Warning: fopen(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/find.htm) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 76

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: stat failed for /home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/find.htm in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 77

Warning: fread(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 77

Warning: fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 78

Warning: fopen(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/contact.htm) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 81

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: stat failed for /home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/contact.htm in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 82

Warning: fread(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 82

Warning: fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 83

Warning: fopen(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/archive.htm) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 86

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: stat failed for /home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/archive.htm in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 87

Warning: fread(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 87

Warning: fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 88

Warning: fopen(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/r.htm) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 91

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: stat failed for /home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/r.htm in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 92

Warning: fread(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 92

Warning: fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 93

Warning: fopen(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/dem.htm) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 96

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: stat failed for /home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/dem.htm in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 97

Warning: fread(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 97

Warning: fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 98

Warning: fopen(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/dis.htm) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 101

Warning: filesize() [function.filesize]: stat failed for /home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/dis.htm in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 102

Warning: fread(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 102

Warning: fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/getdata.php on line 103

Warning: include(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/top1.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/index.php on line 29

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/top1.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/index.php on line 29
Cover Story
Special Feature
Daily Chuckle
Local News
Social Butterfly
Kaufman’s Korner
Pet of the Week
Professional Advice
.....Real Estate
.....The Computer
.....Reverse Mortgages
Featured Merchants
Where to find
The Paper
Marketing/Media Kit
Contact Us











Cover Story January 12, 2006


  by lyle e davis

The Cruise





by lyle e davis






How else to describe the SS Oosterdam, Holland America's beautiful cruise ship, awaiting us at the San Diego Marine Terminal?


She is huge . . . she is sleek, streamlined . . . an elegant work of art, both inside and out.


Everyone should experience a cruise at least once before they depart this planet.  It is one of life's more pleasant experiences.


This was to be my fourth cruise.  We were to experience an eight day cruise on the Mexican Riviera, leaving December 22nd and returning on Friday, December 30th.  The plan was to escape the hectic Christmas season and try to relax a bit before welcoming a new and busy New Year.  I had learned that cruises offer the finer things in life; fine foods, outstanding service, total relaxation, or activities in which to participate, it was all up to you, the passenger.  If you wanted to sleep all day . . . eat all day . . . do a little of both . . . it was your decision.  And you would be waited on like you were royalty.


The adventure was about to begin.  You're welcome to join us on our adventure and glean some feeling for what it's like to be on a cruise on board one of the world's loveliest cruise ships, the SS Oosterdam.  As to the name . . .  ("Ooster" (pronounced 'oast' as in 'toast') is named for the east point of the compass.  Her sister ships, Zuiderdam and recently released Westerdam are named for the south and west, respectively.  In February of this year the Noordam (North point of the compass) will enter service and this four ship fleet will now represent all points of the compass.  Holland American ships have traditionally been named with the "dam" suffix.  The "dam" has been coupled with famous rivers, cities and even directional bearings.  As large as she is, the Oosterdam is considered a medium sized ship.


Day 1:  We board Thursday afternoon, late.  We had a extraordinarily long wait at the embarkation point.  Not a good omen. Once aboard we marvel at the beautiful art work that adorns the walls, the statuary, the abundance of art throughout the ship.  We go to our beautiful stateroom, head for the Lido Restaurant for a quick bite to eat and then head back to the stateroom,




A typical stateroom, very similar to ours.


Vista Dining Room, evening:  We meet our table mates, a couple from Chicago, a couple from Santa Clarita, and two widows from Solvang.  It is an amiable group.  Following a delicious meal, we  opt to forego the evening's opening night show.  We were exhausted and retired early.



We sleep well but have heavy seas; as a consequence we occasionally awaken to the comfortable feeling of being gently rocked, just as a baby in a cradle. We are en route to our first stop, Cabo San Lucas.


