Sunday, April 29, 2007

Red Cross training, Stockton, CA

Much to post today. I'm not sure why I did not post while we were in Alameda, since we had internet access at the hotel, but I didn't, so I will report on that stop now.

As I mentioned in my last post, we headed back up to Alameda last Sunday evening, and spent the night outside of Coach Specialties' shop there (map). First thing Monday morning, I checked in with the shop to verify that the lower windshield had arrived (yes) and was intact (also yes), and they pulled us into the shop to get started. They immediately set to work removing trim and prying old adhesive out from around the lower glass, while we anxiously awaited the scheduled arrival of the upper glass that I purchased from fellow Neoplan owner Russ in Nashville (thanks, Russ!).

In the meantime, we rented another car from Enterprise ("We'll pick you up"). Now, we already had a perfectly serviceable car (also from Enterprise, coincidentally), but Enterprise wanted an extra $100 to drop it off "one way" in Alameda (or at OAK). So we returned the first car to SJC Sunday morning, booking this other car for Monday. It was $10 more per day, but that still beat $100 (plus we saved a day's rental between Sunday and Monday).

The upper glass arrived right after lunch, and, even though the carton had some damage, the glass arrived intact. That freed the shop up to start removing the upper glass as well, and, by day's end, the lower was out and the upper hanging on by a thread. We fed and watered the cats and locked them in the back, and loaded the dog, en boite, into the car for the short ride to an Oakland-airport neighborhood hotel (the closest we could find to take pets).

There turned out to be fairly extensive corrosion around both window frames from three years of near-constant water intrusion. Coach Specialties worked the frames for quite a while with grinders, then coated the exposed regions with a special anti-corrosive compound that both removes any remaining corrosion and protects against further damage. By Tuesday afternoon, they had the new upper glass in place and glued, but it was clear the lower would have to wait until Wednesday, which would extend our stay into Thursday at least. We extended both our hotel stay and our car rental by another day.

On Wednesday, the lower glass was reinstalled, and remaining gaps in the sealant (from shims and holidays) on the upper were filled and smoothed. I have to say, they were quite meticulous and thorough with the sealing process, and it appears unlikely there will be any further opportunity for leakage. Thursday morning the final sealing was completed on the lower, and, after reinstalling trim, they took care of various scrapes and chips in the paint job caused by the installation process.

Thursday was also the opening of the Pacific Power Boat Expo at Jack London Square, right across the channel, and, after returning our rental car, we hopped on the #63 bus and headed over to the show, leaving Coach Specialties to their, um, specialty. It was a small show, with a low ratio of trawlers, but we did get to go aboard a few of the boats we have been researching. Sort of a preview to the upcoming TrawlerFest that we will be attending in Poulsbo in June.

When we returned from the show, Odyssey was mostly done (and already backed out of the shop), although it looked like we would need to spend another night so they could buff out the clearcoat in the morning. Just before closing they decided it was dry enough to buff and send us on our way, although we did notice some unpolished overspray an hour after we left in the harsh light of the setting sun.

Knowing we had an early morning training class, we headed straight for Stockton, right in the thick of the afternoon commute. While slogging through Livermore on 580 at a walking pace, I had to keep reminding myself that we would do this one night, but the cars surrounding us did it every day. I would go insane.

After a stop for dinner, we arrived at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds well after dark, with nary a clue as to where we should park among the many rigs still there from the Escapade. While we were idling in a turn-around studying the map and calling people for instructions, one of the security guards drove up to us, and led us to a full-hookup campground area on the far side of the fairgrounds (map). We're still here, after paying our requisite $10-per-night camping fees, and the 50-amp power has come in handy in the 90+ degree heat we had yesterday.

The downside to this spot is that it is .6 of a mile from our classes, where most everyone else is parked, but our new Honda Metropolitan scooter is a perfect fairground-commuter and makes short work of it.

I've been in classes for three solid days, with homework to boot, so this is my first night off. Tomorrow we have an easy morning before we head over to re-certify on the ECRV, followed by a class on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Tuesday we update our CPR and AED certifications, and then we're done. I expect to leave the fairgrounds Wednesday morning, whereupon we will head uphill to cooler climes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A note about the video music

I just received a question about the music tracks I use for the videos. (The question came in on my account and I can't figure out how to send a message back that way, so I'm addressing it here.)

