Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Last day: Mexico Cruise

The Dawn Princess sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge at 0500, signifying the completion of another wonderful cruise. It docked at Pier 35 at 0600 and disembarkation began at 0700. Thanks to the never ending diligence and efforts of Diana and Andi disembarking was a piece of cake, especially compared to past experiences. There was someone, either from the cruise lines or the port there every step of the way. The Sonoma Airport Express pulled up right in front of where they seated me. The bus driver called for a cab to meet me at the Day's Inn, which it did, and I was home by 1200.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Day 9: Mexcio Cruise

Our ninth day of the cruise and the fourth and final full day at sea. The only planned events for this day were another exercise session for the dogs from 1100 to 1300 and a public petting session from 1400 to 1500.

Well, it finally happened. Both Rod and I returned to our cabin briefly with our dogs in harness. He was just going to get his jacket and I was going to use the bathroom before we left again. Therefore, neither of us felt the need to remove the harness or for me to put McCall on tie down. He left while I was in the bathroom. I decided to sit on the bed and give McCall some personal attention for a few minutes before we left. I started petting him and immediately realized that it was not McCall, but Justice. I instantly ran out into the hall and instinctively called out McCall Apparently Rod only had hold of the leash, because, as soon as he heard his name, he turned and started running back to me, pulling the leash out of Rod's hand. He was extremely excited to see me. Rod said that he could not figure why McCall kept looking back, as that was not normal for Justice. Although the time that we were separated from our dogs was only a few minutes, it was impressive to see how much they missed us and how happy they were to reunite with us.

The session with the passengers was just as popular as it was earlier in the week. In the first session the passengers not only wanted to pet the dogs, but also were curious about their age, how long they were working, and various training questions. This time many were persons who had met us during the cruise and were thanking us for cruising with them and how much they enjoyed observing the dogs working, and how well they all behaved. In my case, I am sure that McCall opened the door to several new friendships for me.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Day 8: Mexico Cruise

We actually docked at 0800 in San Diego. Our dock site was between the oldest registered U.S. warship, the Star of India, and the aircraft carrier Midway. Both of these ships are permanently docked and available for tour. The newest and largest U. S. aircraft carriers, the Nimitz and the Reagan, were both in port.

McCall and I chose to take an Old Town San Diego trolley tour. How interesting it was to again hear the Braille Note announce intersections and points of interest. There were still many points that were worth marking that did not seem to be in the commercial database.

The tour took us to Coronado and the famous Hotel Coronado; Balboa Park and the famous San Diego Zoo. The tour guide pointed out several locations where scenes for the movie Top Gun were filmed.

After the tour, McCall and I teamed up with a couple from Roseville, that we first met on our Mazatlan shore excursion. We took the trolley to Seaport Village, where we had a very nice seafood lunch. Apparently we were all shopped out as we decided to just take a leisurely walk along the harbor back towards the ship. This was an easy walk of about 0.5 miles. The ship departed San Diego at 1730.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Day 7: Mexcio Cruise

This was a relaxing day at sea. From 1100 to 1300 deck 15 was netted off so the dogs could run and play off leash. One could tell that the dogs were getting to know each other better as there was more running and playing.

This was our second formal night at dinner. Everyone dressed themselves and their dogs early for a photo session at 1630. Two group photos were taken. The first was of all the dogs with the Captain and Officers holding their leashes. The second included all members of the tour group and the dogs. Both photos came out great.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Day 6: Mexcio Cruise

At 0800 the ship anchored in Cabo San Lucas harbor. The shore excursion we chose for this port was a "lands end boat tour and scenic drive". We walked the short distance from where the tender docked over to a beautiful catamaran for the cruise to lands end, better known as the tip of Baja. During the cruise they ran a Jacques Cousteau narration of the area. However, we ended up being seated where we could not hear it, as they had no speakers mounted in our part of the boat.

Upon returning to the dock, we were escorted onto buses and taken on a non-narrated scenic drive to Giorgio’s Restaurant, where we were served refreshments, consisting of soft drinks or beer.

During the boat ride to lands end, McCall and I befriended a mother and daughter, Elizabeth and Karen, and another couple, Barbara and Merrill, who were from Seattle. We visited together at Giorgio’s and decided to have lunch together when we got back to town. All six of us fit into the Mexican taxi. For those that do not know, a Mexican Taxi is a pickup with benches in the back.

The taxi took us directly to the Shrimp Factory, a restaurant that served all sorts of shrimp dishes. One could even get bowls of shrimp by the kilo. One could get 1/2 kilo, 1 kilo, 2 kilo, or 3 kilo bowls. You had to do your own shelling.