Day 2:  We are at sea and awaken to a beautiful day.  We head for the Lido Restaurant, have an excellent breakfast, head back to the stateroom and nap again till noon.  We apparently are more tired than we had realized and need the rest.  For a time at least, we have no deadlines, no urgent matters that need to be tended to.  It's time to rest and then to recharge the batteries.  The process has begun. 


Day 3:  We awaken to find ourselves in port at Cabo San Lucas.  We grab an early breakfast then jump on a tender to head to shore (a tender is a small, covered motor launch used to transport passengers when there is no dock facilities sufficient to accommodate a ship this large.  It's not our favorite way of hitting the beach, but the only option available, so we all make do.


We meet our tour guide, Libby, who was raised in Northern California and is totally bilingual.  She is a retired teacher and an excellent tour guide, providing a great deal of informative commentary en route to Todos Santos, a town that purports to be an artists’ colony. 


Upon arrival we are disappointed.  The Todos Santos Museum is a joke.  Most of the "art galleries" hold art of little interest and offers many novelties and crafts that could just as easily be obtained in Tijuana.  Much of the art we saw merely looked like someone had taken different swabs of color and applied them to canvas, then called the product 'art.'


We visited the Hotel California which was supposedly the inspiration for the song by the same name by the Eagles.  The Hotel is fairly modern in design, as is the adjacent restaurant and bar.  I, however, shall never return to the Hotel California, and likely never return to Todos Santos.  I visited the restroom at the Hotel California Restaurant and have seldom seen a more foul, fetid, filthy restroom.  More about this later.


Todos Santos did have some decent shopping malls; our restaurant was adequate, but that's about all.


We return to Cabo and purchase a lovely solid silver necklace, bracelet and ear ring set for Santa to deliver to a certain lady.  It is important to note that we paid less than half the original asking price.  Point?  Negotiate.  It is expected.  More about this later.


Others on board ship took other shore excursions.  Some went snorkeling, some when deep sea fishing, some went shopping.  There are many shore excursions available. You are free to book them through the Holland America Shore Excursion desk, which we did, or to make your own arrangements on shore with vendors (as we did at later port calls).

As we were to sail at 4pm we returned to board our tenders at 3:30.  Next stop, Puerto Vallarta!


Day 4 - Again we awaken early for breakfast before meeting our tour guide, Alberto, who will show us Puerto Vallarta, including Elizabeth Taylor's home.  Alberto was a very informative guide, showing us all the highlights and readily answering questions. Puerto Vallarta is located about halfway down the Pacific Coast of Mexico, on the shores of  25 mile-wide Banderas Bay.  It has a population of around 350,000.  Here you will find world class resorts, upscale shopping centers, and outstanding restaurants.  Alberto shows us the wealthy neighborhoods, such as Marina Vallarta, as well as the medium income neighborhoods.



In 1962, film director John Huston selected Puerto Vallarta as the setting for his film "Night of the Iguana," starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner.  Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were involved in a scorching love affair at the time and Liz moved to Puerto Vallarta to be near Burton.  She bought a house, high on a hill, overlooking Puerto Vallarta.  Burton bought a house across the street from hers and soon they built a pink bridge between the two. 


We were disappointed in Liz Taylor's house.  It was big . . . nine bedrooms (now being rented out in a Bed and Breakfast mode), eleven bathrooms. When Taylor bought the house it was a prestigious location, being one of the few homes on the hill.   Since that time, however, houses and apartments have exploded around the area.  It is no longer an exclusive, pricey district.  Today, it is a crowded, somewhat dingy, neighborhood with steep, congested streets.  It is not a neighborhood in which I'd care to live.


We visit several small shopping malls and browse.  We find nothing we can't live without.  It is Christmas Day so many shops are closed.  Those we visit offer us a glass of beer, a shot of Tequila, or a glass of soda . . . all at no charge.  They are friendly, eager to help.  And to sell.


We are amazed at Alberto's ability to maneuver his van (which is carrying seven of us) through the narrow streets of Puerto Vallarta and between closely parked cars.  At one point we had two inches on either side of our van.  Alberto got us through.   


