What do the Top Mexican Riviera Cruises include? Port cities on Mexico's west coast are often referred to as the Mexican Riviera. This is because of their popularity with tourists and the beachfront resorts which dot the coast. Most major cruise lines offer a variety of Mexican Riviera cruises, varying in length from three to 10 days. About 20 cities are part of the Mexican Riviera; with about half of them being popular cruise-ship stops with lots of things to see and do. Five ports you will find on virtually every Mexican Riviera itinerary are Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
When Is The Best Time For a Mexican Riviera Cruise?
Many major cruise lines have scaled back to offering only seasonal service, but the Mexican Riviera is a year-round destination. Find the best cruise deals during the shoulder seasons during September and June. The country’s climate has several factors to take into account. Mexico’s dry season runs from December to April. Its coolest period is December through February, and the wettest period is May to October. Count on summers to be hot and humid. The most pleasant conditions occur in late fall and early winter. Hurricane season in Mexico and surrounding waters runs from the beginning of June through November. While the chance of a cruising through a hurricane is unlikely, it’s worth thinking about the risk to safety and vacation fun. Cruise lines use technology to adjust when necessary to keep passengers safe, but hurricanes can disrupt a cruise experience or lead to a cancellation.
Mexican Riviera Cruise Itineraries
A Mexican Riviera Cruise is popular because of the variety and flexibility. Here are some itinerary choices:
Carnival and Disney have three-night sailings from San Diego and Los Angeles to Ensenada. They also offer four-night cruises to Ensenada that include a stop on Catalina Island. These short “Baja California” cruises are perfect for first-time cruisers, family reunions and wedding parties.
This is the most popular option for a Mexican Riviera cruise, these cruises usually include a two-night stop in Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta, or they make a stops in Mazatlan. What's great this cruise itinerary is that you have time to explore the nightlife (in Cabo) and restaurants (in Puerto Vallarta).
Princess and Holland America have 10 and 12-night cruises that stop at Mexican Riviera ports. They also visit Mexican cities on the Sea of Cortez, including Loreto, La Paz, Guaymas and Topolobampo.
Most Panama Canal cruises also include stops along the Mexican Riviera. Besides stopping in the ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, other stops can include the ports of Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Santa Cruz, Huatulco, Manzanillo and Puerto Chiapas.
Top Mexican Riviera Cruise Ports
Acapulco was Mexico's first tourist resort area and has a few iconic sights that you should be sure not to miss. The cliff divers of La Quebrada perform the death-defying stunt of leaping from heights of up to 100 feet into churning waves below. Other options include taking a glass-bottom boat ride to Isla Roqueta, where you can enjoy tranquil beaches and snorkeling. Or visit the Fuerte San Diego to learn about Acapulco's early history. Hotel Las Brisas – Best Pick for Acapulco
Cabo (Los Cabos), Baja California Sur
Situated on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is made up of two towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. This is a great spot for enjoying water sports such as snorkeling or diving, and whale watching in season. For those looking for arts and cultural attractions, head to San Jose del Cabo, a twenty minute drive from Cabo San Lucas, and take a walk around the historical center and art district. Great hotel The Cape – Best in Cabo
Catalina Island, California
This island is a prime tourist attraction for day trippers and cruise passengers alike. Catalina Island's main town of Avalon is lined with boutiques, shops and restaurants, all an easy stroll from the Green Pleasure Pier, where cruise passengers arrive. Take a glass-bottom boat ride, or rent a bike for a few hours. Don't miss a guided tour of the historic Avalon Casino; it's a peek into the World War II era, when young couples from the mainland would flock to the island every weekend to dine and dance to the music of the most famous big bands of the day. Wonderful Hotel Atwater – Best Catalina Island Hotel
Ensenada, Baja California
Located just 70 miles south of the United States border in Baja California state, Ensenada is popular among tourists for fishing and surfing, as well as being home to Mexico’s premier winery Bodegas de Santo Tomás. You could just stroll the center of town, see the Plaza Civica, and the Cultural Center, do some souvenir shopping and sample some seafood, but if you would like to venture further out, visit La Bufadora, the world's second-largest marine blowhole, or take an excursion to wine country. Wonderful Hotel Coral & Marina – Best in Ensenada
Of all the destinations on the Mexican Riviera, Huatulco is the newest tourist resort development. The area where the ship docks has a shopping area, small marina, and the Santa Cruz beach with water sports and beach-side restaurants. Some day tours include visiting coffee plantations, a tour of the Copalita archaeological site, hikes and bird watching in the Huatulco National Park, and a visit to the sea turtle sanctuary in Mazunte. Great hotel Barceló Huatulco – Best in Huatulco
Ixtapa and its 0,neighboring city Zihuatanejo, share a beautiful setting, with crashing waves of the Pacific to the west and the Sierra Madre mountain chain to the east. But Zihuatanejo feels like a small fishing village, whereas Ixtapa has modern hotels and more tourist amenities. Visitors here enjoy relaxing on the wonderfully clean beaches. More active types can sign up for cycling, kayaking, snorkeling and bird-watching tours, or give sport fishing a try. Great hotel Cala de Mar Resort & Spa – Best in Ixtapa
Mazatlan is 270 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. With golden beaches, and vibrant nightlife as well as a host of water sports and wildlife watching activities available, Mazatlan has a lot to offer. Explore town and board one of the golf cart taxis known as “pulmonias,” or take a day trip to one of Mazatlán’s picturesque islands, such as Isla de Venados (Deer Island), which can be explored on foot or by kayak. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, check out the Huana Coa Canopy Adventure. Great Hotel Casa de Leyendas – Best in Mazatlan.
