Carnival Spirit: Acapulco

(Previous Post in This Cruise Report: The Second Sea Day.)

March the 30th, sun up, and we were sailing toward a noon rendezvous with Acapulco Bay. This was a first for us, not coming into port in the purple-blues of sunrise.

Sunrise

Around 8:30 I zipped down the hallway and up the elevator to the Lido deck to grab some scrambled eggs and bagel to take back to the room. However the deck plan looked on paper, in reality it was quite easy to nip from our room (by the forward elevators) to the atrium elevators that take you right to the Lido's breakfast offerings.

(Or the steps, if you're one of those people - people who use sensible exercise opportunities to walk off the buffet - people of whom I now madly jealous, having smashed up my knee a bit this week. That's another story, especially the part where I seem to now have more kneecap parts than were originally shipped from the factory.)

At 10:00 we were back in the Fountain Cafe for Know It and Show It with Jill, who had us all divide up and play individually, to make things more interesting. Mike and I took this directive very seriously, dramatically turning back-to-back.

Mike won, and I wasn't even runner up (third or fourth place, maybe?), nor should I have been with my shameful performance. Lest anyone think I'm full of myself elsewhere in this trip report, this confession should assure you of otherwise: I forgot the difference between bull and bear markets.

Just typing that in public makes me feel like I need to go into the special closet with an albino wig and a whip.

Despite the best efforts of my eighth grade Economics teacher, I actually forgot which was which. All I could think about was the old bull in the china shop ad from Merrill Lynch. So, while a chirpy part of my brain was thinking "I feel bullish, like a bully, in power, optimistic, nice round vowel for a confident sound," some stupid part of me, the part of the brain that stores advertisements from the days of UHF channels, was pushing all of this back with, "But it's a bull! In a china shop! One wrong step and everything will be in ruins!"

I couldn't sort out the bear at all, except I know bears shit in the woods, even if no one is there to hear, so you'd think that I'd say to myself, "Well, it's no good when bears are shitting all over your campsite, probably because they just ate you, like some kind of people-burrito in a nylon tent tortilla."

But no. I froze up. Bull. China shop. Killed by a cliche.

I hope my dad never reads this.

After this, it's really no big deal to admit that I also forgot what BMW stood for. The MW, no problem, but I wanted the B to be Berlin. I knew it wasn't right, but BERLIN kept looming in my noodle, and that and the ticking clock crowded out the other possibilities. Still, you'd think I've eaten enough Bavarian pastry in life to do better.

Mike won by a good-sized margin, making this Ship on a Stick #2. Huzzah!

The next game started, "Name That Jingle," and we all continued to play as individuals, as directed. Jill would name a slogan, and we would write down to which company it belonged.

At the start of the game, a family of four joined us. They were advised that we were all playing individually, and... yeah, this is the foreshadowing part of the story, and this is me pointing the unattractive neon arrow at it.

It was a good game, a good crowd, with lots of people seeming to get different ones, so just when you would be pleased to get something that was stumping others, you got to claw at your mind as everyone seemed to get something that totally escaped you. These being ads, many were maddeningly familiar. Fun stuff. (Poor Mike, though, in the dark due to it mostly being American products.)

At the end of the game, I had more correct than anyone else. "Woot!"

Or "Cringe!" - because who wants to prove themselves the master of insipid commercialism? Oh, wait, I'm not the master of boob tube brain-rot, despite all childhood efforts to become so. No, it turns out that someone else had one more than I did...

Yeah, the family of four, who clearly had been playing together, but there was nothing one could really say while the game was on. You just had to hope they didn't win and make things awkward... which just shows that "hoping" is a pretty weak strategy in terms of meeting goals. Maybe if you're hoping and making one of those Oprah/Secret vision boards, but that's hard to do with 30-minute trivia.

There were some raised eyebrows when the dad of the family said they had one more than me, but unless you're just a total boorish douche, you can't really yell "J'accuse!" in these situations. It's not Wimbledon. Nobody is staying up after the Tonight Show to find out how the cruise ship trivia games are going. This drama doesn't sell.

