Puerta Vallarta, Mexico

Our first port stop is today and we are in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Jeff and I have been here several times and we have booked a whale watching excursion.

Puerto Vallarta is where Banderas Bay, the 7th largest bay in the world, is located and it is to this bay that the humpbacks in Alaska make their way south beginning in late December/early January through early April. We are at the beginning of the migration. The Bay of Banderas is the breeding and birthing grounds of humpbacks and dolphins and we’re hopeful that we’ll see some whales.

We have a quick bite of breakfast and join our group. We board a mid-sized rubber dingy that seats maybe 20 people. Jeff and I, bringing up the rear of the group, end up sitting in the very front two seats of the dingy. Perfect!

The company that Princess Cruises has contracted for this excursion is Vallarta Adventures. Jeff and I have used them personally when we were on vacation here and they are really top-notch. Today they have several boats in the water looking for whales and they use a small airplane to spot pods. Using radios they contact the dingys with locations.

We set out at a fast clip – bouncy, bouncy (which I love). Jeff and I have been whale watching several times, but on our boat there is a young woman who has never been and she is practically quivering with excitement.

Our guide tells us that typically during the migration there will be upwards of 800 whales in the bay; but last year, because of El Nino and the warmer water, there were only 100 or so whales during the entire season. Disasterous!

There are many rules here regarding whale watching and they are strictly enforced by the boat operators themselves. First, a boat can only come within a certain distance of the animal. If the whale swims toward your boat that is okay, but you cannot crowd it. Second, only four boats are permitted to be viewing a whale or pod at a time. If another boat comes up, it must hang back until one of the original four leaves (and we saw this rule in action); finally, the third rule is that boats are limited to a viewing spot for 30 minutes before they have to move on.

Everyone in the boat is responsible for spotting and soon someone shouts “11 o’clock” and points. Sure enough we see spouting…multiple whales! Our boat heads in closer.

We’ve come upon a breeding pod!  There is one female being pursued by 5 or 6 males. The males are fighting for dominance and there is a lot of splashing, diving and surfacing going on. Very exciting! The photo here is one of Jeff’s taken at this pod.

Large breeding pod of Humpback whales
Large breeding pod of Humpback whales

Wow, we were lucky to see that! We watch for awhile and the group moves farther away.

Our dingy goes speeding off in another direction. Another breeding pod! Again LOTS of action, spouting and splashing. In our experience, when a whale surfaces and clears its blowhole, the sound is like that of a loud exhale. Now though we are hearing many different noises…the normal exhale sound and a new high pitched ‘whee’ and what sounds like grunting. There are so many whales it is difficult to get good photos because as they spout and dive and roll about I’m only getting shots of splashing water. The young, excited woman is devastated because her camera batteries have gone dead…she has a camera similar to Jeff’s, so he pulls out his spare batteries for her, but they are the wrong size. He then suggests that she put her media card into his camera and use it, but she didn’t. Who knows why, but she was young and probably embarrased.
The whales disappear under the water and our guide tells us that we’ll wait 5-6 minutes in this spot for them to resurface. If they don’t come up within that time, they have deep dived and are moving on. And they did move on…

Now our dingy is racing further and further out in the bay – there is a humpback mother with her baby!! OMG!! We learn that the baby is less than 2 weeks old. The guide can tell because the baby’s dorsal fin (the one on top) is still folded over a little. The mother protects her child by keeping herself between our boat and her baby and when she dives it is a shallow dive because baby’s lungs are not yet developed enough for deep diving. When baby humpbacks are born they weight approximately 2,000 pounds and put on about 2,000 pounds per week. (Kind of like me on a cruise ship!)
Before the humpbacks arrive in the Bay, the Orcas show up. Okay, first of all, for those of you who do not know, orcas are NOT killer whales, in fact, they are not whales at all, but are actually dolphins. And their favorite meal is baby humpback! So, the orcas arrive before the humpbacks and just wait for the babies to be born.
Mommy humpbacks tend to keep themselves and their babies close to shore for safety.

Our tour is scheduled for 2-1/2 hours and suddenly 3 hours have passed. Our dingy goes screaming back to port, Jeff and I are hanging on, bounce, bounce. There are whales all over!

