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Los Angeles to Victoria

Saturday, April 13, 2024 – flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to Calgary (YYC) to Victoria (YYJ)

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

While I’m still on the ship, I activate the Airalo 5G data roaming, which is working well here in Los Angeles on Verizon. The Airalo data roaming also worked well in Mexico. Use my JOSEPH4203 referral code to sign up and save US$3.00. Use their app to install an eSIM – it’s simple, fast and way less expensive than paying your mobile carrier’s roaming rates!

After having some breakfast in the Lido, we leave the ship on time and take the pre-booked transfer bus to LAX. We find the gate area is a zoo, with people everywhere and everyone crowded into far too small a space. Despite the mayhem at the gate, our completely full flight to Calgary leaves only about 10 minutes late.

Westjet flight from LAX to YYC - 2024-04-13, 1:39:26 PM
Westjet flight from LAX to YYC

Flight time is 2 hours 29 minutes, so a bit faster than originally planned. I have hummus, mini bread sticks and a Coke in-flight for a midday snack. A toddler in the row ahead of me screams for the first part of the flight, but thankfully gets tired eventually.

Canada Border Control clearance in Calgary doesn’t take long, so despite only having an hour between flights, I have time to grab a turkey sandwich (for dinner) from a Tim Horton’s next to the gate for our flight to Victoria. Our aircraft pushes away from the gate at 5:20pm, so these Westjet flights to home are working much better than the Air Canada flights to LA at the start of the trip.

Westjet flight from Calgary to Victoria

My iPhone’s Find My app notifies me that my iPod Pro was last seen in Terminal 2 – Calgary or LAX? I couldn’t find the charging case as I was leaving the LA flight at the Calgary gate, so it must be on that aircraft. I have the earbuds with me, so rather than going through the hassle of notifying WestJet, I can get the case replaced by Apple for a nominal fee when I’m home.

We land in Victoria a bit ahead of schedule, retrieve our checked bags, and we’re soon home. Overall, this was a very successful trip to see a total solar eclipse from a cruise ship off the coast of Mexico. Unlike what some eclipse chasers across North America dealt with, the weather on eclipse day at our location was near perfect, and we had a great time along the way.

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Two days at sea

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

Thursday, April 11, 2024 – day at sea off the Baja California, Mexico

John and I go to the “Cosmic Update” presentation by Professor Shelly Bonus this morning in the Princess Theatre (see banner image above). Although her presentation style is very light-hearted and humorous, she conveys quite a bit of good information about complex subjects such as black holes, the subject of her talk this morning.

Just after lunch, the ship drifts through a huge number of sea turtles, so John and I take some photos using our long lenses and Canon cameras from my balcony for most of an hour.

Sea turtle

My dinner this evening is Hyderabadi Chicken Dum Ka Murgh over rice with some vegetables, which tastes just like my old South Asian neighbour’s chicken curry, which she would share with me along with some roti. I compliment the chef when he comes around to check on food and hot tables.

Hyderabadi Chicken Dum Ka Murgh over rice with some vegetables

Friday, April 12, 2024 – day at sea off the Baja California, Mexico

Professor Shelly Bonus presents “Want to be a space tourist?” this morning covering: sex in space, orbiting hotels, Mars, Moon, current low Earth space flights, and Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity” recorded from the ISS.

This afternoon, Steve & Janet Wozniak present “Changing the World!” – a grand title for an exceedingly boring talk which highlighted him as a very insecure individual by repeatedly telling everyone how brilliant he is/was. We hang in for the first half hour, but eventually leave when we simply can’t stand any more of it. It was billed as an “enrichment presentation”, but it was not enriching.

My friend and I spend a significant amount of time trying to check in for our flights home tomorrow. The combination of the slow Internet aboard ship, and our tickets being issued through Princess Cruises using Delta Airlines code-shared with Westjet flights makes it exceedingly difficult to complete all the required steps. We eventually both get our boarding passes issued.

I pack and put my big bag out by 8PM so it can be collected and moved off the ship tomorrow morning. We have arranged for a transfer to the airport with Princess Cruises, so hopefully that goes without a hitch, and our flights home are stress-free.

