Day 6 – Ensenada Grande
Today was the day we had been waiting for all cruise – the day we get to snorkel with Sea Lions. This was the main reason I was willing to brave the water earlier in the week to get the hang of snorkeling. It was a little choppy but at least the wind had died down and the sun was out. There was a dozen of us willing to get in the water with the sea lions while the others had an option to stay dry and just go around the sea lion island in a small boat. I suited up with my multiple layers and was ready. We had to take a skiff over to the boat from a company (Fun Baja) that takes people out to swim with the Sea Lions. The rookery is on the island of Partida in the Espiritu Santo Island Archipelago. Our guide Carlos gave all the details on what to do and what not to do. You really do not want to annoy the large male sea lions. We pulled up to the island it and really was covered in sea lions and also lots of birds. The rocks actually looked snow covered due to all the bird droppings. It was time to get in the water and you cannot help but be noisy when getting in because it was so cold but I waited a bit for my heart to adjust and then we started swimming closer. I kept my eye on Carlos as I didn’t want to lose him figuring he knew best what to do. As we got closer a big wave hit me and I drank a good bit a sea water and was about ready to say get me out of here but I took a few minutes to recover and calm down. After that I really did start to enjoy it and get the hang of it. I was floating along and a little sea lion swam right over to me. I wasn’t sure what to do but I laughed so hard I got a mask full of water. This little guy really had fun playing with us. He nibbled on anyone hands that were out or their flippers. He also thought Carlos’s orange life ring looked like fun and played around with that for a bit. We thought he might go through it like a sea lion at a show but he didn’t. He was also able to entertain himself quite well as I watched him dive down and he blew a few big bubbles and then he followed them up to the surface but right before they reached the top he would pop them with his nose. Again I was laughing and let me just say laughing and snorkeling do not go well together. We were out in the water about an hour and by then I was really cold so I was happy when Carlos asked who is ready to go back to the boat. On the short swim back Carlos told us to keep looking in the water as there are sometimes big rays out there. I looked down and decided I really didn’t want to see if there was one as it looked way too deep. I was better off keeping my head out of the water. I was glad to get back on the boat and sit in the sun and try to warm my fingers up again. When we got back on the ship it was right in the hot tub to warm up. This was the last excursion with wetsuits so we helped by dunking them in the containers of clean water and hung them up. We also rinsed the other borrowed gear and put in the piles for the crew to put away. We did all this before lunch! I had worked up a hunger and was happy to not have to wait long for lunch.
After lunch we headed out for one last guided kayak. The wind had picked up a bit so we mostly stuck to the coast but it was another fun paddle. We were than back onboard for one last happy hour. We also had to start thinking about packing the the procedure for the morning. Guests with an early flight were scheduled for the first bus back to Los Cabos while the rest of us went back to the hospitality area that we met at on the first day. After all the talk about what to do in the morning it was time for dinner but Jess told us to pop back into the lounge after dinner as there would be a slide show of photos that the guides took all week. We enjoyed one last delicious dinner and watched the show before heading back to pack.
Our Last Day
Our luggage had to be tagged and outside our door before we went to 7 am breakfast. We had one last time to say goodbye to our new friends and then it was time to board the buses. Most of the crew were out on the pier to say goodbye which was a very nice touch. We headed back to Los Cabos and walked around town for a bit before it was time for our shuttle back to the airport. We had a great time in Baja and would definitely do it again!
