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Old April 26th, 2007, 04:24 PM
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Default Review - Golden Princess Mexican Riviera

Golden Princess
April 12th to April 22nd 2007

Mexican Riviera Cruise

San Francisco, Ca
Day at sea
Day at sea
Day at sea
Acapulco
Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa
Puerto Vallarta
Cabo
Day at sea
Day at sea
San Francisco, Ca


We drove into San Francisco the day before the cruise to avoid the chaos and I’m glad we did. The Wharf Inn on Mason & Beach was clean and very close to everything but the noise was too much for me. Neither of us got any sleep as the traffic outside doesn’t stop. It is possible to walk to the port from this hotel but it’s quite a walk (8 blocks??) with luggage. We chose to take a taxi for $10 including tip.

The weather was sunny, chilly (65f?) and windy during sail away. I thought the weather was great. Cool weather is welcome when you’re hauling around luggage. The second day, it warmed up but still had a little bit of a chill in the air. After that, it was sun tanning and pool time! The day After Cabo, the seas were choppy and the air was cold. Nobody fighting over pool lounges now! The last day at sea proved to be a challenge for me. For some reason I started getting queasy and I don’t usually get sea sick. It may have been the length of the time on the ship too. Once I got outside and grabbed something to eat, my stomach settled down.

The cruise prior to ours was code red with Noro so embarkation was delayed then there were problems with loading equipment on the dock. We sailed 4 hours late. I won’t go into embarkation details as this wasn’t a normal thing for Princess. We were about the 10th couple on the ship at noon. I can’t tell you why there were still people boarding at 8pm because we weren’t down there. It didn’t look too pretty.

The Golden Princess crew earns an A+ in my book for keeping everything clean. As soon as you put that empty cup down, a happy crew member swoops it up. On Carnival, we saw the same dishes (complete with cigarette buts in the old food) sitting on the deck for hours. Not on Princess! I was really impressed by how Princess cleaned everything from top to bottom all the time. One crew member stopped what he was doing to help us out with our digital camera issue. He actually took us to his office and downloaded our disk because the photo shop was closed. We’re confident that we wouldn’t have received this same service on Carnival or RCCL (although I could be wrong). The extra service on Princess was very appreciated.

We had standard balcony cabin, category BA on Lido deck. That was very handy! Only 4 cabins away from the burger grill and pool . . . our favorite spots . . . and a few cabins from the elevators/stairs! The balcony had 2 chairs and a small table.

Bathroom had shampoo, conditioner and soap. For larger people, these bathrooms MIGHT pose a challenge. The shower is only about 4’ x 4’ (??). The open space in the bathroom is about the same. There is a 2? lip at the bottom of the door that you need to step over to get into the bathroom. Bathing babies in this shower is possible but wouldn’t be easy. It’s only about 2? deep and you’ll need to bring some type of drain plug.

The closet was about 6’ long with a shelf on top. Off to the side was a tall, narrow strip of deep shelves (approx 5 shelves) with the safe on one of them. I was really glad that I bought the shoe organizer. We used it for our under garments, socks, sun tan lotions, film, chargers and various other little goodies that would have overflowed the few drawers at the desk. I couldn’t get the hair dryer to work in the bathroom at all. Even with the converter plug, it just wouldn’t work. It worked fine at the desk with no converter plug. The only problem was that I wake up early and fly out the door. He likes to sleep in. I could take a shower and get dressed in the mornings without bothering him but couldn’t dry my hair as the hair dryer was next to the bed. We found that we really didn’t use the balcony so on future cruises we will stick with interior or inside to save the money.

We saw a number of people with wheelchairs and walkers on this cruise. The narrow halls with cleaning carts in them made it almost impossible for wheelchair bound people to pass. We had to move the cleaning carts into the door coves for them to pass. Fortunately, those carts weren’t there all day long. We also heard that people in wheelchairs couldn’t go into any of the ports on this cruise. I was sad to hear this.

The Coffee Card was a great purchase for us. We found the espresso machine and became buddies with the morning coffee lady, Keyzia (‘Kezia’). For $27 + tip we bought the coffee card which is good for 15 coffees. Now, since we only used it for Mochas, I can’t tell you if they stamp it for regular brewed coffee. The coffee in the buffet was . . . . . yuck! I didn’t dare do that to my stomach every morning.

