Travel Website Logo
Travel Journal
Dan Walker’s Travel Website
Travel Photos

Travel Journal

Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Thursday, August 07, 2008 11:50:09

DISNEY CRUISE & SAN DIEGO: 2 - San Diego from July 27 to Aug 3, 2008

We chose a late breakfast so didn't leave the ship until about 10 AM. A rented convertible was awaiting us at the end of a taxi ride to Long Beach. Traffic was not bad, and we were in San Diego shortly after noon, where the Bahia Resort Hotel did not have our room ready, as Expedia failed to mention that check in time was 4 PM. I did the paperwork to check in, and reception suggested that we lunch by the pool while they tried to get us a room.

One of the four tables by the pool was vacant, but in spite of three employees being on duty it was necessary to remove the previous occupant's dishes and leavings from the table and clean it. The hamburgers were good, but the bathrooms atrocious. The mens stank and had urine on the floor, Marilynn described the women's as disgusting, and had Samara change from her bathing suit in the back seat of the car rather than let her into the bathroom.

By 2:30 PM I received keys to a second story room overlooking a public beach and its parking area. There are no elevators, and the lone bellman said he would be with me shortly - but wasn't. Finally I told reception we would need a ground floor room, as my knees wouldn't manage hauling our gear up a flight of stairs. As nothing would be available until 4 PM we went shopping, returning at 4:20 PM to wait another 20 minutes before a room was ready and what a shock it was once we saw it!

We booked a suite in February through Expedia at a "special price" which required prepayment. The tax included $524.95 a day was almost double what we have spent on excellent hotel suites, so we expected something very special. When we opened the room we were greeted by stained carpets, furniture with the paint worn off, doors and furniture with the wood veneer peeling back, painted concrete block walls, no wardrobe or even a hook to hang anything on in the bedroom, a noisy old floor model air conditioner in the living area, no a/c in the bedroom, no bathroom vanity or shelves, blackened grout around the tub and between tiles that could never be cleaned, no safe and a small patio with two plastic lawn lounges looked past a scraggly hedge to public angle parking alongside a road that hid a public beach on the far side. I wanted to cancel the room, however Expedia's contract states there is a 100% penalty once checked in.

Having been informed that there was nothing else availabe we began settling in. It was necessary to remove used kleenexes from under the cushions of the hide-a-bed before the bed could be made up for our granddaughter. The place was a good size, with TV in the living area and bedroom, fridge, microwave and basic cutlery & dishes. A built in vanity with a shelf just outside the bathroom served to store toiletries. The beds were comfortable enough but all the furniture wouldn't have brought $200 in an auction.

The location proved to be excellent for access to the city and attractions, and was surrounded by sand beaches - public in front of our suite and private in front of one and two story suites on the other side of the property. It was these others I believed we were renting. There were programs for kids that Samara enjoyed, the swimming pool was a good size, and when Marilynn checked the bathrooms later in the week they had been properly cleaned. We didn't try their extensive massage and spa services.

The place had been recommended by a friend, Capt. Bobby Russell, and when he visited he was as appalled by the price versas value as we were. When we checked out I mentioned to the helpful people at reception that I had a travel agency and asked the price of this class of suite. They quoted $175 per night, a not bad value considering the services provided. I emailed Expedia to find out why we were charged more than double the rack rate, and their reaction was to contact the hotel to find out why they told us the rack rate! Here is a quote from Expedia's reply, "I have been contacting the hotel for the past few days and finally we have reached Tony Ramos, Online Revenue Manager for Bahia Resort Hotel. The reason we are trying to contact the hotel is to inquire why they are telling you the rack rate."

I supsequently did some checking with other Expedia users, and found this was not uncommon. It also confirmed what others told me - if there is a problem price on bookings they will do nothing about it. I'll not use their services in the future, but my recommendation would be to use the computer to find a hotel and package you like, but before giving out a credit card number, phone the hotel for a price. You may find that booking directly with the hotel will save money - in this case the savings would have been huge.

On our first morning we drove to the San Diego Zoo. We purchased 3 in 1 tickets on line and found they covered all attractions including shows, the sky ride, hop on hop off buses and a bus tour of the zoo. Escalators have been installed on some hills and there were lots of shaded rest areas. Currently a $45 million expansion is underway to build a large habitant for the elephants, which will also feature life sized statues of mammoths for comparison of elephants before an now. Parking was free. I would classify this as San Diego's premiere attraction, an excellent value to see one of the world's top zoos.

On our second day we went to Sealand, only 7 minutes away from the hotel. Parking was $17 close to the entrance and 12$ generally. The big watery roller coaster was included in the price, but lineups were 45 minutes to an hour long. Other rides were an additional cost. There were few benches to rest on, and little shade. Shows were included in the price, the best being the whale and sea lion shows, and a dolphin show that was quite good.

By the third day we were pretty worn out, so took the day off to rest a bit. Samara & Marilynn hit the pool, and I took advantage of the hotel's complimentary internet to get caught up. Capt. Russell joined us in the afternoon for an hour cruise on a replica river boat around the bay to another hotel and back. Boat tickets were free to hotel guests, and there was a bar on board. Later Marilynn & Samara decided to eat at the hotel, where they were not happy with the food or service. Bobby Russell took me to one of the best buffet dinners I've ever experienced - 6 long buffet lines laden with Chinese, Japanese and Western food.

Day four saw us at the Wild Animal Park north of San Diego, which is associated with the Zoo. Parking was $6, but attractions were expensive except for the 30 minute tour around the park which was included in our on line ticket.

Although we arrived only 5 minutes after the park opened, the two daily photo safaries Marilynn wanted were sold out at $150 per person, as was the ultimate safari at $230 per person. It is safer to purchase these on line before going to the park. We rode the hot air balloon 400 feet above the park for $20 each, and took the 1 hr 45 min African photo safari for $90 per person. Both were excellent and worth the price. A highlight was feeding giraffs by hand from the back of the truck. There were some shows, but nothing up to the standard of the zoo. Getting there early is a good idea, to beat both crowds and heat. There was lots of seating throughout the area, and frequent water mists over the walking trails to help keep cool. With 1,800 acres and 3,500 animals representing 260 species there is lots to see. A full day should be budgeted for each of these attraction.

Samara and I went to a nearby amusement park in the morning to ride the roller coaster and look around while Marilynn did some photo editing. We met Capt. Russell at the Lighthouse Restaurant for a great lunch, followed by a tour of his beautiful sailing yacht, where he lives. He then took us to Balboa Park, a large area near the zoo donated to the city of San Diego for an exposition at the turn of the century. The historic buildings housing many museums are well preserved. Besides an excellent museum of natural history, which Samara loved, there are art, space, flight, automotive, sports, botanical, and local history museums. We ended the day with drinks at the famous old Hotel del Coronado and then a fabulous, fun filled dinner at the San Diego Pier Café. Our waitress, Amy, kept us well entertained!

On our last day Samara participated in a number of the kids events at the Bahia Resort between swims in the pool while I got caught up on the internet. Dinner was at a nearby sushi restaurant. The following morning we drove back to Long Beach to look at the Queen Mary, to return the car and catch the shuttle to LAX for uneventfula return flights to Victoria.