Day 4 - Magdalena Bay
Today is all about the Gray Whales. We had to be up early and ready to go as we needed to board vans that would take us over to the Pacific side of the peninsula. It was about a 3 hour ride over to the other side but we did make a pit stop to use bathrooms and have a snack. This time of the year mother gray whales come to Magdalena Bay to give birth so we are excited about the possibility of getting to see the babies. UnCruise only does this excursion during the birthing season. When we got to the bay we got into a panga boat with a local captain that took us out in search of the whales. The bay is pretty well protected so you can see why the momma whales like it. After just a few minutes we saw a spout and headed right towards it. Did you know that the spout from a Gray Whale is heart shaped? I didn't know that but I did get to see up close that it is true. We ended up getting to see quite a few whales and could tell some where pairs of mother and baby by how close they were together. We thought that at least one was having fun playing with us as she would spy-hop (vertically pokes its head out of the water). Then there was a pair that seemed to just be relaxing and would come up to float for a bit. It was a great 2 hours out on the water. After our whale watch adventure was over it was time for lunch at a local seafood restaurant. They served us a huge plate of food with shrimp, lobster, fish, rice, and salads. Then it was time to head back to Sea of Cortes side so that was nap time in the vans. We got back to port and boarded the ship for happy hour. Captain Shep came down to let us know that once we were out of “the waiting room” that we would be hitting a little bit of rough water so he was waiting until after dinner was over to leave port. We have been on many cruises with rough weather so we were not too worried. Turns out that to us it just seemed like some gentle waves which were nice to lull you to sleep. Since we were up so early I was ready for bed by 8 pm! Our brief time with wi-fi seemed to be coming to an end so we are guessing we not get wifi again until we return to LaPaz.
Day 5 – Bahia of San Francisco
This morning we woke up find us anchored out by a lovely crescent moon shaped beach. It was a bit windy but we had signed up for the morning hike. We grabbed some breakfast and then headed to the aft to board our skiff to shore. It was a really nice hike to a ridge that ran along most of the island so we got a lot of amazing views. Then we walked down in another spot where we were able to walk over and check out the salt flat. Our guide, Jenny, explained to us how the locals harvest the salt to use for the fish they catch and then they can trade. It was then back to the boat for lunch. After lunch the crew had set up a beach party back on shore for us so we were able to go back over and snorkel, kayak, paddle board and just enjoy the beach. We had fun exploring the beach but it was a bit too chilly for getting in the water. Tonight's Happy Hour was a little different since we had already signed up for Friday's adventures the day before. I guess they really needed to get an idea how many boats they would need for going over to the sea lions so they asked us to decide on that one early. Jess gave plenty of fair warnings about how the swimming with the sea lions might not be easy so they wanted to set the right expectations before anyone signed up. I was doing it no matter what. I figured that if even what she was saying was worst case scenario I could handle that. All of our desserts each day have been delicious but tonight's wasn't only delicious it was like a piece of art. Chase our server told us dessert was apple strudel but it was going to be a bit different than what we are used to. When it came out I think everyone ohhhed and ahhhed and of course took photos. It was almost too perfect to eat but it really did taste as good at it looked!
Day 2 - Bahia Agua Verde
Woke up this morning and made it to the 7 am stretch and WOW! The cove we are in today is just gorgeous! The weather also looked like it was going to cooperate both with sun and no wind. On the way to breakfast we saw that we had the morning Kayak and afternoon Burro which we knew was perfect since it is usually best to get out on the kayaks while there isn't any wind. We know from experience that wind tends to kick up more as the day goes on. After breakfast it was out to the aft deck to board the skiff to the beach. Our ship is stocked with kayaks and has a platform they use to launch kayaks in other locations but here in Baja they prefer to launch from the beach. The crew had already taken the kayaks over and had them ready on the beach for us. We grabbed our paddles and headed out. Our adventure guide for this one was Mike and he was also very excited about the lovely weather we had. We paddled around the coast and even out a rock formation a few hundred feet from the coast. Mike told us that the water all around that rock formation was very deep so many birds went there to fish and live on the rocks. The water close to the coast was very clear so that we could see things like fish, starfish, and other things on the bottom while kayaking. It was a great morning adventure and we all worked up a hunger for lunch. Back to the ship with a little time to shower and head to lunch. It was another great meal which was topped off by the most adorable and equally delicious dessert! Our pastry chef made macrons shaped like a cactus and filled with a sort of Mexican eggnog cream. All I could say was OH MY GOD!
