George and Sandy's 2006 Mexican Cruise

Saturday, February 11, 2006, about 1414 PST

We're off on another cruise to Mexico. Sandy found a last minute deal for about $550/head for a seven day cruise and took it. She then invited her father, Charlie, along and to keep him company, we brought Zack too. Our son, Charlie, couldn't come as this was the first week of the Spring semester at college for him.

We left the house at about 0900 and drove to San Diego this time. With three of us traveling and the shorter cruise, it was a cost wash to drive or ride the train, even though parking will run $108. We met Grandpa Charlie in the cruise terminal parking lot at about 1130. He drove in from his annual 2 month long RV campout in Yuma.

After the usual hassle of checking in, filling out many forms, waiting in lines and going through security we finally got on the ship at about 1230 and went to the Lido (deck 9) for lunch. At about 1330, there was an announcement that our rooms were ready so we found our cabins.

ms oosterdamThis cruise is on the MS Oosterdam, another Holland America ship. This ship is much larger than the MS Ryndam on which we took our last Mexican cruise. It is even considerably larger than the MS Rotterdam although it feels tighter inside. This may be because the center of the ship is "pinched" and narrower than the areas fore and aft.

stateroom 5030Since this was a bargain cruise we got an inside room. This one is smaller than the other ones and laid out a little oddly as it is parallel to the hallway. It also doesn't have a couch or a dresser and the desk is really small.

stateroom 5030 aftThe standard queen sized bed is pretty normal, there just isn't a lot of floor space.

Oosterdam Specifications

Decks 11
Passenger Elevators 16
Public Rooms 24
Passengers 1,824
Crew 800
Gross Tonnage 82,000
Length 935 ft
Width 106 ft
Draft 26 ft
Built August 2003
Bow Thrust 3 units, 3400 bhp
Props 2 Azipods, 25,000 bhp each
Engines 5 Diesel Electric, 1 gas turbine
Max Speed 23 knots
Our itinerary is:
cruise map
Date Port of Call
21 Feb 06 Depart San Diego at 1700
12 Feb 06 At sea
13 Feb 06 Cabo San Lucas
14 Feb 06 Mazatlan
15 Feb 06 Puerto Vallarta
16 Feb 06 At Sea
17 Feb 06 At Sea
18 Feb 06 Arrive San Diego at about 0800

After getting settled, I took a walking and video tour and Sandy took a nap. This ship is laid out differently than the other ships. All of the public action is on decks 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10. The rest are all staterooms.

The following pictures are the deck maps showing the layout of the ship. Our cabin is 5030, on Deck 5, the Veranda Deck. We are in a sideways room inside of the hallway on the port side forward.


decks 4-6

decks 7-11

deck stack

internet roomThis ship has internet access too, but it is typically expensive, $0.75/min if purchased by the minute down to a mere $0.40/min if a $100 block of minutes is purchased. There are lots of terminals that people can blow away minutes by typing emails on line. I tend to prepare my emails in advance, log on, upload them and download any new stuff all at once and then log off. I'll respond to a message off line and connect again for only a minute or so maybe once or twice a day so that the charges are kept under control. There is wireless access over much of the public areas of the ship.

Sunday, February 12, 2006, At Sea

Today we are at sea all day cruising toward Cabo San Lucas. We slept in until about 0900 and then got breakfast at the Lido. As I was reviewing my diary of the 2004 cruise to remind myself what was at out ports of call, I realized that the dinner I had last night was IDENTICAL to the one that I had on the first night of that cruise, a salmon cake, mussels, a spinach salad and mahi mahi with salsa. It was good this time too. Zack didn't join us at dinner. He was in the hot tub at dinner time and missed it so he had pizza at the Lido. I'm sure that he was dissapointed.

I scouted the ship for a passage to the bow deck but the only ways that appeared to get there were locked. When I asked a crew member, he said that there was no access at sea as the water tight doors were secured.

10 forwardThis is the "Crow's Nest", a bar, dance floor and forward observation lounge on deck 10. I suppose that this could be called "10 Forward."

Tonight is "Formal" night in the dining room, jacket and tie required, tux preferred. Sorry, no tux for me. Right before that will be the Captain's reception. Since the ship is full, I would expect the reception to be a little crowded.

