October 31 – Puerto Vallarta, sort of

We woke up late Monday morning, since our Dolphin excursion didn’t leave until 11. But during breakfast, news that Roxan’s dad had taken a dramatic turn for the worse nixed those plans and set us scrambling to debark the ship and get home. I’m going to shift to timeline here (all times approximate):


Received text that dad was in much worse condition while eating breakfast at The Local. I called the Hotel Manager’s Secretary, Kim, and informed her that we needed to get off the ship today and asked that she coordinate on our behalf while we went to the room to arrange flights home.

We had sent a load of laundry to be done. This typically takes 6 hours to a day. Of course, we now need that laundry to pack! I called the Housekeeping Manager, Francisco, and asked him if it could be expedited. He called the Laundry manager, walked our laundry bag down to the laundry, and said they were handling it as quickly as they could.


Struggle with ship WiFi and poor land-based cell signal to get our flight from Miami home rebooked as a flight from Puerto Vallarta. Ended up texting my boss for flight schedules and figuring out quickly that we had no ability to get out on Monday, we’d have to go Tuesday morning.

This was going on in the midst of multiple calls with Guest Services, during which we found out

  • The Port Agent and Customs officer would only be aboard until noon.
  • We had to have all our baggage packed for inspection by noon, even though we intended to remain on board until around 5pm.

So now our timeline is less than two hours….and as far as we know the laundry MUST be back by then. I continue trying to arrange flights, Roxan starts packing. I call and cancel the schedule of appointments we had at the spa for the duration of the trip, and gathered up the excursion tickets to give to the excursion desk when we took the luggage down. Everything else in this time frame is a blur. I just know there were 8-10 calls on the room phone and many texts home and to my boss during this period, all while packing and getting the room ready for cleaning after our departure.

Somewhere around 11:30, I think, Francisco knocked on the door and handed us our clean laundry! Just one example of people going above and beyond in our time of need — my next post will be about all the people who helped us and were, as NCL calls them, our Vacation Heroes.

12:00 noon

Guest Services calls to see if we are ready to bring bags down for customs search. We ask for a hotel cart, so they call a Haven crew member down with one of those. We troop to Guest Services, step through the desk and into the shared office space behind. It’s now 12:15. We have Roxan, me, two people from Guest Services, one from ship security, a customs officer and two people from the Port Agent’s office in an office that couldn’t have been larger than 14 feet by 20 feet.

12:15 pm

“Can you open the locks please?” — it turns out Mexican customs at Puerto Vallarta does not have the keys for the TSA-approved locks. So we take out each bag and unlock it so the customs agent can search it. At this time we thought our luggage would be sequestered until we got off the ship, so we had everything with us. Hand our passports to the Port Agent staff so they can collect information. Re-explain the situation for them.

12:35 pm

Oh, did I mention, there’s a $41.50 USD fee for the customs search and other processing, payable in cash, to the Port Agent, NOW? We had been told this multiple times during the morning. Note that a ship is a cashless society. I had a torn one-dollar bill and some peso notes in my wallet. The ATM is in the casino, which is closed when the ship is in port (you’ll start to see a theme developing). Fortunately the ATM works, so now I have 5, $20 dollar bills. $100 to pay an $83 fee…and no way to break the last $20…the Port Agent doesn’t give change.

Quick mental calculation: “I have a 500 peso ($5 USD, approximately) note in my wallet, hope that will work.” I’d been told earlier that it was payable only in USD, but I didn’t have the time or energy to spare to point out that we’re in a country that uses pesos. Back down to the Guest Services office, “I have only this in US currency (showing her 5, $20 bills), but I have 500 pesos. Can you take this (4, $20 USD and 1, 500 peso note)?” “Yes, that’s fine.”

Meanwhile Roxan is taking the luggage back to the room with the help of the Haven staff. That’s right, customs cleared the bags then gave them back to us…we could have put any sort of contraband in them during the afternoon and it wouldn’t have shown up until the airport! (We didn’t.) So it was just a box that needed checked.

12:45 pm

I head back to the room. I’m drenched in sweat, and try to towel off and cool down in the room. Unfortunately the air conditioner stopped keeping up about 10:30! I got on the phone to American Airlines reservations to get the flights taken care of.

1:30 pm, maybe 2:00

We go back to the Local, because we want to get a photo of the maitre d’ who had been so friendly to us the past two weeks and a bit. We eat lunch and he comforts Roxan, telling a story about something similar that had happened either in his family or to a crew member recently (I couldn’t hear it all). We head back to the room, to grab the things we still need to finish up our account on the ship and so forth. Around 3:15pm we receive the call we didn’t want to receive — Dad had passed away.

3:45 pm

After a good cry, we both shifted into logistics mode, as we had a lot to do before getting off the ship in just over an hour. When we were out for lunch, we had taken excursion tickets back so they could be refunded. Then we found CuriseNext was closed due to being in port and would not open until after we’d left. (There’s that theme again.) We asked if someone could contact the CruiseNext manager to see if we could get some purchased before we left. He was ashore.

4-ish to 5-ish

  • visit the spa, to ensure the remaining three visits each of us had scheduled had been cancelled, and to make sure the account was correctly credited/debited for the sessions used vs. the package of sessions we had purchased. (Credit back the entire package for each of us, consolidate the two visits each of us had made into one 4-visit package, bill us for the cost of the 4-visit package)
  • Visit Guest Services to check on CrusieNext. They still had not gotten hold of the CN Manager. I sat in the lobby to wait for him while Roxan went back to the room to get the luggage packed up on the cart again so it could be brought down.


We’re now past 5pm. The CruiseNext manager nearly dashes in about 5:10pm and tells me he’s been on the phone with Miami to figure out how to get things credited/debited around so our bill could be closed. We were at 5:10pm Mountain Standard Time. The finance folks in Miami work a business-hours schedule (Eastern Daylight Time, so they had been home for a while). The normal way CruiseNext purchases are handled is through a batch process run by the finance folks once a day. Of course, that had already been run.

So somehow he figured out how to get the CrusieNext purchases and the shipboard credit manually posted to our bill and we were given a printout of the entire bill. All the spa, excursion, and CrusieNext charges and credits were shown correctly and we actually ended up with a small refund which would be sent to our card company.

Now down to the exit, the elevator full with our luggage, us, Kim from the Hotel Manager’s office, a Guest Service Representative, and the Haven staffer pushing the baggage cart. After clearing security and getting our luggage into the taxi (quite small, but we made it work for the 4 miles to the hotel), Kim hugged us both and asked me to email her when we got home safely the next night.

Then comes the trip home.

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