My husband and I are active travelers and enjoy being outdoors. We have been on Princess Cruises in several countries, and our cruise experiences have all been so outstanding that we were excited about booking this Mexican Riviera cruise ... Read More
My husband and I are active travelers and enjoy being outdoors. We have been on Princess Cruises in several countries, and our cruise experiences have all been so outstanding that we were excited about booking this Mexican Riviera cruise during our Spring Break. My husband's brother joined us on this cruise (in his own cabin) as a mini family reunion. As I am a teacher, our travels usually occur during school breaks. We had not been to this part of Mexico before and were looking forward to exploring it.
CATALINA ISLAND: Because the cruise departs from San Pedro, CA, we decided to visit Catalina Island before the cruise. Transportation from LAX was a breeze with the LAX Flyaway to Long Beach for a very reasonable price, excellent schedule and quick service. We then caught the Catalina Express ferry to Avalon, where we stayed for two nights at the Avalon Hotel. What a friendly, charming little inn in a central location! For three days we hiked, biked, and toured the island, most of which is a nature preserve. If you go, check out the excellent happy hour at the Lobster Trap restaurant. It was a relaxing way to start the vacation. Then we took the ferry back to San Pedro.
PRE-CRUISE HOTEL: We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel for the night before the cruise. The location is perfect, as it is close enough to the ferry dock and the cruise terminal to walk. We walked from the ferry dock at night, and the route is well-lit and felt safe, with people out walking their dogs or strolling. It took 15-20 minutes with wheeled luggage. The hotel also offers a shuttle for $5.00 per person, but we love walking. There are several eateries in the area, and our favorite was Happy Diner a block away. Make sure to try their Huevos Rancheros and Breakfast Burritos for breakfast!
CRUISE DAY: On cruise day, we walked from the hotel to the cruise terminal, stopping along the way to purchase our two allowed bottles of wine. As we entered the parking area and approach to the terminal, a free shuttle bus picked us up and saved us a few steps. Embarkation was a breeze, as there were not many people checking in at the time. Also, we were allowed to bring our own luggage on board. In the past, we had to leave the luggage and have it brought to the room, later than I would have liked. We were able to unpack and settle into our cabin before the sailaway! It was very interesting sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine and sailing through a working shipping port, one of the busiest in the world.
OUR CABIN: The cabin was nice, like other Princess balcony cabins we'd had before. There's lots of room for everything you need for a week on the ship. The bed was extremely comfy! There are only two outlets at the desk, so we brought a plug in outlet cube that gave us 4 all together, enough for charging all our devices. The bathroom has large bottles of body wash and shampoo. Bring your own conditioner, or your hair will become very dry. We also had a small bar of soap and a tube of lotion.
ROCK AND ROLL: One thing we noticed on this cruise that we had never dealt with before was loud creaking and popping sounds when the ship was underway at the beginning and ending days (sea days) of the cruise. The seas were not rough at all, but you could feel the movement of the ship. We checked everywhere in the room for anything that might have been loose or hitting something else, but the sounds came from the walls. The loud noises really affected the quality of our sleep, as the ship usually sails all night. We talked to our steward about it and he said that it's always like that. It was not like that on any of the other 7 Princess ships we have sailed on, and those were in rougher seas at times.
DINING: We tried several of the dining options on the Ruby Princess. For breakfast, we usually went to the buffet, but on this ship we noticed that there was not much variety from day to day. It was the same basic items daily, and they were prepared adequately, but not very interesting or imaginative. The fresh fruit was nice. Dinner in the buffet was a different story, with lots of variety and choices, and of course the salad bar. It was ALWAYS hard to find a table to eat at in the buffet. Room service was consistent, with a limited variety of items. The anytime dining room dinners were excellent, especially the prime rib and the filet mignon with shrimp, but both nights we were there the service was very slow. One night it took us 90 minutes from start to finish, so we missed a show. The real stars of the ship were the Trident Grill, where we had perfectly cooked cheeseburgers, and the Pizzaria, which serves delicious fresh hot slices. The Grill also served barbequed ribs one night.
ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed the lounge musicians, but avoided the Piazza, which was always jammed with people. The production shows were ok but not stellar, and the comedian was hilarious! It was often hard to find seating in all the venues, even the Princess Theater. The best show we saw onboard was the Folkloric Show in Puerto Vallarta. It was EXCELLENT.
ACTIVITIES: As first-time Mexico cruisers, we had not anticipated the number of children who would be aboard. The pools and hot tubs were filled with people at all times. We never got a chance to play ping-pong, mini-golf, or basketball because those areas were constantly full of people. "Hiking" around the ship for exercise, a favorite pastime of ours, became frustrating because of the groups of kids running around yelling or loitering in the halls and stairways. Empty elevators often had all the buttons pressed to stop at each floor. With 3 sea days, had I known in advance, I would have avoided booking this particular itinerary.
SERVICE: The service on our previous Princess Cruises has been most excellent. This cruise felt somewhat different. We did not receive our famous emblem tote bag because they were out. We had to ask for robes. We had to get up and get our own drinks and silverware in the buffet. On Princess Cruises, usually the staff is so gracious and accommodating. On this cruise, we sometimes felt as though the staff was overworked and too busy to serve us. The one shining exception was our waiter in the bar, who remembered our names and drink orders although we did not go there often.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: This itinerary started with two sea days, then we went to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas, followed by another sea day, then arrival back at Los Angeles.
