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Dance Fun Salsa Dance Cruise: Part Two




7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard

Carnival Cruise Line’s ship the “Elation”!


Part two, Posted 4-15-03 -- by Nadine!


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Part 2 - 7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s ship the “Elation”


Part 2: The Salseros Land

Day 4 – Wednesday – Puerto Vallarta

After being on sea for a couple of days, we were all very excited to leave the ship for land.  DanceFun organized a half-day excursion and salsa dance exchange at Puerto Vallarta, led by Bernie Lozano, salsaweb correspondents for Mexico. Our air-conditioned tour bus first took us to Le Cliffs – a scenic spot atop a cliff. There were gorgeous views aplenty. You could tell this was a tourist stop because there were also highly polished silver jewelry and other trinkets.  

You can tell what people think about tourists by what they try to sell you.  One such item I witnessed something for the first time. Pinky-nail paintings.  A young man sat diligently painting intricate ocean scenes with birds, sea, and land onto a porcelain tile using his pinky fingernail, which he’d dip into different colors of paint. Whoa. Some people are resourceful.  Then I witnessed another event.  Somebody actually bought one! Whoa. Some people really have nothing better to spend their money on. Americans…

After Le Cliff, we boarded the tour bus and headed to lunch at Chico’s Paradise. Chico’s Paradise was indeed a haven.  From the open-air restaurant was a beautiful view of a secluded area perfect for a refreshing dip, complete with a short waterfall into translucent warm freshwater. The food, being Americanized- Mexican and expensive, was the one disappointing factor. After eating, came the dance exhibitions.  Salomon and Sandra Rivera, a Guatemalan group, a Mexican group, a danzon couple, and Marcelo and myself gave exhibitions.  The danzon couple stole the show with their graceful, melodic, elegant dance.  They also gave a basic lesson in danzon.  While the DJ played salsa, we were encouraged to dance with people from a different country.  Hence, the event was billed as a dance exchange with people from other countries. Cool idea.

Afterwards, the bus took us to downtown Puerto Vallarta. We explored Rio Caule and Old Town. Since the short jump into the water at Chico’s Paradise wasn’t enough and we wanted more playtime in the water, we headed to the beach.  Tony didn’t bring his trunks, so we went off in search of a pair he could buy. Everywhere we went, they tried to sell him Speedos.  Must be because they’ve seen the cruise-brochures touting men in Speedos. Real people don’t wear Speedos.

In the search for normal trunks, we got a chance to walk and explore. At one point I bailed hard on an unevenly paved stone step.  Tony pointed out there aren’t any ‘watch your step’ signs unlike at every stairwell on the boat.  Thanks for the warning, bro.

He finally bought a pair of shorts and upon headed back to find the group on the beach, we discovered we had been ditched. Near the beach, we ran into Ricardo and his cousin. Turns out he saw the group take off and pointed out the direction in which they went. As luck would have it, we found them pretty quickly.

From where we were, we took a local bus to where the shopping area was, Malecon (Boardwalk). The bus was like 5 pesos. At 10 pesos to 1 dollar, it was 50cents each for busfare.  At Malecon, we enjoyed an amazing sunset.  To cap the scene off, an old pirate-like ship full of loud intoxicated people (likely Americans) sailed into the sunset.  We called the boat, the “Booze-Cruise.”  Another observation: everywhere we went, kids were trying to sell us Chiclets. They must think Americans need lots of breath mints, probably to get rid of the margarita-breath.

We took another local bus back to the port.  At one stop, a teenage boy stepped on board and announced his wares to all. Nobody made a purchase, so he stepped off at the following stop. 

That evening, we jumped into the jacuzzi and then had dinner at 8pm. Salsa that night ran from 10pm – 1am.   

