Best Cruises to Mexico

A Wide Range of Exotic Cruise Options

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Just like the Caribbean, Mexico has been a favorite cruise destination for decades. From the west coast and its Mexican Riviera sailings to the east coast and its Mayan Riviera ports called on during Western Caribbean itineraries, Mexico presents a wide range of exotic cruise options. Whether you’re looking for a brief 2-day introduction to the world of cruising or you wish to delve into exciting adventures in the Sea of Cortez, these Mexico cruise options hold plenty of seafaring fun.

Sampler Cruise: The 2- to 4-Day Option 

Are you intrigued by cruise travel but don’t know exactly where to begin? Convenient 2- to 4-day sampler cruises to Mexico might be just the answer, especially if you live in or near California. From Los Angeles, Carnival Cruise Lines regularly deploys its “fun ships” -- so called by the line for their playful nature -- on shorter durations to the Baja California port of Ensenada, Mexico, with or without an additional stop at Catalina Island. Choose from the 2,056-passenger sister ships -- Carnival Imagination or Carnival Inspiration -- or the larger 2,124-person Carnival Miracle.

Mexican Riviera Round-Trips: 6 Days or More 

The most common Mexico itinerary is to the Mexican Riviera, visiting the west coast of the country, with Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta being the most frequented ports on weeklong cruises. Other ports on the Pacific Ocean side include Acapulco, Ensenada, Huatulco, Manzanillo, Puerto Chiapas and Zihuatanejo – well-known as the town longed for in the film The Shawshank Redemption.

If you’ve already experienced a cruise as a quick weekend getaway and are ready for more, these full-circle trips of 6 days or longer are great for a complete vacation. Round-trips to the Mexican Riviera commence from the California homeports of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and they are operated primarily by Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.

Mexico’s East Coast via Western Caribbean 

While not often dedicated exclusively to Mexico, plenty of western Caribbean sailings highlight the Mayan Riviera along Mexico’s east coast. The Mexican ports of Progresso, Costa Maya and Cozumel are all access points to the ancient Mayan civilization and its famous historical sites such as Chichen Itza, Tulum and San Gervasio.

At one time or another, all the mainstream cruise lines visit Mexico’s east coast from various departure ports in Florida, including Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa. Servicing additional states off the Gulf of Mexico, Norwegian Cruise Line also leaves from Louisiana; Disney Cruise Line and Princess Cruises also leave from Texas; and Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International also leave from both Louisiana and Texas.

Mexico's Sights and Food

Tacos
Tacos

Tacos

Get a taste of Mexico! We love Mexican food, including delicious beef tacos or fish tacos, for those who prefer seafood. 960 1280

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Palacio Nacional

Palacio Nacional

The Palacio Nacional is a must-see sight, and it’s in Mexico City’s Plaza de la Constitución. Artist Diego Riviera painted the beautiful murals inside the palace, which has housed the ruling class of Mexico since the Aztec empire. 960 1280

Graeme Churchard, flickr  

Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido

Visit the low-key beaches of Puerto Escondido, located on the Oaxacan coast in Mexico. This tourist destination caters to surfers, backpackers and families. West of the town is a large lagoon and a popular area for fishing and birdwatching. 960 1280

Mr. Theklan, flickr  

Ek Balam

Ek Balam

We love exploring ancient Maya ruins including Ek Balam (pictured), Uxmal, Palenque, Monte Alban and Chichen Itza. Ek Balam is a historic site where some of Mexico’s most astounding archeological discoveries have been made. 960 1280

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Mariachi Band

Mariachi Band

We love music steeped in Mexican tradition and culture, including romantic boleros, música tropical, cumbias, mambos, cha-cha-chas. Heck, we enjoy listening to festive mariachi bands, too. 960 1280

  

Pollo Asado

Pollo Asado

Mexican dishes are delicious, including pollo asado (pictured), carne asada, gorditas, cochinita pibil and arroz con pollo. Jonesin’ for something sweet? Try mole or champurrados, 2 traditional Mexican dishes made with chocolate. 960 1280

Jorge Diaz, flickr  

Angel of Independence

Angel of Independence

We enjoy sightseeing in some of Mexico’s biggest cities, including Tijuana, Puebla, Guadalajara, Ecatepec de Morelos. Don’t forget to stop by El Ángel de la Independencia (pictured) aka The Angel of Independence in Mexico City. The Angel was built to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence, celebrated in 1810. 960 1280

