"Mazatlan--Call this real hospitality" By Jeanne Bartlett


Mazatlán, Despierta tu Sentidos! As we disembarked from our cruise ship, the Oosterdam, we were greeted by this catch phrase—Bring your Senses Alive! Not hard to do when there is a mariachi band playing and singers and dancers in colorful costumes as you get your first look at this beautiful city. With this welcome, the Mazatlan Hotel Association and Tourism Board let a group representing the International Food Wine & Travel Writer's Association know we were in for a treat.

We began our adventure with a shuttle ride from the harbor to Cliff Divers’ Point. The view of the shoreline stretched out before us on a magnificent, 78-degree day. There was nothing in sight but turquoise-blue ocean and golden sand. Our walk then led us to the Historic District and the Plaza Machado. The buildings here have been restored and renewed by residents and they have reclaimed the magnificent look of their past.

After a bit of sightseeing, it was time to enjoy the trademark cuisine of this city on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. We knew we were entering a seafood extravaganza when we literally walked through sand to find an array of dishes prepared in as many different ways as there were chefs with their outdoor cooking paraphernalia. We were led to seats under a shady arbor or beneath one of many colorful umbrellas, and then given our plates and turned loose! The smell of the sea was in the air, and a tempting aroma was coming from the grill of Chef Manuel Burgueno of El Capitano as he prepared a variety of seafood and shrimp. Just steps away, an intriguing concoction of Mahi-Mahi steamed in banana leaves accompanied by black bean salsa was presented by Gilberto del Toro of the Pueblo Bonito Hotel.

As we continued to stroll along – no need to run on this glorious “summer” day in January – we were attracted to the show-stopping presentation of Angel Cruz. His offerings included fish in a crackling-brown coating and an egg and potato salad nestled in ice with bright green leaves and strips of red pepper to draw your eye. From Chef Alfredo Gomez-Rubio of Pedro & Lola Restaurant came a delicacy of shrimp in orange sauce over rice pilaf. The name El Shrimp Bucket caught my eye and didn’t disappoint. Have you ever seen a boat made of bread, olives and shrimp? There it was! The boat from Chef Alejandro Juarez Nelson was a decoration but the real treat was his camarones, Spanish for shrimp, on a bed of rice with colorful veggies.

In between discoveries we ate the repast, sampled the unique beverages of Mexico, and listened to musicians playing in the background. South of the Border vintners were represented by a Monte Xanic 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Baja California region for the red wine drinkers, and a mellow 2005 Chardonnay by the same outstanding winemaker for sipping in the warmth of the day. Also available was locally-produced tequila, Pacifico beer and special flavored waters.

Reluctantly, the group left this special scene but soon was invigorated by numerous art galleries and shops with unique handcrafts and boutique items as we explored the city at our leisure. But far too soon we were asking, where did the hours go? Sadly, it was time for us to make our way back to the sea. We had come by ship and were only able to spend a few hours in Mazatlán. Properly motivated, my thoughts turned to a better way to get to know the city. Planes arrive here every day, and an extended stay would mean time to really explore. I have friends who have made the pilgrimage down here every February for more than a decade – and now I know why!

As we reboarded the Oosterdam, the thought on everyone’s mind was, how could anything we would experience at the next two ports possibly match this special day? <>P>

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Last Update:6/1/09

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