So, I didn't win our third ship on a stick... but I should have. Maybe. Maybe it was all a misunderstanding.

Nah, I was robbed. Robbed, I tells ya.

Acapulco - Tall Thingy

When you sail into the bay, this tall building on a hill really stands out. What is it?

Later, after our time on Acapulco soil was served, we remonikered this city as "Detroit-by-the-sea." This would be a glimpse of why:

Acapulco - Detroit by the Sea

We traveled around the city enough on this day for me to understand why Acapulco was so beloved for decades if not centuries, but now? Really? I understand the cliff divers are pretty amazing (if you like that kind of thing), but we thought it was a pit.

Everyone rags on Manzanillo for its horrible "industrial" port, but a few shipping containers aside, Manzanillo is pretty gorgeous, including right around the port area. It's almost a sleepy lagoon. Sure, you can't walk right out into some excitement, but it's not so seedy, tagged up, or crowded, either.

I'm not saying you can't have fun or avoid the ickyness in Acapulco; I'm just saying that it's probably the least attractive port we've visited so far. And we've been to Ensenada.

Acapulco - Tour Tickets

At one p.m. we were queued up along the length of the ship, waiting to be directed to our bus for the "Birds, Turtles and City Overview" tour. We all had to sign waivers saying that if we perished in the course of looking at the city, the birds, or the turtles, we couldn't blame anyone but ourselves (and perhaps whatever vestigial Olmec god smites those who talk smack about Acapulco).

The waivers were a first. We didn't sign them in Mazatlan before, and we didn't sign them in Manzanillo later. I suppose it's because we would be getting on motor boats, but I like to think it's just more evidence of Acapulco being a yucky place. (At least I'm honest when I twist things around to suit my theories.)

We made it onto the second bus. Our first choice of seat, up front, had a nasty wet cloth on it, so we moved toward the back. Big mistake.

The tour can operate with birds first or turtles first, but obviously the city overview - a constant narration from the guide as we passed landmarks - is first of all. Unfortunately, the PA system was cruddy in the back, and I became irritable from trying to catch every third or fourth word then reconstruct a logical sentence around it. (The guide's accent was a little heavier than usual, which - only because the PA was shoddy - added to the problem.)

I ended up just staring out the window. (Of course the bay and pretty views were on the other side of the window.)

Win some, lose some, right? It's still interesting to just look around. Unless you look to your immediate right. Don't look to your immediate right. To your immediate right is a nasty toilet with unidentified crud on the floor, and you know this because every time the bus hits a tiny bump, the broken door of the toilet flies open, like a six-year-old showing up his chewed-up food.

Mike tried to fix the door, if only so it would be less of a threat to the knees of the three kids sitting behind us, which worked somewhat, but then he was left with gross hands. Flashback to packing day, when I didn't know where the travel-size hand sanitizer was: "Bah. We don't need it."

We stopped for a photo op above the bay. That was nice.

Acapulco - Michael above the Bay

Acapulco - Welcome to the Turtle Place

Our tour was doing turtles first. Mike washed his hands as soon as we arrived at the center. (I've seen the place described as a shack on the beach. Hardly! Yes, it is simple, but it's a pleasant set up with snacks, restrooms, gift counter, and shaded sitting area by the beach.)

Acapulco - Sea Turtle Orientation

We learned how to hold the turtles, and how the turtles have to be completely dry when we touch them, or else the chemicals on our hands could hurt and blind them. Supposedly the turtles we would be releasing were born that morning. (I still wonder if that was true.)

We also learned how people (polite spelling of "dickheads") take the sea turtle eggs for use in wishful virility concoctions. This problem is rampant that entire advertising campaigns are out there to discourage men from killing off the turtle population with these superstitions.

Acapulco - Mi hombre no necisita huevos de tortuga

(Poster, lower left: Mi hombre no necisita huevos de tortuga. "My man doesn't need turtle eggs.")

Anyone who gets to this page as a result of Googling for "Birds, Turtles, and City Overview" may be reassured to learn that there were plenty of baby turtles for both buses and then some.

