Cooking in Mexico; Adjusting to New Itinerary Around Africa

Days 27 and 28, 2024 Grand World Voyage

Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 29 and 30, 2024; Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

With my belly full of authentic Mexican food – made with my own hands – and several shots of tequila, I expected to doze during the return from a mountain resort to the ship in Puerto Vallarta. But I checked email — and saw big news that came while we were ashore.

As expected, Holland America has rerouted our planned journey through the Red Sea, Suez Canal and Mediterranean to instead deviate around the southern tip of Africa. Now it is confirmed. We will skip ports in India, several Middle Eastern countries and along the Mediterranean Sea.

I’m sure we will spend much of the next six sea days on the way to Hawaii looking at tour possibilities in the new ports. I’m excited about some (Maldives, Seychelles, three days in Cape Town), but not so much about returning to the west African ports I visited just a few months ago.

But there weren’t a lot of choices given the threat of missile attacks in the Red Sea. After all the uncertainty of the 2020 world cruise (interrupted by the pandemic – here, here, here, here, etc.), I’m taking this in stride. And after all, these are first-world concerns.

So back to the cooking – and the tequila. After docking at “Puerto Walmarto,” as the crew calls it, we drove from the cruise pier to the center of Puerto Vallarta.

Every port seems to have a photo stop with the port name – this one on the waterfront. Nearby we walked through the cathedral with its crown on top and a touristy shopping district. Colorful banners and murals are everywhere.

I was delighted to see my sister Eloise make sure a Kansas City Chiefs backpack covered one for the San Francisco 49ers on one souvenir rack.

After a much-too-long stop at a small but pricey shopping mall (only of interest because of its bathrooms), we headed out of town along the Mascota River, eventually on a bumpy and steep dirt road. La Dulce Vista guest ranch was an oasis in the dry dusty mountains, with its gardens and sparkling pool.

Each of our place settings in the open-air pavilion had a cutting board and volcanic stone mortar and pestle, just waiting for us to create a flavorful Salsa de Mocajete from garlic, pepper, salt, tomatoes, tomatillos and chili serrano. Next, we made guacamole from ripe avocadoes, tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and lime juice. As we dipped into the guac with freshly fried tortilla chips, we continued with making tostados, covering a fried corn tortilla with refried beans, shredded pork, lettuce, sour cream, cheese and our salsa.

The kitchen staff prepared the final course of red enchiladas, and we washed it all down with salty margaritas. Then it was on to the tequila tasting. I had not planned on that fifth shot, but somehow it just happened.

As if I hadn’t eaten enough already today, tonight was my first special regional dinner in the Pinnacle Grill – a Mexican six-course menu. I’m sure glad I only weigh myself when we are docked, so I’ll have six days to mitigate today’s calorie catastrophe. But I do love Mexican food, and drink!

Yesterday we arrived at noon in Manzanillo, a new Mexican port for me. It is mainly known for sport fishing and as Mexico’s largest Pacific coast cargo port. A giant blue sailfish sculpture dominates the beachfront square, surrounded mainly by souvenir shops and a few restaurants and bars. Taxi drivers at the pier are happy to take passengers to the main city center a mile or so away or for longer rides to the resorts and beaches a few miles farther.

We window shopped along the malecón, or boardwalk. Color was everywhere. I love Mexican decorations, but without a house I have no need for them. I’ll settle for photographs.

And before we sailed away, eagle-eyed Elaine spotted a stingray swimming by the ship. It was stunning in the clear Pacific water.