Day 5 – Mazatlan  Thursday

In Mazatlan, we were free to wander the city or participate in one of the many paid exhibitions sponsored by the cruise.  Several of us chose to check out the Deer Island kayak and hiking daytrip. I didn’t bring my camera since I didn’t think I’d have a safe place to store it. However, I regret not bringing it. Our stuff was as safe as could be with this organized group.  A katamaran took us to the sandy white shores of this small, uninhabited island.   While there were no deer on island, there were plenty of fish in the warm water. Handsome rugged local tour-guides met us there. After a refreshments (included in the tour package)  of pastries and fruits like papaya, melons, bananas, we paired up into kayaking teams.  The guides expertly explained how to kayak and led us out into the waters.  It was an unusually calm day out at sea, the weather was perfect, and the water was so nice and warm that we purposely flipped our kayak over and ducked into the water.  After about 45 minutes of kayaking, we returned to the beach, where we had more fruit and pastries.  They also had plenty of canned soda and bottled water for us.

The guides then led us on a short hike up to the top of island for another lovely beautiful view. We learned learned that the national plant of Mexico is a kind of cactus.  One of the tourguides was an ornithologist and described the many birds we saw.  After the hike, some of us jumped back into water for a nice swim. Some people played volleyball while others lay in the sun. We also played a couple of brain-teaser games with the tourguides. 

The objective of one game was to form four equal triangles using eight sticks, where the sticks can’t overlap. The objective of the second game was, using 20 stones in clusters at the corners and at midpoints between the corners of a square, to make each side sum to 9 stones.

When our time at Deer Island was over, *sigh*, some took the katamaran back to the cruise. Our crew took a short ride to the Golden Zone, a touristy ritzy part of Mazatlan. Again, we were met with people selling wares and services and experiences.  A couple of us tried out parasailing.  It was $15 for fifteen minutes. While waiting for them, roving merchants approached asking if I wanted to have my hair braided (apparently this is a very popular services among Americans), or to buy jewelry, handbags, sombreros, sunglasses, and hammocks.  It was like having a flea market march pass where you were sitting on the beach.  

After the parasailing was done, we took a taxi (which looked like a golf-cart) to meet up with the rest of the Dance Fun group at “Senior Frog’s Bar” for a little salsa and dancing. Senior Frog’s is a chain we saw at each town we stopped.  There were even Senior Frog stores selling t-shirts and mugs and stuff. Kinda like a Disney Store.  The food there was Americanized, too. And how were the well-advertised pricey drinks??? Watered-down. I’m not sure there was even any alcohol in the multiple shots we had.

The salsa dance that day was supposed to start at 5pm, but we got back to the boat a little late (didn’t realize that it wasn’t realistically walkable from Sr. Frog’s to the port) and there was a snafu with the sound system in the room. But the dance was only delayed for half and hour, and the DJ made up for it by staying an extra half-hour.  After dinner, we enjoyed the Carnival cruise show of the night and then retired to the cabin to watch Gold Member at midnight.

Day 6 – Cabo San Lucas Friday

On the last day out, our crew chose to participate in the snorkeling expedition.  We met at 10am and boarded a small boat that would take us out near the famous arches of Cabo for our snorkeling experience.  What an experience. It was like swimming in a tropical fish tank for an hour! Such colorful fish and corals in such clear waters! I wished I had signed up for the earlier snorkeling expedition (7am) which allowed for a longer time in the water.

On the boat, I kicked myself for not bringing my camera.  I missed my opportunity to take pictures of the breathtaking arches, Los Arcos and Lovers Beach.  Marcelo was smart and brought his camcorder.  Not surprisingly, the salsa crew was the life of the party. On our way back to the Elation, the footage looked like an MTV video with the salsa ladies cavorting in bikini’s on the small boat. Free (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks were included in this package.  But who in their right mind would want to drink alcohol before noon?

Back aboard the Elation, we set sail for Los Angeles. That afternoon, the salsa workshops continued. Since I had free time, I hit the gym. The machines were weird.  Working out with free weights on the moving ship was also weird. I noticed the gravity changes the most when I tried to do pushups.  Sometimes, when I pushed up, it was super easy. Other times, I got pulled down and was stuck (when the ship fell).  Try doing pushups in an elevator as it rises and falls and you get the picture.

That night, the DanceFun party had a 70s theme. People were serious about their costumes! Naomi and I went at Solid Gold dancers/Charlie’s Angels with our gold catsuits. Prizes were handed out for most outrageous (Bettina and ?), funniest (Paul), most realistic (Francisco aka Elvis). DanceFun added an extra prize for most glamorous (Naomi and I). They then awarded winners of the door décorating contest.  There were some pretty interesting entrees. We thought about decorating the door to the diva’s cabin by taping Paula, the pole dancer to the door. Then we thought about decorating Marcelo’s cabin door by taping him to his door. Competition was stiff, though.