(The tour description makes it clear that you may not get your own baby turtle to release, but that you should be glad just to be part of this special event. Let me tell you right now, this would have been a piss-poor tour if we hadn't gotten our own baby turtles. While it's true that just getting to see the baby turtle release is special enough, you may need the memory of your own baby turtle if you're sitting for hours in Acapulco traffic, or standing in the hot sun for ages because the tour operator didn't acquire enough boats.)

Anyway, like I said, on the day we were there, plenty of turtles were available. Here are some of the do-not-touch wet ones in a tub:

Acapulco - Sea Turtle Tubs

And here are some drying off:

Acapulco - Sea Turtles Drying

We shambled over the sand to a flagged-off line just beyond the tide's reach. A woman came down the row and handed each of us a turtle.

Acapulco - Here Come the Turtles

Acapulco - Mike and His Baby Turtle

There's Mike with his baby sea turtle, Steven. (This is the third critter Mike has named Stephen or Steven. Having seen Steel Magnolias, perhaps I should worry.)

We named the turtles before we met them, because that's how it is sometimes with sea turtles - unknown psychic powers just pop up, disguised as "passing the time." Mine was named Zoltan, in honor of our excellent waiter (this commemoration is better than an extra tip, right?), but then I decided realized that my turtle was a girl, so she became Zolta. I liked it - made her sound like electrified (Zeus + bolt = Zolt?) and quirky (Zelda Fitzgerald).

Here are Zolta and Steven playing together, for optimistic values of "play":

Acapulco - Turtle Frolics

Then we had to place our golfinas down and watch them instinctively waddle-flap their way into the sea.

Acapulco - Off You Go, Zolta!

No! No! Come back, Zolta! I miss you!

Acapulco - No, I Miss You, Zolta

But she slipped out with the first wave, keen little overachiever my girl was. That's the last I saw of her, and there's a 90% chance that nobody - above or below the waters - has seen her since. The sea turtle survival rate is poor, hence the efforts to rescue the eggs from the soggy-britched and to release the babies when more natural predators are less likely to see them.

If she makes it, though - and if any turtle can, the mighty Zolta shall - she'll come back to the center in ten years.

Mike's turtle was a bit more reluctant. His was one of the stragglers who made it to video:

The turtle experience was so wonderful ("Zoooooolta!"); I'd rather remember that then spend a lot of time on what happened in the four or so hours that followed...

We arrived at the lagoon where we were supposed to board motorboats for to "see the sanctuary that is home to many exotic species of tropical birds. Have the opportunity to photograph nature in all of its splendor. See the breathtaking scenery created by mangrove tunnels, virgin lagoons and a natural garden of wild flowers."

Boat loaded, boat took off. Second boat loaded, Second boat took off. And so on, over and over, until all of the boats were gone and several of us were left on shore, waiting.

At some point, Mike and I and an older couple went to sit with the holidaying Mexicans under the roof of the open-air restaurant. Most people, though, remained faithfully queued at the "pier" (a plank leading to four feet of dock), standing in the sun for over half an hour.

Finally, another boat came, and they wedged us all into it. Mike and I, who don't like to push or shove and thus tend to try to be either first or last, had the fun experience of being the last to get on to the boat, thus discovering there wasn't any room left for us. If we hadn't already stepped onto the boat, we would've just skipped the awkwardness of everyone having to reluctantly sit arm-to-arm and thigh-to-thigh to fit on the last two passengers. I don't know if that's how tightly the other boats were loaded, or if this was more a matter of trying to cram everyone onto this last boat they found.

In case you're delicately wondering, it wasn't a fat thing - there wasn't any room for anyone, but being two fatties didn't help, and I'm sure those at the front of the boat were less than impressed. I promise neither of us had more than half a buttcheek on the end of the bench, swearsies.

Acapulco - So, We're All on This Motorboat

Okay, so it doesn't look so cramped there. Maybe people are whiners. Maybe it just felt so unpleasant when you're balancing yourself on half a tushie and trying not to touch the person next to you.

