Virtual Slideshow: Carnival Spirit Mexico Cruise
About the Virtual Cruise
When East Coasters need a quick getaway to a warm destination, they hop a cruise to the Caribbean, a short sail from Florida. When residents of California, Arizona, Washington and Oregon need to escape, they head south of the border to the Pacific Coast of Mexico -- essentially the Caribbean for West Coasters. The Mexican Riviera, as the coastal region is dubbed by cruise lines, has everything you'd expect from an easy vacation destination: beaches, water sports, great food and affordability. It's attractive enough that even East Coast denizens will fly out to Los Angeles or San Diego to catch a cruise to this Pacific playground.
As a new Californian in need of some sun and sand, I thought it was time to try out Mexico's west coast. While the itineraries aren't, perhaps, as plentiful as in the Caribbean, I had quite a selection of cruises from which to choose. Carnival Cruise Lines leads the pack in short cruises, with three- to five-night options out of Long Beach and San Diego. Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Disney Cruise Line each have the occasional short cruise in 2010. The meat-and-potatoes itinerary is the seven-night cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta; you can find these on Carnival, Crystal Cruises, Disney, Holland America, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean out of Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego. Can't get enough of Mexico? Longer cruises of 8 to 11 nights are deemed "exotic," as they sail to more southerly ports, such as Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, Loreto and Topolobampo (though others simply sail from more northerly homeports like San Francisco).
Having never visited the popular Mexican ports of Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, I was nonetheless intrigued by Carnival's eight-night itinerary because it offered everything I needed for total relaxation -- three days in ports like the popular resort-town of Acapulco, as well as the more off-the-beaten-path destinations of Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo, plus four sun-filled sea days on a ship with a waterslide, miniature golf and multiple pools.
I documented my cruise in photos, from my comfy cabin and the mouth-watering food onboard to our experiences in quirky Mexican ports.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
Day 1: First Impressions of Carnival Spirit, San Diego
San Diego might just be the ideal homeport, given its location in the heart of downtown. It's within walking distance of museums, shopping, the trendy Gaslamp Quarter and the restaurants of Little Italy....
Click to Launch Day 1's Slideshow.
Day 2: Our First Fun Day at Sea
The first sea day of our trip occurred immediately as we cruised south from San Diego. Carnival is really known for its silly poolside games, and we were in the mood for giggles. During our favorite, the Chicken Olympics....
Click to Launch Day 2's Slideshow.
Day 3: Bienvenido a Mexico!
Our first port of call was wet and overcast Acapulco, where we had signed up for Carnival's kayaking excursion to Isla Roqueta. Some people may have balked at doing other excursions in the drizzly weather, but on a kayak, you're going to get wet anyway....
Click to Launch Day 3's Slideshow.
Day 4: An Active Day Onboard
On our second sea day, the ship's more recreationally oriented activities beckoned. Trust me when I say that a great way to embrace your inner child is to try Carnival Spirit's three-deck-high waterslide....
Click to Launch Day 4's Slideshow.
Day 5: Shopping and Beaching in Zihuatanejo
As Carnival Spirit pulled into the harbor of Zihuatanejo, I was instantly reminded of the Caribbean (more specifically, Grenada). The bay is surrounded by lush, green hills, dotted with gorgeous mansions in earthy colors....
Click to Launch Day 5's Slideshow.
Day 6: Day of the Dead and Halloween
Sometimes on a cruise, there's a port you just can't work out. For us, that was Manzanillo. It seemed like most of our shipmates were booking tours to sterilized beach resorts where they could lounge by a pool, eat Mexican buffet lunches...
Click to Launch Day 6's Slideshow.
Day 7 & 8: Our Final Sea Days
Now that we were recognized around the ship as "the ladies who dressed up as towel animals," I figured I should actually learn how to make them myself. On one of our last sea days, Carnival's social staff, with the help of a few cabin stewards, led a workshop on towel animal construction....
Click to Launch Day 7 & 8's Slideshow.