After lunch, the six of us visited several local shops. The ladies found one shop they particularly liked and bartered with the owner for nearly an hour and came away with a lot of nice jewelry. Merrill and I decided to walk back to the dock and let the ladies take a taxi. I had marked the dock when we arrived and set that as our destination. Merrill was sure he knew the way, but the GPS told me it was in the opposite direction. To resolve the issue, I suggested that we ask someone. He tried three persons, none of whom spoke any English and he did not speak any Spanish. With my limited Spanish, I was able to ask the fourth person where the water was. He pointed in the direction my GPS had recommended originally. So we set out and periodically checked the distance. When we got within 245 feet of the dock Merrill spotted it. We tendered back to the ship in time for it to weigh anchor at 1630. In the next couple of days, I had several passengers ask me about the GPS system that had helped Merrill and I find our way back to the ship. He had told several people about our adventure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Day 5: Mexcio Cruise

We arrived at Mazatlan at 0700 and again anchored off shore. We tendered to shore again and I marked where the tender docked in case I needed it later in the day.

The shore excursion I chose for McCall and I was the "Walking Tour of Old Mazatlan". This tour was very interesting and took over three and half hours. Consequently, I was able to mark many points of interest. It was also quite draining on myself and especially McCall as the temperature reached 90 F while the relative humidity was about 90%. I carried a bottle of water for McCall, which he finished off before the end of the walking tour.

There was a shopping market along the dock where we picked up a couple of items before returning to the ship. The ship weighed anchor at 1630.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Day 4: Mexico Cruise

The ship anchored off shore at Puerta Vallarta at 0700. Therefore, we were tendered to the dock at Puerta Vallarta. Since there are no maps for Mexico and I could not find any poi's in the commercial database, I needed to generate my own points of interest. The first point I marked on Mexico soil was where the tender docked in Puerta Vallarta.

I chose to take a shore excursion titled "Hacienda, Tile and Tequila". I was not aware that the first two hours of the tour would involve two stops at what I will call tourist shopping malls. We were quick to learn that tourist monies are primary to the Mexican economy. These shopping malls were in town and near the beach hotels. It was interesting to walk the streets without any intersections being announced. I asked some of the other passengers what the street names were, in hopes that I could mark some of the intersections. It seems that they were at the same disadvantage, as they could not find any street signs.

After shopping, we were taken by bus to the tile factory. There we took a tour and had the opportunity to shop their showroom. After seeing some of their sinks and tile displays, I was wishing that we had been there before remodeling my bathrooms, rather than after. Next we boarded the buses for a one-hour trip to the hacienda, which according to the Braille Note GPS was only 9 miles away. There we were served a lunch of open face tacos cooked over an open fire. After lunch we walked next door and took a tour of a Tequila factory, followed by a session of tasting eight different Tequilas. The bus ride back to the dock was much more relaxing. I need to add that McCall had no problems anywhere we went in Puerta Vallarta, including the Tequila factory. The Tequila vats were open topped and only about 3 feet off the floor.

We tendered back to the ship and it weighed anchor at 1700.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Day 3: Mexico Cruise

Our second full day at sea and the dogs seemed to start having problems with relieving #2. Actually, the main problem for McCall was that he was extremely reluctant to want to go into the relieving area at all. Once I was able to get him to enter the room and then a box, he would do #1 quite quickly. But he refused to do #2 at all.

Temperature was in the 80's as was the humidity. The dogs were again given time to play, but, in general, they were much more sedate this time. Again, McCall focused his attention on Kinnette.

Flyers had been delivered to all passengers on the ship the there would be a one-hour petting and information session on the 15th deck for all passengers. It seemed to be a great success as over 200 passengers attended and the dogs loved the attention. It was also a great opportunity for the passengers to learn about guide dogs.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Day 2: Mexico Cruise on Dawn Princess

This was the first of two full days at sea. Diana made arrangements for us to bring our dogs up the 15th deck, where they netted off the swimming pool and deck area around it, and let them off leash for a while to play. The dogs seemed to really enjoy it. However, if there were more than six dogs at a time, they seemed harder to keep from getting too rambunctious. McCall seemed to ignore all other dogs except one; that was Kinnette.

