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.

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