Sapphire Princess, Part 5
Day 5, Wed. Oct. 15/08 Mazatlan
Another hot, humid day in Mexico, this time in the port of Mazatlan
They say first impressions are everything, and I must say that my first impression of Mazatlan was not very good.
It was a very industrial looking port, which of course, it is, but also dirty, with brown water and lots of garbage floating around.
The port area itself is filled with cargo ships, shipping containers, warehouse storage, and parking lots.
The only really interesting thing to see was the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas which manoeuvred it's way in so close behind us, we thought it was coming into our aft cabin!
We met Heather and Penny for breakfast since we were all scheduled to be on the same shore excursion, the Stone Island Beach Break. Sometime between breakfast, and disembarking on Deck 4, Penny and Heather became separated.
We met Penny at the security check and she told us she couldn't find Heather, and that she (Penny) had Heather's ship card so that neither could disembark without the other.
We checked with security and they assured us Heather was still on the ship (of course she was - Penny had her ship card!).
We also asked if they could page her, but they said they couldn't do that.
Meanwhile, James and I got off the ship to try and hold up our tour group for a few minutes.
I returned to the ship and went to check the purser's desk, where Heather had supposedly gone, but couldn't find her there, and she was still not at the security check point when I returned.
Finally, we left Penny alone at security, and even though our tour group waited an extra 10 minutes, we finally had to leave without them.
Still wondering and worrying about the two of them, we reluctantly boarded a double decker catamaran with our guide Carlos, who gave us a narrated tour of the port area of Mazatlan, learning a little of the history of Mazatlan, and a lot about Pacifico beer!
Soon, we docked at Stone Island, which is actually a peninsula to the south of Mazatlan, and boarded a "Mexican Taxi", a large open-air wagon with hard wooden bench seats, pulled by a huge tractor. The road was pretty much dirt and stone with lots of pot holes, and the ride was very uncomfortable.
Our trip to the beach took only about 10 minutes, and you could hear the happy chatter of the passengers diminish as the ride progressed.
The poverty on this island was stark.
There were tiny cinder block houses, and some just blue-tarp covered homes open to the dusty, dirty road. Every property was covered with junk; cast-off possessions, old cars, and garbage, including open bags of garbage strewn in the road. The stench of garbage was everywhere.
The people we saw on the road, or peering out of their homes, glared at the tourists with hostility in their eyes.
The only exception were 2 little boys who were happily splashing in their "pool", a sawed-off half of a blue plastic rain barrel in their front yard. They smiled widely and waved happily at us as we passed by.
The only pretty sight we saw were rows and rows and rows of coconut groves, with pretty palms waving in the breeze. Stone Island is known for their coconut groves.
As we neared the beach area, we spotted the horses who were to be included in this tour as a horse-back riding or horse and carriage feature. The sickly looking animals were tired to a tree in an open field in the intense heat, and the little one attached to the carriage was such a puny, underfed, sickly looking pony, we decided on the spot we would not take advantage of the horse ride on this excursion; we could not be so cruel to this poor beast.
Apparently, many other passengers made this same decision, because almost no-one went for the horse and carriage ride, and with no takers, the driver left the poor animal, still tied to the carriage, on the burning hot sand of the beach and disappeared for about an hour into the bar.
We witnessed it gagging, extending it's tongue, and shuffling it's feet on the hot sand, until suddenly, the lady next to us could take it no longer and went over to the horse and offered it 2 bottles of water, poured into her hand, which it lapped up thirstily.
One of our tour guides, who was so pleasant and accomodating, checked up on us to see if everything was alright, and she seemed surprised when we complained to her about the treatment of the animals, and their apparent lack of feeding, watering and grooming. She did tell us to mention it on our comment cards which we were asked to fill out later.
Many people who opted out of the horse ride activities instead chose to rent ATVs on the beach, and between our area and other tourist areas up and down the beach, there was a steady stream of these annoying, noisy vehicules all day.
Aside from the horse situation, the rest of the excursion was not too bad, including an excellent lunch served in the restaurant area.
On the surface, this spot looked like a nice tropical beach, with thatched hut open air restaurant, craft stalls, a large clean pool, and of course, the beach with a wonderful view of the surf.
Upon closer inspection however, the place looked run-down, dirty, and not too well cared for, including the beach which was littered with garbage and natural debris (possibly from last week's hurricane).
One of the reasons we chose this excursion was for the beach and the ocean, but we did not even go in the water.
There was a red flag flying, a warning we were told, that the undertow was severe. Certainly the waves were as high as any I had ever seen, and I was not taking any chances.
Many people chose to ignore the warnings however, and raced off into the surf. Lifeguards on the beach spent the day whistling and waving them into a "safer" area, but still people took foolish chances.
Because of the wild surf, and also because of the endless harrassing of wandering vendors on the beach, (notice in the photos, the fence posts and razor wire on the beach, designed to keep them out), we finally left the beach area and went up to enjoy the clean, fresh water pool. It was quite large, nice and warm, and for the most part, I had the pool completely to myself!
One fun activity that took place before we left the island was the bashing of a giant pinata, which to me, looked a lot like “Mr. Bill” of the old days of Saturday Night Live. It took several people swinging and smashing away to break that piñata open, and we were rewarded with tiny bags of “gummy candy”.
Our ride back to the island dock was a little more pleasant because the driver avoided the "slums" and took us back via the beach, where the view was spectacular!
Despite not liking what little we saw of either Puerta Vallarta, nor Mazatlan, we did concede that the tour operators/guides were most friendly, helpful and accomodating.
Back on board the Sapphire, we met up with Heather and Penny who told us the saga of their day after we left them that morning.
Unbeknownst to any of us, there were 2 gangways open for disembarkation, and while we and Penny had been waiting at one, apparently Heather was waiting at the other one, in a panic and in tears because she couldn't find us.
At both exit points, we had all asked security for help finding each other, and they were of little help. If only they had told us that there was another exit , all problems could have been avoided and the girls wouldn't have missed their shore excursion.
They did try later to get reimbursed for their paid excursion, but they were blamed for being late and no reimbursement was issued.
The two girls eventually found each other, Heather by relentlessly calling their cabin, and Penny by returning to the cabin and hearing the phone. Reunited, they exited the ship together, found a taxi to take them into town, where they found the Super Mercado open air marketplace and did lots of shopping, then spent some pleasant time on the beach.
Despite the disastrous start to their day, they ended up having a good time in Mazatlan and came away with some great purchases!
We ended our afternoon in Mazatlan in the aft pool, enjoying the sunshine and cool water, then watched our departure from the port, past the lighthouse and through the interesting maze of rock formations.
A sort of peninsula was formed with these large “Y” shaped cement objects, all identical as if they came out of the same mold. I have tried to find out what they were, and can’t find any information, but they made for interesting photographs.
Another day, another port, and another goodbye from us leaving Mazatlan!