Crusin’ Through the Pandemic

by Bob Sparrow

To misquote Samuel Clemens, “The reports of my possible death have been greatly exaggerated” . . . by me.  Yes, I’m happy to report that cruising and Mexico were both safe and fun as we arrived home alive and well, albeit a few pounds heavier.  OK, maybe more than a few!

Our cruise started in the Port of San Pedro, which, as mentioned by Suzanne in last week’s blog, the docks are filled with hundreds of thousands of shipping containers, yes, hundreds of thousands; while over 150 ships wait off shore to off-load more.  Reminding me that this Christmas could be the one that the Grinch actually steals.  But we’re not worrying about Christmas yet, Linda and I are headed to Cabo San Lucas, if we can navigate through all the ships anchored in the harbor, on a five-day cruise aboard the Grand Princess.  I’m guessing that Linda is thinking “24/7” or 5 with no other couples, only my spouse – yikes”!!  Oh, maybe that was me thinking that.  She was thinking about the casino!

As we set sail, (There really aren’t any sails) we see that we are far from the ship’s passenger capacity, which is 2800; in fact we are less than 25% full at 650 passengers! The crew numbered 1,150!

Aside from nearly a two-to-one crew-to-passenger ratio and a staff, from all parts of the world, that was friendly, accommodating and professional, here’s a few more things that made this cruise a success:

  • DSB (Don’t Stop Believin’)

    Great entertainment –a British Invasion group that was awesome, a Journey tribute band, DSB, a Hall & Oats tribute band, another 80s cover band (in case you’re wondering, the theme of the cruise was ‘The 80s’, which had me wondering if that wasn’t the average age of the passengers). It was close.

  • There were so many bars on board that, one day at sea, we decided we’d do a ‘Pub Crawl’ and count them.  We only got to seven . . . I think; we lost count, but we were proud to have maxed out our ‘unlimited’ drink package, which led me to wonder, how do you max out an unlimited drink package?  Well, we did and the only ‘crawling’ we ended up doing was back to our room.
  • We met some great people – including a couple that own a dinner theater in the Inland Empire where they perform. We’ll be hitting one of their shows soon.  We also met several awesome Veterans when we attended a Veterans-only gathering on board – one Vet was 99 years old and fought in World War II.  Thank you for your service!!!
  • Because of the small number of passengers, we never had to wait for anything or worry about getting a dinner reservation or a good seat for a show.
  • There were various classes on board, we both took a ‘line dancing’ class and then we followed our passions as I took a cooking class and Linda headed for the casino.

Our one complaint would be about the food – it was marginal at best, with the exceptions of a couple of good steak & lobster dinners at the Crown Room, and the pizza, that was good enough to have for breakfast!

Oh yeah, about our stop in Cabo San Lucas. We spent a couple of hours there walking through the harbor, where we were bombarded by vendors selling everything from sombreros to their sister, and then took a water taxi to ‘The Office’ a restaurant/bar around the corner from the harbor and right on the sand.  We had a ‘good day at the office’, then headed back to the boat.

All in all, a very fun experience that further whet our appetite for more cruising. We do have an Alaska cruise on the Majestic Princess next summer, so we’ll just have to remember to eat before we go.

 

 

Adios Amigos?

by Bob Sparrow

Here’s us relaxing on our Mexican cruise

Last week the wife says, “Hey, Bob, wanna go . . . .”, and before she could finish the sentence, I say, “Sure”.  And then ask, where are we going and with whom?  “Mexico, with no one else” she replies.  Then I wondered, ‘Is she just sending me to Mexico with a one-way ticket’?”  She says, “It’s a cruise and we’re both going and it leaves on Monday!”

So, I say, “Let me get this straight, you’ve booked us on a cruise ship, which for the last year-and-a-half has been a germ-infested, floating petri dish and we’re going to a country that is rated ‘HIGH’ in terms of risk level for COVID-19.  Is that correct?”  “Yes, she replies, “but it’s not rated ‘VERY HIGH’ and I got a great deal!”