Fin slap







And suddenly the boat abruptly slows because there is a large pod of dolphins right in front of us. We slowly split the pod and now there are dolphins on either side of our dingy. Dolphins, though they have smiles on their faces, are very territorial and several of them are slapping their tails hard in the water – this is their way of saying “get out of my space!” I never knew about the tail slapping and it is interesting to see.
What a great adventure!

Though our tour was a little longer than it was supposed to be, we still have plenty of time left in port, so we get back on the Island Princess, clean up a little bit, grab some cash and head out to WalMart. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a WalMart directly across from the cruise pier – and since the last time we were here, a Sam’s Club has gone in next door to WalMart.

Sam and WalMart

We need to get to WalMart to buy vanilla and we know they have the very best prices. I buy two 1-liter and one 500 ml bottles of pure Mexican vanilla for gifts. The big bottles were $8. Happy Birthday, Janet Smith!!

Mary has caught Eve’s cold so we also pick up two boxes if cold medicine (one daytime, one nighttime). They were a Sudafed type of cold medicine for $2 each. Afterwards I told Jeff that for that price we should have bought several boxes! We got 2 more bottles of wine and I got a couple of postcards as well.

Back on the ship again, as we walk by the liquor control table, I loudly say to Jeff “Well, honey, I think we have enough vanilla for the rest of our lives” and no one questions us so we’ve snuck more wine on board.

It’s time for sail away, so we barge in on Trish, Mary, Eve and Leroy. Jeff opens Trish’s champagne and we toast our first port. I think everyone is having fun…Trish and Mary regale us with stories of their day and since Trish says “If you open a bottle of champagne, you have to finish it” the four of us empty the bottle.

They go off to dinner and Jeff and I went to our daily cocktail party. I’m looking forward to tonight’s gathering because they are serving guacamole and chips, and I really like their guacamole. The drink of the day is a margarita and is yummy.

We have saved room for dinner and again tonight enjoy our companions. It is a lot of fun to be meeting so many different people, and hearing how they spent their port day.

After dinner, we go to the late show in the Princess Theater to see Jerry Goodspeed. He is a ventriloquist and is very good. We have never seen (heard?) a ventriloquist do two voices simultaneously which he did when he had two of his dummies sing a duet. Amazing! I know it sounds hokey but he really was entertaining.

It’s been a long day…but what fun! Tomorrow is a sea day; I hope you will join us as we sail toward Nicaragua.

Our Second Sea Day

Our alarm goes off and we get right up. I phone Mary and Trish, waking Mary up. Trish has already left for Zumba class! I call Leroy and Eve and wake them up as well. Oh dear. Told them to go back to sleep. So much for that plan!

Jeff and I know that today the Wheelhouse Bar will be serving a traditional British pub lunch, so we put sticky notes on everyone’s cabin doors inviting them to join us at 11:30 and we head off for breakfast. Oatmeal and fruit for both of us.

After breakfast we go to the Princess Theater for the ‘Enrichment Lecture’ by Dr. Samuel Glassner. His lecture was on “The First European Doctors” and it was fascinating!! The impact of ‘healing’ and illnesses on politics, agriculture and especially religion was so interesting! Christianity gained many followers because it touted “healing powers” and “miraculous healings” along with the promise of an everlasting and BETTER life. These things were paramount in the widespread acceptance of Christ and then Christianity. I could write pages and pages about his lecture but I think you had to be there to enjoy it fully.

Turns out that Mary and Trish were at the lecture as well and we bumped into them as we were leaving. We make firm arrangements with them to meet for the pub lunch. An hour later we meet and despite the fact that there is a variety of traditional British fare, including ploughman’s lunch and steak and kidney pie, all four of us opt for the fish and chips – which were very good. Dessert was bread pudding. Trish told us that this particular dessert would be more properly named “bread and butter pudding and describes how it is made. All I can say is, “I don’t care what you call it, just bring me six more servings!!” That stuff was GOOD!!
During lunch the four of us decide it would be fun to get together later this afternoon to play a game (Jeff and I brought several.) Trish and Mary will pass the info along to Leroy and Eve.

After our pub lunch Jeff and I hurry back to the Princess Theater to watch a destination presentation on Huatalco, (pronounced “wha tool co), Mexico which is one of our upcoming ports. The presentation is informative and Humberto Neto, the guy who does all of the destination talks is excellent and very funny. The government is hoping to make Huatalco another Cancun style resort town and a lot of money is being put into making this happen. Many more hotel rooms, improved roads, etc are being planned. Jeff and I have never heard of Huatalco and we’re looking forward to visiting it.

