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COVID Cruising Mexican Riviera January/February 2022

COVID Cruising Mexican Riviera January/February 2022

Old Jan 29th, 2022, 03:19 PM
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COVID Cruising Mexican Riviera January/February 2022

This willl be an abbreviated Report of TWO cruises from the port of San Pedro along the Mexican Riviera.

Cruise #1 NCL Bliss January
Day 1 San Pedro embarkation, Sailaway 4pm
Day at Sea-Jersey Boys
Cabo San Lucas half day- "Whale Watching Coasta Cruise" aboard the catamaran Cabo Mar
Ensenada full day- Bufadora, LIdia's Tacos and Santo Tomas Winery
San Pedro (am)

Background
I had sailed for 3 weeks back in November 2019 on the Bliss (Los Angeles to NYC via Panama Canal). In December 2021 there was a Amex rebate for NCL bookings. I also had a $250 Cruise Next Certificate left on the books from November 2019. Looking on the NCL website I saw that this 5-day cruise did not have the normal punishing solo surcharge, so I booked a Sailaway inside Cabin which after deducting my certificate topped out at just over $500 including taxes, or $350 net of the rebate. A day later the price dropped and after several trying phone calls I was allowed to upgrade to a balcony. The price was reduced by a meager $35 net. Prices dropped again before sailing but another attempted upgrade was rejected. The CSR said that none of the available cabins cost more than my origingal booking "It's a revenue issue." Appeal to a supervisor went nowhere. I went ahead anyways, expected low occupancy and knew the ship well enough that if I felt it was COVID-unsafe, I would grab Indian food from the buffet and sit on my balcony.

I drove myself to the pier ($100 for 5 days) and had one of the earliest testing times at 9:30 am. NCL required that everyone be tested by their vendors (no charge) just prior to embarkation. The tests were rapid antigen and results were ready right away but there was a system failure to upload to the PC stations so several hundred people were crowded around waiting. To make matters worse in terms of superspeader potential, there was a crowd control "contractor" who kept pulling his mask down and yelling to the assembly. After jamming into the mandatory shuttle vans we were transferred from the testing at Pier 91 to the checkin terminal at Pier 92. That part went pretty well but it still took about 2 hours from the time I parked until I boarded. Fortunately I never caught the 'Rona although 3 days later, I overheard one passenger discussing a couple who was in isolation due to a positive test.

I went straight up to the Buffet first, for the first pass at the Indian Buffet, some salmon and a slice of roast.

I then down to the Observation Lounge "OL" on 15 which has light refreshments and drinks and looks out over the Battleship Iowa. It was nearly empty. I chatted with the passenger seated next to me, and we exchanged room numbers as she had not been picked up at Long Beach Airport so I offered her a ride back at the end of the cruise. There were some tasty chicken empanadas and a guava danish on offer up in the OL.





Evenually I figured the room must be ready (never heard an announcement) and went to my 9th floor cabin. It had a good location, with cabins above and below, near the forward stairs and elevator. The basic balcony category on this ship is very nice (as long as you get a good location). Much nicer than the basic Princess Royal class cabins. Size is reasonable, includes a small sofa, shower has a glass door instead of curtain and room to turn around. Most importantly there is a cabin coffee maker. The lighting, storage and charge stations are well designed. Everything worked fine and the cabin was spotless. Balcony had two chairs and small table. Bed was comfortable. I saw my steward later that night and asked for coffee service, a robe and for anything in the minibar to be removed. Muster Drill is just a required checkin at your station when you board, and to rewatch a safety video in your room.

After dropping and upacking, I walked a few laps around the ship before it got busy, including a pass through the Atrium, few laps around the Waterfront and jogging track, ending up at Spice H20 for sailaway. The sunset was beautiful.


Atrium chandelier



My past experience with MDR dining was poor and I love the Taste of India station (B,L,D). I usually added a few items from the salad stations and tonight there were grilled veggies to add. A blueberry lemon meringure tart was my dessert of choice and there was a big display of chocolate bark and nut brittle. I do prefer the self-serve buffet style and was pleased that NCL was still allowing DIY. They require everyone entering the buffet to use the handwashing stations before entry.


First night's dinner


One night there was Caribbean themed food, which included a mango-based salad and rice and peas. Seafood options were very limited in the Buffet, even for the so-called seafood extravaganza. Just shrimp, salmon and tilapia. The carved beef and turkey in the buffet were fine when offered. There were several stations which I never used (pasta, pizza, burger, and Asian). Breakfast offerings were decent if not spectacular including the Indian station (recommend the uppadam pancake). My typical combo was Indian breakfast, smoked salmon, yogurt with berry puree and a breakfast pastry.


