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Travel Journal: Miami - Los Angeles

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

January 14-30, 2019


Things went very well getting to and on the ship. Oceania had lots of people around to help. No one seemed fazed that we arrived at the port with a truck and two taxis full of boxes and luggage, including 15 cartons of wine. For $50 to the leader and $20 to his assistant, some sort of large lift on wheels took all our belongings, and not long after we got to our cabin, everything arrived.

The butler assigned to us could not have been more helpful and having Fernando was a great move. We had a little trouble getting him on the ship despite having all the paperwork, but that problem got cleared up in about half an hour and before we left the waiting area. Then, within less than two hours of our getting to our cabin, our entire office was set up including two computers and the magic jack. There is free internet for each cabin but unless one makes arrangements in advance, only one computer can be on the interne at the same time. We got it set up so that both laptops, and I Pads, Alex and the Magic Jack all can be operational at the same time. Of course, the wireless has to work and that is not always the case.

Next to us is an very affluent family with three young children who are sailing around the world. The kids are in private school and the parents, whom I suspect to be important donors, obtained permission for the kids to miss school and sail around the world for six months.

We had dinner at Toscana, more fully described on the exhibit dealing with food and drink. We went to sleep early having gotten up very early, before 4 a.m. to be ready to leave for the port in Miami. This was one time when we could not be late or we would miss the priority boarding to which we were entitled so we were more than on time. In fact, the traffic was not a bad as it could have been and we arrived at the ship around 10:30.

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We just watched the ship pulling into Havana Harbor. We will be meeting our guide at 8:30.

We received a message on our cell phones that the expenses in Cuba are between $2.00 and $3.50 a minute including What’s Ap so we will not be using our phones except in an emergency and to count our steps.

Lots of rules in Cuba. No American credit cards are accepted nor are, for the most part, U.S. dollars. Because we booked our cruise before June 2017, we were exempted from restrictions that prohibit tours except with certain approved U.S. government agents. We have to exchange U.S. dollars for Cuban currency as soon as we get off the ship, pay a nontrivial fee for doing so, and then convert back what we do not spend paying another fee. I am going to ask the guide whether they will advance all the costs and allow us to pay at the end purchasing on the amount needs to reimburse him.

Things went amazingly well in terms of our getting comfortable on the ship. Our internet works, Alexa works (so far), we are essentially unpacked and comfortably set up. Most importantly, Mom took a bath in the portable tub, and pronounced “this can work”. Now, as we begin our third week, sailing to our last port of the first segment—Los Angeles, it turns out that the tub has really worked much better than ever expected. So well, in fact, that assuming we can agree on where to store it, we will keep the tub for future cruises where there may not be a real bathtub.

We have an excellent butler. He is from India. Very knowledgeable and extremely accommodating. He stored all our wine, in his personal locker awaiting further instructions from Oceania as to how the cruise line would handle wine brought on board by us and many others. Subsequently, we hit our first major glitch because the ship will not store our wine. It must be in our cabin. Roberto, the head of food and beverage, subsequently managed to get everything into our cabin, most under the bed and in an extra dresser he put in our living room so the wine is very unobtrusive.

They were very nice about it. Roberto, the head of all food and beverage, from Sorrento came to our room, was very nice and said he would take responsibility for finding a way to store all of our wine in the least obtrusive way. However, the bottom line remains the same and we are not happy. Of course, as the cruise progresses and we drink the wine, the inconvenience will diminish.

I advised both our travel agent and the person at Oceania with whom we dealt to help arrange everything because I doubt they were aware that we would have this problem. Most likely, there are not that many who have brought on 90 bottles of wine onboard. I asked the Oceania representative Dianne Blazquez whom I brought a very good bottle of champagne as a gift. To ask management to waive the corkage on the wine we bring to the restaurants. The answer to my inquiry, and I am not optimistic, will be set forth below because I know everyone will be most anxious to know the outcome. I could have approached Roberto about this, but he was so nice about everything, I instinctively felt it was not appropriate.

