The Mexican Riviera via Holland America Line - Day 1


Hayward to Santa Cruz, brunch, Santa Cruz to Hayward. Nap, gym session and finish packing. This One Busy Bee was ready to board a Southwest flight from Oakland to San Diego to catch my first Holland AmericaLine cruise to Mexico. My friend, Catherine, arrived. We chit chatted, got my brown leather couch ready for her brief overnight stay and attempted to go to sleep. Unfortunately, I couldn’t relax

With very sleepy eyes, my Sims on the FreePlay version were all occupied for well after I left for the airport at 4 AM, I was all up to date on social media, made my posts for my several social media accounts (ex: Facebook) and my email has been checked. This is why I typically do not go to the gym in the evening. My body is being told to get the day started. So, I didn’t sleep at all.

We were on time on hitting the road at 4 AM. It was a short drive to the 98th Street exit near the Oakland Airport and was able to self-park and keep my key at the AirPark parking lot. I normally park at Park N’ Travel on Doolittle but they were fully booked unfortunately. The shuttle bus that was there when we arrived took off and left us in the cold which felt like ages. There is no inside or covered waiting area near the exit. Perhaps we should have waited in the car, but would they have come to get us? Our driver showed up, was friendly and greeted us. There was a small flat screen TV facing us and it had the stickers on it as if it was for sale. A mobile-Best Buy! We stopped at the shuttle drop off and the driver failed to take the second piece of luggage. We said our good-byes and walked to Terminal 2. There was a terrible smell in the air. Good thing we were leavings.

Check-in was done the day before, luggage tags were printed at the kiosk and they were taken to a counter. Then we had to go thru security. It was much quicker at 4:30 am. Also, this time I didn’t encourage Catherine to do something silly in the scanner. When Mercedes and I were at JFK in September, I jokingly told her to ‘do that thing I taught you.’ She moved too much while getting scanned and she received a nice, personal pat down. I don’t think Catherine was awake enough for my silliness.

One thing we forgot to do was get cash to spend at ports. I normally get change beforehand thru my bank. I was without pesos. We both took out cash at the ATMs conveniently located at the top of the escalator. If you’re a Wells Fargo or Bank of America customer, no fees for you. Or, if you’re like Catherine and banks with Mechanic’s Bank. ATM fees are refunded. We can exchange the cash in Mexico. I’m not worried about the exchange rate. But after all that, we didn't need pesos. Vendors took card and US dollars.

I was hungry, Catherine needed caffeine. Nothing was open except for Jamba Juice and I went with a bottled water, an Apple Cinnamon Pretzel which was unfortunately stale and a packet of fruit snacks in case I need something to eat on the plane. Catherine waited in the yet to be open Starbucks line, along with many other folks. They took too long for her and she opted in for a bottled water and a snack bar. The pizza spot also opened at 4:45 AM.

In travels past, I usually wait til the very end to board. I prefer to not stand in line, just to wait more while boarding the plane. Travelers take a minute to get settled in, put their carry-ons in their desired places, etc. I am not that kind of traveler. I’m small enough to not be too much of an inconvenience going thru the plane to my seat or climbing over folks to get to the desired window seat. However, I have recently had my name called a couple of times by the airport saying that the plane is boarding. Thankfully, I have never missed a flight but I have had a few close calls. It may or may not have been due to whiskey. OK, a lot of whiskey.

Exhausted, I got situated in my seat and passed out before the safety presentation began. I even dreamt! That deep sleep was much needed. I didn’t wake until the plane landed in San Diego. I looked to my left and it was grey. Was it grey from the smoke from the fires in Los Angeles County or was it just foggy? According to the taxi driver we met later that morning, it was just foggy.

With hours to spare, Catherine and I contemplated going downtown or to the Hilton nearby and sit at a restaurant with a view of a marina. To avoid some extra costs, we just camped out at the Pacific BreezeCafĂ© and had breakfast, read our magazines and chit chatted in between. I love me a croissant breakfast sandwich but this was mediocre. Though I also love the croissants by Pillsbury, the croissant here was flaky but way too dense. I didn’t eat it. Who needs the extra carbs anyway? The egg was under cooked and the potatoes were covered in ketchup and Tobasco. Catherine had the just two eggs, bacon and potatoes and toast. I learned that she doesn’t like her eggs any other was except scrambled, she doesn’t like tomatoes or mushrooms, or olives. Olives, I agree with. While in Santorini, olives were served with everything. My travel partner there, Papichulo, and I always left them uneaten. This is my first time traveling with Catherine. We will be learning a lot about each other over the next seven days.
 