I spent the day lounging around and doing some reading. Sandy went to the port shopping talk, I found her there. The lady that was describing the "wonderful" shopping was spending much of her time on jewelry shopping describing the stores that would give "fabulous" deals, and probably pretty hefty kickbacks as well.

I went on the kitchen tour. This was just a walk through the kitchen aided by a handout describing the kitchen and its operation. There were too many people to even hope for a guided tour. This ice carving is being prepared for the formal dinner tonight.

I did find the weekly food consumption interesting though.

ice carving
Meat and meat products 11,830 lbs
Poultry 3,814 lbs
Fish 1,875 lbs
Seafood 2,575 lbs
Butter and Margarine 1,675 lbs
Fresh Vegetables 137,500 lbs
Potatoes 7,750 lbs
Watermelon 2,300 lbs
Eggs 23,040 each
Dairy 5,500 quarts
Sugar 950 lbs
Sugar Packets 24,000 each
Rice for crew 3,500 lbs
Caviar 20 lbs
Flour 3,150 lbs
Ice Cream 300 gal
Sodas 362 cases
Beers 332 cases
Champagnes & Sparkling Wines 450 bottles
Assorted Wines 1,636 bottles
Water 280 cases

zack at the formal dinnerDinner on Sunday Feb 12 was formal. When we got there, Zack was waiting for us wearing a coat that was 3 sizes too big that he borrowed from Charlie. However, he had a coat, tie, white shirt and black slacks so they let him in.

The plan for Cabo San Lucas tomorrow is set. Zack and I are going on a snorkel trip for about 4 hours. We leave the ship at 0800. Sandy and Charlie are taking a more leisurely pace, they are going shopping.

On Holland America ships, all the food that you could want is "free" and it is very good. One has to realize, however, that the ship as far more food available than anyone can eat and they'll feed it to you if you even think that you might want it. It is easy to overdo it and get serious indigestion, not to mention fat. However, beverages are typically NOT free, they cost plenty. There is coffee, tea, iced tea and juices with meals (one has to ask for juice at dinner) but alcohol and soft drinks come very dear. I don't even know what the booze costs as I don't drink, but I have to believe that beers are at least $3 each and mixed drinks are more. A small glass of soda is $2. I drink water and fruit juice since I consume neither caffeine or alcohol, dislike tea and coffee and don't consume much sugar.

The ship runs a cashless system. The room key is used for all transactions aboard which are eventually paid for on a credit card. This way, nobody has to make change AND it is easy to forget how much you've spent. I'm sure that both of these "features" benefit the cruise line greatly.

Monday, February 13, 2006, Cabo San Lucas, about 1400

cabo san lucas port mapCabo San Lucas is a small town on a bay at the very tip of Baja California. It has turned into quite a tourist destination. I've been to Cabo twice and never really set foot in the town. I just got off a tender and got on another boat headed somewhere nearby.

Our day went well. Zack and I went on the snorkel trip. Sandy and Charlie went shopping and on a glass bottom boat ride.The snorkel trip started off in the Vista Lounge until the tenders were ready to take us ashore because there isn't a pier large enough for a cruise ship in this port. From the pier, we transferred to a very large sailing catamaran for one hour or so trip to Chilieno Bay. The trip was fairly smooth and there was no swell at all in the bay. However, the water was cold, 69°F. It took a few minutes to get used to it. The water wasn't completely clear, visibility was about 20', good enough for the 10' water we were in. There was the usual abundance of fish and a few small, almost transparent, jellyfish. If any of my underwater photos come out, I'll post some later after they get developed. We snorkeled for about an hour and then returned to Cabo. The boat's crew was mixing up Margarita's and Tequila Sunrises by the gallon so most of the people that went with us were pretty loaded by the time we got back.

On the way out, we came across a couple of dolphins. They hung around for a minute or so then bugged out. On the way back, we saw a whale surfacing a couple of times are a pretty long range. Just before we got back to Cabo, a manta ray leapt from the water at least six feet, twice. This guy wasn't much more than a foot across, but he did it 10' from the boat.

After the transfer back to the MS. Oosterdam, I showered and Zack and I got lunch. We made the mistake of both getting up at the same time to get some more water. By the time we got back, the attendant had started clearing our table with our unfinished lunch. We recovered it just in time. These guys are like hawks.

I spent some quality time in the hot tub where Sandy found me when she got back and then it was naptime. So much for another tough day.

