Part 2 - 7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard
Carnival Cruise Line’s ship the “Elation”
Part 2: The Salseros Land
Day 4 –
Wednesday – Puerto Vallarta
After being on sea
for a couple of days, we were all very excited to leave the ship for
land. DanceFun organized a half-day excursion and salsa dance exchange
at Puerto Vallarta, led by Bernie Lozano, salsaweb correspondents for
Mexico. Our air-conditioned tour bus first took us to Le Cliffs – a
scenic spot atop a cliff. There were gorgeous views aplenty. You could
tell this was a tourist stop because there were also highly polished
silver jewelry and other trinkets.
You can tell what
people think about tourists by what they try to sell you. One such item
I witnessed something for the first time. Pinky-nail paintings. A young
man sat diligently painting intricate ocean scenes with birds, sea, and
land onto a porcelain tile using his pinky fingernail, which he’d dip
into different colors of paint. Whoa. Some people are resourceful. Then
I witnessed another event. Somebody actually bought one! Whoa. Some
people really have nothing better to spend their money on. Americans…
After Le Cliff, we
boarded the tour bus and headed to lunch at Chico’s Paradise. Chico’s
Paradise was indeed a haven. From the open-air restaurant was a
beautiful view of a secluded area perfect for a refreshing dip, complete
with a short waterfall into translucent warm freshwater. The food, being
Americanized- Mexican and expensive, was the one disappointing factor.
After eating, came the dance exhibitions. Salomon and Sandra Rivera, a
Guatemalan group, a Mexican group, a danzon couple, and Marcelo and
myself gave exhibitions. The danzon couple stole the show with their
graceful, melodic, elegant dance. They also gave a basic lesson in
danzon. While the DJ played salsa, we were encouraged to dance with
people from a different country. Hence, the event was billed as a dance
exchange with people from other countries. Cool idea.
bus took us to downtown Puerto Vallarta. We explored Rio Caule and Old
Town. Since the short jump into the water at Chico’s Paradise wasn’t
enough and we wanted more playtime in the water, we headed to the
beach. Tony didn’t bring his trunks, so we went off in search of a pair
he could buy. Everywhere we went, they tried to sell him Speedos. Must
be because they’ve seen the cruise-brochures touting men in Speedos.
Real people don’t wear Speedos.
In the search for
normal trunks, we got a chance to walk and explore. At one point I
bailed hard on an unevenly paved stone step. Tony pointed out there
aren’t any ‘watch your step’ signs unlike at every stairwell on the
boat. Thanks for the warning, bro.
He finally bought
a pair of shorts and upon headed back to find the group on the beach, we
discovered we had been ditched. Near the beach, we ran into Ricardo and
his cousin. Turns out he saw the group take off and pointed out the
direction in which they went. As luck would have it, we found them
From where we
were, we took a local bus to where the shopping area was, Malecon
(Boardwalk). The bus was like 5 pesos. At 10 pesos to 1 dollar, it was
50cents each for busfare. At Malecon, we enjoyed an amazing sunset. To
cap the scene off, an old pirate-like ship full of loud intoxicated
people (likely Americans) sailed into the sunset. We called the boat,
the “Booze-Cruise.” Another observation: everywhere we went, kids were
trying to sell us Chiclets. They must think Americans need lots of
breath mints, probably to get rid of the margarita-breath.
We took another
local bus back to the port. At one stop, a teenage boy stepped on board
and announced his wares to all. Nobody made a purchase, so he stepped
off at the following stop.
That evening, we
jumped into the jacuzzi and then had dinner at 8pm. Salsa that night ran
from 10pm – 1am.
Day 5 –
In Mazatlan, we
were free to wander the city or participate in one of the many paid
exhibitions sponsored by the cruise. Several of us chose to check out
the Deer Island kayak and hiking daytrip. I didn’t bring my camera since
I didn’t think I’d have a safe place to store it. However, I regret not
bringing it. Our stuff was as safe as could be with this organized
group. A katamaran took us to the sandy white shores of this small,
uninhabited island. While there were no deer on island, there were
plenty of fish in the warm water. Handsome rugged local tour-guides met
us there. After a refreshments (included in the tour package) of
pastries and fruits like papaya, melons, bananas, we paired up into
kayaking teams. The guides expertly explained how to kayak and led us
out into the waters. It was an unusually calm day out at sea, the
weather was perfect, and the water was so nice and warm that we
purposely flipped our kayak over and ducked into the water. After about
45 minutes of kayaking, we returned to the beach, where we had more
fruit and pastries. They also had plenty of canned soda and bottled
water for us.
