It’s been a rainy winter at our home on the Oregon coast, so we decided to hunt for some sun and sand on the western coast of Mexico.
There’s a lot of ways to get to the famous Mexican Riviera. We decided on a Princess Cruise, and we are so glad we did.
Our cruise featured a total of ten wonderful days of relaxation – first aboard the Grand Princess and then in the warm sun of four exciting south of the border ports – Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Manzanillo, and Cabo San Lucas.
Our ship was the Grand Princess, and our cruise departed from San Francisco, always a nostalgic bonus for two ex-San Franciscans.
It didn’t take long
We pointed our car south on scenic Hwy 101, and within a few days, we were standing atop the uppermost deck of the Grand Princess as she glided under the Golden Gate Bridge. Click here to watch and listen to the excitement.
The ship’s horn was blaring, the automobiles on the bridge were honking, and hundreds of excited passengers were waving their arms and cheering. What a thrilling exit from everyone’s favorite City by the Bay.
What to write about
We knew we wanted to write about this vacation, but what aspects would our readers enjoy most. Hmmm.
There are thousands of travel articles written about each of the ports-of-call we would visit on our cruise. Type the word “Mazatlán” in Google Search, and you will get over 130 million results in .62 seconds – how do they do that!
So, rather than add to the mountain of available information about the ports of the Mexican Riviera, we will instead share our views on why we think cruising is the best way to get there.
Here are some reasons to take a cruise
“Unpack once to see the world.” A favorite reason – it’s easy. No packing and unpacking as you move from place to place on vacation.
A cruise ship can be a vacation destination. You might be surprised at how many seasoned cruisers never get off the ship for the entire cruise. To these devoted folks, the cruise itinerary is far less important than being on a favorite ship or cruise line. Everything they look for in a great vacation is right there on board.
Cruising is a great way to visit places you have never been before. Port stops are usually just long enough to get a flavor for a locale. Think of it as Visit 101. If you find a place you like, you can fly back when you have more time to explore it in-depth.
Binge or budget
Cruise lines cater to every wallet and expectation. Like an airplane, everyone on a cruise ship gets to the destination at the same time. However, the cost of a ticket on either mode of travel depends greatly on where you are on board. On a cruise ship you have four options, inside cabin with no window, outside cabin with window, outside cabin with a balcony, or an outside suite with extra room and a balcony.
Something to think about
It is possible that a budget cruise vacation with all the food you can eat – plus entertainment and other bennies, might very well be less expensive than just the cost of daily meals in a nice hotel restaurant on land.
Of course, everyone knows there is a lot of free stuff on a cruise – well, not really, but it feels that way after you have paid for your ticket. Food is free and available all over the ship. Yes, it is very easy to overindulge. Think of the temptation as a good test of your inner strength.
Entertainment is also free, and has improved dramatically over the years. Shipboard theaters are comfortable, and live musical productions are first-rate and on a par with the finest Vegas hotels.
The swimming pools are a great place to lounge, the library to read and relax, seminars at sea to learn – all for free.
High seas internet
It wasn’t long ago that it was expensive and an ordeal to get internet service on board a cruise ship. We are happy to report that things have improved greatly – at least on Princess.
There were three internet plans to choose from on our voyage. None were overly expensive, and the connections were commendable throughout the trip. We had a choice of guest computers in the Internet Lounge, or we could use our own devices from just about anywhere on the ship.
Cruising with electronics
There is one improvement we would ask of cruise ship designers. Please add more electrical outlets for guest use. The balcony staterooms on the Grand Princess have a total of 3 easily accessible outlets – but not all are usable at the same time if your devices have large plugs.
Here’s a little secret. If you look closely behind the TV in most cabins, you will find an open outlet. Not easy to access, but it’s there.
Tip: We always travel with a small travel surge protector/extension cord. Ours is a GE #14015 available from Amazon for about $15. It has three outlets and 2 USB rapid charging ports. There’s even a handy cord-wrap feature. Ideal, and problem solved.
Princess has anytime dining or fixed reservation dining in the main dining rooms. We chose the fixed reservation early sitting because we like to eat early, and have ample time to get to the theater for the first show of the live productions.
We got to sit at the same table every night. Luckily, it was a window table and we could watch the waves go by as we waited for our 4-course dinners to begin.
At a fixed reservation table, you are served by the same team every night. In our case it was Sandra and Sarai, both from Mexico – so in addition to excellent service, we had the best tourist tips for all the ports of call.
Our wait team was backed up by our Head Waiter who hailed from Turkey. Everyone says that, “Our dining room team is the best,” but ours really was! They knew the menu, and their recommendations were always spot on. Never an empty water-glass or a crumb on the table. Three great personalities that after 10 days felt like part of our family. Can’t offer a better compliment than that.
Dress codes for the main dining rooms are much more lenient than a decade ago, but still a little stricter than for the truly casual dining venues on board. On land we would call it “Smart-Casual.”
Depending on the length of the cruise, there will be one or more formal nights in the main dining rooms. These dress-up dinners are opportunities for the ladies and gents to strut their finer stuff. One of these nights is usually when that savory lobster entrée is on the menu.
If you prefer to eat in shorts and flip-flops the entire trip, you will always be welcome for any meal at the Horizon Buffet, or at any of the poolside food stations serving delicious pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream cones, etc.
The Horizon Buffet is a casual restaurant with everything from American comfort food to exotic international dishes. At times it can be difficult to find an unoccupied table, but just ask anyone that has empty chairs if you can join them. We have never heard “no” for an answer.
On two of our nights, we ventured into one of the two specialty restaurants aboard the Grand Princess. There is an extra charge to eat at a specialty restaurant, but to celebrate an occasion, or pamper your palate, they are well worth the extra expense.
The specialty restaurants aboard Princess are the Sabatini Italian Restaurant and the Crown Grill Steakhouse. We have some great pics of our gourmet experiences aboard the Grand Princess, but we’ll save them for another story.
More to come
There is so much to write about a fantastic cruise. So we will end here with a promise of future articles describing our delightful spa treatments, luck in the casino, movies under the stars, beverage packages, bar services, room services, and our experience at the specialty restaurants.
We also look forward to telling you about the fun and nostalgic Princess welcome aboard program, our thoughts on the virtual end to sea-sickness, and the updated changes to the safety procedures on board Princess Cruises.
Ready to cruise?
For more information check out Princess.com
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The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.
Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff
2 thoughts on “Drive to San Francisco and Cruise to Mexico on Princess Cruises”
What an informative as well as interesting article.
The Princess Cruise Ship vacation appears to have all the vacation bases covered.
Thanks — Bob & Janice
Woah, still something I would love to do!