Booze Cruise @ Marina Vallarta

For some reason, people think I only write positive things in this space, like every trip outdoors is super happy rainbow magic time and I’m just some (under) paid shill with a thesaurus.

I’ll never understand it.

Anyone who has exchanged more than the opening ceremonies with me in person knows that I’m more than happy to say what’s on my mind, and I’ll use this opportunity to prove it by sharing with you what has to rank at the bottom of my recent nautical experiences.

The Vibes: I knew this tour wasn’t designed with me in mind the moment I learned of the launch location. As with all departures from the city’s marina, embarking on this tour requires passing through a stringent security process, and this complication meant that I could not bring items that were illegal in Mexico but would improve my day substantially.

For this reason, I had to make a quick stop on the way to the docks in advance of the 9 am departure so I could stash my imported dried jerky and trail mix for fear they would be seized by customs agents and I would be prosecuted to some extent of the law. Again.

When the legal aspects of the day’s agenda were settled out, we filed into the boarding line, where a photographer offered to take a photo of us to sell to us. Trusted assistant Nicté had the foresight to bring a camera of her own, mostly because she likes taking pictures of herself, and politely declined before leaving him to ponder his business model on the shore.

We found one of the few empty lawn chairs among the dozens on either of the boat’s double decks as masses of humanity continued to be pumped onto the boat, seemingly from some unseen portal to another universe. The tour staff frantically produced more and more chairs from the same hole in reality, and eventually, everyone was seated and ready to set sail.

It wasn’t the most auspicious of beginnings but once the boat was finally floating forward, everybody seemed reasonably pleased… well all except for the smallest member of a dozen-member family who had also come to enjoy a day on the water, and done so all wrong.

The baby protested loud and long at who-freakin’-knows-what, tormenting even the people that brought it on the boat. Fortunately Mama Bear had the good sense and common decency to put the infant in her purse and go…idk, away somewhere. Maybe she went for a swim. Either way it was really cool of her.

Just as one noisemaker fell silent, another began a more permanent presentation. An announcer, who started out innocuously enough with standard static about how to use a life vest and where the “emergency bathrooms” were, embarked on what would turn out to be a 6-hour one-man variety show in Spanish and English. He told jokes, pointed out landmarks, engaged passengers, and at one point began to sing the Mexican national anthem for no real reason.

The Vices: And so, I headed for the lower deck to hit the bar for a drink….but if you can believe it, the bar on the booze cruise was closed.

Well, I never!

Something about waiting until after the snorkeling excursion (which does sound like a lesson learned in practice) but still, I was mildly inconvenienced for a short period of time and that simply will not do.

After suffering through the guided seaborne tour of the living postcard that is our piece of the Pacific coast as well as a stop at picturesque Los Arcos, the bar was open and everything went up half a star. A tequila x soda with lime in one hand and a children’s cup of national beer in the other, I was finally able to enjoy the view from the bow of the boat like a real seafarer.

A few drinks later it was announced that we would be dropped off on a South Shore beach for lunch: marlin quesadilla for yours truly, machaca burritos for the +1. Both turned out to be pretty good (and the crab tacos I ordered because those sadists scheduled lunch for 3:30 were even better) although I did step on some kind of sharp beach stick on my walk to the table, which is totally the restaurant’s fault. They could have turned the sun down a bit while they were at it.

Our lunches finished, it was time to get back on board the boat and head back toward town. Folks were in a much better mood after a little food and drink, and even the family who had brought the baby seemed to be in good spirits, probably because the baby was asleep all afternoon. Quirky quibbles aside, it’s hard to complain too loudly when you’re spending a Thursday afternoon sailing off the sands of Puerto Vallarta… but hey, you wanted it.

The Verdict: I’d be marketing through my teeth if I said this was the best boat ride ever or anything—remember the pirate ship?—but the fact is that even the worst time I’ve spent in the waters off this town of vibrant vices was a damn decent day. Better than most have ever lived.

The root of my worldview involves making an honest effort to take something from whatever set of circumstances arise, and as a certain manufacturer of low-grade Mexican beer always reminds us, your happy place can be wherever you find it. Maybe I’ll catch you there.

AJ Freeman on Email
AJ Freeman
AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friendmaker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.