Los Angeles, CA – January, 2016 So here we are outside LA. Some may wonder why we went from San Diego to Yuma then back to Los Angeles so here is the explanation.
One of our dream scenarios for living on the road involved hanging out in cruise ports and being ready to jump on a cruise ship with hardly a moment’s notice in order to get that dream vacation for a song! That’s not exactly how it panned out, but there is always next year!
I started pricing cruises from southern California in the middle of November. I watched many sailings come and go on the websites and all the available cabins disappeared around $500 per person. Many promotional offers also came and went. The one that held the most appeal for us was the unlimited drink package.
Since the last time we cruised (2010) many cruise lines have started offering beverage packages that include all you can drink for one low price. This is sometimes offered for free as an inducement to book a cruise. I was waiting for the price of one trip to go down but the free drink package was taken off the table. I called Norwegian Cruise Lines and was informed that this promotion was generally only offered on cruises booked 30 days in advance.
So I started looking at cruises sailing in early January. This is when we decided instead of hanging out in SoCal waiting for our cruise to leave we would drive a few hours over Yuma way and take care of those errands across the border (dentist, prescriptions, glasses).
I finally booked a 7 day cruise from LA sailing on January 3rd. I made the leap on black Friday and got both the unlimited drink package and specialty meals package, gratis. We ended up spending $1709. We prepaid all our gratuities so we could conceivably walk off the ship without owing them a single penny. Here is how it broke down:
$1098 Cabin with porthole at $549 pp
$188 Tips on the beverages/$161 and meals/$27 (they were free but you still have to tip the waiters and bar staff)
$189 prepaid service charges (they charge you $13.50 pp/per day to tip everyone else)
$234 Port fees and taxes
If you happened to have read my post on Budgeting and Such you are probably saying “wait a sec, where’d they scrape up $1700 to go on vacation?!?” Well, here’s the best part. We budget $20 per day for campground fees. As an additional inducement for us to stay under this budget, I have planned all year to do something special with whatever we had left over. After guestimating our lot rent through our one year anniversary, I expect to be $1300 under budget.
I had hoped to find a cruise for under this amount (which I almost did if it weren’t for those pesky tips) but decided to go for it anyway and squeeze the remaining cost from my grocery and entertainment budgets for January (and February if necessary). We’re going to need to diet for 6 weeks after the cruise anyway!
We got a very nice surprise a couple days before we sailed, an email that said we could upgrade to a balcony room for $100 per person. I called them immediately and took them up on this. Balconies make a cruise so much more enjoyable. I’ll happily sacrifice another $200 from somewhere in our budget for that luxury.
The cruise turned out awesome! Not having to worry about a bar bill when we disembarked made it a lot more relaxing. Plus, we were free to try some cocktails we wouldn’t have otherwise. The food was amazing! I wouldn’t have normally paid to visit the specialty restaurants since they generally charge at least $20 pp but we got 4 meals free and it really added to the variety of food and our enjoyment of the cruise.
Cabo San Lucas was our first and favorite stop. Here is the entrance to the harbor with their famous arch all the way to the left and the town on the right.
We arrived in port at noon and since they have no pier we had to wait our turn for a tender to take us to shore. We finally arrived about 1:30. We walked about a mile to a great beach.
It was right in town but just about perfect. The water was surprisingly clear. Part of the beach was very crowded but a short walk got us away from the crowds and we enjoyed a couple hours of swimming and sunning before taking a water taxi back to where we could catch a tender to the ship.
Mazatlan was pretty great also. They had a pier so we were able to get off the ship almost as soon as we docked. We walked straight to the historic district and explored it and its very large market all morning. They have the most stunning cathedral.
This city has done a great job of making visitors feel welcome. The expats have formed a volunteer group of tourist aides. They wear blue shirts and introduce themselves as soon as you get off the ship. They are located throughout the city and offer assistance often and are never far away if you have a question or problem. We have never felt safer or more welcome in a foreign city.
Puerto Vallarta was our final stop. We got off early again but they don’t really have much of interest within walking distance of the pier. It’s a 7 mile trip to downtown and the nearest beach. So we went back to the ship and after lunch we asked a taxi to take us to the downtown beach. They dropped us in the shopping district and it was an easy walk to the beach.
The beach was nice but the waves on this particular day were pretty fierce. So we commandeered lounge chairs at a beach restaurant, ordered some drinks, and spent a couple hours enjoying the sun.
The entertainment on board was exceptional. They had comedians, a magician, acrobats of the cirque du solei type, variety shows. Every night had top notch entertainment. Each show lasted about an hour and they had two shows a night at 7 and 9.
No blog about a cruise would be complete without a shot of the local wildlife.
We had a wonderful time and we felt our money was well spent.