Courtesy of SBW-Photo/Royal Caribbean International
Photo by tommaso lizzul/Shutterstock
Visit Mayan ruins and white sand beaches on cruises to Mexico’s Costa Maya.
Calling all sun worshippers, culture vultures, outdoor adventure seekers, and marine life lovers: We’ve got the Mexico cruise that is right for you.
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There is no shortage of choices for a cruise to Mexico. More than 1,000 voyages a year include at least one stop in the country, making it one of the most visited cruise destinations in the world.
Drawing vacationers looking to experience Mexico’s beachy resort areas, festive culture, and Mayan ruins, the majority of these trips depart from Miami and Gulf Coast ports such as Tampa, New Orleans, and Galveston, Texas, and focus on the Caribbean side of Mexico. They’ll typically include a call at Cozumel–the busiest cruise port outside of Florida–and sometimes Costa Maya or Progreso on the Yucatan Peninsula. Dubbed “Western Caribbean” sailings and usually three to seven nights in length, they often also include stops at one or more non-Mexican ports such as Roatan, Honduras, or Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Another major category of Mexico cruises are the week-long “Mexican Riviera” trips out of California ports such as San Diego and Long Beach that head down the western coast of Mexico. Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan are the typical destinations here. There also are shorter “Baja Mexico” cruises out of West Coast ports that only go as far as Ensenada.
All the above options are available year-round. A final choice for a Mexico cruise only available during the winter is an adventure-focused, small-ship sailing along the rugged east coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. A handful of adventure cruise companies offer these.
Almost any Mexico itinerary is bound to satisfy beach lovers, as they nearly all include at least a stop or two at a port near a gorgeous stretch of sand. Those more interested in the country’s rich history should opt for a sailing that includes Costa Maya or Progreso, offering access to spectacular Mayan ruins. You’ll often find more active outdoor pursuits such as hiking through sand dunes and snorkeling with sea lions on one of the Baja Peninsula sailings, which also are the trips to do if you’re a fan of whale-watching.
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There’s nothing like a big, bustling mega-ship to keep the kiddos busy on a cruise, and of all the vessels heading to Mexico, none are as big or bustling as Royal Caribbean’s new Symphony of the Seas–the world’s largest cruise ship. Aimed squarely at the family market, the 18-deck-high floating resort offers such family-friendly allures as a water park with multiple waterslides, FlowRider surfing simulators, a kiddie splash park, a miniature golf course, and a zip-line that whizzes above a New Jersey shore–style boardwalk area (complete with its own hand-carved carousel). Big also is the word for some of the ship’s top suites, which are among the most impressive at sea. For the money-is-no-object crowd, they include the two-deck-high, $20,000-a-week Ultimate Family Suite, which comes with its own LEGO wall, kiddie slide between floors, and a theater-like TV room with a popcorn machine. Based in Miami, Symphony heads to Mexico every other week on seven-night Western Caribbean sailings that usually include calls at two Mexican ports–Cozumel and Costa Maya–as well as stops in Honduras and the Bahamas. Fares start at $826 per person; royalcaribbean.com.
The seven-night Baja’s Bounty trips offered every winter by adventure-focused UnCruise Adventures are all about hiking, kayaking, whale-watching, and other outdoorsy pursuits along the east coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. On a typical day, you might trek among Palo Blanco bushes and cacti in the peninsula’s Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve before heading to a pristine beach for snorkeling. Another day might mix a coastal exploration by small skiff with a mountain mule ride and a visit with a local ranchero family. A highlight of the trip is the chance to see gray whales up close at Baja’s famed Magdalena Bay (when they are in residence, typically mid-January to early March). Departing out of La Paz, Mexico, the voyages take place on UnCruise’s intimate, 88-passenger Safari Endeavour, which is notably packed with inflatable skiffs, kayaks, paddleboards, snorkel gear, and hiking poles for use in daily adventures. Fares start at $4,395 per person; uncruise.com.
While many luxury lines dispatch their newest, glitziest vessels across the globe during the winter on exotic itineraries to far-flung destinations in Asia and Australia, Miami-based Regent Seven Seas Cruises has been keeping its much-ballyhooed newcomer Seven Seas Explorer close to home for 10- and 12-night Western Caribbean sailings out of the city that feature stops in Cozumel and Costa Maya. (Explorer splits its time in the winter between these trips and Eastern Caribbean itineraries.) Unveiled in 2016, the 750-passenger luxury ship–at $450 million, the most expensive ever–is known for impeccable service, upscale cuisine, and opulent, all-suite accommodations (the biggest of which is mansion-sized at 4,443 square feet), with per-day rates as sizable as the cascading crystal chandelier in its atrium lobby. Fares from $4,699 per person; rssc.com.
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In addition to operating the newest, most-stylish big ship sailing to Mexico, the Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Cruises now is offering culinary-themed “Moveable Feast” sailings to the destination that feature star chefs, cooking demonstrations, private cooking classes, and chef-hosted shore excursions. Created in partnership with Fine Cooking magazine and its Emmy Award–winning PBS show Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking, the trips include a seven-night Western Caribbean voyage in December on the newly unveiled, 2,918-passenger Edge with James Beard Foundation Award–winning New York chef Marcus Samuelsson and Top Chef judge and cookbook author Gail Simmons. Dishes they will highlight during cooking demonstrations and in restaurants have yet to be set, but the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised Samuelsson is known for marrying a variety of cuisines in his cooking. Simmons, too, has a worldly flair, with her first cookbook, Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating, devoted to dishes inspired by her travels. The trip will depart from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with stops at Cozumel and Costa Maya. Fares from $1,099 per person; celebritycruises.com.
Expedition cruise specialist Lindblad Expeditions packs a week’s worth of adventure on the Baja Peninsula into three full days on its four-night Wild Baja Escape: Serenity & Sea Life in the Sea of Cortez sailings. Offered four times a year on the company’s new, 100-passenger National Geographic Venture, the shortened version of Lindblad’s seven-night Baja trip gives the time-starved traveler a chance to hike, kayak, paddleboard, and snorkel (with sea lions!) along the east coast of the peninsula on a trip that will have them away from the office for barely 100 hours. Among the highlights: an evening barbecue and bonfire on a white sand beach. And don’t forget to pack your yoga clothes. An onboard wellness instructor will have you winding down your busy days with deck-top “chill” sessions. Fares from $2,780 per person; expeditions.com.
Small-ship specialist Windstar Cruises is carving out a niche in the Mexico market with a handful of Mexican Riviera sailings on its 212-passenger Star Legend each year that’ll take you beyond such typical stops as Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. In addition to those two ports, the line’s 14-night Star Collector: Mexico & Sea of Cortez Illuminated itinerary out of San Diego adds visits to La Paz for tours to see whale sharks and other wildlife, and Loreto, Mexico, for a stop at the historic San Javier Mission. The Mexican resort destinations of Manzanillo and Huatulco also are on the schedule, as is Puerto Chiapas, Mexico–gateway to the Mayan ruins of Izapa (and hikes on Tacana volcano, the highest peak in Central America). Three stops in wildlife-filled Costa Rica round out the itinerary. Fares from $2,199 per person; windstarcruises.com.
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