For Linda, nothing trumps a good deal, apparently not even death.

I Googled ‘Is it safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas?’ and found:

“Because of the current situation in Mexico, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

Not a good start!  I then found a site that gave me the risk levels of the various aspects of traveling to Cabo.  Regarding the ‘risk level’, I suspect that those who are doing the rating may have received a few pesos to make the levels look better than they actually are, so I took the liberty of moving all the levels ‘up a notch’, however the comments remain unedited.

Cabo San Lucas -a beautiful final resting place!

Transportation: (HIGH) there have been reports of people being robbed by the unlicensed taxis. Also, taxis are not metered, so always negotiate the price before the ride.  The public transport is not safe since theft on buses is common and buses have also been hijacked in conflict areas.

Pickpocket: (HIGH+) There is a high risk of pickpocketing in Cabo San Lucas. The risk is especially high for foreigners because thieves usually target them regarding the fact that they have either money or expensive items with them.

Mugging: (HIGH+) Virtual kidnapping is very common, so it is advisable not to share any personal information while in Cabo San Lucas. Also, criminals tend to kidnap people who wear expensive jewelry or watches and who show off with their latest gadgets.

Terrorism: (MEDIUM) Although Mexico does not report recent attacks, you should always be watchful.

Scams: (HIGH) Be watchful of people who offer you help, since they might ask for money for that.

Women Traveler Risk: (MEDIUM) There have been reports of sexual harassment in bars and nightclubs and assaults when traveling on public transport. Females should take precaution, even in areas close to hotels, especially after dark.

Drug-related violence: (MEDIUM) Drug-related violence is occurring less in Cabo San Lucas as the Mexican government makes a lot of effort to stop the crime and protect major tourist destinations from thieves and other criminals.

Natural disasters: (MEDIUM) hurricanes between July and September, earthquakes and volcanoes.  There are some areas, like Land’s End, the tip of the peninsula, where the beaches are not safe for swimming due to the currents.

So, not only am I going to a country that doesn’t really have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, I’m captive on a boat with a gang of partying, non-social-distancing drunks.  Sounds like a relaxing get-away to me!!!  But “Look at the beautiful ship”, says Linda.

Grand Princess

So, while you’re reading this blog in the comforts of your own home, having a nice cup of coffee or a shot of tequila – whatever gets you started in the morning – I may be in the Cabo San Lucas hospital, jail, morgue or quarantined, albeit on a beautiful ship, for the next two weeks.  And, wouldn’t you know it, my last hope of missing this cruise was lost when I tested ‘Negative’ for Covid!

If this is my last blog, I’d like to thank all you subscribers for your loyalty over the last ten years, especially those who take the time to respond frequently.  Sister, Suzanne, it’s been a great pleasure to be part of this ‘homage to our father’ with you. I suppose it’s only right that I should succumb to the ‘travel bug’?

Hasta Luego?

LOOKING BACK FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

by Bob Sparrow

Happy new year 2013 Thank you to my sister, Suzanne for introducing me to the idea of the ‘upside down bucket list’, for it was that concept that has inspired me to look at New Year’s resolutions differently.  Like many, I typically resolve to be a better spouse, parent, friend . . . person and include the requisite increase in exercise and consumption of much healthier food resulting in a painfully slow, if ever, decrease in weight.  Like many, I also have a bucket list of places I want to visit and things I want to do and resolutions always include checking off a few of those items during the ensuing year.  While resolutions and bucket lists look great in late December, reality seems to find its way into the new year and render many, if not most, of our resolutions unattainable.

 So this year, rather than ‘dream’ about the places I’d like to go in 2013, I thought I’d do the ‘upside down thing’ and look back at 2012 and review what I’d done and where I’d actually been.  Then, rather than be disappointed at not doing or getting to the places I resolved to get to, I’d be able to just ‘grade’ myself based on what I’d done and where I’d gone and hopefully put a few checks on that big bucket list.