The guides then
led us on a short hike up to the top of island for another lovely
beautiful view. We learned learned that the national plant of Mexico is
a kind of cactus. One of the tourguides was an ornithologist and
described the many birds we saw. After the hike, some of us jumped back
into water for a nice swim. Some people played volleyball while others
lay in the sun. We also played a couple of brain-teaser games with the
The objective of
one game was to form four equal triangles using eight sticks, where the
sticks can’t overlap. The objective of the second game was, using 20
stones in clusters at the corners and at midpoints between the corners
of a square, to make each side sum to 9 stones.
When our time at
Deer Island was over, *sigh*, some took the katamaran back to the
cruise. Our crew took a short ride to the Golden Zone, a touristy ritzy
part of Mazatlan. Again, we were met with people selling wares and
services and experiences. A couple of us tried out parasailing. It was
$15 for fifteen minutes. While waiting for them, roving merchants
approached asking if I wanted to have my hair braided (apparently this
is a very popular services among Americans), or to buy jewelry,
handbags, sombreros, sunglasses, and hammocks. It was like having a
flea market march pass where you were sitting on the beach.
parasailing was done, we took a taxi (which looked like a golf-cart) to
meet up with the rest of the Dance Fun group at “Senior Frog’s Bar” for
a little salsa and dancing. Senior Frog’s is a chain we saw at each town
we stopped. There were even Senior Frog stores selling t-shirts and
mugs and stuff. Kinda like a Disney Store. The food there was
Americanized, too. And how were the well-advertised pricey drinks???
Watered-down. I’m not sure there was even any alcohol in the multiple
shots we had.
The salsa dance
that day was supposed to start at 5pm, but we got back to the boat a
little late (didn’t realize that it wasn’t realistically walkable from
Sr. Frog’s to the port) and there was a snafu with the sound system in
the room. But the dance was only delayed for half and hour, and the DJ
made up for it by staying an extra half-hour. After dinner, we enjoyed
the Carnival cruise show of the night and then retired to the cabin to
watch Gold Member at midnight.
Day 6 – Cabo
San Lucas Friday
On the last day
out, our crew chose to participate in the snorkeling expedition. We met
at 10am and boarded a small boat that would take us out near the famous
arches of Cabo for our snorkeling experience. What an experience. It
was like swimming in a tropical fish tank for an hour! Such colorful
fish and corals in such clear waters! I wished I had signed up for the
earlier snorkeling expedition (7am) which allowed for a longer time in
On the boat, I
kicked myself for not bringing my camera. I missed my opportunity to
take pictures of the breathtaking arches, Los Arcos and Lovers Beach.
Marcelo was smart and brought his camcorder. Not surprisingly, the
salsa crew was the life of the party. On our way back to the Elation,
the footage looked like an MTV video with the salsa ladies cavorting in
bikini’s on the small boat. Free (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks
were included in this package. But who in their right mind would want
to drink alcohol before noon?
Back aboard the
Elation, we set sail for Los Angeles. That afternoon, the salsa
workshops continued. Since I had free time, I hit the gym. The machines
were weird. Working out with free weights on the moving ship was also
weird. I noticed the gravity changes the most when I tried to do
pushups. Sometimes, when I pushed up, it was super easy. Other times, I
got pulled down and was stuck (when the ship fell). Try doing pushups
in an elevator as it rises and falls and you get the picture.