After the dance, we changed and headed to dinner. Aftwerwards, we caught the late night adult-rated comedian show. The place was packed and he was worth the time. Funny guy.

Day 7 – Last day at sea Saturday

Alma started off the day with a merenguerobics class up on deck. It looked like so much fun. After lunch, I napped and headed to the gym again.  While waitin for my private lesson group to show up, we saw school of dolphins heading towards ship and then turn away. That was cool. 

That night, we prepared out luggage for the porters and left them outside the cabin doors. The final dance of the cruise was fun and we took a huge group photo. After dinner, some of us met up for an unscheduled late night dance at Cole Porter.  We noticed that in comparison to the first night, dancing while balanced on turns and steps was much easier.  I guess we finally got used to the ship’s rocking.

Day 8 - Sunday

The ship arrived at the LA port by about 5am. We woke up around 8:30am, went through immigration, wolfed down breakfast and waited for our section to be called to disembark. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed to LAX via taxi-minivan.  After getting off the ship, I was still in sea-mode for a day or so.  I found myself swaying every so often, and wondering if it wasn’t the ground swaying?

A few words about the instructors, my impression:  

You can tell that all of the instructors really enjoyed dancing and teaching. Everyone smiled a lot when they were dancing, no matter who they were dancing with. I love that. It’s very telling.

Salomon and Sandra were the most perfect and precise dancers. The best cha-cha dancers of the crew hands-down. Couldn’t take my eyes off them when they were dancing together. Wonder if Salomon is a professional photographer? He always had his nice camera with him and took a ton of photos. Probably as many as our own photographer, Paula.

Francisco and Stacey were the ultimate professionals! They were so genuinely welcoming it was like we were all being invited to share their family pastime of dancing. The whole family had the biggest smiles on their faces at all times. Their kids John (4years old) and Lindsey (less than 1 year old) were the cutest. Little John surprised us with a great robot imitation. On top of that, he demonstrated a few shines with Daddy Francisco. He even did the windup before leading a turn. Lindsey, the baby, never cried once in public and seemed to enjoy being held by anyone and everyone.

Alma was hilarious and a wonderful and patient instructor. Her ladies’ styling class was a hit.  Let me tell you that she can hold her tequila, too. Ricardo was also a popular instructor with bizarro moves and full of jokes and imitations to leave your sides splitting and eyes tearing. Have you seen Zoolander? Well, Ricardo’s got plenty of hilarious lines from that movie. Next time you see him, ask him to show you his happy face, his sad face, his angry face, and his salsa face…

The young Salvaje team was often out in full-force and became known as the highly energetic group with the tall salseras and the lucky guy. At one point, while enjoying the view at Le Cliffs, Francisco observed, “Look at Marcelo. He’s got his shirt-off and his harem at work, with one woman oiling him up, another posing by his side, and another taking a photo of him.”  

DJ Tony was on top of the music and was even happy to take requests.  He’s one quiet and stealthy Tigron. Turns out he’s a dancer with Seaon’s dance group. No wonder the smooth lead and great tunes. At each dance, he played all salsa. Some requested meringue or bachata and he happily obliged.

John and Anita truly took care of their dancers and instructors.  They made sure we had water at every dance and bought drinks on the first night for everyone. Knowing that dancers can be intimidated by strangers, they did a great job making people feel comfortable and like family.  By giving out multiple awards and recognizing celebrations, they made everyone feel like winners.  I would highly recommend DanceFun events for their wonderfully organized and fun events with fun instructors. 

7 Day Mexican Riviera Cruise and Salsa Exchange with Mexico January 12 – 19, 2003, organized by DanceFun (John Riddle)! 

4-15-03 -- by Nadine!

We're Sailing to back to the Mexican Riviera in January of 2005, Join us for this amazing Dance Cruise!  Nadine, SalsaSalvaje, and will all be there!

Don't miss it. We sail to great locations every year!

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