By Tom Blake
My partner Greta and I have just completed the first week of a 34-day cruise from San Diego, traveling south around Cape Horn in South America to Rio. During the first week, the ship stopped at four ports in Mexico.
We love Mexico, all cities are unique and dramatically different. However, on this trip, the four cities had one thing in common: the temperature was 87 degrees in each city, simply hot as a blaze.
Going ashore meant carrying lots of bottled water and staying in the shade as much as possible. The humidity was high as well.
As a newspaper columnist, the biggest challenge on ocean cruises is finding locations where the Wi-Fi is dependable. Yes, there is satellite Wi-Fi on the ship, but it is sporadic and the reception is poor. Sending photos or attachments is nearly impossible.
The cost of using the ship’s Wi-Fi is expensive. If you use the “pay-as-you-go,” option, the cost is 75 cents per minute. However, it may take four to five minutes to connect, and then again to disconnect. And you can lose the signal at any time. The shipboard Wi-Fi might become a last resort for me later during the cruise, especially in remote areas near Cape Horn and Antarctica.
The alternative is to find Wi-Fi locations in port. As sad as it sounds, you go ashore and first look for a McDonald’s or Starbucks, which have Wi-Fi. In Cabo San Lucas, our first stop, the ship anchored offshore and passengers going ashore rode on the ship’s tenders, small boats that took them to the dock. I found a Starbucks a mile away while walking in that incredible heat. The Wi-Fi signal was only so-so, but I did manage to get about an hour online.
Things were different in Puerto Vallarta, our second stop. The ship docked about five miles from the city center. I opted to ride a public bus into the city with the locals—at a cost of about 50 cents each way. What a fun experience, although the bus was like an oven and traveled all the way on cobblestone streets. There were no shock absorbers on the bus, so my teeth got a good “chatter” work out.
After strolling around the old city for a while, I found a Starbucks near the main cathedral. Not only was the Wi-Fi signal strong and instantaneous, the air conditioning was functioning perfectly. I got caught up on my internet chores and enjoyed an ice-cold passion tea.
The bus ride back to the ship was about the same as coming into the city. On the downward side of a couple small hills, it seemed the bus had no brakes—it sounded like metal on metal. We hit several cobblestone street potholes. I kept reminding myself, “This is part of the experience.” Back on the ship, rest assured that I ordered up a cold, frosty cerveza.
Since we had been in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta before, Greta opted to avoid the heat and stayed aboard, enjoying the air conditioning and the delicious food the ship provides.
Our third port was the beautiful city of Huatulco, my favorite in all of Mexico. The ocean water is crystal clear, and the beach in the heart of town is a five-minute walk from the ship. Greta joined me as we sat in a shaded outdoor restaurant with our feet in the sand, enjoying a decent Wi-Fi signal.
The last stop was at Puerto Chiapas, 10 minutes inside the southern border of Mexico. Reaching the city of Tapachula, population 500,000, required a 40-minute shuttle bus ride, arranged by the ship. The cost was $10 roundtrip for each of us. And the air conditioning worked perfectly!
Our first order of business was to donate clothing to the victims of the recent nearby earthquake. We had two bags that we had brought with us, and the lady who was accepting donations was grateful.
We had no idea where to find Wi-Fi in that bustling city, where very little English is spoken. So, we strolled along the streets enjoying the local flavor and came upon Café Central 33, which advertised on the front window that it was a “Ciber” café. There were no other customers in the café.
We went inside. Two very nice women were there. We ordered coffee and used Wi-Fi for one and a half hours. The cost of 50 Mexican pesos, including coffee, was about $4. In our somewhat limited command of Spanish, Greta and I were able to communicate with the women. They were thrilled that two Americans were in their little café and visiting there turned out to be one of those unexpected wonderful moments when you travel in a foreign country.
We left Tapachula with a warm feeling for the beautiful people there.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.