Written by 12:52 pm Ports

Cruise Guide: Mexican Riviera: The new ‘it’ place in the sun

By Michael Coleman

Flawless beaches, superb golf and fishing, great weather and an enriching cultural component may indeed be adjectives to describe coastal living in California or Florida but cruise ship passengers are flocking in droves to the new ‘it’ place in the sun: The Mexican Riviera. 

A major cruise association says itineraries are on the rise, thanks, in part, to an array of options in quaint to cosmopolitan west coast Mexican ports of call. As more travelers become experienced Caribbean cruisers, they now find themselves seeking new locales to bask in the sun. Enter the Mexican Riviera. 

In fact, it has grown into one of the top five cruise destinations in the last five years, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Most lines set sail from Los Angeles (Long Beach), San Diego and San Francisco en route to Monterey and Catalina Island, off California’s coast, en route to the Mexican ports of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, Manzanillo and Mazatlan. 


Diverse voyages 

Through the end of the year, look for the major cruise lines to offer seven- to 11-day voyages. Leading the way, in terms of the most voyages to choose from, is Holland America. Look for this premium operator to explore the natural wonders of the Mexican Riviera on 32 cruises. Oosterdam and Zaandam feature seven- and 10-day cruises, traveling round trip from San Diego. Oosterdam operates 29 seven-day itineraries while Zaandam offers three 10-day journeys. 

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Pride and Carnival Spirit itineraries blend the line’s “Fun Ship” ambience with mariachi bands that perform at select ports. Carnival Pride sails year-round on seven-day voyages from Long Beach to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Carnival Sprit offers seasonal eight-day cruises from San Diego to Acapulco, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa and Manzanillo. 

Celebrity Cruises’ Mercury features 10- and 11-day itineraries from San Diego that are available on select dates in October and November. Ports include Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa and Manzanillo. 

Highlighting luxury operator Crystal Cruises’ Mexican Riviera offering is a 14-day Christmas and New Year’s cruise out of Los Angeles on December 21 aboard Crystal Symphony. With ports of call that include San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and La Paz. This year marks Crystal Symphony’s first Mexican Riviera holiday voyage roundtrip from Los Angeles since 2002. 

Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Norwegian Star features eight-day itineraries that provide guests with full days in the ports of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. The itineraries also offer overnight calls in Acapulco, with the ship departing the city after midnight. The sailings also include three days at sea. In all, NCL offers 25 sailings. 

Four Princess Cruises’ ships will ply the waters of the Mexican Riviera. Golden Princess makes her west coast debut with roundtrip sailings from San Francisco and a one-way voyage from Acapulco. Dawn Princess offers a series of sailings out of San Francisco. Diamond Princess operates roundtrip voyages from Los Angeles. Island Princess features a special Mexican Riviera holiday voyage. 

Luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises (formerly Radisson Seven Seas Cruises) will feature an eight-night roundtrip voyage departing from Los Angeles, aboard Seven Seas Mariner, Dec. 18. Calls include San Diego, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, spending Christmas day at sea. The cruise features Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Workshops and a Club Mariner’s children’s program. Other Regent ships incorporate Mexican Riviera ports on Panama Canal itineraries. 

Royal Caribbean International’s Vision of the Seas operates on seven-night Mexican Riviera itineraries that sail roundtrip from Los Angeles. The cruises are offered from September 24 through December 31. The itineraries call at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Shore excursions include options that enable guests to trek through jungles and plantations. 

Luxury line Silversea Cruises offers a nine-day cruise roundtrip from Los Angeles on September 17 aboard Silver Shadow. Calls include Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada. Optional shore excursions include an ATV off-road adventure through the “Outback” of Cabo San Lucas and a flight aboard a Cessna Caravan from Puerto Vallarta to a village in the Sierra Madre Mountains. 


Diverse locales 

Cruise passengers are in for a real treat as shore excursions run the gamut. Passengers traveling to Acapulco can enjoy legendary nightlife, restaurants, beaches and watch in awe as La Quebrada cliff divers leap from 130-foot rock formations into the sea below. The city is also known for excellent fishing – particularly sailfish – snorkeling and scuba diving. The pulse of the city is its main street, Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán, where travelers will find most of Acapulco’s attractions. 

Quaint Cabo San Lucas is home to gorgeous beaches and a wide range of water-related activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, marlin fishing, surfing and kayaking. The town features an underwater nature preserve, a short boat ride away from the harbor and the famous Land’s End rock formations. 

With more than 250 restaurants and a hip nightlife scene, Puerto Vallarta still maintains the charm of an old-fashioned Mexican village with cobblestone streets and blossoming bougainvillea. In addition to shops and galleries, the town boasts ecotourism activities like mountain biking though the Sierra foothills and whale watching. 

In Ixtapa, cruise guests will find spectacular beach areas, including a two-mile strip that extends along the hotel zone, Playa del Palmar. The town also boasts two 18-hole golf courses and a 600-slip yacht marina with restaurants and shops. 

Just down the coast is Zihuatanejo, an historic fishing village located in a sheltered bay only a mile-and-a-half wide. 

Manzanillo, one of Mexico’s most vibrant and active seaports, is a great place for anglers to try their skills. The landscape is truly diverse, from jungles and mountains to palm trees and beaches. 

Mazatlan’s harbor, meanwhile, is set against a mountain range and the region is blessed with magnificent beaches. A renowned fishing destination, Mazatlan is also known for excellent seafood. For the active traveler, a walk up to El Faro, the second-highest lighthouse in the world, provides panoramic views of the town.

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