Oceania improved the storage in the owner’s suites so we were able to put everything away. I had to be shown how to turn on the televisions. In order to do so, one first has to listen to about an 8 minute presentation on shipboard safety. Who could have known that?

The good news is that both CNBC and MSNBC are on the television so I can watch the market and what is going on in American politics. There is also Fox News for (fill in the blanks but “whackos” comes to mind)

How people packed for six months who had to fly to meet the ship is somewhat of a mystery. However, although we have not seen that many people, there are as many using canes as there are those who look like they intend to go to the gym everyday day. Looking around, I remarked to Mom that I did not see any other members of our Temple. However, as the cruise continued, and I am writing this sentence, as we begin our third week, and there many Jewish passengers and about 40 attend Friday night services which last about 30 minutes. I doubt we will ever attend, but, since Passover, takes place while we are on this cruise, my bet is that we will participate then.

Because we are in an owner’s suite, we get our choice of six bottles of excellent liquors each segment. That is 48 bottles in all. Stef when we get to Italy, we will have our driver bring several bottles and ask you to put them in our apartment. There will be so much that if you want anything for yourself, just let me know. If any of our children want something for their homes, just let me know what you want and leave enough room in your bags to take it back.

PORT ONE: HAVANA, CUBA.

Our first day could not have worked out better. I had found, through Trip Advisor, a tour operator Cubaoutings Tours Company The ratings for this company were unbelievably great. Not only were they rated #1 out of 158 tour companies, out of almost 2000 reviews, all but a handful were rated “excellent”.

The cost for a combined walking and car tour was 160 cuc. which, comparative to tours elsewhere, is very inexpensive. By way of example, a tour guide in Israel charges a minimum of $550 a day. There is currency exchange in the port terminal. $300 dollars after all commissions, resulted in 260 cuc. Although we were told that U.S. Dollars were not acceptable, nor are credit cards, the cigar store accepted dollars at a very favorable rate and our guide was happy to accept a $40 dollar tip which eliminated the need to exchange additional dollars. A great lunch, more fully described on the food exhibit attached, cost 60 cuc.

HOT TIP: Exchange euros instead of dollars and avoid the charges for using dollars.

Our guide Irini was easy to find as we walked outside of the terminal. She is 30 years old, and, although she has never been out of Cuba, her English is flawless. She is very articulate and knowledgeable, and has worked full time as a guide for several years. Her income is greater than that of her parents and her boyfriend combined and her Father is an engineer. It is also substantially higher than the income of doctors, lawyers, architects and accountants as professionals are employees of the government and earn approximately $1200 a month. Tour operators and certain other businesses are not. Contact information is as follows: Irina.ferraz@nauta.cu. Telephone 535818966.

The owner to the tour company is Gloria who can be reached at Cubaoutings@gmail.com. She is very responsive.

After walking around for a little more than two hours during which we saw all four major squares of Old Havana, we met up with our driver and spent the rest of the day driving around to see the sights of Havana. Our driver, who was happy to receive a tip of 15 cuc was driving a spotless 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. Havana is full of vintage American cars many of which are convertibles. It is similar to go to an antique automobile show.

When we first met up with our guide she asked us what we would like to do and what our interests were. Barbara/Mom, hereinafter referred to as “BGM” so as not to be confused with other BM’s, said she was interested in art. Just before lunch, we were driven to the home of a quite famous artist Jose Furster. It was a great experience, He does wonderful painted ceramic tiles, very colorful, and sort of like mosaics because they contain multiple pieces. We bought four small tiles for $30 each unframed which we will have framed for the apartment in Florence. Big pieces already framed cost $200, but BGM did not like any enough to buy even one. Anyone interested in Google “Jose Fuster” to see some of his work. His paintings are about $5000.

After lunch we drove around to see a great deal of Havana including a stop at very large sculpture known as “Christ of Havana” it was done by a Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera who won the commission in 1953. It is on a hilltop overlooking the bay and is very nice.

After being warned that we could be approached to by Cuban Cigars which were really not legitimate or were rip offs in some form, we were taken to the allegedly best cigar store, where they also sold Havana Club Rum, ranging in price for $8.00 to $5000 . It was a very busy place. We bought their best Cohiba cigars. When buy 5 for $23 each, a 6th cigar is given.