Uppadam for breakfast



Rice and peas and Oxtail stew

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 29th, 2022 at 03:24 PM.
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Old Jan 29th, 2022, 03:41 PM
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First Port Day, Cabo San Lucas. After a full day and a half of cruising, we reach Cabo San Lucas around 11 am. It was nice sailing into port during daylight, as often this is not the case.

At sunrise you could see the coastline



I was on one of the earlier tenders




The Whate Watch Cruise was booked with NCL . It was on the Cabo Mar with an open bar. Great service and many sightings of humpbacks with their young. No breaches but sooo many whales. Who remembers Tequila Sunrises?





Back on board in time for sunset and a strawberry cheesecake in the OL to fight the alcohol


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Old Jan 29th, 2022, 04:39 PM
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Second Port Day Ensenada

While having Indian Breakfast this morning, the famous donut ladies made the rounds in the Buffet with fresh beignets. I couldn't say no.

COVID Cruising Mexican Riviera January/February 2022-1-original_608951da-1471-4a10-9212-847ad1f50a07_img_20220119_092910006.jpg



As we reached the harbor, we saw Oceana Regatta, one of the crew COVID ships. NCL is offloading positive crew onto other ships in their fleet. Ensenada does not have an attractive waterfront, but you can walk out and to the left to a small promenade along a park, which I did later.





COVID Cruising Mexican Riviera January/February 2022-4-img_20220120_143802837.jpg

The excursion for the day was a bus tour to La Bufadora, south of town. Not especially impressive today, especially after seeing Halona in Oahu during a Kona wind!
We had to run a gauntlet of churro and pina colada vendors, I am all about the free samples.

After a while I just ripped of my tour tag and a few of them laughed. The highlight was crispy shrimp taco's at Lidia's



After the Bufadora part of the excursion, we stopped in town at the Santo Tomas winery for a sampling of three of their least expensive wines, as well as olive oil and cheese. I bought a bottle each of port and EVO and neither were confiscated. Rumor has it that sometimes multiple bottles of tequila make it back on board.

The bus dropped us off at the ship and I walked back out to look at the gulls and shorebirds at low tide outside the port complex.

\

Dinner in the buffet was a seafood "extravaganza" which wasn't so extravagant but had some cute fruit and veg carvings on display






Another nice sunset from the ship before we left
COVID Cruising Mexican Riviera January/February 2022-9-img_20220120_170952294.jpg

The next day we would arrive back in San Pedro so I packed and watched movies on the TV. I also dropped off Alleve for my Day 1 friend and confirmed that we would meet by the elevators at 8 am to walk off together.

Disembarkation was a breeze, They did facial recognition for those of us with passports. Day 1 friend had extra screening since she was travelling with a Driver's License and not a Passport. This was her first time ever out of the country as well as being a newbie cruiser. Got her to the airport in plenty of time.

A few days after I returned, I saw equally good fares on a 7-day cruise on Majestic Princess. I'm booked on one next month, we drop Ensenada and add Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta as port stops, plus extra sea days. Main complicating factor is that we have to procure our own rapid COVID antigen tests. I have a Binax proctored kit on the way as well as a CVS Minute Clinic appointment. Hoping that with an equally low occupancy (less than 900 passengers on this week's sailing!) we all stay safe.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 29th, 2022 at 04:42 PM.
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Old Jan 29th, 2022, 07:28 PM
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Thanks, mlgb. Coincidentally, a Mexican Riviera cruise was our first exposure to Mexico in the late 80's. PV, Mazatlan & CSL. Carnival. We had signed up for tours, but in the end canceled the tours and opted to rent a jeep in PV and a vocho in Mazatlan. It was the beginning of a love affair with Mexico. You know how it turned out.
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Old Jan 30th, 2022, 05:59 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to share.
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Old Jan 30th, 2022, 02:23 PM
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baldone, exactly two years ago I finally traveled to the OTHER parts of Mexico. The crellstons and I were all talking about how much we are inspired by your off the beaten path reports and would like to return. For now, the west coast will have to do..

schmerl, you are welcome.

Cruise #2 with the "Majestic Princess" is set for Saturday, if I can procure the required negative antigen test. I have a CVS Minute Clinic appointment and ordered a 2-pack of the proctored tests (still waiting for delivery). It sure was nice having NCL cover the testing at the port.

PS I am chagrined about all of my typos. Nearly 20 years since I stopped working for pay and my proofreading skills are shot. I probably need to start spell checking.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 30th, 2022 at 02:26 PM.
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Old Jan 31st, 2022, 06:09 AM
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Great pics! Now i am hngry.

Will follow!
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Old Jan 31st, 2022, 10:54 AM
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Hi jacketwatch. I know you are an avid cruiser.