Entertainment was a disappointment to us. The shows were short and only earned a C in my book. The live band by the pool one day played elevator music! So far, Royal Caribbean has the best entertainment, IMHO. Princess wasn’t bad by any means, just not that great. There is a TV in the cabin with a few stations like TNT, CNN and a couple of cartoon channels. After a physical day in port, we enjoyed an hour of quiet time in front of the TV. Not a whole lot going on by the pool. We did enjoy a couple of volley ball games though.

Anytime dining means an occasional wait in line from what we saw. Normally, we were at the coffee bar watching the line grow and shrink. We’re buffet type people. “Don’t bother with the fancy service. I’m just here to eat!? is our way of thinking. The burger grill, pizza and buffet were all just fine. I was a bit bored with the same buffet menu day after day but the food was all hot and fresh. Some people complained about the layout of the buffet islands but I thought it was just fine. Things go much quicker when you can go straight to your favorite foods. During lunch there was a line at the burger grill and buffet but never had to stand in them. Just go earlier or wait a little bit.

There were a few lounge hogs on this cruise but the design of the ship allows for lots of sun areas. There were 4 pools to choose from so fighting was at a minimum.

Acapulco was great. Dave & I and 2 other couples (Mike & Gabrielle and Harvey, Barbra and Ben) hired a taxi driver at the port to show us the sites for 2 hours. Cesar drove us around in his newer air conditioned Chevy Tahoe, to some very nice photo spots then dropped us off at Carlos & Charlie’s for lunch. We all got balloon hats but Harvey got the ‘special’ balloon hat that he proudly sported all the way back to the ship (Details not really suitable for children – wink wink). We then arranged for Cesar to pick us up and take us back to the ship. At 4pm, as agreed, he picked us up at the ship to take us to La Perla for our dinner reservations to see the cliff divers. After the show, he picked us up again for our ride back to the ship. He was on time, friendly, clean and his English was just fine. I would highly recommend him for a day tour of the city. Dinner at La Perla was nice. We sat at a table right in front and were able to see the cliff divers while eating. Mike reserved this online for us before we sailed. The foods served were on the fancy end but our clothing was not. I was in shorts and sandals along with most of the crowd. Let me know if you want the taxi driver name and phone #. I have his card.

Zihuatanejo was a nice little fishing village. We wandered around on foot and did some major souvenir shopping. Some nice local gentlemen on a scooter offered to provide us with some illegal commodities. We realized at that point we had wondered out of the tourist area so we quickly headed back. We didn’t feel like we were being accosted though. They were very nice. After we said no, they smiled, waved & took off. No pressure. The local merchants in the tourist areas make up the price based on how you look! I asked for a price and was told $8. Another lady walked up and asked about the exact same item and was told $15. She was dressed nicely and looked like she had money. I was in jean shorts & flip flops.

We didn’t get to see Puerto Vallarta at all because we took the ships Outdoor Experience Canopy Adventure tour. What a rush!!!! WOW! Ship docked at 9am. Scheduled meeting was 10:45 in the Princess theatre. Our tour was at 11:30am. Dave didn’t want to go into town and chance missing the tour so we stayed on the ship for breakfast. We didn’t know that we could tell the crew at the Princess Theatre that we would meet the tour on the dock! Oh well. What the tour documents don’t tell you is that you get to this tour via ½ hour ride in a small boat across the choppy ocean. Some people who get seasick need to know this. There were a couple of green people on our boat but nobody required any bags.

The zip line story begins: After arriving at a CUTE little fishing village (I could have stayed there for hours) we get into open-air Mercedes Army type 4x4 trucks and rode for another ½ hour up a rugged mountain side. People are driving little Toyota cars on this road too so it wasn’t that bad. When we arrived, all of our belongings, including cameras, water, hats and sunglasses are stuffed into a huge duffel bag. The happy guides introduced themselves and fitted us with our gear and helmets. The straps that go around our waist have these heavy pulley things on them and I now have wet thick leather gloves hanging off my sides.

