A December 2002 trip
to Mexican Riviera by Linda Kaye
Quote: Sun, waves, fiesta and fun, great food, excellent personal service, exciting ports of call, top-notch entertainment, live music and dancing, loose Casino slots, hot-tub in the moonlight, and lots of lots of relaxation—This must be a Princess Cruise and it is "WHERE I BELONG".
We sailed the Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles, Puerto Villarta, Mazatalan, Cabo San Lucas and back to Los Angeles) traveling a total of 2,329 nautical miles. This floating resort was at capacity - 1,950 passengers. The Sea Princess is 856 feet in length and has ten passenger decks. It has 3 pools, 5 hot tubs, 8 places to eat, 10 bar-service locations, a full gym and spa, enclosed sports court, Casino, shops and boutiques, game room, library, beauty salon and a half dozen places to watch shows, listen to music and dance. It has a staff of over 900 to meet all needs.
We enjoyed fantastic food, great entertainment, friendly staff, wonderful weather and exciting shore tours. We were introduced to the interesting world of art auctions, got our exercise walking around the Promenade Deck and danced the night away at Rocky’s and the Wheelhouse Bar.
If you like fresh fruit, simply fill out an order form in your stateroom and a bowl of fresh fruit will be delivered to you the following day. It is top quality and is great for stashing in your backpack for one of your shore tours. (No additional cost)
Treat yourself to breakfast in bed or on your balcony (no additional cost).
On the last morning of the cruise, check the disembarking schedule; if you are low on the list, don’t stand around on Deck 5 or 6 waiting. Instead, find a comfortable place in the Vista Lounge, the Wheelhouse, or in the Horizon Court. The advantage of the Horizon Court is that you can get coffee or something from the bar until your "number" is called.
Each stateroom had our choice of a queen bed or two singles, a large dresser and vanity with lighted mirror and hairdryer, a chair and a stool, night stand with a telephone, a cabinet for the T.V. on top, storage including a safe for your valuables, and a refrigerator at the bottom. Inside the refrigerator you will find an ice bucket and it will always have ice in it. The large closet had more than enough wooden hangers for all our clothes and also had wire baskets for more storage. The closet doors had full-length mirrors. The rooms are bright and well lit.
The bathrooms have a shower, toilet, sink and lighted mirror, several shelves to store toiletries, and a cabinet below the sink for clean towels - we ALWAYS had plush, clean towels and also larger towels to use at the pool. There were two nice robes hanging behind the door. If the robes are not there, simply ask your Steward and he will bring them right away.
There are no clocks in the staterooms, but you can reach a "talking clock" on the telephone at anytime. There is also a computerized "wake-up" service that works well. Directly outside the stateroom door was a mailbox where the Princess Patter and other pertinent information was placed to help plan the next day’s activities.
Each night while we were at dinner, our Room Steward would turn down our bed, place chocolates on our pillows and straighten up any clothes we had left out, along with replacing any used towels.
The Princess television service includes three channels of music, many movie channels, a weather channel and CNN. There are several channels featuring activities of the day, information on shore tours and history and environmental talks about the different ports. Another channel featured the "BridgeCam" which was mounted at front of the ship. If you are occupying an inside cabin and you are not sure what the weather is like, or if you are in port, just switch on that channel and have a look.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 10, 2002
The Sea Princess
Mexican Riviera, Mexico
Restaurant | "Dining, Princess Style"
The Neapolitan Dining Room, Deck 5, is set-aside with the same menu as the Sicilian Dining Room, but at your choice of time. You do not sit at the same table each night, nor have the same waiters. The menu for these dining rooms are posted early in the day so you can see what is on tap for that night. Just in case the menu doesn’t suit you, there are several permanent items on the menu, such as baked chicken or sirloin steak and baked potato.
At 6:30 the Rivera Grill on Deck 14, turns into "The Sterling Steakhouse". This is one of the exceptions to the "all inclusive pricing". The only additional cost is an $8.00 cover charge per person for dining here and reservations are required.
Your choices for breakfast include the Horizon Court on Deck 14, which is a 24- hour buffet, the Sicilian Dining Room, or for a real treat, you can have breakfast in bed. For breakfast in your stateroom, you will need to complete the order blank you will find in your stateroom and hang it outside the door by midnight. You must be specific on the form as to what time you would like it delivered the next morning.
Lunch choices include the Horizon Court, The Sicilian Dining Room, The Riviera Grill or Lago’s Pizzeria. In the Sicilian Dining Room, you are seated at tables with other passengers, which offers a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends. We ate lunch in the Dining Room twice during our seven-day cruise and both times we were fortunate to sit with some really interesting people.