It also looks like everyone is having fun - look at that girl's smile! No, that's just camera instinct. At this point, the other boats had been gone 45 minutes. They were nowhere in sight. Us? We motored around the circular part of the lagoon, sticking the front of the boat just into a few side paths. Then the other boats appeared, and we went back at the same time. I guess that answered the "What will the people on all of the other boats be doing while we're still on the tour?" question.

So, maybe there are fabulous tunnels and wild flowers and exotic birds, but we just traveled slowly in a circle from one clump of trees to the next, sometimes able to see a bird up in the branches. (The tour description says that at least one pair of binoculars will be provided. A lie.)

Here is Mike, probably about to point out a kingfisher, which will lead to the tour operator stopping the boat within site of the four-foot "pier" - as in "the place where we get off of this stupid boat where we've been sweating and made to look at crap while waiting for the people on the real tour to come back" - to make sure we all see it.

Acapulco - This 'Bird' Tour is Crap

You can see one of the other boats in the background. (You can also see that Mike has perched out further and is now leaning, to better see. Despite being on the sore ends, so to speak, we had it better than the people in the middle, who were endlessly twisting and ducking to try to see things behind them or behind the people across from them.)

Back on the buses, back to the ship. Ah. Well, at least the turtles were good.

Because of the holiday traffic, our driver went on the toll road/expressway to get us back more quickly.

Acapulco - Statue

The 90 minutes it had taken to get out to the turtle sanctuary now doubled, and it was dark. The guide, perhaps to his credit, kept talking, sometimes struggling for topics, but as the PA system was no better, this hurt more than helped. (The only thing I really remember, and this only came up because someone on the tour pointed out that we were passing a cemetery, was going past where Johnny Weismuller is buried.)

For ages the bus sat on back streets (or maybe they were front streets, but they sure looked like back streets) in the city. Once there was something pretty - a tiny carnival on a corner with lights and children riding those rollercoasters you could fit into a living room - but mostly we just stared at tagging and people sitting outside of shops. (I want to add, with horrified whiteness, that they were grubby or would have seven children in tow, but I'm afraid that sounds like I blame them for their poverty or for having different cultural values. Just because it skeezes me out personally doesn't mean I think it's "wrong.")

More than once we talked about just getting out and walking to the ship, surely it would be faster, but as if. Even the armor of the bus didn't feel completely safe on some streets.

Eventually the now over-air conditioned bus farted back to the port. OH BLESSED EVENT! New lines of people waited alongside the ship, people who'd booked nighttime tours. Shudder. The turtles were great, but we were so glad to be home.

British Pub Quiz wasn't happening this night, perhaps because lots of people would be taking advantage of being in port until midnight, or perhaps Sam had the night off. Instead, we went to "Famous Faces" with Joey in the Pharaoh's Palace.

Much like the game we just watched a day or two before, Joey showed a PowerPoint with famous people's faces on them and a number next to each one. You had to write down the name on the standard trivia slip. The last game was themed around old movie stars, but this one was just a mishmash of celebrities.

Only seven or eight people showed up to play, mostly couples, but it was still fun. A room full of everyone writhing with "Argh, argh, I know that person, from... from... arrgh!" Mutual frustration makes for good times.

If not for Mike, we would've been toast. After my slogan prowess earlier, it's not like I can claim to be above the sludge of popular culture, but the way the photos were stretched a bit horizontally kept throwing me.

In the end, we were stumped on Christine Baranski's last name (in desperation I wrote down "Banks," ready to declare "You prefer alien love!" if anyone doubted my appreciation for her work), and we turned Benjamin Bratt into Benjamin Bragg. Both of these we earnestly reported to Joey when he asked us which ones we didn't get. "That's very honest of you," was his dry reply to our rambling report.

He was asking because... yeah, we won! Ship on a stick number THREE!

(The runners-up weren't far behind, but they kept trying to argue for half points for just knowing people's first or last names. Pft.)

We went straight to dinner from the showroom. I had a lot to say about dinner, and after I typed it all, my left hand moved to the keys for "select all" (in preparation for saving) and one finger slipped and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I don't want to talk about it, or the empty screen, or the way CTRL-Z didn't resurrect my latest words.

