Here we review three of our “do-it-yourself” port days from the Norwegian Jewel Mexican Riviera cruise we took March 2016. It was our first time in all of these ports, so we did exploratory walking tours in each.
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Port of Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is a tender port, and when you are dropped at the tender dock, you are right in the midst of the bars and tourist shops. We turned to the right and followed the flow of cruisers onto the boardwalk that wraps around the port. We saw this placard and were reminded that you can buy many drugs in Mexican pharmacies without a prescription.
After we grew tired of being hustled every 3 seconds by vendors, restaurant owners, and iguana-petting photo opportunites, we turned landward to see what Cabo was really like. “Downtown” Cabo is reminiscent of the sleepy beach town that Cabo was before the tourist hordes (yes, that’s us!) descended. It is made up of one and two story buildings, and lacks a colonial center like some of the more interesting Mexican towns. In the center of town we found a hill that had been made into a botanical garden featuring indigenous plants. It is a hot dusty walk through sand, cactus, and other desert plants, but we had a great lookout of the town from the rock outcrop at the top of the park.
From the rock lookout we could see the casino. It is located in a huge, nearly empty shopping mall, and there weren’t any intriguing games there. We made the long, hot walk back along the waterfront to the ship. From the vantage point of the tender we could see a nice beach that you could get to if you turned left when you got off the tender, rather than right towards town. There were also some nice beaches further out of town in the other direction, but I think you would want to take a cab to these to avoid the long walk through town.
We returned to the ship about 3:00 pm, and went up to the Garden cafe for a cocktail. We had a beautiful view of Land’s End, which is popular excursion. There is an large arch, but you can’t see it from this angle.
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Port of Mazatlan
Mazatlan is a perfect cruise port. You are docked close to the center of town, and it is an easy walk to the colonial city center. From there it is another easy walk to the beach. It is large enough so that cruisers don’t overwhelm the port.
When we docked in Mazatlan, we passed by the stately Crown Princess who arrived ahead of us that morning.
When you walk off the ship and exit the port, you will see a thick blue line painted on the road. You just follow this blue line right into the city center. Along the way, and in the center of town, you’ll find English-speaking tourist volunteers, who will help you on your way and give you pointers for seeing the town. There is a large wooden map of the town in the main square that helped us decide our route. We first visited the cathedral, then walked through town towards the beach.
Mazatlan has a more authentic old-Mexico feel than Cabo. When we got to the beach we walked north to see the cliff divers. I thought that we saw the famous Mexican cliff divers here, but when we got home, B. said that the famous ones that we always heard about from childhood were in Acapulco. Nonetheless I enjoyed viewing the cliff-divers here.
I sat in a bar drinking a beer and holding all the non-waterproof stuff like cell phones while A. did some bodysurfing. (Still playing the role of Mom after all these years.) We took a short-cut back to the port and were back in time for an afternoon cocktail before sail away.
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Port of Puerto Vallarta
This was our favorite port of the cruise. Puerto Vallarta is large and strung out, but is beautifully situated. Just east of town are beautiful mountains incised by green canyons that were beckoning us to visit. Next time, we are visiting the town today. You are docked at the port, but you are still several miles from town. Right outside the port gate is a WalMart and Sam’s, which serve as your landmarks.
As we left the port, we saw the bus stop just to our left on the main road. This is where you catch the bus into town. Just pick any bus that says Centro. The cost is just 7.5 pesos per person, and the driver can make change. We had leftover pesos from the trip B. and I made in January to the Copper Canyon, but you can change money inside the port area. We stayed on the bus for several miles until we crossed the Cuale River, then got off and walked around.
We found a table set up under a bridge that was making and serving ceviche. Many local people and tourists were stopping by, so we decided that it was probably good, and it was.
We ended up eating about six fish ceviche tacos before we took a cooling swim in the Rio Cuale.
Before heading back to the port, we walked north back through the town and went up some of the side streets up the hillside. This is more of a double sidewalk and park rather than a street. These are wonderful pedestrian-only neighborhoods.
When we got too hot to walk, we hopped on the bus back to port. We kept an eye out for the WalMart and got off when we saw it.
Back in the Port of Los Angeles
The USS Iowa is at permanent dockage right next to where the Jewel is tied up at port. There is a discount for cruisers, and someone had given us a two-for-one coupon, so we both ended up visiting for about $15. This is well worth a 1 to 1/2 hour visit either before or after your cruise.