Many cruise lines have ships that visit Cabo San Lucas and the rest of the Mexican Riviera. Three ports on this itinerary were new to us and the one that we had visited before hardly seemed familiar. The NCL Star currently follows an 8-day itinerary, but those 8-day trips will be discontinued in April of 2008. Starting in the Fall of 2008, the Star will go to 7 days in the Mexican Riviera and stop in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. If you want to catch the 8-day itinerary go to Cruise Bug Vacations and book your stateroom.
Our last visit to Cabo San Lucas was in 1992 when we bicycled there from San Diego. Getting there by ship was definitely easier, quicker and more comfortable. However, we missed the outstanding, starkly beautiful landscape of Baja. We anxiously anticipated our arrival in Cabo much as we would visiting a long lost relative that we hadn’t seen for years. We expected a change, but never expected it to be totally unrecognizable. But unlike that long lost relative, Cabo hadn’t aged at all, but was still full of excitement. We remember Cabo as a small, laid-back fishing village with a few hotels. More importantly, it represents a sense of accomplishment for us. Cabo was the finish line that we reached after pedaling over 1200 miles over some of the most difficult terrain that we have ever cycled. It definitely holds a special place in our hearts.
Along the road from San Jose del Cabo in 1992. We imagine that this view might be different today.
We tendered into port, which again was simple, with no waiting whatsoever. As we walked along the marina into town we were greeted by an inordinate number of people offering glass bottom boat rides. We ignored them but then were approached by guys with fully clothed iguanas. One woman screeched as she almost stepped on another iguana on the walkway. Continuing on into town, we tried hard to even vaguely remember Cabo from 15 years ago. Not remembering much gave a Twilight Zone feel to the day. Surely, we had been here before so something should be familiar.
That popular all-you-can-eat pancake place that the boys in the cycling group talked about for days before we reached Cabo? Where did it go? It was a rickety shack overhanging the marina. We saw nothing rickety near the marina, which is now quite the modern place with pricey shops around its edges. Where are all those shanties on the marina? Where did that Cabo go?
Well, everything changes and there is little point bemoaning the good old days. Little here seemed familiar and that made us wonder about our memories. This was a dusty fishing village the last time we were here, wasn’t it? Just to satisfy ourselves, we looked for the Hotel Mar de Cortez, where we stayed on our last visit. It’s still there in the middle of town.
1992 – That’s a Carnival ship in the harbor.
Even in 1992 cruise ships visited Cabo. Passengers could eat at those local joints, rather than the chain restaurants like The Hard Rock Cafe, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway. We don’t recall a single chain restaurant in Cabo in the olden days.
Was the Carnival Elation here in ’92?
Taking up the prime real estate along the water’s edge, the many bars quickly fill with cruise passengers in search of a cerveza for less than it would cost on the ship. We passed by a few of them and cut through to the main street in town still hoping to have our memories jogged.
We stopped at Diamonds International to get my charm, which is a fish for Cabo. Each location has a different charm. In Puerto Vallarta, it was a cowboy boot and we haven’t yet figured out the significance of that. Perhaps it is to boot out the customers who get the cheap, freebie bracelet and don’t buy $40,000 watches or other expensive jewelry.
We had planned on visiting the small museum in town, but it was closed and there were no signs listing opening times. This was December 8, so we figured it was closed for religious reasons. We found an internet cafe and then decided to try La Perla, a local lunch spot, which somebody told us had excellent chilaquiles. We found the restaurant and had a leisurely lunch, but I was a bit disappointed that they weren’t serving chilaquiles. Well, it is mainly a breakfast food, so I wasn’t really expecting that it would be served for lunch, but I was still hoping.
If you are eating in a restaurant in Mexico and wondering what takes the server so long to bring the check, you might wait forever. The place could close and you might still be sitting at your table without a check. In Mexico, it is considered very bad manners to simply plop a check down on a table and assume that the diner was finished enjoying his meal or time in the restaurant. You need to ask for the check – la cuenta, por favor.
After lunch, we decided to indulge one of the glass bottom boat people and paid $20 for the two of us to have a tour out to Land’s End and the arch. Don’t expect to see anything through the “glass” bottom of the boat. Getting out in the harbor proved as exciting as a taxi ride. First, we had to get gas. Some of the boats seem to play chicken with each other and don’t move until later than I would like to avoid a head-on collision. We dropped off two young couples who had paid to go to one beach, but really wanted to go to Lovers’ Beach.
After they finally realized that they had asked and paid for a trip to another beach, we finally dropped them off and then had the boat to ourselves. The skipper gave us a tour down and around the tip of Land’s End. The sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. We saw fish, sea lions, comerants and other birds. And of course, we saw the arch which you can’t see from town.
We asked where one goes kayaking in the area. Surely it couldn’t be here. Surely, it could be here according to our guide. Scads of wave runners, fishing boats, glass bottom boats, party boats – one pulling a huge grill, a pirate boat, cruise ships, water taxis….. The congestion made this a poor choice for kayaking and we did not see any kayaks out that day.
Time once again passed quickly by so we did another final tour of the town, stopped for a beer and went back to catch the tender to the ship.
Think twice about taking liquor onto the ship.
Sailing away, we saw whales and enjoyed the rugged scenery, even spotting the road that we had traveled so long ago that leads to Todos Santos. We stayed on deck until the sun set promising to come back again and spend some more time in Cabo.
Touring the Baja Peninsula by car might be a future adventure to consider. Perhaps it would help our amnesia.