We recently took the 7 night Mexican Riviera cruise on the Norwegian Bliss with our 3 year old son. We have cruised with him before (Disney in 2017 to the Bahamas) and wanted to try another cruise line this time around. I did all of my cruise homework including pouring over reviews all over the internet but I still had a ton of questions. Here's what I think you should know and hopefully will hlep you on your vacay adventure. So first and foremost this was a great cruise- I have some criticisms but they are constructive and this is no way a BAD cruise! We had a lot of fun as a family but there are a few things that I did notice could be better. So we had an ocean view cabin on the 5th deck. 5164 to be exact. The room was a good size for us and I surprisingly liked the bed (it is on the harder side) but I hated the placement. Right when you walk in the room there is the bathroom on the right side and just past that, boom, the bed, with literally a 2 ft space to walk between the wall and bed to get to the couch and rest of the room. Not the end of the world but definitely made things feel more cramped. That said the room has a ton of storage, large bathroom, really small fridge that is stocked with overpriced sodas and mini bottles of liquor so beware! There is a hairdryer but no iron. The cruise line will lauder your clothes and iron them for you but it is insanely overpriced. I started to run out of shirts for my son so yes I did do some hand washing (there is a clothes line in the bathroom hanging over the bathtub) lol...the cruise line charges PER PIECE for laundry service and PER PIECE for ironing. Crazy. Disney had a laundry room with ironing board for our use for free so that was definitely something I missed. Ok so moving on to the Soda Package - you might be considering buying this $65 unlimited adult and teen soda package, but don't. Its not worth it. Paying individually will equal less, unless you slam like 5 sodas a day. The sodas in the fridge are not covered in your soda package, the sodas on room service are not covered and there is no soda served in the Garde Café which is the buffet. The only places you can get your unlimited Soda is at the sit down restaurants- either the free ones (Taste, Savor and The Local) or the specialty ones. I think total my husband got the chance to get like 6 sodas. So those translated to $10 sodas. Never again lol. Now for the Daycare. I honestly whish I could tell you more about this but I cant because my son refused to even go in. So the Daycare is located on the 5th floor and they are a drop in center. When they are full, they are full. You have to wait outside until someone comes to get their child for yours to go in. Disney lets you reserves ahead of time so you can plan out shows, dinners etc. But the kicker is they would not let you walk your child into the actual center. When dropping off, parents are not allowed into the actual play area, so you take your kid to a lobby, check them in and then someone comes out and these little doors open and your child is supposed to walk into a hallway with some person they don't know. So there we were with about 3 other sets of parents trying to goad our toddlers into going with the workers and yeah...no dice. I honestly cant say I blame them. 3 year old me probably would have been cool off that too. Not to keep comparing but Disney lets you walk your kids in and then do the old slip a'roo out the door. Adopting this style would help out parents a lot I think, but I also get why they don't allow people in too so. So assuming your toddler does not want to go into the unknown that is the Daycare then what to do with your toddler? Well the truth is...theres not much to do at all besides walk around, watch TV, and go into the pool. The pool area for kids is relatively small and I wasn't super impressed. Same for the pool that kids can go in. The race cars, golf and laser tag are an up charge and obviously not something you can do with your toddler. There is an arcade that you pay like $1.50-$3 per game for but that gets old too. Since you will be on sea for a few days make sure to pack some of your kids favorite smaller toys (this also comes in handy for embarkation day which can be a long time in line), books, crayons, cars, dolls whatever...because for us we basically had nothing until our first port day when we stocked up on cars, guitars, moroccas, xylophones you name it. My 3 yr old was a one man banda by the end of the day in Puerto Vallarta. If your child is still in diapers/pullups don't forget to take something on port days that you can change him on, a towel, blanket whatever...there are just not many places to change them at all. I suggest doing Mazatlán and Cabo on your own. In Mazatlán you can get the same tour of the city that they offer as an excursion on the cruise line for half of the cost by going with one of the guys that will rush you when you get to the cruise port. Im not gonna lie... I was scared to go around Mazatlán...but I talked to the guy who ended up being our tour guide and was straight up with him about my fear and he completely understood. In the end we did go with him and he took us all around, the cathedral, the cliff divers, the golden zone and then to a hotel where if you bought an item from the menu let you use their beachfront facility, towels, chairs, pools, bathrooms etc. It was pretty awesome and ended up being my favorite port day. Also....if you are looking to bring back some traditional Mexican items I suggest doing it from Mazatlán, there is shopping at the cruise terminal there so you don't even have to go far. Its cheaper there and they have so much more beautiful items at this port. I was so mad at myself for not shopping more there thinking that Cabo would have the same stuff. Not true...and even so Cabo was way more expensive. Speaking of Cabo...since having a little one pretty much vetos snorkeling, day drinking, and ziplining for you, your options are a but more limited. We ended up going on our own that day and walking their boardwalk area. Its about a 30 min walk to Medano Beach. You just follow the board walk and it will deliver you directly to the beach. Once there its the same kind of set up as Mazatlán, beach front hotels offer you the ability to use their towels, chairs and services for a head charge. We paid $20 to say as long as we wanted. Our Cabo day was pretty short so be sure to time out everything factoring in the walk back and the tend trip time as well. Oh and if you are new like I was...tendering is when a little boat picks you up from the cruise ship which is parked off of the dock in Cabo since they have no actual cruise port. For this reason I don't suggest you take a huge stroller! We took an umbrella stroller and since the boat was rocking crazy that morning I am so glad we did. Finally I will say that there is not a really huge store on the ship, there is a small gift shop with a ton of alcohol and basic sundries but not one toy or child like thing lol..So yeah...I hope this helps you and I hope you got some clarity! The Bliss is a big beautiful ship that is really trying to do its best to incorporate families but by and large is still I think more friendly to solo travelers, childless travelers, and travelers that like to drink and late night party lol....If you really want a kid friendly trip through and through...Im pretty sure you know what line will deliver that less adulty feel.
