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.
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.
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.
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.