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Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos

Mexicans take their festivals and celebrations seriously, and Dia de los Muertos is no different. Day of the Dead, a national holiday, is a special time when families honor the deceased with parades, private alters, leaving gifts on graves and eating favorite foods and beverages of the dearly departed. Cinco de Mayo, Sombrero Festival and Under the Volcano are a few other Mexican celebrations. 960 1280

Jenny Huey, flickr  

Fútbol

Fútbol

We love the passion of Mexican soccer fans, and what’s not to love about watching an exciting game at Estadio Azteca. Fútbol aka soccer is the most popular sport in Mexico, followed by boxing, charrería, baseball, basketball, lucha libre and bullfighting. 960 1280

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Tulum

Tulum

Explore ancient ruins at Tulum, one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayan. It’s located along the east coast the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea. There are 3 major structures: El Castillo (pictured), the Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Descending God. 960 1280

Joiseyshowaa, flickr  

Tamales

Tamales

Tamales can be traced back to the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations when they were used as portable food to support their armies, but also to feed hunters and travelers. According to taste, this tasty treat can be filled with meats, cheese, fruits, vegetables, chilies and a variety of other ingredients. 960 1280

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Los Cabos

Los Cabos

Take a trip to Los Cabos, one of Mexico’s renowned beach vacation destinations. We also enjoy relaxing on the beaches in Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, Cancun, La Paz and Playa del Carmen. 960 1280

Lecates, flickr  

Lopez and Longoria

Lopez and Longoria

We enjoy watching comedian and actor George Lopez and actress Eva Longoria. Other well-known actors of Mexican descent include Delores Del Rio, Gael Garcia Bernal, Anthony Quinn and Ricardo Montalban. 960 1280

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Mexican Beer

Mexican Beer

We enjoy sipping on a Corona, one of the best-selling beers in Mexico and one of the top-selling beers worldwide. Dos Equis, Modelo Especial, Estella, Noche Buena and Carta Blanca are a few other popular beers brewed in Mexico. And we can’t forget about a few of our favorite Mexican spirits like tequila, mescal and pulque. 960 1280

David Spiess, flickr  

Oscar de la Hoya

Oscar de la Hoya

Boxing is one of Mexico’s most popular sports. We enjoy watching boxing and admire former boxer Oscar De La Hoya for being the first American of Hispanic decent to start his own boxing promotional firm. 960 1280

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Adventure

Adventure

We love the Mexicans’ sense of adventure. Go kayaking on the Sea of Cortez, fishing in La Paz, hiking in the Copper Canyon, golfing in Puerto Vallarta or diving along the Yucatan’s Caribbean Coast. 960 1280

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Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán

We marvel at the pyramids of Teotihuacán, located near Mexico City. Take a stroll down the Avenue of the Dead, from the Pyramid of the Sun to the Pyramid of the Moon. 960 1280

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Selma Hayek

Selma Hayek

Mexican-American Selma Hayek is known as one of the first Latina actresses to establish a successful film career in the US, but she’s also known for her work behind the camera as a producer and director. 960 1280

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Quesadillas

Quesadillas

We enjoy eating the popular Mexican street food, quesadillas, a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savory mixture containing cheese and other ingredients. 960 1280

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Cenote Sagrado
Cenote Sagrado

Cenote Sagrado

The Cenote Sagrado, near the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, was once a site of sacrifice to the Mayan rain god Chac. In the early 1900s, archaeologist Edward Herbert Thompson dredged the famous cenote and found copper, gold bells, rings, masks, cups, figurines and embossed plaques. He also found evidence of human sacrifice. 960 1280

Michael Rael through Flickr Creative Commons   

Cenote Dzitnup

Cenote Dzitnup

The breathtaking Cenote Dzitnup in Valladolid, Mexico, is completely underground with a hole in the ceiling. A guide rope and lighting make the cavern easier to enter, and it's a great place to swim. 960 1280

Adam Baker through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cenote

Cenote

The entrance to one of the Yucatan's many cenotes. 960 1280

Adam Baker through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cenote Xlacah

Cenote Xlacah

Cenote Xlacah, at the Mayan site of Dzibilchaltun, is ground-level, easily accessible and more than 140 feet deep at some points. 960 1280

Heather McCall through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cenote Sagrado