The Riviera Grill, located on Deck 14, offers hot dogs, bratwurst, hamburgers, french fries and drinks. It is adjacent to the pool area and is popular with the pool crowd. We ate there only once and were not impressed with the food, but the scenery was great.
For late night hunger pangs there is the Horizon Court, open 24-hours, or Largo’s Pizza, which is open until 1:00 a.m.
Another exception to the "all inclusive pricing" is the Sundaes Ice Cream Bar on Deck 12, which sells ice cream, sundaes, floats, and other ice cream desserts between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
In addition to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snacks, there is Afternoon Tea in the Sicilian Dining Room every day at 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. serving tea and cookies; the Patisseria Bar on Deck 5 offers coffee and pastries from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and room service is available 24 hours a day.
Sea Princess Dining
The Sea Princess
Mexican Riviera, Mexico
We sailed during the night from our second stop of Mazatlan and upon arriving early in the morning we saw a spectacular view of the arched rocks of Los Arcos which, like soldiers, seemingly stand guard over the harbor. Once in the harbor it becomes also obvious that these arches create a distinct divide between the steel blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. Quite a Sight!
Although the arches themselves would be enough to delight you, there are many other sites and activities that would require many days to see or do it all. Unfortunately, we only had 2/3 of a day here. So, we had to choose one of several Princess sponsored tours or activities in order to complete our stay at Cabo and back on broad before sailing time.
Of course you could go off on your own and hope you could maximize the full flavor of Cabo San Lucas. With limited time available, it is highly recommended that a sponsored tour be taken. Each one of the tours is filled with so much to see or do, that every aspect of what may interest you will be satisfied.
A few examples of the 11 Princess sponsored tours are: Ocean Kayaking & Snorkel Adventure, Horseback Ride on the Beach, Scuba Diving, Sea of Cortez Ecological Snorkel Tour, and the tour we took, Land’s End Boat Tour & Scenic Drive. This tour included a very enjoyable 40-minute glass bottom boat ride through the harbor and around the famous arch.
The taped narration by Jean-Michel Cousteau gave us a good perspective on the ecological aspects of the area. Our close-up and personal view of Los Arcos and their awesome beauty was the highlight of the tour. We saw seals and pelicans basking in the sun and sprawled over the smaller rocks surrounding the larger rock formations.
Upon returning to the dock, we boarded a comfortable van for a scenic drive, first through the quaint little town of Cabo, then along the coast, arriving at the popular Restaurant, Giorgio’s, perched high on a bluff overlooking the harbor, for a complimentary drink. From here, we had a magnificent view of the harbor, the village and our ship anchored in the middle of the bay immediately adjacent to the harbor. WOW! Another spectacular view. I was ready to jump ship and stay awhile.
Once experiencing Cabo San Lucas and its crystal-clear beaches, and the warm, dry climate you will understand why this Baja city has been transformed from a quiet cannery village to an international resort.
Cabo San Lucas
Mexican Riviera, Mexico
Our choice of activities at Mazatlan was the Mazatlan Highlights and Papantla Flyers. After boarding a bus and being introduced to our local guide, we visited a beautiful Cathedral in town. It was a Holy Day and a mass was just ending. Outside the church was a festival with food, games and crafts for sale. We had about 30 minutes to tour the Cathedral and the immediate surrounding area.
In re-boarding our tour bus, it first appeared that it would require finely toned athletic skills to dodge the heavy vehicular traffic in the Cathedral area. NO PROBLEM. A local policeman was there making sure the "Tourist Guests" were well protected and stopped traffic for us. We drove along the coastline, pass several points of interest including the Two Brothers Islands. We watched a skillful and brave native dive from a high structure into the waters below. There were vendors selling all types of souvenirs while we waited to this spectacular dive.
Back on the bus, we drove through an up-scale neighborhood to an outdoor theater. There we were offered sodas, water or beer and watched a program that detailed the history and dances of several different Mexican states. The show featured both folkloric dancers and the famous Papantla Flyers.
Following the show, we were driven to the "Golden Zone", the primary tourist shopping area for about 45 minutes of shopping. Then back down the coastline, past "IceBox Mountain" and up, up, up a winding road to view the world’s second highest lighthouse and a panoramic view of the city. Our tour ended at 12:45, so we had plenty of time back on the ship for lunch and sitting on deck,watching all the activity in the Bay.
Other tours offered in Mazatlan included sports fishing tournament, Kayaking, Golf, Shopping and Walking Tours. The prices of the tours ranged between $29.00 and $110.00 per person.
