Carnival Cruise Live Blog (Day 3): Blow Holes & Golden Trophies

For my first time, I’m sailing from Long Beach aboard Carnival Radiance. While I’ve sailed ships up and down the Carnival fleet, I’ve never sailed this ship, from this port, or this itinerary. That’s why I’m sharing each day with you so you can follow along and get an idea of what it’s like.

You can read other days here:

Morning in Ensenada
The morning in Ensenada started cool and cloudy as you can tell from the view aboard the ship. By noon, the clouds broke and bathed everything in sunshine.

Day 3 of this four-day cruise found our ship just about 150 miles away from Day 2’s port of call, Catalina. Today, we docked in Ensenada, Mexico. Let’s just say this was not a day in port that I’ll mark at the top of my favorite memories. Let me explain…

First things first, the day started with something I always forget about as it’s not listed on the daily planner. On every Carnival cruise I’ve sailed, there’s always one morning when you head down to the pool deck and see that it’s been taken over by towel animals.

Carnival’s towel animal invasion was held in the morning, with the animals taking up every seat on the pool deck. If you sleep in, you’ll miss it.

Every lounger, every bar stool, even the edges of the pool are occupied by dozens of towel animals that come in all shapes and sizes. I can’t imagine the work that goes into creating this event, but judging by the number of pictures taken by passengers walking through, it’s appreciated.

I first visited Ensenada about a year ago. During that time, I unknowingly visited during Carnivale and stumbled upon a huge parade in progress, complete with scantily-clad women advertising internet service (because, well, why not?), classic cars, and even a Gene Simmons float.

It was one of the most memorable port experiences I’ve ever had. But since it’s not the season for Carnivale, and since last time I explored the city, I opted for an excursion instead. Looking through what was available on the ship, I noticed that “La Bufadora” kept coming up as a common theme in many different excursions.

La Bufadora is a natural blow hole on the Pacific Ocean. The waves suck water out, and then push it back into a crevice, which shoots it upward in a big spray. I found an excursion — “Ensenada Famous Blow Hole” — for $45 that offered a trip out to see it. (Keep the jokes about the name to yourself, because I’ve already thought of them all.)

At 9:30, we all loaded into a huge bus and headed out about 45 minutes around the circular bay from Ensenada to where La Bufadora sits. Truth be told, the ride to and from an excursion is one of my favorite parts in a foreign port. It gives an opportunity to just sit and get a look at real day-to-day life.

Along the route to La Bufadora, you see the different shops and restaurants, the traveling circus setup in an empty parking lot, and the farms just outside the city. I love seeing this real stuff compared to just the highlights most tours provide.

But while I found the ride over interesting, something our guide said caught my attention. As we got close to La Bufadora, she mentioned a flea market that we have to walk along to get there. And then she starts giving tips about avoiding fake leather products, fake silver, and negotiating with vendors.

Our bus pulls up, and the reality sets in. Between the bus and the actual viewpoint of the water, it’s a quarter-mile walk. Both sides of the street are wall-to-wall vendors selling everything from drinks to candy to leather to silver and LOTS of cheap souvenirs such as bags with any NFL team logo on them and those joke coffee mugs where you sip from a certain part of the male or female anatomy.

It’s a 1,500-foot walk from the parking lot to the geyser. Along the way are hundreds of vendors begging you to come into their shop.

I’ve seen plenty of these stores in ports before with lots of people trying to get your attention. All it takes is a simple “No, gracias” as you walk by. But in this case, it was store after store with a non-stop stream of vendors trying to talk to you, offer something, or get you in their store. It’s just not pleasant.

Finally walking through this gauntlet, we made it to La Bufadora. People are shoulder to shoulder against the railing, looking down into a narrow slit in the rocks that creates the phenomena. Our guide says that the tide has to be right and the ocean also needs some movement to create the geyser. In other words, some times to visit are better than others.

La Bufadora is a seam in the rocks where waves push the water up. There’s no guarantee it will be a good day to see it when you visit, depending on ocean conditions. Our group saw some sprays here and there.

We got a few nice sprays here and there, and when they did happen, it was definitely cool to see. However, unless it’s really going strong, you see it once or twice and then you have the idea.