After Humberto’s talk, we go back to our cabin where I write (this!) and Jeff goes down to the Captain’s Circle desk to ask if there is any sort of cocktail party. Turns out that, yes, there is! Somehow we did not get our invitation and we missed the first two. Thank goodness he checked! We would have been so bummed out not to have known. Jeff also made sure that we are on the invitation list for the Captain’s special reception later in the cruise.
On his way back to the cabin, he stopped in one of the bars just as the 2-for-1 happy hour was starting and got two gin and tonics. When he got to our room, he took the ice out of the drinks and poured the g&ts into empty water bottles so we could have them later.

Soon it is time to head down to the card room to meet our friends. We decide to play Phase 10, a card game my brother Jack and sister-in-law Kim taught us.


It takes a while to teach Mary and Trish the basics and explain the rules, and midway through our first phase Eve and Leroy show up! I’m so excited to see her up and alive. hahaha!
They join us at the card table and we begin again and play until the other four rush off because they are late for their 5:15 dinner seating.

Jeff and I go up to our special cocktail party which tonight features “Beef steak tartare with Melba toast” (eewww) and the drink of the day is a Chivas Regal Rob Roy. Luckily, along with the steak tartare, there are a lot of fresh vegetables, olives, fancy breads and cheese. Jeff gets the Rob Roy and I order a margarita. We choose an unsuspecting couple to sit with, Kay and Doug, and the four of us spend a pleasant hour together.

Now, of course, we aren’t hungry for dinner. So instead of dinner we go to the top outside deck of the ship for tonight’s “Movie Under the Stars.” The movie is: “Now You See Me 2” which we’ve never heard of and don’t know anything about. I snag two lounge chairs and a couple of blankets because it is windy and Jeff runs downstairs to get the gin and tonic water bottles. When he gets back I go get four bags of popcorn (2 each and so much for not being hungry!) The movie is good and makes me want to watch the first “Now You See Me” movie and then this one again. Maybe we’ll do that at home sometime.

We are having a great sea day! After the movie we go to the Princess Theater for the late show. Tonight the entertainment is a comedian named Tom Briscoe. He is very funny and the show is a perfect end to our day.

Time for bed! Tomorrow we land in Puerto Vallarta – our first port day.

At Sea…

Ahhhh…our first full day on the cruise and it is a sea day – wonderful! We wake up late and go to the Horizon Court buffet for breakfast. Jeff had what he calls a ‘normal person’s breakfast’ which was eggs, bacon and toast, coffee and cranberry juice. I have oatmeal, fresh fruit, coffee and cranberry juice.

After breakfast we start our usual ” OMG, we’re on a cruise ship and need to pay attention to our caloric intake and expenditure” and we walk around the Promenade deck for about 4 to 5 miles. We’re bummed out that both the very front and the very back of the ship have been cordoned off so instead of walking the entire circumference of the ship where 3.2 laps equals a mile, we have to cut across the boat by going inside and straight through on either end. But, honestly, those quick jaunts from one side of the ship to the other give us welcome blasts of air conditioning.

When I’m on a cruise ship, my outdoor vocabulary is limited to “Wow!” As we walk around the deck, every single time I look at the ocean, I say “wow.” I just can’t help myself. We had a good walk; it’s about 2pm and time for lunch. I didn’t make healthy choices for lunch; oh, let me rephrase that – I made healthy choices, but the two desserts kind of wiped out my good intentions.

Every Princess cruise that we’ve been on has had a proper afternoon tea from 3:30 to 4:30 and I’m excited to have tea with Eve, Trish and Mary; I’ve told them all about it. Since Eve and Trish are from the UK, I thought this would be especially nice. So, you can probably imagine my disappointment when I didn’t find the event listed in the daily Princess Patter. Maybe tomorrow?

We haven’t seen our compatriots at all and I’m a little concerned because Eve and Leroy have had their “Do Not Disturb” sign out all day. I hope she feels all right.

