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Cruising to Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean

Cruise passengers enjoy the comfort and beauty of the Mexican Caribbean region

Photo credit: © Ivan Cholakov |
Cruising to Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean

Caribbean cruises are popular because activities and amenities are easily enjoyed onboard a luxurious resort on water, which also makes stops at more than one destination.

The Mexican Caribbean is a popular spot to cruise to, however, travelers should plan their trip according to where ships will be able to travel. Cruises stop in ports at Catalina, the Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen. If you've got your heart set on Cancún, you may want to look at another way of getting there, though some cruises sail into nearby ports.

There are plenty of itineraries and even styles for cruise passengers to try out. One of the best ways to go about booking a cruise is to decide what kind of vacation you'd like to experience, and choose a line accordingly. For example, families with younger children might find the Disney line is right up their alley, while Princess, the official line of the "Love Boat" TV show, can offer couples a romantic getaway.

Once you've chosen a line, there are plenty of ways to book. However, whether booking for yourself or through a third party, you'll want to book early. Cruises, especially during the winter, can be filled months ahead of time, and Mexico's Caribbean coast is a popular spot for cruise vacationers.

The following carriers travel along the Mexican Caribbean:

Cruise line Telephone Number
Carnival Cruises 888-CARNIVAL (888-227-6482)
Celebrity Cruises 800-221-4789
Crystal Line 800-820-6663
Disney Cruise Line 800-951-3532
888-DCL-2500 (888-325-2500)
Holland America Line 800-626-9900
Norwegian Cruises 800-323-1308
Princess Cruises 800-PRINCESS (800-774-6237)
Radisson Seven Seas 877-505-5370
Royal Caribbean International 800-659-7225

Cruise Classes

Another consideration travelers will make when setting sail on a cruise is the cruise class. The classes include contemporary/value, premium, luxury, and specialty. No matter what you're looking for, you're sure to find it among these choices.

Most cruise travelers will first consider Carnival and Royal Caribbean, and this is no surprise as these two currently make up approximately 90 percent of the entire cruise industry. They are found in the contemporary/value class, which is known for its reasonable prices and package specials.

Those looking for a step up can find themselves in a premium cruise line. The ships are often smaller, and boast a larger waitstaff, meaning you'll never need to look far to find help. Lines like Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America fit into this class.

Still others may find themselves looking for the most luxurious lines available. These may cost a bit more, but are said to offer the best in service and amenities. Plenty of travelers feel that the cost is more than equal to the value on a luxury liner.

Specialty ships are unusual: These ships usually avoid the major Caribbean ports, like Cozumel, but may focus on smaller, less-known ports. Other specialty cruises focus on passenger groups, such as singles, senior citizens, or homosexuals.


Cruise classes aren't the only way to define a ship. Size is one of the most important factors that people forget about when booking a cruise. Size definitely matters when trying to visit some of the less popular or smaller cruise ports.

A Panama-class ship is the largest available. Named for the Panama Canal, these liners are so large they can barely squeeze through the canal's sides. However, with a maximum of 3,000 passengers, these largest of ships can only visit the major ports.

Lesser known spots, and often luxury liners, will feature much smaller ships, some carrying no more than 300 passengers. However, these smaller liners often avoid the larger ports entirely.

More than just about where they can visit, larger ships also provide a kind of stability that is unavailable in smaller ships. The smaller the ship the more turbulence you are likely to feel along the way.

Ships are classified based on the following criteria:

Criteria Criteria Explained Meaning
Gross registered tonnage measurement of the ship's volume/vessel's size 1 gross registered ton = 100 cubic feet
Passenger-to-crew ratio number of passengers served by each crew member Smaller ratio = better service
Passenger capacity based on double occupancy (2 passengers in each cabin) More rooms = more passengers
Space ratio comparison of ship space/tonnage to passenger capacity Higher ratio = extra spacious


When selecting a cabin, travelers will first choose between a "run of the ship" cabin and a "perfect" cabin. While a perfect cabin is more expensive than a run of the ship cabin, they do provide the peace of mind of knowing exactly where you'll stay the instant you book. Run of the ship cabins allow travelers only the ability to select an inside or outside cabin, but they are only assigned the week of departure.

Traveler's Tip: It's never a good idea to flash moneyor valuables - keep them tucked away in a safe spot in your cabin, and avoid carrying too much money at one time.

Some additional guidelines for selecting a room:

  • Confirm the view you'll have in an outside cabin, make sure you're getting what you expect. You may want to request a view of the ocean. Travelers with younger children should avoid these outer rooms, especially those with balcony access.

  • Cabins in the lower decks experience much less movement than upper rooms. This can be preferable for travelers who are subject to motion sickness.

  • Avoid booking cabins in close proximity to anchors, elevators, nightclubs, public rooms, engine rooms, gyms, bars, casinos, stairways, pools and hot tubs, theaters, or thrusters. These areas can be particularly noisy.


Once you've chosen where you'd like to visit, you'll find it's easy to locate the cruise that is right for you. Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa are primary departure ports from which you may choose to visit the Caribbean. A Western Caribbean cruise might sojourn at Cozumel or other Mexican ports. Other ports that travelers often choose to depart from for a Mexican cruise are Texas and New Orleans.

First time cruise passengers often opt for a shorter cruise, though cruises can last from two days to two weeks. Cozumel is a popular spot for shorter cruises, though it may not offer a large number of island stops along the way unless it is a long cruise.

The Mayan ruins and underwater legends often fight for attention in the Mexican Caribbean, where a reef and history both make popular excursions for cruise passengers. Typical excursions cost an additional $25(USD) to $100(USD) and can either be reserved when you book the cruise or once you're onboard, but remember that spots for these activities are limited.

Time of year is an important factor as well, as the summer's hurricane season can cause more turbulent seas, but the popular winter season has higher costs for its vacationers. The most popular times to cruise are major holidays: New Year's Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.


Cruise costs are based on a number of items, including level of luxury, length of cruise, and number of persons traveling (surprisingly, single occupancy rates are higher than double occupancy rates). While most items are included in the price of the cruise - food, cabin, and onboard activities/entertainment - beverages, shore excursions and activities, final tip, and airfare are usually not included. Additional amenities, such as televisions and bath tubs, may not be included in the price, but may also be added for an additional fee by request on some ships.

What To Bring

When packing, consider the sunny, tropical destinations you've picked, and avoid bringing excess items. It's recommended that vacationers pack bathing suits, lightweight shirts and shorts, and other cover-up items, as well as flip-flops. Hats and sunglasses provide protection for your face and eyes.

On-ship dining will require another set of clothing. Travelers should avoid denim, as it is usually not permitted in the dining room, and instead pack slacks and blouses, or a sundress, for casual dining, suits and ties for informal dinners, and black tie attire for formal meals.

Remember that it is best to bring along clothes in which you will be comfortable in Mexico, and follow the guidelines for local attire when you are off the cruise ship.


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