Hot honeymoon

Hot Honeymoon: Cruising Mexico

Story by Sarah Gonzales

Imagine starting a new life together sailing into the pink and orange sunset atop the turquoise waters of Mexico while sipping Champagne from the private balcony of your very own stateroom. Sound like a honeymoon for only the rich and famous? Think again. Cruising in Mexico is both affordable and convenient for Alaskan newlyweds, as well as being muy romantico.

Choosing the Cruise

With all the cruise lines that sail to Mexico – Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and other smaller lines – choosing the right ship will depend on what atmosphere a couple prefers. Would you like casual or upscale, family- or couples-oriented, active or relaxed?

Donna Button, owner of Travel Services, Inc. in Palmer, says the Carnival ships are known for being “laid back and not quite as formal as other lines.” Princess cruise ships are “a little more upscale and are geared more for couples than families. And Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are even more upscale and will have even fewer kids than Princess.”

Mexico cruises with ports of call in Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, and Acapulco will depart from the west coast, departing out of the Los Angeles- or San Diego-area. With many direct flights from Anchorage to LAX, honeymooners can be on their way to fun in the sun within a matter of hours.

“West coast cruises are extremely convenient for Alaskans,” says Martha Summerfield, owner of Custom Travel Vacations in Wasilla. She adds that with JetBlue, the New York-based discount airline, starting service between Anchorage and Long Beach in May of 2011, the ability to get to the embarkation port will be even more convenient and affordable for Alaskans.

Most cruise ships set sail on Sundays, says Button. “If you get married on a Saturday, you can fly out that night, and then be in port Sunday to board the ship,” she remarks. “Some cruise lines will have a seasonal schedule, but (cruising itineraries) are generally Sunday to Sunday.”

Button concedes that while Saturday weddings are the most common choice for couples, she has helped clients plan honeymoon cruises following a Friday wedding, allowing a day to travel and overnight before boarding ship. She adds that many couples will take the week between their wedding and cruise to relax or to do some sightseeing elsewhere as they make their way to the embarkation port. If choosing a Mexican cruise with ports of call in Cozumel or Cancun, these ships will depart out of Florida, adding an additional day of travel to your itinerary.

Come Sail Away

Onboard activities abound on cruise lines with a wide array of active or relaxing things to do such as couple’s spa treatments, swimming, dancing and some lines will feature gambling. And let’s not forget the food – most ships have 24-hour dining, room service and “if you get a balcony room you can have dinner served out on your balcony,” says Button suggesting an idea for a romantic evening.

“Many ships offer a version of ‘The Newlywed Game’,” says Summerfield, adding that it’s “entertaining to watch,” even if you don’t participate; and Princess Cruises offer Movies Under the Stars. While in ports of call, shore excursions can be as spontaneous or as scheduled as a couple desires. Cruisers can take advantage of onshore activities like horseback riding, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, Jeep tours or sightseeing trips by arranging them ahead of time – either when booking the cruise or while on the ship. Or, for a more relaxed shoreside adventure, opt to wander around the town to shop, dine and experience the local culture, or simply lie on the beach and enjoy the sun.

Button says that, in general, ships will arrive in ports of call at “eight or nine in the morning, and will leave at five or six in the evening. They will alternate days at sea with days in port.”

Cost of Cruising

“Cruises are the most affordable vacation, considering food and entertainment are included,” comments Summerfield. The total cost of a cruise will range anywhere “from $500-$2000 or more per person depending on if you reserve an inside, ocean view, balcony or suite cabin,” she adds. Booking ahead of time can also save a bundle, and even if the price goes down after a trip has been arranged, most cruise lines will allow the passengers to take advantage of the lower rate.

Hot honeymoon
At right: While in ports of call, cruisers can take advantage of onshore activities, from snorkeling to zip-lining. Shown here: A tranquil beach in Zihuatanejo set in a scenic, sheltered bay.

Airport transfers and airfare are not included in the cost of a cruise and should be budgeted separately, although Button says, “booking together is often less than booking separately, and as travel agents we can compare rates for you.”

Button says that while most amenities are included on board, cruisers should expect to pay for alcohol, spa treatments, shore excursions and also tipping the staff. This is made easy for passengers as most cruise lines are now cashless, issuing an onboard card to each guest. Button explains: “When you check in to a cruise they give you a little card with your photo, you use it to enter your room and charge to your onboard account. You give them a credit card at the beginning and they charge you at the end of each day.”

Button and Summerfield both say that cruises can be booked up to a year in advance, so if sun, sea and sand sound like the ideal combination for a fun and romantic honeymoon, it’s not too early to get on board.

All Aboard For a Weddingmoon!

Cruise lines like Princess and Carnival offer wedding planning services for couples who wish to tie the knot either onboard before leaving port, or on the beach while in a Mexican port of call. If planning an in-port, pre-cruise wedding, some ships will allow up to 20 non-passenger wedding guests to attend the ceremony and a brief reception before the ship sets sail. Or couples can choose to invite guests to join them for the full cruise.

Button says that these destination weddingmoons are becoming increasingly popular with couples and their guests. “At a wedding you usually have at least three generations, and onboard everyone can go at their own pace – they can be more or less active, there are all kinds of things to keep everyone entertained and then there’s time to get everyone together for dinner in the evenings.”

A beach ceremony at a port of call can be arranged for as little as $1500, says Button, with the reception to follow back on the ship. Private rooms can be reserved at no cost to the group, and all the expected reception amenities like cake, ice sculptures, a sound system, a cash bar and a photographer can be arranged for a small fee. Often, dinner is included in the total cruise cost! Couples should always check with the cruise line for their policies on embarkation port weddings and the legal requirements for getting married in Mexico as they differ from line to line.

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