Twenty-twelve will not be marked in my memory by the many places I visited or the life I led, but rather by the life I lost – the passing inscan0041 February of my best friend, Don Klapperich.  For more than 50 years he was a best friend, a mentor, a singing partner, a moral compass, a confidant, the little voice in my head and so much more.  He was a most talented, intelligent, entertaining and complex man.  He knew me better than anyone and I knew him as much as anyone could.  I miss him dearly.  I regret not spending more time with him, not talking to him more on the phone, not emailing as often as I could have, not going to visit more often.  I suppose it’s natural to now have a better understanding of the tenuousness of life; to better appreciate each day we’re given and to not take those around us for granted.  I don’t know if it’s a resolution, but I will try harder to remember these things – they have become more important to me.

Those who have followed our blog know that I’ve had the privilege of going to some wonderful places this year.  In January I was in Hawaii, on the Big Island to watch the PGA Senior’s golf tournament at Hualalai and then on to Maui to play golf and just watch some sunsets at Wailea.  I had a much too up-close and personal look at ‘senior living’ at my mom’s facility in Sonoma and while I was in the area I hiked through historical Jack London State Park in the rolling hills of Glen Ellen.  I traveled across country on business to Sunriver, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Holyoke, Massachusetts and I HAD to return to the island of Kauai to attend a conference.  I lived on a boat in the harbor in Cabo San Lucas for three days while not photo (77)catching a single fish, but I did get to hang upside down at the Giggling Marlin.  I spent a week in our timeshare in Palm Desert for the 18th year in a row and hope I can play another 18.  I revisited the differences between northern and photo (74)southern California as I returned to the palm and pine trees on Highway 99 out of Fresno, and I spent several days not quite 26 miles across the sea on Catalina Island.  I thought I saw John Lennon at the Laguna Sawdust Festival, twice!  I stood at the lowest point on the North American continent in surprisingly stunning Death Valley, and I stood on top of Half Dome in not-so-surprisingly stunning Yosemite National Park.  And I had my annual martini with my Dad in his final resting place at Lake Tahoe.

That’s an upside down list that I may have a hard time topping in 2013.  I feel so very privileged to be afforded the opportunities to experience all that I have in 2012 and I know I was privileged to have such a great best friend for over 50 years.  It was a memorable year in so many ways. I recommend looking back at your year and the only resolution I would make is that in a year from now you’re going to look back at 2013 – make it memorable.

I know I speak for my dear friend and wonderfully talented sister, which she doesn’t often let me do because she can speak so well for herself, in thanking all of you who read our blog and especially those who send us back comments to let us know our words don’t all end up in cyber space.  May you all have an extraordinary 2013.

 

And now a word from our sponsor

Most of you know I’m now working for Zipz Gear, a unique shoe company, but may not know that I am now writing a ‘shoe blog’ called ‘From the Lipz of Zipz’.  You can find the blog by going to our website at www.zipzgear.com.  Feel free to check out the shoes while you’re there.

 

A Cabo Fish Story

by Bob Sparrow

     I would like to think that the moniker, ‘Bob the Fish Killer’ comes from the many trophy fish and photos that adorn my den wall, but unfortunately I think it’s a reference to my inability to keep even a simple gold fish alive for longer than a week.  The truth is I don’t have any fish on my den wall; I don’t even have a den.  The reason I don’t have any fish or photos on any wall is that I’ve never hauled a big fish into a boat, never had one on the end of my line much less in a picture or on my wall.  In fact, the closest I’ve ever come to a big game fish is when I ordered Ahi Poke at Red Lobster.