After lunch it was time to head out for our Burro ride. The Romero family brings the burros over to the island every week just for UnCruise. Julio, the head of the family, takes a look at each guest and then pairs you with the right Burro for you. I guess he could tell I like to go fast because I got the Burro that wanted to pass everyone was we went up the first steep hill. The path was pretty narrow and he liked passing on the outside so I just tried to trust he knew what he was doing and wouldn't step too close to the edge. It was about an hour ride and we went over rocks and sand, up and down hills, and even through an oasis which was full of palm trees and freshwater. The family that brings the burros also had a little shop set up on the beach with some things they have made that were for sale. I always enjoy being able to buy something that was made by the locals when we travel so I picked up a pair of earrings and a necklace.
Since the weather was so nice we had the option to hang out on the beach a bit longer and could take out kayaks or paddleboard or head back to the ship. We chose to hang out for awhile. The crew brought over towels, chairs, snacks, and drinks as well so it was a great beach day! After enjoying the beach it was time to head back for Happy Hour and pick tomorrow's activities. We also also got a special treat and Julio joined us for happy hour and entertained us with a few songs. They were all in Spanish so I could only pick up a few parts but they all sounded like very sad songs to me. We enjoyed another very delicious meal but the chef which of course included another amazing dessert from Katie our pastry chef. For anyone that knows me or has traveled with me you will know I am a picky eater so I was a little worried about meals on a small ship. Even though there have only been 3 choices for lunch or dinner so far I have found something each time and you can also sort of customize the options if there is something you don't like. Being that we are on the sea I hve been opting for the fish most nights and they have been delicious!
Day 3 - Puerto Escondido
We were supposed to have adventures in the morning but due to wind they were cancelled so we instead went out whale watching and switched onshore adventures to the afternoon. We lucked out and quickly spotted a spout and Captain headed that way. After carefully watching and waiting it was identified as a Blue Whale, which is one of the biggest whales. We would watch the spout come up and then wait to see if the whale appeared too and most times the whale took a few breaths and then you would see the fluke (tail) as the whale dove and then wait 8 - 10 minutes to search for where he would come back up. While keeping track of the Blue Whale a pod of dolphins came over to play with us. They were bow riding and also playing in our wake. They really seem like kids that were swimming around and even showing off a little. It was so fun to watch them.
After some whale and dolphin watching it was time for lunch and while having lunch we pulled into the first actual dock we have seen since leaving La Paz. We are in Puerto Escondido which is a well protected harbor with mountains almost all around so it is also given the name The Waiting Room since many boats will wait out storms here. There were a few adventure options available today - a strenuous hike, snorkeling, a skiff ride, or you could just walk around the marina we were docked in. We opted for the skiff but it was windy and cloudy so a bit cold out on the water but we still saw some interesting things. We were happy to not do much this afternoon anyway since this was the first time since boarding that we were able to pick up a wi-fi signal. My travels are work for me so I really don't mind staying in touch while I travel but I hadn't been expecting to be without wi-fi so much on this trip. I used this time to check on emails and make sure all my clients were OK. Tomorrow we are headed to the Gray Whale Sanctuary which is one of the main reasons I chose this cruise at this time of year. The momma Gray whales come to this special bay to have their babies each year in late January and stay through early March.
*I was planning to post these reports live as we cruised however we didn't have internet at all most days so I ended up writing them as we went but waited to post when we got back home again.
I am so excited so be getting ready to start our UnCruise Adventure in the Sea of Cortez! When I first heard about this cruise I knew right then I just had to do it! I remember the first time I went to Sea World, when I was 8, I was totally in love and thought I wanted to be a Marine Biologist when I grow up. Well that didn't happen but I do still love dolphins and whales and getting to spot them up close whenever possible. Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the world's aquarium so I cannot think of a better place to get to see many of them on one trip.
UnCruise has small boats that get you so close to everything. They also include all your adventures while cruising such as snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and more! We landed in Los Cabos to meet up with UnCruise and get our bus over to the ship, Safari Endeavor, which was in LaPaz. We were taken right to the boat, literally our bus drove us right to the gangway. I was so impressed that the Captain was out on the pier introducing himself as we walked up the gangway. There were only 58 of us boarding so we were off the buses and to our rooms in no time. We met a few more of the crew and one of the adventure guides, Sarah, took us to our room and pointed out a few things and let us know we needed to head down to the lounge for the safety briefing. Our room is small but functional. It has all you need beds, a desk, closest, drawers, and a bathroom with shower. The beds are not our favorite since they are fixed twins against the walls so you cannot combine them make a queen but that is OK. We have 2 large windows and our room door opens right out on the deck. There are only 4 decks and just 42 rooms onboard. Crew to Guest ratio is 2.5 to 1 which is super!