Day 5 - After leaving Puerto Vallarta at 9pm and sailing overnight, we arrive at Mazatlan.  We sleep in today, deciding to make our own tour arrangements rather than book through the ship's shore excursion department. 


Mazatlan has a colorful history.  Always known as a major port and village on the Pacific coast it has attracted miners and exporters of gold and silver from the nearby Sierra Madre mines.  Later, in the 18th century, a fishing industry was established and the coastal bounty began to become exploited.  A heavy German immigration occurred in the 1830’s and this increased Internatinal trade even more.


Mazatlan’s beach is more than 10 miles long and strolling the malecon (boardwalk) is a pleasant and scenic pastime.


Upon leaving the ship we are met by an enterprising young man, Hector, who hustles us as passenger's for the day's tour.  We agree.  Cost is $20 per person.  He supplies cold beer, soda, and bottled water, at no extra charge and has a new van with air conditioning.  There are seven of us.


Hector shows us the wealthy neighborhoods, view points from high atop the city, and he takes us to see the cliff divers of Mazatlan.  They dive from craggy rocks about 45' above sea level . . . not as high as in Acapulco, but thrilling nonetheless.  Street vendors are everywhere.  Evelyn buys three purses for $10.  Originally, the vendor had wanted $10 each. We are learning to play the Mexican negotiating game.


Hector takes us to The Indio Shop, a spotlessly clean, very attractive jewelry store.  They have restrooms that are as clean as any we would find in the United States.  I seek out and meet the owner, Rubin Espino and his beautiful young wife, Sofia.  I congratulate them on the attractive layout of their store and especially the clean bathrooms.  We discuss the importance of Mexican merchants recognizing the demand of American tourists to find decent, clean bathrooms.  Mr. Espino points out that it has been his experience that if you have clean restrooms, the rest of the store will also be clean.  A tone of excellence has been set.


Mr. Espino has owned the business for 50 years, starting it himself.  About five years ago his first wife died.  About two years he ago he married Sofia, who had worked for him for a number of years.  She is stunningly beautiful and they make a lovely couple.


We shop his store . . . Evelyn finds another necklace and ear ring set she likes and buys it, though only after negotiating a better price than the original asking prices.  She is getting good at this and we wind up being satisfied that we have made an excellent buy at a fair price.


We also met the store manager, Federico Metzger y Mantilla.  The Metzger name denotes his German heritage.  Many Germans had emigrated to Mazatlan and Federico is a product of that emigration.  We feel very comfortable in recommending The Indio Shop as a place well worth visiting and shopping.


Later, we are taken to a large flea market type shopping center in the heart of downtown Mazatlan.  Hundreds of vendors have stalls here . .   food, jewelry, clothing, sporting goods, groceries, meat market, fish market . . . one stop shopping.  Somewhat reminescent of the Pikes Place Market in Seattle.  Evelyn buys some clothes . . . I buy a swim suit for $10 (which I wind up never using).  It was a fun shopping experience and we are grateful to Hector for introducing us to it.


We wrap up our shore excursion with a visit to Mazatlan's Gold Shopping Center.  Up scale stores.  Evelyn looks at diamond earrings.  I ask the salesman the price.  He doesn't want to tell me till Evelyn puts them on.  I insist.  $12,000.  But he'll let us have them for $8,000.  I rather firmly suggest to Evelyn that we have better things to do than shop for $12,000 necklaces.  To my surprise, she agrees.


We visit the Hotel del Flores (Flowers) and have a quick bite to eat on a patio overlooking the beach.  We watch the parasailers, the swimmers, kayakers and sunbathers.  We return to the van, pleasantly tired and head back to our home, the Oosterdam.


We retire for the evening and the ship leaves  at 6pm for Pichilingue . . . the port serving La Paz, the capital of Baja, California Sur (South).