I haven't mentioned the weather much because it's been uniformly nice the whole time. We got a news summary by our door when we got back to read that New York is getting hammered by the biggest snowfall on record. A power outage somewhere in the east has taken out our internet access and as of 2000 hours Monday, it's still not up.

towel_elephantThe room steward left us a present this evening, just as we had received on the Baltic cruise. They probably go through a lot of extra towels for these.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006, Valentines Day, Mazatlan

mazatlan port mapMazatlan was established in 1531 by the Spaniards as port to support the gold and silver mining operations in the Sierra Madre. The town has some nice beaches nearby which have been developed for tourists. This is the new part of town, near the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone, where all the gold is mined from the tourists). The old part of town is within walking distance from the cruise port.

mazatlan cathedralWe elected to pass on the (rather expensive) shore excursions in Mazatlan, just the same as the last time we were there. This time, we did take a $5 taxi into the main old town square. As is typical for mexican towns, there is a square at the center of town (or at least at the center when the town was established) with the main cathedral facing it. Most of the town is pretty run down, but their cathedral is kept in very good shape.

mazatlan cathedralThe interior was in very good condition as well and pretty well lit as cathedrals go. After the cathedral visit, we walked around the old town a bit and quickly determined that we had pretty much seen it all. We caught another cab ride back to the ship and we did a little shopping at the flea market at the cruise terminal. We'll spend the rest of the day on board in relaxation mode. If I take another dip in the hot tub, it is clear that I'll have to schedule another nap. Yesterday, I simply passed out for a couple of hours after I got back to our room.

Late (for me anyway) in the evening I went for a walk around the ship because it was still quite nice outside. It was eerie because there was hardly anybody out and about. This ship has 1800 or so guests on board and I saw hardly any of them. There was one woman sitting in the hot tub at the Lido pool, the rest of the Lido pool area was deserted. In the Lido restaurant, there were a few ships crew cleaning up after dinner. On the aft Lido deck, there was a guy leaning against the aft rail and Zack and a lady friend were dangling there feed in a hot tub.

I found Sandy reading a book in a chair outside the Internet Center and a few others on the Promenade Deck. In 10 minutes of walking, I must have seen less than 15 people.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006, Puerto Vallarta

puerto vallarta port mapPuerto Vallarta is a nicer town than Mazatlan but the middle of town is not within reasonable walking distance. There is a very nice stretch of beach along the center of town. This is where all the expensive shops are. For those with less expensive tastes, there is a very large Wal-Mart right outside the cruise terminal.

The town was pretty much nothing until Liz Taylor and Richard Burton started hanging out there, then it got onto the tourist radar and grew from there. The last time we were here, we went on a tour in the jungle south of town. This time we just got on another boat and headed out again.

pirate shipToday, all four of us went on a Pirate ship cruise, snorkel and beach visit. The ship was the Marigalante, a wooden sailing ship that was originally built in 1992. Even though it was only 14 years old, it had the look of an old time sailing ship.

zack and pirateThe pirate crew ran an entertaining show and they fed us both breakfast and lunch as the trip took about 6 hours. Zack was accosted by a pirate (and a photographer) as he got on the ship.

zack on bananaThe snorkeling wasn't so hot, the water was quite mirky, but there was lots to do on the beach. I played beach volleyball until my wrist hurt, then I broke open a coconut and had fresh coconut meat. Zack went for a couple of rounds on a "banana." The first time he tried, the banana dumped its whole load into the surf twice.

About mid afternoon, the pirates loaded us back on their ship and took is back to Puerto Vallarta with more shows and entertainment the whole way back. Overall, it was an interesting and entertaining day.

towel monkeyWhile leaving our room, I noticed that Charlie's door was not latched so I figured that somebody was home. When I pushed the door open, there was nobody there, except for the monkey. The room steward had been busy. When I tried to close the door, it was very difficult to latch. I tracked down a hotel officer and reported both a defective door latch and he noticed that the door closer was actually broken too. That should get fixed tomorrow.

towel pigIn our room next door the steward hadn't been there because I had been in the room reading for most of the late afternoon. I showed Sandy the monkey next door and then the steward appeared. He came to our room and made this towel pig as we watched. There is supposed to be a towel animal folding clinic sometime tomorrow.

The ship leaves Puerto Vallarta very late tonight and we have two full sea days on our journey back to San Diego.

