Mexican Riviera Cruise Sunday, Oct 21 2012 

The day before our cruise was scheduled to depart from Long Beach, California, we drove from Phoenix, Arizona to Riverside.  We saw the home of my wife’s niece, husband and two children and spent the night with one of my wife’s sisters and brother-in-law.  My wife lived in Riverside from age 8 to 20.  During our short stay we visited the Mission Inn Hotel for a drink and to view the portraits of U.S. Presidents who have visited this National Historic Landmark.  We dined with authentic Spanish food at Cafe Sevilla and had a Mexican breakfast at Zacatecas Café.  It was interesting to experience this vibrant city while learning more about what it was like in an earlier period.

Carnival Splendor

Carnival Splendor

It only took a little over an hour to drive from Riverside to Long Beach.  After dropping off our luggage and parking, we got our first glimpse of the Carnival Splendor, our home for the coming week.  We stood in several lines, but never for any length of time, in order to embark.  We found our cabin with veranda on the Panorama Deck, the 10th deck.  We took some time to explore the ship and grabbed some food from the Lido buffet.  At precisely 4:30 p.m. we left port.

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Because of Hurricane Paul, our itinerary changed.  Instead of spending one day at sea before landing at Cabo San Lucas for two days, we spent two days at sea and then two days at Puerta Vallerta, originally only scheduled for one day, before concluding the trip with one day at Cabo followed by one day at sea before the return to Long Beach.  On our first day at sea we participated in a wine tasting taught by sommelier Maria. The most interesting discovery was that each wine changed taste when paired with lemon or lime, cheese, salmon, and steak.  We sampled a Schmitt Sohne riesling (Spatlese, Germany), Clifford Bay sauvignon blanc (New Zealand), a Kendall-Jackson chardonnay (California), a Smoking Loon pinot noir (California), and a Concha y Toro cabernet sauvignon (Chile).

On Tuesday morning as we weaved our way toward the dining room, I became nauseous.  We returned to our cabin where I took a Dramamine which took effect almost immediately along with its side effect, drowsiness.  Later, we heard that even crew members became seasick and were unable to complete their scheduled duties.  When we emerged from our room, we spotted white bags strategically placed along the hallway corridors.  A quiet day at sea.

Quimixto Waterfall

Quimixto Waterfall

On Wednesday pleasant weather greeted our arrival at Puerto Vallerta.  Our shore excursion took us by speedboat south along the coast to a dock by a small beach village of Quimixto.  Equipped with helmets, we were assigned horses for a 25 minute sojourn through a tropical forest to a waterfall flowing off the Sierra Madre.  Many of our group, which numbered about 20, swam in the water below the waterfall.  Some of the more adventurous climbed a rope up the rocks under the waterfall and then slid into the water.  Our horses were very knowledgeable about this trip and needed little prodding, especially on the return. Farther down the coast we stopped at a La Bola cove for an opportunity to snorkel.  We then proceeded even farther south to a nice beach next to Pizata for a buffet lunch and open bar.  This outing provided us with an opportunity for varied activities.

Tequilla Processing

Tequilla Processing

On Thursday we visited two tequila distilleries.  At Doña Engracia Tequila we learned about the process of making 100% blue agave tequila and sampled blanco, reposado, añejo tequilas as well as peach, almond, and coffee flavored tequilas.  We learned later from a couple at our dining table who took this excursion for the sixth time that filling the tasting cups filled to the brim with refills welcomed was something new this year.  I expect this change brings additional sales.  It worked with us.  The second distillery that we visited has the Mama Lucia label.  It uses traditional techniques which limit quantities so exporting isn’t a possibility.  We especially liked their tangerine tequila.  Because of delays passing through one section of unpaved road, we only had time for a quick tour of Puerta Vallarta’s Old Town.  On our next visit we would like to walk the Malecon.

Cabo's Arch

Cabo’s Arch

This cruise’s change of itinerary allowed us to experience a wonderful day in Cabo San Lucas.  We took a tender from the Carnival Splendor to meet our excursion at the dock.  We boarded a speedboat with about 18 other passengers and traveled along the rocky coastline for close up views of Pelican Rock, Neptune’s Finger, and the iconic Arch of Los Cabos.  On one flat rock several sea lions rested in the shade.  We then visited two coves, Santa Maria and Chileno Bay, for snorkeling.  The first stop had more abundant fish.  Our guide also brought up a starfish for close up viewing.  Upon our return to the cruise ship we experienced eye irritation.  Was some pollutant in the water at our last stop?  Fortunately, after rinsing out our eyes and a good night’s sleep, we awoke generally improved.  My sensitivity to the sun resulted in sunburn on my back despite having applied sunscreen before snorkeling.  I need to invest in a shirt with UV protection.

Cruises are known for their food.  This trip was no different.  The quantity of food some people can consume is mind boggling.  I enjoyed the different choices more than the quantity.  For lunch I tried both Indian and Caribbean cuisine.  For dinner I had several seafood courses including lobster and also enjoyed filet mignon and a tender chateaubriand served with an interesting variation of mashed potatoes.  Among the different wines we tried each evening were Barefoot brut cuvée, Zonin pinot grigio, Barefoot pinot noir, and Smoking Loon cabernet sauvignon.  It was also fun to try different deserts.  Service in the dining room and in our cabin was superb.