Kinette was the smallest; a black female lab that McCall followed everywhere and just would not leave alone. She was the guide for Eunice, who was also with her husband Al and son, Dale, who had guide Ambler. While Al did not have a guide, he did have some visual impairment, but not enough that he could not be sighted help for his wife and son.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Day 1: Mexico Cruise on Dawn Princess

First, a nice casual breakfast in the dining room. Then a meeting of our group at 10:30. Diana and Andi arranged for us to meet the other members of our group. In total there were about sixty persons consisting of 22 blind and visually impaired, nineteen guide dogs, and the remaining being family and friends. There were a couple of surprise reacquaintenances for me. The biggest surprise was to literally run into Tom and his guide Kola. I had met Tom in Dublin, Ireland last year when I was there with the WayFun group. Kola is the first Irish Guide dog to be allowed into the United States. His wife Briege was with him to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Briege also has a guide dog but they did not bring her. The other surprise was Ayaka and her guide Pablo. Ayaka and I originally met at the LightHouse of Marin a few years ago. I have mentioned a couple of others that we met at dinner last night. The rest will be mentioned as we encounter them along the way.

I will, however, mention at this point that there were three Judy’s in the group. Good thing their dogs did not have the same names. The first I would like to mention was Judy with guide Purdy. She and Purdy have been on over twenty cruises together including the crossing of the Atlantic, and visits to St. Petersburg, Russia and to Turkey.

The ship anchored in Avalon harbor, off Santa Catalina Island at 13:00. McCall and I chose to take a tour of the island, including a stop for a walk (nonguided) of the Botanical Gardens. This was my first opportunity to fire up the Braille Note GPS.I marked the dock where the tenders unloaded us. I later learned that this was valuable, as the tour ended in the main town of Avalon, a little over a quarter of a mile away.

Don and Katherine and her guide Cypress also chose to take this tour. They live near the Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind where she got Cypress. While we were in the Botanical Gardens I demonstrated the Braille Note and GPS system to Katherine. As is often the case with older persons, she had expressed a concern that it would be too complicated for her to learn, as she had tried a computer and just could not get the hang of it. She was quite surprised how easy it was to operate and in less than 15 minutes asked where she could get one.

The tour ended in town where McCall and I befriended two sisters, Diana and Joanie, who were on the cruise, but not part of our group. The four of us navigated our way into several shops and bought various souvenirs. They had some maps that they would have stamped in several of the shops while I would mark the shops as pois. I checked the route back to the ship with the GPS and the three of us and McCall walked back.

Before dinner Rod and I were given a letter to inform us that we had new table assignments for dinner. We both were assigned to a large round table of eight. The eight persons consisted of Rod and I, and our guides Justice and McCall; Don and his wife Katherine and her guide Cypress; and two couples; Steve and Nanette and Dennis and Judy. The two couples had been on a previous cruise to Alaska with Guide Dogs and were friends of Jim and Vicky and her guide Freida, who did not come on this trip because they were in the process of moving to Hawaii.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Mexico Cruise on Dawn Princess, by: Rich Irwin

The cab arrived at my house at 10:15 as planned. He got me to the Day's Inn at 10:40 where I was to catch the Sonoma Airport Express at 11:15. As he was letting me out, I got a call from Marty (the contractor who was doing some remodeling on my house while I was gone) who told me that my tickets were lying in the driveway. No cabs could be found in the east so my cab driver, Carl, immediately left for my house. He had the tickets handed to him by Marty, like pony express. As the bus was pulling into the driveway of the Days Inn the cab was right behind him. The original fare for McCall, our bags, and myself was $33. The fare for the tickets was $70. Wow, what a start!

Taking the Sonoma Airport Express was definitely the way for McCall and I to get to the ship. The bus pulled right up to the Dawn Princess inside Pier 35 in San Francisco. As soon as I got off the bus, Irene met us. She handed us off to Brian, who escorted us through check-in. At that point Mike took over and escorted us to our cabin on the Aloha deck, deck 11. The only challenge with this process was that my luggage was split up and did not make it to the room very promptly. McCall and I arrived at our cabin at 13:30. McCall's bag with his food in it arrived at 14:30. The ship past under the Golden Gate Bridge at 17:00. My luggage with my clothes finally showed up in our cabin at 17:45, just in time to get my jacket out before we hurried off to dinner at 18:00.

Arrangements had been made for McCall and I to have roommates. They were Rod and Justice from Spokane. They took Amtrak to get to San Francisco and ended up being the last to show up.

At dinner there was some confusion about the seating arrangements for Rod and I. As a result we ended up at a rectangular table for six persons. We did end up with six persons, but also four guide dogs. That meant that there were 28 legs under the table, not including the four for the table itself. The attendees were Judy with guide Tipton, her sister Pat with cane; Carol and Joe with his guide Mogen; Rod and Justice; and McCall and myself. Too many legs in too little space. But we were all able to enjoy our dinners.


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