Day 6 - We are awake Tuesday morning when the Oosterdam docks in Pichilingue.  It is a quiet morning, a small dock and terminal, well organized.  We notice an auto ferry docked adjacent.  This ferry goes back and forth between Pichilingue and mainland Mexico.


We have a leisurely breakfast, head for the terminal and take a free shuttle bus into town.  There were no shore excursions that particularly fascinated us so we decided to just stroll about downtown La Paz, take in the sights, and then head back to the ship.


As we arrive in La Paz, the shuttle bus narrator gives us a chuckle when he says . . .


those of you who are interesting to take a peetchur of the Catedral, I show you where it ees, een the center of town.  Remember, if you doan’ take a peetchur of the Catedral, you didn’t came to La Paz.”


Most tour guides speak English reasonably well, though they occasionally fracture the syntax, much as we do in their language when we attempt to speak it.


La Paz was, and is, a very pleasant, tranquil Mexican town. La Paz, in Spanish, means ‘peace,’ and that’s the feeling one gets when visiting. I enjoyed walking the streets, seeing the quaint little shops, the town square (which every Mexican village has . . . a town square . . . and right adjacent, the town cathedral) . . . the very pleasant, kind, and helpful townspeople.  Not pushy, not dirty, as in Tijuana or Ensenada.  This was the real Mexico and I rather liked it.  Evelyn didn’t care for it as much as it didn’t have a lot of shops and malls that she could visit.  That, in fact, is probably one of the reasons I liked it so much.  Our stay in La Paz was a short one, however, as we were due back to the boat by 4:30pm for a 5pm departure.


Day 7 & 8 At Sea:  Both Wednesday and Thursdy we were at sea, en route back to San Diego.  After leaving Pichilingue, we sailed slowly through the Bahia de Magdalena (Magdalena Bay), the area where whales would often breed.  Several passengers saw large pods of dolphins cavorting at the rear of the cruise ship.  As far as I know, no one saw whales breeding on this trip.


After leaving the Bahia de Magdalena we picked up speed but we also began to rock gently as we were hitting rough seas again.  Being a large ship, the Oosterdam handled the rough seas rather well . . . but we did have a feeling of gently rolling.  One is cautioned to always leave one arm free to use for balance as one sometimes feels as though one were slightly intoxicated as you walk.  Easily manageable, however.  No mal de mer (seasickness).  All was well.  We relaxed, we dined sumptuously . . . and we toured the ship, scoping out interesting things to see and do.


On Board Entertainment


On Saturday, Christmas Eve, we were treated to one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time . . . a Tribute to the Tempations by . . . Tribute.  This act was dynamite from start to finish. Great showmen, great singers, superb audience participation.  They had an audience participation element that had the rest of the audience howling with laughter . . .  and then their harmony, dancing and song stylings all came together again to provide an outstanding tribute to The Temptations. 


On the following Tuesday the featured act was Barnaby.  Again, an outstanding act . . . much better than your normal cruise ship entertainment.  A former English professor who became a juggler with a knack for patter, together with a combination of dry wit, and the elements all came together for a show that left us howling, as well as the rest of the audience. Barnaby was one of the funniest acts I've seen in ages. 


Lyle Davis and Evelyn Madison, relaxing
outside the theatre, following the show


The Oosterdam cast of singers and dancers and their several presentations did not impress.  They were ‘good’ acts, not ‘great.’   Great choreography but staging and costuming were both weak.  The female lead singer sang to the limits of her range, but the range was not great.  The male lead was adequate . . . and the costumes were like something you would expect from an old Lawrence Welk tv show, outdated and rather goofy looking. One thing I noticed and several other passengers made the same observation . . ."how could four or five of the female dancers, who must have hours of physically demanding rehearsals as well as actual performances . . .be so beefy?” 


One would think a number of the dancers could do with a little less pasta in their diets.


We missed several of the other shows but on the last night we had Barnaby back for a brief encore and ‘bon voyage’ performance.  On the bill earlierwas a purported comedian.  His name escapes me . . . but he was absolutely terrible.  Not funny at all. This guy was not up to the level of exellence one expects from a classy cruise ship like the Oosterdam.  He wasn’t dirty.  He just wasn’t funny.


