Monday, January 27, 2014

Cruising to the Mexican Riviera

With temperatures hovering in the teens and snow covering the ground, it’s no surprise that residents of the northeast are looking to flee to warmer climates, even if it’s just for a week long cruise.  While most people think of the beautiful Caribbean Islands as the perfect cruise getaway, for those that don’t mind leaving from Los Angeles or San Diego, Mexico is a wonderful alternative!

Port cities on Mexico’s west coast are referred to as the Mexican Riviera and although each itinerary may be slightly different, the ports you are most likely to visit are Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Each promises an abundance of sun, sand, snorkeling, sightseeing and shopping.

Acapulco has been Mexico’s most famous destination, and one look at the breath-taking physical beauty of Acapulco Bay and you’ll see why! The snorkeling and scuba diving here are supreme and there is nothing as thrilling as jumping on a jet ski and riding at full throttle across the beautiful bay! Unless of course you’re watching the cliff divers!  For more than four decades, daring locals have been risking their lives by free climbing the natural clefts in the cliff walls to reach the highest point, then diving into the ocean pool below! Crazy!

Cabo San Lucas began as a small fishing village, but today is famous for sports fishing and plays host to a gala of marlin fishing tournaments each year. Whether you’re looking to surf, launch a kayak or wave runner, or watch the whales up close and personal, there’s a beach in Cabo just for you! The Dolphin Center in the marina offers guests the opportunity to swim with the dolphins; a favorite activity for kids of all ages. Prefer sports on land? Golfers will love the many world-class championship golf courses in the area.

Do you prefer sun and sand or culture and history? In Mazatlan you don’t have to choose. With 11 miles of soft sand, huge waves for surfing and a long boardwalk for strolling, a day in Mazatlan is the perfect cure for the winter doldrums. In Old Mazatlan or the Centro Historico, life carries on as it did before the tourists arrived. Explore the markets and churches, sit in quaint cafes, and wander within the shady plazas of traditional neighborhoods.

Puerto Vallarta is a sports lover’s paradise offering an endless array of outdoor adventures. Choose from every imaginable activity from kayaking and sailing, to water skiing and surfing. The bountiful marine life in the warm Pacific waters of Banderas Bay offer some of the best snorkeling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing around. Those in search of land adventure can go mountain biking, opt for a jeep safari or go horseback riding.

A large dose sunshine paired with warm crystal clear waters and a sprinkling of soft, golden sand are the perfect remedy for a severe case of the winter blues. Why suffer when all this and more are available without a prescription on a Mexican Riviera cruise.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Ultimate Dining Package

My recent cruise aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, was like a trip around the world…even though I never got any further than the Bahamas! Each night my family and I dined in one of the many specialty restaurants and enjoyed the cuisine of a different country.  A week after we returned Norwegian announced their “Ultimate Dining Package.”  Boy, timing is everything! And now, having experienced all the different restaurants, this is a package I whole-heartily recommend!

The first night of our cruise we dined “all-American” at Cagney’s steakhouse.  I ordered the shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, and grilled sea bass.  I know, you’re asking how could I pass on a steak at a steakhouse? What can I say! There are a large variety of side dishes to choose from so we ordered and enjoyed several.  My meal was absolutely delicious!

We dined at Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian the following evening.  Now, this restaurant is not included in the dining package, but guests do receive a 20% discount if they have the Ultimate Dining Package.  The  $49 pp surcharge is a bit high, but what would you expect from an “Iron Chef”?  Well worth the charge, and the mussels were my favorite dish out of anything I ate all week!

The French fare at Le Bistro was a bit of a disappointment, but since it always gets such rave reviews from past cruisers, I’m willing to attribute it to an “off night”.  The onion soup followed by escargot bourguignon, certainly exceeded my expectations, but the salmon I ordered was overcooked and the service was inattentive.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Secrets of the Norwegian Breakaway

Last week I returned from a Florida / Bahamas cruise aboard the beautiful Norwegian Breakaway.  My experience was overwhelmingly positive and the Breakaway definitely ranks as one of the top 5 ships I’ve ever been on (I don’t believe I’d be able to pick a favorite within the 5 since each one has its own unique attributes). Since so many reviews have already been written about this ship, I thought I would just share some tips on how to make a great cruise experience on the Norwegian Breakaway an extraordinary one.

I highly recommend pre-booking specialty dining and shows, particularly if you are cruising on a busy week.  I was on the New Years Eve sailing and the ship was sold out.  Without pre-booking, I’m sure you can still eat at the restaurant of your choice, and see every show, but I’m pretty picky about when I dine, and pre-booking allowed me to secure a 7 pm reservation every evening.  If you don’t want to compromise on your dining time, or be stuck with a late show, book in advance.

Even if you don’t usually choose to dine in the specialty restaurants, for one evening try Waterfront dining.  The Waterfront on deck 8 includes outdoor seating for Cagney’s Steakhouse, La Cucina, Moderno Churrascaria, and Ocean Blu. We chose Moderno Churrascaria on the evening we were departing Nassau.  It was a balmy evening with no less than a zillion stars twinkling above us! After a delicious dinner we lingered longer than usual, finishing up our bottle of wine while listening to the whispers of the ocean. What a beautiful experience…this is what cruising is all about!