Mayan ruins near Tulum, Mexico (photo: Sorin Colac/Alamy)

A Comprehensive Guide to Mexican Cruises and Ports

By Kellie Davenport

There’s nothing like jetting to the sunny shores of Mexico during an Alberta winter. Stepping off the plane and feeling that first wave of southern heat wipes away any seasonal blues. But why stay in one resort when you can cruise the country and visit several places by water?

With nearly 10,000 kilometres of coastline, Mexico is made for cruising. You can bask on a new beach or visit a different town at every stop—it’s like several vacations in one. Onboard, you’ll enjoy activities to suit virtually any passion. Outdoorsy types can zipline, snorkel and do yoga; foodies can take a cooking class or tequila tasting. Come evening, passengers savour world-class dining and entertainment.

Pretty great, right? But before you decide between yoga or ziplining, you have to pick a side: west or east coast? It’s easier than ever to get to either one. Western Mexico offers easy access for Albertans to sail the vast Pacific coastline—direct flights reach departure ports in under four hours. On the other side, Mexico’s eastern shores feature azure waters and the chance to visit other Caribbean countries.

Make an informed decision by calling or visiting an AMA Travel cruise specialist. They’ll help you choose a coast—and a cruise line. Since they’ve travelled on most lines, AMA’s specialists can help you navigate the sea of options when it comes to onboard activities, which shore excursions to book, getting the best inclusions, and finding family-friendly or adult-focused itineraries. When you’re ready to book, you’ll get AMA’s exclusive lower pricing for members—deals you can’t find on other booking sites or even through the cruise line itself.

Call 1-866-989-6594 or visit AMA Travel online to get started. To whet your appetite, we’ve curated a collection of excursions and ports on both coasts.

mexican cruises puerto vallarta seaside
Seaside Puerto Vallarta (photo: Boogish/iStock)

Cruises typically depart from Los Angeles and journey south along Mexico’s 7,300 kilometres of Pacific coastline. Itineraries range from four to over 30 days, with stops including Cabo San Lucas, Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta and the Panama Canal.

Puerto Vallarta
With its winding cobblestone streets, whitewashed homes and seaside vistas, P.V. feels like a historic European city. It’s the perfect place for a city walking tour, where you’ll see Liz Taylor’s love nest (it’s now a hotel), visit the ornate Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and kick back with a drink in a quaint cantina. For a totally different view of the region, visit the nearby canopy eco reserve to zipline through lush treetops some 27 metres off the ground.

Cabo San Lucas
With its towering cliffs, surfable waves and farm-to-table cuisine, Cabo has become a playground for the rich and famous. But the real stars of region are the majestic whales, which migrate around Cabo every year. Six species of whales cruise the Pacific waters not far from shore. Take a whale-watching cruise to spot gray whales, finbacks, humpbacks and mighty blue whales, the largest animals on earth.

The latest travel trend: small ship cruising

Mazatlan enjoys hundreds of sunny days every year—meaning it’s hot, hot, hot in any season. To spice things up even more, book a beachfront salsa- and-salsa workshop: Learn the art of mixing Mazaritas—margaritas with a zesty Mazatlan twist—and how to make authentic Mexican salsa, followed by a dance lesson in which instructors teach you the sultry swings and sashays of salsa dancing.

Meaning “the place where wood is adored” in ancient Aztec, Huatulco has become an eco-tourism paradise. Surrounded by nine crystalline bays, the inland area is carpeted with thick rainforest, ancient ruins and coffee plantations. For something quite literally off the beaten path, try a river float down the meandering Copalita River. Keep an eye out for shore birds as you travel through lush vegetation and unspoiled jungle.

Cruise the West Coast Mexican Riviera on any budget

Holland America: Nieuw Amsterdam
San Diego roundtrip
Seven nights, departing March 31, 2019
Ports: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
From $844 + $151 tax

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Bliss (new ship!)
Los Angeles roundtrip
Seven nights, departing April 21, 2019
Ports: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
From $1,271 + $189 tax

Princess Cruises: Ruby Princess
Los Angeles roundtrip
10 nights, departing Feb. 18, 2019
Ports: Cabo San Lucas (overnight), La Paz, Loreto, Puerto Vallarta
From $1,559 + $176 tax

Call an AMA Travel cruise specialist: 1-866-989-6594

mexican cruises cozumel diving fish
Saying hello to Cozumel’s local inhabitants (photo: Sea Trek)

Though smaller in size—about 2,800 kilometres of waterfront—the Gulf Coast is spectacular. Cruises usually depart from Fort Lauderdale, docking in Cozumel and other islands like Grand Cayman, Bahamas and Jamaica.

This island off the coast of Riviera Maya is a major cruise port and a key stop on Eastern Mexico routes. It also boasts the world’s second-largest barrier reef, making it an underwater playground for divers and snorkellers. If you’re not scuba certified but want to dive deeper than the surface, try the Jules Verne-inspired helmet diving. Walk along the ocean floor and get nose-to-gill with tropical fish—all without getting your hair wet.

Playa del Carmen
Once a humble fishing village, Cancun’s neighbour to the south is today a vibrant coastal community for those craving culture over tequila shots. Honour Playa’s aquatic roots and charter a half-day fishing trip to reel in native grouper, sailfish and tuna. To dive a little deeper, go cenote hopping. Swim and snorkel in the natural underground reservoirs, which ancient Mayans revered as sacred sites.

Exploring Belize, the other Mayan riviera

Book a morning excursion and start your day in Tulum with a morning stroll through the 13th-century ruins of Zamá, the only coastal city of the ancient Mayan civilization. Don’t leave without taking a dip and snorkel in the turquoise waters beneath the cliff-top ruins. If you prefer to relax, treat yourself to an Aztec chakra massage at Yäan Wellness Energy Spa, one of several health retreats lining Tulum’s white-sand beaches.

Creativity reigns supreme in this vibrant colonial town. Over the centuries, it’s become a hub for makers and culture-keepers, from producers of traditional textiles like guayaberas and huipils (embroidered shirts and dresses) to watercolour painters, craft brewers and mezcal distillers. After shopping the Lucas de Galvéz market, take a tasting tour through Merida’s cantinas where brews are made on site. End your afternoon sipping a Corona, Mexico’s most famous export, on one of its prettiest beaches.

Sail Mexico’s eastern waters and the western Caribbean Sea

Royal Caribbean: Symphony of the Seas (new ship!)
Miami roundtrip
Seven nights, departing March 9, 2019
Ports: Roatan Island, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Nassau
From $1,689 + $181 tax
Includes exclusive AMA member savings of $863 CAD per person

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Reflection
Fort Lauderdale roundtrip
11 nights, departing March 11, 2019
Ports: George Town, Cartagena, Colon, Puerto Limon, Puerto Costa Maya, Cozumel
From $2079 + $193 tax
Includes exclusive AMA member savings of $680 CAD per person

Call an AMA Travel cruise specialist at 1-866-989-6594