There are still few, if any, freedoms in Cuba. Essentially, there is no middle class or high class. Things will remain that way until Cuba is a capitalist nation.

We finished the day walking through the bazaar for about half an hour. It is not worth more time than that. BGM bought an inexpensive wood tray and a cigar cutter for 15 cuc.

We rated our experience at our first port as an A.

PORT 2: CARTAGENA, COLUMBIA

A pleasant surprise, perhaps because we really had no expectations and it would have been difficult to be disappointed. It was a relatively short stay because we disembarked at 8:30 and returned at 1:30 for a 2 p.m. departure. It was a good thing we were not late because the ship left the dock precisely on time and anyone a minute late would have been left behind.

Our guide Martin, the owner of the Company was our guide. He has five other guides, but we were fortunate enough to get him because we were the first to book with him for the day. His fees $220 including the driver and certain admissions was very reasonable. Although one would have to say he is fluent in English, he was not easy to understand. The car was comfortable and the driver was excellent.

HOT TIP: The weather hit 91 so dress accordingly and be sure to get an air conditioned vehicle.

Our guide, having been born in Cartagena, and being a second generation guide who has guided for 25 years was extremely knowledgeable, literally knowing every street and every edifice on the particular block.

The best emeralds in the world come from Columbia. Brazil is second. Emeralds are mined in other countries, including, and this was news to us, in North Carolina. After driving around much of the City including a tour of a very interesting food market, which our guide showed us in detail from the car but would not allow us to walk through because of the smells and safety, and a visit to an historic monastery, we spent the rest of our time walking through the walled old city. We visited both famous fortress and a famous monastery. One of the advantages of having a private guide and a car was that we could visit the monastery. Tour buses could not get to the monaster.

The food market is right on the water. We could see all of the fisherman displaying their fish just caught. Most people would come to right to this market to buy their fish. It is doubtful that much fish is sold in the supermarkets.

Columbia also produces some of the best coffee in the world. Most Americans are family with the name Juan Valdez. We stopped for coffee at a very busy Juan Valdez coffee shop. BGM thought the coffee was better than I did. Frankly, I prefer the coffee we drink at Panera.

Close by is the Emerald Museum. There was a long line to get in but our guide bypassed the line and put us in the hands of a guide who gave us a tour and a very educational lecture about emeralds and how to judge their quality. Emeralds are not nearly as difficult as diamonds when it comes to determining their quality because the color of emeralds is one of the major factors and it is easy to see if the color is good. We also saw a mock emerald mine.

After the tour, we had the opportunity to see emeralds for sale. When I asked our guide, before entering how the prices of emeralds compared to the prices in the States, he said that we would pay three times more than we would pay in Columbia. So, I was interested in seeing what was available. Before setting forth our story that has three important points, I skip ahead to the end of the story which is that we did not buy anything even though we found two items, cufflinks and earrings in which we were interested. By the way, we were assured that we were in the best and the most reputable establishment and that we would receive every price consideration.

Our salesperson told us what discount he could provide, but that, if we were really serious about buying something, he would ask whomever could give a better price, what the best price could be. I divert to ask you to keep in mind that all of what I am describing took place in late morning and that we had to be back on the ship no later than 1:30 both because we departed at 2 p.m. and because lunch service stopped by 2:15.

We had individual prices for each item and a price if we bought both items. While we were negotiating with the people in the store, I asked our guide whether, if we made a purchase, did he receive a kickback. I knew that this was customary in many places since, in Italy, kickbacks are a way of life. Concierges get paid for each customer they send to any restaurant, and almost everyone gets paid for connecting any buyer with any seller. When we did our apartment, I had made it clear that I would pay a fair price to the people helping us but that they were to make money only from us and pass on to us any savings offered to them for bringing us into the store or factory. Our now good friend Marco, then our interior architect, used to bring me the paperwork he received that reflected what the store had offered him.

