'Little Boat' Makes for a Cozy Cruise to Mexico

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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. The Ocean Majesty

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 most.

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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. Sailboats

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 charm).

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

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 2: Acapulco Boasts Restored Infrastructure, Energy

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 3: Traditions Still Alive in Mexico's 'Twin Cities'

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 4: Creatures From the Manzanillo Lagoons

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 5: Whale Sightings Start the Year Right in Baja

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