Tag Archives: West Coast cruise

Cruising the West Coast — Last Stop, Ensenada


Today I present the last stop on our most recent West Coast cruise.  We’ve seen San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Sausalito, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina Island, the USS Midway in San Diego, and today we’ll close with the last stop before heading back to home — Ensenada, Mexico.  Because of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (aka, The Jones Act), all foreign-operated cruise lines (which except for NCL America, which operates a cruise ship in Hawaii, is all of them) must put into their itinerary at least one port of call outside U.S. waters.  For this trip, that port was Ensenada.

Neither Ursula nor I had ever been to Ensenada prior to this trip aboard Princess Cruises‘ recently refurbished Sapphire Princess.  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, as Ensenada is a very charming example of a typical Mexican tourist area — across between the hustle and bustle of a border town (think: Juarez or Tijuana) and the flashy retail section of a resort town (such as Mazatlán or Cancún).  But with that charm come the ever-present, high-pressure hawkers standing outside their stores desperately coaxing you inside, or the never-take-no-for-an-answer beggers and street tykes hawking Chiclets in an interminable gauntlet lining the sidewalks.

On the upside are the street food vendors.  You’ll see in today’s pictures just such an example, where Ursula and I partook of some fish tacos and orange Fanta.  Also fun are the brightly colored buildings that range from obnoxious Barbie pink to lemon chiffon and even lime sherbet chartreuse.

And here are the photographic results:

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Cruising the West Coast — Santa Catalina Island Part 1


This destination has so much to see and do that I’m going to dedicate a three-part series of photographs to it.  This is the town of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island.

Ursula and I had visited this enchanting little community many years ago with our (then) little ones — Cherry and Tracy.  We arrived on that excursion aboard a ferry from Long Beach, California.  This time we arrived via the Sapphire Princess.

As Avalon Harbor is far too shallow for a cruise ship, we had to tender into this port.  From the pier we then scampered off to the Catalina Casino (which isn’t now and never has been a “casino” in the traditional gambling sense), for we had to meet up with our tour group.  This was to be a rather unique tour, one more suited for nighttime but which we would be taking during the day instead.  It was the Avalon Ghost Tour.  If you can get past all the silly hokum about “ghosts,” “hauntings,” and recent “sightings,” this tour can actually be rather informative in a historic sense, and I recommend it on that basis.

Cars and car ownership are very restricted on Catalina.  Thus, most people (including the locals) get around on mopeds or “autoettes.”  An “autoette” is defined by local ordinance as a gas or electric vehicle less than 55 inches wide, up to 120 inches in length, and weighing under 1,800 pounds.  That pretty much cuts out anything larger than a golf cart or the original British Mini that was in production from 1959 to 2000.  Indeed, those requirements look as if the Mini was what the authors of that ordinance had in mind when they wrote it.  The original Mini was 55 inches wide, 120.2 inches long, and weighed in at between 1,360 and 1,512 pounds.  Coincidental?  Perhaps, but I’m not buying it.

Avalon is also famous for the tiles that were once produced there from local clay from 1927 to 1937.  Finding that original tile is an expensive proposition, but there are stores that carry examples.

You’ll see an example of an Avalon-based Mini below:

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Cruising the West Coast — Santa Barbara Courthouse


No, I didn’t get arrested.  Neither did Ursula.  We went into the courthouse unshackled and free, and we left the same way.  What brought us here were the glorious architectural features, incredible interior art, and magnificent views from atop the bell tower.  You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

We departed Mission Santa Barbara on foot and headed southeast along Santa Barbara Street.  Along the way we discovered the enchanting Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens.  After our detour through the park, we continued southeast until reaching the Santa Barbara Courthouse.  This architecture wonder has been called the, “. . . grandest Spanish Colonial Revival structure ever built.”  The person who made that claim should know, as it was none other than Charles Willard Moore.

And here are the views from atop the bell tower, inside the courthouse, and on the hike to get there:

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