We went down to the lounge where Captain Shep talked a bit and introduced some of the other crew. We then did the usual safety drill where you find your muster station and all the fun stuff. After that it was time for dinner and then time for the ship to pull out of port.
Day 1 - Puerto Los Gatos
I started our first day with the 7 am stretch. If you know me you know I am not a morning person, except for maybe when I am on vacation. It really was wonderful to start the day with a stretch on the top deck before heading to 7:30 breakfast (yes breakfast is 7:30 everyday). At breakfast we learned that each morning we will place our order for lunch and dinner as this allows the chef to prepare and not waste a lot. After breakfast we headed to the lounge where we would learn more about the day's adventures. Everyday has multiple included adventures to choose from. Some days we will be able to choose 2 and some days just one. For our first day we could just choose one since the morning was being used to learn about everything and collect our gear. Jessica our Adventure Coordinator started going over all the options but in the middle of that a pod of pilot whales was spotted nearby. One of the best things about UnCruise is nature is a focus so we stopped what we were doing and went out on the bow to check out the whales. Mike, one of the adventure guides, said they haven't seen the pilot whales here in 5 years so this was a pretty amazing sight. It was a pretty good size pod and Mike explained that what we were seeing was called logging and it is when the whales are pretty much hungover from eating a lot of squid the night before and are floating along in a sort of sleep mode. They were all very close to each other and would be up on the surface for a bit and they go back under. It was so cool to be close enough to hear their breaths. The captain will change course and slow down for things like this. After watching them for about an hour we moved back inside to get back to the stuff we needed to do. We heard about all the options for today and had to pick one. The options were - snorkeling 101 (for those that might need a refresher or like me never snorkeled in a wetsuit), snorkeling 201 for experienced snorkelers, a leisurely walk, a rigorous hike, or a skiff ride. Since I haven't snorkeled in a long time or ever in a wetsuit I chose snorkel 101 which would be entering the water from a beach vs from a small boat like the 201. After everyone put in their adventure order it was time to go over some of the procedures and collect our gear. Some of the procedures are for getting on and off our ship along with getting on and off the small boats that are used to get us to shore. While in the middle of the procedures talk a call from the bridge alerted us to whale sighting so again we stopped and all went out to check it out. This time it was a single whale and it took a little time for the experts to identify it but while trying to figure it out we realized it wasn't just one but 2 and it appeared to be a mom and calf. They were not giving us much time to really see a lot of them so it took a bit but they were identified as Sei Whales. While watching them a few playful dolphins came over to check out our boat and ride our waves. We hung out for a bit watching them but then back to getting ready for our upcoming adventures. We got back to the procedures and learned about the very low tech method of tracking who is on and off the ship - there is a magnetic board with all the room numbers and a circle magnet for each guest that as you are getting off you slide your circle to off and then back on when you come back. Low tech and laid back is pretty much the theme for UnCruise. There is no wi-fi on the ship (I know crazy right but we are hoping our portable hotspot will pick up a signal). You do not have or need a key for your stateroom door because it does not auto lock so you can only lock them from inside. At first I thought that seemed odd but I am already liking not having to worry about a key. With such a small boat you get to know everyone pretty fast so nothing to worry about. Plus even if someone did take something it is not like they can go far. Since pretty much everything onboard is included no need to worry about a room key to charge things to either. They even provide things like sunblock, binoculars, and reusable water bottles! Everything is very causal almost like cruising with family. No need to dress up for dinner either.