I scour the web for royalty free samples of music to add to the videos. In the case of the latest cruise video, I used a piece called "Modern Jazz Samba," but I didn't save the original source and I can't remember who the artist is. Once I find music I like, I just add it to the video. Enough folks are watching the videos now that I need to keep better track of sources and attributions. "The Big Puddle" video has been viewed over 1300 times! I guess potential bus destruction is a popular subject.

I try to keep an open mind about what music will fit the video, rather than fixating on a particular piece. First I finish the video so I know how long the music needs to be, then I look for, say, a four-minute clip. For the cruise, I searched for "traditional south american music" and rejected about 40 clips before choosing one.

In the future, I will try to remember to put a credit for the music at the end of each video. That's fair, and many thanks to "Happytrailers" for bringing up this subject.

Edited May 18, 2008 to add:
Recently I've been using the site MP3 4U to find cool new royalty-free music. It is sorted by genre and has a section called "Jackpot Winners" that are all quite interesting. Since I try to keep the videos under 2 minutes, I don't have to like the entire song to use it. Sometimes just the introduction is enough.

One of the things I like about this site is that the owner doesn't limit himself to the English-speaking musical world. I prefer not to have the lyrics to a song conflict with my videos, so I like pure instrumentals or foreign-language tunes.

South America Cruise videos

For those of you who like these things, I've put together a video of the highlights of our recent cruise around Cape Horn. It isn't RV or bus related at all, just your run-of-the-mill vacation video.

It is twice as long as my usual videos (about 4 minutes) and so ended up being a pretty big file (about 30 MBytes). I also made a lower-resolution version which is about 15 MBytes.

Click the flower picture to see the higher resolution, slower-loading file or the penguin picture to see the grainier but faster-loading video. Or, for those MacIntosh people who have trouble with these Windows Media files, follow this link to find the Flash versions of the files.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Once more, with feeling

We are back in San Jose at the Elks Lodge (map), where we've been since Wednesday. The fish are back aboard, though it looks like one (the littlest neon) has passed into the great beyond. We've wrapped up our errands, said our goodbyes, and will be making our way back to Alameda tonight, after a final dinner with some local friends.

I have my fingers crossed that the upper glass will arrive early tomorrow, as I don't think they will want to start even with removal of the lower window until they have both pieces of glass.

Once they pull us into the shop tomorrow, we will be off-line, so I may not be able to post any updates here until we are done with the glass. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Premature Exfenestration

We are in Alameda, outside of Coach Specialties (map). We arrived here last night, and had a nice dinner at nearby Pier 29 restaurant.

Unfortunately, the window glass, which was to have arrived yesterday, is still in transit due to weather delays, and will not be here until at least tomorrow. Moreover, the shop would like to do both windows at the same time, and the upper glass will not arrive until Monday. So the decision has been made to start the project Monday morning. We've booked a hotel room for Monday and Tuesday nights, as Odyssey will be locked inside the shop while the sealant cures.

One of the implications of this is that we will not be able to attend the Escapade rally in Stockton next week (well, OK, we could still catch the last day or so, but that makes little sense). We are scheduled to take post-Escapade Red Cross training, which we will still be able to make.

It does not make sense for us to remain here for the next four days, so, in a few minutes, we will pack up and head back down to San Jose, returning here Sunday evening. We still have a few errands to run in the south bay, such as picking up the fish, and this will give us the opportunity to take care of them. That will pretty much wrap up our stay in the bay area, so I expect our departure from Stockton at the end of the month will be for points elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

South America cruise photos are up

I've just finished publishing lots of photos of our latest trip. They are embedded in Sean's posts below, so if you've already read his trip report, you can scan down the page to see the still pictures.

I have lots of raw video, too, but that will take some time to sift through and edit into something usable. I'm guessing I'll have plenty of time to do that while we are in the shop this week, waiting for the windshields to be installed.

Home again

Another long update today to catch up.

Before I get started, I should let you know that Blogger has forced us to move the blog onto their new system. Everything should be working now, but we haven't had a chance to go back through the whole archive to make sure everything is still there and working. If you notice any problems or issues with the blog, drop me a note. And, while Blogger offered Louise the chance to consolidate her old Blogger account with her new one, it has not made me the same offer as yet. So I have two different profiles here, and clicking "Sean" at the end of this post will take you to a different place than if you click "Sean" on some earlier post. I'm not sure if that will ever get fixed.