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Puerto Vallarta

Wednesday, April 10, 2024 – Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

I disembark the ship this morning at 9AM, walking through the various shops setup at the cruise terminal, discovering Revolucion Artisanal Plata 35 tequila at US$220 which comes in a beautiful ceramic bottle! I find my way over to Oro Beach (see banner image above), which has public access and is adjacent to the cruise port. It’s a beautiful beach with lots of resorts along it, but I think the swimming in the open ocean would be a bit challenging.

Since Puerto Vallarta really doesn’t appeal to me, I spend the rest of the day aboard ship, taking photos of more birds: Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Laughing Gulls. My balcony is facing the harbour, so I watch all the party and excursion boats along with Seadoos coming and going. The 101m Attessa IV super yacht is docked across from our ship, providing some variety to this tourist city. This art deco-styled vessel with Gucci accents is owned by “shoe shiner turned billionaire” Dennis Washington, and is worth about $200 million.

Attessa IV super yacht docked in the harbour

I go to the late show in the Princess Theatre this evening: “Broadway” with Vancouver-based entertainer Lovena B. Fox. Her voice is wonderful…probably the show I enjoyed on the cruise the most.

Broadway with Lovena B. Fox

Please scroll down to the flying frigatebird and pelican in the water to see the photos from this cruise. The top-most photos are from my cruise port call back in October 2023.

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Manzanillo

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 – Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

We take a walk along the harbour front Malacon near the pier after breakfast before it gets too hot. There are lots of big tugs in this busy freight harbour – Mexico’s largest as it turns out. The shops are as expected – t-shirts and trinkets, OTC medications from numerous pharmacies, restaurants and snack bars. My friend is looking for a gift to take home, but he finds nothing to his liking. The gift shops on the pier are actually the most appealing, but no sale from either of us.

We spend the rest of the day aboard ship. I take lots of photos of birds circling in the harbour, mainly Magnificent Frigatebirds and Laughing Gulls. I also explore the ship. The Promenade Deck is essentially not usable for walking, since it’s so narrow and it doesn’t go all the way around the ship. The harbour traffic provides me with lots of photo opportunities – in addition to the seabirds, there are lots of tugboats, pleasure craft, and other working boats to watch.

The Piazza is the 3-level atrium midship on Discovery Princess, which is very impressive with marble floors, brass and glass everywhere, and big chandeliers and staircases. Lots of activities and performances happen in the Piazza. The International Cafe, Gelato Dessert Cafe and various bars are located on the various levels. The problem is that it’s very noisy, otherwise I would spend more time here. We both have free access to the Gelato Dessert Cafe, so we sit down and have some ice cream, which is very good. They also serve amazing 12-layer cakes, and dessert concoctions that would put me to sleep, since they are huge and loaded with sugary treats.

Impressive multi-layer cakes in Gelato Dessert Cafe

We both have the curried fish in the International Marketplace on Lido for dinner, which is probably the best-tasting meal we’ve had on the cruise. I had the fish over coconut rice, which made it extra fine IMHO.

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2024 Total Solar Eclipse

Monday, April 8, 2024 – at sea 150 nmi SW of Mazatlan, Mexico

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

I am up at 6:30AM, but wait an hour before going for breakfast in the Lido buffet. The pastry chefs have baked some lovely eclipse cookies with a shortbread base, icing and then a chocolate and white top depicting a partially eclipsed Sun. Although busy, there is lots of room and available tables, so we have no issues getting food and cappuccino.

We setup our eclipse gear on my balcony and wait an hour for the event to start just after 9:45AM with First Contact. It is hot out on the balcony, so we’re careful to stay hydrated and duck inside the stateroom to cool off now and then. The temperature moderates as the Sun is eclipsed and afterwards. We have just over 4 minutes of Totality, but as always this time flies by quickly. My friend struggles a bit with his camera gear during totality, but unlike 2017, I have no issues with my Canon R5 camera and 100-500mm telephoto lens, recording some outstanding detail on the Sun as the eclipse progresses. We also make good use of our binoculars equipped with solar filters to observe the partially eclipsed Sun, and then take the filters off to fully appreciate the spectacle before us during totality!

I have my GoPro 12 Hero Black action camera attached to the deck rail, taking a time lapse video throughout the event. My Kestrel 5500 weather station records a temperature drop of 10ºC over the course of the eclipse from 35ºC down to 24.7ºC. I make these temperature readings in memory of Jim Low, who I shared my first solar eclipse with in the middle of the Libyan Sahara Desert back in 2006.