After going over all the procedures it was time to pick up all our gear for the week. We picked up our wetsuit and snorkel equipment, all of these are included for use during your cruise along with other things like walking sticks. I had done a little research after finding out we would be given wetsuits to use to find out what people wear under wetsuits since I knew I wasn't going commando in a borrowed suit. I was glad I did because I found out that many people prefer another layer underneath in cold water. I knew I would be cold no matter what so I got a full body suit for under my wetsuit along with fin socks to keep my feet warm. After getting our equipment it was time for lunch and then after we head out for our first adventure. I don't usually eat a big lunch but it was so good and I can already tell I love the pastry chef!
We suited up and headed to the aft to board a skiff to the beach for our snorkel 101. It was a bit cloudy and breezy but that wasn't stopping us. We gathered on the beach while our adventure guide Jenny went over the basics. It was sort of like a bit of torture though as first she made us all get into the water without fins or mask just to get the feel of the wetsuit. She also wanted to prove that you cannot sink when wearing a wetsuit which I did not know until I tried it. Ok so it wasn't just me that thought the water was cold - the water temp was only 64 degrees and the air only 74 but hey that is why we had wetsuits to begin with. So after getting all wet we had to get back out of the water to get our masks on and test those. So back into the water test the masks and snorkel to then get back out to get the fins. Once we got the fins our outfit was complete and we were ready to snorkel! It was cold and I realized I wished I had bought swim gloves and maybe even a hoodie since my ears were getting very cold. I wasn't giving up that fast though I powered through and really enjoyed snorkeling more than I ever did when I tried before so I think the wetsuit is key. Just being able to float was so nice. After about a half hour though most of us were ready to be done. We wrapped up in towels the crew brought over and then walked around the beach a bit to explore the very interesting red rock formations on the beach. We then headed back to the boat took off our wetsuits and hung them up on the aft deck. The 2 hot tubs right there on the aft deck were perfect for warming up after our adventure (again another reason to not go commando under the wetsuit since I could take mine off right there on deck and jump right into the hot tub).
Before we knew it it was time to head back to the lounge to talk about the next day's adventures. Each night before dinner everyone gathers in the lounge for happy hour and also to choose our adventures for the next day. Jessica went over all the options and this was going to be one of those days where we get to pick 2. The choices were Kayak 101, Kayak 201, Burro ride, Boulder Bash (extreme hike), or skiff. We chose Kayak 201 and Burro ride. After everyone put in their order Jessica takes those and works them into a schedule that gets posted on the wall in the main hall the next morning. So on your way to breakfast you can check to see what times you are doing each thing. Again nice and low tech just a print out paper where you look for your name on the list under each time slot. Also on that board is a laminated map of the area where our route so far is highlighted in marker as we go (since the route can and probably will vary there isn't an itinerary already mapped out). This board is also where things that we have seen will get posted so photos of the whales and other wildlife are starting to appear here. I am sure it will be totally full by the end of the cruise.
We had dinner and crazy enough were pretty much ready for bed before 9 pm! Adventuring takes a lot out of you! I am looking forward to another 7 am morning stretch so happy to go to bed early.
When I heard Royal Caribbean was offering a 4 night cruise with 2 stops at Perfect Day CocoCay I thought this is a great opportunity for me to get to check all the new stuff on CocoCay. It had been awhile since I had been on Royal Caribbean and since it was leaving from right in my backyard I couldn't pass it up.
Being so close to the port we drove over after lunch to board our cruise. Parking at the terminal is easy and so close to the ship. You do have to pay when you enter the parking garage instead of when you leave so that does help keep things moving when everyone is leaving at once. We found a parking place and since it was a bit later the check in area was pretty empty. I have the app on my phone and had already done most of the check in anyway. I had noticed that I had something called expedited arrival on my SeaPass and wasn't too sure what that meant but figured since we arrived later it didn't matter much. To my surprise I was told our room keys would be waiting for us outside our stateroom door. I thought this was pretty odd but went ahead and boarded. It was easy but also disappointing at the same time. We walked off the gangway onto an outside deck but there was no door there to get into the ship and no one there to direct us. I guess since we arrived later we missed the welcome onboard or who knows maybe there really isn't one. We wandered down the deck to find a door that would allow us to get into the ship and from there found our way to the elevators to get to the deck our room was on. Since we are seasoned cruisers we know how to handle boarding but it seemed odd to me that there wasn't any crew around to direct guests or even bombard guests with upsells. I guess I am used to walking on the ship and finding many crew just waiting to help and even just to say welcome onboard. I will admit I am a bit spoiled by the fanfare you get on Disney cruise when you board and they announce your family name as you enter into a grand atrium. There was none of that here.