The Chibcha Indians first settled Mazatlan and gave the city its name, which means "place of the deer", because at one time herds of deer wandered throughout the area. Mazatlan became a municipality in 1837 and enjoyed a surge of growth when a large group of German immigrants arrived. They established strong trade in agricultural and mining equipment imports. Mazatlan’s largest export is shrimp, with 40 million pounds shipped abroad annually.
On our driving tour, we drove through an area known as the shrimp market, with barrels of all types of shrimp, octopus, and other seafood ready for sale.
Mexican Riviera, Mexico
Attraction | "Princess Entertainment"
In the Princess Theater, there were two major productions. One was "Words and Music" which highlighted famous songwriters and their music. The singing and dancing was top notch. The other was Rhythms of the City with spectacular scenery, singing and dancing. Both shows played twice each night for two nights.
Also in the Princess Theater on another night was a Hypnotist, another was a Variety Showtime with Comedian, Glenn Hirsch and the Princess singers and dancers, and the Magic & Illusions of Larry Volz.
Every night in the Vista Lounge were really terrific comedians, live music and even a Passenger Talent Showoff night. Between shows there was live music for dancing. I really enjoyed Daniel Rossen, a comedy juggler - he was hysterical.
In addition to the scheduled shows, there was Rocky’s Night Club on Deck 7 with a DJ to play your favorites or provide your own with Krazy Karaoke; Entre Nous Lounge for romantic music, fine wines and caviar; the Wheelhouse Bar with live dance music from 7:00 to 1:00 a.m. or my favorite - in the Atrium Lounge - Bert Stratton.
Bert’s show is a little hard to describe. He is a cross between Jim Carey and a great piano man. Bert knew every song you could think of, knew who wrote it, who sang it. One interesting thing about Bert is that he will stop his show to say hello to passengers passing through the Atrium, to change his shirt, to just talk to his audience. He will keep you laughing, singing, and clapping to his music. Bert never sits down; he stands behind a baby grand piano in the Atrium Lounge, Deck 6 from 9:15 until there is no one left to listen to him, usually about 1:00 a.m. I understand that he has a contract with Princess for several months.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 11, 2002
Los Angeles to Mexico
Mexican Riviera, Mexico
Attraction | "More Princess Entertainment"
The serving table was approximately 100 feet long and was filled with the most beautiful and interesting assortment of items. The decorations were all carved fruits, such as watermelon and squash. The desserts were absolutely incredible to look at and even better to eat.
Decks 12 and 14 were decorated with large palm branches brought on board at Puerto Vallarta. It looked like a tropical paradise. There was live music with lots of dancing, a Piñata Parade, silly games and prizes. And don’t think this was just for the "younger crowd". One of our traveling companions was out there doing the Y-M-C-A, the conga and goodness know what else—She is 81 years young.
As the Parade of Piñatas began, everyone was throwing the streamers we were given and it was a site out of a movie. Everyone who was on deck, whether they were watching or participating, had a wonderful time. The dancing continued until the wee hours of the morning.
Aside from lying around the pool or relaxing on a deck chair, there are so many things to do aboard the Sea Princess.
Shopping (well, some would consider it entertainment) Deck 6, also known as "the Mall" offers dozens of shops featuring clothing, jewelery, souvenirs, glassware and pottery.
Bridge lessons and tournaments. Gaming Lessons in the Casino. Arts and Crafts
Educational talks on gemstones, Anti Ageing Seminars, Trivia and Brain-Waves Quizzes, Life Enhancement Lectures. Flat Stomach Seminars, Line dancing instructions, Shuffleboard Tournaments, Card and Board Games Get together at Checkers Came Room, Golf Chipping Completion, Basketball Shootout, Table Tennis, Singles and Doubles Competition
During the daytime, the Princess Theater, the Vista Lounge and Channel 36 features first run movies such as Legally Blond, Shrek, Moulin Rouge, America’s Sweethearts and What Women Want.
Attraction | "Art Festival at Sea"
The auction event is billed as the "largest gallery at sea". True art aficionados, Michael and his wife, Monica, are employed by Princess to create interest in the art and the auction. Michael was available most evenings in the gallery area near the Casino, to answer any questions. I had the opportunity to speak with him and I found him and his job quite interesting. On display were two Picasso’s. Michael explained that one of these was particularly valuable because although it was a print, it was originally signed and dated by Picasso.
Princess purchases large amounts of art and disburses them to the different ships. The majority of paintings are sold at a fraction of their true value. The opening bid on most pieces is 15% of its value (a savings of 85%). We watched many paintings go for the opening bid, anywhere between $185.00 and $1,250.00. Most include framing of your choice.