Solar Eclipse Viewing Certificate for Joseph Carr from Princess, signed by Captain Tony Ruggero

After Totality ends, we go to the coffee bar on Deck 5 to have some lunch, picking up some beer from the nearby pub. I have a mug of a lovely Newcastle Brown Ale draft with my quiche and a piece of pound cake for dessert. My friend has a deli sandwich and another eclipse cookie along with his Heineken bottled beer. We both agree this is a nice alternative to the buffet. We then retreat to our respective staterooms to get cleaned up and recover from the heat and stress of the morning’s eclipse observing.

We go to Sabbatini’s Trattoria at 7:30PM for dinner this evening. It’s a good restaurant, however my veal parmigiana is gooey instead of being crisp, and it tastes very bland. My deep fried shrimp and calamari starter is very good, as is the tiramisu dessert. My friend’s choices are outstanding, so I think I just ordered the wrong Secondi.

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Mazatlan

Sunday, April 7, 2024 – Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

Captain’s Eclipse Report

Planned position of Discovery Princess offshore from Mazatlan on Eclipse Day
Planned position for Discovery Princess offshore from Mazatlan on Eclipse Day
  • Forecast 28% cloud cover
  • Eclipse announcement at 9AM tomorrow
  • Ship’s speed will be 11 kts, then drifting during the eclipse
  • Heading 35º to 55º
  • SW course intercepting track of totality
  • 9AM announcement tomorrow morning
  • Tune in to the Bridge Camera on the TV for eclipse announcements and narration
  • HAL Koningsdam & Zaandam will be in the area, and Emerald Princess will be 1 mile away from Discovery Princess

I go ashore around 11AM for a walk through the historical district, returning at 12:30PM after covering about 3.4 km. Walking in the morning is very pleasant, with a nice breeze and it’s only about 24ºC. I follow the “Blue Line” route from the cruise terminal to the Plazuela Machado and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. I pass by the Topolo restaurant where my travel buddy later shares that he had a superb 2-hour lunch with friends this afternoon.

There is an impressive sunset as we sail out of Mazatlan harbour headed for our position on the path of totality for tomorrow’s Total Solar Eclipse. I am favoured with a spectacular Green Flash, which I observe and photograph from my balcony!

My friend and I have dinner in the Juneau Dining Room this evening. The meal and service is fine but really not comparable to the Main Dining rooms on Holland America. On the way back to our rooms, I stop at Sabbatini’s Trattoria to ask the Maitre’d if there is any seating available, since the Princess app indicates nothing available. He cheerfully gives us a 7:30PM time for tomorrow evening. I’m glad I asked, since this restaurant comes highly recommended.

Eclipse viewing glasses and eclipse viewing information is distributed to all passengers and crew today. I’m particularly glad to see the crew will have a chance to view the eclipse tomorrow.

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Cabo San Lucas – overnight

Friday, April 5, 2024 – arrival in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

Cruise Director Cole, Dr Matt Wedel and Prof Shelly Bonus share eclipse information this morning, and Captain Tony Ruggero also shows up to detail the eclipse preparations. I’m reassured knowing that the captain is personally taking on the preparations for eclipse day, and also very much appreciate having the expertise of Dr. Matt and Prof Shelly.

Solar Eclipse Information Session

  • Captain
    • Planned position: 118 mi SW of Mazatlan
    • Timing of eclipse: 9:44am to 12:25pm
    • Viewing from the Starboard side
    • Sun will have an altitude of 68º and an azimuth of 122º-125º
    • Our sister ship the Emerald Princess will be nearby
    • Ship’s lighting will be reduced during the eclipse
  • Dr Matt Wedel, Professor Shelly Bonus, Cruise Director Cole
    • All lounge chairs on top decks will be removed and stored
    • The Moon’s shadow will approach us from the west

The ship arrives in Cabo around 1:40PM and anchors in the bay in preparation for an overnight stay. Sea Eagle a modern 81m sailing yacht registered in Grand Cayman is anchored beside us in the bay. Apparently the ship belongs to Taiwanese billionaire businessman and philanthropist Samuel Yen-Liang Yin, and is one of the 10 largest sailing yachts ever built. It’s available for charter for 550,000 Euros per week!

I don’t go ashore today, preferring to explore the ship a bit more, walk the decks, and enjoy the beautiful scenery the bay has to offer. I go to the Princess Theatre this evening to enjoy the Folklorico Mexico performers, who put on a colourful and exotic show that is beautifully choreographed, and well-received by the audience.