There is a piano bar that is quite popular.  We went there one night but I found it rather bland.  Others seemed to like it however.  We stayed for one drink and then called it a night.


After Hours in the Piano Bar . . .l-r - Tom Wolf, Mike Small, Dede Small, Carolyn Wolf and Evelyn Madison - the TableMates!


You have television in your room so news and sports fanatics can keep up with CNN and ESPN.  We watched most of the bowl games.  There are Turner Classic Movies, several situation comedies, and several in-house promotional programs produced by Holland America.


They offer Karaoke - dancing - violin and piano music while having tea.  There’s Bingo - many different entertainment offerings.


Shore Excursions


At each of the ports you will have an opportunity for shore excursions.  You can book them on board ship . . . or you can book them on the pier with independent operators.  Those booked on board ship tend to be a bit more expensive - a minimum of $10 per person more, and sometimes more than that but (a) the vendors have been screened by the Oosterdam staff and, (b) often there is a snack or meal included.  Vendors from whom you purchase services at the dock are less costly but you are on your own for lunch, normally.  We were generally pleased with both the shore excursions we booked through the Oosterdam ($72 each for the tour of Todos Santos, which included a snack . . . $49 each for the  Off the Beaten Track,” tour (including the Elizabeth Taylor house) which included refreshments.  $20 each for the tour with Hector, of Mazatlan. Hector was an excellent guide.


Mazatlan Cliff Diver




Upon first boarding the Oosterdam and reviewing the paperwork I noticed that they had opted to solve our tipping problem for us by adding $10 per day per person to our bill for gratuities.  For the two of us, over an eight day period of time, that came to $160 in gratuities.  Initially, I felt offended by this imposition and determined that I would complain to the purser’s office that I, not the Oosterdam, would determine how much I would tip.


However, after the second day I changed my thinking 180 degrees.  The service was so good, so impeccable, that I now felt the $160 was entirely fair and justified.  In fact, we were so impressed with our cabin steward that we gave him an envelope with some additonal money when we disembarked.  (This is not at all required.  We did it because we wanted to).  We later learned that of the $160 collected, 70% went to the cabin and dining room stewards, 30% to the rest of the ship’s staff.  None of the money was retained by Holland American Lines.




There is a very attractive gym on board . . . treadmills, stair steps, weights, Pilates . . . all the trimmings . . . and with a first class view of the ocean while you work out.


While I had every good intention, I never managed one single workout.  I find it incredibly easy to talk myself out of exercising.




There is a satellite telephone in each stateroom.  Calling ship to shore, however, is very expensive.  $7.95 per minute!


You are far better advised to either contact your cell phone provider and arrange to have your cell phone programmed for international calls (do this before leaving the states.  We were given the code to program into our cell phone but could never get it to work).  Usually, whenever you are close to one of the major ports, your cell phone will work.  Rates will be in the area of $0.49 per minute, or more, depending upon your carrier.  Second, when in port you can buy telephone cards for $5 to $10.  We bought a $10 card with 40 minutes.  That time went rather quickly so we bought a $5 card with 15 minutes.  That also went quickly but we had accomplished most of our necessary calls by that time.


As to using the Internet, they have an Internet Cafe on board.  It, too, is expensive.  It’s okay if you’re in a pinch but I recommend waiting till you reach port.  In port, you’ll likely find all kinds of Internet Cafe’s and you can rent their computers for $2 to $4 per hour.


Food and Food Service


Be prepared to dine sumptuously.  Each evening you will dine in a formal dining room, having been assigned to a table with, usually, about eight persons, four couples.  Some nights are formal, most are casual.  Formal nights the ship suggests men wear tuxedos.  I don’t wear tuxedos.  A sport coat will do.  I refuse to wear ties. 


