The best round trip from San Diego

There is nothing easier than cruising round trip from your hometown. No TSA lines or airline delays and, once onboard, you immediately begin your vacation. That’s what it was like sailing from San Diego on Holland America Line (HAL for short). The Mexican Riviera was our destination for a seven-day cruise on the MS Westerdam. Now, 10 HAL ships make 37 visits, positioning it as San Diego’s No. 1 cruise line.

Aboard ship: Although days at sea can be leisurely, there is plenty to do. There are two pools, Jacuzzis, digital workshops, duty-free shopping, the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, dance classes and Club HAL for kids, plus an ocean view state-of-the art fitness center. A newsletter is delivered to your cabin each evening outlining the next day’s activities. You can always choose a spot on the deck, in quiet nooks or at the well-stocked library to read and relax.

The Westerdam boasts a daily buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner on deck. The main dining room is also open for all three meals. There are several snack, coffee and dessert outlets. Live music venues, bars and the Main Stage Show Lounge are scattered throughout the ship.

Top picks onboard: In addition to the restaurants mentioned previously, the Pinnacle Grill, “An Evening at Le Cirque” and the family-style Italian bistro, Caneletto are worth a try. Note: there is a dining surcharge at each. Don’t miss Martini Madness or the classical music duo. The All-Star Band at BB King’s Blues Club literally rocked the boat.

Ports of call: The ship offers a wide range of tours. Here are a few suggestions if you prefer to explore on your own.

Cabo San Lucas: This is the only port that requires a tender. Wander around town to sightsee and shop. At the marina, there are bars, restaurants, clothing and curio kiosks plus a large mall. Take a water taxi to Los Arcos for an up-close view of the rock formations at the tip of Baja.

Mazatlan: Follow the painted blue line from the dock to the Old City. Along the way, English-speaking volunteers explain the city’s history and answer questions. After a 15-minute stroll, there is the Symphony Hall, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Central Plaza and the Central Market with more than 250 vendors.

Puerto Vallarta: Take a taxi into town and stroll the Malecon. Enjoy outdoor art and shops. Stop for a margarita and grilled shrimp on a skewer (a specialty of the area). There is an upscale mall directly across the street from the cruise terminal.

Travel tips: Don’t take taxis parked at the ship. Go outside the terminal area — they are less expensive, but negotiate with the driver. Stop by an OXXO store (in all ports) if you need bottled water, soda or other convenience items. The U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere. Take small bills for purchases or you will end up with pesos for change. One peso is worth about a nickel. Wear good walking shoes. Don’t forget to pack your passport.

Passenger friendly policies: Efficient process for embarkation and disembarkation; the option of open seating allows passengers to dine at their leisure; one bottle of wine can be brought aboard without charge; tips are automatically added to drinks; a daily hotel service charge covers gratuities, eliminating decisions at the end of the trip.

About the ship: The Westerdam is approximately three football fields in length (935 feet). There are 958 cabins, including 162 suites and 477 with balconies. The roundtrip cruise covers 2,162 nautical miles. The five diesel generators and single gas turbine produce 84,000 HP. Daily, 550 pounds of potatoes, 280 pounds of butter and 2,200 eggs are consumed. On formal night, Chef Owen serves up 500 pounds of beef tenderloin and 700 pounds of lobster.

A cruise on HAL is a perfect vacation for couples, kids and families — choices for everyone. For information on their worldwide itineraries, logon to www.HollandAmerica.com or call (877) 932–4259.

Enjoy the journey …

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About the Author

howard@militarypress.com'

Howard Hian

Howard Hian is the managing editor of Travel Savvy News, A Travel Writers Co-Op. For more, go to www.TravelSavvyNews.com and www.Travels-with-Hian.com.