Catherine read her People magazine, I picked up the Exquisite Weddings magazine focusing on San Diego. A Bride of mine considered San Diego as her wedding destination. I would be happy to travel down to this part of Southern California  to add another beach wedding to my list of experience. I browsed through the magazine, found the vendors mentioned on Instagram and followed their accounts. It helps to follow these vendors and see what they have to offer and photos of past events they have held. Of the images in the magazines, I loved everything about this Bride pictured below. The hair, the gorgeous bouquet and dress. Stunning.


Hours have passed and we caught a taxi to the nearby Port Terminal #2 to board the Oosterdam cruise ship by Holland America Line. It was a large ship from afar and it was to be our home for the next seven days. I have always been fascinated with hotels and how they function. This ‘hotel’ had the capabilities of floating on water and has everything you could ask for. I was excited to be on my second cruise. It has been five years since I sailed on the Reflection with Celebrity Cruises.


The $10 cab ride took us to the terminal, unloaded our luggage and we met with a porter immediately. He handed us a luggage tag to write our information on including our room number. I had to log into the account in order to reconfirm the room number. The tags were attached and we left them behind as we went thru security, filled out a health form stating whether or not you’ve been vomiting, had diarrhea or a headache due to those symptoms. NOPE! We made our way to the check in counter. The nice lady eventually found our room. Odd that in their system, we had two extra people in our room. We did not have room for that and no, we are not sharing staterooms. They found the error and confirmed our room, took our photo and handed our keys which acted as our boarding pass, card to order beverages on beverage package and credit card for items not pre-paid. We were given a boarding number and took a seat with the rest of the travelers.

The demographics of the travelers on our ship were definitely 40-50 plus, couples or families and Caucasian. There were a handful of Asians, one or two African Americans and little to no Latinos. I remember meeting a family of six of Latinos from Los Angeles on my last cruise. Here, I don’t see any. I would be more than happy to increase the number of people of color to cruising. I enjoy it.
Boarding the ship was easy. After a picture taken in front of a blank screen, we made our way up the stairs, zig zagged down corridors and used our card for the first time boarding the ship. We were greeted by employees and asked if we needed to take the elevator up. Sadly, we headed down to the first floor to room 1104. No elevator needed. We took the stairs down. To our surprise, our room was quite spacious. We had a lot of closet space, a full bath with tub, storage space, a queen sized bed near an unobstructed window and a breakfast corner with a booth and small table that raises up or lowers. We are given two awesome bathrobes, a television with movies, TV shows and live programs like the news.





Our luggage was not delivered yet so we went to explore the ship. We found the incredible selection of food, the decks, pools and more. We hung out at bars and I had bubbles. Not tired from not sleeping much and excited to be on the ship, I was happy to be on the boat. 
















At 3 PM, a drill was mandatory for all passengers to go to the designated part of the deck and listen to instructions and learn how to properly put on the lifebelt. This training is much more bearable with a glass of champagne in hand. We met a friendly older gentleman named Cornelius. We would continue to see him every day during our trip and slowly meet more and more of his family.

We went back to our stateroom to find our luggage has arrived. We put on our bikinis and were the first to hit hot tub and waited for the ship to depart the port. The playlist of songs were a bit off and the same four songs were repeated. The speaker systems are bit out of date and you can never really hear what the Captain is saying. Only one 15-year-old boy was brave enough to come talk to us in the hot tub. He was Vancouver, Washington, where I lived for about nine months during my sophomore year of high school. He was very bright and communicated well with answering our questions with his answer and asked a follow up question. Quite impressed. The city of San Diego started to fade and we said good bye to Derrick and got ready for dinner.





In dinner attire, we sat at a table with two other couples also from California. Tom and Susie were the first people we met while still at the port and were from San Diego. Garry and Cathy were from San Jose. Both couples were older but we had awesome conversations and a few laughs. The gents were Vietnam vets and Catherine was saying that she isn't exposed to people of that kind of background Susie stated she thought it was great that we were so young and well-traveled. That’s the goal, Susie!

The food was incredible. I definitely had an appetite, even with the rocking of the ship. It was a three-course meal and I had the Caesar salad with delicious sardines, the New York strip cooked medium with a cauliflower gratin and greens and an apple crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I ate every single morsel except the clump of fat on the steak, including a taste of Catherine’s French Onion Soup which they should have every day and her spinach and fruit from her entrĂ©e. She enjoyed her bread pudding but I didn’t have a bite. I am going to eat very well on this cruise.






We were going to go to the Singles meeting at 7:30 PM but we were pretty tired. We later heard from another guest that there were nine single women and one male. Lucky him! We said goodbye to our dining companions and made our way back to room just a floor below. I changed into my Section 36 tank top and skiing penguins pajama pants my best friend gave me and climbed into bed. I had no problems knocking out. I am extremely excited to be on this cruise and the first day was amazing.

 Day 2

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