Mexican Riviera Cruises

Where Tecate and tequila meet whales and cactus.

Fifteen nautical miles off the coast of Baja California, Holland America Line’s Oosterdam is making 21 knots toward San Diego. For the more than 1,800 passengers on board, seven days of ocean cruising ends tomorrow. The excitement on the last full day at sea, however, is as palpable as it has been on preceding days. Dolphin and whale sightings send spectators scurrying to the over-sized windows in Windstar Cafe, the ship’s coffee and pastry shop. Each time a whale blows its spray, a chorus of oohs and aahs competes against the steamy hiss of the espresso machine.

An alternative to Caribbean cruising, the Mexican Riviera is where Tecate (one of the national beers) and tequila meet whales and cacti –and where seven- and 10-day sailings expose travelers not only to marine wonders but also to Mexican culture. Mixed among such shoreside activities as swimming with dolphins and sport-fishing are cooking classes where participants learn to make six types of salsa before being instructed in salsa dancing.

Increasingly also, cruisers are getting away from the docks and into the interior. “As popular as the ocean is, Cabo’s desert side is getting more attention,” says Sunny Irvine, a tour operator in Cabo San Lucas. Rounding Cabo, some ships even head up into the Sea of Cortez to call at Loreto and La Paz as well as the melodic-sounding Topolobampo, where cruisers can jump ship to explore scenic Copper Canyon by train. Cruise ships sail roundtrip from Los Angeles and San Diego fall through spring to explore Mexico’s Riviera.

One of the highest-rated shore excursions in Mazatlan, Mexico, Salsa and Salsa combines cooking and dancing. First, learn to make six different types of Salsa, then learn to dance the Salsa. Available on Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and others.

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