Travel Stories – part 2 – a Whale of a Tale

 Fair warning, LOTS of photo’s.

Picking up on my adventures in April!  This is a photo travel journal from my 10 day cruise on the Ruby Princess, out of Los Angeles, April 14-24, 2018.

At the end of my last post, we sailed away from San Diego CA and had a lovely “Sea Day” on board the beautiful Ruby Princess as we went South along Baja California. Perfect weather for a sea day!  I spent some time meeting other travelers whom I had chatted with on Cruise Critic and had a photo with them and officers from the crew.

Ruby Princess April 14, 2018 sailing

It was a great chance to hear about the new menus on board the ship and to get to know TJ the cruise director, talk to the hotel manager etc.  Sea Days are my favorite time on a cruise ship. Time to relax, read, listen to an audio book, sit in the sun, enjoy the pool, and sit & sew.  I took my never ending hexi project along for sea days and got 2 double diamonds finished during the cruise.

Our first port in Mexico was Cabo San Lucas, and I was scheduled to do a snorkeling excursion.

Cabo San Lucas Mexico

We had an EARLY morning show time for the excursion, and by the time we tendered into Cabo, it was barely 9 am. We no sooner stepped onto the dock to find out that the excursion was cancelled due to the rough water conditions.  I was frustrated because the vendor with the “SHIP” excursion didn’t notify the ship before we tendered over. Instead, he tried to get us to take one of his company’s other excursions, and pay him directly for that “new” trip. He might have had something enjoyable to do, but I like to plan a bit more. Plus, my sister was still on the ship and if she was going to go into town, I wanted to go with her. SO….I tendered back to the ship and tried to find her.  We must have passed each other in tenders, me going to the ship and her going to town. I guess it was “meant to be” and I stayed on board the ship, and relaxed the rest of the day!  I’ve been to Cabo several times, so I wasn’t sad to stay on board.  I will fill you in on another post about one of the ships guests who took the alternate excursion and tell you his story!

Our second port was La Paz Mexico, which is North of Cabo San Lucas in the Gulf of California / Sea of Cortez.  Our port was in an industrial area, about 10 miles from the town center.  Not a pretty place to go shopping!

Wide view of the port at La Paz Mexico

I had scheduled a snorkeling excursion with an early morning show time. This excursion met dockside and we walked over to the boats we were to take for the excursion. The details of the excursion are found here –  SNORKELING AT GAVIOTA ISLAND & BALANDRA BAY  .

Once we were on board and settled into life jackets, we headed out into the channel.  Immediately we discovered that the French /Spanish speaking “dive guy”, and the young Mexican woman who spoke English and the captain of the boat who spoke Spanish ; were going to show us a good time.  We were not 5 mins away from the ship when the “dive guy” yelled about a whale, and the captain of the boat spun us around and took us to see a Humpback whale in the channel.

A whale nearby

Do you see that little disturbance in the water, to the slight left of the white hat?

Definitely something there!  (And LOOK how close to the cruise ship we are!) (The big white one, not the blue one)

Whale blow - La Paz Mexico

Thar’ she blows!

whale surface La Paz Mexico

humpback whale TAIL

And there is the tail!

Not quite a breech but a whale tail is nearly as cool!  I knew right away that this boat captain was going to make sure we had a good time.  His schedule switched from “snorkeling to whale watching” .  He hung in the channel a long time so we could watch the whale and get photos!  None of us were immediately prepared because this was so unexpected.

After we all got the opportunity to take photo’s and see the whale surfacing and blowing, and going back under, we headed out towards Gaviota Island. “As you approach the island you’ll notice that it’s not full of swaying palm trees but covered with birds. The island is a massive volcanic rock, which makes it a natural refuge for hundreds of seabirds. Depending on the time of year, you may see blue-footed boobies, yellow-footed gulls, and great blue herons“. (Quote from the Princess website linked above).  Well, I didn’t have a “great view” for photo’s so I only snagged this one –

Gaviota Island La Paz Mexico

The plan was to come back to this island to snorkel after we had some time at the beach.  So, we circled the island once, then went off to the most beautiful cove and beaches!  

La Paz Mexico Playa Balandra

  Again – from the Princess website – “Balandra Bay lies just a short distance from La Paz and is home to eight inlets, a coral reef, and beautiful beaches. But Balandra Bay is most famous for its unusual rock formation called Mushroom Rock, or El Hongo by the locals. “

Balandra Beach La Paz Mexico

This panoramic isn’t the best below, but I insert it here so you can get a vision of just how big this bay was!

panoramic view Balandra bay La Paz Mexico

Way off to the left was the only beach that you could get to by automobile or bus.  That is how these kayakers arrived for their “ship tour”.

The equipment for the kayakers was great and I would recommend that excursion if you find yourself on a cruise with a port stop in La Paz!  (Our snorkeling equipment was outdated!)