Tonight is formal night, and Jeff and I are puzzled. We are Princess Platinum members and people at our level and the highest level (one above ours), in the past have had a private cocktail hour every afternoon. There is a $5.00 drink of the day and special snacks, and we don’t have anything in our cabin about it, hmmm…..
This cruise ship, the Island Princess, is one of the smaller ships in the fleet and it is used for the Panama Canal cruises because it is narrower than the newer ships. Maybe some of the special amenities we’re accustomed to aren’t done on this cruise.

Since this is formal night we are sure to see our travelling companions. We know they won’t miss the Captain’s Champagne Fountain (or the free champagne!) event in the atrium. Jeff and I get dressed up. I’m wearing the galabaya I bought in Cairo and it is so unusual I get a lot of looks. I’m also wearing my shark tooth necklace and when I put the hood of my galabaya up, I declare myself a warrior princess. Jeff tells me I look like a Star Wars character – I choose to take that as a compliment.

As I walk by a man in a tuxedo we briefly make eye contact, and he tells me “You are stunning!!” Made my night!

We arrive at the champagne fountain festivities early because it is often very difficult to find a good viewing spot along the stair railings. We’re shocked to see a smaller than usual crowd. Normally people are standing 3 deep peering over one another’s shoulders, jockeying for better camera angle positions and there was none of that.

We get our champagne and start circling all the areas around the plaza looking for Mary, Leroy, Trish and Eve – in a crowd this small they won’t be difficult to spot. But we never did see them! Now, I’m worried because I know Eve had talked about about the champagne fountain and that she planned to attend. And we’re disappointed that we didn’t get to see everyone in their dress-up finery; but, there are two more formal nights on the cruise and we’ll be better organized about getting together.

Our formal night dinner was nice and our table mates were interesting and talkative.

After dinner Jeff and I head to the Princess Theater to see the show “Piano Man” which is a song and dance montage of the music of Billy Joel, Barry Manilow and Elton John. It was very enjoyable and we were both disappointed that the show didn’t last longer. I guess these singers and dancers subscribe to the adage “Always leave them wanting more.” LOL
It’s almost 11:30 so we head up to our cabin. Before turning in we set an alarm for 8am thinking we’ll intercept the others and have breakfast together tomorrow morning.
Good night!

Embarkation Day

Okay, I am married to a crazy person and said crazy person has just roused me from a deep sleep, “Jane, I think our boat is here…” It is DARK outside! The sun isn’t even up yet, but, for the past 45 minutes, my dear crazy person has been watching the ‘Bridge Cam’ of our cruise ship on the Internet as it makes its way to San Pedro, and apparently it is arriving.
Okay, I’m up, looking out into the dark, marvelling at how someone so crazy can seem SO normal! Of course, I got out of bed at dark:thirty to watch the ship come in, so I guess its good that we found each other.
We watch as the ship goes past the channel entrance….must be turning around. Hmmm…ten minutes later, no cruise ship. Jeff refreshes the bridge cam feed on his IPad. Oh look, the Island Princess is closer to San Pedro. What we saw earlier was probably a commuter ferry. The sun is up by now, well, mostly, and finally the Island Princess appears. This humongous cruise ship is BACKING down the channel!

Gee, I don’t want to keep all this excitement to myself, so I text Eve and Mary “Our ship is coming in backwards!” (I woke them both up.)
Actually it was really cool to see…

Eve texts back that she woke up with a cold. Bummer! And then I remember cuddling up with her on the bed yesterday afternoon.. Yikes! Good thing I have a brand new box of daytime and a brand new box of nightime cold medicine.

So now that we’re awake, and have been for about an hour and a half, we really need coffee and breakfast. Before we do that though we must pack up so when we come back from wherever we’ll be ready to go.
As we leave the hotel room, we stop at Eve and Leroy’s room to drop off cold medicine. Jeff notices that other rooms have had their bills slipped under their doors, but we have not. On our way out, I stop and check at reception – turns out I paid for our room with “points”.

Our suite

NICE!! A free room that turned into a suite!


Street art in San Pedro

Coffee… As we go up the hill past the hotel we see a little coffee and tea shop called Sirens; surely they’ll have bagels or pastries or something, so we go inside. Wow!! I am doing my happy dance!! The first things in their pastry case are VEGAN muffins! I’m super excited! I get a vegan blueberry muffin (yum yum) and an excellent cup of coffee. Jeff has an ‘anything bagel’ and coffee, too.

