Yesterday we docked in Puerto Vallarta. I was hoping to be up early enough to watch us come in to port, but, alas; we had to set the clocks ahead the night before, and so I missed it – when I looked out the window, we were already tied up. But, I could tell we were in Mexico for real, by the giant Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club visible from our balcony…

Earlier we had thought that we might not even leave the ship in Puerto Vallarta, but since we had come up empty on our cerveza search in Cabo San Lucas, we thought that maybe we’d take another shot, and so set out in search of beer.

We stopped at the Information booth just outside the ship and asked where we might find Noche Buena cerveza. The first answer was Wal-Mart, which we found highly depressing (or I did, anyway – Lis said it would probably be great, because it wouldn’t be tourist-y; we’d be shopping with locals. Today at breakfast, Sandra confirmed Lis’s view). But then another tour guy said there was another store called Soriana just a short distance away, so we headed for that.

From a distance, the Soriana SuperMercado seemed easy to find, but as we got closer, it disappeared behind another building, and we kept having to stop and ask for directions. As before, we did this mostly in Spanish, and as before, were pleased to find that we knew enough Spanish to make our way. We also can read most all the signs we see.

We finally got our bearings, could see the store, and were about to set off, when a cabby drove up. We’d already been offered several tours (these previous cabbies and tour people are whom we’d been asking directions of), and were going to decline this guy’s, too, but then 2 things happened. One, he began speaking at length about all the different parts of town, and his spiel sounded less like generic ad copy than most. Two, I realized that we’d come a fair way and were about to buy a 12-pack of beer, and it might be nice to have a ride back to the ship. So we struck a deal – take us to the store for our cerveza, and then give us as much of a tour as our forty bucks cash will buy us.

So, off to the SuperMercado we went (I actually found wandering the store and then buying our beer the most fun part of our tour, as I think Lis did, too), and then through the streets of Puerto Vallarta. Our cabbie’s name was Carlos and he was great fun – took us around town, told us interesting stories, and was just generally a good time. His English is very good (he actually grew up around the Klamath Falls area (Southern Oregon), and much of his family is still there – he was excited to learn that we are from Portland) and he is very nice – I recommend him to anyone who wants to do a private tour by taxi (VIP Taxi Hire by the hour or day, Carlos Alexis Inda, Cell: 044 322 137 32 33, Email:

And so, around lunch time, we were dropped back off at the ship, having seen some of the town and, most importantly, with beer in hand!

After lunch we hung out in the room, then went up on deck for the sail away – the plan was to get some fruity drinks and be in position before the Louis Armstrong started (on Crystal, they play Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” whenever the ship leaves a port – we find it strangely moving, and try to always be on deck for it). Sadly, we blew it on our Cabo San Lucas stop – rushed to the deck and got there in time for the last three notes. As this was our only other chance, we were determined to get there on time, but still almost blew it – the drinks took longer than expected. But, happily, we just made it, and had a lovely sail away – Puerto Vallarta is beautiful from the sea, with mountains and greenery and curving bay – very nice.

I was already dressed for dinner, so stayed up on deck listening to music; Lis went back to the room. While on deck I saw 3 whale spouts and one dorsal fin, plus a couple dolphins/porpoises. Then I went to get Lis, and we headed for the dining room and our special-order Chateaubriande.

This was only the second time we’d eaten at our assigned table in the dining room, and our waiter and sommelier made a big deal of our finally being present. Our sommelier is a particularly beautiful young woman from some Eastern European country (I haven’t been able to make out her name tag, as that would require staring at her chest, which would be fun but inappropriate). I hadn’t been planning to have wine with dinner (I have beer chilling in my room, after all), but she made such a charming fuss over us that I had to :)

The waiter brought out a cart and carving knife and serving plate, and then the head waiter came over and, with some fanfare, carved up our Chateaubriande for us. It was very fun, and the meat, as always, was spectacular. I had planned my day so that, this time, I was able to eat most of it, too.

The head waiter said that he was doing his famous Bananas Foster for dessert. Since we were spending most of our room on the meat, we said we’d share a dessert; he nodded and brought it to us. But then our regular waiter came back and was appalled – “What, I leave for one minute and you are sharing dessert? If I am here to take care of you, this never would have happened!” And then our sommelier came by – “Cheaters! Cheaters! They are sharing dessert! Cheaters!” They are very cute. The shared dessert in question was delicious (though not as good as last night’s sorbet and prosecco).

After dinner I went to one of the bars and watched the first quarter of the Philly-Seattle game (Marshawn Lynch! Yeah, baby!!), while Lis went back to the room. Then we went to the theater and watched the evening movie, which was “The Help.” And then to bed – a very nice day :)