My First Ocean Cruise to the Mexican Riviera: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas
We were treated to mariachi music daily by this mariachi band called Los 3 Brilliantes.
We arrived in our cabin with a pillow chocolate and a Princess Cruises bag. A nice touch and great marketing as I could not help but notice the bags out and about in the city. I opted to keep mine in the cabin as I didn't want to blend in while out and about.
The morning 9 am Zumba class on days at sea.
Movies Under the Stars movie viewing area on the sun deck ran movies all day and through the night.
On the nights we were offered chef Curtis Stone dishes, I ordered them at the Michaelangelo Dining Room.
View of Puerto Vallarta from the ship.
I took an Uber from the ship to Mariscos el Colera from the ship. After eating I ran into a food tour taking a group of tourists here. They didn't speak any English at the restaurants so I know this was a spot catering to locals and not tourists. The prices were much lower than those restaurants in the tourist zone.
I walked to the market steps from the restaurant and picked up some Manila (Ataulfo) mangoes and Criollo mangoes (actually smaller in size than the Manila mangoes) to take to the beach.
Spent about an hour maybe people watching and eating mangoes on the beach. I dipped my feet in the water and it was colder than I expected.
I couldn't resist taking photos.
On the tourist path.
Burnt milk ice cream.
Pepe's Tacos - Go for the al pastor tacos only.
Soon after we arrived in Mazatlan, I called an Uber to take me to el Ranchito Feliz. I wasn't sure what to expect. When we got there 25 minutes later, I saw an open air shack with horses off to the site. Totally off the beaten path. Everyone there was a local and they didn't speak English at this restaurant.
I asked for fish and they fried a whole fish for me.
It was a nice surprise walking around this area. There were many many colorful buildings. Some of the buildings reminded me of New Orleans.
Cafe de Olla made with piloncillo, cinnamon and orange peel.. Last time I had it was in Tijuana.
In my list of food to try in this region was chilorio, which is a shredded pork dish. I stumbled upon this local spot where they had it on the menu. As with all the places I visited, no one spoke English.
Nieve de Garrafa
I read about Nieve de Garrafa in Mazatlan and put it on my must-try list. They've been around since 1938. They make a delicious plum, banana, and coconut which was more like a Mexican-style granita or sorbet. Delicious!
Basilica de La Inmaculada Concepcion
Basilica de La Inmaculada Concepcion -- a must visit and one of the most beautiful churches I've visited in Mexico.
Mercado Municipal José María Pino Suárez
I had to try the cebada agua fresca which a barley version unique to this region.
It was crowded so I stopped to try the shrimp seafood salad tostada at Mariscos el Tigre. I was a bit put off by the marlin taco reheated in a microwave oven heated on a melamine plate so I ate only the meat and skipped the premade tortilla.
Just outside the market I tried these birria crispy tacos on the street side. So good!
I eventually stopped taking pictures of the food I ate on this Princess Cruises. I enjoyed this melon and prosciutto starter. Some favorites towards the end of the cruise were the lobster tail, jumbo prawns, and escargot in their fine dining restaurant. What's great is that you can revisit certain dishes and eat as much as you want (if you have no shame LOL).
Cabo San Lucas
I only had 3 hours in Cabo San Lucas so I was determined to have seafood and take a boat tour within that tight schedule. I managed to walk away from the tourist zone to try Claros Fish Tacos recommended by one of the top chefs in Cabo. I ordered the marlin, fish, and shrimp tacos on a flour tortilla. I began to appreciate the superiority of the food in Tijuana and Ensenada over what I ate in the Mexican Riviera.
I had high expectation for food on this trip, but it was a bit of a let down both on the ship and for my brief time in each city. The food on the Princess Cruise was for the most part forgettable in flavor and presentation. What stood out was our server in the restaurant. Compared to everyone on the ship, he made us feel special like an individual when everyone else made us feel just like a passing guest that they'll never see again. I loved the pizza on my first day, but over time I began to not like it as much.
The presentation of the food was sloppy and most of it you can tell that there isn't much care, because of the volume of people they have to serve so you begin to notice other things like service of one person to another. One night I asked for the duck and it was flavorless and tough.
The second night of service I gave up on the food and asked for Filipino food. The manager graciously agreed to it and told me I was in for something special. The server said they were preparing sinigang with prawns. When they brought it out, the server said they instead made me chop suey. Such a let down.
One night we dined in a different dining room and the service wasn't so friendly when the servers wasn't Filipino. I definitely felt more warmth and friendliness from the Fililpino crew members compared with the others. We then returned to the dining room with more Filipino servers. Our regular Filipino server one night was lousy and neglected our table, we decided to dine for the rest of our dinners with the server we liked best stationed at the other side of the restaurant.
I was bored on the days we were at sea. There was bingo, trivia, movies, live music, and pool time.
I did three musicals in their theater and was bored. There were two formal nights and there were many that chose not to dress up. It was odd to see people in shorts and t-shirts and people in ball gowns and tuxes. People in the elevator were commenting on how dressing up is the best part of the cruise.
There's definitely a place for cruising depending on what your interests are. If you're like me and would like to be thrown in a foreign country out of your comfort zone, I don't think cruising would be for you. If you don't want to fuss about speaking another language and have someone guide you every step of the way, you would love cruising. I felt like I wasted three days on the ship cruising instead of experiencing the destination. For some, the ship, the food, and the activites IS the destination.
Most of the passengers were seniors with a few families with younger kids. I stood out from the crowd. I really didn't like being on a tight schedule in each city. There wasn't enough time for me to explore as much as I usually do in a city. In Cabo, I only had 3 hours. In Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, maybe around 5 to 7 hours. The last day we had a full day at sea and the entire day and night the ship was swaying like a roller coaster. I was not a happy camper.
I much prefer the river cruise experience in Europe over ocean cruising as you're cruising overnight and you're in a new city every morning. You don't really feel the boat move since the rivers are more calm. You can choose to join the tour or not and it's all paid for. I love that you get to spend more time in the city. With ocean cruising, you have to pay for each shore excursion. The ships are smaller so you really get better service and better food.
Hello, I'm Anne.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I love exploring Los Angeles like a tourist. I have as much fun in my hometown as I do traveling in another country. I live to eat (good food) and travel!