After decades of dreaming about taking a cruise, my husband and I decided to take the plunge.

Then we were overwhelmed with the idea that we had to navigate all the travel agencies, cruise line brochures and websites to choose a fabulous destination and– most important– get the best deal. Well, we did it the easy way.

We booked our past vacations at our neighborhood Flight Centre office, which always posts unbelievable prices in its windows. So we stopped in to see what they had to offer. The bargains amazed us, especially for last minute deals with certain cruise lines. You can pay a couple of hundred dollars or a couple of thousand, depending on where you’re sailing and what discounts are available. For first time cruisers it’s best to go to a travel expert who can guide you to the right trip that suits your budget and interests.

Some ships have on-board activities that are educational. We went for the gusto and booked a seven night Royal Caribbean adventure to the Mexican Riviera. It turned into a floating party. Sailing out of Los Angeles from the port in San Pedro, the voyage would take us to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

There’s a young active crowd who sail the seas these days, and the activities on-board Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas reflected that. There was always a festival atmosphere around the pool during the day. And at night, world-class comics, singers and dancers entertained in the showrooms.


Also aboard ship there is always food and plenty of it. From fancy fine dining to casual buffet tables serving bountiful feasts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks served constantly and 24-hour complimentary room service.

It was not a place to start a new diet. Yet there are options for eating healthy and keeping fit. With access to the pools, day spa and fitness center it seemed as if our energy level increased each day.

The first port of call was Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja, California. A little boat ferried us from the ship to shore. Since the heat and humidity took us by surprise, the two-for-one margaritas sounded like a great idea at a grass shack bar called El Arch & Anchor.

Situated at the marina, overlooking our ship in the harbor, the watering hole had a three-piece mariachi group playing Jimmy Buffet’s greatest hits. The American owner of the place reminded us of a character out of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, as did many of his customers.

Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta were our other ports of call. Some folks enjoyed para-sailing and snorkeling excursions, or visits to the shopping districts. Shoppers always generate a swarm of vendors peddling “real gold” and local crafts.

After fighting the crowds, it’s always nice to return to the sanctuary of the ship, which is also has stores full of souvenir tee-shirts and other goodies.

In addition to gambling at the Casino Royale, there were games and shows of all types every day. Participatory shows like the Newlywed Game, a Karaoke Superstar contest, Jackpot Bingo, movies to enjoy, and other activities were hosted by the high-energy cruise director.

Enjoying it all were romantic couples, swinging singles, gal-pals on a getaway, lots of family reunions, and other fun-seekers.

Time flew by, and our journey came to an end. But as everyone says, you’ll never forget your first time.

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.