Ever since we read John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez describing his six-week expedition in the Gulf of California in 1940 with his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, we have been intrigued with this inland sea and the land it borders. Seven years ago, in 2003, we took a cruise into this fabled "Sea of Cortez" on another Holland America ship, the ms Statendam. We both agreed it was one of our best travel experiences ever.
Then in January of 2010 Holland America sent us another offer to sail from San Diego up into the "Sea of Cortez in late April on one of their really big ships, the ms Oosterdam. The itinerary was similar--we would visit three ports in Baja California: Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Loreto, then cruise down the coast of the Mexican mainland visiting Topolobampo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Looking at the cruise brochure on a cold, gray January day in Oregon it didn't take long to decide that this would be a fine way to kick off celebrating our 60th anniversary, coming up on Dec. 22, 2010.
We flew down to San Diego one day before our ship sailed. This gave us a little time to enjoy some balmy southern California weather and see a bit of the heart of this city.Our hotel was right next to the most unusual shopping mall we've ever seen: "Horton Plaza."
The Oosterdam followed a "zig-zag" route on this cruise. Cabo San Lucas first, then up to Loreto, farther up the Gulf in Baja California. Loreto had been our favorite port in 2003; it's still a delightful place. Next, we sailed across the Gulf to the Mexican mainland and the little port town of Topolobampo. This was a new port for us--in 2003 we had visited Santa Rosalia farther north on the Baja California side. From Topolobampo the ship's passengers had the option of taking a LONG day's excursion by train to the Copper Canyon. We thought one day to see the Copper Canyon was insufficient; instead we enjoyed a visit by boat to "Bird Island" a protected sanctuary near Topolobampo. After "zigging" to the mainland, we "zagged" back to Baja California to our third port, La Paz--but the strong winds that once kept Spanish galleons trapped in the bay and easy prey to pirates also kept the Oosterdam from docking at La Paz. Having had a good visit at La Paz on the 2003 cruise we weren't too disappointed in the change of plans.
The remainder of the cruise was back on the mainland side of the Gulf, first to Mazatlan where we took an excursion inland to the base of the "Sierra Madre" mountains to visit colorful mining villages first settled in the mid-1500's. Talk about history! It was at "Concordia" and "Copala" that Cortez' men found the "El Dorado" they had been seeking. These hills are still being mined for silver today. Our final port was Puerto Vallarta. We were especially interested in checking out the "Westin Marina Hotel" in PVR--as we had already made plans to spend the week of our "Big 60" anniversary and Christmas here with Mark and Karen.
We found that this second visit to the "Sea of Cortez" was just as enjoyable as our first visit, seven years ago.
Photos? Of course! In photo albums arranged by each day.
Trip Log? Yes, that too. [Full disclosure: it is LONG]
A little update here: as I write this in March, 2012 (yes, I'm a little behind on trip logs!) a lot has changed in Mexico since we took this cruise in 2010. Because of the increasing violence among the various Mexican drug cartel gangs the cruise lines have drastically curtailed their visits to the "Mexican Riviera" ports. There have been serious incidents in Mazatlan and Los Mochis (nearest town to Topolobampo) so no more cruise visits to these ports. Even Puerto Vallarta recently had an incident in which passengers from a cruise ship were robbed while on a hiking excursion near the town.
We've enjoyed every visit we've made to Mexico and it is so sad to think that drugs have had such a terrible impact on this region.
March 26, 2012
Other Cruises We've Enjoyed:
MORE TRAVEL STORIES
- Alaska, including lesser-visited ports (Valdez, Seward, Kodiak) (2009)
- Hawaii, round trip from Los Angeles (2008)
- Mexican Riviera, San Diego to Acapulco (2007)
- Eastern Mediterranean: Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, (2006)
- Western Caribbean: Belize, Mexico, Grand Cayman Is. (2005)
- Alaska, the Inside Passage (2004)
- The Baltic: Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Norway (2004)
- Mexico, the Sea of Cortez (2003)