Travel Weekly Crossroads' associate editor, Judy Koutsky, spent
the holidays on a chartered cruise along the Pacific coast of
Mexico. The following is Part One in a series of reports:
A cruise to Mexico during New Year's; what could be better?
Although I never had been on a cruise, I had seen enough
commercials featuring Kathie Lee to know it was something I wanted
to try. I envisioned a ship with several swimming pools, endless
activities and worry-free people stretched across vast decks
soaking up the rays. And Mexico -- a country so close, and yet I
never made the journey south. I imagined quaint pueblos and an
eclectic array of colorful handmade crafts. With my tour books, my
scant knowledge of Spanish from college and some pesos in my
pocket, I headed toward the sun.
This trip was offered by Apple Vacations, a large tour operator
that doesn't specialize in cruises. In fact, this itinerary aboard
the Ocean Majesty was the company's first chartered cruise, the
inaugural sailing of which had taken place the previous week.
There are stark differences, I learned, between a chartered ship
and a luxury megaliner, and this wasn't meant to be a luxury
cruise. Instead, as the brochure stated, it was meant to be fun and
easy on the pocketbook. For clients who are looking for something a
little less expensive while still getting the cruise experience,
this certainly isn't a bad bet.
The food was ample and tasty, although it's important to note
that no drinks are included in the package price -- that includes
Cokes at dinner. The entertainment was not quite up to Vegas
standards but was lively and fun to see each night.
In the end, the people make the cruise, and this was a diverse
mix: families, couples, old and young. You name it, and we had it
on our ship, and that really made for some interesting
conversations and enjoyable excursions. People were there to have a
good time and, at the end of the day, that was what mattered
The only difficult part of the flight down to Puerto Vallarta
was having to arrive at Chicago's O'Hare Airport at 4:30 a.m. But
once aboard Air Mexicana the staff was friendly and courteous, and
we were in Mexico before we knew it.
Upon arriving at the Ocean Majesty, I was anxious to check out
my room and the rest of the ship. It was then I realized the
difference between a chartered ship and the likes of Carnival.
Although this ship certainly was clean and the rooms were tidy, it
was a bit, well, cozy. The pool, which I had imagined to be
Olympic-size, looked like it would fit about a dozen folks snugly.
As it turned out, the kids were the only ones to really get any use
out of it.
On board, I heard some complaints about lost luggage, flight
delays and overbooked cabins, but that's par for the course for any
vacation. There was a bit of confusion regarding excursions and
bookings, but the Apple reps tried their best to answer questions
and handle complaints. For me, a bit of chaos doesn't really
matter. A trip is a trip, and, be it the first or the 500th, there
will always be bumps and surprises.
We only had a few hours in Puerto Vallarta before setting sail.
Many people took advantage of this time to go parasailing,
swimming, shopping and sightseeing. By 6 p.m., it was "all aboard,"
and we sailed into the night. The following day was spent traveling
to Acapulco and getting our sea legs (Dramamine works like a
I suspect most passengers found that their clothes were just a
bit tighter by the end of the trip: Food was provided constantly.
Included in this all-you-can-eat adventure were morning, afternoon
and midnight buffets; tea time, consisting of sandwiches and
sweets; and full sit-down breakfasts, lunches and dinners each day
-- not to mention room service. The variety of comida was
impressive, and any hopes I had of losing my Christmas weight went
right out the porthole.
That night we were introduced to the crew and the Apple
representatives, and our "little boat," as the Mexicans called it,
felt like a cozy family. Sure we didn't have the amenities as the
big liners, but we all seemed to be getting along nicely.
Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 1: 'Little Boat' Makes for a Cozy
Cruise to Mexico
Goes to Mexico, Part 2: Acapulco Boasts Restored Infrastructure,
Goes to Mexico, Part 3: Traditions Still Alive in Mexico's 'Twin
Goes to Mexico, Part 4: Creatures From the Manzanillo
Goes to Mexico, Part 5: Whale Sightings Start the Year Right in