That night, the
DanceFun party had a 70s theme. People were serious about their
costumes! Naomi and I went at Solid Gold dancers/Charlie’s Angels with
our gold catsuits. Prizes were handed out for most outrageous (Bettina
and ?), funniest (Paul), most realistic (Francisco aka Elvis). DanceFun
added an extra prize for most glamorous (Naomi and I). They then awarded
winners of the door décorating contest. There were some pretty
interesting entrees. We thought about decorating the door to the diva’s
cabin by taping Paula, the pole dancer to the door. Then we thought
about decorating Marcelo’s cabin door by taping him to his door.
Competition was stiff, though.
After the dance,
we changed and headed to dinner. Aftwerwards, we caught the late night
adult-rated comedian show. The place was packed and he was worth the
time. Funny guy.
Day 7 – Last
day at sea Saturday
Alma started off
the day with a merenguerobics class up on deck. It looked like so much
fun. After lunch, I napped and headed to the gym again. While waitin
for my private lesson group to show up, we saw school of dolphins
heading towards ship and then turn away. That was cool.
That night, we
prepared out luggage for the porters and left them outside the cabin
doors. The final dance of the cruise was fun and we took a huge group
photo. After dinner, some of us met up for an unscheduled late night
dance at Cole Porter. We noticed that in comparison to the first night,
dancing while balanced on turns and steps was much easier. I guess we
finally got used to the ship’s rocking.
Day 8 - Sunday
The ship arrived
at the LA port by about 5am. We woke up around 8:30am, went through
immigration, wolfed down breakfast and waited for our section to be
called to disembark. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed
to LAX via taxi-minivan. After getting off the ship, I was still in
sea-mode for a day or so. I found myself swaying every so often, and
wondering if it wasn’t the ground swaying?
A few words about the instructors, my impression:
You can tell that
all of the instructors really enjoyed dancing and teaching. Everyone
smiled a lot when they were dancing, no matter who they were dancing
with. I love that. It’s very telling.
Salomon and Sandra
were the most perfect and precise dancers. The best cha-cha dancers of
the crew hands-down. Couldn’t take my eyes off them when they were
dancing together. Wonder if Salomon is a professional photographer? He
always had his nice camera with him and took a ton of photos. Probably
as many as our own photographer, Paula.
Stacey were the ultimate professionals! They were so genuinely welcoming
it was like we were all being invited to share their family pastime of
dancing. The whole family had the biggest smiles on their faces at all
times. Their kids John (4years old) and Lindsey (less than 1 year old)
were the cutest. Little John surprised us with a great robot imitation.
On top of that, he demonstrated a few shines with Daddy Francisco. He
even did the windup before leading a turn. Lindsey, the baby, never
cried once in public and seemed to enjoy being held by anyone and
Alma was hilarious
and a wonderful and patient instructor. Her ladies’ styling class was a
hit. Let me tell you that she can hold her tequila, too. Ricardo was
also a popular instructor with bizarro moves and full of jokes and
imitations to leave your sides splitting and eyes tearing. Have you seen
Zoolander? Well, Ricardo’s got plenty of hilarious lines from that
movie. Next time you see him, ask him to show you his happy face, his
sad face, his angry face, and his salsa face…
The young Salvaje
team was often out in full-force and became known as the highly
energetic group with the tall salseras and the lucky guy. At one point,
while enjoying the view at Le Cliffs, Francisco observed, “Look at
Marcelo. He’s got his shirt-off and his harem at work, with one woman
oiling him up, another posing by his side, and another taking a photo of
DJ Tony was on top
of the music and was even happy to take requests. He’s one quiet and
stealthy Tigron. Turns out he’s a dancer with Seaon’s dance group. No
wonder the smooth lead and great tunes. At each dance, he played all
salsa. Some requested meringue or bachata and he happily obliged.
John and Anita
truly took care of their dancers and instructors. They made sure we had
water at every dance and bought drinks on the first night for everyone.
Knowing that dancers can be intimidated by strangers, they did a great
job making people feel comfortable and like family. By giving out
multiple awards and recognizing celebrations, they made everyone feel
like winners. I would highly recommend DanceFun events for their
wonderfully organized and fun events with fun instructors.
7 Day Mexican
Riviera Cruise and Salsa Exchange with Mexico January 12 – 19, 2003,
organized by DanceFun (John Riddle)!
-- by Nadine!
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