I kept asking myself, "If I bought something, how in the world would I get it home". Well, that was answered for me at the first auction. Because of customs laws, the art is delivered to the purchaser’s home, usually by Federal Express within a few weeks of return. The average cost of this service is $60.00.
Although I knew I would not purchase any art, it was very interesting to attend the auctions. Michael explained all the "in and outs" of the pieces, including history and artists, and also all the procedures on how to bid and how and when your purchases would be delivered.
There were a total of three auctions during our cruise. At each, those arriving prior to the scheduled time were given a raffle ticket and during that session, a number was drawn for a piece of art valued at several hundred dollars. So, if you go, get there a few minutes early and be sure to ask for a ticket.
During the preview times, passengers are encouraged to place a "tag" on any art that they are interested in, and those are handled first. The auctions usually lasted for an hour and a half, and complimentary Champaign was served at the first one.
Once there, the walking was quite difficult for one of our group. There are no handicapped ramps at cross streets and the drop off was quite steep. We were constantly bombarded by street vendors or shop owners standing in the open door of their store. Another aggressive group was the "time-share" representatives.
As we walked along the Malecon with the stores on one side and the coastline on the other, there were many interesting bronze statutes, some of which are completely indescribable. There were great photo opportunities along the seawall.
We found a small park where we could sit and watch people coming and going and enjoyed some fruit that we had brought with us from the ship. We then found a taxi with great driver who returned us to the dock. Cost of the taxi was $6.00 plus tip.
Shore tours available include drives along the coast, horseback riding, gold, diving and snorkeling, a bullfight demonstration and show, and beach club and tequila factory. The tours range from $24.00 to $125.00 per person.
The Princess publishes a bulletin on each port with information on restaurants and shops that are "recommended". This is useful information, especially if you plan on trying the local cuisine or purchasing expensive jewelery.
Puerto Vallarta goes back to the Toltecs and Mayas. It was discovered in 1541 and then was practically forgotten for the next 300 years. The bay was developed as a port to transport silver from the nearby mines. In the early 1900’s it was designated a municipality and remained a quiet fishing village. It received international attention when the Night of the Iguana was filmed nearby. When reporters, covering the scandal of Richard Burton and Liz Taylor (both stars in the movie), returned home they wrote about the natural beauty and serenity of the town and the rest is history.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 10, 2002
Along the Malecon
Mexican Riviera, Mexico
Attraction | "The Princess Casino"
All chips or tokens are purchased with U.S. Dollars and it is possible to charge chips or tokens to your shipboard account. However, there is a 3% charge and a limit of $1,000 per day. As with most casinos, persons under 21 years of age are not permitted to gamble.
My personal favorite was the nickel "Jackpot Party" slot machine. There were only three of these so sometimes I had to wait quite a while for a chance at one. However, it was always well worth the wait. The first night on board, I hit the largest jackpot offered, 1,000 nickels and repeated it on the last night of the cruise.
Another very popular slot was the quarter "Wheel of Fortune" I witnessed at least three people winning over $500.00. (unfortunately, I was not one of them). I would have to say the "slots were loose".
During the cruise there were several "specials" offered in the casino such as 50-cent Roulette and lower bid limits on the other table games. Gaming lessons were offered during the morning hours, and we got to play with the house chips for about 30 minutes after the lessons. It was a lot of fun and absolutely no risk. Of course, if we won, we could not "cash in" the chips.
Drinks in the Casino were not complimentary (as in Las Vegas), but the Casino would offer "specials" such as complimentary champagne with slot lessons, Bloody Marys at the Craps table or Screwdrivers at the Poker tables.
Snowball Bingo is played twice a day in the Vista Lounge. Cards go on sale one hour before the games begin. You can buy one set of five games for $5.00 or five sets of five games for $20.00. Prizes for the first four games range from $100.00 to $250.00. On the last game, if you cover all the spaces in 49 numbers, you win the Jackpot. It starts out at $1,000, and if no one wins it increases $400.00 each day until it is won.
There are also great photos taken in several locations in the Atrium area, using the beautiful staircase, with bouquets of fresh flowers and even a backdrop of the famous Titanic Staircase, as a background.
Photographs remain on display in the Photo Gallery on the Deck 7 between Rocky’s and the Vista Lounge. The embarkation, port and dining pictures are usually printed as 5 x 7s and sell for $6.95. The more formal pictures are 8 X 10 prints and sell for $19.95.
The photographer always takes several poses so you have a good choice. If you are planning on buying several, wait until the last night of the cruise and do it all at one time. Since they print several copies of each pictures, I witnessed several passengers "bargaining" for the extra prints.
One evening as we left the Dining Room, there were two authentic looking "Pirates" with sword drawn, ready to pose with passengers for the photographer. Some of these were really cute.
