Thursday, January 1, 2009
7-Day "Mexican Riviera" Cruise to Mexico, Definitely Recommended
A few weeks ago, my mom and I took a 7-day cruise to Mexico. It was with the Norwegian Cruise Lines and left out of Los Angeles, sailing to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.
Yes, those are all the tourist spots, and I'm not sure how much of an authentic Mexican vacation we got, but it sure was nice to leave the rainy Pacific Northwest winter behind for some sun.
We've both cruised before, but for the first time we sprung for a balcony room, and it was marvelous. Actually, it wasn't that much of a "spring" because we were doing a last minute cruise, and the prices were very affordable. Also airfare from SeaTac wasn't that expensive since it was only a flight of a couple hours (we were also thinking of the Caribbean as a destination but that entails a longer--and more expensive--flight).
Sitting out on the balcony in the sun, while sipping a margarita and reading a good book is great. Neither of us are big into the crowds that you can find around the pool and dining areas on a cruise ship, so we definitely dug our private balcony.
Our first stop was Cabo San Lucas where we kayaked across the bay (there were way more kayaks and boats and swimmers out there than you can see in this picture!), checked out the sea lion colony (warning: don't get downwind of those sea lions... they do their jobs on the rocks), and snorkeled around Neptune's Finger (a big finger-looking chunk of rock sticking out of the water). We saw a great variety of colorful tropical fish in the shadows of that big finger.
In Mazatlan I couldn't convince my mom to go zip-lining through the jungle canopy, so we did a boat ride bird sanctuary tour through the canals and mangroves. They have huge birds down there (the one in the picture is a Mexican Frigate). We saw herons of several colors. Now we have herons in Seattle, but they aren't nearly as big as those Mexican ones. I guess lots of available fish and sun to warm your feathers is a recipe to grow big. There were lots of birds that we don't have at home too, and those were fun to see (again, lots of big birds heh).
As a part of that tour, we also rode through a coconut plantation and up a long beach to a classic (think of the stuff you see in the movies) Mexican resort area with thatch umbrellas in the sand where you could lounge and look out at the brilliant Pacific Ocean. We had a Mexican-style lunch (your choice of chicken or seafood) and margaritas, of course, before heading back.
In Puerto Vallarta, we headed up into the hills to tour a tiny family-run tequila distillery on an old Hacienda. It was neat driving through the countryside and seeing real homes, not just touristy hotels.
After five sample shots of the local stuff, we were--of course!--ready to buy some. I came home with some authentic (no English on the label kind of authentic) bottles of tequila, a gold and a "peach" tequilia that I've been using as a marinade for grilling.
After the tequila sampling, my memory is a bit fuzzy for some reason... but I remember having a great dinner and sitting outside for dinner and a show. The show included music and several dance acts (including a dancing horse) interspersed with tequila drinking competitions (we had had enough at that point so passed on that front) and a chance to win prizes (hand-crafted goods from local merchants).
Overall, all of our shore excursions were fun, and I'd definitely recommend the Mexican Riviera cruise to anyone. It's particularly nice for us West Coast folks who don't want to fly across the country for some winter warmth.
The weather was sunny and perfect (we were there the first week of December), prices were affordable, and the ship itself was a pleasure to cruise on. Next time I visit Mexico, however, I do want to check out some of the out-of-the-way. less-touristy towns!