After some beach time, and some very COLD water, we got back on our little boats and headed over to Gaviota Island for snorkeling.  I was watching everyone getting into the water at Gaviota, and seeing their reactions and rapid retreat to the boat, and decided I was not going to risk the extremely cold (60 degree) water.  I was still freezing from playing in the water at the beach and I didn’t have a wet suit.  The only ones who stayed in the water snorkeling were those equipped with wet suits.  I was thinking the whales at the beginning of the trip would be the highlight of my day.  Little did I know that our return to the Ruby Princess would be full of adventure.

Our boat captain, assisted by the dive guy found more whales.  In fact, the captain did a u-turn and took us out to sea much further than expected in the small boat, to chase the whales and capture some photos.  We stayed with this one whale for nearly an hour, and I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did.  I am amazed I was able to capture as many as I did, with just my cell phone.

Humpback whale BREACH La Paz Mexico

So exciting to see this humpback breach. One source below calls this SPY HOPPING, not breach.

La Paz Mexico Humpback whale

This humpback  was less than 100 yards from our small boat.

Whale watching in LaPaz Mexico

They make quite a splash going back down!

humpback whale La Paz Mexico breaching

This was a full breach.

This one was giving us a wonderful show!  Sometimes my view was from the “wrong side of the boat” and I had to get my photo “across” others.

Ahoy WHALE LaPaz Mexico

In the video below, watch for the breach and the tail! It is a short one. You may notice another boat in the shots, this is our companion group, and our boat was similar in size.

Now, if you are still hanging on, looking at these photo’s, I have another video to share.  This video is of the humpback whale slapping it’s tail. ” A tail slap also known as “lobtailing”.  Some say it is to stun the fish, and others say it is a method of communication.  Sources for both theories are linked at the bottom of the page.  Meanwhile, turn on your speakers, and enjoy the chatter in the background along with the sounds of this whale as his tail slaps the water.  I only ran a couple of minutes of video, but this whale behaved in this manner for nearly 30 minutes while our boats were in the area.  It was the most interesting thing to watch!

There are several schools of thought on the WHY the humpback slaps its tail.  Since there were no naturalists along on this “snorkeling trip turned whale watching” we didn’t get an explanation.  Here are a couple of sources I have found since I returned home and started questioning the WHY ?  Have you ever seen whales behave in this manner?

My opportunity to see these whales and to spend so much time observing them made up for the “no snorkeling”.  The trip was certainly worth the expense because of the experience.

A couple of lessons learned about the idea of snorkeling on the west coast of Mexico – 1)Equipment – 2) Water Temperature.

This is the not  the first time I have had poor quality equipment on a paid tour in Mexico.  Last year in Huatulco Mexico, they gave us regular life jackets for snorkeling, and again on this trip.  I find them impossible to deal with and they interfere with the fun of snorkeling. I’ve been disappointed for the last time. Next cruise, I will order and take my own snorkel vest.  I should have had a wet suit for early spring cold water.  Huatulco was warm! But, it was early November and the water was so much warmer further south.  La Paz was not so warm in April!  I will check water temperature charts before I book excursions.

I’ve gone snorkeling on Caribbean cruises in the past, and in the Bahamas, and cold water was never an issue, and the same for Hawaii, so I was a bit stunned by the temperatures!  Several people I met during the excursion and on board the Ruby Princess talked about the need to bring your “own gear” to have a better experience. Lesson learned.

I hope you enjoyed the photos of my fun in La Paz on the water. I have a Humpback whale album on Flickr if you want to see more photos.

Stay tuned for one more “travel story” to wrap up the April adventure!  Next stop Puerto Vallarta.  Now I leave you with the sunset as we sailed away from La Paz!

Sunset leaving La Paz Mexico


ps….yes, I have been quilting some this month….but I just had to share this great adventure with you.












Travel stories – part 1- Cruising on the Ruby Princess

(Fair warning – photo filled post!)

In order not to bore you to death, I will break up my posts. (Besides, I have lots of photo’s still to sort through.)

I returned this past Sunday from nearly 3 weeks of travel.  I thought I would share a few of my travel memories.

I spent part of my time away cruising the Baja Peninsula of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.  The Sea of Cortez is more commonly known in the US as the Gulf of California.  According to Wikipedia “The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez, Sea of Cortés or Vermilion Sea; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or Mar Bermejo or Golfo de California) is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland.

Our 10 day cruise began in San Pedro CA, then to San Diego CA, and on to the Mexican ports of  Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Puerto Vallarta and back to San Pedro CA.

I’m sharing a map so you can pinpoint our itinerary.

Before we sailed from San Pedro, I got to visit with my sister Cathi, who met us for breakfast and took us to the port! She lives in So. California and happened to actually be there.  She is usually on the road, so it was a nice way to start the trip, and my birthday!  I haven’t spent time with her in quite a while!

Approaching the port of San Pedro

That is our ship, the Ruby Princess in the background.