Part 3 preloading before departure without excursions booked at this point. End times are my planned all aboard time, 1 hour before the ship leaves.

Cruise #2 Majestic Princess February
Day 1 San Pedro embarkation, Sailaway 4pm
Day 2 at Sea-most likely "Formal Night"
Day 3 Cabo San Lucas half day- 11am to 7pm (last tender).
Day 4 Mazatlan 8 am to 5pm

Day 5 Puerto Vallarta 8 am to 5 pm
Day 6 at Sea Probably the "Gala Dinner", if not tonight then next day.
Day 7 at Sea
Day 8 San Pedro 6:15 am, plan to walk off.

Background

The only times I have sailed Princess were 3-day repos on Island (LA to Vancouver). It didn't make me a big Princess fan. My fare for this trip is labeled as "Spring on Sale" and has only a 9% solo supplement, plus $100 OBC. Yesterday I looked at the deck plans more carefully and moved my room to the aft. I was booted off the function before chat was finished. Princess website reveals an outstanding payment due of $13 or I am cancelled! Whew, good that I checked. The fare comes in at under my threshold of $100/day for a balcony.

Majestic is a big "Royal Class" ship launched in 2017 for the Chinese market and then based part year in Australia. It came to the west coast for the 2021 Alaska restart. More about the vessel when I am onboard, but I look forward to the skywalk, open decks in the back of ship, and some better MDR dining than offered in Bliss. I already am prepared for inferior cabins and buffet offerings vs Bliss but hope that the outdoor aft decks and better MDR food will compensate. For those interested in a preview of the ship, there is a great "Live From" for the January 22 sailing on Cruise Critic. I don't think you need to be logged in to see this https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topi...2-live-report/

Two other preliminaries involve getting my "Medallion" set up, and arranging my own COVID testing within two days prior. I managed to set up the Medalliion. Two rapid antigen testing appointments with CVS are a little sketchier, as they have been known to cancel. I ordered a 2-pack of the proctored home tests as a back up, which are on the way via Fedex.

I need to pack and decide what I will do in the ports.

More after testing!

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 31st, 2022 at 11:29 AM.
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Old Feb 1st, 2022, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
Hi jacketwatch. I know you are an avid cruiser.

Part 3 preloading before departure without excursions booked at this point. End times are my planned all aboard time, 1 hour before the ship leaves.

Cruise #2 Majestic Princess February
Day 1 San Pedro embarkation, Sailaway 4pm
Day 2 at Sea-most likely "Formal Night"
Day 3 Cabo San Lucas half day- 11am to 7pm (last tender).
Day 4 Mazatlan 8 am to 5pm

Day 5 Puerto Vallarta 8 am to 5 pm
Day 6 at Sea Probably the "Gala Dinner", if not tonight then next day.
Day 7 at Sea
Day 8 San Pedro 6:15 am, plan to walk off.

Background

The only times I have sailed Princess were 3-day repos on Island (LA to Vancouver). It didn't make me a big Princess fan. My fare for this trip is labeled as "Spring on Sale" and has only a 9% solo supplement, plus $100 OBC. Yesterday I looked at the deck plans more carefully and moved my room to the aft. I was booted off the function before chat was finished. Princess website reveals an outstanding payment due of $13 or I am cancelled! Whew, good that I checked. The fare comes in at under my threshold of $100/day for a balcony.

Majestic is a big "Royal Class" ship launched in 2017 for the Chinese market and then based part year in Australia. It came to the west coast for the 2021 Alaska restart. More about the vessel when I am onboard, but I look forward to the skywalk, open decks in the back of ship, and some better MDR dining than offered in Bliss. I already am prepared for inferior cabins and buffet offerings vs Bliss but hope that the outdoor aft decks and better MDR food will compensate. For those interested in a preview of the ship, there is a great "Live From" for the January 22 sailing on Cruise Critic. I don't think you need to be logged in to see this https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topi...2-live-report/

Two other preliminaries involve getting my "Medallion" set up, and arranging my own COVID testing within two days prior. I managed to set up the Medalliion. Two rapid antigen testing appointments with CVS are a little sketchier, as they have been known to cancel. I ordered a 2-pack of the proctored home tests as a back up, which are on the way via Fedex.

I need to pack and decide what I will do in the ports.

More after testing!
Looking forward. Your TR's are vey good!

We are scheduled on the NCL Star in June out of Iceland for 11 days. It has stops in three Icelandic ports, and Norway and Scotland as well.