Anyway, when I asked our guide, he was honest enough to admit that, yes, he would receive money if we bought but he did not say how much. When I told him I did not like that arrangement, that I had agreed to pay him exactly what he asked to guide us without negotiating, he did not acquiesce in any way. It was not the only reason no deal was made, but, because I knew that the store had built in a fee to our guide, we walked out of the shop.

We were substantially apart in the price for the two items. We were not interested in buying only one, because I wanted something for BGM and she wanted something for me. Think of the O Henry short story “The Gift of the Magi”. For those not familiar with this story, the Wife, without sufficient funds to buy her Husband a Christmas gift, sold her hair for $20 to a hairdresser so she could buy him a chain for his watch. The Husband, when she presented her gift, her Husband, coincidentally named “Jim” told Wife that he sold his watch so he could buy combs for his her beautiful hair. So, now although they are left with gifts that neither one can use they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other and how priceless their love really is.

As we left the shop, the salesperson asked what price would be acceptable to us. BGM threw out a really lowball price that represented significantly more than a 50% discount off the original price. About an hour later, our guide received a phone call from the store that they would accept the price BGM threw out.

When we went back to the store to purchase the items, it was almost time to go back to the ship. The store did not have time to remove the posts from the earring to make them clipped so we did not make the purchase. However, the three principles to keep in mind or (1) find out if you are taken by a guide what is in it for the guide; and (2) do not be afraid to throw out a price substantially less than the alleged “best price”; and (3) do so early enough in the day so that the transactions can be completed within the time frame available.

Neither BGM nor I were as disappointed as our guide that these items were not purchased. It was, however, an educational and interesting experience.

We do recommend the guide. The contact information is info@cartagenatourguides.com. Telephone 57 300 658 74 99.

There are some very nice hotels in Cartagena, and it has the reputation of having very good restaurants. Although our rating for the short day in Cartagena is lower that our rating for the day in Havana, if we had the choice of spending a long weekend in one of the places, we would choose to come back to Cartagena over Havana. Cartagena is really beautiful, set on the sea. BGM particularly likes walled old cities.

We rate our experience at our second port between B and B+.

PORT 3: PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA

This is the first port where we signed up for an Oceania tour rather than to book a private tour. The main reason was that San Jose, which has about 3 million of the country’s 5 million people was almost two hours from where the ship docked. The tour took over 8 hours but 4 hours was spent on the bus and an hour at a very good lunch.

We saw a lot of San Jose driving around on the bus. The two attractions which we visited, within walking distance of each other were to Gold Museum which was interesting, and the National Theatre which was really beautiful. However, these are not attractions which justify a full day to see.

What made the day so interesting was what we learned from our very excellent guide Aaron who, it turns out, is 1 of 2500 Jews in the entire country. Costa Rica, in virtually every respect is the class of Central America, is not all of Latin America. Latin America, is composed of Central America, South America and Mexico.

It has no army. It is a democratic country. The Vice President is a black woman. The President serves one four year term, but can wait 8 years and be president again. That has happened one time.

The medical care in Costa Rica is considered to be top notch and is recognized has having both the best medical veterinarian and schools in Central and South America. Columbia is known for the best ophthalmology and Argentina for heart care. When I asked about where Costa Ricans who could afford it went if they had cancer, the guide quickly responsed “oh, we go to Houston”.

Unlike Havana where there is no traffic because there are so few cars, there is a lot of traffic in San Jose because Costa Rica is a prosperous country and it is easy to own a car.

The main product is coffee. However, bananas are also an important product.

HOT TIP: If one is looking for a nice place to vacation in Central America, Costa Rica would be at the top of most lists not because there a great museums or other great attractions but because it is beautiful country with lots of nice resorts and leisure activities available.

We rate our experience at our third port as B.

PORT 4: CORINTO, NICARAGUA

This was our first experience booking a guide through Tours by Locals. When we disembarked, we learned that the guide assigned to take us for the day got sick. His last minute replacement Jimmy Gomez (jimmythemantours@gmail.com.) as well as our driver Byron were both terrific. We learned that the tour company only paid the very learned guide $50 for the entire day and the drive $20 keeping substantially more than 50% of what we paid. Our tips matched what they were paid, and they were very grateful.