We’ve all received safety instructions and are told to hang on and scream when we go down the zip lines (along with some other very serious instructions). We’re off! A quick little foot trail brings us to the Mule pen where we are instructed on the proper handling of the Mules. I really miss my sunglasses! At this point, we’ve all found that the crew are having way too much fun. These guys are pure entertainment.

By now, they are learning our names and who they can have fun with. We learned a few new words in Spanish to get the Mules moving. My mule really likes the passing lanes! It’s about 80 degrees and a bit humid. A perfect day. Half an hour on the dusty rugged trail, we arrive at another Mule pen where we said goodbye to our Mules.

More dusty trails and bugs? Yip . . .here we go again . . another vertical trail. My legs are killing me! My knees are shaking from holding onto that fat Mule. Civilization is long gone along with any chances to cancel this trip!

We finally arrive at our very first zip line! It’s 300’ off the ground and about 200’ long. What happened to the ‘training’ that I read about? I thought we would try a little sample zip line close to the ground. As I go to raise my hand an enormous venomous bug with a huge stinger flutters around my leg! AHHH!!!! Laughter erupts from the crowd as I find that the bug was actually a crew member abusing his authorities. He was tickling my leg with a palm leaf! If I could only find a way to get him back! We all laughed then turned our gaze to the zip line.

A hollow sea of trees awaits its first victim. The first 2 or 3 crew members zip down the line ahead of us. Somebody has to be down there to catch us at the bottom! They gracefully fly through the air to the platform in the trees bellow. Dee, the first victim, is hooked up to the cables. With a slight nudge off the platform, she screams wildly into the wind. Did she make it? My boyfriend is afraid of heights (ya learn something new everyday!) he’s looking a bit green right about now. They hook him up and send him down. He lands on the platform bellow and disappears onto the next trail. Was he ok with it? Where did he go?

It’s my turn! The crew member takes a large pulley thing off my side as I worriedly inspect the zip line cables. As if I really know what I’m looking at. 2 parallel cables attached to the platform by a triangle type station then tied to trees. I think I’m ok with this. I’m all hooked up, ready and butt puckered then poof HE slides down the cable! I was so busy looking at the cables, I didn’t realize that he was hooking himself up. ARGH! You really need watch these guys. They are a lot of fun. He had already hooked my safety strap to the safety rope so I wouldn’t go anywhere. It’s all very safe fun with this crew.

Ok, now it’s really my turn. We all put on our gloves to find that they are all wet and cool. Why are they wet?

My pulleys are attached to the zip lines by a crew member. The safety cable from my side is attached to the cable bracket on the zip line. As I bend my knees, I can feel that my weight is supported by the harness around my hips. It’s like a soft seat, very comfortable and secure. My left hand is wrapped around the rope that I’m hanging from. My right hand is behind and above my head resting gently on the bottom of the 2 zip lines. To slow down, I pull down (don’t close your hand) on the line. Off I go!

The ground disappeared as the breeze whisks my hair back. It’s beautiful! I’m so high off the ground! There must be a hundreds of tre . . . . . oh dear . . there’s the platform .. pull down with my right hand to slow down like they said. UGH . . Ok. I’m here and safe. That was fantastic!!! Can I do that again in slow motion so I can take in more of the scenery?

On the platform, I pull down on the top zip line to help the crew member remove my pulley from the line more easily. It’s a race to get me unhooked because now the next victim is on the line coming down. Get out of the way!

As I look up somebody pointed to the trail which leads to the next platform. How many more vertical dusty trails are around here and where is my Mule when I need him most? ARGH!

About half way up the trail, I have to stop. I’m worn out and extremely thirsty. My knees are still shaking from the Mule ride and the excitement of my very first zip line. I just can’t do this. Somebody should have told me . . ok . . they did tell me that it was a physical ‘experience’.

I pry my self off the rock and continue on. YEEHAA!!! Bottled water and my long lost boyfriend! He WAS afraid of heights. Now he’s having such a great time he can’t wait to get to the next zip line.

Cold water . . . is it a mirage? There are two ice chests filled with cold bottles of water. Who in the world was responsible for getting these way up here? We’re on the top of a mountain! They’re both pretty beat up which makes me wonder if they traversed the zip lines too.