Our cruise sailed into San Francisco in the early hours of Thursday morning. We managed to arrange for a late debarkation, and so had a leisurely breakfast before they booted us off the ship. Louise and her dad went off in a cab to Hertz while Kay and I stayed with the enormous pile of luggage. They had booked an Expedition, but ended up with a Tahoe, which, fortunately, is only slightly smaller. Most of the luggage fit into the back, piled high to the ceiling, leaving plenty of room for us up front.

It was past noon by the time we rolled out of the city, and we stopped for a leisurely lunch en route to San Jose. Jerry and Kay dropped us and our gear off at the storage yard, and we said our goodbyes so they could continue home to Monterey before the traffic got miserable.

Much to our relief, Odyssey was in great shape when we returned. We had been concerned that we might have some issues after the air bled down completely, specifically regarding the air door (which does have mechanical latches for storage purposes, but they are finicky), the flapper door in the toilet, and the potential for more glass breakage due to chassis flex. As it turns out, just enough air remained trapped in the system to keep the toilet sealed and the air door from putting too much pressure on the mechanical latches. I'm sure there was some chassis flex, as the ground was a bit uneven, but no other windows suffered. I think some of the cracks in the upper windshield may have spread a bit, but it's hard to tell anymore.

For the first time ever, we returned to a completely charged set of batteries. With all the loads, except for the alarm systems, shut down, the solar array had no trouble keeping the battery bank topped up in our absence. Of course, this is also the first time ever that we have shut down the fridge, which normally would consume most of the energy contributed by the solar panels.

It took us about an hour to get all the systems powered back up and on line, and complete our start-up checks. We then loaded up the luggage and drove back over to our old haunts at the San Jose Elks lodge, where, among other things, we were able to flush, sanitize, and refill our fresh and drinking water systems.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of errands, including retrieving the cats and the dog from their respective mountain-top hideaways (the cats were in Boulder Creek, while the dog was in Woodside near Alice's Restaurant), hunting down our mail so we could find the last of our 2006 tax documents, and meeting with the accountant to get the taxes finished and filed before today's deadline. We have yet to retrieve the fish, as the friends who have been fish-sitting for us were away this weekend.

Last night we moved here to the Fremont Elks Lodge (map), as our holding tanks were completely full, and Fremont has a dump station whereas San Jose does not. Fremont is also conveniently on the direct route to our next stop, Coach Specialties in Alameda. The replacement lower windshield is scheduled to arrive there sometime today, so we will drive up this evening so they can get started on replacing it early tomorrow. The replacement upper windshield is scheduled to ship today from Nashville, and with luck, should be in Alameda on Friday.

As it stands right now, we are signed up to attend the Escapade in Stockton, which starts Sunday. Unless the upper windshield arrives first thing Friday morning (doubtful), we will still be in Alameda come Monday. I'm guessing right now that we will get to the Escapade about halfway through it, if at all. We are signed up for some post-Escapade Red Cross training, so we'll be heading to Stockton in any case.

And now, I'll close with the final updates from our cruise:


Easter Sunday found us in Mazatlan. It also found the entire ship decorated, including an enormous display of football-sized, elaborately decorated chocolate eggs in the main atrium.

We had originally made plans to meet up with our local ex-pat friend Lee and spend the day catching up and seeing more of the lesser-visited parts of the city, but she was called away at the last minute with more pressing issues. Given that everything would either be closed or packed due to Easter, we opted to just browse the handful of stores and booths that are attached to the port complex specifically to cater to the cruise trade, and otherwise spend a relaxing day aboard ship.

Cabo San Lucas

When we awoke the next morning at anchor off Cabo, Louise was sick as a dog. Not surprising, considering the entire ship went to Red Alert on Saturday morning. What that means is that some number of passengers and/or crew (1.2% or more of the total, for Red Alert) had come down with symptoms of Norwalk-like virus, and procedures had been implemented to reduce the spread. We had already been through a Yellow Alert about the second week or so of our cruise, wherein all the common-use items like salt shakers and pepper mills were removed from the tables in all the dining venues, and wait staff were hand-serving rolls in the dining rooms and certain specific items in the buffets. That outbreak never reached the Red stage, and things returned to normal after a few days.