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
Puerto Vallarta is located in the beautiful Banderas Bay. This seaside town gained prominence as a tourist destination in the 1960s when it became popular with Hollywood stars. It still has plenty to offer, and improvements to the center of town have helped to keep its appeal fresh. Cruise ship visitors should take some time to stroll along the malecon, and visit art galleries. Since this is one of Mexico's foremost foodie destinations, sample some of the wonderful cuisine at Puerto Vallarta's great restaurants. Great Hotel Secrets Vallarta Bay Resort & Spa – Best in Puerto Vallarta.
Top Mexican Riviera Cruises
The Disney Wonder has family-oriented amenities and entertainment offerings like the classic meet and greets with Disney characters. The ship offers plenty of activity with 10 designated family areas, five youth clubs and seven adults-only spaces. While younger passengers can play at age-appropriate clubs, grown-ups can relax at the adults-only Quiet Cove pool. Disney Wonder offers six options, including one adults-only specialty restaurant. At night, adults can unwind and enjoy After Hours, a section of the ship that features three nightclubs and lounges. Like the rest of the ship, staterooms are designed with families in mind. Interior staterooms can accommodate up to four passengers, while larger Suites can sleep up to seven guests. All cabins come equipped with flat-screen TVs, seating areas and classic Disney designs.
The Royal Princess has unique features like a top-deck pool and the SeaWalk, a glass-paneled walkway that stretches 28 feet beyond the ship's edge, make Royal Princess stand out among competitors. On board activities include an indoor driving range, duty-free boutiques and educational programming through Discovery at SEA. Younger passengers can participate in age-appropriate youth clubs while adults play games in the casino or sip cocktails from one of multiple lounges. When it's time to dine, passengers can choose from three main dining rooms, four specialty restaurants or six casual eateries.
The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is famous for its extensive art collection valued at more than $3 million. Guests can admire works from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein through a complimentary self-guided iPod tour. Passengers can also pass the time by the pool or in the Greenhouse Spa, while more enriching programs include the new America's Test Kitchen, the BBC Earth Experiences and photography classes in the Digital Workshop, powered by Windows. While the ship offers youth clubs for kids ages 3 to 17, most activities are geared towards adults. Guests can choose from nine restaurants, including the popular Sel de Mer French seafood restaurant and the new Master Chef's Table Pop Up that's available on sailings of eight nights or more.
The ship’s 11 deck include six cabin categories, ranging from Interior staterooms (151 to 233 square feet) to Ocean-View and Verandah staterooms as well as Signature, Neptune and Pinnacle Suites. All cabins come equipped with Sealy Euro-top mattresses and flat-screen TVs. There is a versatile section of nine dining venues. Most notably, the ship offers the Sel de Mer French seafood restaurant and the new Master Chef's Table Pop Up that's available on itineraries that are eight nights or more. Activities range from the new America's Test Kitchen to the BBC Earth Experiences. More active pursuits includes two swimming pools and sports courts. In the evenings, passengers can also sip cocktails at one of the bars and lounges or take in a show at the Lincoln Center Stage or B.B. King's Blues Club.
With offerings like movie screenings beneath the stars and couples' massages at the adults-only Sanctuary, Ruby Princess is a good choice for couples. 80 percent of exterior cabins are appointed with balconies, and comes equipped with flat-screen TVs and minifridges. While Interior cabins range from 158 to 162 square feet, Balcony category cabins offer more space and Pullman beds to accommodate extra guests. Activities include a nine-hole putting course, duty-free shopping boutiques and enrichment opportunities through the Discovery at SEA program. Dining is just as diverse, with a total of 11 venues to choose from including three main dining rooms, four specialty restaurants and four casual eateries. Come nightfall, travelers can try their luck at the casino, take in a show in the theater or dance until the wee hours at the top-deck nightclub.
Mexican Riviera Cruise Travel Tips
Book Shore Excursions Early
Select and book your Mexico shore excursions in advance, when you book your cruise, instead of waiting to book them while you are onboard. Many of the more popular shore excursions, such as swimming with dolphins, sell out in advance, and waiting until the night before may lead to bad news from the ship's concierge. Heading ashore without a booked shore excursion can be dicey, since the legitimate tour operators generally won't take drop-ins and there's often not much to do in ports except shop, even in so-called tourist Meccas like Cabo San Lucas. Best shore excursions for the Mexican Riviera include snorkeling trips, swimming with dolphins, and in Ensenada, a road trip to La Bufadora, the town's famous blowhole.
Bring Change Ashore
Passengers on Mexico-bound cruises are inevitably bombarded the moment they come on shore with people begging for money, generally children selling Chiclets or other candy. The grateful smiles are worth a quarter or two.
Be Prepared to Haggle
Vendors in Mexican mercados are accustomed to haggling over price, so never pay the marked or state price. It's the way business is done. On the other hand, don't be rude and don't offer vendors a ridiculously low price. A good rule of thumb is to settle for about 20 percent off the original price.
Read the Fine Print
Cruise lines often reserve the right to change destinations in cases of severe weather. Cruises to Mexico have been known to substitute U.S. ports like San Diego and Avalon, on Catalina Island, at times when the Baja peninsula is hit with a hurricane.
Learn a Little Spanish
While the vendors, waiters and other service workers in Mexico ports of call invariably speak English, learning a little Spanish, and using it, is seen as a gracious sign of respect for their culture. Learn a few phrases and try them out.
Don't Drink the Water
It's an old saying, but one rooted in truth. Sanitation standards in Mexico aren't up to par with those in the United States and tap water should never be ingested. Stick with bottled water.