Subject: Mexico Cruise
Greetings Fellow Ziners,

My wife and I just returned from a 12 day cruise to Mexico on Celebrity. The ship was well laid out, the cabin spacious, (we had an ocean view) and the food expertly prepared. Each evening meal had a full five courses, (Appetizer/soup/salad/entree/dessert)and was graciously served and gourmet. Each category had several selections to choose from. Each day there was a buffet somewhere on the were never wanting for food. There was a "Las Vegas" style show each evening in the theatre, a casino, a couple of swimming pools, Internet availablility and plenty of planned activities. There were 2000 guests and 1000 the service was outstanding. The trip was $925.00 US per person with two to a cabin. This price included everything except tips.

We left from San Diego at 1700 hrs, had a full day at sea and the first stop was Cabo San Lucas arriving at 0700 hrs. Approaching Cabo we saw whales by the ship and dolphins breaking the sea as they raced the ship. The temperature was in the upper 70's with clear skies. Cabo was geared entirely towards the tourist....HIGH prices and English spoken everywhere. The town did not "feel Mexican". We had to be back on the ship by 1700 hrs, so we could not experience the nightlife....which from what we saw, must be the highlight of Cabo San Lucas because it was not the town nor the scenery. The ship could not dock, so the guests were tendered to the shore.

The ship stopped the following morning at 0700 hrs in Mazatlan. Mazatlan was warmer and had a "good feel to the city". The cruise ship recommended the tourists to go to the "Golden Zone". This was an area where English was widely spoken, handicraft booths/stores were everywhere and there were lots of "glitzy" restaurants. In general the prices were quite high. We also visited the older area of the city. It is very easy to just hire a cab and go where you wish and avoid the high cost of packaged tours. The old town had a "Spanish colonial" feel and had a beautiful old church with a town square crowded with young and old walking, talking and selling snacks and drink. A short walking distance from the church was a HUGE local covered market, (couple of acres in size) that contained everything from food, (meat, produce, groceries) to curios and local handicrafts. Prices were very good, but English was not as widely spoken. I speak some Spanish, so language was not a problem. Good, clean restaurants were plentiful in the area. Prices everywhere in the older section were considerably less expensive than the "Golden Section". We were back on the ship at 1700 hrs.

We arrived the next day in Puerto Vallarta at 0700 hrs. Puerto Vallarta was warm, clear and the air fragrant with the slight aroma of flowers. The vegetation was an "arid jungle". Lots of greenery, but as this was the dry season, not much moisture. We took the Canopy Tour using "Vallarta Adventures". We drove 45 minutes into the mountains in a provided truck where the vegetation became very dense with trees. The Canopy Tour consisted of 14 horizontal traverses on a steel cable from treetop to treetop about 80 feet off of the ground. Once you left the ground, you did not touch again for a couple of hours. You were in a safety harness the entire time, the staff was very attentive and the adventure felt very safe and comfortable. I have worked as a Fire Captain for the past 27 years and safety is a PRIME concern with me. You basically slid on a "zip line" from tree to tree high in the jungle. Staying in the tops of the trees gives you a different perspective on the rain forest. Bromilia and exotic plants where tucked into every tree notch. Parakeets were singing and the air was fragrant with flowers. It was great fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a little excitement. There was very little physical exertion, (as you slid from tree to tree) so the tour could be handled by most.....assuming you are not overly afraid of heights!! The tour took about 5 hours and the rest of the day was spent in the older section of Puerto Vallarta. Cobblestones, narrow streets, small restaurants and Bars and lots of greenery. The town felt safe, clean and comfortable. The people were very friendly and helpful. We were back on the ship at 1700 hrs and spent the next day at sea as we headed for Acapulco.

