A Mexican Cruise in Three Parts, Part 3: Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas and Home

From El Faro, highest working lighthouse in the Americas, we could see just how challenging it is for large cruise ships to pass through this narrow channel at Mazatlán harbor

From El Faro, highest working lighthouse in the Americas, we could see just how challenging it is for large cruise ships to pass through this narrow channel at Mazatlán harbor

This is the third and final part in Laura Pedrick’s three-part series on- and off-board the reimagined Ruby Princess. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

Mazatlán from above
My excursion choice for Mazatlán was a simple hike and tour of the El Faro lighthouse. Excursion prices ranged from $35 (basic walking tours) to $180 (including swimming with dolphins).

El gato at El Faro: one of several critters that greet hikers traveling up the path to the lighthouse

El gato at El Faro: one of several critters that greet hikers traveling up the path to the lighthouse

Cristóbal, our guide, took us up the 523-foot peak of Cerro del Creston where El Faro’s original structure was built in 1879. Much was said about how strenuous the walk would be, but honestly, between the distractions of Cristóbal’s storytelling and jokes and stopping to look out at the spectacular views, we made it to the top in less than an hour—and no one was gasping for air.

100-plus-year Fresnel lens: a working beacon atop El Faro in Mazatlán

100-plus-year Fresnel lens: a working beacon atop El Faro in Mazatlán

Mazatlán from below
I spent the rest of the day walking through the friendly, laid-back city of Mazatlán.

Colorful architecture, old and new, in downtown Mazatlán

Colorful architecture, old and new, in downtown Mazatlán

There were a few tourist trappings but nothing like back in Puerto Vallarta. I think that because of the tourism drop that began in 2011, at least on the cruise side, Mazatlán has retained its cultural identity and hasn’t succumbed to becoming a Disney-fied Mexican stopover.

Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepción, or simply known as the Mazatlán Cathedral, the centerpiece of the city

Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepción, or simply known as the Mazatlán Cathedral, the centerpiece of the city

Tourists and natives of Mazatlán seek shade and rest in the Plaza de la Republica, a tropical park in front of the Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepción

Tourists and natives of Mazatlán seek shade and rest in the Plaza de la Republica, a tropical park in front of the Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepción

Until late 2013 cruise lines diverted their ships from the city because of reports of violence against tourists. Infamous cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested in a Mazatlán hotel in 2014. After much reassurance from the Mexican government that there would be a security overhaul, ships returned and it is once again a favorite destination.

Visitors find a quiet spot in the Plaza de la Republic in downtown Mazatlán

Visitors find a quiet spot in the Plaza de la Republic in downtown Mazatlán

Beach lined with many restaurants and bars

Beach lined with many restaurants and bars

Cliff divers in Mazatlán
A visit to Mazatlán wouldn’t be complete without seeing the cliff divers at El Clavadista—not to be confused with the cliff divers of La Quebrada shown on Wide World of Sports back in the 70s but just as impressive.

Those brave cliff divers at El Clavadista

Those brave cliff divers at El Clavadista

The mother in me wanted to tell those boys to get down off that rock but they expertly timed their 50-foot dives (not jumps) with incoming waves and reassured me that they’d safely enter the water. There’s no fee for this entertainment but please tip generously. They earn it.

Man with many hats: just one of the delightful vendors I met in Mazatlán

Man with many hats: just one of the delightful vendors I met in Mazatlán

Before heading back I just HAD to get another plate of shrimp tacos and guacamole, and what I couldn’t finish I took with me on the ship.

A second helping of shrimp tortillas and guacamole

A second helping of shrimp tortillas and guacamole

From my balcony, with a glass of wine and those tasty leftovers I said goodbye to Mazatlán as we headed out of the harbor and towards the Sea of Cortez and our next stop, Cabos San Lucas.

We're escorted out of the harbor by the Mexican Coast Guard as we leave Mazatlán

We’re escorted out of the harbor by the Mexican Coast Guard as we leave Mazatlán

Sunset as we leave Mazatlán

Sunset as we leave Mazatlán

Cabo San Lucas
Our next and final port of call before returning to LA was Cabo San Lucas, that point furthest south on the Baja peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. My excursion was going to be a peaceful boat ride to a secluded cove and do some swimming with the fish.

