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Finding the newest travel hot spots before they became touristy is part of my job as a travel agent. That’s why I’m excited about MeetMeOnBoard’s 2018 gay group cruise aboard the new Norwegian Bliss.
We’ll stop at Ensenada with an optional excursion to the Valle de Guadalupe wine region. Both Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe are still under-the-radar for mass market tourism. However, they’re fast becoming must-visit destinations for ahead-of-the-trend travelers.
We’ll be sailing on the brand-new Norwegian Bliss for an 8-day cruise beginning October 5, 2018. Embarkation is in Los Angeles, with the chance to knock around the gay Mecca of West Hollywood or enjoy the fabulous Getty Museum. We sail to Ensenada, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas the popular gay port city of Puerto Vallarta.
In Ensenada, MMOB members who aren’t wine enthusiasts can enjoy jungle excursions, the beach, or fishing. Beer aficionados can visit one of Ensenada’s lively craft breweries.
Ensenada’s New Vibe
The port of Ensenada, Mexico, in the Baja peninsula of Mexico, is a leisurely sail south of San Diego. Ensenada is finally coming into its own, boasting excellent chef-run gourmet restaurants. Plus, Ensenada serves as the gateway to the next “it” wine region: Valle de Guadalupe.
Cruise History Trivia, Ensenada then and now: Older cruisers may still think of Ensenada as a “Jones Act port.” The Jones Act of 1920 was meant to encourage the US ship building industry. Applied to cruise ships, it means that non-US flagged ships (virtually all cruise ships) cannot begin in a US port and then call on only other US ports. Ships must visit a foreign port as part of the voyage. For example, many west coast US cruises use Ensenada or Victoria B.C. to fulfill Jones Act requirements.
Valle de Guadalupe Wine Region
The Guadalupe Valley has a rich history. This “just-discovered” destination has been producing wine since the 1500’s. After colonization by the Spaniards, settlers from Russia, Italy and elsewhere arrived with their own treasured grape varieties and nurtured them in the rich soil of the Valle de Guadalupe. Now on the hotlist of up-and-coming wine regions, this is the oldest wine-growing district in the Americas.
When you visit the Valle de Guadalupe, don’t expect the lushness of Napa Valley. The climate is hot and dry, somewhat reminiscent of the wine growing areas of eastern Washington State. The arid weather and high altitude help concentrate the flavor of the grapes and makes for amazing Cabs and Tempranillos, as well as very good Chardonnays.
When you purchase Mexican wine, in Mexico the prices are very reasonable. You can purchase alcohol in port and Norwegian will store it for you for disembarkation the last day. Bringing back wine enjoyed ashore is a great way to share memories of a cruise with friends when you return home.
The active wine scene here has helped foster a great foodie environment. You’ll find excellent restaurants which capitalize on the fresh, high-quality seafood available in the area.
When I lead tours here, I often take my groups to Finca Altozano for lunch. My groups are often a bit dubious as we head down a dirt road to the property, but when we reach the place, jaws drop as people take in its beauty. Javier Plascencia is the most well-known Chef in the area, and he works wonders with seafood, pork, tacos and other Mexican fare. I try never to miss the grilled octopus and recommend meats from the grill. Since prices are extremely reasonable, most people like to indulge and enjoy several of the excellent dishes on the menu.
More top dining choices
This area abounds in excellent restaurant choices. Here are a few more of my favorites.
Chef Drew Deckman’s restaurant in Germany was awarded a Michelin star. His new restaurant is located at Magor Badan (the local farmer’s market) allowing him to have only the freshest produce available. Drew is an activist for Slow Food, Slow Meat & Sustainable Fish movement. His practices reflect his dedication to excellent cuisine. This is one of our favorite spots to dine, providing the best sunset in Mexico!
If you enjoy authentic Italian cuisine, I recommend Tre Gallien. Angelo & his team are based out of Todos Santos for most of the year, but grace our presence with delicious cuisine for a few months as a pop- up in the vineyard Montifiori.
Located near the entrance of Ensenada Harbor, Manzanilla is spearheaded by one of Mexico’s top chefs, Benito Molina. I understand that they are doing a transformation, introducing two restaurants in the same space, one a pub food and one more formal. Based on the many excellent meals I’ve enjoyed here either option will be a hit!
Javier Placencia is one of Mexico’s top restaurateurs, most popularly known for Mission 19 in Tijuana. Javier’s cooking is always impressive. Between the food, service & view, you can find our team here at least once a week!
David is a cool guy who makes stupid-fresh, simple seafood dishes. His place is right next door to the open seafood market.
The warmth and hospitality of the region’s food and wine hosts is another notable plus to the area. Finally getting recognition for their fine work, they are grateful to share the bounty and beauty of their food and wine. The welcoming ambience here, combined with the excellent wines and gourmet cuisine at accessible prices makes visiting this area an unforgettable travel experience.
GAY GROUP CRUISE INFO: MeetMeOnBoard group cruise prices include the Ultimate Beverage Package and pre-paid Gratuities. Bliss will boast the largest racetrack at sea, laser tag, an amazing waterslide and a terrific spa area with salt room and thermal suite. The observation room will be a spectacular venue for cocktails and of course the dining options are extremely varied. For more info, click here, or to make reservations, call 1-877-430-MMOB. Adam Martindale and John Layton will be glad to help you.