Puerto Vallarta was a beautiful port. You walk directly off the ship into a large plaza area surrounded with shops and restaurants. I wish we could have had more time to explore the town, but we were on a Princess tour for almost the entire day. We went on the Vallarta Adventures tour featuring horseback riding to Quimixto Waterfall, snorkeling, and lunch and kayaking on Pizota Beach. We loved our guide, Hugo! The ride to Quimixto on the Apex inflatable boats was fast and fun! The walk through the village and horseback ride to the waterfall was exciting for a first timer, and we had time to have a snack and a swim in the pool. Then a horseback return (downhill!) to the village and back on the boats to the snorkeling spot. The snorkeling was not great at this time of year, murky water, and not many fish. The lunch at Pizota Beach was the standard delicious barbeque: chicken, fish and beef with sides and open bar. We had about 90 minutes at the beach and although kayaking was supposed to be part of the tour, there were none offered, just two standup paddle boards. After the tour, we tucked into the local market for some souvenirs as it is located right next to the dock. This tour was a 4 out of 5; we enjoyed it except for the snorkeling/no kayaks and it was a bit pricey.
In Mazatlan, when you leave the ship, you have to take a free shuttle through the shipping area to the terminal, so factor that extra time in. We booked a 5 hour tour to the Verde-Camacho Turtle Sanctuary directly on the internet with Turtle Tours Mazatlan. They were very easy to deal with and communicated with us regularly before the tour. They picked us up at the dock and took us on a mini-tour through the city before taking us to their sanctuary about 20 minutes out of town. We loved being in a small group of 8 people, and Misael and Eduardo were very knowledgeable and graciously answered our many questions about the area, the sanctuary, and the lifestyle. We toured the turtle hatchery and facility, then were served fresh fruit. After that, Eduardo took our party of 3 on an ATV tour of the sanctuary to view the beach and wetlands, along with its many inhabitants! It was extremely beautiful and unspoiled. We saw birds galore, and the tracks of the resident crocodile. Unfortunately due to the low water levels related to this year's weather, we were not able to take the kayaks through the mangrove wetlands as we had hoped. Following that, we were served a delicious meal of tortillas, beans, scrambled eggs, and homemade salsa with chips. Then it was off on a guided walk through the dryland forest of the preserve, where we saw the many native plants of the area. When we returned from our trek, we were surprised by a plate of ceviche, so fresh and delicious. I had no idea on booking this tour that it would be not only a wildlife adventure, but also a foodie tasting tour as well. Normally we would have been allowed to help release the baby turtles into the ocean, but nature did not allow it on this trip. Hopefully we will be able to visit again in the future. We gave this tour a 6 out of 5 stars, it was an outstanding experience. We recommend it highly, especially since the reasonable cost of the tour directly benefits the sanctuary's work preserving sea turtles and educating children about ecology.
After the turtle tour, we had 3.5 hours before the ship departed, so we decided to climb to the El Faro lighthouse at the top of Cerro del Creston (Creston Hill). It's super close to the dock, and the turtle tour guys were nice enough to drop us off at the base of the hill. (Thanks Misael and Eduardo!) In fact, they offered to come back for us to give us a ride to the ship. So awesome. Anyway, the walk to the lighthouse starts near a wastewater treatment plant, but the smell is not too bad. The trail is rough and rocky at first, but with an easy slope. Further up the hill there are paved stairs. It's easy but bring water, as it gets hot in the sun. The views along the way are beautiful! At the top you are rewarded with a 360 degree view! There is a little shop where you can buy a cold drink. Listen for the barking of the seals from a little island offshore. It took us only about 25 minutes each way, with lots of stopping for pictures. The walk back to the ship took about 20 minutes, but we could have easily hailed a pulmonia cab for just a few bucks. If you love hiking, El Faro lighthouse is a must do. If you missed opportunities for shopping as we did, the cruise terminal has souvenirs and clothing and there is a nearby arts and crafts center with many vendors.
In Cabo San Lucas, the ship docked from 7am to 1:15pm, not much time to explore. The ship is anchored in the middle of the bay and tenders transport passengers to shore. We booked the Sea of Cortez Zodiac Raft and Snorkel Tour through the ship, which was a 3.5 hour tour. We cruised on small inflatable boats past Lovers Beach, stopped at El Arco for photos, saw the sea lion colony, and we even saw a whale! We then sped (fun!) to the first stop, Santa Maria Bay. We jumped in and were surprised that the water felt so cold. They fed the fish there, so we were surrounded by hundreds of colorful fish! The guide snorkeled with us, and showed us cool things like a shark and a puffer fish. Then we climbed the ladder back into the boat and motored on to Chileno Bay. Not everyone went back in because they were a bit cold, but I'm glad we did because it was different. On the way back, we zoomed along and surfed the turquoise waves at Medano Beach. One of the funniest things we've seen is the smart sea lions who swim up and perch on the transoms of the fishing boats as they enter the harbor for a fish snack. We gave this tour a 4 out of 5 because the water was uncomfortably cold, but at another time of the year it might be warmer. The tour guides were very friendly, one even took my camera down to take a picture of the shark for me!
After the tour, we only had a little time to walk along the waterfront, which is vast and lined with restaurants and shops. The handicraft market near the tender port has a lot of local items. There was a man giving visitors chunks of fish to feed a huge sea lion at the boat ramp. Bring money for the public bathroom, you have to pay a dollar to use it!
All in all, a Princess Cruise is one of our favorite ways to travel. We love the convenience of unpacking just once and having your hotel, restaurants, and transportation all in one, so that we can focus our attention on the places we are visiting. We love getting off the ship at every port and exploring just as much as we can without worrying about all the details of travel that can take so much attention. We're not big fans of sea days, and we usually try to choose cruises that have as few as possible. This cruise had three sea days, and it seemed as though there were SO many people (especially unsupervised children) in the public areas almost all the time, to the point that we could not enjoy the amenities of the ship. We will definitely travel with Princess again, but we'll avoid the Mexican Riviera during school holidays. Read Less