Iceland is on the bucket list.
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Old Feb 1st, 2022, 06:47 AM
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https://www.travelmarketreport.com/a...estic-Princess

Very informative article. Nice to know what to expect.
We did Regal and it was very nice, but I am one of those who prefers the older, somewhat smaller ships with “wood.” LOL
I don’t care for some of the newer ships with Brown and beige decor. It just looks cheap, uninteresting and not pretty.
At least, the new Princess ships are light and airy. The atriums are always beautiful on Princess and afternoon music there is always lovely, with usually some of the best performances on the ship.

i wonder if some of the food issues are due to supply shortages of specific things like lobster or other seafood. That would be a challenge for chefs.

I think you are going to have a fabulous time!
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Old Feb 1st, 2022, 09:18 AM
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My cruise buddy (a 30-something military guy who got started with his mother) was looking at that Iceland cruise. He lives near the east coast ports.

Re food, NCL has never been known for quality in the buffet (or in the crew mess, apparently). The Indian station and scooped ice cream in the buffet are enough to make me happy! I hope Star has that station on your cruise, jacketwatch.

The captain on Bliss said they have a central sourcing program which likely contributes to the food quality issues, everything goes through Miami. I imagine the 'Rona messed up the supply chain for the less flexible lines. When we sailed Sun around Cape Horn the MDR had steaks from Uruguay and they were great. We became friends with the contract lecturer on that cruise and got a lot of inside scoop. He was only allowed in the MDRs when with the guests.

Thanks for that article, Sassafrass. Recent reviews of the Harmony and French place are less than encouraging. Not sure I like the Majestic room finishes which look like '90s kitchens. Maybe it will look better in person. I do remember being really annoyed with the showers on Island. Anyways I'm sure I will figure out how to enjoy the ship, even if it means spending a lot of time outside. I switched cabins to aft in order to be closer to an outside deck and one of the MDRs. On Bliss, I was glad I was assigned to a forward location, near Waterfront and under the buffet and OL.

I had been on at least one ship with some of the real wood in the cabin, maybe it was Zaandam? I liked that ship, but they keep "freshening" the rooms so who knows what it is like now.

Bliss is like a modern hotel, inoffensive. Walk through the Observation Lounge. Sure was nice to go up and grab a front window seat with the low passenger loads, and so many people in their first ever balconies due to the fire sale fares.


Last edited by mlgb; Feb 1st, 2022 at 09:37 AM.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2022, 05:34 AM
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We have been on one Norwegian Cruise before and I do have to say that the quality of Indian food was OK. My wife is Indian so of course she prefers that and all in all it was pretty good.
The itinerary for this cruise is amazing and our travel agent got some incredible perks so the deal is fantastic. We have gratuities, drink package, dinner at three specialty restaurants, a generous amount of free WiFi time, credit at each port for excursions, balcony cabin and for 11 days it was around $4800.00 for the two of us.
Cant say no.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2022, 08:41 AM
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Yes especially since Iceland isnt't a cheap place to visit.

I think OK would be a good recommendation from your wife!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2022, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
Yes especially since Iceland isnt't a cheap place to visit.

I think OK would be a good recommendation from your wife!
I think so too. Actually many of the chefs on all cruise lines are Indian. You can request Indian food every night which we have done many times. its usually very good.
I found an Indian cook book for like $4.00 at Homegoods one day and have made several dishes from it.
She likes them too .Make my day.

Yes Iceland is quite high. Indian friends of ours went there and found some Indian restaurants which they recommend but looking at the menu prices are close to double what we play here. We do plan to stay there 3 nights before we cruise.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2022, 02:27 PM
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Congratulations. I used to watch Madhur Jaffrey on PBS and have a few of her cookbooks. Growing up in the Caribbean my tastebuds are blunted so a lot of Princess food tasted bland to me. I just packed a sealed jar of a Peruvian spice mix in case of emergencies.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2022, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
Congratulations. I used to watch Madhur Jaffrey on PBS and have a few of her cookbooks. Growing up in the Caribbean my tastebuds are blunted so a lot of Princess food tasted bland to me. I just packed a sealed jar of a Peruvian spice mix in case of emergencies.
True. I can see that.
May I ask where in the Caribbean you are from?
I love the Caribbean, been there many times. Jamaican jerk is my favorite.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2022, 04:09 PM
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The country where scotch bonnet is king. Sounds like you've been there.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2022, 02:16 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
The country where scotch bonnet is king. Sounds like you've been there.
Yah mon.
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Old Feb 5th, 2022, 11:15 AM
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Ubered to Port of LA. Easy security check-in with Medallion, then to Princess desk where I showed Passport, Negative Test result and Vaccination Card. Rooms were ready at noon. But I am in Alfredo's with a bad table by the line of people wanting to get in. Seems understaffed.
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Old Feb 5th, 2022, 01:20 PM
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Pizza was good but what a Cluster #$_& Well don't need to eat there again. Room is ugly as expected. Not as nice as Bliss. I have a covered balcony but have to turn the chair sideways.
Off to explore
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