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Just Cruisin' - Monday, March 2, 2020
Priscilla loves traveling, and perhaps cruising in particular due to the aspect of everything being taken care of. And because I'm married to her, I occasionally have to go along with her crazy schemes. So three weeks ago we took a 4-day cruise from Long Beach to Catalina Island and Ensenada aboard the Carnival Inspiration. At least we got it free thanks to credit card points; all-in-all, it would've been $600 something otherwise.

This was my third cruise overall (all of them with Carnival) and my second cruise to Ensenada, the first one being in 2009 when Priscilla's parents brought us there (but we didn't do Catalina that time). Priscilla was particularly keen to include Catalina this time because it's where I proposed oh so many years ago.

So on Monday, we flew down to Long Beach Airport and Ubered to the Long Beach Cruise Center where we boarded the ship. The next morning, the ship docked off the Catalina coast and we had to take a ferry to get to shore. We walked around Avalon, which was in a quiet, sleepy state, perhaps because it was a weekday. We hiked up the same trail that we tried hiking up last time (where I had proposed), except this time we made it to the top! Priscilla had brought proper footwear this time and was resolved (or more like resigned) to get to the top, not because she likes hiking, but because she knows how much I like it. We enjoyed the scenic ocean view on both sides of the island, and had a local there talk a lot to me, before we continued along on a route down the mountain.

The route down took us to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden through the rear entrance, where we were able to enter without paying a fee. I got that tip from another local who struck up a conversation with me when we were at Vons getting sparkling water (those locals really like to talk!). We were able to enjoy the memorial and garden before heading back to the ship. Altogether our trek was a little over 10 miles - not too shabby, especially for Priscilla.

Ensenada was the next day, and our time there started with a 1-hour horseback ride with Rancho los Bandidos, an excursion booked through Carnival. We joined around 18 others riding single-file on a trail in the mountains above the city. The views were great, but the pace of the horseback riding was pretty slow. I did get a lot of chafing from the times when the horse was running, due to me bouncing up and down as a result of not knowing proper technique. So I guess there's an upside to the pace being mostly slow.

Priscilla's feet were sore from the day before, so we only walked 4 miles around Ensenada before going back to the ship. We briefly passed through the area with touristy shops but were scared off by all these guys wanting us to check out our their respective souvenir shops. We didn't have a pre-planned route, so most of our walking was through nondescript parts of town. But along the way we managed to pass through the grounds of the Riviera de Ensenada, Plaza CĂ­vica de la Patria (a park with busts of the heads of three historical figures), and Ventana al Mar (a park along the harbor near where the ship was docked). I wish we had done more walking, but next time we should probably have a plan, or at least some idea, of the places we want to visit.

The day afterwards, Thursday, was the day at sea. We went around the track in the morning (I mostly ran, Priscilla mostly walked), learned how to fold towel animals at a session, worked out at the fitness center for the third time during the cruise, and enjoyed the Motown musical Motor City in the evening.

I definitely ate a lot and often on the cruise (though my waistline would disagree). We always had breakfast and lunch at the Lido buffet, and we got burgers from Guy's Burger Joint a couple times. For dinner, we ate at the dining room except on the last night. We found that the quality at the dining room was hit or miss, and service was extremely slow. A lot of the same food was at the Lido buffet. And unlike with our previous two Carnival cruises, there was no longer a night when lobster was on the regular menu at the dining room. Lobster tail was on the menu as a $20 item, but of course we didn't want to spend extra money. Since there was no free lobster to look forward to (we were able to preview the next day's menu), we skipped the dining room and ate at the Lido buffet on the final night.

On Friday, we disembarked after breakfast and walked along the Long Beach waterfront to Yard House, where we had a couple unmemorable appetizers. We weren't too hungry and I was also starting to get sick (which happens often when I travel), so I didn't feel like ordering more.

Speaking of cruises and getting sick, there's been a lot of news/panic lately about the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, and everyone on the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined in Yokohama as a result of passengers being infected. Fortunately, things haven't gotten too bad on this side of the planet (though reading about shoppers snatching up all the basic provisions at Costcos may make one wonder). Based on my symptoms, I only had the common cold. Unfortunately, Priscilla later caught it from me. Plus she had prolonged land sickness (MdDS) to deal with, lasting much longer than it has in the past for her. And she'd already booked the same cruise for her and her parents for later this year. Fun times!

The quality of the cruise could've been better. But it was still nice to get away for a few days, have food always taken care of, work out when I wanted to, and have some time to catch up on writing Yelp reviews (Priscilla had spent some credit card points to get the unlimited Internet package since she knew it would keep me sane). I guess I do get the appeal of cruising. I'd be hard-pressed to want to go on a 3-month cruise around the world, but a 4-day cruise to a couple places where we have some cool activities planned, ones that don't involve chafing on my rear end? Sure, sign me up.
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