After our day at sea, we docked in Acapulco. Acapulco Bay was beautiful deep blue with fishing and pleasure boats lightly bobbing on gentle swells. Fish were schooling and boiling on the surface of the water with sea birds snacking to their hearts content. We docked about 0700 hrs and had until 2300 hrs to see the city. As you leave the dock, there are plenty of cab drivers wanting your business. I found one that had a nice car and spoke pretty good English. We negotiated a price of $100.00 US for a 5 hour city tour. Our group consisted of my wife and I, her sister and husband. The four of us piled into the air conditioned car, (it was the upper 80's with high humidity). The driver took us first to a GREAT shopping area. The area was covered by huge trees which provided cooling shade. None of the vendors were "pushy" and between my Spanish and the driver translating, communication was a pleasure and easy. The vendors had very high quality hand made items, some being made on the spot. Since we would be getting back home close to Christmas, this provided an excellent opportunity to do some gift shopping. The market place was also different because it was not just the same stuff from booth to booth. The vendors seemed to specialize in various crafts so there was lots of variety. The silver was from Taxco and was stamped and verified. The driver would "school" us on what was a good bargain and what to look for regarding quality. After shopping, we went sightseeing. Out of all of the towns we visited on this trip, Acapulco by far, had the best items to buy at the best prices. My only regret is I did not buy more as there were items here I had not seen anywhere else.

Our driver took us to outstanding view points to see the city and the bay from several angles. We visited the town square and had the good fortune to arrive a a day of celebration. They were celebrating the Lady of Guadalupe. Little booths were set up EVERYWHERE where local families were taking their children for their Christmas photos. The booths each had different scenes and all of the children were dressed in their best finery for the pictures!! Music was playing, clowns were performing, the square was shaded by HUGE trees, had a large old fountain gracing the center, and was surrounded by shops with a myriad of restaurants. We next drove outside of Acapulco to another very picturesque bay and viewed grand, expensive homes owned by the likes of Sinatra, Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as other film and theater stars. The driver showed us where the Tarzan movies were filmed and we toured some large expensive resorts. Our driver took us to a nice restaurant where we could sip ice cold beer and watch the cliff divers carefully watch the incoming swells in order to time their jump from the cliffs into the shallow water. Our tour concluded 8 hours later rather than the original 5! The driver was so good, helpful and patiently waited for us at all of the stops we gladly gave him a generous tip! We boarded the ship at 2300 hrs and headed for Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.

We arrived in the bay of Zihuatanejo at 0700 hrs. There was no docking, so we used a tender to get to shore. Zihuatenejo and Ixtapa are about 5 miles apart. In the 1980's, the Mexican government was looking for another "Cancun" to attract tourists. Zihuatenenejo declined the offer of "improvement" and voted to stay a small fishing village. Ixtapa grew to a mega resort with high rises lining the beach and lots of nightlife in clubs. We prefer smaller comfortable villages to resorts, so were not impressed with Ixtapa....although we did do some para-sailing which was fun. Most of our time was spent in Zihuatenejo....narrow cobblestone streets, quaint open air colorful restaurants, virtually no traffic and very friendly people. There is an international airport nearby, and my wife and I are already planning on returning to Zihuatenejo in the near future. We found nice apartments for $45.00 US a day, (with kitchens) near the beach. Fishermen bring in fresh seafood daily, the pace is slow and the coconut palm shrouded beaches incredible!!! Some of the beaches can only be reached by small boat which are readily available for rent. We were back on the ship by 1700 hrs and set off for our final stop Manzanillo.

We arrived in Manzanillo at 0700 hrs and docked. Manzanillo is the largest seaport on the Mexican pacific coast and is filled with large transport ships and extensive container processing areas. The town itself is new to tourism and only has a couple of areas that caters to the tourist. We did not frequent the resorts but rather toured the older section of town. Very few tourists...just locals going about their day to day activities as they readied for the Christmas holiday . We did some shopping and just "viewed life". We were back on the ship at 1700 hrs for our two days at sea to return to San Diego.

Leaving the ship was well organized and the exit uneventful. We stayed another day in San Diego at the Holiday Inn, ( who picked us up at the port) and enjoyed walking around the Downtown area. The cruise was enjoyable.....we were able to resist the mountains of food, (except the incredible evening meal) and would do it again. We are already starting to look into a cruise from Vancouver or Seattle to Alaska!!! Hey Ziners...any suggestions for cruise lines??

Enjoy life, travel and live each day to the fullest!!

Frank Garcia California