 This is a really nice little place; obviously local and if you find yourself in San Pedro, I recommend it highly – it is on 7th Street up the hill from the Crowne Plaza.

Back to the hotel we meet our travelling mates in the lobby. Our 10:45 taxis should be here any minute. At 10:42 I get a text message from the cab company saying that our taxi has been cancelled and to call this number. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? So, I call the number and am told that they don’t have two drivers available right now, but they will send them as soon as they can. EXCUSE ME??? Let’s just say that I told that person off royally. It takes a lot to get me riled up and since I had taken time to make this reservation to ensure a smooth embarkation for our friends, I was furious. Now what? We know we can ride the hotel shuttle for $5 each (about twice what the cab fare would have been), and there isn’t a line for the shuttle so Jeff and Leroy get tickets for us.
I call the cab company back (told you I was angry!), told them off again and told them to cancel our reservation because we are going to deal with a more reputable company and that we will NOT be using them in the future. And then I hung up on the woman in mid-apology. Now I feel better.

The hotel shuttle is not crowded at all and we’re at the pier in no time. We give our luggage to the porter. It is her second day on the job…and she takes off with our suitcases in the totally wrong direction. Thank goodness Trish saw her! “We’re getting ON the ship!” Trish told her. hahaha!
Our embarkation time is 12:30, and it is 11am, so even the check-in desks are not crowded. We walk through the metal detectors and the security area, and since no one mentions the two bottles of wine in Jeff’s backpack, we ignore “liquor control” (where you are supposed to register that you have brought on your two allotted bottles of wine).

Because Jeff and I are Platinum Princess members we get to go to the VIP line and our waiting area has coffee, juice and snacks. But we don’t want to leave our friends, so, I talk to the woman in charge, telling her that we are travelling with four elderly companions (Eve is so going to kill me) who have never cruised before (liar!) and could they please, please stay with us? It took a little finangling, but everything was worked out. I’m really happy about that.
We get our free bottles of water, some coffee and salty snacks (Doritos, Cheetos…) and wait until embarkation time.

Here we go! The six of us board around 1pm and have our embarkation photo taken together. We show Mary and Trish to their mini-suite; Eve and Leroy are next door to them and they’ll be able to open the door between their balconies. Jeff and I are across from the four of them – there is a very short hallway between us but we are on the other side of the boat, so we can all enjoy sunsets or sailaways regardless of which side of the boat it is on.

We walk around the ship a little bit – we are heading for the library. We get books to read and Jeff picks up the daily Suduko puzzles for later. We take our books back to our rooms and head for the Horizon Court buffet for lunch. We’re starving!

Back to our rooms we have a little time to unpack before the Muster (a safety briefing required by international law). The signal is given (7 short and one long blast on the ship’s whistle) so we grab our life jackets and head to our Muster station. It is so weird that even though Eve and Leroy are right next to Trish and Mary that they have different muster stations. Princess musters passengers in large areas inside the ship. When Jeff and I first started cruising we all had to line up in rows of four out on the Promenade deck. It was like herding kittens. This is much better. And it used to be that the safety briefing had to be performed within 24 hours of setting sail, but now it is required to be done before the ship leaves the dock.

Muster complete, it is time for the Sail Away party. Our room stewards have brought each of us a glass of champagne and we all take those as we head up a little early for the 4:30 sail away. Sometimes it is difficult to find a place at the rail. Well, the top deck is not crowded at all! We’ve never seen such a small crowd for sail away. 4:30 comes…no casting off…4:45, 5:00. We watch as the shore crew continue to load luggage onto the ship. This is unusual; and it’s chilly up here.

Jeff and Trish participate in the dancing while the rest of us relax on the lounge chairs.

From front: Eve, Mary, Leroy and Trish

FINALLY! The ship’s horn sounds and we are underway!!
Panama Canal, here we come!

Another example of our lack of coordination…Jeff and I signed up for “anytime dining” so we can eat anytime between 5:30-10pm and we can sit by ourselves or share a table with other people. We always opt to share. Leroy, Eve, Mary and Trish all signed up for “set dining” which means that they always eat at the same time every evening (In their case, 5:30 pm) and always have the same table mates. Obviously the six of us won’t be having dinner together!

