Cruisin’ the Sea of Cortez- Old Meets New

Feb 28, 2020 by Anita Kaltenbaugh

Planes, trains, automobiles and now cruises.

As the historic Astoria sailed into our beautiful Sea of Cortez, touted as the first cruise of Puerto Peñasco, it made me wonder, has there ever been a cruise in Rocky Point?

Well, I guess it depends on your definition of a cruise. Looking back into the documentation and articles of history that can be found on Puerto Peñasco, we know in the late1800’s nautical records from Spain mention explorers and pirates of the Sea of Cortez who cruised into our town. There is documentation from1826, Captain Red Hardy (Lieutenant William Hale Hardy, a retired official from the Royal Naval English Army) visited our town and as some historian’s state, is responsible for the naming rights of Rocky Point. It is noted after Captain Hardy charted this name; Spanish charts referred to Whale Hill as Puerto Peñasco.

So of course, Captain Hardy cruised in and probably many more pirate vessels sailed into our Sea to check out the resources. But, was there ever a pleasure cruise? One where passengers could embark on our shores and end up in another port instead of pillaging to strip our resources?

We can see from research, Al Capone and partner Thomas Childs (who owned a hotel in Ajo), came by train and car. Did they offer any cruises? We know from photos that when the town was founded in 1928, Rocky Point Old Marine Club was built along the sea, where today sits the Malecon and Old Port. It makes you wonder if any ships offered passage to another location, strictly for pleasure and exploring.

Yes, we’ve had cruises, sunset cruises, pirate cruises, fishing cruises, shrimp boats and now we have a successful first season of the oldest cruise boat on the sea, departing and returning to our own little Puerto Peñasco.

That’s old meets new! The ship now named Astoria is over 70 years old (almost as old as our town) and is one of the last of the true ocean liners. It is touted as an adventure ship and because it is a much smaller ship than the massive commercial cruise lines, it can cruise to small ports.

Will the Astoria return next year? Will a different cruise line or vessel take its place?

I might tell you the rocky talk, but I think it’s best -as we know from experience -to just wait and see what happens.

But let me tell you what I do know about this new adventure that set sail in January.

According to a few of the passengers I met and spoke to, overall passengers loved the cruise. Loved it.

I interviewed Penny Cardinal who with her husband Bud, was a passenger on the inaugural cruise.

Her first response when I asked her how the cruise was, “We had a marvelous time”. Penny is not new to cruising, she has been on several cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and a river cruise. She has the experience to make comparisons. What did she love about the trip? She loved most everything, stating the food was superb, the entertainment was delightful with very talented performers, and the ship was very clean. Of course, she added the weather was absolutely perfect so that only added to the adventure. Penny knew ahead of time, as most people should who decide to book a trip on this adventure cruise, that the ship is one of the oldest Great Dames on the water, that not only are you sailing on a small older boat than the mega liners, but you are sailing on a piece of history.

She loved the fact that because it was such a small ship, passengers were able to easily embark or debark and that the feeling of being rushed did not exist. That herding of cattle you might have heard of when you are with thousands of other cruisers on a mega cruise…eliminated. No waiting in line for the elevators and an intimacy with meeting others. There were so many stops and the overall tone of the boat was relaxing. She stated the rooms were comfortable, a nice size and although she didn’t have a balcony they were actually bigger than the river cruise room she had minus the balcony.

Astoria and this first cruise is a very authentic cruise experience. Mrs. Cardinal loved the mariachis that greeted the ship and the towns’ folks who gathered at the docks and were excited to welcome the cruisers in town. She stated the excursions were wonderful and described a wonderful clam bake experience she had with the most delicious fire baked fish. Another passenger I spoke with told me he loved the variety of the excursions and his favorite was a boat ride that took you to a dolphin who loved getting his belly rubbed. Both mentioned there were great lectures and seminars by our own CEDO on the ship. Both mentioned that visiting the ports on the itinerary were like taking a step back in time, how fitting for a historic ship.

So, my piece of advice for those wanting to book a last-minute ticket, would be to understand what type of cruise this is. If you are looking for a Royal Caribbean mega ship experience with rock walls, large casinos, variety of shops, restaurants and high energy activities, this would not be the cruise for you. Of course, there will be folks who relished in this adventure of a small ship experience and there will always be folks who did not have a good experience.

I wonder as we are only 8 years away from the 100th year anniversary of the founding of our city, what the folks back in 1928 would think about the new adventure offered in our small fishing town. I witnessed the Astoria sailing back in with all its lights, shining on our Sea of Cortez, and couldn’t stop taking photos. This lighted, historic, over 70-year old ship, glided in like a beautiful lady and docked out in front of Esmerelda. It was an exciting sight to see!

If they retire this piece of history, I for one hope another ship takes its place.

Take every chance you get in life, because somethings only happen once.

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