Once again, now more briefly because my wrist is aching - which I now wish I hadn't gone on about in the original...

After we sat down, Mike set our little trophy off to the side. Zoltan noticed it right away, though. "Did you win that in a jerked pork eating competition?!"

Still smiling about that, and as good as Mike's steak was on this night, he still saves all of his best adjectives for that jerked pork loin.

Carnival Spirit - Beef Satay Sticks

Mike loved these. More than one plate of these "Zoltan recommended" treats meant no room for dessert later.

Carnival Spirit - Fruit Appetizer

In a classic Zoltan move, I got a surprise fruit plate while waiting on my vegetable crepes.

Carnival Spirit - Crepes

The crepes were yummy. I was dreading the tofu steak that was to be my entree, but I was determined to at least try it. Except for Tofutti Cuties, and they don't really count, I'm not a big tofu fan. People say, "oh, you just have to have it properly, with all the flavour soaked through it!"

Okay, no. To me, even the so-called "properly done" tofu dishes are usually still slimy with said flavour failing to penetrate the tofu texture. I'm sure this is a personal preference. Just as meat-eaters seldom like every meat, I'm allowed to dislike a few vegetarian items.

Carnival Spirit - Nasty Tofu Steak

Especially Carnival's tofu steak. Very slimy, and all of the flavour was in the sauce on top. (Not that it was my kind of flavour.) As I've said before, nobody is starving on the ship, so vegetarians really can't complain when their token single item on the dining room menu isn't to their taste, but it would be nice if maybe there was a meatless pasta in the (never-changing) "Carnival Classics" section. Something samey yet vegetarian to go with the samey steak and samey chicken breast already found there.

Even to me, Mike's steak looks better:

Carnival Spirit - NY Strip Steak

And my dessert, some chewy almond concoction that I'm too rushed to look up right now, was delish.

Carnival Spirit - Almond Chewy Thing

After dinner, we took a little stroll around deck 10.

(Note: No snark toward the Nouveau Steakhouse is intended; we know it's very popular, thus it was just so funny to see so few people were there at the time. Maybe it was because it was between seatings, or perhaps this isn't unusual when a ship is in port until midnight.)

Later in the evening, I decided to have a vegetarian reuben. These were genuine treats on the past two cruises: toasted rye bread, melted Swiss cheese, dressing, sauerkraut - all of the reuben without the meat - yum!

On this cruise, though, I tried three times to get my beloved sandwich and gave up. The first one was hardly pressed down, so the insides didn't get all melted and squished in the good sense. (Mike tried to ask the sandwich maker if he could apply more pressure, but the man didn't seem to understand.)

The second one was what these days we call epic fail:

Carnival Spirit - Fail-y Sandwich

Sorry about the video camera stills for all of these food shots, but it wouldn't have looked much better in crisp high definition, either. This "reuben without the meat" has lettuce, tomato, and sauerkraut.

No Swiss cheese. No dressing. I don't know where the tomato and lettuce came from. Mmmm. Hot lettuce. (No. Not mmmm.)

It was like we could make two columns for this day. In one column, we had turtles, Mike winning the trivia, Mike leading us to victory in trivia again, beef satay sticks, and the fun of just being in a new place together. In the other column, we had motorboat woes, me being shafted out of my own trivia trophy, Detroit by the sea, tofu steak, and this sandwich. If I were to make that document, and attach it here as a PDF file? This sandwich would be the icon you would click on. It's that emblematic.

"I'm fixing this," said Mike. Heroically he returned to the deli counter, and there he politely guided the sandwich maker step by step into how one could make a reuben sandwich without the meat, and without leaving out the other ingredients, and without adding new things in.

Alas, the fixed sandwich was better, but still barely melted because, as Mike exasperatedly reported, the guy just wouldn't press the lid of the sandwich maker down. That was it for sandwiches on Carnival Spirit.

(Until later that week, with room service.)

Carnival Spirit - Towel Animal - Pig

Back in the room, a little piggy. Awww. Must avoid any cheap shots at myself, so toodle-oo for now!

30 May 2010 |



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Carnival Splendor (2009)
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