators).  BTW, I am wearing my mask in the elevators whether or not I have anyone with me.  Also, there is a four-person limit in the elevators, but I'm sure no one is really paying attention to that.  

We had lunch on the La Veranda veranda – there was little breeze, and the temperature was perfect.  We could see the shopping center across the street complete with both a Walmart and a Sam's Club.

I had the other signature dish (besides the Impossible Burger) – the Ahi Tuna burger along with a small salad and potato salad.  This is not really a burger but a Tuna steak on a sesame seed bun and topped with a very tasty orange sauce.  I had it with a Stella beer and it was de-e-e-licious.  Our table, in the shade was right up again the back railing so we had a super view of Puerto Vallarta.

After lunch, we made use of our terrific veranda and the view of both the Bay and the NCL ship.

We stayed on the veranda and watched the sail away.

Tonight, Ellen and I were asked by Cherisse Martinelli, the Social Hostess, to host a dinner with passengers traveling alone.  We joined our dinner companions in the Mariner Lounge around 6:45 PM for a cocktail hour.  Our group consisted of an older woman, Amy, from Florida, a not really older woman from Arizona, and a mobility challenged younger woman from somewhere in the South.  They were all very personable and the conversation flowed easily.  The problem was that the dinner service was slow, and it took nearly an hour to get our entrees.  Ellen had the sole and I had the salmon with a baked potato and spinach (it was good).  We all needed to eat fast because we wanted to see the show tonight.  So, no dessert and a sprint, sort of, to the theater.

Comedian John Wing was the headliner tonight; we had never seen him in all of our travels.  He’s Canadian but now lives in Southern California.  His shtick involves comparing how things were when he was a kid to now because, at 63, he considers himself an alien.  Not on this ship.  In any event, he was very funny, and we are looking forward to his next show on the last night of the cruise. 

We next went to the Halloween Party in the Horizon Lounge at 9:30 PM.  The pre-party venue looked like this.

But, in a short while, place was packed, and the dance floor was sardine city with dancers, singers and passengers within each other’s space.  

Just a few months ago, this would have been an archetypical COVID super spreader event.  We did not wear any masks but tried to stay away from people (only counted two masks in the entire lounge).  

Cherisse and Jude both sang some songs and were joined by the lead singer in the production group.

and the rest of the singers contributed to a lively evening.  

There were some passengers in costume – the entertainment staff was all in costume.  After a while, we decided the risk was too great and headed for open space and air.  We stopped by the Coffee Connection for some coffee and cookies.  It seemed like everyone on the ship was at the party, another good reason to not stay too long.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

October 30, 2022 – Manzanilla, Mexico – Partly Cloudy – 86F

Another beautiful day on the Mexican Coast.

Slept better last night, I think.  Also continued to have a great breakfast in La Veranda. The staff taking orders for pancakes are now trained to fetch me some sour cream for my pancakes (cottage cheese and jams are already on the line).  The best meal of the day.

We are on tour today (not escorting but actual civilians just enjoying the ride and sites) – “Colima and Comala” – a six-hour activity involving two long bus rides of about 90 minutes each.  The meeting time in the Constellation Theater was 11:15 PM; lunch is part of this tour (we think we did this tour about four years ago, but the description was a little different). 

We met our group – Bus 1 – on time and started our journey to Colima.  The pier in Manzanilla is very long but it does allow me to take a nice shot of the Mariner 

and then of the massive and iconic Blue Sailfish (the symbol of the town) from the end of pier. 

Bulkhead was empty when we got on the bus.  That was a good thing at first but as people got on it became uncomfortable because of the number of people up front.  We wore masks on the bus – still a few days to go on this cruise.  Our guide was constantly chattering about all sorts of topics and was also a bit difficult to understand.  I reminded him that we would need a veggie option for lunch and he said he would take care of it at the restaurant.

The speed limit in Mexico is 80 KPH or 48 MPH so it takes a while to get anywhere even on the highways.  We went through the town and then into countryside and then into the surrounding mountains.  About an hour and a half later we were in the decent sized city of Colima.  Here's where we started our tour of the town.

We stopped at the town square and the group took a tour of the archeological museum.  We did a quick run through the museum – I did get a picture of a skeleton replica of a smaller carnivorous dinosaur (mini T-Rex) 

- and then spent the rest of the time in the park - Libertad Garden - looking for shade. The garden had very nice plants and flowers, 

a very neat statue on a bench,

 and a nice gazebo.

The Cathedral Basilica of Colima is situated along one side of the park.

Some people were getting hungry and thirsty, but water was not provided, and food had to be purchased from storefront food places along the park.  Some of the tour went into the hotel at the square (where the washrooms were).  We found nice seats under an umbrella which kept us out of the sun. 

Once everyone was fed and watered, we got back on the bus - original seats - and continued out tour.

Our next stop was the town of Comala and the archeological dig underway there.

We actually opted to stay on the bus where we met a couple from Los Angeles.  We spent some time chatting with them.

Finally, we were on our way to the town square in Comala and our lunch venue (I think the restaurant was called Don Comalon but I'm not sure).

By this time, it was 3:30 PM and folks were hungry.  We checked with our guide, and he arranged for us to get vegetarian items.  The restaurant was the exact one we ate at four years ago when we came here on the Grand Princess; kind of makes sense since Comala is not that big a town.  The couple from the bus joined us.  I had a Modelo beer with my meal and the items served were identical to those on our previous visit.  The first course was vegetarian – guacamole on a crisp tortilla along with tortillas containing potatoes.  Our tablemates really wanted meat, so the waiter brought them that in a second course. I also asked for cheese enchiladas and more guacamole, and both came and were good – the cheese enchiladas with mole sauce were especially good.  We had an hour to eat and we didn't feel rushed.

While waiting for the bus to show up at the meeting place, we spent some time in the town square checking out the vendors.  I got a picture of the town sign from the back 

and our tablemates took a picture of us (we have so few together).

A few minutes later, we all boarded the bus to return to the port. On the way back, we took seats in the back of the bus so we could spread out and be away from people.

The ride back was a good hour and 40 minutes and that was followed by that long walk down the pier (I took another picture of the ship in the gloaming).

We were the second to last people to board (a mobility challenged couple came in last).  The ship departed soon after.

We were too exhausted to eat at the restaurants, so we ordered tuna sandwiches and egg sandwiches from Room Service - the good was pretty good.  We were also too tired to attend the Production Show – “Broadway” – a show we would usually not miss.  

We spent the evening reading on the veranda.  That was really the only choice after this long day.