The eight-day cruise only had two ports of call. First was Cabo San Lucas. If you live in LA, this is a place you hear about all the time. It's right down there at the very southern tip of Baja California. I'd never been. I expected it to be, well, touristy, and I was not mistaken. You get deposited at one end of a huge marina that feels a bit like a holding pen. By that I mean that after a while of wandering around with the bright tropical sun in your eyes while being accosted by a never ending stream of locals after your Yankee dollars, seeing quay after quay of fishing boats for rent, tour guides ready to show you the sights, people wearing iguanas who want you to meet or carrying cigars or silver chains they want you to buy, you begin to think, "Damn, how do I get out of this tourist trap and into the actual town?
I eventually managed to do that, and while it gave me a few more interesting things to look at (I never get tired of taking photos of old buildings, ever), the only thing that changed about the local hawkers was, well, the tone. "What do you want, sir? I'll get you anything you want. You want a girl? You want a massage?" Etc.
I passed a massage/facial/pedicure/manicure place and it occurred to me that getting a mani pedi would be a perfect vacationy thing to do. So I turned to the woman running the shop and asked, "How much for a pedicure?" Keep in mind, I am standing in front of the big window that fronts the shop, on which are painted the words, "Facials...Manicure...Pedicure...Massages..." etc.
"Oh, we don't do that here."
"We don't do that here."
"It literally says 'Pedicure' right there."
A dim tourista light bulb popped over my head. This was just a whorehouse. That must be the game in Cabo. You have to pretend you're running a nail salon.
I passed on the whorehouse and had a very nice lunch at a place a local had recommended to me earlier.
¡No! No hay manicura aquí!
Overall, though, Cabo didn't do much for me. Although as a geography nerd, I did note that it was the furthest south on the globe I had ever traveled.
Loreto, on the other hand, was a different story. Loreto is about a third-of-the-way up the Baja California peninsula, on the Sea of Cortez side. It's a very quaint, very sweet little town that welcomed us with open arms. The whole town was actually in cahoots with the JoCo Cruise, because we held a music festival in the town square, accompanied by a food festival sponsored by the local restaurants. Loreto is sleepy and quaint, and is home to the two oldest missions in the Californias.
We heard a great story about the clock tower over the old mission in the middle of town. The Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was founded in 1697 and closed in 1829. The church remains. It's topped by a clock tower that's of recent construction. It was built in the 20th Century when a priest who worked at the church won the lottery (seriously), but the clock never worked. Until a few weeks before we got there, that is. Hilariously, while the bells of the clock worked, they were a permanent 20 minutes off. So we heard the magnificent pealing of the bells (probably electronic) at 11:40 a.m. sharp.
The Confused Clock Tower
My friend Ben and I had a lovely breakfast our second day in Loreto with our new friends John Patrick Lowrie and his wife Ellen McLain. They are both distinguished voice artists with many games to their credit. Ellen's most famous role was as GLADoS, the evil A.I. in Portal. Actually, GLADoS appears in four games: Portal, Portal 2, Poker Night 2 and Lego Dimensions. Later on the cruise John and Ellen performed those songs. But this lovely morning, they were simply our delightful breakfast companions.
Breakfast with Ray and Ellen and Ben and John in Loreto
Ellen McClain and John Patrick Lowrie perform Still Alive from Portal
I'm not at all bitter that, of the four of us, I'm the only one who got sick later. So sick, in fact, that I was quarantined for about 36 hours, which made me miss several events that I really wanted to attend (including a VO workshop given by John and Ellen. I also missed Pajama Day, which REALLY upset me, as I had especially packed my sexy Force Awakens PJs for that very event. Oh, well.
I was well and at liberty on Friday, the last full day of the cruise, and there was still plenty to do: A reading by John Scalzi, lots of signings, and a VERY memorable final concert. A highlight of the concert was an extended tribute set celebrating the shocking talent we've so recently lost. All of the musicians who had participated during the cruise were part of this set, which included songs by Prince, George Michael and the Eagles. The set kicked off with my favorite Jonathan Coulton song, Space Doggity, which was written as a tribute to Bowie's Space Oddity. The best moment in the set, however, was when Aimee Mann broke out with a sweet, heartfelt rendition of Love is All Around. Everyone in the audience anywhere near my age lost it, as we have not gotten over the loss of Mary Tyler Moore.
Aimee Mann sings Love is All Around
In the end, I have to say the best thing about being on the JoCo Cruise was simply to be a part of a community for a week that celebrated diversity, weirdness, games, music and nerd life in all its forms. Everywhere I went I felt welcome, and every stranger I talked to was eager to make friends. When I was sick, strangers brought me medicine and Gatorade. My Facebook is now peppered with new friends I met on the ship. I'm extremely lucky I got to go, and I hope I get to go again another year.
The MS Westerdam