What could be better than a vacation with wonderful dancing, spicy food, beautiful beaches, warm tropical weather, and frozen drinks with little umbrellas in them. Cruise ship visitors to Mexico enjoy all of these attractions and much more.
However, Mexico has been in the news quite a bit lately, but not with positive stories about the country. President Obama will meet with Mexico’s president today to discuss ways to combat the increasing drug violence. With all the recent reports of this violence in Mexico, it saddened me to think that this beautiful country was going through such a difficult time.
Reports say that the recent violence has been limited to only the drug lords fighting amongst each themselves and with police. As a tourist who loves visiting Mexico, I can only hope that the violence doesn’t spill over to tourist areas and that the leaders of our two countries can find a way to finally put it to an end. Mexico has so much to offer in terms of history, culture, and art it definitely tops my list of must visit cruise destinations.
I have visited the Mexican Riviera three times and each time I have learned and discovered more and more about this beautiful destination.
My First Visit: Fairsea 1981
My first cruise to Mexico was back in 1981 on the Sitmar Fairsea. This holiday cruise included the classic Mexican Riviera destinations of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Acapulco. We also visited the quiet fishing village of Zihuatenajo. As a 14 year old, I have to confess, that I was more interested enjoying the beaches than taking in the culture. Our excursions reflected that interest as we mostly visited resort beach hotels where we hung out on the beaches and enjoyed the sun and beautiful weather.
My Second Visit: Mercury 2003
In 2003 my husband and I took a Mexican Riviera cruise on the Celebrity Mercury to nearly the same destinations as that 1981 cruise. Part of the reason we choose that destination was that I had been to nearly all of the destinations before and I wanted a cruise where I felt like I didn’t even have to get off the ship. We did enjoy two wonderful excursions on that cruise. The first was the Marigalante Pirate Cruise. The second excursion was a trip to the Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo. This resort provided the beautiful backdrop for another famous beauty, Bo Derick. She ran down the beach in slow motion as Dudley Moore scampered across the “too hot” sand at this sprawling resort hotel complex during the filming of the movie “10.” During our visit, We enjoyed both the relaxed atmosphere a the resort and the Moorish inspired architecture. I was even able to rent snorkel gear and take in some of the underwater beauty.
Our Most Recent Visit: Mercury 2006
A lot changed between our Mexican cruise in 2003 and our return cruise with our children in 2006. We actually booked the same ship and itenerary as our 2003 cruise, but the difference this time was twofold.
First, the children and I had begun taking dance lessons at a studio that offered Mexican Folklorico classes. We had enjoyed the other dancers performing these traditional dances at the recitals and had decided to enroll in the Mexican Folklorico class as well. We wanted to experience even more of this Mexican culture during our visit to the country.
Second, I wanted to make the trip an educational experience for the children. I wanted the children to learn about the history and culture of each of the regions we would be visiting. Even before the arrival of the Spanish, Mexico was a highly developed and complex society with innovative art, science, sports, architecture, and agriculture. This trip was an opportunity for the kids to learn about this pre-columbian history, as well as the current culture that blends indigenous traditions and Spanish influence.
Prior to our trip the children worked on research papers detailing their own area in interest in the geography, history and culture of Mexico. My daughter who was eight at the time choose to add to these topics with research on traditional Folklorico dance costumes. My then ten year old son focused on the Aztec empire, Montezuma and Cortez.
During this visit most of our excursions gave kids an opportunity to experience their areas of research up close and personal. In Cabo San Lucas, we focused on geography with a boat ride out to Land’s End. In Mazatlan we went to a show that featured Folkloric Dancing and a high flying dare devil demonstration by the Papantla Flyers. Our visit to Acapulco included a visit to the Ft. San Diego Museum where we saw displays that included artifacts from pre-columbian days, Pacific trade goods, and weapons from the many conflicts that took place in Acapulco. We also included a visit to the traditional tourist attraction, the Acapulco Cliff Divers. During our souvenir shopping the kids concentrated on finding items that corresponded to their areas of research. My son bought a chess set that featured Aztecs vs Conquistadors. My daughter bought dolls in each port dressed in the the traditional costume of each state.
We choose to keep our excursions pretty simple for that cruise because of the children’s age, however the cruise lines offer many more elaborate and extensive excursions to the Mexican riviera that take visitors to historic inland villages and ancient landmarks. Some tours offer a culinary exploration of Mexico with cooking classes and gourmet foods. Other excursions include overland jeep tours, shot-over jet boats and swims with the dolphins. Several excursions offer a Mexican fiesta with Maricachis and Folkloric dancing from different regions of Mexico.
The Mayan Riviera is visited by many different cruise ships including the largest ones owned by Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Cruises that take passengers to the Yucatan region of Mexico in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico, offer excursions to another one of Mexico’s long hidden treasures: Mayan Ruined Cities. Several different locations can be visited by cruisers including: Chacchoben Mayan Ruins, Kohunlich & Dzibanche Mayan Ruins, and Tulum. Other tours actually take passengers to living Mayan villages, where native Mayans share their culture, history and traditions with the visitors. The local villagers participate in cooking demonstrations and question and answer sessions with the visitors. Because Cozumel and Costa Maya are visited by many different cruise ships including the largest ones owned by Carnival and Royal Caribbean, a whole industry has built up around catering to those passengers. Hence, when visiting these ports in particular passengers have a vast array of types of activities from which to choose. These activities include swimming with dolphins, snuba, snorkeling, motorcycle tours, dune buggy tours, ATV rides, and zipline excursions. While these types of tour might not offer a unique Mexican cultural experience, they do provide fun for the more adventurous travelers.
I hope to visit the Yucatan region of Mexico. Ever since reading about the discovery of these lost Mayan cities as a child, I have wanted to see the ruins of these ancient metropolises. I also strongly recommend, (I’m sure I’m partial because I take Mexican Folk dancing classes) any excursion that includes a Folkloric dancing presentation. The music is joyful, and keeps your feet tapping and hands clapping.
If you are planning a cruise to Mexico or have recently returned from a trip to Mexico, we invite you to share your experiences with our readers.