I make it to the next zip line platform. Zip line after zip line. The views get better and better. Zipping over trees and rivers. Platform to platform, the trails are long gone. There’s a waterfall. You can see other zip lines criss-crossing through the canyons but you can’t see their platforms. The sounds of Tarzan (my boyfriend who WAS afraid of heights) and screams of crazy women fill the air. Now, we’re all professional zippers. We’ve traversed the zip lines high in the mountains of Mexico.

I get to the next zip line that seems to be pretty steep down to the next platform. The crew member on the platform grabs that weird looking pie shaped metal gadget that’s been silently sitting on my side the entire tour (I was afraid to ask what it was). He wraps a rope around it, gives it a twist, pushes it through one of my brackets . . . “Hey? You’re doing that wrong!? Was my first thought (I’m a professional zipper now). We are repelling now huh? Ok, I can do this too.

I’m not supposed to stop with my right hand on this one. The guy who is holding the rope at the bottom will tighten the rope to stop me. This doesn’t sound right. Pull a rope at the bottom to stop gravity and my big puckered butt? Oh my. Down I go. This was a short little drop compared to the other ones so it was quick. It worked!

Now we’re at the top of a waterfall. It’s beautiful. The sound of rushing water sounded refreshing in the hot afternoon.

Here, we do a real rappel down the face of the rock mountain bordering the 50’ waterfall. I really need my camera! No jumping out away from the rock (like you see on TV). Simply walk down the rock face. My right hand holds the rope that controls my speed so I can go slower on this one.

A photographer snaps a few pictures of me. I feel so special! SPLASH! I land in water up to my ankles. WOOO that’s cold! Fantastic! What a rush!

The waterfall is broken into sections. It starts about 300’ up the mountain then goes into a puddle then falls then puddle then falls etc, all the way to the bottom. We get to the next repel where there is a deeper puddle at the end. You could loose a VW in this one.

My boyfriend (The Super Zipper Tarzan Dude who used to be afraid of heights) is going down the zip line when the crew member grabs the line, gives it a good pull which completely dunks my boyfriend into the water. Everybody around burst into laughter except for me, I was next and that water looked really cold.

I held myself up high while zipping down the 30’ line towards that cold water. As the crew member yanked on the line, I could feel my body curl upwards. I didn’t know I could do that! SPLASH into the water clear up to my shoulders!! AAHHHH!!! Holly COWW That’s Cccccold! The ‘receiving’ crew member or ‘catcher’ saw that I needed help getting completely wet so he splashed me some more.

I felt like a drunken sailor trying to pull myself out of that water. There’s nothing ladylike about this tour! I brush myself off as if to clean off any embarrassment that may still be attached. As I look up, I see the granddaddy of all zip lines. This line may be as long as the ship! Ok, it’s not, but it is pretty intimidating.

One of the crew members scrambles into the woods and brings out a long stick. Maybe he’s going to do some fancy grand finale’ zip trick? Nope. He knows that there is a fruit tree half way down the line and he’s going to try to knock some fruit down for us. Excellent idea! He slides half way down the line wildly swinging this 5’ long stick aimlessly into the tree tops. As he stops, he takes aim at the tree with the fruit. Everybody is cheering him on now! We can see the tree that he’s aiming at but it’s too far away to see the fruit on the tree. He must have succeeded because he slid down to the next platform.

We all took turns going down the King Kong of zip lines trying to see the fruit on the fruit trees bellow. What a rush!

I noticed that people are taking off their gloves. NO! I’m not done! That wasn’t the last one, was it?

Once the group gathered together, we all hit the trail. This time, the trail was going down hill and we were much cooler. Elephant Ears, ferns and various other plants lined the trail. Skinny branches were 30’ long winding up and around other plants, across the trail and flowing gracefully up the hill.. I can’t tell if they’re roots or branches. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

By now, we’re skipping on the trail like little kids on the prairie. This has been a day that I’ll never forget! Around the corner, a few crew members trot up into the bushes to gather the fruit that had fallen earlier. I had completely forgotten about the fruit that they worked so hard to get down for us! The yellow fruit was the size of a plum with 2 or even 3 large seeds inside. Lemoncia (spelling?) was sour yet sweet. It was almost a cross-breed between a peach and a lemon. Yum!