The port can be a little crazy on embarkation day. If you are traveling with toddlers bring an umbrella stroller at least for them. Small travel friendly toys and crayons, books etc will also be really helpful. You can self park and you pay when you get back. Don't lose that ticket! Also make sure you print your luggage tags and affix them prior to getting there. This just makes like a lot easier.
Mazatlán might just have been my favorite spot on this cruise and the irony was that it was also the one I was most afraid of. So I'll be completely honest...I was afraid of this port. Especially with my little one. Mazatlán is in the sate of Sinaloa which is home to some sketch stuff. Just a week before we left there was a massive story about public violence with civilian casualties just a few hours from the port. I was shook. We decided to not book an excursion and 'play it by ear' or feel it out basically once we got there. So when we docked we took the ride to the port terminal there which deposits you directly into a pretty cute little shopping area. When you walk out there is another little plaza with shopping and if you keep walking there is an open sort of market place that actually had some of the best shopping I encountered. You will be approached by a bunch of people that will ask if you want a driving tour. After talking with one such man for awhile (they all spoke English) and being completely honest with him about my safety concerns he was understanding and reassuring. We ended up going with him on the driving tour and I am so happy we did. We took the open air taxi which is super common there and there is a sort of 'route' that they all take because you will see others ahead of you and behind you. We drove through the city, to the beautiful cathedral, stopped and saw the cliff divers, drove the immaculate coast line, drove to the Golden Zone and then he took us to a beach front Hotel where if you bought a menu item you were allowed to stay there and use the facilities, chairs, towels, services and pools, It was awesome. Sergio our driver told us to have fun and that he would be here whenever we were done...but just be aware that they are usually charging you per hour and this is something that you want to negotiate ahead of time. Our cost was $25 per hour and well worth it. I am so glad that we explored on our own vs having to remain with a group. Mazatlán is a beautiful little gem that does get a bit of a bad rap and its understandable to be afraid, but the city is also warm, welcoming and quite charming with its rustic vibe.
This was our first time to Cabo and it did not disappoint. We did not do an excursion, mainly because I felt super limited with a toddler and most of the excursions here were aquatic or drinking related. So we opted to do it on our own. The only real downside I would say is that we did not have a lot of time in this beautiful port. We got off our tender boat at like 8 am and had to be back to the ship at 2 pm. Seems like a decent amount of time but theres a lot to fit into those hours so try and plan it out as best as you can prior. So when you get there, since Cabo has no actual dock you will be picked up by a 'tender' boat which will take a group of you to the docks. From there we walked the entire strip of 'boardwalk' passing by the shops and venders along the way. We stopped and had breakfast at one of the few restaurants that were open for it. Most of the places don't open until later but our breakfast was really good so no complaints. On your walk you will pass the Mall there with luxury shops. If you keep going after about 30 min or so you will hit Medano Beach. This beach is pristine and I loved it. The beach is lined with beach front hotels that offer you the option of paying a fee to use their beach chairs, table service, and towels. We actually just used the very first hotel on the sand and it was $10 per adult, kids free and we could have stayed all day. The water is warm and I read a ton of things about there being a big 'drop off' in the ocean here and its definitely something to be wary of if you are not a great swimmer. So basically in the water you will be walking with the water at waist level and one moment and then suddenly there is no sandy flooring beneath you. Its not a huge deal just don't go out too far and you will be fine. All in all its a great place, very clean, very comforting and yes you will be asked a million times to buy things by street vendors but a simple 'no thanks' is all you need to say. Oh and if you don't feel like walking the entire way to the beach, they do have water taxis there that will cut you right across the bay to the beach side for pretty cheap. You can also get a glass bottom boat tour for a reasonable price. Cabo Wabo is super overpriced and just behind the main walking area there, if you ask any of the guys that will try and sell you tours they will point it out to you. There are a ton of places to shop here but a lot of the items have a more touristy vibe (think little bottles with sand that say I heart Cabo and beach bags with the name printed on) and are way more expensive in the actual gift shops. Near the main tender docks just off to the right there is a covered little makeshift flea market area...you walk down a step and there are rows of little venders with tons of gift items and these are the ones you can bargain with. I found a lot of people trying to upcharge me and that ok, usually if I felt it was too much I would walk away and then they would call me back and come down on the prices. All in all this was a great place and I already cant wait to return but this time without a cruise so we can really enjoy this beautiful town with no time limits.