A very unexpected bonus was that formal portraits were also available. What a wonderful idea - How many of us never take the time to have a professional portrait made. These were offered in both color and in black and white and were always taken on one of the formal evenings.
So, on your way to dinner, dressed in your finest, you could stop for a few minutes and have a portrait taken. There is no sitting fee and no obligation to purchase. A package of multiple prints of several different sizes was offered for $59.00.
A statement of your account will be placed in your mailbox directly outside your stateroom door early on the last morning of your cruise. If everything is in order, you need to do nothing; the charges will be placed on your credit card. I went to the Purser’s Deck on Friday afternoon and requested a copy of our bill. If anything was wrong, I could handle it then, instead of waiting until the next morning. I found no errors in our account.
All cost of dining, accommodations, activities, entertainment aboard the cruise ship is included in your Princess fare with the following exceptions:
Alcoholic Beverages (except as noted during Art Auctions, and specials in the Casino)
Sodas: On Princess, if you order a Coke, Sprite, etc. you will be charged $1.50 plus 15% gratutity (same as an alcoholic beverage) for a 10oz glass of soda. This is true everywhere on the ship. However, Princess offers a "soda fountain program". We purchased a "coke" stamp for $20.00 that was placed on our cruise card. We received unlimited sodas for the entire cruise. Not a bad deal if you are a soda drinker.
Ice cream: purchased at the Ice Cream Shop. However, if you crave ice cream, it is offered on the lunch menu and the dinner menu in the Dining Rooms every day at no cost. You can also ask for several toppings such as chocolate sauce, caramel, or strawberries. Several times I saw "build your own Sundae" on the dinner menu.
Tipping-Food Service: I was surprised after reading the fine print before the cruise that a $6.50 per person per day would be added to my bill for "food service tips". That amounts to $91.00 per couple for a seven-day cruise. When I asked about this, I was told that I could go to the Pursers Desk on the first day, have this charge removed and tip at my own discretion. Now, don’t get me wrong - I am a generous tipper - but I do object to being "charged" this BEFORE the service is even rendered. All the funds are "pooled" and divided between all the food service providers in all restaurants.
Tipping- Room Steward: Most cruise lines "recommend" a tip of $3.50 per person per day for your room steward. This tip is paid in cash or can be charged to your shipboard account. If you put in on your shipboard account, the Purser’s Office will give you a receipt to place in the envelope for the Steward. An envelope for this tip will be found in your stateroom on the last full day of your cruise. Just place the cash or receipt in the envelope and leave it in your room or you can give it to your Steward in person.
Drinking Water: One large bottle of drinking water will be furnished in your Stateroom. If you require another bottle, the cost is $3.95 plus 15% gratuity. Simply complete a form provided and leave it in your stateroom for your room Steward.
At least one, and possible two nights (on a 7 day cruise) will be designated as "formal". Ladies, this means your finest - ranging from a long black skirt with a glittery top to a cocktail dress. Gents, on our cruise, very few men wore tuxedoes, most wore dark suits. Another night will be designed as "semi-formal" and just about the same attire is appropriate. All other evenings, passengers are expected to dress "smart casual"- something you would wear to a nice restaurant.
During the day, depending on the weather of course, shorts, jeans, slacks comfortable shoes are appropriate both on the ship and for shore tours. No matter the weather - pack a swimsuit; the pools are great and the hot tubs even better. On Princess you will be provided with a nice bathrobe that is great for the trek from your stateroom to the pool or hot tub and back. Workout clothes, sun block, a good book for those lazy hours in a deck chair, all medications including something for motion sickness if you suspect any trouble should be included on your list.
Princess (and I assume most others cruise lines) provide hair dryers in all staterooms, along with soaps, shampoos, and body creams. Ladies might want to pack a shawl or light wrap, as even in the nicest weather, it might be cool for a late night walk on deck.
Pack a light weight backpack for carrying around cameras, bottled water, books, etc, especially for any shore tours - keep your hands free, your valuables safe and a place to keep your purchases out of sight.
On the last night of our cruise, all passengers were asked to place luggage outside their stateroom by 10:00 that evening. We packed everything except items needed for that night and the next morning. Be sure to take a small suitcase so that you can pack your toiletries, clothes from the night before, and last minute items. We were asked to leave our staterooms by 8:30 but were not scheduled to leave the ship until 11:00 and we didn’t want to lug around a large suitcase. On shore, you will be re-united with all your luggage.
Don’t forget to bring lots of film; it is quite expensive on the ship. Since no clocks are in the Staterooms, you may want to pack a small travel clock.
San Antonio, Texas