"the trusted voice of teens who travel"
June 15th, 2011
This year over spring break my family and I took a one-week cruise to Baja Mexico. We went on Holland America Line, leaving from San Diego. Our ship, and home for the next week, was the MS Oosterdam. When we left the San Diego pier, we were able to see the entire harbor as well as a few military bases. One of these bases was a US Air Force base, which included all types of military helicopters and planes.
That night, we went to our first dinner in the Vista Dinning Room, which is the main dinning room on board the ship. There are a variety of other restaurants, lounges, and bars throughout the ship. After dinner we went to see the welcome performance in the Vista Lounge, the theater aboard the ship. Performing that night and throughout the cruise were singers, dancers, a comedian, a magician, and an impressionist who was a finalist on the show “America’s Got Talent”.
For the next two days we were at sea. On our way to the Mexican Riviera, there were many things aboard the ship to see and do, including cooking classes, movies, trivia, competitions, Bingo, and a kids’ and teen club. I also enjoying going to the buffet restaurant to get an ice cream, pizza, or whatever I wanted to eat.
The next three days we spent on land in the cities of Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. While in port the ship offered a variety of shore excursions to see these beautiful cities. My family and I went on a tour to see some of the hidden beaches of Puerto Vallarta as well as a waterfall that we were able to swim under. In Cabo San Lucas we drove around in a dune buggy to the beaches and dessert. We also took a small boat to see the famous rock arch. (See photo below.)
After we left Cabo San Lucas, we headed back to San Diego. When the Oosterdam pulled into port and after one final breakfast in the Vista dining room we said good bye to the ship.
I was just about the same age as Tyler when I was last on a cruise, an experience that jumpstarted my fascination with ocean liners and certainly influenced my decision to take the family on our first cruise aboard a large ship together. It was the boys’ spring break from school and we decided on Holland America’s ms Oosterdam, which left out of San Diego and traveled to the Mexican Riviera.
It didn’t take long to realize why cruising has become especially popular with families. For starters, Holland America offers a “Club HAL” kids program for tweens (8-12) and teens (13-17) on all their cruises, which pretty much guarantees Tyler and his younger brother always had something to do. Since there were 300 kids on-board our particular trip, there were certainly no shortage of other kids for them to meet.
There’s also no shortage of food, which is often one of cruising’s biggest draws for parents. Since our kids are old enough to read a menu and order on their own, one night we sent them to dinner in the main dinning room by themselves while my wife and I took advantage of a special dinner being offered in their premiere Pinnacle Grill.
But make no mistake, we were not looking to escape from our kids during the weeklong vacation. Just the opposite. I was looking forward to reliving some of the experiences I remember so fondly and sharing them with the boys. Playing shuffleboard in the ocean breeze, trying our luck at Jackpot Bingo, taking part in a ping-pong tournament and going to the Vista Lounge to enjoy comedians, illusionists, and a finalist of America’s Got Talent. Hey, on what other occasion would you go to a nightclub with your kids?
Then, of course, there were the ports-of-call. Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas were our only two stops since Mazaltan was taken off the itinerary because of State Department warnings. These Mexican destinations were new to me and since cruises generally only afford you a few hours to take them in, we decided organized shore excursions were the way to go. At first, I had major trepidations about going this route. With over 2,000 people on-board, I figured we’d find ourselves packed into tour buses with dozens, if not hundreds of other passengers. I was pleasantly surprised when our group size was actually less then twenty.
For Puerto Vallarta, we chose the Hidden Beaches by Sea & Horseback tour led by Vallarta Adventures. This six-hour outing took us to the traditional fishing village of Quimixto on the southern shore of the bay. The only way to get there is by boat. The tropical jungle along the coast was quite a contrast compared to the developed and tourist soaked beaches of Puerto Vallarta. While in this charming little settlement, we took a scenic horseback ride to a nice waterfall where we all enjoyed a swim in the refreshing waters. Pizota was the next stop – a tiny beach community where the pace of life is distinctly relaxed. Its private beach and pristine waters provided the perfect location for kayaking and snorkeling. The only problem was that the ocean was too churned up to really see any fish and we only had an hour to spend there, which didn’t give us nearly enough time to relax and unwind before returning to your ship. The lunch prepared and served by the locals was delicious and as authentic as it gets.
In Cabo San Lucus, we picked the three-hour Dune Buggy, Beach & Swim excursion. After meeting our guide and being assigned one of their buggies, we drove through town and then out into the desert. We cruised caravan style along the beach highway for approximately two hours, including some photo stops along the way. Our final stop was at Chileno Bay Beach, were we spent an hour of free time for sunbathing and swimming.
So when we returned back home from my first cruise vacation in over thirty years, my parents came to visit and were anxious to hear all about it. Thinking about how much fun we all had, I suggested that we consider taking a cruise all together next year – maybe to the Caribbean, where my parents cruised with me when I was younger. They thought that was a great idea, so apparently it’s not going to be another thirty years between cruises, which I know suites Tyler just fine.