Caribbean

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

It doesn’t take long to turn a sleepy little fishing village into a full-blown tourism hub, and no place knows that more than Mahahual, Mexico. To put this place into perspective, they didn’t even get electricity until the early 2000s. Unheard of, right? Well, as soon as the cruise ship port was built, this place was willing and able to welcome thousands of guests per day to fall in love with Mahahual as much as I did. And it's not as hard to say as it looks.

The cruise port itself is officially titled Costa Maya—it’s about a ten minute drive south into the fishing village of Mahahual, which is refreshingly small when you’re coming off of a gargantuan cruise ship. I felt immediately like I was being welcomed into someone’s hometown. Our guide was from Mexico City, but had been living in Mahahual for quite some time, and his love of the town made me love it even more.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

I’m not much of an underwater swimmer, so the shore excursion my friend Michele and I chose was kayaking in clear-bottom boats, allowing you to see and watch everything you’re paddling over. It sounded to me like the next best thing to snorkeling, which I’ve always been a little wary to try. As soon as we stepped in the boats, Michele and I were screeching—no joke—with pure delight. It was fascinating to see the sea life below us, and the first thing we paddled over happened to be a sunken sailing ship. I was so dazzled that I could hardly believe Mahahual is a real place—it is truly a hidden gem. Michele and I absolutely loved our Moana moment as we guided our boats toward the reef. There was so much beautiful coral and so many tropical fish to gaze at that we were the last two in our group back to shore. We couldn’t resist paddling back and forth for just one more look.

Although we stayed near shore, anyone who has been kayaking will tell you it’s quite an arm workout. We were very ready for fresh fruit and cervezas afterward! I love Princess’ organized shore excursions for taking into consideration that we would need some relaxation time after an hour-long workout. The beach club was wondrously quiet, perfectly situated along the beach and in the sunlight that for a full two or three hours, I had zero complaints. The watermelon was fresh, the Pacifico was cold, and the views were outstanding.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

Costa Maya had quite a different feel than any other cruise port I’ve been to. I will say it has to be one of the more recently developed ones—it was just reopened in 2009 after hurricanes devastated the town in 2007. Thankfully, it was unharmed by the recent hurricanes this fall and is in tip-top shape to welcome visitors, like dozens of other Caribbean destinations. The people at Costa Maya are so warm, and excited to share their stories and culture. Our tour guide Jose is one amigo I’ll never forget!

The photogenic port is perfectly clean and tidy, with lots to look at without even heading into town. There is beach access and pool access, drinks and restaurants galore and tons of souvenir shopping. You could spend the whole day there if you didn’t feel like venturing out. It felt a little like a Mexican theme park: some of the most exotic and exciting bits of the country rounded up for you to enjoy in one place. Personally, I recommend getting out and exploring. There is so much more to a country than what it offers tourists at face value—and Mahahual is a wonderful welcome to the beautiful country of Mexico.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising

After a long day flying from Seattle to Miami, Florida, there is nothing like finally stepping aboard your home for the week. In my case last month, that was the Crown Princess for a 5-day sailing through the stunning western Caribbean. After weeks of anticipating the trip, discovering my stateroom with a view—champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting—was one of the highlights of the trip. Once you're settled in, it's always exciting to explore a ship and see what awaits you on the journey. Princess offers the best restaurants, musicians, drinks and activities...the list goes on. I've rounded up 9 of my favorite things that make the Princess experience unique and unforgettable. Nothing but adventure awaits!

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

1. Balcony sunrises

When I agreed to go on my first cruise, I’ll admit that I accepted hesitantly. A large part of my fear was the open ocean—I couldn’t imagine looking out and seeing nothing but the waves and the horizon. I expected to feel completely isolated. As it happened, the ocean view became one of the things I miss most when I’m back on shore.  I mostly felt awe and wonder. There’s nothing like waking up to a haze of pink in your stateroom, stepping out and enjoying that first cup of coffee watching the sun come up.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

2. The Love Boat

Princess has many special qualities that make it stand out from other cruise lines, but my favorite is this: The Love Boat. The delightfully charming, whimsical, and entertaining show from the 1970s was set on none other than the Pacific Princess, and featured a dynamic cast of characters like Captain Stebing, first officer Gopher, cruise director Julie, the Doc, bartender Isaac, and more. I had never seen the show until I sailed with Princess and found several episodes on demand in my stateroom, and now I’m addicted—catching new episodes is one of the things I look forward to most when I go cruising! It casts such a peachy, romantic glow on cruise ship life and makes you appreciate the ship you’re on that much more.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