This was different -- we had gone from Green directly to Red in the span of an hour, as we noticed nothing unusual at breakfast, but by lunch things were locked down completely. In Red Alert, the buffet line goes from a self-service model to one wherein a crew member is positioned at each station to serve the food -- passengers never touch a serving spoon or dispenser handle. Also, chairs and tables are wiped with a bleach solution between each sitting, and all handrails and other commonly touched surfaces throughout the ship are wiped down hourly.

In spite of being religious about washing our hands constantly and using the hand-sanitizer provided throughout the ship, Louise managed to come down with it, probably picking it up from a keyboard in the Internet cafe. She was down for the count in Cabo, so I went ashore by myself and just wandered around the now-familiar town a bit before heading back to the ship for lunch. The town was jumping, with ourselves, the Dawn Princess (sister ship to Sea Princess, on which we cruised several years ago), and our old friend the Oosterdam all in the anchorage together.

At sea to San Francisco

Our last two sea days were uneventful, with Louise more-or-less recovered by the time formal night rolled around (which was good, because I was tired of eating alone, a particularly weird feeling in the main dining room). On the last night, our trivia team, which had swept the prizes at the twice-daily team trivia contests throughout the cruise, won the big Jeopardy contest and sealing our place as the all-around trivia champions (frankly, the cruise staff was getting a little tired of us, I think).

At some point, I'll post some overall impressions of this ship and this cruise, but I am out of time for today.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Familiar Mexico


This was a long stopover, I assume owing to late-arriving flights. As we had a very late departure of 11:00pm, we decided to spend most of the day aboard ship enjoying the relative quiet of turn-around day, and then take a sunset sail on the bay while the chaos of arriving passengers was ongoing through the afternoon.

We had a very short (and, in hindsight, ridiculously expensive) taxi ride to a pier along the malecon only a few blocks from our berth, where we boarded the large party boat Bonanza for a 4:30 cruise around the bay. The crowd was mostly Mexican, with a sprinkling of folks from elsewhere in Latin America. I would say only a dozen of us were Norte-Americanos, about half each from the US and Canada. Still, the guide gave the narration in English as well as Spanish, and it was an enjoyable cruise. US$22 apiece got us a three hour tour, unlimited open bar, and all the latin music we could handle, with a live band on the lower level and a DJ on the upper deck. A good deal of the tour consisted of pointing out the large vacation homes of the rich and famous, dotting the waterfront.

We opted not to do any other sightseeing in Acapulco, although we had a great view of Fuerte San Diego right from the ship. This is Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter), and the entirety of Mexico is on holiday, so Acapulco was packed, as will be all our other ports on this leg. That accounted for the big party crowd aboard Bonanza, and also the fact that a good number of passengers embarking Golden Princess in Acapulco were Mexican families. We now have several hundred children aboard, for the first time since we left Buenos Aires.

Our junior waiter (Bruno from Portugal) and waiter (Istvan from Hungary) mug for the camera. They gave us top-notch service and really added to our cruising pleasure.


The very next day we had an early arrival in this small resort area, once a sleepy fishing village and now nearly eclipsed by the neighboring mega-resort area of Ixtapa. Rather than go ashore for the traditional cruise-port experience of being relentlessly hawked merchandise by every shopkeeper in town, we opted for the catamaran sail-and-snorkel tour, which left too early for our tastes (meeting at 8:00am), but proved to be a good choice. There was not enough wind for real sailing, so we mostly motored along, but the water was great, the snorkeling was OK, and there was, once again, an open bar on the return trip (do you detect a theme here?). A bit early in the day to do any serious damage to their liquor supply, but we determined that the sun was indeed past the yard arm, at least if you stood in the right place on deck.

We had an early departure from this port, at 3:00pm, and we enjoyed the sail-away from our aft-facing balcony, watching the resort disappear in the distance even as Ixtapa slipped into, then out of, view. The early departure allowed for the first formal-attire night of this segment, which always involves the captain's welcome cocktail party, one of the extremely few occasions when cocktails are passed out without dinging your ship-board account.

One of our souvenir gifts, a stuffed alpaca from Chile, boasts a Mexican sombrero and sunglasses. It was our room steward's idea to dress up the alpaca.

Puerto Vallarta

Today we are in Puerto Vallarta. Once again we have elected not to partake of any tours, as this marks our third visit here and everything is crowded for the holidays. Instead, we made the two-block walk from the pier to Wal-Mart for some necessities, then browsed the pier-side shops, where I found a US$1-per-hour internet cafe where I will upload this blog later today.