After our dinner Jeff and I decide to skip the show in the theater tonight. We’re going to turn in early. Tomorrow is our first full day on the Island Princess and it’s a sea day. Hooray!

San Pedro

Holy crow! We slept until 10:30. I think not only were we very tired when we went to bed, but we are starting to relax. First things first, coffee. Unlike many of my friends, I don’t mind hotel room coffee…caffeine is caffeine.

Once we’re a bit more awake and ready to go, Jeff and I head out to find food. With no destination in mind we walk several blocks up the hill from our hotel, then over a block and down the next street. We find the “San Pedro Cafe.” which turns out to be a gem!

We can tell it is a local place because people greet the waitress by name and it has a neighborhood feel about it.
Jeff ordered the vegie scramble with sliced tomatoes and I had the same thing but with a fruit cup. We both ordered sourdough corn rye bread. We ordered that toast because it sounded so different and interesting. The toast arrived first; two slices, the size of Texas toast, and it was really good! I could easily have made a breakfast of toast alone. The vegie scrambles were great as was the coffee.
What a wonderful find!

Before we left the restaurant we asked the waitress where we could buy some flowers. Her answer was “next door.” Haha! We hadn’t even noticed the florist’s shop. We went in…there was no one there. “Hello?” “Hello?” No answer. I walked through the staff area in the back and saw the back door was open. There was a young woman sitting in her van talking on her phone. We just left.

Next idea was to find a grocery store as they usually have small bouquets of flowers available. The only store we found was the “Numero Uno Mercado” and all of a sudden I felt like I was in Costa Rica. All of the store signs and labels on the groceries were in Spanish; the meat counter was amazing. No flowers here.
Well, we’ll pick them up in Puerta Vallarta when the cruise ship docks there on Saturday.

Walking back to the hotel we pass the San Pedro Visitor’s Center and a rack of postcards catches my eye so we go in. I get two cards and the guy manning the desk was flummoxed. First, he didn’t know if they sold stamps and second he didn’t know how much the postcards cost. I teased him, asking “And they left YOU in charge??” His job was really sales – getting local businesses to participate in the Visitor’s Center – and he called someone about the stamps and cards. They didn’t sell stamps but he told us that we could buy them at the only privately owned post office in America. The post office is run by some sort of non-profit and, he told us, it is in a wonderful old house. Very quaint.
Well, we walked according, we thought, to his directions, but eventually gave up trying to find the little post office and returned to the hotel.
During the walk back my tummy is starting to grumble and I feel “not great.”

After dropping the postcards off at the hotel, and taking some Imodium (me), Jeff and I decide to walk down to the cruise terminal. This is where we’ll be getting on our ship tomorrow. It is an easy, pleasant walk and the cruise terminal is almost exactly 1/2 mile from our hotel. If we didn’t have our big suitcase, we could easily walk to the ship.
In the little park next to the terminal there are dancing water fountains, like at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas. Jets of water spray and dance along to recorded music. As we started back to the hotel, the fountain came on and we sat to watch…

Today Eve and Leroy toured the Maritime Museum here in San Pedro and said it was very worthwhile and it would take more than a day to see it properly. Mary spent the day relaxing and reading.

Trish has arrived at the hotel and now all six of the intrepid travellers have gathered in our suite. Eve and I are cuddled up on the bed being silly. We all talk about to going to dinner and discuss tomorrow’s embarkation.
While everyone else goes to the San Pedro Brewing Company for dinner (my tummy is still unhappy so I stay behind) I call to arrange transport for six people and their luggage for 10:45am tomorrow morning. The taxi company will send two cabs – one for us and one for our luggage. They’ll text when they are on their way and again when they arrive. Perfect. We won’t have to deal with the hotel shuttle to the pier – there is always a scrum at the door. This will be much better.

Jeff is back from dinner carrying two bottles of wine for the cruise and a “Cup of Noodles” for me. What a great guy! Those noodles were just right.
Despite getting up late, it feels like it was a long day.

Time for bed – tomorrow the adventure begins!

A Man, A Plan, A Canal….

