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December 2nd 2016
Published: December 2nd 2016
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Blog – USA & Cruise – Central America

It was supposed to be a relaxing journey, in the campervan, up to Gatwick with a pleasant Friday evening in an airport hotel – that was before the battery light came on when we reached Swindon and we decided to get off the M4 and call out the breakdown people. We didn’t fancy the Campervan not starting the following day when we needed to drive it to long term parking and catch the midday flight!

Plenty of time to sort as it was only 10.30am. Breakdown people said they would be out in 1 hour (more like 1½ hours!) Confirmed we had a problem and followed him back to his depot, where it transpired that it was an alternator problem and there were none to be had in Swindon. He could order one from his supplier in Worcester and it should be here about 4.00pm. It duly turned up at 3.30pm – by 4.15pm it was discovered it was faulty, so the van couldn’t be fixed until Monday!

BIG problem!! It was now dark, our flight was tomorrow lunchtime, we had hotel booked for this evening, parking booked for a month, a change over of suitcases for our hand luggage trip to Spain, no coaches, trains were expensive – so it was a grit your teeth moment and we had to get a taxi to Gatwick. I suppose we were lucky enough to find someone willing to drive there on a Friday night. Eventually reached the hotel about 8.30pm!! Not a good start!!

The two flights went ok the next day (11 hours LGW to OAK San Francisco and then 1 ½ hours to San Diego) and Candy picked us up in San Diego about 9.00pm (San Diego is 8hrs behind UK) where we had a quick catch up and then sleep, as she was driving us, 6hrs to Phoenix, Arizona to see Aunt Alice!

Got up at 5.30am (Supposed to be 6.30am but the clock in her bedroom showed the wrong time!!) and left about 8.00am. After a very interesting journey through the desert (including a very strange gas stop, where we didnt fill up, as gas was pouring out of the nozzle!!) We arrived at Aunt Alice at about 3.00pm where we chatted to various relatives and reminisced with old photographs. Spent the night in a luxury suite at the Marriot Hotel (courtesy of Wendy and Peter!) – It really was top end and a joy to wander around admiring all its facilities.

The next morning we visited Peter and Wendy, and their son and his family who were staying with them for Thanksgiving. It untypically rained and we had a thunderstorm! Had a really nice birthday brunch with them and I now have the recipe for ‘Strata’!!

Left early afternoon for the 6 hour drive back and then just chilled out (after huge slobbering kisses from Zoë, the blind Boxer dog, who was very pleased to see us!!) before bed.

The next day we just had a local walk to the shops and an obligatory donut at ‘Donut Panic’ but spent most of the day relaxing in the sun, watching the birds on the bird feeder (house finches) as Candy was at work.

We had picked up a leaflet at ‘Donut Panic’ that was advertising a ‘Mission Gorge’ guided walk on the Wednesday, so Candy kindly dropped us off and we had a 2 hour walk learning about the various plants, animals, and the native Indians - the Kumeyaay – would have liked to explore more trails but we spent the afternoon with Candy walking various trails at Torrey Pines with its interesting rock formations, and the oldest known pine trees that Guy Fleming devoted his life to protect them. Called in at ‘ The Green Flash’ a local artisan brewery, where Ben, her son, works.

Had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner with Candy in the evening (my first!!) and her son Dan flew in from Oregon, so it was good to catch up with everyone.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, we went to ‘Denny’s’ and had a celebration breakfast before being dropped off for our cruise on Celebrity Infinity.

Boarding was quite painless, took about an hour in various security queues, and then we were in our cosy cabin (2039). (ok – its not huge but its perfectly adequate)There are 2100 passengers on board, along with 900 crew and the ship is very well laid out, with a full size theatre, along with an air conditioned covered swimming pool with hot tubs. The gym is well equipped and at the front of the ship – no excuse for me then!!! Watched the sunset, and the planes fly in over the city before we sailed at about 5.30pm.

We were on 2nd sitting for dinner and spent the first night with a Scottish couple and their friends, and a Polish mother and daughter. The next night we were on our own!! The four Scottish people had moved to different table and the polish people hadn’t turned up!! Bit embarrassing!! The waiter tried to make us move tables to join other people, and then spent the next two days phoning us trying to appease us and get us back to the dining room! However, we were just as happy at the buffet bar! AND it gave us a good reason to have a total refund of our tips. ( $13.50 per person per day) We shall now tip who we want too!!

Our first stop was Cabot San Lucas. We saw the famous ‘arch’ and Lands End from the cruise ship and then moored. This was the only port where we were on a tender boat and as we didn’t dock until 12.30pm, cruise trips were offloaded first, we didn’t get ashore until about 1.30pm. It didn’t really matter as we basically just walked around the marina, calling into the air conditioned shopping malls, to cool down, and then walked back. Very American, but a pleasant place with pelicans and frigate birds flying around, and seals climbing on the back of the returning fishing boats!

Puerto Vallarta, our stop the next day, was a lot more interesting. We caught the local bus (7½ pesos each - approx.. 37 us cents. They take dollars but the fare is 1 dollar each) into town which is about 3 miles. Pretty little place with lots of deep cobbled streets, lined with bougainvillaea, and a boardwalk that runs along the front, with many shops, bars and weird statues. The boardwalk then crosses over the river into Old Vallarta with its old buildings and squares. We just wandered around for the day and soaked up the atmosphere, catching a local band/singing competition, watching the sunset, dolphins and pelicans diving. Got a bus back to Wal-Mart (from outside the Cathedral) and back to the ship by 7.00pm, ready for the sail away at 8.30pm.

The next two days were sea days, the time pleasantly spent wandering the ship, walking around the deck, watching the sunrise, watching turtles, dolphins, chatting, reading, lounging on sun beds, going to travel presentations, watching films on deck (check out Bad Moms!! – very funny! )

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