What do cruisers and whales have in common? Summers in Alaska, Winters in Mexico
2009 Autumn Mexico Cruises
West Coast cruising has improved by leaps and bounds in the last two years, and the 2009 fall-winter season will offer the most variety ever. Granted, swine flu worries still exist, but isn't there always an upside? With seven-day cruise fares starting at just $399 and balcony cabins going for under $600 per person you can't beat a Mexico cruise for vacation value this fall. Furthermore, with three mega-ships sailing regularly out of California this year the ship can be the destination. Even if you don't want to go ashore you can still have a great cruise.
The two most significant changes to California cruise options are 1) newer ships - only three ships sailing that were not built in the new millennium. 2) Bigger Ships - three post 100,000-ton ships for more onboard options available to California cruisers than ever.
Starting with 3-day cruises the main change is that after almost 20 years Royal Caribbean no longer has older, smaller ships sailing out of Los Angeles. Carnival still offers 3-day cruises on Paradise out of Long Beach and Elation out of San Diego, both sailing to Ensenada. Paradise arrives on Saturday, (a better day to be in Mexico) and Elation arrives on Sunday. Elation sells as low as $149 pp. Both ships have been renovated with new waterparks, restaurants, pool upgrades and new food options like sushi and Mongolian BarBQ.
Carnival Paradise offers 4-day cruises to Cabo San Lucas and back while Elation offers 5-day cruises to Ensenada and Cabo. Once again, these are older ships with few balcony cabins. Unless you really want a 3-day weekend cruise we would opt for Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas 4- and 5-day cruises.
Radiance of the Seas, one of the highest rated classes of Royal Caribbean ships, now sails from San Diego on alternating four-day, five-day, nine-day and 11-day cruises. The 4-day goes to Cabo San Lucas, and 5-day to Cabo and Ensenada. 5-day cruises have balcony cabins as low as $359 pp in October, a steal.
Seven day cruises are where the fun begins. All the seven-day cruises visit Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The news here is mega-ships (over 110,000-tons) with three to choose from. These big ships offer plenty of onboard activities to keep you amused for a week, and the prices are extremely competitive. Here is rundown on these cruises:
Mariner of the Seas leaves Los Angeles on Sundays. Monday is a day at sea to enjoy everything this ship has to offer; rock-climbing, ice-skating, ice shows, Johnny Rockets, a Royal Promenade, production shows, inline skating, mini-golf, great children's programs, internet access, alternative dining, sports bar, casino, nightclubs, karaoke, spa and more. Mariner is in the Voyager-class and is the largest ship running regular cruises from California coming in at 138,000-tons and 3114 passengers. Prices this fall start at $477 pp, $748 balcony. Royal Caribbean gets the top rating in onboard activities.
Carnival Splendor is the competition. Not as big as Mariner but much newer, Splendor is as fun as a "Fun ShipTM" can get. At 113,000-tons and 3000 passengers, she was introduced just last year. Splendor has everything Carnival offers; 22 bars and lounges including a sing along piano bar, the White Hot Disco, great production shows, funny comedians, an outdoor movie screen by the pool, water slides, alternative dining, a mulititude of food options, spa, hot tubs, karaoke, Internet access, and more. Prices start at $439 pp, balconies for $729. Carnival gets the top rating in entertainment.
Sapphire Princess is the last mega-ship coming in at 115,875-tons and only 2670 passengers. This is the more premium option of the three mega-ships. Sapphire is a large ship with a smaller ship feel. The decor is less whimsical and more classic. The cabins are roomy with generous bathrooms and the pool deck offers hot tubs and a swim against the current pool. There is mini-golf, Internet access, karaoke, a piano bar, sports bar, an outdoor movie screen, plenty of live music, a wine bar and an extensive wine collection. Princess gets the top ratings in personalized service.
Special Mexico Cruises:
Aside from the three mega-ships, which are really ship-oriented cruises for sunshine, there are slightly smaller ships (90,000 tons and less) doing more destination oriented Mexico cruises. If you want a Mexico cruise with better shoreside experiences these are for you.
Holland America Oosterdam: offers 7-day cruises to the same ports as above, the difference is a smaller, classier ship with fewer passengers and a quieter and more stately atmosphere. Starting as low as $391 pp inside, and $634 balcony, this is a steal for people who want a more refined getaway with fewer children. Oosterdam is a larger Holland America ship at 82,000-tons and 1848 passengers. Built in 2003, it features spacious cabins, fine wine, cigar and cognac bars, string quartets, high tea service and dance bands doing big band standards. There are computer classes and a great library.
Carnival Spirit: A smaller but newer Carnival ship, Spirit is the "right-sized" ship from Carnival at 88,500-tons and 2124 passengers. The 8-night cruise from San Diego offers one super advantage - Acapulco. Yes, it requires an extra day or they would all go there. It also goes to different ports from the du jour mega-ships; Zihuatanejo and and Manzanillo. There are four seas days, two out and two back. The ship is smaller but the cabins are luscious; roomy, lots of storage, pleasing wood accents. With prices starting at $449 pp and balconies at $649 pp this 8-day cruise to Acapulco is a steal.
Holland America Veendam will finish out this winter to be replaced by the larger Zaandam next year. Veendam may be the best bargain here at just 55,000-tons for 1258 passengers. You get the most personalized service possible and a quiet, elegant ship. The food selection may be a bit limited and they roll up the sidewalks pretty early, but the itineraries are the most unusual and this is the most sold-out ship in Mexico. Look at 7-night cruises to the typical ports starting at just $391 pp (from San Diego) and suites at $779.
But it is the 8-night cruises on Veendam to Toplobampo, Loreto and Cabo San Lucas where you cannot find a bed anymore. This Sea of Cortes itinerary is the cruising world's best kept secret. Abounding with wildlife like dolphin and whales, and unspoiled Mexican ports with desert scenery and quiet zocalos, these cruises only have a few cabins left. Next year book early.
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