I must say that I just completed one of the most relaxing weeks of my life. I spent seven days along with approximately 400 other genealogists on board a luxury ship. We sailed along the so-called "Mexican Riviera."
The trip was sponsored by Wholly Genes Software, the company that produces The Master Genealogist software. While many of those on the cruise use The Master Genealogist, I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few cruise participants who use other genealogy software. In fact, this was not a promotional cruise or limited in any way to users of any particular product. Instead, it was open to anyone with an interest in genealogy.
We left Los Angeles and stopped at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Many of us went snorkeling, swam with dolphins, rode jeeps through the Baja desert, took boat rides, or had BBQ served on nearly deserted beaches. I think quite a few of us simply went shopping. I know that I also gained weight by eating gourmet meals served in the ship's multiple restaurants. I also took an airplane trip over the Sierra Madre Mountains to a mining village. (I'll describe that trip later.)
While at sea, most cruise participants attended presentations covering beginner, intermediate, and advanced genealogical topics, presented by: Robert Charles Anderson, Tony Burroughs, Jim Byram, John Cardinal, Tim Cook, Phil DeSilva, Barbara Grempler, Lee Hoffman, Hank Jones, Dick Pence, Kent Riggins, Marsha Hoffman Rising, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Dorothy Turner, and Bob Velke. Whew! That's quite a line-up! I was also honored to be one of the presenters, speaking about some high-tech topics of interest to genealogists.
The week was a busy one, with even more hosted breakfasts and various one-on-one sessions hosted by most of the previously named people.
It seemed to me that every genealogist on board enjoyed the cruise, and I heard lots of conversation asking if there would be another cruise next year. Bob Velke and the others from Wholly Genes Software admitted that they expect to hold a 2007 cruise, but planning will not begin for a few weeks yet. They said something about "getting some rest" before starting next year's planning!
You can learn more about this year's Western Caribbean Cruise hosted by Wholly Genes Software at http://www.whollygenes.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?screen=CRUISE.
My favorite part of the cruise was a tour of San Sebastián del Oeste ("Saint Sebastian of the West"). It is a small (population of 600) village that played an important part in Mexico's history by supplying silver, gold, zinc, and other metals to the Spanish, later to the French, and still later to the Mexican rulers of the country. The village was built years before the arrival of the Pilgrims in Plymouth or the settlers at Jamestown.
San Sebastián del Oeste is not far from Puerto Vallarta, but access is difficult. The village is in a valley that is beyond mountain peaks that rise abruptly from sea level to 8,000+ feet.
A trip by automobile or bus on the only road to the village requires several hours and is frequently blocked by landslides or mudslides. I elected to take a guided tour that started by climbing on board a Cessna Caravan, a 14-passenger single engine airplane. We departed Puerto Vallarta International Airport and flew through a mountain pass surrounded by 8,400-foot peaks. Twenty minutes after departure, we landed on a short, "one way" landing strip at 4,300 feet above sea level.
NOTE: A "one way" landing strip is one that is built on a slope. The pilot always lands in the uphill direction and takes off in the downhill direction, regardless of prevailing winds.
Upon arrival, we took a "limo" to the village. In this case, the "limo" was a couple of bench seats in the back of an aging pickup truck. Once in the village, we walked on cobblestones that were placed in the streets in the 1620s. There were no paved streets, only these cobblestones. The village is authentic, not a tourist trap. In fact, it looks like many of the Mexican villages you see in old movies. You can read more about San Sebastián del Oeste at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Sebasti%C3%A1n_del_Oeste. Some rather spectacular pictures of the village are available at http://www.vallarta-info.com/sansebast.html.
We also visited one of the older residents of San Sebastián del Oeste and learned of a genealogy puzzle that I will describe in a future newsletter.
My personal highlight was when the pilot offered me a chance to fly the Cessna Caravan on the straight and level part of the flight back to Puerto Vallarta. (I had earlier mentioned to him that I had a pilot's license.) Flying a Cessna over rugged terrain and through mountain passes in the Sierra Madres is something you do not quickly forget.
As you might deduce, I loved both the time at sea and the three ports of call. Most of the other "cruisers" also seemed to enjoy the genealogy cruise. My hat is off to Bob Velke and all the other folks at Wholly Genes Software for their excellent planning.
Stay tuned for more information about the 2007 Genealogy Conference and Cruise. I suspect that Wholly Genes Software will make an announcement within three or four months.