In a move that has come as a further sign in the revival of the Mexican Riviera market, Holland America Line has announced that the 1,920 passenger Oosterdam will join her sister ship, Westerdam, on cruises to the region this coming autumn.
Both of the ships- members of Holland America’s Vista class ships- will sail from the port of San Diego on a series of seven night, round trip cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Oosterdam will undertake her first cruise on September 30th, with Westerdam joining her in service from the California port on November 24th.
San Diego offers the easiest city to port access of any west coast American port in the region and, with direct flights now available on British Airways from Heathrow, the cultured, sophisticated city on the bay makes for a wonderful pre or post departure stay in it’s own right.
The arrival of Oosterdam marks an act of faith on the part of Holland America in the steadily resurgent Mexican Riviera market. For years, the trade was decimated because of adverse press reports on the levels of crime in Mexican ports, and at Mazatlan in particular. But in the last few years, local authorities have gone to great lengths to restore a sense of safety and security in all of the ports.
The season typically operates between November and March, though Carnival does sail the same route year round from Long Beach, and Norwegian Cruise Line also has the Norwegian Jewel sailing to the Riviera through this coming winter, also from Los Angeles.
Interesting developments in this part of the world, for sure. As ever, stay tuned.
Disney Cruises had announced it’s return to east and west coast USA cruising for autumn of 2017, with a series of voyages based out of both New York and San Diego, as well as a return to cruising out of the Texan port of Galveston.
On October 21st 2017, Disney Magic will sail one seven night cruise to the highlights of Maritime Canada and the US east coast. Slightly earlier, another five night itinerary sails an abridged version of this cruise on September 27th. Slated ports of call for the company stalwart will include Bar Harbour, Charlottetown, and Saint John, New Brunswick.
Eschewing cooler autumn climes, the Disney Magic will also offer a series of escapes to the highlights of the Bahamas. Passengers on each of the half dozen seven and eight day sailings will be offered a complimentary day pass to Walt Disney World Park in Orlando, inclusive of round trip transportation.
From Galveston, sister ship Disney Wonder will operate some eight, seven night round trip cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. The first cruise sails on November 10th, and the last departure is a December 29th New Year’s Eve itinerary. Ports of call on offer include Cozumel, Key West, Grand Cayman, Falmouth, and Disney’s own private island experience, Castaway Cay.
Prior to these sailings, Disney Wonder will make a welcome return to the west coast of the USA, offering a series of sailings out of San Diego. Ranging from two to seven nights’ duration, the season starts with a two night sailing to Ensenada on September 15th, with repeat runs on September 22nd and October 13th, respectively.
A special, three night run on October 5th will also include a day at sea.
In terms of the seven night round trips, the Disney Wonder will offer a pair of voyages to the three ‘greatest hits’ ports of the Mexican Riviera- namely Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Dates for these are September 24th and October 15th, respectively.
The remainder of the short season in Pacific Mexico is rounded out with a quartet of four and five night sailings to Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, before the ship makes a return voyage to Galveston, via the Panama Canal, to operate her Texas itineraries.
Nice to see Disney getting a bit out of its normal comfort zone, and it will be interesting to see how the New York fall sailings fare in terms of bookings.
Readers of this blog will be aware that I have just returned from a week aboard the Carnival Miracle to the Mexican Riviera. Despite covering Spring Break, this was a hugely enjoyable cruise on almost every level.
It marked my first time on one of the Carnival Spirit class ships, and I was really interested to see how these compare to the likes of the Fantasy and Destiny classes, and even the Carnival Splendor.
My overall impressions are noted in an earlier blog but, as something a little extra, here’s five highlights that ‘made’ the Carnival Miracle experience something quite special and unique.
Carnival Miracle has a series of self service machines on Deck Two that allow you to check your on board balance, make deposits, and even take cash withdrawals from your on board account if you want to.
These save an inordinate amount of time standing in line at reception, and avoids the need to phone, either. You can print out statements using the simple, touch screen set up as well. It’s easy, user friendly, and a smart bit of thinking all round.
Of course, all of the Carnival ships have the dedicated, adults-only Serenity Deck. The format on Carnival Miracle broadly follows the same as on the rest of the fleet.
So you have hammocks, comfy sofas and chairs, and shaded pod beds sprinkled around an area that also includes a pool, hot tub, and bar service. So far, so Carnival.
But here, location is key. Serenity on the Carnival Miracle is located right aft. Sheltered by the ship’s superstructure, it offers marvellous views out over the wake, without the breeze. Part of it is under a sheltering overhang, the rest is directly in the sun.
Both offer wonderful chill out points to savour those peerless Pacific sunsets. With a glass of chilled Zinfandel at hand, this sheltered, secluded location adds enormously to the pleasure of a voyage on this ship. And, with the hot tub open until midnight, take at least one night to admire a sparkling canopy of brilliant starlight from this unique vantage point. Lovely.
NICK AND NORA’S STEAK HOUSE
Here, location and menu combine to create a truly elegant, elevated experience. Located in the forward part of the funnel base on the topmost deck, Nick and Nora’s has windows looking out right across the horizon on both sides. That stunning vista is, however, merely an appetiser to the food and service here.
Sumptuous, seductive cuts of prime beef. steaks and lamb chops are served with as many sides as you can manage. Surf and turf? Of course. I had the ten ounce Filet Mignon, and it was so soft that it almost crumbled at the touch of my knife.
For starters, consider Escargots (if you must) or some delicious New England Crab Cake. In all, there are some eight different choices, and all will seduce the true food lover.
Desserts include a quartet of diverse chocolate samples that I went for yet again. Deft service, pared with some strikingly good wine choices, make the steakhouse experience a must. At just $35 per head, it is the best deal on the ship by a country mile, and worth it simply for the ambiance.
Only on a Carnival ship would you find a two story disco, done up as the laboratory of Doctor Frankenstein. His most infamous creation looms twelve feet high on the right hand side- a model of the infamous monster, complete with ‘electric flashes’ that ‘interact’ with him. The glass dance floor, with it’s colourful, flashing squares, is pure Saturday Night Fever revisited.
It’s a fun, frivolous enclave, and as gloriously tacky and over the top as a real disco should be. And, on our dedicated Seventies Night, it was packed to the rafters with party goers well into the witching hours. Great fun.
Real teak decking is getting rarer and rarer these days, but Carnival Miracle showcases vast swathes of the stuff. The walk around Promenade Deck is a stroller’s delight (though it would benefit from some actual sun loungers to chill out on). But teak adds class, style and a sense of timeless chic to any ship and, on one the size of the Carnival Miracle, it also creates a fresh, clean feel. Never underestimate the therapeutic power of watching early morning sunlight flowing across freshly scrubbed teak- it is truly heart warming.
So, there we have it. Five of my favourite things about a week spent in what is, to all extents, a floating town. No doubt, other people will go out and find their own favourite places on board.
And, after all, that’s what ‘fun’ is all about.
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