Your tablemates often become good friends and you’re likely to exchange addresses and phone numbers at the end of the cruise.  There are two seatings, early and late.  Usually, the early seating is 6:00, the second seating is at 8:00.  Typically, one goes to the early show if one is scheduled for the second dinner seating, and to the late show if they have an early seating.


Somehow, it all manages to work out just fine.


A special treat is the Pinnacle Grill,  a 5 Star Restaurant that drew raves from everyone we spoke with . . . and which we raved about as well.


As elegant as the main Vista Dining Room is, the Pinnacle is even more so. 


A table setting at the 5 Star Restaurant, The Pinnacle Grill




Their steaks (we both ordered a petite Filet Mignon) are first seared with their 1600 degree oven . . . which seals the juices in.  The filet is then grilled normally to completion.  It is so tender you could cut it with a butter knife . . . and it almost melts in your mouth.


A colorful tableau of The Old Masters -
overlooking The Pinnacle Grill


Other entree choices include Bone-In Ribeye Steak - Porterhouse . . .a huge 22 ounce steak that would almost take a squad of Army Rangers to finish . . . Lamb Rack Chops . . King Salmon .  . Chicken Marsala with Washington Cherries, Cedar Planked Halibut with Alaskan King Crab . . Cedar Planked Scampi, Grande Wild Mushroom Ravioli.  It is a dining experience. 


For desert I had Baked Alaska, Evelyn had Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake.

There is a $20 per person cover charge in The Pinnacle Grill, but it is well worth it.


In all of the restaurants there is an automatic 15% gratuity added to your drink tab, whether soft drinks or alcoholic.




You can probably find a stateroom for most any budget.  Inside staterooms are the least expensive.  Expect to pay somewhere around $730 per person, plus the earlier mentioned gratuity of $10 per person per day, plus 15% on your drinks (in addition to your bar tab and any other on board purchases).


We booked a verandah unit, outside stateroom, for a cost of $1666.18 each for an eight day cruise.  That works out to about $206.25 per day, per person, for housing, food, and absolutely superb service.  It also included vacation insurance so that if one of us became ill and could not make the trip, we’d receive a refund for our passage.  There are more expensive staterooms and suites . . . you can easily spend $4000 to $5000 per person, per cruise.  It’s all dependent upon your budget.


We booked through a local travel agency though you can book via the Internet.  One of the couples at our dining table did that and they paid about the same as we did.  Our travel agent had a bottle of champagne waiting in our stateroom for us, however.  Theirs did not.


You may wish to explore both options and decide for yourself which is best for you.  I generally prefer a travel agent so if anything goes wrong I have someone who can intercede on my behalf and talk to the right people to get things rectified.


That works.  Sometimes.


Do's & Don'ts


Shopping:  Do negotiate prices.  Even at what appear to be upscale jewelry stores.  It’s expected.  It’s a way of life in Mexico.


We found a lovely solid silver necklace, bracelet and ear rings in Todos Santos.  The guy wanted $390 to begin with, came down to $350.  We declined and walked away.  Afterwards, we second guessed ourselves.  It was a beautiful set.  Maybe we should have paid $350.  But it was too late.  We were on the bus back to Cabo San Lucas.


Upon arriving in Cabo San Lucas we again shopped the jewelry stores.  Lo and behold, we found the identical set that we had seen in Todos Santos.  The jeweler asked $690.  We abruptly turned on our heels and started to leave the store.  The guy came down to $390 . . . then $350.  We were about to walk out the store again and he said $300.  He made a sale!  We bought the jewelery and were delighted.


Later, in Mazatlan, Evelyn found another necklace set that she liked.  They wanted $190.  Evelyn offered $125 and they countered to $150.  They finally accepted $125.  However, when we pulled our credit card out they claimed the $125 was a cash offer; if we used a credit card they had to get $150.  We pointed out credit card companies charge around 3% for credit card sales and $25 was not 3%.  They agreed to $130 and we closed the deal.