It is 20 some degrees in Denver and snow is on its way. It’s time to get out of Dodge! Though, truth be told, we’ve had this trip planned for over a year and the time has finally arrived. Jeff and I, and our wonderful friends, Eve and Leroy Measner, Mary Linscome and Trish Nelson (who is Eve’s sister) are all taking a 15-day cruise from Los Angeles, CA through the Panama Canal and ending in Fort Lauderdale, FL. What a great way to start the new year!

As an example of our semi-lack of coordination, the six of us are on four different flights, but five of us (Mary, Eve and Leroy and Jeff and I) arrive at LAX about 30 minutes apart – that’s the plan anyway. Trish is getting to LA tomorrow. We are leaving early because you never know what the weather in Denver will be in January.

Since our flight doesn’t leave until 5:30, Jeff and I spent some time dinking around the house, then we pile our luggage into Tom Delaney’s car and head for Denver. The weird thing about this is that TOM is not in the car! He is spending some time in Denver. Since we have his car, we’re going down for a quick visit and to drop off his car. Then we’ll take a cab to Denver’s Union Station and catch the new (6 month old) “A” train to Denver International Airport.

Union Station

For those of you not familiar with the “A” train, it is a big deal. It runs from downtown Denver to DIA every 15 minutes and is only $9 per person. In spite of a YEAR of testing however, the A train has been plagued with issues…like losing power and stranding travellers for hours; having the RR crossing gates malfunction and a variety of other ails. But we’re always up for an adventure…
The A train is WONDERFUL and such a relaxing way to get to the airport and we experience no problems at all. Whew.
Getting off train, we have plenty of time before our flight (We had factored in possible delays.) so when we see a small room on the train platform marked “Bag Drop” we walk in to explore. Well, hot diggety! We can drop our luggage for our flight here and go into the airport unencumbered with our THREE suitcases.

Yes, THREE suitcases. The King and Queen of packing light have tumbled from their thrones – but there is good reason for this over-abundance of stuff. Our largest suitcase has all of our snorkelling gear and formal wear along with 3 large bags of Hershey’s chocolates, a big stack of Spanish children’s books, a pile of notepads, bags of new Sharpies and some pens.
Scratching your head?
Well, Poudre Library District, of which Jeff is the Finance Officer, has a sister library in Nicaragua…specifically, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua which just happens to be one of our port stops. We are meeting up with some library folks there to have lunch together and hand-off our goodies.

You know, Murphy’s Law is so true. We made sure to allow plenty of time at the airport and now our flight is delayed 90 minutes. Crap. A few minutes after this announcement Eve and Leroy magically appear at our gate! They are in a completely different concourse and have come to find us. Their flight, on a different airline, is still on time. We chat for a few minutes and they hurry back to board.
Jeff has arranged a private shuttle to pick the five of us up at LAX and take us to our hotel, so our traveling companions are kind of stuck until we get there. Jeff contacts the shuttle people to inform them of our later than anticipated arrival – all set.

Now our flight time has changed to earlier, so our delay is less. Yippee!
Here’s a plug for for Delta Airlines…their movies and beverages (non-alcoholic) are free and they give you snacks! The seats were comfy, and the tray tables and seat back pockets were full size. Very nice and knocks the socks off of Frontier.

I indulge myself with an Avengers movie, something I would never pay to see, but for free… And about 4 minutes before the movie ended, the plane’s wi-fi was turned off for landing. I pitch a little hissy fit because I don’t know who won the battle. HAHAHAHA!

When we got to LAX we found Mary, Eve and Leroy waiting for us at baggage claim. Mary cracked us up with her “Smith/Barnes” sign.

We headed outside for our shuttle…which took almost 40 minutes to arrive!! We were so tired and annoyed, but at least there was some excitement because as we were waiting for the shuttle, three firetrucks and a Battalion Chief’s truck came screaming in, lights and sirens at full blast. One of the trucks freaked me out a little because it pulled right up on the sidewalk.

Turns out there really was a fire – at Starbucks. See, Tom D., I told you they over-roast their beans! LOL

Finally we get to our hotel and all of my aggravation melts away when the desk person upgrades Jeff and I to a suite on the Club floor and, because they’re with us, upgrade our companions to the Club floor as well and our rooms are all close together.

Our suite is especially nice because it is a corner room with loads of windows. In the living area we have a city view (of San Pedro) and in the bedroom we can see the ocean, the cruise port and the city. Sah-weet!

Its been a long day – time for bed!