The cruise offered many entertainment options.  Music ranging from disc jockeys on the Lido Deck to live bands in many locations, especially on Deck 5.  We enjoyed performances near the glass elevators on Deck 3 where several dancers demonstrated their prowess. Two incredible performances by the ship’s band, singers, and dancers on the main stage were awesome.  The costumes and choreography were amazing.

Throughout the cruise work was continually performed to keep the ship in tip top shape.  The Carnival Splendor serves more than 3,200 guests with some 1,100 crew members.  Of course, the November 8, 2010 engine room fire ended that cruise.  Fortunately, the problems from that incident were corrected and we only encountered the early disruption from Mother Nature.

Advertisements

Sierra Prieta Trail Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

Sierra Prieta Overlook

Sierra Prieta Overlook

The Sierra Prieta Trail is 7.8 miles from our Prescott home, including 3.8 miles on dirt roads.  The Trailhead is located at the Sierra Prieta Overlook which features a panoramic view over Copper Basin and Skull Valley.  This easy out-and-back hike covers 2 miles.  The trailhead elevation is 6,950 feet, it ascends to a high point of 7,020 feet, and is around 6,800 feet at the turn around point.  This secluded hike didn’t feel safe when gunshots could be regularly heard from an area northwest below the trail.  A hawk flew from one tree to another but flew away before I could take its picture.  On the return motorcycles could be heard screeching through forest roads.  Nevertheless, this is an interesting hike.

Prescott Oktoberfest Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

Southbound

Southbound

On Saturday, classic cars were on show in front of the Yavapai County Courthouse on Goodwin and Cortez Streets.  Gurley Street was also closed down to reinvent itself as a giant beer garden.  The Fraternal Order of Eagles was the main sponsor of this street party.  For $15 you were allowed to enter and received a commemorative glass and six sampling tickets.  Some 65 craft beers were available for 5 ounce sample.  I tried some new brews as well as sticking to some favorites.  The most interesting find was white chocolate ale, a wheat beer from the Sonoran Brewing Company.  Two bands played: Southbound which features southern rock; Filabusta which features rock, blues, and funk.  The proceeds from this event are supposed to benefit the Discovery Gardens Preschool.  A good time was had by all.

Centennial Trail Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

Thumb Butte

Thumb Butte

This new Prescott trail was named to commemorate Arizona’s 100th birthday.  Earlier in the summer we had broken this hike into two parts.  For our Saturday hike we did the total 3.9 miles out-and-back.  Near the beginning of the trail, which is at an elevation of 5,450 feet, several patches of sacred thorn-apples were in full bloom.  This moderate scenic trail meanders through boulders and has several short climbs.  A road runner made its way through the boulders as we approached the turn around point at Petroglyph Point whose elevation is at 5,700 feet.  A view of Thumb Butte always gives us a sense of direction.  Centennial Trail itself is only 1.5 miles from our Prescott home.

Cirque Chinois Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

The National Circus of the People’s Republic of China visited Prescott this past Friday evening for a performance at Yavapai College.  The troupe of about three dozen treated us to acrobatics, contortion, strength, juggling, trapeze, and magic.  Colorful costumes accentuated the athleticism of these skilled performers.  Two men jumped simultaneously on the Great Teeterboard to throw an acrobat in the air for multiple flips, to send a girl who lands in a raised chair, and to flip a performer on a pole who is able to land and exit on his pogo stick.  The Grand Flying Trapeze and the hanging rope provided high rising performances singly and in tandem.  Girls’ Balance With Bowls moved through various gymnastic maneuvers including one routine of contortion with six women as the base with five women stretched on top of them, all the while with plates rotating.  Men performed Straw Hats Juggling while women sent spinning wheels high in the air and between one another.  Contortion was evident in several acts including one Group Contortion with women at the base connected only through their mouths.  Bicycles were used for various forms of group balancing and included a dozen performers atop one bicycle.  The magician treated us to his colorful costume and changing faces during the act and several card tricks after the intermission.  A year ago we enjoyed a show of acrobats in Shanghai.  We found Chinese audience members often leaving their seats during the performance.  The audience at Yavapai College was highly attentive and appreciative of the performance.  It is great to have this kind of entertainment touring the United States.  Don’t miss an opportunity to see “Cirque Chinois.”

Horse Camp Loop Trail Monday, Oct 1 2012 

Horse Camp Loop Trail

Horse Camp Loop Trail

On the last day of September we hiked the 2.6 mile Horse Camp Loop Trail #383.  The trailhead is about 6.6 miles from Gurley Street on the Senator Highway.  The trailhead is at an elevation of 6,407 feet and descends through ponderosa pines on a sandy trail to 6,150 feet.  Wildflowers continue to decorate the woods.  We saw rough menodora, common mullein, western yarrow, shorthair goldenrod, tansyleaf tansyaster, upright blue beardtongue, and spreading fleabane.  In addition a low lying plant that looks like a finely haired red Christmas tree added to the fall colors.  An easy hike with lasting color.