I think breakfast might be my favorite meal, well that is unless you count dessert as a meal. I am the type of person that really needs at least a little something to eat before I can really start my day. I always love when a hotel that has breakfast buffet. I was worried that Covid might have killed the hotel breakfast but I am happy to say that from my past 3 hotel stays it is not dead yet!
Part of my job is staying on top of everything travel related and right now a big part of that is knowing how things in the travel world are changing to deal with Covid19.
Most of the big Hotel chains have been advertising what steps they are taking to keep guests safe during their stay. While it all sounds great I wondered how it would be in person and how they are making sure each individual hotel is doing the same things. In the past 90 days I have stayed in 3 hotels in 3 states that were all all part of the same big chain. I can say even though I felt safe staying in them, all 3 were doing things a little differently. The interesting part is that the breakfast area was the one that had least uniformity among the 3 hotels I stayed in.
The first hotel I stayed in was in Colorado and this was back in May so things probably have changed a bit since then. Back in mid May Colorado was not yet allowing any indoor dining so the hotel had closed the seating area but they were still offering some of the breakfast options. Everything was pre-packaged and ready to just take back to your room. If you wanted coffee you did have to wait for an employee to serve that for you. My guess is that once indoor dining was allowed to resume in the state the hotel probably returned to allowing guests to sit and eat in the dining area but have spaced the tables out.
Our second hotel stay was in North Carolina in June. Funny thing here was that North Carolina was not yet allowing indoor dining but the hotel did have the seating area open for you eat your breakfast or any other food and drink you might have brought in during your stay. The breakfast offerings here were also very surprising to me as it looked almost as if nothing had really changed here. They still had out the hot dishes for self serve like the eggs, bacon, and oatmeal. The cereal was also still the large canisters where you turn the handle to dispense the amount you want. I have to admit this was the one time of all the hotel stays where I felt like it was more up to the guest to use their judgement as to what they felt was safe or not.
Third stay was in upstate New York and this one was probably most like what the hotel chain is aiming for. Tables in the dining area were very well spaced apart and it was obvious that they had removed some tables. Breakfast was limited to just pre-packaged options where even the cereal was the type that was already sealed in a bowl. Coffee was self serve which I think makes more sense than having to talk to someone to explain how you want your coffee. While we were having breakfast we did see someone come out and clean everything multiple times.
I am very happy to see how the hotels are adapting to the changes and doing everything they can to keep guests feeling safe while still being able to provide something similar to what we are used to getting.
I don't know about you but when I hear road trip I always think of National Lampoon's Vacation (the original with Chevy Chase of course). As a kid we packed up the good old Dodge Van and headed south from Philly to Florida many times. It was always an adventure and I fondly remember those South of the Border billboards. Luckily for us we never had to worry about the theme park being closed when we got there back then but now is a whole different story, There actually is a pretty good chance that your favorite summer destination might have some closures or new rules. While up in Lake George recently we noticed that Six Flags park there was not open yet and from what it sounded like it might not open at all this summer.
Now with everything going on, driving to your summer vacation destination is a bit easier and less stressful for most people than flying. Having done both recently I will say the drive was better. Sure flying was faster but having to deal with all the new rules and worries about who might be too close to you and getting stuck somewhere just isn't fun.
Recently we packed up the car and headed north from Florida all the way up to Lake George, NY for my mother in law's 80th birthday. We did make a few pit stops along the way to break things up though. You might not be planning to go 1500 miles for your road trip but either way here are some tips to help you navigate the new rules of the road this summer.
#1 - Be sure to check and recheck the current rules for the states you plan to visit and also just drive through. Google maps can help with this. When we left Florida we checked all of the states we would be going through just to see what the polices were for dining and things like that. When we left Florida New York didn't have any rules about visitors from Florida but as we got closer to NY we started hearing about the possibility of requiring a self quarantine for visitors from Florida. Luckily we got there before that rule went into effect but that is why you need to always check again.
#2 - Plan out your rest stops as best you can in advance. Yes there is an app for that - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.insofttech.reststops&hl=en_US We did a quick search just to know if any along our route might be closed so we could plan ahead. Gas stations might also be a good place to combine your rest stop with a fill up for the car as well but not all gas station bathrooms are created equal. Here is a link to a 2018 article on best gas station bathrooms by state. Personally I have found Wawa, Racetrac, and Cumberland Farms to have nice bathrooms.