Cabo harbor feels like party central with upbeat music blaring and heavy traffic of excursion boats carrying happy vacationers

Cabo harbor feels like party central with upbeat music blaring and heavy traffic of excursion boats carrying happy vacationers

Because the harbor is shallow, cruise ships anchor offshore and shuttle passengers to and from. Motoring up to the pier felt a little like arriving at a party in full tilt. Mariachi, Jimmy Buffet and Selena Gomez tunes spilled out of open-air bars and restaurants blended together, making it impossible not to get in the spirit and want a margarita ASAP.

That really cool-looking rock everyone identifies with Cabo

That really cool-looking rock everyone identifies with Cabo

My sister Deb and I and about a dozen other cruise comrades hopped on a large, white catamaran and sailed off to Santa Maria Cove to do some snorkeling.

Snorkeling in the waters of Cabo San Lucas

Snorkeling in the waters of Cabo San Lucas

Included in this sailing/snorkeling expedition was lunch (Oreos and potato chips) and limitless rum cocktails, but an unexpected treat was viewing a family of humpback whales playfully interact with each other. Catching a glimpse of a whale isn’t rare this time of year. From January to mid-March, whales (humpback, blue, sperm), after migrating south from northern Arctic waters, breed and raise their calves in these warm Baja lagoons, their marine nursery.

The best time for Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas, is from mid January to mid-March

The best time for Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas, is from mid January to mid-March

Home to LA
As the ship set to begin its voyage home to LA, passengers returned from their excursions and boarded the ship in the mid-afternoon. But the fun didn’t stop there. It actually amplified as folks took full advantage of everything the ship had to offer.

Calypso Bar by the pool

Calypso Bar by the pool

Cocktails freely flowed from all poolside bars, DJ-ed music blared; it was a desperate attempt to soak in every last bit of care-free fun and sun right up until day’s last light.

Nikki, request-master DJ who worked both poolside and at the SkyWalker Nightclub

Nikki, request-master DJ who worked both poolside and at the SkyWalker Nightclub

Late-afternoon match

Late-afternoon match

The evening’s festivities suggested formal attire for dining, a variety show in the Princess Theater, then all leading up to a farewell party in the Piazza.

Last Mexican sunset of the cruise

Last Mexican sunset of the cruise

The last day on the Ruby Princess
The last day at sea was a bit sobering. The temperatures were much cooler, winds very strong; only kids appreciated the heavy waves churning in the pools, and the ship’s speed was clearly stepped up. Barely noticeable before, the ship’s considerable rocking motion could be felt. Passengers spent the day packing, settling up their stateroom tabs, and they generally kept inside reading or playing games.

Three-story egg drop contest

Three-story egg drop contest

A very popular event on this day was the egg drop contest. Teams of two had to design a contraption that would protect a raw egg placed within it from breaking from a third-floor balcony drop in the Piazza.

End-of-cruise party in the Piazza

End-of-cruise party in the Piazza

Our press group got a private tour of the working underbelly of the ship from Hotel General Manager Guenther Kopf. It was a fascinating look at how the cruise line deals with the logistics of feeding, accommodating and cleaning up after over 3,200 passengers. Almost a half million pounds of food is loaded onto the ship for every cruise.

Cooperation in the kitchen

Cooperation in the kitchen

Colder temperatures on our way north bring passengers inside

Colder temperatures on our way north bring passengers inside

Disembarking
Disembarking after arriving in LA early in the morning was orderly and brisk. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t looking forward to flying back east and dealing with five-day-old snow, but the cool rain in Cali didn’t make me want to stay west either. Feeling rested and revived (though a bit thicker around the waist), I guess you could say I did come back new! Just what I needed to push through to spring.

For more on Princes Cruises and the Ruby Princess, visit princess.com/learn/ships/ru.

Laura Pedrick

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About the Author

Laura Pedrick
Laura is a photojournalist who for most of her career has been assigned to cover New Jersey for The New York Times. Stories have included the Statehouse, political campaigns, and a wide range of hard news and features for all sections of the paper, including the Travel section. More recently she has focused on clients in the healthcare industry and education. She lives in Titusville, NJ, with her daughter and sometimes assistant, Lana. And oh yeah, has known Johnny Jet (dare she say it) since he was in diapers and is excited to be working for him as one of his latest contributors!

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