I was a bit worried about our room keys so I wanted to make a bee line to our room. We found it easily but had we been first timers it would not have been so easy. Our room keys were sitting there on the number placard in a sealed envelope. This all just seems really strange to me since it seemed someone could walk down the hall and grab someone else's room keys but I guess they must have some type of security that wouldn't allow someone to use another person's key to buy anything. We grabbed our keys went into the room to drop our bags. Since it was a short cruise we opted for just carry ons which really makes things easier for us but not sure I would recommend that to everyone. If you got on the ship earlier the rooms might not have been open yet so you would be stuck lugging your stuff all around.
We realized the lunch buffet would be shutting down soon for the emergency drill so we went to grab a quick bite since we have the 8 pm dining time. Next up was the drill and then we explored the ship a little. Mariner of the Seas has a lot of fun extras and is nicer than most ships that do short cruises. When I first heard Mariner was coming to Port Canaveral I thought this would be a nice alternative for those that a Disney Cruise wasn't quite in their budget but want to add a cruise to their theme park vacation. The ship has an ice skating rink, Flowrider, rock wall, and the SkyPad as main attractions along with a few pools and sports options onboard like mini golf and basketball. There is definitely plenty to do for kids. Adults will find plenty of bars, shops, lounges, a casino, and even a Starbucks onboard.
Our first stop was Perfect Day CocoCay. There is no missing the waterpark features from the ship. I heard many kids come into the buffet for breakfast and get so excited when they saw what was waiting outside. There is an extra fee to enter the water park portion so I am sure there might have also been a few groans from parents after their kids saw it. Even if you didn't go to the waterpark there are plenty of free activities to do on the island. There was another ship in port with us that day so it was a bit more crowded than I had hoped for. I was hoping that maybe our second stop would be just us in port. Even with 2 ships there were plenty of beach chairs and shade to be found. There are a few beaches you can go to and grab a chair and enjoy or you can head to the largest freshwater pool on a private island and relax. There are some beach sports set up to enjoy along with a few options for lunch. Most of the food options are free but there were a few things that had an extra charge. There are a few bars around the island. Captain Jacks is right in the center and had live music anytime we went by. I have to say the bathrooms were the nicest I have seen on any of the private islands I have been to. I am going to do a whole page on our website about Cruise Line Private islands so look for that coming soon. While it is very bright and new looking I have to admit that one of my favorite things about other cruise line private islands is the rustic feel you get like you almost just came across this perfect little island by accident. There is none of that feeling on CocoCay.
After a nice beach day our next stop was Nassau. We have been here many times and don't usually get off. The weather was not that nice so a lot of guests opted to stay onboard. We were supposed to be back at CocoCay the next day but the bad weather we had in Nassau also hit there and blew the gangways into the docking spot so we were not able to go back and instead had a day at sea.
While on this cruise we checked out everything and caught an ice show and a show in the main theater. For dining I had picked the traditional dining and requested a table for 2. The first night we went to the dining room they took us to our table and it was a table for 8 and I said no thanks I requested a table for just 2. The host was able to find us a table for 2 down in the Anytime dining room which was fine. He made it so we didn't have to make reservations since we thought we had traditional dining. It is the same dining room just a different floor and for 3 out of 4 nights we had the same server which was nice. The food was OK for a short cruise but I feel like you get better food on longer cruises.
The ship has some things that were added recently like the Bamboo Lounge but then other parts of the ship show their age like the stateroom decor. I knew it was an older ship so it wasn't a surprise and I did like that being an older ship our room was bigger than then on the newer ships. All in all it was a nice quick getaway at a nice price.
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