3. Breakfast in bed

Every night, I hang my breakfast order on the door and use the room service knock as my wake-up call the next morning. I’ve done it enough times now that my order is sealed in my memory—coffee with cream; croissants with butter, apricot, & strawberry jam; a yogurt (the peach flavor is always a treat); supremed orange slices; and orange juice. Delivery is exceptionally punctual and the tray is quickly dropped off for you to enjoy at your leisure, usually in the comfort of your fluffy white bed.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

4. Clear-Bottom Kayaking

Princess offers so many shore excursions for days in port that it can be hard to narrow it down, but the newest one I tried on this cruise was my number one favorite so far. Michele and I went kayaking off a remote beach in Mahajual, Mexico, in boats that had clear plastic on the bottom so you could see right what you were paddling over. We saw dozens of stunning coral varieties, schools of tropical fish (Dory included!), and even a sunken sailboat. We were among the youngest of the group, and it was pretty obvious because we couldn’t keep from squealing and hollering with excitement about each new encounter. We finished off our day with some fresh fruit, Pacifico, and a few lazy hours on the beach.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

5. Wine Blending Class

It’s no secret that there are dozens of things to do on cruise ships—there’s something to please everyone. This time around, we met sommelier Carmen in one of the cocktail lounges for a special wine blending experience. I’m familiar with wine tastings and wine pairings, but blending was a new one for me. We were sat in front of four varieties of red wines along with a beaker and two mixing glasses, and basically told to go to town after a tutorial. It felt pretty special to create a special “Chelsea” blend out of a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a touch of a malbec.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

6. The Sanctuary

“Adults only” are two of the sweetest words a twenty-something can hear on a cruise, so it’s only natural that my favorite spot on the Crown Princess is The Sanctuary. It costs to reserve a lounge chair, but as soon as you arrive you can see what you’re paying for. There’s a delicious special food menu including my favorite, the Princess smoothie, and the lounge chairs are luxuriously padded taking the comfort level up a notch. I recommend booking a morning toward the end of your itinerary when you’re ready for peace, quiet, and rest & relaxation.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane
9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

7. Dessert

Saying that the food on a Princess cruise is “good” would be an understatement. It’s not uncommon to overeat at every meal, which is why taking the stairs instead of the elevators comes in handy (unless you need to be rolled out of the dining room). While there are tons of exciting and adventurous things to eat, there are also classic comfort foods like fettuccine Alfredo, divine seafood, and of course the iconic crème brulee. Dessert is one of the most overwhelming things for me to order, just because I want one of everything. There’s the espresso brulee at Sabatini’s Italian, the s’mores dessert at Crown Grill, tiramisu, crème brulee, divine sorbets…the list goes on and on. And don’t even get me started on the pastries and treats at the International Café.

8. Thai Coconut Massage

Coconut is so popular these days that half the time, you just want to slather it all over your body—well, now you can, thanks to the best massage Princess offers at the Lotus Spa in my opinion. On both warm-weather and cold-weather destinations it’s easy to end up with dry skin due to bitter cold or saltwater and chlorine, so the best way to counter that is a full-body coconut rubdown—hydration goals. All of the spa treatments come highly recommended, but I’ve always been such a tense, knotted, stressed-out person that I can’t say no to an hour of deep-tissue.

9 Times Princess Cruises Won Cruising | truelane

9. Chef’s Table

Although the Captain’s Table was the dining event not to be missed back in the days of The Love Boat, the Chef’s Table is the most exclusive and extravagant meal to enjoy these days. Not to mention, Princess was the cruise line that originally debuted the Chef's Table experience—talk about a cut above. A seven-course experience prefaced by a tour of the galley, specialty appetizers and Nicolas Feuillatte champagne introduced by the Maitre’d and Chef himself—it is a huge production, and a huge honor to attend. We walked away with a cookbook full of Princess Cruises favorites, a red rose, and photo with the chef—not to mention extremely full bellies and very, very satisfied tastebuds.

On and off the ship, Princess knows how to show their guests a good time. On our 5-day cruise at the beginning of November, I was amazed to see so much of the Caribbean in tip-top shape so soon after all of the hurricanes. Dozens of ports are open and ready to welcome tourists, as you'll see in more of my upcoming posts! Whether you're an adventurer, foodie, an exercise junkie, a dance fanatic, a wine expert, a theatre enthusiast, a card shark, or even just someone looking for some peace and quiet at sea, this list is just the beginning of what you'll find sets Princess apart on your next ocean sailing!

Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post.