We booked this cruise with Costco Travel. In addition to the $50 on board credit we had with Princess Cruise, Costco had a $140 extra on board credit bonus, plus if we selected this specific trip we got an additional $100 for selecting a mini suite stateroom. We had a total of $290 on board credit. At first we were going to use the credit to book excursions, but Costco offered us their recommendation for a 3rd party tour.
In our confirmation letter, Costco offered:
Now that you’ve booked your cruise, we invite you to visit the website of our independent shore excursions supplier,Shore Excursions Group LLC. Pre-booking your shore excursions can save you time and money. Shore Excursions Group LLC offers independent excursions in most ports around the world, with prices that typically are lower than those offered by the cruise line. When you’re ready to purchase a shore excursion, enter your itinerary information and begin shopping. Should you require assistance, Shore Excursions experts are available at 1-888-691-2530. At the time of booking, please provide your Costco Travel coupon code COSTSHRX to receive your Costco member discount.
The company offered a 2-city tour package, Puerto Vallarta AND Mazatlan for $73. Add the 10% Costco discount code, and the package came to about $32 per day, per person.
At first I was apprehensive about booking a “non Princess” tour package. Issues came up, such as what if the quality is not up to par? Or, what if the tour runs late and we miss the boat? However, after reading the great reviews on Costco’s web site, and the money back guarantee, I took the plunge and booked the 2 city tour with Shore Excursions.
So after 2 days at sea, we made it to Puerto Vallarta. Since the tour wasn’t a Princess Tour, we had to walk a few blocks outside the ship’s docks to locate Gate 11 to find Grey Line Tour. We had to wait for other passengers and then boarded an air conditioned bus with our guide Carlos, and our driver Danny.
The first part of the tour was driving through old Historic Puerto Vallarta, then to the Nuevo (New) part of the city and along the coast. The driver then went to the edge of the town and to a leather shop, where we stopped for about 15 minutes. From there, we had a 6 block walking tour of the town, stopped for some fresh tortillas, and then walked through the cobblestone streets back toward the Historic part of town.
Once at the Historic part, we went to the city center and made a quick visit to the Cathedral of Guadalupe, and reboarded the bus to make our way to some tequila tastings.
Before making our way to the tequila site, we made one more shopping stop at a silver store. It was literally a quick 15 minute stop, and had i known it was that quick, I’d say not really worth getting off the bus unless you were thirsty or needed to use the bathroom.
Finally our last stop was the tequila tasting and lunch at Nogalito, a hidden oasis located outside the town, in a remote part of a jungle like area. We were asked to sit on benches made of tree trunks, as the guy demonstrated how tequila is made from an agave plant, to the kiln, to the distillation process.
There are 3 types of tequila:
- Blanco, meaning white, which is commonly used for making cocktails like margaritas.
- Reposado, which is aged in barrels, and can be used for sipping or higher end drinks
- Anejo, which is a longer aged tequila, about 5 years, and is a sipping tequila like a bourbon or scotch.
We started off with a softer tequila liquor. First an amaretto liquor, then a coffee liquor, which has about 6% alcohol. It was quite tasty. Then, we went through the Blanco, Reposado, then Anejo. The Blanco was enough for me, and I gave Stephen my other 2 samples. We ended the demonstration with 2 more liquors, a Cappuccino and a Coconut flavored one. Those who wanted to buy the alcohol could, and then we headed up to a different part for lunch.
Lunch was held in a quaint area of Nogalito, surrounded by lush trees and exotic birds. It was included in our package and we had a choice of beef or chicken fajitas or quesadillas, which was served with beans, tortillas and a drink, which included soft drink, beer, or margaritas. The lunch wasn’t huge, but it was tasty and it served its purpose.
We shared our table with 2 ladies from San Diego, and quickly became friends with them. While the bus was heading back to the cruiseship, the ladies asked if we wanted to check out a handcrafts store. We went to a place called Tlaquepaque, which had aisles and aisles of colorful pots and glassware. It was a fun place to visit, but sadly I wasn’t willing to carry back these items home.
After shopping, we headed toward the city center, and along the street 5 de Diciembre along the pedestrian area to admire the art sculptures. Along the way, the girls discovered a tequila store and we parted ways.
After we took all the pictures, we headed back down the strand, and made our way to the tequila shop that the girls went into. We chatted with owner Jaime about various tequilas, and realized that the one we went to this afternoon was not “pure” tequila, as they did not use 100% Blue Agave.
The bottles at lunch were marked 100% Agave, meaning they may use a mixture of mature Blue agave, and Green, young agave. While its still 100% Agave, its not a mature one. Stephen ended up buying 2 bottles, one Anejo, and one extra Anejo (made even longer than 5 years), both of which are made with 100% Blue agave.
It was getting late, so we hailed a taxi which cost us $8.00, and made our way back to the Ruby Princess.