Posted by: Jerry Garrett | March 13, 2011

Secrets to Finding New Mexican Riviera Cruises – On the Cheap

Pullmantur's Pacific Dream is ready to ply the Mexican Riviera

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico

Major cruise ship lines such as Royal Caribbean have been cutting back on their offerings this year in the Mexican Riviera ports of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Manzanillo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

But new cruise offerings, different ships, and more affordable options are on the way.

Pullmantur, an affiliate of Royal Caribbean, will re-position its flagship, the Pacific Dream, to the route this summer. And Mexico’s Corporacion de Cruceros Nacionales (CCN) will launch Ocean Star Cruises, with a 1,050-passenger ship, the Ocean Star; The Ocean Star’s cruises will begin April 10, originating from Acapulco and serving eight ports of call.

Pacific Dream, which went into Pullmantur service in 2009, also plied the waters of the Mexican Riviera for a time last summer. The 1,875-passenger ship, previously the Island Star, underwent a complete refurbishment when it changed hands. The Pacific Dream now features new restaurants, bars, staterooms, theaters and clubs. Other facilities include a spa and gym, casino, shops and youth-oriented programs.

Pullmantur, based in Spain, offers all the trappings of a traditional cruise – with a Spanish accent. For instance, the two seatings for evening dining are at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. – demonstrating a Spanish preference for eating late. The main onboard language is Spanish, although crew members do speak English.

Pullmantur’s cruises are marketed internationally, so international passengers are welcome. But Spanish is the primary language spoken onboard by passengers and crew.

Pullmantur specializes in value-priced cruises, and they offer an “all-inclusive” product that includes amenities such as alcohol, which are generally extras on the luxury lines. (This doesn’t include shore excursions or gratuities.)

A passport or visa is not required on the Pullmantur or Ocean Star cruises themselves, as they originate and end in Mexico.

Pricing is calculated in pesos, and officials promise cruises that Mexican nationals (and extranejeros) find affordable. Another attractive option with these cruises is that layovers in Mexico, at either end of the cruise, can be arranged. With cruises that originate in the United States, layovers in Mexico are not an option.

Ports to be served by the Pacific Dream include Acapulco, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Los Cabos. Pullmatur said the ship would operate in the area through mid-2011. A decision to extend its “season” could be made soon, but likely wouldn’t result in additional itineraries until 2012.

The Ocean Star, whose cruises would also be sold in pesos and Spanish-speaking, would serve the same ports as the Pacific Dream, with the addition of stops in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Huatulco and Puerto Chiapas. The Ocean Star is expected to serve the area until further notice. New routes, a company spokesman said, are under consideration for more ports in the Sea of Cortez.

Jerry Garrett

March 12, 2011

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