After two previous cruises down the Mexican Riviera, all these ports certainly have a familiar feel. Beyond that, though, the six weeks we spent in Mexico in Odyssey gave us a kind of familiarity with the country that makes us feel very much at home here. Entering a new part of town in Mexico now feels little different to us than entering a new place in the US, although we do still struggle to communicate at times. (This latter item is seldom a problem in tourist ports -- almost everyone speaks some English.)

Our visit to Wal-Mart really puts the finishing touch on the sensation. Here in PV, the "local" shops selling "Mexican" merchandise are catering to the tourists -- the Mexicans shop at Wal-Mart, in a kind of grand, global-economy irony. Of course, being right across from the berth, a fair number of passengers will stop by just to see what Wal-Mart looks like in Mexico. If they are lucky, or smart, they'll do that first, where they will find that souvenirs and Puerto Vallarta logo merchandise such as ball caps and t-shirts are a fraction of the price that the street vendors charge, and Wal-Mart offers an exchange rate of 10.98 pesos to the dollar, whereas the street rate is 10-to-1, and even the cambios only offer 10.6 or so. (The crew, naturally, is already wise to this, and pretty much everyone with shore leave will pay a visit there.)

Tomorrow we will be in Mazatlan, a town even more familiar to us, and the next day our old friend Cabo San Lucas. We have no specific plans in either port, though I expect we will mostly remain aboard ship. Pretty much everything in Mazatlan will be either closed or impossibly crowded for Easter Sunday, and Cabo is enough of a tourist trap that even chips and salsa are overpriced (although we may take another snorkel catamaran there, on our own).

I most likely will not take the laptop ashore again until we disembark in San Francisco, so this may well be my last post until we are back home. Happy Easter, everyone.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

North of the equator

Just a small bit of housekeeping before I bring you up to date on our cruise: My last post has garnered four comments. Normally, I try to answer these individually as they come in, but access limitations here make this difficult, so let me just say thanks to everyone who posted, and, to the newcomers, welcome. And now, onward to:

Manta, Ecuador

Manta is a relatively small port town, and the tourist activities here were somewhat limited. The big tour was to Quito, which involved flying to and from, and we opted to skip it. Instead, we had a relaxing morning aboard ship, then took a free shuttle into town, provided by Princess. The shuttle made stops at a local hotel, a craft market, and a shopping mall. The mall provided us an opportunity to restock our wine supply, and we picked up several of the same Chilean labels that we had purchased in Valparaiso, albeit at a premium of 50-100% (still a bargain compared to either shipboard or stateside prices). I also picked up a half bottle (375ml) of the local rum, San Miguel, which set me back less than $2 and turned out to be quite good.

Double-ruffle bouganvilla

The mall was not unlike any you might find in the US, and, since the local currency is the US dollar (although change is often given in locally minted coin, denominated in US cents), only the Spanish language signage shattered the illusion of being back home. Even the prices were eerily similar to stateside pricing on most kinds of goods, including clothing, groceries, and general merchandise. We did see a motor scooter, though, that was advertised for $600 brand new, about a third what a similar machine would cost in the US.

Ecuador is famous, of course, for Panama hats. One of the available tours even stopped in the village of Montechristi, where the hats are made. I've always wanted one, and I waffled about stopping in the craft market to pick one up. Ultimately, I passed it up, mostly because one can spend $3 or $300 on a Panama hat in Ecuador, and I don't have the wherewithal to know if I'm looking at a $5 hat being sold for $50, or a $50 hat being sold for $20. We'll come back some day and spend more than a few hours here, whereupon I hope to learn how to select one with confidence.

At Sea (Crossing the line)

We crossed the equator at around 11pm on the day we left Manta, and we found official certificates, signed by the master of the vessel, commemorating the event in our stateroom when we returned from dinner. Owing to the late hour, the "ceremony" was held the following day.

I fully expected to run some sort of gauntlet, lowly pollywogs that we were, but it turned out that only about a dozen passengers were selected to undergo the ritual, and we were not among the chosen few. (Possibly the cruise staff, who have gotten to know us, decided we'd already undergone enough public humiliation.) Still, we attended the ceremony wherein said passengers (and most of the cruise staff) were festooned with various foodstuffs before being dunked in the pool (which was then summarily drained and cleaned for the remainder of the day -- fortunately, there are three other pools).

