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Day One: Sea of Cortez Cruise Moments

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Unlike other natural wonders in and around North America, such as Hawaii and Alaska, a cruise on the Sea of Cortez begins as a mystery. Before this trip last week, I’d never read about this sea that lies between mainland Mexico and Baja California, nor seen it on television.  People don’t win trips on game shows to here, nor do you hear Sea of Cortez mentioned as being on top of bucket lists. I hold no preconceived notions of  learning to hula dance or see grizzly bears. Besides, neither Dave, nor I had ever been on a cruise.

Following a bus ride from Cabo, the Safari Endeavour, part of the Un-Cruise Adventures‘ fleet, cast off from La Paz just after sunset with 55 passengers plus crew. Overnight the ship sails towards the sea where we will spend the next seven days exploring its waters, unique landscapes and wildlife.

sunrise sea of cortez
Sunrise over Ensenada Grande

I don’t find out the name of where we are  – Ensenada Grande – until later. Already things like island names barely seem to matter. Being both excited and on East Coast time, I am easily up before sunrise. As I watch predawn light play on a cloud, I am gratified to be allowed a first impression of the Sea of Cortez, spectacular, yet unbridled with precise expectation. I make a halfhearted vow to myself  – that I will get up at this time every day. (I will manage to do just that two more times.)

safari endeavour
Our first cruise ship: the 232′ Safari Endeavour
cortez hot choc baileys2
Post snorkel warm up beverage

This first day it seems to be the collective goal of the crew to get us all in the water. Truthfully I find this mildly annoying. Although air temperatures generally rise to the mid-70s, the water temperatures are by no means tropical and swimmers require a wetsuit. I momentarily fear crew members are going to be a little too much like camp counselors for my taste, with their schedules and insistance, but really I have no reason to worry – this isn’t an ordinary cruise ship. I don a wetsuit and jump in once, and can easily decide not to the next time. Upon our return to the boat we are greeted with Bailey’s spiked hot chocolate and a turn in the hot tub. Consider me inducted. This is my idea of an adventure vacation.

cortez towels
Towels that match the water, arranged neatly by someone else, make me happy.


cortez yacht
Our neighbor in anchorage

We share our cove with a yacht that would turn out to be the biggest vessel (besides our own) that we would spot all week. Except for a couple of campers on a beach and some fishermen in early morning silhouette, we would see less than 20 or so other humans for the entire week.

cortez rock with layers
Rock formations

I opt for exploration via skiff in the afternoon to get a close up look at the the Sea of Cortez’s bounty. Much like in the Southwestern United States, layers of rock tell the long geological story. The formation above reminds me of Neapolitan ice cream.

Cortez kayak on beach
Lone kayak
cortez sea lion and crab
Sea lion and Sally Lightfoot

You know those “seals” you see performing at the circus? Not seals  – every last one of them, sea lions. From what I see this first day, besides being playful, performance animals, they also like sleeping on matching rocks in the sun. The red crab at the bottom of the shot is a red rock crab, affectionately known as a “Sally Lightfoot,” because of its agility and speed.

At the end of day one, I feel more like a sea lion than a Sally Lightfoot.

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

13 thoughts on “Day One: Sea of Cortez Cruise Moments”

  1. I am in complete awe. I’ve heard of the Sea of Cortez but, like you, know nothing at all apart from the name. How gorgeous!!! I can feel the warmth of these photos and can only imagine how stunning it was in person. Beautiful. 🙂

  2. thanks, Krista! Rugged and (relatively) untouched… And traveling with UnCruise suited us well – just the right mix of activity and being spoiled rotten! 🙂

  3. Absolutely stunning. Like you say, I was not really aware of the Sea of Cortez, but it is now definitely on my bucket list. Such poetic writing, Margo and beautiful photos. I didn’t even spot the sea lion at first – very well camouflaged! I can’t wait to hear more about this trip 🙂

  4. Mary!! so excited to hear from you! Yes! We definitely need to discuss week two… miss you and Safari Endeavour FIERCE 🙂

  5. Found your blog from the Un-Cruise Facebook page and am adding you to my reader. We are heading out on a cruise from Seattle with them in April, so I’m doing all my research. Think it will be a wonderful trip, although this one looks pretty fabulous as well!

  6. Thanks, Jan! You will love it. Dave and I are both looking forward to cruising with Un-Cruise again someday. Are you cruising up to Alaska?

  7. Thanks, Amanda. That first morning getting up so early was definitely one of those travel moments I won’t soon forget!

  8. Hi Margo. Dave and I just got back from Mexico on Monday, and I finally am able to check out your blog. Fantastic! So glad to have met you and your Dave on the Un-Cruise. If you’re ever in Seattle, look us up.

  9. Oh the sunrise in that first photograph is heavenly! It looks like such a restorative trip, and like you, my idea of post-exertion is a hot drink (preferably chocolate) and a hot tub!

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