#3 - Don't count on being able to dine inside everywhere. Not all states have opened indoor dining yet so you might have to plan to eat either at an outside table or in the car while eating on the road. This also goes back to your rest stop planning as well since you might not even be able to enter some dining locations so that also means no bathroom break at those. We ran into this in North Carolina on our way through and we really hadn't thought of that in advance.
#4 - Book your place to stay in advance. In the past you might have been able to just pull off and find a hotel when you got tried but that isn't a good idea this year. Not all hotels have reopened and others might be limiting the rooms they have available to allow for new cleaning procedures and social distancing. If you are used to camping in the summer be sure to check on that as well as some parks are only open to guests traveling in an RV that has its own bathroom because they are not opening facilities. Some campgrounds might not be opening at all this summer.
#5 - Pack more than what you think you might need. If you want to try and avoid your chances of coming into contact with people while on the road, plan to pack more than you might usually, this way you lessen your chances of needing to stop for something. For example if you don't want to worry about needing to stop for something to eat along the way, plan ahead and pack some sandwiches and drinks to have in the car. The nice part about traveling by car is there are no restrictions on what you can't travel with, well except for maybe the size of your trunk.
#6 - Don't forget to pack the new items that were not on your list previous years like face masks and hand sanitizer. It is a good idea to pack extra masks in case you lose one or get caught out in the rain.
#7 - As always it is best to have your car checked out by a mechanic before hitting the road to be sure your car's health is good as well.
Many things will be different for awhile when it comes to travel but different doesn't always mean bad. A couple good things are smaller crowds and cleaner places. Today I am focusing on how Disney Theme Parks will be different for awhile.
Disney has made many announcements over the past few days and it can be hard to keep up with them all. If you are thinking of a Disney vacation in the near future you will need to weigh a few things to decide if it is the best for you to go now or wait until things return to more like they used to be. There is good and bad to both options.
Here are 5 things you will need to keep in mind when planning your next Disney vacation.
#1 - Disney is limiting the number of guests allowed in the park each day. They have implemented a park reservation system in the My Disney Experience where you can log in to reserve your park days. These will be required for awhile so best to log in as soon as possible to book your days. The good part of this is there won't be huge crowds in the parks for awhile. As of right now Disney is taking park reservations through 2021.
#2 - Not everything will be coming back when the parks reopen. For the foreseeable future there won't be extra magic hours, fastpass, parades, or fireworks. As of now there will not be any dining plans available to add to your vacation package (I have heard there is a good chance dining plans will come back sometime in 2021 though). Park Hopping is not available for 2020 but looks to be coming back in 2021 at least as of now but all things Disney are always subject to change. Disney also has not made any announcements for the water parks reopening yet so they might also stay closed for the rest of 2020. While most of the Disney resorts will be reopened by the end of 2020 there a few exceptions. The three All Star Resorts along both of the Port Orleans and Wilderness Lodge are currently not scheduled to reopen before 2021.
#3 - Masks and temperature checks are here to stay at least into 2021. There will be places designated that you can go and remove your mask and take a break around the parks. You also will not have to wear a mask while swimming or eating. Taking more breaks at the resort will be a good way to avoid mask fatigue. One tip is to bring multiple masks since you will want fresh ones and also might need a replacement if you get caught in the rain or lose one while riding an attraction. Disney will of course also be selling some fun themed masks as well.
#4 - Going contactless is going to be big. Whenever possible Disney is making things as contactless as possible. That does mean we will all be relying on our mobile devices for a lot more things. Disney is pretty much going to require you to have the app on at least one mobile device per travel party. The app will let you do things like check in for your resort and go right to your room without having to visit the front desk. You can chat with guest services via the app. You can use the app for getting into the parks (no more free magic bands starting 1/1/21). You can order food for many counter service locations via the app. Some menus are even going digital where you scan the QR code to get the menu on your phone. You can also use your phone to tap to pay for things. One tip I have for this is to always make sure your phone is fully charged when you head out to the parks and having a portable charger will be a big help too.
#5 - Now more than ever it is a good time to enlist the talent of a Disney Travel Specialist like myself and my team at Pop Vacations! I have been booking magical Disney vacations for almost 19 years so I know how to stay on top of all the information you will need to make your visit as stress free as possible.
