Travel Adventures in San Diego California while Cruising

During my 18 day cruise on board the Grand Princess recently, we went to San Diego twice. I tried to book an excursion to the San Diego Zoo through the cruise line, but it was not available. My tour desk consultant recommended the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which is located Escondido, California. The best description comes from their website – “The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located approximately 35 miles northeast of the Zoo, in Escondido, California. The Safari Park, an 1,800-acre wildlife park, is home to more than 3,600 animals representing over 300 species. More than 1 million guests visit each year, and see wildlife in herds of mixed species, in expansive savanna habitats. The Safari Park also maintains a vast accredited botanical collection of more than 1.3 million plant specimens, representing over 3,700 species. Guests are invited to take part in thrilling safari experiences and create lasting memories, while supporting San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s conservation efforts to save wildlife worldwide.

I am pretty certain I covered all 1800 acres. There was a tram tour included with the ticket price, and I took that, but I still walked over 18000 steps according to my Fitbit tracker. Not very far thru the gate of the park, I started seeing the birds.

San Diego Zoo Safari

My photo’s don’t do it justice, because, honestly, I forgot to take photos most of the time. I was just enjoying the activity and the animals.

Flamingos and ducks

Since I was there with my simple “cell phone camera” a lot of shots at a distance were just not easy to get. Zooming in with the phone pixelates the image, and so I took a few, but mostly, just enjoyed the experience.

Gorilla lunch time

What I quickly noticed is things were very spread out in this wildlife park. The other thing was how much work had gone into the horticulture of the park. It was really like an arboretum. The area in California is very dry and arid, so seeing all this plant life carefully set let me know right away how much care was taken to give you a good experience, as well as the animals a good environment. This beautiful walkway led up to the area where the gorillas were housed. Not quite a jungle, but definitely not California desert.

Gorilla walk

This one little area of succulent plantings shows how much care went into the area the guests were visiting.

succulent plantings
Enjoying the greenery

The views of the mountains in the background show a stark contrast in vegetation.

Habitats at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

savanna habitat San Diego Safari Zoo

The Savanna habitat was huge, and to access it, you could take the included tram ride, around the perimeter, or pay extra for a variety of “safari” options. Those options looked very cool, but the price was pretty steep. You certainly got in closer to the animals with those options.

We could see a large variety of animals from zebras to giraffes from our vantage point in the tram. There were elephants and hippos wandering about. The big cats were in another area, separated from the animals they prey on.

Giraffe at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

It was so cool to see the numbers of animals and to see they had a lot of space in their habitat.

Big open spaces for the animals

One thing that was most interesting to me was the California Condors breeding and nesting facility at the top of a hill. If you click on the link above, you can watch the “Condors Cam” during daylight hours. The California Condor was on the brink of extinction in 1987. “The California Condor has been to the brink of extinction—and back. By 1987, habitat degradation, poisoning, and shooting had nearly eliminated the California Condor in the wild. The 22 individuals remaining were captured for captive breeding programs, which are credited with the species’ survival. California Condors are now being reintroduced into the wild each year.” source – https://abcbirds.org/bird/california-condor/ That said, it was a serious hike up the hill to the area where we could view them from a platform. It was well worth the hike to me.

If you ever find your self in Southern California, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a nice destination for the day.

On our second visit to San Diego, I took a wine tasting tour out into Temecula California. Our first stop was the Wilson Creek Winery where we had a lovely lunch before our wine tastings. One of the most interesting things we tasted was a sparkling wine with an almond flavor. It was a lovely refreshing wine. It’s the one bottle I didn’t get a photo of. Our wine guide told us that particular product helped them to meet their 5 year business goal in 3 years, and is a resounding success. The Wilson Creek Winery is a rather newcomer to the wine makers in Temecula, and a lovely place to visit. I thought a “slide show” might let you peak at some of what we tasted and the views we enjoyed. The white Cabernet Sauvignon is very refreshing and not something I had ever tried.

In one area of the tour at Wilson Creek, we were able to see the “artists work” with wine corks. These might motivate you if you have a collection of corks!

Our next visit was to a Mount Palomar Winery, one of the oldest in the region. We had to choose from the menu for our “tastings” with little fanfare and no tour. The only info on the wine we received was from what we were able to gather from the menu. We were given tickets for our tastings, and could enjoy 5 different types. While the wine was nice, the ambiance in the tasting room was a little less than I expected. Walking around the grounds you could see there had been some effort in making outdoor tasting areas, which would have been a lot nicer. Looking further out at the hills, there was a lot of “replanting” and a lot of barren hillsides happening.

The area around Temecula is filled with wineries, and each has their own “special flavor” or style. Our tour guide pointed out a tour happening as we were driving out, and it was a “motorcycle with a double side car”. The rider takes his 2 passengers out for tastings at a variety of wineries and ensures they return safely to their hotel. So, lots of touring opportunities from every comfort level.

Both times we were in San Diego we left late in the evening. The city has a spectacular skyline, and it’s one of those places where you can sit to enjoy the view from the ship too.

San Diego skyline from the ship

There is plenty to do within the city and around the harbor, if you happen to find yourself in San Diego for a day. We’ve been there in the past and done some touring around the harbor, so I enjoyed these visits that took me out of town to something a bit different.

Note….yes, there was adventure in the wine drinking, the food eating and the day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park! Big thumbs up to the tour desk on the Grand Princess for suggesting the Safari park and a big thumbs up to the folks who made you feel so at home at the Wilson Creek Winery.

Have you been out having any adventures lately?? Do tell!!

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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!