Cenote Sagrado

A view of the Cenote Sagrado from above. 960 1280

H. Michael Miley through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cenote Samula

Cenote Samula

People take a dip in the Cenote Samula, located right next to the Cenote Dzitnup in Valladolid, Mexico. 960 1280

Frank Kovalchek through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cuzama, Mexico

Cuzama, Mexico

One of the 3 cenotes in Cuzama, Mexico. 960 1280

vokeron7 through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cenote Yokdzonot

Cenote Yokdzonot

Cenote Yokdzonot is located just 15 minutes from the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. 960 1280

RyPix through Flickr Creative Commons  

Cenote Suytun

Cenote Suytun

Located inside a private ranch in Valladolid, Mexico, the Cenote Suytun has an accessible entrance with a long staircase leading to the water. 960 1280

Daniel Lobo through Flickr Creative Commons   

Cenote Ikil

Cenote Ikil

Cenote Ikil, or the 'Sacred Blue Cenote,' is about 10 minutes from Chichen Itza, not far from the Cenote Sagrado. 960 1280

Brandon Leon through Flickr Creative Commons  

Grand Cenote

Grand Cenote

The Grand Cenote, in Tulum, Mexico, is one of the most popular scuba-diving destinations in the Riviera Maya. 960 1280

istock  

Cenote in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cenote in Quintana Roo, Mexico

A scubadiver explores the marine life and underwater canverns of a cenote located in Quintana Roo, Mexico. 960 1280

James Scott, Flickr  

Bikini Boot Camp
Bikini Boot Camp

Bikini Boot Camp

Students at Amansala's Bikini Boot Camp in Tulum, Mexico. 960 1280

  

Costa Azul Surf Shop

Costa Azul Surf Shop

Board maker Alex Olea at Costa Azul Surf Shop in Los Cabos, Mexico, where all boards are custom made. 960 1280

  

Surf Camp

Surf Camp

Women practice standing on their boards at Todos Santos Eco Adventures Baja Surf Camp. 960 1280

  

Surf Camp

Surf Camp

An instructor helps a student paddle out into the surf. 960 1280

  

Bikini Boot Camp

Bikini Boot Camp

Students running on the beach at Amansala’s Bikini Boot Camp. 960 1280

  

Sportfishing

Sportfishing

A sportfishing charter boat in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 960 1280

  

Aqua Twister

Aqua Twister

The Aqua Twister, a 50-foot jet boat based in Cancun that spins around Nichupte Bay at 55 miles per hour. 960 1280

  

Cenotes

Cenotes

Tourists explore one of the Mayan Rivera's many cenotes, or underground sinkholes. 960 1280

  

Tulum

Tulum

On your next trip to Mexico, stop by Extreme Control in Tulum to learn to kiteboard from the best. 960 1280

  

Captain Tony's

Captain Tony's

Chef Jose Alejandro Alvarez at Captain Tony's Restaurant Bar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 960 1280

  

Marlin

Marlin

A statue of a marlin at the Cabo Maritime Center. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other, Cabo is home to more than 800 species of fish and is known as the marlin capital of the world. 960 1280

  

Special Sailings to the Sea of Cortez 

Also alluring are a handful of unique sailings to the Sea of Cortez onboard Holland America Line and Azamara Club Cruises (the upscale boutique line and corporate cousin to Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises), and now is the time to book them with just a singular 12-day cruise available per line.

Holland America’s Statendam will set sail for the region in December 2013 round-trip from San Diego, and the Azamara Quest will follow in January 2014 round-trip from Los Angeles. A highlight of these voyages will be access to the Copper Canyon, Mexico’s equivalent to the Grand Canyon, as well as overnight stays.

The Statendam will stop in Puerto Vallarta for 2 days, and the Azamara Quest will do the same in Loreto. Late-evening stays are similarly a signature of Azamara, and the Quest will stay until 11 p.m. in both Topolobampo and Cabo San Lucas, while Holland America will stay just as late in Topolobampo. Additional featured ports flanking the Sea of Cortez will be La Paz and Guaymas.  

Passing Through: Luxury Lines and Repositioning 

Luxury cruise lines like Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Silversea Cruises make it to Mexico infrequently, while other mainstream lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Royal Caribbean International only get to Mexico’s west coast during repositioning -- between sailing regions -- or Panama Canal cruises. For more details on these cruises, as well as how to choose specific ships and dates for the other cruise operators mentioned above, it’s best to visit each line’s official website.

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