We were onboard the ship within 30 minutes of Cathi pulling up to the port.  This was my 4th time on the Ruby Princess, so finding our way around was pretty easy.  Anne had chosen a window cabin on deck 5, just around the corner from the International Cafe and COFFEE !!  Great location on the ship!

Anne & Mary ready to sail April 2018

It didn’t take long for us to dump our carry-on items in the cabin and find our way to our FAVORITE spot on the ship!

A favorite spot on the Ruby Princess

We like this spot on the aft end of the ship because we can watch the port happenings and the busy waterway.

Port of San Pedro California.

and of course, there is a bar close at hand.  Perfect spot for sailaway!

Anne & Little Zack

My sister, Anne, brought along a travel buddy – Little Zack –  he wanted to stow away, but she let him out of the baggage!  Lots of folks at the bar wanted to know about Zack. He was a great conversation starter!  I think 2 of the bartenders signed the back of Zack too.

We had a meet & greet (informal) with some folks from Cruise Critics shortly after the “MUSTER Drill”.  This is the first time (in more than 17 cruises) we haven’t had to drag our life jackets to the MUSTER Drill. What a relief.  Our luggage arrived in our cabin within an hour of our embarkation, and we were unpacked before the MUSTER Drill. (That’s also a first).  We had early dining (5:30 pm) and met our lovely table mates whom we would dine with for the duration of the cruise. A table for 8 is a nice size, easy to “move around” nightly, sitting next to different people, and getting a chance to get to know each other. I’m not a fan of the early dining, but you do finish in time to catch the sunsets!  Late dining is too late.  Other cruises we have done any-time dining, and you never know how long you might have to wait for a table, or whom you might share the table with on any given day.

We sailed overnight to San Diego Ca. We had no specific plans. I wanted to take the Seal Tour, and Anne want to find local microbrews.  We were able to take a free shuttle bus from the dock over to Sea Port Village.  We ventured into  The Headquarters  a 1939 Police Station and took a few photos.

Mug shots The Headquarters San Diego

We both served a little “time” in the police station lock up!  Just wondering what our “mug shots” would say!!!

The Headquarters Jail

“Tourists running amok in San Diego”

At the HQ Jail in San Diego

“WILD SISTERS – wanted for having too much fun” or something on an early Sunday morning!

The LINE UP with Anne

Not sure if my sister took a photo of ME next to the lineup wall, but if she did, I would be the “TALL” one….lol…..

The San  Diego Sea Port Village is a pretty place to wander around, shop, eat and play!  Definitely designed for walking, browsing, sitting and people watching.

Seaport Village San Diego CA

Carousel at Seaport Village San Diego

I loved the old carousel!

History of the Looff Carousel

Too bad it was so early!  There wasn’t time to go back later for a ride.

Sweet little bear

We eventually found our way over to the  San Diego Seal Tours kiosk, inquired about pricing and accessibility.

San Diego Seal Tours

No way my sister was climbing those steep steps with her bad knees.  We didn’t book the excursion with the ship, because the steps were too steep.  I checked out the website and saw you could board in the Seaport Village using a handicap lift, suitable for non stair climbers and wheelchairs.  With that concern resolved, we booked ourselves on the next available SEAL.  What a great time!  This vehicle tours along N. Harbor Drive, and the Embarcadero, past the airport and eventually into the San Diego Bay.  Along N. Harbor Drive you could see all the wonderful walking areas, as well as the military installations that San Diego is known for.  The “splash” into the water was uneventful.  The views from the water were terrific and the tour was well narrated. Blankets were provided in case the wind was too much.  It was colder riding along on the road at 35 mph or higher than it was on our 5mph ride in the water.  The “water ride” was pretty noisy as you will note in this video. I was hoping to catch the sounds of the harbor seals “barking”, but the background noise over powered the sound of the seals on the video.

Fishing bait station

These platforms had “bait fish” underneath. I think the seals liked their resting spot!  Commercial & recreational fisherman stop at a booth on the platforms to purchase their bait in the bay, before leaving the harbor area to go deep sea fishing.

Of course, as our sail came to an end, all sailors get a silly hat to wear!

Silly Hats on the San Diego Seal

I was able to catch a quick photo of the launching ramp as we approached it to exit the water.

Boat ramp for the Seal Tour San Diego CA

A short drive up the ramp and we were back onto N. Harbor Drive.  I enjoyed the sunshine, the blue skies and palm trees!  (At home it was dreary, damp and cold!!)

We finished our day with a little shopping, and a nice lunch with local beer at Buster’s Beach House.

Sail away from San Diego was wonderful to watch.  This really is a beautiful bay.  I haven’t been to San Diego since I was a child, and I enjoyed visiting. It looks like the kind of place you could go and spend a week.  Rent a bicycle or just walk along the Embarcadero.  The weather was perfect.

San Diego Bay

Leaving San Diego, next stop – Cabo San Lucas Mexico.

Ruby Princess leaving San Diego Bay

More pictures and posts on another day!