We enjoyed the card player cruise on Carnival Spirit so much, we decided to take another one the following year. Again we picked the Mexican Riviera for price and convenience, but there the similarity ended. We had a different ship, Holland America‘s Oosterdam, which went to completely different ports. We booked a bit late, and all the cheapest rooms were taken so for once we had a veranda.
December 2006, we flew into San Diego and took a cab to the cruise ship dock, hoping for early boarding. Alas, it was not to be as there had been some sort of illness on the previous cruise and the entire ship had to undergo extensive cleaning and sterilization. We did not have to wait long to drop off our luggage, check in, and have a seat in the ample waiting area. Which did not seem so ample as more and more people checked in, yet nobody could board the still-in-the-cleaning-process ship. Holland America did the best they could, opening up another room filled with folding chairs and serving snacks and beverages.
Finally the ship opened up to allow people on board. We explored the ship, which seemed quite nice, and having that veranda was definitely an advantage. I recommend that anyone who can talk themselves into spending the extra bit for a veranda do so. Having a veranda is so worth it, especially when visiting warm places. We also again carefully selected a quiet room with nothing but other rooms on not only that deck, but the ones above and below as well. The staff took extra precautions to keep germs under wraps, and nobody that I am aware of got sick on this cruise, so their efforts seem to have paid off.
We had the crow’s nest lounge for the poker room. A large room with awesome views. What a wonderful poker room, the rest of the guests who had not booked through card player must have been so jealous. They always had snacks and drinks available right there in the room so some people did not even leave for lunch. It did close for dinner and when at shore, or some may never have left. There was one drawback to having a nice room at the front of the boat near the top though. The higher you are and the farther from center, the more exaggerated the motion. And we were tailing a hurricane so not the calmest seas. It got to be a bit more than one of the dealers could take. There’s no faster way to shut down a poker game than to have the dealer vomit on the table. I’ve never seen an entire table of players jump up and back so quickly in unison before or since. The card player staff rapidly sent her to her room with instructions not to return until she felt better, and re-assigned the players to other tables, while closing and cleaning that one.
This trip John brought nice clothes, so we got to eat the lobster, and even posed for the formal pictures (but did not buy them.) They had poker tournaments as well as live games and I played in a ladies tournament that had all sorts of extra prizes in various hands as well as the main prizes for the winners.
We did not have any shore excursions planned in Mazatlan, so we just got off the ship to see what we could find. We found a very inexpensive bus tour that took us to see interesting geographic places with a lot of history, cliff divers, an open air market of local craftsman where I found some Christmas gifts to buy, a tour through an area of nice homes where some famous Americans keep houses, and to a shopping area with some touristy stores where I found a nice, yet cheap necklace in a jewelry store. There’s always something to do whether you pre-book anything or not. It’s often cheaper not, but if there is something you really want to do then I recommend pre-booking to ensure you get to do it because what you do if you just get off and do whatever is pretty random.
In Puerto Vallarta we booked a zipline tour through the ship. We could have booked this on our own, but it would have cost nearly as much and not included transportation. And had the added disadvantage that if you go off by yourself and don’t come back in time the ship will leave without you. Ship’s personnel took us to a waiting area where we were met by a driver from the zip-line place in a 4-wheel drive semi-open vehicle referred to as a jungle bus. Arriving at the zip line tour, it pulled in on a narrow dirt road and parked next to a small saddled burro. Must have belonged to one of the employees. Apparently it was accustomed to large loud vehicles rattling up and stopping withing a few feet of it, as it hardly gave us a glance.
Following our safety talk and how to instructions, we climbed a trail to our first platform. The runs from one tree to the next got longer , steeper, and faster as we went. They started us out easy so we could get used to it. We even got to swing across from one platform to another on a rope swing at one point. At the end we got to repel down a tree. We got a lot of exersise, but I definitely recommend zip lining to anyone who is in good physical condition, has some stamina, and is not afraid of heights.
In Cabo San Lucus we again did not book anything through the ship, but this time did not look for random whatever either. John already knew we could go parasailing from previous visits to Cabo. So we found a parasail boat among the many activities people hawked to passing tourists at the dock. In Cabo they have the sort of boats with a large winch where you take off and land right on the deck of the boat and never have to get wet. I have seen people in other places parasail and land on the water, I bet the way we did it was much easier. All the fun and none of the work, they hooked us up and sent us in the air and reeled us back down. The closest we will ever get to flying without sprouting wings. I totally recommend parasailing for anyone who wants an idea of what it feels like to fly.
As always, there is plenty to do at sea, endless food offerings, shows, classes, pools, and even internet access. Sitting on the veranda with a good book has its merits too. Since this was a poker cruise, we played a lot of poker too.