Drinking the water:  At most hotels and upscale restaurants the water is bottled or otherwise purified.  When in doubt, don’t.


Swimming:  Be careful on the Pacific Ocean side.  There are dangerous currents there.  On the gulf side you’ll normally be safe.


Shoreline tipping:  Waiters normally expect and routinely receive 15%.  Bellboys usually get $1 per bag.  It is not necessary nor expected to tip cab drivers.  Typically, reward good service when you receive it.  We did not tip the shuttle bus drivers as they offered no particular service other than transport.


Fishing Trips:  Usually, you are better off doing business with fishing companies that have an office.  Do NOT give money to someone standing on a boat for the next day’s fishing run.  You may show up the next morning only to learn that whomever accepted your money had no ownership of the boat.  You’ve been had.  If you do business with fishing companies that have offices on the pier or in town, you avoid this rip-off.


If you take a fishing trip, be sure to tip the captain.


Eating:  Stay away from food and fruit stands on the street.  That’s the best and quickest way to pick up Montezuma’s Revenge.  Limit yourself to upscale restaurants and/or national chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, McDonalds, etc.  (Yes, they are in Mexico . . most every major city).


Language:  While Mexicans always appreciate you trying to learn and use their language, most of the businesses and their employees speak sufficient English that you can understand one another.  It is always wise to not laugh at their attempts to speak broken English just as they make every attempt to not laugh at your attempts to speak imperfect Spanish.


Restroom facilities:  This is one of our hot buttons when it comes to visiting Mexico.


We like clean restrooms.


We take issue with what one our guides, Alberto, said concerning restrooms.  He acknowledged an awareness that Americans expected clean rest rooms.  “But,” he said, “this is Mexico.  A different culture.  The places we take you to today will have clean rest rooms.  Maybe not as spotless as you would expect, but they are good enough.”


Sorry, Alberto, but we disagree.


At several of the stores he took us to the restrooms were relatively clean . . with an emphasis on relatively.  While they weren’t as bad as the one we found at the Hotel California in Todos Santos . . . they were not restrooms that I’d be comfortable asking my guests to use.

Slowly but surely Mexico and its Department of Tourism is getting, and responding to, the word that Americans expect clean restroom facilities.  More and more business establishments are responding to this demand/need.  It’s important that they do because tourism is almost universally the number one source of revenue in any port city.  They have responded with improved infrastructure in the form of streets, phone service, cleaner, more modern exteriors and interiors of business establishments.  Many of us who’ve been around awhile can remember when Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana was little more than a rutted, filthy street.  Today it has been paved and gives reasonably comfortable driving experiences.  (Not that Tijuana is representative of Mexico.  It isn’t.  It’s a border town).


Suggestion:  Politely make inquiries of the nature of the sanitary facilities at any hotel, restaurant, or other business facility with whom you do business in Mexico.  Word will quickly get around that these crazy Americans actually expect spotlessly clean restrooms and if they don’t get them . . . they ain’t a comin’!

And if they are dirty, let the management know!


Buying and Selling Real Estate in Mexico:  It can be done.  Today, there are US Title Insurance and Mortgage financing companies that will handle your transactions for you.



Do your homework!



You can acquire real estate in Mexico but make sure you’re dealing with a trusted real estate broker who knows the market and who has a solid reputation for honesty and fair dealing. There are, in fact, a number of American realtors in the major port cities . . . as well as quite competent Mexican realtors.  Again, do your homework and find out who is trustworthy.



There are many properties available in Mexico . . . Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta have seen an explosion in real estate opportunities and properties.  So has Mazatlan and, to a more limited extent, La Paz.  There are also permanent American colonies on all major port cities.  with lots of expatriates who can assist you and would love to help you. 



Finally, above all else, when visiting Mexico, do relax, enjoy, have a great time. 



We did.





Warning: include(/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/longad.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/index.php on line 108

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/home/content/t/h/e/thepaper/html/marketing/longad.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/20/4006920/html/2006/01_12_06/index.php on line 108