Saturday, April 6, 2024 – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

I go ashore this morning to walk around the Marina District. I buy nothing before returning to the ship after spending about an hour ashore. I have a lovely taco lunch in the World Fresh Market on Lido, and later have Lamb curry with veggies and rice for dinner. There is a Mexican ensemble performing in the Piazza this evening before the ship leaves.

Please note – the album below starts with my previous visit to Cabo San Lucas in October 2023, and ends with my current visit, so scroll down for photos from this trip!

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Day at sea – Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas

Thursday, April 4, 2024 – sailing down Mexico’s Baja California coast

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

Today’s Captain’s Report tells us the ship is midway down the Baja California coast making 19 kts. We will arrive tomorrow after lunch in Cabo San Lucas, staying overnight anchored in the bay.

I meet up with another astronomy buddy from Victoria, who has already found his spot on an upper deck where he plans to observe the eclipse from. I’m expecting to observe the eclipse from my balcony, since the eclipse day plan shared yesterday states that my side of the ship will be facing south – what luck! I walk further around the Sky Deck, discovering the Wake View pool, which offers a vista out over the ocean with the ship’s wake on a beautiful clear and sunny day (see banner image above).

Joe Carr, John McDonald, Bill Weir solar observing the Sun from the ship's deck
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Depart San Pedro

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 – board Discovery Princess in San Pedro and leave port

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

My friend and I wake up around 8am, having got about five hours sleep after our long-delayed flight. We have a nice breakfast in the Marriott Courtyard hotel, return to our room to pack, and ask the front desk call us a taxi. The Yellow Cab driver takes us to the cruise ship terminal in San Pedro, where we join the chaos for boarding the ship. Unfortunately, in the confusion we miss the baggage drop off, so have to wheel our bags onboard. My bag is selected by security since I have safety razors, which they insist I remove before boarding since they judge them to be “weapons.”

We are aboard and settled into our staterooms by 11:30am, and have some lunch from the Slice and Salty Dog Cafe beside the main pool. I have some time to quickly explore the ship, and discover the USS Ohio historic destroyer on display next to the cruise ship terminal behind our ship. We pass by the impressive US Coast Guard Station Los Angeles – Long Beach, as the Discovery Princess departs the harbour at 3pm by backing all the way out of the navigation channel to turn around inside the breakwater before sailing into open ocean.

I’m pleased to see there is already an Eclipse info sheet from the captain left in my stateroom. My friend and I have a very nice dinner in the World Fresh Market on Lido Deck 16, and then we have our first Martinis while enjoying the Ian Bacon Trio playing jazz classics in the Take Five Jazz Lounge this evening. It’s nice to finally relax and settle into the cruise after the stressful start with our flights to Los Angeles yesterday.

Ian Bacon Trio plaing jazz classics
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Vancouver Arrival

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 24, 2023 – Arrival in Vancouver, BC, Canada and onward to home in Victoria

The Koningsdam arrives in Vancouver harbour in the dark before sunrise. I have my usual light breakfast in the Grand Dutch Cafe return to my stateroom and do some last minute packing, leaving around 8AM. Since I’m a 4-star Mariner and I’m pulling my own bag, I can leave the ship whenever I want. I walk down the gangway, clear Canada Customs and Immigration, and walk one block to the Waterfront station to catch the Canada Line Skytrain to the airport. I take the free shuttle bus to the South Terminal, where I check in with Pacific Coastal Airways. Now the long wait begins for my 2:45PM flight back to Victoria.

It’s 8ºC and raining at the airport, so there’s no way I’m going outside to spot planes as I usually do. I have a couple of scrambled eggs, toast and potatoes at the Galiano Cafe before lunch to tide me over until dinner time at home. I manage to while away the hours working on my journal and travel photos on my MacBook Pro until it is finally departure time.

Pilots and instrument panel in cockpit

The flight is delayed for over an hour due to a number of factors: late arrival from Victoria due to weather; and after we are loaded, it is discovered the aircraft is overweight, so the last passenger on the roster has to leave along with her luggage to wait for the next flight. Once we roll off the apron, for some reason the pilot performs a thrust test before we take off into some pretty dreadful conditions all the way back to Victoria. Thankfully, after flying through clouds the whole way, there is enough visibility to land at Victoria. My family has waited for over an hour for my eventual arrival, but I’m finally home!