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March 16, 2012
Day 28: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

At the arrival port of Cabo San Lucas, the most touristy and commercial place we’ve seen on our trip

For the last port of our month-long cruise, Gail scheduled another fun excursion. In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, we would leave the city and drive ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) around the desert and beach.

Yesterday afternoon, however, Captain Perrin came over the loudspeakers again. As he started out saying, whenever he makes a public announcement it’s usually important news. The update this time is that we are expecting a huge storm on Sunday, when we are cruising up the California coast to our final destination of San Francisco.

This means that we may have to proceed at a slower speed on Sunday. Backing up the schedule, this means that we need to make greater progress in the days before. The final upshot is that we would need to arrive in Cabo two hours earlier – at 7:00 am – and depart two hours earlier – 3:00 pm.

Unfortunately, our excursion (booked privately, not through Princess) would not return us to the dock until 3:30 pm. Gail did some quick scrambling. Using some onboard Internet time donated by our friend Jayne, Gail sent a quick email message to Cabo San Lucas Tours, the tour operator. We wanted to change to an earlier excursion. Early this morning, we logged on again and read that we were all set to go.

We needed to get an early start, so we had a quick breakfast in the International Café down the hall from our cabin. Having learned our lesson from previous tender queues, we were first in line and got tickets #12 and #13. During the brief ride in, we saw manta rays in the harbor, including one that leaped out of the water. We were on shore in Cabo by 7:15 am.

Our tour time was 9:00 am, but Gail got the idea that we needed to be there by 8:00 am. This ended up leaving us almost two hours to wander the dock.

NOTE: There is no “Princess Patter” for Cabo San Lucas. For each previous port, they have given us a printed “port guide.” For Cabo, they gave us a “shopping guide” instead.

There was a bit of culture shock – or at least “tourist shock” – on our arrival. First, the dock was filled with very expensive boats and yachts, in contrast to the simple fishing boats we’ve seen everywhere else. Second, the dock was also filled with souvenir stores and bars. Along the gangway, there was a gauntlet of hawkers trying to sell us tours. “Hey amigo! You want a water taxi? See the whales!”

Some scenes from Cabo: the boat-filled harbor, the souvenir stores, the drinking establishments, and the gauntlet of tour hawkers

Cabo has been built up substantially since we were last here more than five years ago. The atmosphere may have been absolutely appropriate for people on Spring Break. But it was very jarring for those of us who have been visiting the third-world countries of South America. This was one of the reasons that Gail scheduled us to get out of town.

After some angst-filled moments of wondering whether our guide would come through, a driver appeared at 9:05 am. We were the only two being picked up. Maria put us in the back of her car, and we proceeded to drive out of Cabo.

The drive to the ATVs took almost 45 minutes. The highways were undergoing massive construction, and we went through a series of one-way closures and bumpy dirt roads. (Maria told us that when the highways are ultimately finished, the driving time from Cabo to La Paz will be reduced from two hours to one.)

Once we left the city, we got to experience some stunning desert vistas

Unfortunately, we also experienced some severe traffic delays due to road construction

We finally arrived at Motosol, the ATV operator, a small set of buildings on the side of the road. We were fitted with scarves, helmets and goggles, then put into a two-person ATV. Finally, we were caravanned to a spot in the desert where we met up with two other couples (not from the cruise ship) and our guide, Charlie.

In our ATV at last! (Unlike the others, we were in a two-person ATV. Gail was concerned that her hand and shoulder injuries would prevent her from steering her own vehicle.)

This was the terrain we got to drive through

What followed was about two hours of very fun driving through deserts, sand dunes and beaches. We were given plenty of time to stop and take pictures. Gail was particularly enamored with the rocky beaches and violent waves. She filled her camera with almost 150 photos.

Russell pops a wheelie on a dune

One of the many stunning and isolated beaches we got to drive through and stop at

Gail takes pictures of the waves

We were bussed back to the pier by 1:00, giving us plenty of time for one more Internet connection. We found a café that provided free wi-fi with purchase, bought a coffee and sat down.

There was a long queue of cruisers for the return tenders, and the ship didn’t end up leaving port until 3:30. As usual, we stood high up on deck 15 to watch the sailaway. We had to put on jackets for the first time; a sure sign that the weather is getting colder. But we were rewarded with the sight of several whales out in the distance.

We have set foot on land for the last time until we arrive back home in San Francisco. We are expecting a rough ride ahead – 18-foot waves are predicted. Gail is excited about a bumpy ride for a change. Russell is excited about two precious final days at sea.

(Over the next couple of days, we will publish a few final web letters to wrap up our trip.)

Our last land excursion on our 30-day cruise, and a fitting finale to a great adventure!


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