In December 2022, we took a Holland America New Year’s cruise to the Sea of Cortez, with additional stops in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

San Diego


San Diego

When we left home for the airport, we were hoping for the best but braced for the worst. Southwest Airlines had been cancelling thousands of flights a day — including many that stranded Sacramento travelers — but we were booked on Alaska Airlines for our short flight to San Diego. 

Unlike so many other families, our holiday travel experience was the best of times. There was no line at check-in. There was no line at TSA screening. We even had time for a sit-down lunch before boarding. In San Diego, we visited family and spent a relaxing night at the Doubletree downtown. 

On embarkation day, we walked about a mile from the hotel to the port, stood in three separate lines for check-in, and waited behind at least a couple hundred people until boarding groups were called. In all, it took about an hour and a half from hotel to our inside cabin on the Holland America Koningsdam. We had a delicious dinner in the main dining room, followed by music trivia and a set with the house band at B.B. King’s Blues Club.

On our first at-sea day, we worked off breakfast with a one-mile walk on the jogging track, which is just down the hall from our Sun Deck cabin. It’s a great incentive to walk, and you can’t beat the scenery! Afterward, we attended a port talk, which provided some great practical information. We learned there’s a free shuttle from Pichilingue to La Paz, and we will heed warnings to be careful about which ATMs to use in port.

Cabo San Lucas


Cabo San Lucas

On New Year’s Eve, the Koningsdam dropped anchor off the tip of the Baja peninsula at Cabo San Lucas, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Bay of Cortez. We’ve been to Cabo before and found it way too touristy, so we opted for a shore excursion to the smaller port of San Jose. We visited three retail shops in the arts district, including a sandwich lunch and a Pacifico beer at the final art gallery. 

 We made it back on board with just enough time to dress for our early New Year’s Eve dinner. We took a bottle of Prosecco that our travel agent had sent to our cabin, and we celebrated with a tasty of lobster tail and filet mignon. 

Closer to midnight, we found secluded balcony seats at B.B. King’s Blues Club. The music was great. The dance floor below us was packed. And we toasted the final countdown into 2023.

La Paz


Pichilingue / La Paz

The Koningsdam docked in Pichilingue on New Year’s Day, and we took a free shuttle bus into La Paz, the capital city of Baja California Sur. We walked to the old cathedral in time for the end of mass, but otherwise there wasn’t much to see or do on this Sunday holiday. 

Back at the port in Pichilingue, we stopped for margaritas and were serenaded by a mariachi band. That may have been the highlight of the day.




On our second day in the Sea of Cortez, we visitEd Loreto — founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries who established the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto.

From the port, we took the waterfront walkway to the gates of the old town. The main street was a tree-lined pedestrian mall, flanked with shops and restaurants. We visited the old Spanish mission and the former town hall, bought a couple of T-shirts, then found a table for two inside a family-run restaurant, where we drank Modelo beer and split plates of shrimp and fish tacos. 

 On our way out of town, we stopped at La Mision hotel — an upscale property that overlooks the Pacific. We would love to come back for another visit.




We watched from the top deck as the Koningsdam sailed into Mazatlan, and we were among the first to disembark. In the port village, we caught a taxi into the Old Town, starting first at the local market, then walking past the cathedral on our way over to the Plaza Machado and on to the malecon.

The narrow streets were extremely crowded with thousands of passengers from three cruise ships, so we tried to get off the beaten path as quickly as possible. We stopped to ask an English-speaking tour guide — an ex-pat volunteer — whether some of our favorite shops from pre-Covid were still in business. El Shrimp Bucket is no more, but the NidArt collective is still in business. So we found a new favorite waterfront restaurant, Rick’s, and shared a delicious plate of nachos washed down with Mazatlan-brewed Pacifico beer. 

 We found a new art gallery, the Point, on our way to NidArt, and we patronized both. The shops invited us to visit their First Friday art walk, and Dennis has always wanted to return for a Los Venados baseball game. So add Mazatlan to the “we’ll be back” list.

Puerto Vallarta


Puerto Vallarta

On our final port day, we disembarked and headed straight for the city bus stop nearby. For 10 pesos each, we had an authentic experience on a bus into El Centro. Yes, we stood most of the way. But where else are you going to see a cute young couple taking the bus to their marriage ceremony? It is always a wonderful experience and at a bargain price.

We got off the bus and headed over to the malecon to walk along the popular waterfront. It was a warm and very sunny day, so our first stop was to buy sunglasses; boy, did we need them!

We walked into the Zona Romantica, then headed back toward our favorite restaurant, Si Senor Garden, for a late lunch in town. We have been to Si Senor Garden every time we are in PV. There’s a location on the beach near the pier, but it’s just not the same experience. We learned on this visit that the beach location is run by the brother of the original owner, who personally thanked us for coming to his restaurant and gave us a tour of the terraced garden seating.

Here is why we keep coming back: We are immediately greeted and given our choice of tables. We select a table for two on the second floor balcony, overlooking the street. It’s shady and a perfect day outside. Our first order is for two margaritas on the rocks. The waiter brings our lime mix in hand-blown margarita glasses, and he offers a choice of tequilas. We pick the Don Julio 70, and he open-pours the “blanco” tequila into our glasses. It’s the best margarita I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tasted my share. Next comes table-side guacamole, served with two salsas and tri-color chips, or totopas. For our main courses, Dennis has lobster enchiladas and I have coconut shrimp. And for dessert, we share a slice of tres leches cake. It is easily the best dining experience we’ve had on our trip.

Sailing Home


Home Again, Home Again

Our last two days were at sea.

On Thursday, the ship made an unscheduled stop in Cabo for the third medical evacuation of the cruise. We were quickly back on our way, but high seas impeded our progress and had us rocking and rolling. On Friday night, we attended the last set in the B.B. King Blues Club, so the rocking and rolling continued.

On Saturday morning, we ate a final breakfast on board and waited an extra two hours before we could disembark. The ship had been late arriving in San Diego, where port facilities were under construction. Customs boarded the Koningsdam and set up screening stations in the theater, so everyone had to clear customs before getting off the ship. Communication was nearly nonexistent, so we had 2600 befuddled passengers trying to get through a very unfamiliar system.  

Overall, we had a wonderful cruise, with nearly perfect weather and safe travels to some new and some old-favorite ports in Mexico. We tried to travel safely on a large ship, but we will try to book smaller ships in the future. Next March, we are taking our first Viking Ocean trip on a ship that holds 900 people. Stay tuned for our D-tour to Italy and Greece!

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