A little bit later we’re back at the base where we were originally geared up. No Mules on the trip down I guess! We strip our gear and rinse out our shoes. Everybody has hat-head from wearing helmets all day and we’re all pretty hungry.

It’s about 3:45pm now. They offer us some chips & salsa and show us our pictures (at $15 each). It’s about 4:15. Last ship tender is at 5pm and we still have over half an hour 4x4 ride down the hill AND half an hour boat ride to get back to the ship.

It’s a good thing we booked this through the cruise line! Did I mention that its dinner time and we never got lunch?

The 4x4 trip down the hill was just as exhilarating as the ride up hill. We get to that CUTE little fishing village at the bottom of the hill and it seems that we still have to wait for the boat. Perfect! We can order a real Mexican burrito from one of the beach vendors.

By now, I’m starving and my blood sugar is dropping. Here comes the boat. Everybody swarms to the boat but we still don’t have the burrito! As we scamper away from the tables, the waiter comes running with my burrito. Life is good and so is the burrito!

A storm hovers overhead as the ocean comes alive. Senor Capitan presses full speed ahead to make up for lost time. Save the burrito! I feel sorry for the people towards the back of the boat. One gentleman next to us had a beer that was splashing and my salsa was flying.

Some of the people in our group were from the Holland America ship or the Carnival Pride. They drop us off at the tender pier where the very last tender waited for us to board. I’m SO glad we booked though the cruise line! We hop on the tender only to find that there was another Golden Princess ship tour that was running late. It was a dolphin tour.

As we approached the ship, we see the anchor coming up. People on decks were applauding us. Apparently, the ship captain had announced that they were waiting for our group before they could set sail. We’re off to the buffet! We can shower later! Tips: No bug spray please. You will be going through rivers and the poison will contaminate the water. Wear good shoes. I’m glad I wore tennis shoes. Sandals will allow rocks in. There were a number of rocky, sandy, pebble trails. They will ask you to take off all hats because you’ll be wearing helmets. Do-rags or Skullcaps were popular and ok to keep on. All in all, this tour gets an A in my book. I would definitely do that again. END

Cabo is our fishing dream come true. A few months before the cruise Dave & I along with another couple, Jim & Bonnie chartered a boat through Fiesta Sport Fishing. They took us out for a few hours of deep sea fishing on a 28’(??) fishing boat. Fortunately the guys woke up because we caught a beautiful 8 ½’ long, 90 pound Blue Marlin!!! Yip . . we got pictures to prove it. ? This big one didn’t get away! The crew was nice. Not too much talking going on but they did communicate occasionally. Enough to bring in a big one! For those curious, after they hung it from the pier for pictures and weighing, we had to leave the Marlin for the Captain of the fishing boat. He probably sold it to a local restaurant. It would have cost us approx $1200 for a taxidermy. Instead, we paid $30 for a fiberglass 2’ Marlin at the local stores. There was a nice sized market right on the pier. These people must be very proud of their wares as their prices were pretty high. OH! Fiesta Sport Fishing said we would need to pay the boat crew 15% tips. The sign on the boat said we should pay 25-30% tip. Hmm Pesos vs. dollars???

According to Princess, there were just under 200 kids (0-17) on this particular cruise. It felt like there were 4 kids. We hardly ever saw any of them. We were told the cruise prior to ours had 600 kids (remember my mention of the Noro on that cruise??). Just a thought.

OUR cruise line comparison: We’ve sailed on Carnival, RCCL and Princess. We are active 40 and 45 year olds who enjoy the pool parties and adult comedians.
Princess offers a great cruising experience and we had a great time. We will more than likely be back for more but we’ll focus our future plans on Royal Caribbean. RCCL, IMHO had entertainment and activities more suited for us and we enjoyed the food more. It seems that Princess may be more geared towards the senior crowd. Carnival may be more geared for the younger adults (20-40) and the crew didn’t seem too concerned about cleaning or kid control.
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