I don't know about you but I cannot wait to be able to travel again. I will of course use commonsense and caution when we are given the green light to move about the world again. Travel is something that won't go away but it will change after all of this. Just like after 9/11 some changes were made in order to keep us safer and most are still with us today. As we slowly start to reopen in phases we will start to see some of these changes and ideas come out and some will work and some won't. Some of these changes may end of being permanent while others might be just around until there is a vaccine. No matter what the key is to start getting back to somewhat normal.
Here are 7 changes to the way we used to travel:
#1 Face Masks
JetBlue was first to announce that as of May 4 all passengers will be required to wear a face mask in order to fly. I have a feeling other airlines will follow and Canadian authorities have already mandated that anyone flying through Canadian airports must cover their nose and mouth. As much as I am not a fan of the face mask I would wear it if it means I can travel. Here is a link to each airline's current policy
#2 Social Distancing
This one could get tricky at places like theme parks but there are already talks of how the theme parks could start using virtual lines and then when you do have to actually enter the attraction line there will be places marked on the ground showing you where to stand so that you are staying far enough apart.
Another way to distance will be allowing less people into the parks or onto cruise ships. I have heard that when cruising starts again the ships will be sailing with a lot less guests in order to give everyone more room. I have also seen theme parks talking about limiting the number of guests per day.
Airlines are saying they plan to do things like leave the middle seats open and try to keep passengers as spread out as possible. I have even seen an idea for how airplanes might change seating configurations so that the middle seat faces the other direction and there are some sort of plexiglass partitions. I don't know if I see that happening anytime soon but maybe flying will somehow become a little more comfortable after all this.
#3 Relaxed Cancellation and Change Policies
This is one I would like to see stick around but doubt it will. At least for now the airlines, cruise lines, and most hotels are offering much better cancellation and change policies. This way you are able to book now and if things are not better or you are feeling sick you can cancel or change without losing all your money. Cruise lines have already said that if a guest is not feeling well even the day the cruise is to start they can cancel and won't lose everything. They would rather people didn't travel while sick just because they don't want to lose their money. I really like this change because it allows us all to plan something to look forward to but at the same time know we are not going to be severely penalized if it doesn't work out.
#4 Temperature Scans and Health Checks
Before the cruises stopped sailing many had started to take guest temperatures at boarding and would deny anyone with a fever. I have heard that most will continue this practice when cruising starts again. I have even heard plans for the ports to be set up with a scanning feature that you walk through as you enter to check in for the cruise. Both guests and crew will be checked before boarding. I have heard this could be something that goes beyond just cruising but also to the theme parks and maybe even the airports. We might also have to fill out a heath questionnaire similar to what we had to do before boarding a cruise but that could now apply to all forms of travel.
#5 More Cleaning and Sanitizing procedures
Everything from cruise ships, airplanes, theme parks, hotels, and really anything where people will come and go needs to step up sanitizing plans.
I think we will see a lot of high touch points changed into something like guests using an app or something on their own phone to do certain things like check in and even opening their room door. Princess Cruise was already ahead of the game on this with their Ocean Medallion, which I tested out in December. It really allows guests to avoid a lot of high touch things and even avoid standing in line for food. I am sure we will start seeing new technology for other things too.
Airlines and hotels are already using things like electrostatic sprayers or ultraviolet-light technology to clean. Hilton has started placing a seal on room doors that will tell when a room was clean and that it hasn't been opened since. Hyatt is planning to add a hygiene manager to each hotel to oversee cleaning and make sure everything needed is available to both employees and guests.
#6 More Hand Sanitizer and Hand Washing Stations Everywhere
Let's face it a big key to this virus is we touch something that has the virus on it and then we touch our face so if both surfaces and our hands are cleaned often that is a big way to get rid of this. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be much more readily available. I can see things like these popping up all over and can see many places requiring guests to wash before they can enter a line or something like that. Cruise Lines were already ahead on this one as they have had hand washing stations and wipes set up before any place you would eat or when you would return to the ship from port for a long time. I can already picture the sanitizing stations being added to Theme Park entrances just the way security bag checks were added. I can even see it added at airports in the same way TSA check was added. Who knows maybe someone is working on the new airport scanning machine that both looks for the bad things people might be hiding on themselves and at the same kills any germs that might be hiding too.
#6 Bye-Bye Buffets
I have never really been a fan of the way most buffets work where anyone and everyone is touching everything so I will be glad to see this change. In places that will still be sort of like a buffet I think we will see more servers taking over all parts for us so the only thing we do is hold our plate and food is placed on it.
