Choose Your Cruise: Western Mexico

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From Southern California, it’s a short haul by sea to the storied western shores of Mexico. Leaving Los Angeles and San Diego, cruise ships ply the gentle Pacific along the same routes as the gray whales that make their annual migratory journeys between Alaska and the lagoons of Baja California. Yes, you will likely see whales on your Mexican Riviera cruise, particularly if you sail during the peak winter months. And you’ll have ample opportunity on and off the ship: Whale-watching excursions are offered throughout the region.

Rich in history and natural wonders, Western Mexico is primarily a fall, winter and spring cruise destination, though some ships offer Baja itineraries year-round from Los Angeles. Western Mexico sailings typically are offered as either Mexican Rivera (which require one week or longer) or Baja (primarily short sailings from Los Angeles).

Mexican Riviera cruises feature resort destinations and Spanish Colonial cities such as Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo (the two cities are only four miles apart and are referred to as one, a mouthful to pronounce, no doubt) and Acapulco.

Baja cruises call on cities along the 800-mile, semi-arrid peninsula flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. Primary ports are Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas (also a port of call on Mexican Riviera cruises).

Though Southern California serves up a variety of Mexican Riviera itineraries and ships, there are also Mexico cruises from San Francisco. The more popular departure points, however, are from Los Angeles and San Diego. Los Angeles cruises depart from either San Pedro or Long Beach. Both are about 20 miles from Los Angeles International Airport. If you’re a cruise ship buff, be sure to visit the Queen Mary Hotel, near the cruise ship terminal at Long Beach, the departure point for many Carnival cruises. Have a drink at the hotel bar or dine at one of the restaurants.

San Diego cruises depart from downtown. You could practically heave your luggage from the airport to the cruise terminal, a five-minute taxi ride away (see our port guide to San Diego for further information).

Almost all of the major cruise lines offer western Mexico cruises from one of these two cities.

Most are standard fare but of varying lengths, from two-, three-, four- and five-day Baja cruises from Los Angeles to seven-day, 10-day and longer cruises from Los Angeles and San Diego.

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