There were many guides looking for work as we disembarked the ship. There was a band to greet us..

Most of the interesting places to see are not in Corinto, where we docked, but in the colonial city of Leon which is a little more than an hour’s drive away. Nicaragua has a corrupt government including the police. On the drive to Leon, our car was pulled over and the driver’s license, registration and vehicle were carefully checked. Everything was in order, but if there had been anything wrong, a hefty fine would have been imposed. That fine could then have been avoided by paying the police officer something less, but still a lot.

Nicaragua is the largest country by area in Central America (CA). CA was originally composed of 5 countries, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Subsequently, Panama and Belize were added. Although Mexico is considered part of Latin America because the language is Spanish but is not considered part of CA, because it is contiguous to the United States.

The main crops are sugar cane, peanuts and oranges. Nicaragua is known for its rum and we bought a bottle of 25 year old of Flor de Cana, their best rum which cost about $133.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America next to Haiti. There is huge unemployment in part due to the unstable government. Things have improved sufficiently that Oceania did not cancel coming to the port, but when I first tried to book a guide, I was told to wait because cruise ships were no longer docking in Nicaragua. There is no compulsory education.

The country does have an army which is controlled by the corrupt government. Get this: the Constitution has been amended so that the President can now serve an unlimited number of five year terms, AND the Vice President is the President’s Wife!

The national sport is baseball and the second sport is boxing. One of the greatest fighters in our lifetime was Alexis Aguello whom we saw fight a few times. He was from Managua, the capitol and went into politics are he stopped boxing becoming the vice mayor of Managua. If one goes on line, and looks into his death in 2009, it says he died after “apparently shooting himself through the heart”. Our guide said “no way, he was killed by his political opponents. Among other factors, there was no residue on his hands from the gun.

Aside from a great lunch more fully described on the “food exhibit”, we saw three very excellent sites. First, the boyhood home of Nicaragua’s post famous poet, who was also an important diplomat, Ruben Dario. I, generally, do not like “blank slept here” tours but this man’s life was so interesting, that I enjoyed the tour. The entrance fee was a donation of $1.00 per person.

We then went to Leon’s number one attraction, the Cathedral of Leon. It is a beautiful building and draws substantial crowds. Barbara and I, for reasons unknown, were selected to give a television interview by the government owned television station.

Our last site, before purchasing the rum and returning to the ship, was a very fine art museum which, in two separate buildings, had hundreds of very fine paintings.

When I was about 7 years old, and starting buying records to play on my Victrola, I liked a novelty song played by Guy Lombardo (one of the best of the “sweet bands”) called “Managua, Nicaragua”. The following partial lyric helps sum of my thoughts:

Managua. Nicaragua, what a wonderful spot

There’s coffee and bananas and a temperature hot

So take a trip and on a ship go sailing awa

Across the agua to Managua, Nicaragua

Olay

HOT TIP: Passengers docking in Nicaragua are far better booking private tours which are not expensive than taking a tour offered by the cruise line.

We rate our experience at our fourth port as A.

Port 5. MANZANILLO, MEXICO

This area is known for sail fishing and there is not much else to do. There are no museums. Other than the port, and water related activities, there are not sites or things to do of significance. It is a pretty place, but not much else. We found no tours of interest nor did we want to rent a taxi for about $30 a person to drive us to see “whatever” so we just walked around the town for two or three hours.

We went into some shops including a couple of grocery stores and stores where they sold inexpensive clothing. I started learning about Mexican Tequila, which I do not drink but other I know do. Some cost as much as $400. Not sure I will buy one of those. I did buy the best rum in Nicaragua but that cost about $135.

There was a pretty nice flea market virtually at the ship where there was some nice craft items and some hot sauces. There was about ten different kinds of sauces that cost $3 or $4 for one but could buy 2 bottles for $5. I bought two different kinds of Salsa Habanera, one orange and one green, and then, in a grocery store, I bought a bottle of salsa picante (red) for $1.00. Figure when Charles and Steven are around, that this stuff will be consumed.