     It’s not just big game fishing where I’m ‘the cooler’; I’ve not caught salmon in the Northwest when they were jumping into boats; I’ve never seen a lake or a stream from which I could extract a trout, a cat-fish or even a decent boot.  While fishing I’ve caught a cold, I’ve caught hell, I’ve even snagged a fishing buddy’s shirt while casting (really!), but I’ve never caught a big fish.  Even if Grunion are running, I’ve pulled a hamstring and can’t catch them.  If fish are hitting on worms, I’m using Day-Glo cheese that scares the hell out of them.  You get the picture; fish are never so secure as when I embark on a fishing trip.  But all that was about to change.

     Two week ago I was asked to accompany a friend, Randy to ‘The Cape of St. Luke’, more commonly known by its Spanish name, Cabo San Lucas (a noted fishing mecca for centuries), to meet up with another buddy, Gary, who keeps a boat in the Cabo harbor all summer.  This was no ordinary buddy and no ordinary boat.  Gary has been big game fishing his entire life, as a youth in Florida and as an adult in California and Mexico.  He knows fish.  The boat, Grand Legacy, is a beautiful 70 footer with the most sophisticated ‘fish finding’ equipment known to man.  There were no less than 16 ‘big rods’ on board with assorted lures and 25 ‘other rods’ and one of those chairs at the back of the boat that looks like a dentist’s chair that one sits in when landing ‘the big ones’.  I told Gary about my lack of angling prowess and he told me not to worry that he’d never been out for two days at this time of year and been ‘skunked’.  To further explain ‘this time of year’ below is a chart I came across that shows ‘Fish Species Availability’ in Mexico, month-by-month.  The chart rates availability with a ‘check system’, 3 checks for excellent conditions, 2 checks for good conditions and 1 check for not-so-good conditions.  Here’s what the chart read for the month of June for Cabo:

-3 checks: Dorado, Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Grouper, Snapper, Donner & Blitzen      – -2 checks: Wahoo, Blue & Black Marlin (and they get 3 checks in July – a few day away)      – 1 check: Yellowtail

     I was understandably excited; we had an experienced and knowledgeably captain, a well-equipped boat and it was a month when the big fish were hungry.  I was cautiously optimistic that my frustration from all those previous fishing misadventures was going to be wiped away.  I envisioned myself sitting in that dentist’s chair watching one of those fish with a pointy nose leaping out of the water at the end of my line and me, exhausted after hours of reeling, finally hauling on board the subject of what would become my very first big fish photo-op.

     We headed out on day one and I realized that deep-sea fishing is mostly a rather passive experience.  Once we were out far enough, deck hand, Paco set about five poles in their holders at the back of the boat, lets out some line with lures on them and . . . well, that’s it.  After I watched him do this, I went into the galley, grabbed a beer, climbed up to the bridge where Gary was driving the boat and I asked him, “Are we fishing now?”  He turned around, looked at the back of the boat, saw that the lines were in the water, turned to me and said, “Yep”.  I sat next to him for a while, occasionally turning to see if anything was jumping up and down behind the boat, I finished my beer and went below and watched an episode of Three and a Half Men, with Gary’s son, Parker; then stared into the sea from the back of the boat for a while.  It turns out that deep-sea fishing is even less strenuous that regular fishing, which itself ranks fairly low on the cardio-vascular exercise depth chart.  No putting hooks on a line, no constantly affixing bait to the hook, no casting, no reeling, no checking the drag, no wading in the water, no tying flies to lines, just watching.  The only time you have to work is when you catch a big fish, and you should be fairly rested up to handle that.  I kept watching.

     You know how this is going to end, don’t you?  You’re right, two days, not a nibble – the water was too cold.  How could that be?  I went in and it was just fine; what kind of wussy fish are hanging out down there anyway?  Oh, I guess they’re actually not hanging out down there after all.

     So below is my ‘Big Fish Photo Op’  The first is me displaying the only fish I caught – it was with a net out of the bait tank; the second is the real ‘fish’ hanging up at the Giggling Marlin, a local adult beverage establishment.  The Marlin were indeed giggling.

    

Gary, sorry I ruined your ‘no skunk’ record, but thank you for a wonderful time.  ‘The Cooler’ lives to fish another day.