Above: Rock formations at the entrance to the Cabo San Lucas harbor
Departing Los Angeles and three days at sea, our first port of call of our world cruise was Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja California (Lower California) peninsula. The word “cabo” means “cape” in Spanish, referring here to the termination of the Baja Peninsula. It is a famous tourist destination, famous for its Marlin fishing competition and as a destination for partying American college kids on Spring Break. It is known for its dramatic stone formations in it harbor, which includes a dramatic stone archway. This archway is constantly visited by small tour boats as well as private boats. It was only visible to us during our transit via tender from our ship anchored in the harbor to the dock. A filtered view of the archway at dusk is visible in the photo below:
As part of Viking’s anti-covid measures, passengers are currently prohibited from wandering alone on the group tours. We are supposed to stay close as a group to avoid uncontrolled contacts. In fact, we were told today that there are currently eight active covid cases among the passengers. The infected passengers are quarantined with full room service. In any case, my impression of being ashore at Cabo San Lucas was that the tourists were mostly Americans and the Mexicans present were all intent on selling us things.
Viking includes a free excursion at every port (as well as excursions requiring an extra fee). We opted for the free excursion for this port, which consisted of a half hour bus ride to the neighboring town of San Jose del Cabo. There we walked around the city plaza with its small shops and went into the old cathedral built by the Spaniards in the 1700’s.
When entering Mexico, one is struck by its colorful culture. The cathedral at San Jose del Cabo was underwhelming. Nonetheless, the photos below capture some of the colorful culture and touristy items typically sold in small shops around the central plaza of San Jose del Cabo.
Life on Board the Viking Star
Departing from Los Angeles last Wednesday, we’ve had four sea days and one port call. Susan and I are well acquainted with the cruise lifestyle. We worked for two-to-three months every year for five years between 1987-92. We never thought we would want to pay for cruises, since we were used to getting paid to work on them. But after twenty or so years, we decided to start paying for cruises traveling as passengers instead of as entertainers. So we have fallen easily into the cruise lifestyle again.
Meals are perhaps the days’ central events, and the variety of cuisines offered is truly excellent. Thus, potential weight gain is a cruise hazard. To counter this hazard, we have tried to balance our meals with physical activities. There are eight passenger decks on the ship, and we find ourselves taking the stairs instead of the elevators multiple times each day. Each day starts with the opportunity to “walk with the officers” at 7am. We’ve done that a couple of times, watching sunrise as we circle the ship at a fast pace for at least a mile. Otherwise, we have visited the ship’s gym, which has a good selection of weights, treadmills, and bicycles which offer video displays of cycling around the streets of San Francisco. Our intention is to start every day with one of these physical activities.
There are eleven guest lecturers on board. Not all of them have presented their lectures yet, so I’m not sure of what exactly is in store for us. But we’ve attended several, presented by British and Australian scholars, as well as an American couple: the wife lectures on culture (with clothing her personal specialty) and her husband is an expert on oceans (with his personal specialty being surfing!). The British scholar gave an interesting talk on the Incan civilization. The Australian gave two lectures: the first on the “ring of fire”, the volcanic regions that are found in the Pacific continental plate. His second lecture was about how flora and fauna from the continents managed to reach the isolated islands of the South Pacific. There are generally at least two enrichment lectures every day.
Besides the intellectually stimulating lectures, we’ve attended two wine tastings. There have been a total of five tastings already, but three were filled before we attempted to sign up. Other entertainment groups include bridge lessons, a chess master, and meetings of Friends of Bill W (aka Alcoholics Anonymous). There is a substantial library of movies and music channels available on-demand in our cabin. And the lectures and evening concerts are live-streamed to our cabins, in case we don’t feel like attending in person.
Speaking of musical entertainment, most of it is classical. There are three Ukrainian classical musicians who play in public areas during the day: a violin-cello duo and a solo pianist. There is a “house band”, a quartet of Philippine musicians as well as four American singers. There are also several featured acts, including a Chinese-born Julliard-trained cellist, and a guitar-vocal duo. This guitar-vocal duo are the only jazz musicians. They have presented two shows during this first week. Unfortunately, they are leaving the ship tomorrow (to join a different cruise). I’m sorry to see them go. I managed to meet them and have a pleasant jam session with them this morning. If we’re lucky, they’ll be replaced by other jazz musicians later in the cruise.
The weather has warmed up as we travel farther south every day. We are traveling toward summer in the Southern hemisphere. Unlike when Susan and I worked on cruises in the late 80’s, there are no “formal nights.” I didn’t need to pack a coat and tie. In fact unlike previously, it is acceptable to wear shorts around the ship, including at breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. The Viking Star has the capacity for 930 passengers. But due to covid, there are only approximately 550 passengers along with around 400 crew members. So the ship does not feel crowded. We are meeting some interesting people. Tonight, we will have dinner with a couple originally from Lebanon, who have been American citizens for several decades. Since we will be on the ship for four months, we expect to get to know many passengers, most of whom are similar in age to ourselves.
We feel like we left the United States just as the omicron-covid-wave was starting to peak. Our home county including Reno just had a record number of infections, over eleven hundred in oa single day. It’s amazing how insidious omicron-covid is, that five passengers and four crew members have tested positive after almost a week on the ship, especially since all passengers and crew members were required to be vaccinated as well as show a recent negative test in order to board the ship. Our hope is that all of you will stay safe!
Below is a photo taken from the Viking Star’s tender (lifeboat/shuttle). The Viking Star is the ship on the right. On the left is a Regent Cruise ship. The small red boat in the middle is another of the Star’s tenders shuttling passengers back to the Cabo San Lucas dock.