BGM got a very nice covered painted wooden bowl, suitable for popcorn for $20. She also bought a nice little purse for $9, She made many efforts to buy something to put over a bathing suit, but did not find anything “just right” although there were dozens of choices.

For $18, I bought a really nice shirt with a color that says “Manzanillo”. Most everything seemed inexpensive to the point that, although one could bargain, my heart was just not in trying to drive the price down a dollar or two. That is for people, including some of my best friends, who just like to play the game of getting the lowest possible price. My view, perhaps a minority view, but nevertheless one with which I am comfortable, is that if I want a particular item where the best price offered is $30 or less, I will buy it and now walk away for a few dollars. I am confident that the extra few dollars means much more to the vendor who probably has next to nothing than it does to me.

Some couples split up because one went sail fishing and one did not. Some people did not get off the ship or only got off for a very short period of time. The vast majority who did not go on tours where lunch was included, came back to the ship for lunch. There were no highly recommended restaurants at this port, and the prevailing view was to not risk getting sick particularly this early into a cruise that was several more months long for a lotof the passengers.

We came back to the ship for lunch, and then went back out to do a little more walking around and to purchase the aforementioned bowl and hot sauce at the nearby flea market. When we initially disembarked, we walked to the right and there was plenty to see. In fact, there was more to see, but it was time for lunch. It turned out that had we turned left, there was practically nothing to see so our second stay off the ship was very short.

The best thing about the day is that we got a lot a lot of exercise. I had almost 17,000 steps and walked 6.4 miles. That is the most steps on the cruise so far although I expect there will be days when we walk more. Because BGM never takes the elevator, even if we are going from deck 4 to deck 10, and since I, generally, join her, we get a lot of “floors” as well.

After our return to the ship, we went to the gym but for 40 minutes rather than an hour, and then went to hear a very good piano player play during the cocktail hour. I bring my own Crown Royal. BGM then went back to the cabin and went and had sushi and a salad at the buffet and sat with the same people with whom we had lunch. They are technically from a remote place in Canada that has a population of 1000 people, but they also have a home in Nevada and a very successful business so they are far from “country hicks” and very smart, successful and sophisticated people.

All in all, we had an extremely pleasant day, but I have no HOT TIP.

We rate our experience at our fifth port, based upon criteria previously employed as C.

PORT 6: PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO

We had a great day. Spent the majority of the time (had to be back on the ship by 4:30 and we made it by 15 minutes) at a great farmer’s market. Although there are other markets, this is the number one market open only on Saturdays and we were very lucky to be in this port on a Saturday.

All kinds of crafts, great food to buy to take and great food to eat at the market. There was many good craft shops. The market was mobbed with people. We bought several kinds of peanuts including roasted peanuts in the shell, lime flavored peanuts and garlic flavored. We bought some very good garlic hummus and a dark chocolate bar with orange rinds. One could taste almost everything before buying it. I had a large glass of fresh squeezed orange juice which was very good.. All the products were Mexican except the little purse bought by BGM which was, SURPRISE, made in China.

After leaving the market, we took a reasonably long walk along a beautiful beach. Lot of stores and restaurants of all kinds and sculptures. Puerto Vallarta is really a first class terrific place to vacation. We ran into dozens American and Canadians who either own homes here or rent to extended periods of time. We were looking for a particularly highly rated restaurant, but when we finally found the place it was only open for dinner. Some very nice Canadian residents then recommend a nearby place they loved, but that was also closed for lunch. Very close by is the place we ended up eating in and, as more fully described on the food exhibit, it was terrific.

As we were walking around, we looked for one of three brands of tequila recommended by son Charles, and designated “low end, medium and high end”. We went into close to a dozen places along the beach. The sales people were very aggressive and we never saw any of the recommended bottles---Fortelleza, 1942, and Ray Sol. Instead, many of the merchants recommended “their own brands” allegedly prize winners and other labels which I recognized but which were not recommended.

We finally found a real wine store once we left the beach and were searching for a restaurant to eat lunch. They had a big selection but not the Fortelleza. The Ray Sol was almost $400 so I bought a bottle of 1942 which was a little more than $93. Although I could see the boxes of the various expensive brands, it turned out that the boxes were empty, and, then, when one is ready to purchase anything that cost more than about $30, the vendor goes into a locked room to retrieve what has been purchased.