Of course, returning to the bus meant walking back through the vendors. Instead, I took the opportunity to take in the viewpoints of the rest of the area. Since you’re on the Pacific Ocean, there are some gorgeous views of the shoreline, with massive rocks jutting out, waves crashing against them, and being able to see for miles. To me, the view on this day was more impressive than La Bufadora.

Pacific coast near Ensenada
Just seeing the Pacific coastline is a sight to behold. With the clouds clearing, you could see for miles.

My suggestion? If you book an excursion, don’t make it one that has La Bufadora as the only focus of the day. Many tours include it as only part of the excursion. For instance, I saw a group in kayaks out in the water, and that seemed much more interesting given the beauty of the coast. Unfortunately, I feel like I paid $45 for a few minutes of watching the geyser and having the luxury of walking (twice!) through the definition of a tourist trap.

Back onboard I caught a late lunch at BlueIguana, which I think is actually my favorite restaurant on the ship. Lots of flavor, feels fresh, and filling, but not too heavy.

Blueiguana tacos
Tacos and a view? It’s hard to beat that. BlueIguana is one of my favorite spots to eat on Carnival.

From there, it was some much-needed downtime in the cabin before rolling out of bed for a shower and dinner. I estimate I’ve walked about 8 miles in the past two days with all the exploring, and it’s definitely caught up to me. Plus, I needed to get ready for what was planned to be a busy night.

Dinner was in the main dining room, where I went Italian with Chicken Parmigiana and a wonderful dessert of Tiramisu (my absolute favorite dessert). Then I hit the casino… you know… to um, let my food settle. Sure, that’s it.

The casino on Radiance is solid all around with a decent size, and it’s been buzzing. My one complaint is that it can get a strong smell of smoke… but it’s also a casino. What do you expect? I played for a bit and it was just a steady stream of down, down, down.

Then, I hit a bonus game. A wheel spins, and I hit a minor jackpot to get me back up to even. I’m not a high-stakes gambler and just took that as a sign that breaking even ain’t bad. I cashed out happy to have survived intact.

Slot machine with casino win
A nice little $30 jackpot on the slot machine got me back up to even. I took it as a sign to cash out and live to fight another day.

After the casino, however, I really hit some luck.

I had planned to do something I never did before on this cruise: play some bingo. So leaving the casino, I headed to the theater to buy a board. It was a $1,000 game and for some reason I had it in my mind that it costs about $10 to play. Evidently it’s more serious than that.

Standing in a line dozens of people long, they hand out a price list and the top package is nearly $60! The bottom-tier package is still $30. I surveyed the room, saw how many people were playing and decided maybe I’d just watch instead.

While the game is getting ready, the host tells us to login to a website on our phone to play an interactive trivia game. It’s free to play and you’re competing against everyone in the room.

The first questions tick by and you answer on the phone. The faster you answer, the better. Which three characters were part of the Simpson’s family? Sorry Flanders, you aren’t a Simpson. Which is not a deck on a cruise ship? No, there’s no “holodeck.”

The game is short and I feel like I got the questions right… and fast. Sure enough, at the end of the game, my name pops up on the screen as the winner! And my prize? I’ll give you a hint: 24 carat plastic:

My first golden ship trophy. I’d like to thank everyone that helped me to get here today. It took a lot of hard work, and I won’t forget all the little people just because I have this fancy award.

It’s my first golden ship trophy. Sure, the lady that ended up winning bingo might have walked home with $1,000, but I got the trophy. I’m sure she is sorely jealous.

The evening wrapped up with one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t watched the Love & Marriage show (or any of its other variations on other lines), it’s a must-see. Even if you aren’t married, it’s hilarious. If you are married, you understand it on a different level.

This evening was funny as always, with a couple married last week, one married 13 years, and one married 57 years. If they had this show every night, I would attend.

Day 4 is the last day of the cruise and will be at sea.

Interesting Observations

  • There must be something in the air or maybe it’s the fact that after three days of sharing a small cabin together, couples are getting grouchy. Walking around this evening, I noticed that the happiness and excitement of the start of the cruise has now given way to bickering between a number of people traveling together. I figure given this is the last day, that will pass quickly.
  • No sign of any tiger cubs in Ensenada despite the warning letter from Carnival. I was on an excursion of my own, so maybe I just didn’t see them.

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