The captain, who is customarily dunked during the ceremony (to atone for all those pollywogs among the guests and crew who could not be included), sent a stand-in wearing his uniform instead, a disappointment that he later explained by informing us that on his last line-crossing (on a different vessel), the main engine stopped right after he was dunked. If true, I respect his decision not to tempt Neptune further, but it sounds like a fish story to me.

In any case, we are now shellbacks, although we seem to have dodged the ritual hazing.

Puerto Amador, Panama

After another relaxing day at sea (thus bypassing the troubled country of Colombia), we arrived at an anchorage off Fuerte Amador, in Panama. Fuerte Amador is an island that is now connected to the mainland by way of a causeway (and several intervening islands) made from the detritus of the canal excavation. We were in good company, with dozens of large ships sprinkled throughout the anchorage, presumably awaiting passage through the canal or entry to the large container port.

Here, after tendering ashore to the small resort marina on the island, we were shuttled by bus to the terminus of the Panama Canal Railway, where we boarded an "executive" coach for an excursion along the canal all the way to Colon, at the Caribbean end of the canal. Along the way we saw the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks, part of the Gaillard cut, and a good bit of Gatun Lake. We saw several vessels transiting the canal, and, interestingly, a large number of kayaks. This last item was fortuitous, as our visit coincided with the annual Atlantic-to-Pacific Kayak Race, involving some 54 international teams. The canal and its lakes are otherwise closed to all recreational boating (excepting, of course, pleasure boats making paid transits).

The train itself had a familiar feel, consisting entirely of equipment purchased from Amtrak a decade ago and refurbished -- our car had once been a dining car.

A pair of cute young women in conductor uniforms provided hostess service in each car, and the whole bevy of them got together to sing to us and play local instruments toward the end of the return trip. (The train reverses direction in Colon, with no opportunity to disembark.)

After the train ride, we continued by bus to the administrative area of the canal zone, where we saw the monument to Goethals, and the various administrative buildings for the canal before returning to Fuerte Amador.

We did not get the chance to go in to Panama City, but we had a great view of its impressive and modern skyline from our ship. Interestingly, the many highrise buildings that give the skyline its distinctive look are almost entirely residential -- with more going up all the time. By the way, in Panama City, the sun rises over the Pacific and sets over land, a fact we got to witness first hand, but is counter-intuitive until you look at the map.

Golden Princess needed to bunker (nautical jargon for taking on fuel) in Panama, but, apparently, there is a designated anchorage for this activity that is separate from where we anchored for tender operations during the day, After "departing" Fuerte Amador, we sailed perhaps a mile or so to the designated bunkering anchorage, and again dropped anchor for several more hours, which occasioned a huge, festive island-themed party on the open decks that ran on till midnight. We had a great time, which was good, as our stateroom was just one deck below the main stage for the event.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Puntarenas is the main Pacific port for Costa Rica, although it is dwarfed by the Caribbean port of Limon. Here we opted to go the eco-adventure route and chose the Mahogany Park canopy tour. This involved zip-lining from tree-top to tree-top (eight zip-lines and nine platforms) through the forest canopy, 50 to 80 feet off the ground. We really enjoyed it, in spite of the heat (mid-90s). We did not see any exotic birds or monkeys as we had hoped, but we did see quite a few new (to us) species of plants. Besides, zip-lining is a hoot.

Zip-lining lends itself more to video than still photos, so watch for video here soon!

Our tour did not leave us time for much else, save a quick walk into town to buy contact lens fluid at a local pharmacy.

Huatulco, Mexico

We had another full day at sea, bypassing Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, arriving this morning in Huatulco. Shortly after our arrival, the Regal Princess pulled in to the adjacent berth, marking only the second or third time in history for two cruise ships to be here simultaneously.

Huatulco was nothing more than a fishing village a decade ago, but is on its way to becoming the latest in a string of resort destinations nurtured by the Mexican goverment through its FONATUR agency (previous success stories include Cancun and Los Cabos). We liked it so much that we may look into buying some property here before it's all gone or unaffordable.

Our tour here involved a catamaran cruise through five of the nine bays that comprise the region, stopping at one for a half-hour swim. From the boat we could see many of the recently completed hotel complexes and private residences, as well as a good deal of pristine land (including waterfront) protected as a national park.

Tomorrow we are in Acapulco, where about half of the passengers will end their cruise, and again as many will take their place for the final leg to San Francisco.