Sunday, April 29, 2007

Panama Cruise, Day 11: Acapulco, Mexico

Acapulco was very different from any of the other port of call we’ve made so far on this cruise. The approach from the port was quite scenic, many sailboats in the bay, a winding coastline, and a sweeping beach area with tall hotels. The higher elevations along the coast had been developed with homes, businesses and signs, which was quite a contrast to Huatulco the prior day. Since I did not plan a particular excursion or tour, I decided to explore the city on foot, which limited what we could see. As expected when I walked out into the open area, I was inundated by locals with offers for taxi rides, tours and people asking for money. I eventually made my way through the chaos and into the streets where I made my way to the shops for a day of shopping and price-bargaining.

A Brief History of Acapulco
Acapulco was originally part of the Aztec empire, but I am told that there are no significant ruins remaining today. By the late 1500’s Spain had developed Acapulco as a major port for treasure ships carrying spices, silk, porcelain and ivory from the Orient and gold and silver from South America. Eventually English and Dutch pirates would come and raid these treasures and Spain was quickly out of business in this area. After a few hundred years as mainly a fishing village, it wasn’t until after WWII when there was significant development as a resort destination. Acapulco is in heart of the Mexican Riviera and enjoys a healthy tourist trade to its many beaches and hotels.

Day of Shopping
Shopping wore me out. Being a retail buyer by profession, the first lesson in shopping throughout Mexico’s open markets and many shops is that you never pay the first stated price for anything. This is how trade is done in Mexico, so it is not considered an insult to negotiate price. For example, someone I was traveling with negotiated a piece of jewelry at a reputable store from $6,500 down to $1,500. Although my Spanish is not very good, I felt I could communicate the basics in Spanish and wanted to see how much I could accomplish. Nearly everyone spoke English, which was helpful after my string of broken Spanish only got me so far.

· When I would enter a shop I would proudly exclaim: “Hola, Buenos Dias Senora” (Hello, good morning Ma’am). The women in the shops would acknowledge me with a pleasant “Hola Senor”.

· When they proceeded to ask me something in Spanish I would pretend not to hear them and instead examine the item closest by my hand.

· My next strategy would always to just ask about cost and would say: “Cuanto cuesta?” (How much does it cost?). Regardless of whatever number they quoted I would reply: “Esta muy caro” (It’s very expensive).

· If I wanted to get away I’d shake my finger and say “No gracias, no me gusta” (No thank you, I don’t like it) and would quickly leave.

· Frequently I was asked how much I wanted to pay. I would reply with a very low price, knowing that I was beginning a lengthy process of negotiating the price down to what I would pay. Many times, what I paid was 15-25% of the price they started at. It was always: “Special price for you, my friend”, or “I like you, so this is especial price, amigo”

Whenever I left anywhere I was always shouting: “Gracias, adios” (Thank you, goodbye) to anyone nearby. I’m sure I sounded like a complete idiot. I did manage to make a few purchases, aside from a ring for myself; I found these two items below: what I think is an alabaster parrot (“Perico”), and these beautiful ceramic bowls, although I should have bought more.

At the suggestion of Jose Carlos, one of the bartenders from the ship, I decided to stop for lunch at a restaurant called 100% Natural (see photo left), a Mexican restaurant that uses whole wheat tortillas, with natural ingredients to make traditional Mexican food. It looked clean and was very busy, so I decided to give it a try. After acknowledging the waitress with a hearty “Hola Senora” I blurted out my drink order: “Cerveza, por favor” (Beer please). I thought she said “Corona” but she came back with a “Modelo”, but as long as it was bottled, I’d drink it. For lunch I had the “Tacos de Pollo” (chicken tacos) and an order of fresh guacamole. The food was really delicious. When I asked for the bill, she took out a piece of paper and wrote down two numbers: 250 and 25. Two hundred fifty pesos or twenty five dollars. Since my amigo and I had four beers, two entrees and the guacamole dip, I assumed that it added up to that, but since she didn’t actually give us a bill I took her word for it and paid her the $25. I left a little bewildered, but my mind was already more consumed with thoughts of impending doom from food poisoning that I felt certain would befall me. So far, I have escaped sudden death, as its been a few hours and other than a few concerning gurgles from my stomach, I feel quite fine.

Later this evening, the ship is hosting a “Fiesta Mexicana Tropical Deck Party” with live music, dancing, and a midnight buffet with tropical and Mexican foods. I'll update this again after the big party! Thanks for reading...tomorrow we are at sea, on route to Cabo San Lucas!

-Rick Rockhill
Welcome members!


Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

rick, i didn't know you were a member of cruise critics? i am shipshapegal. (cause if i lay on the floor i am shaped like the ship!)

smiles, bee

Palm Springs Savant said...

Miss Bee- yep, I sure am! I'll look for you there sometime.


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