#7 Immunity Passports
This is one I really do not agree with but some countries have started what is pretty much an immunity passport which says you already had the virus and recovered so they are assuming you are now immune so you are free to travel. I think there are too many variables in this one for it to make sense so I hope this one doesn't happen.
Some of these are already happening and others are my speculation. Some might stick around for good and others might not but either way I am glad to see us making steps to get the world back open!
It used to be that a staycation was something you did when you wanted a quick, cheap getaway without going far from home. So maybe you stayed within a couple hours drive from home and maybe got a hotel for a night or maybe it was just a day trip. Now that we cannot really go anywhere, a staycation literally means staying at home but trying to feel like you are taking a mini vacation.
Let's go with a beach or cruise theme for this staycation. Next week I will post ideas for a Theme Park type of staycation.
Let's get your 5 Senses involved -
1. Sound - check out spotify for sounds of the ocean or if you want more than just the sound tune into the live feed from one of my favorite island stops - Soggy Dollar Bar live.
2. Sight - If you want to go one step further, bring your beach chair or beach towel into the living room and if you have a smart tv search for something like ocean sounds on you tube and now you have your beachfront view.
3. Scent - Lighting a candle is an easy way to get a beach scent in your house. When I think of what the beach smells like I think coconut but there are quite a few other options for beach scented candles - check out amazon to find your favorite beach smell. If you don't have any candles but have a bottle of sunblock handy break that out and put some on even if you are staying inside since that usually has a beach scent or at least makes you think of the beach.
4. Taste - An umbrella drink totally screams vacation so check out this link for some Caribbean Cocktails. (Painkiller is the Soggy Dollar original so if you are tuned into their webcam might as well whip up some of those)
You cannot forget about the food - sorry but in this case you have to be the chef and server - check out this link for the Most Requested Cruise Recipes.
5. Touch - is a little harder since you cannot really bring sand or the ocean into your living room. If you have a yard, maybe a pool or sandbox will help. You might have to settle for pretending a fan is an ocean breeze.
A few extra touches you could add -
1. Do your own turndown service - add a little chocolate to the pillow and maybe even figure out how to make a towel animal. This could be a cute surprise for your spouse or kids.
2. Have a formal night - get all dressed up in your fancy clothes and enjoy a special dinner (maybe order take out from your favorite local restaurant).
3. Unplug! One of my favorite things about flying and cruising is that you are a bit disconnected from the world even if just for a little bit. No news, no phone calls, no emails. Even if you only do it for an hour I think it would really help. Grab a book or your kindle and find a "lounge chair on deck" (in other words your couch) to read or just take a nap.
Vacation is all about taking a break from reality so even though we are stuck at home doesn't mean we cannot do that for a little bit.
Share your Staycation to win!
Let's make this even more fun by adding a little contest to it. Take a photo of your staycation and post it to win a $25 Amazon gift card! Use #stressfreestaycation. Post your photos to instagram and tag me @coleentravel or on Facebook tag me @ColeenSwezey or @travelwithnostress. You can also email me your photo if you don't want to post it anywhere. This contest will run through April 30th and I will share the winners in the following week's newsletter. I will also offer $50 when you book your next vacation just for participating in this contest.
If you are like me you are tired of hearing about the C word- and no I don't mean the next Tuesday one or even Cancer which has been called the big C. Right now the C word is Corona-virus (Covid-19) from China and it has people going Crazy.
This C word is causing Chaos, Changes, Cancellations, and Closures.
Instead people should use a few other C words like:
People are freaking out and doing things like stealing face masks and hand sanitizer from hospitals or stocking up on things like this is the end of the world. A plane made an emergency landing over a man freaking out over a women sneezing and turns out it is just allergies. It can be hard to tell fact from over blown media scares so let's think back to some of these other scares in the past few years.
In the travel industry we have rode out many other things like this - do you remember Zika? SARS? Swine Flu (H1N1)? How about Ebola? They didn't happen that long ago but now if you were to do a Google search on what is Zika you will see a box on the right that says extremely rare. The others also say rare too and if you look at the number of people that die from those it is small. At the time they were in the news everyone was worried about getting it and doing things similar to now. Those all passed and we survived. You take more chances of dying in a car accident every day you go out of your house, so why let something that is just a flu make you think you are going to die.
Here is my personal plan on dealing with this C word:
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.
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