Ensenada is generally not a top tier cruise ship stop, although many cruises end up here because of the Jones Act. Since the early 1900’s, this American law designed to protect the manufacturers of American ships states that foreign ships cannot embark passengers in an American port without going to a foreign port first. Thus, ships that voyage from Los Angeles to Hawaii, have to stop somewhere else before returning to LA. Since Ensenada is only ninety miles from San Diego, it’s a logical stopping off point. The town really blossomed during Prohibition when thirsty Californians came here to have a drink and a good time. Al Capone built a beautiful hotel here for Hollywood based visitors and hired Jack Dempsey to manage it. The margarita was supposedly invented here.
We’ve enjoyed some interesting tours here on past stops, visiting a factory making adobe bricks in the sun and a furniture factory where artisans did much of the work by hand. Another local highlight is La Bufadora, one of the largest blow holes in the world. A village of vendors has grown up around the sight, but we’ve been there twice and remember it well. But none of the tours offered today were very appealing so we opted to wander around the town.
We were left wondering why Ensenada was on our itinerary since the Jones Act did not pertain to this voyage. We suspect another stop was needed to round our the two week cruise before the ships begins its regular weekly trips to Alaska.
These days Ensenada is a tacky town and the ambience was not enhanced by today’s showers and cool temperatures. Most Mexican towns lack gutters and drainage systems and the rain water just poured down the streets in rivers. Some streets were dug up and under repair and mud added to the flow. As we wandered around store owners invited us to come inside and look around with a note of desperation in their voices. The restaurants didn’t get much business either except for the rare passenger who had not spent much time in Mexico before and wanted to try the local food. When you are a well fed cruiser, the idea of eating even more lacks appeal. Our eyes were drawn to a restaurant which had a huge spit rotating in the window roasting about twenty chickens. The fire below was fed by wood and a man turned the spit by hand. The grease from the chickens poured into the fire and the front window of the restaurant looked filled with flames. The only thing we bought today is some packets of the Mexican version of Crystal Lite, which we have fallen in love with on previous visits. So this summer I’ll be drinking horchata, jamaica,and tarmarind and remembering good times in Mexico.