Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cruising the Mexican Riveria: Cabo and Mazatlan

Some how, back in time, my teenage mind fantasized of traveling to the romanticized pacific coast of Mexico.  Though I knew nothing of their supposed virtuous qualities, I envisioned destinations such as Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Acapulco as sun-kissed tropical escapes for lovers filled with wanderlust.

As Christmas 2016 quickly approached, and the chill of winter arrived in Seoul, Bob and I began discussing our options for the holiday.  Even though it was "our turn" to gather with our children for Christmas, they had previously informed us that they would prefer to enjoy that joyful morning in their own homes, and party together the week following.  We agreed, remembering what a hassle it was to pack up and haul Santa's surprises across the miles to grandma's house, like we did so often during their childhood.  Bob and I were not relishing the thought of a cold Christmas alone in Korea.  So when I came across a "deal" for a 7-day cruise from San Diego, with ports in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, visions of warm and luxurious tropical beach resort towns lured me to open my wallet.  After all, I reasoned, it's our 36th wedding anniversary and Christmas gift to each other all rolled into one!

Bob flew out of Seoul a few days ahead of me so that he could attend to business in The Woodlands.  We met in San Diego on December 16, 2016.  We were cruising on Holland America once again - but this time there was much more diversity in the clientele.  Many families were also on their "Christmas Cruise".  While waiting to depart, I was fascinated to see airplanes landing at the airport so very close to the city and the bay.


For the most part, the ship and the days at sea were similar to most cruises we have been on - so I didn't take many photos.  Here's a small sampling of formal nights, entertainment, food (look at the amazing gingerbread village created by the crew), etc.

 
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Cabo San Lucas was our first port of call on December 19th.  We tendered into the impressive port and could see the tourist dollar had gone a long way in this town.  We added to the stash by hiring a glass bottom boat cruise which would take us out to see the famous land formations for which Cabo is known.


Speeding past rocks and our cruise ship, The Westerdam, we saw all kinds of wildlife including fish, pelicans and seals.  Neptune's Finger, Lover's Beach, El Arco and Land's End (the southernmost rock of the peninsula), were the featured highlights of Cabo San Lucas.
 
 

On our return, we opted to disembark at Medano beach for a bit and then and walked toward the markets near the port.  Cabo was much like I had anticipated, an upscale coastal Mexican town in the middle of a desert.


The following day we were in Mazatlan, the most humble of our destinations.  Many travelers do not care much for this city because of it's lackluster city appeal, but I quite enjoyed our visit there.  We hired a car and driver for the day and headed to the southern coast for a little hike.  El Faro Lighthouse, meaning "lighthouse lighthouse" beams across the largest port between the U.S. and the Panama Canal. Built in 1828, it sits just over 500 feet above sea level and is the highest natural lighthouse in the Americas.  The half-mile hike takes 30-45 minutes and reveals a lovely 360-degree panoramic view of Mazatlan and the surrounding area.  From the deck of our cruise ship, we could see the hill we would hike to El Faro.  It was fun to watch the tugboats turn and push a container ship out to sea.


After our hike, we drove into the historical part of Mazatlan.  Near the central plaza was the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which was constructed from 1856-99.  I love the architectural elements and the yellow, white and gray checkerboard motif of this beautiful place of worship!



Near the cathedral is Mercado Pino Suarez, or central market.  Mazatlan seems to want to claim some fame by stating that it was made using the same techniques as were used to build the Eiffel Tower.  It officially opened in 1900 and now houses over 250 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to clothing and pinatas.  It was a colorful site to see.

 

We drove up the hillsides for more views of Mazatlan before heading to the west shores to watch the cliff divers.  This tourist trap (which extracted mandatory viewing fees) was a bit of a let down, as we were expecting higher and a little more natural cliffs and surroundings.

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Both Bob and our driver thought I was a little crazy to insist that our last stop would be at a cemetery.  But you know by now how much I love seeing how different cultures honor their departed.  We enjoyed strolling around the crypts and tombstones, until some enterprising Mexican decided to take it upon himself to be our "guide".  He finally left us alone when he realized we couldn't understand a thing he said - but not without demanding a tip for his services.


Mazatlan was a very different place than I had imagined years ago.  Neither tropical nor glitzy, it still had a bit of "old world" charm.  With our day in port drawing to a close, we returned to the ship for a cool dip in the pool to before dinner.  It may be December, but the weather said otherwise!








    

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