Thursday, February 16, 2006, At Sea

winch roomWe slept in this morning and then got breakfast. Then we went on a power walk around the Promenade Deck to work off breakfast. 3 laps = 1 mile. On the last lap, a normally closed door was open to the forward winch deck. This is where the anchor winch and mooring line winches are. The anchor chain is in the middle of the photo.

The weather today again nearly ideal and the sea is calm. We have just enough of a swell to feel, but not enough to be any problem at all. The cruise map says that the air temperature is 63°F and the wave height is as high as 1.5 feet. It's rough out here.

Lunch was a bratwurst special but I had only one small sausage. I made up for it with Chinese instead. After lunch, there was a talk on the ship's environmental controls and policies that was pretty interesting. I found that they burn #3 diesel because it burns cleaner than most ships use so that they can meet emissions requirements in port. They only use the gas turbine in Alaskan waters to reduce emissions. The turbine burns hotter and produces less particulates, but it also inefficient and therefore consumes more fuel. They make their own fresh water everyday from seawater using waste engine heat. The black and gray water is treated so that the result to solid waste that can be incinerated and to literally pure water which they pump overboard. Paper and food waste is pulped, dried (with engine exhaust heat) and incinerated. Cans and bottles are reduced for recycling and offloaded at ports that have adequate facilities.

I think that Sandy went off to the towel folding demonstration. I was napping so I missed it. I want to go to the water volleyball game, but I missed that too. It is probably better that I missed it so that I don't injure my hand again. I think that I hurt it yesterday playing beach volleyball. My thumb was so sore this morning that I could hardly pick up a glass of water.

cakeThe dinner was formal again, Zack showed up at the last minute. I had both fillet AND lobster tails. Then there was the traditional parade of the baked alaska. At about 2230, the dessert extravaganza was held. This was the welcoming cake.

goodiesThere was lots more just like this. An attendant was making crepes and another was dipping cut fruit into a chocolate fountain. There was even more stuff down the row that I didn't even walk by.

Friday, February 17, 2006, At Sea

This is the last day of the cruise. By mid morning tomorrow we should be off the ship. After breakfast this morning, we went for another walk on the Promenade Deck. However, this time we only went half way around because it was windy and cold. I then realized that I had carried my jacket on the ship, hung it on a coat hook, and had not touched it since the beginning of the cruise. As the day progressed, it got even colder.

The sea is a little choppier than it has been for the whole trip, but there is still no significant roll or swell.

In a few minutes, we'll go to the disembarkation briefing, then there is an Indonesian lunch on the Lido, then a talk on forensic science. That will take us to mid afternoon and we'll see what happens after that.

The forensic science talk was quite interesting. It was given by a passenger who noticed that there were no "enrichment" talks on the agenda so he volunteered to give one. The guy is a retired professor and a good speaker.

After dinner, it was time to pack. Our "checked" bags need to be outside our cabin door by 0100 tomorrow. The front desk estimates that we will disembark at about 0830. The plan is to tour an aircraft carrier that has been converted into a museum after we stash our bags in the truck. After that, we will head north toward home. Charlie will head directly back to Yuma.

Saturday, February 18, 2006, San Diego

Last night, I noticed that we were getting to San Diego much quicker than I expected. The captain had the pedal to the metal, we were doing 22 knots at time. I didn't know the reason for the rush until later.

On Saturday evening at dinner, just as we were leaving port, we heard a loud bang and then some mechanical thrashing and then all was normal. Nobody in the dining room seemed to be excited at all. What happened was that one of the diesel powered electrical generators on deck 10 blew up. There was not notice from the crew at all, but the next day the ship ran a "fire drill" with the location at the port side generator on deck 10.

The reason for the rush last night is that the ship was to dock at the container port at midnight to receive a temporary generator. It was placed on deck 10 just outside the generator room. This was a large unit built into a cargo container sized box. The ship then moved to the cruise ship port. After breakfast, I went up to deck 10 to see them patching the new unit into the ship's circuits.

We were in the first batch off the ship, we were out of the cruise terminal before 0900. We left our baggage in my truck and saw Charlie off to Yuma. Sandy, Zack and I then walked back to the USS Midway Museum which is permanently moored near the cruise terminal for a tour, but this is another story.

After the Midway, we drove home without incident.

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© 2006 George Schreyer
Created Feb 11, 2006
Last Updated February 19, 2006