HOT TIP: The taxi do not have meters. The charge to go anywhere in Puerto Vallarta is $4 per person.

The places most tourists want to visit, the center and old town are both too far to walk so it is necessary to take taxis from the ship and back. There is a huge Walmart about a 20 minute walk from the ship so after returning all we were carrying back to the ship, we went off the ship again to pick up a few things we needed at Walmart. The checkout was much more efficient than we are accustomed to at home.

We found the locals to be extremely friendly. Several went out of their way to be helpful walking us partway to where we wanted to go making sure we went correctly.

Puerto Vallarta is a place we would both be very happy to return to for an extended time if looking for a resort type environment.

Despite taking taxis from and back to the ship and ending the day at 4:30 I had 20,695 steps walking 7.7 miles.

We rate our experience at the sixth port as A.

PORT 7: CABO, MEXICO

We did not dock until noon so stayed on ship for lunch. We had signed up with Oceania for a jazz and wine tasting cruise that did not begin until 4:30. The cruise line would not let us book an earlier tour because they require a 75 minute span between the end of one tour and the beginning of the second. It is rare to even try to take two tours in one day.

The nicest walking area is very close to the where the ship docket so we took a very nice walk. Fun to see all the honkytonk bars as well as all the boats including some huge yachts. Walked 7.3 miles (19,256 steps) the second largest distance in all the ports.

The jazz and wine cruise did not start out so well because they kept us waiting in a line for almost half an hour. This was a tour that was not exclusive to Oceania. About 25% of the 80 or so passengers were not on our cruse.

HOT TIP: If one books on line, rather than through Oceania, the cost is about 50% less.

The cruise turned out to be very nice. They served top shelf liquors of all kinds and good wine and beer. The food was very plentiful and more than adequate.

Although I did not expect Dave Brubeck, because, among other reasons, he is no longer alive, I did assume there would be live music. There was not but it really did not matter.

The cruise itself was really very nice in terms of the sights. We saw sea lions, and several whales which was a real bonus since many cruise passengers had signed up for a whale tour and had to turn back because of weather conditions existing at the time of their tour.

BGM liked Puerto Vallarta better than Cabo. I thought they were both great places to vacation and we had a very nice time.

There is a split opinion of our experience at this seventh port: BGM rates it C plus, and I rate it B or B -.

PORT 8: LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES

Going through customs because we were reentering the United States was somewhat of a hassle. My passport was questioned for a reason that never could be determined, but I finally got through. BGM had no problem.

Our friend Laila Kolodny set up a haircut appointment for BGM and her Husband Steve, set me up with his barber, located in the Montage. This barber was even better that my barber in Italy whom I love.

We then ran some errands in a great grocery store and then met Steve and Laila and our other good friends Mike Kump and Suann MacIsaac for a very nice lunch at one of my favorite places The Grill in the Alley. Since we had to be back on the ship before 5, it was necessary to then return to the ship.

This was the end of the first segment of eight segments of our around the world cruise. About 300 passengers disembarked in Los Angeles choosing to cruise either from New York or Miami to Los Angeles. However, the boat refilled up with about 300 new passengers, some of whom will take only the next segment which ends in Sydney, Australia on March 4, and others will go further.

HOT TIP: Although there are two cruise ports in the Los Angeles Area, Long Beach and San Pedro, only Carnival Cruise lines dock in Long Beach. One has to allow at least two hours going into the center of Los Angeles even early in the morning and maybe a little longer returning to the ship. When we left the restaurant at 2 p.m., the traffic was already bumper to bumper on the freeways.

Because we got to see four of our good friends, got good haircuts and were able to get some things we needed, even though we did no sightseeing, we really cannot give a grade to this port.

SUMMARY OF SEGMENT ONE—JANUARY 14 TO JANUARY 30, 2019

Although we did not give every port an A, we give our overall experience an A. Most everything exceeded our expectations.

Jeremy Bishop, Photographer (Unsplash)

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