Okay, we were in Puerto Vallarta today. It's an improvement over Ensenada, as it doesn't have a large wreck half-sunken in the harbor (for those who care, the wreck in question is the S.S. Catalina. Due to financial mismanagement it somehow ended floating in Ensenada harbor a ways back. I first saw it, afloat but obviously rusty and abandoned, on my first cruise in 1993. On my 2nd cruise in 2003 it had partially sunk, and on my most recent cruise there in 2007 it was on the harbor bottom, though most of it was still above water, rusting away, and harboring a large colony of sea lions and their bodily wastes).
So we had a great view of the harbor. On one side of the ship is a beautiful view of boats and beaches. And on the other a Costco, Wal-Mart, and Sam's Club.
We watched as tourists jumped off the ship in droves, some hardly waiting for the gangplank. They looked like they were ready to use knotted sheets to get out of their portholes if need be. And where did they go? To the special sale at the Tanzanite Jewelry company? To the amazing deals on one-of-a-kind jewelry at the Diamond Import Wholesale Company? To the swim-with-dolphins tour? Fuck no. They all went to Costco, Wal-Mart, and Sam's Club.
This is a peculiar feature of Americans, the desire for the familiar after we've payed a fortune to get away from it all. We’ll go to some exotic locale halfway around the world to dine at a McDonald's or Starbuck's.
We were going to stay on the boat. Unfortunately, the cheap walkie-talkies we'd bought at Big Lots years ago no longer worked (if they ever did), and so we needed some. They don’t sell them on the ship. So I went to Costco, too.
It was sweltering. 95 degrees and 98% humidity. And through this muck I walked to Costco. Fortunately, due to the ease of my membership card and a credit card I bought the walkie-talkies easily, with no Spanish required. I was somewhat taken aback to notice they were $798, but then realized this was in pesos. I have no idea what the exchange rate was. The $2.50 hot dog special at home was $19 here, so I tried to convert that roughly, and am guessing I payed roughly $70-$90, but it's not like I was in a position to do comparison shopping, either. I just hope like hell I don't get my credit card statement in a month and find I really DID pay $798.
The "walk" signals on the streets are interesting. They feature a moving graphic of a man running, and the longer the signal is on, the faster he runs. I was hoping to see if a truck mowed him down when the light turned red, but was running through the intersection myself at this point.
A local brand of bread is Bimbo. I swear. So you see billboards and other signs with a picture of a pretty young woman holding a loaf of bread, and under that it says "Senorita Bimbo!"
So I got back to the ship. After lunch we lounged by the pool, had another lunch, and while the kids swam I futzed with the walkie-talkies. Several times male voices speaking Spanish cut in on our frequency. After a few minutes of this I summoned my vague knowledge of the language and said "Yo no tengo las enchiladas". Mrs. Grumpy was horrified, and threatened to kill me if I did it again.
The walkie-talkies opened up an interesting new world. There are only a finite number of frequencies, but a lot of people on board use them. So you end up unintentionally eavesdropping, like with a police radio. Odd snippets of conversation that drifted by as I read my book included, "Bill, did you pack the pliers?", "Jim was asked to leave the library, again" (no other details given, either), and "Suzy, I'm going to go change my tampon". Thank you all for sharing.
The kids have been attending the onboard Camp Cruiseline, and love it. One of the registration form's questions is whether or not they can swim and are allowed in the pools. In spite of this, they don't actually ever take them swimming! So why do they want to know, anyway? In case they fall overboard? "Hey Natasha, I think it was the Grumpy kid who fell off the railing. Go get their file to see if they can swim."
In the afternoon, after mini-golfing with the twins (they gave up on trying to watch Pokemon cartoons in Spanish in the room) I went to the shore excursion desk to ask about the swim with dolphin stuff. At that point the twins began loudly fighting over something, and so I asked the guy if they had any sort of "swim with sharks" excursion for children. He politely looked through a sheet of papers, then said no. Sheeesh.
At dinner tonight Frank ordered the chocolate melt cake. This is basically a partially baked chocolate cake with a gooey liquid center, surrounded in melting ice cream. When I glanced over I was horrified to see that here, in the main formal dining room, my child was eating it WITH A STRAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So I stopped him, and explained about manners, and told him not to eat his chocolate cake by sucking it through a straw. So instead he picked up the whole bowl and drank it.
It was getting about 9:30, and the S.S. Buffet was getting to leave dock. At this point one of the more puzzling announcements was made over the ship's PA system: "Attention, Mrs. John Smith, in cabin #1234. Please notify the purser's desk immediately if you have not yet returned aboard".
Why on Earth do the men’s rooms in the public areas have "do not put sanitary napkins in the toilet" signs in the stalls?
The night ended with Marie having so much free pop, juice, ice cream, and fun in evening Camp Cruiseship that she forgot to pee before bed. So while writing this I was startled by her sleep walking and urinating on the floor of our cabin. That was the only pair of her PJ's that we brought, too.