The first ports of call for the cruise were all to be in Mexico, three ports in total. The first port was after two days at sea and was Puerto Vallarta, which would be followed by Huatulco and Puerto Chiapas. I was really interested to get and see Mexico because I knew it would be considerably different to what I had previously seen and experienced in other places I had visited.

Puerto Vallarta – Mexico

Cruising into Puerto Vallarta you would think that it is just like any other city, especially in the predawn, where you can just see strings of lights around the shoreline. Even once the sun was up it kind of looks just like any other city, there are buildings, road’s, cars driving around, and all the general sounds and looks of activity you would expect anywhere.

However it is when you get closer that you start to see what the differences are. The mix of vehicles is vast from new to really old. The streets are paved in varying different surfaces from Bitumen, concrete and even cobblestones. But possibly the most prominent difference is the architecture. While some newer buildings have a familiar look, there is also a very much local flavour to the majority of buildings.

This is a local building between Puerto Vallarta and The Tequila Factory, built of brick, with Red Tile Roof.

Puerto Vallarta was also the location of my first tour, even though it was kind of a shopping tour it was still also a great tour to see some of the country side. The tour was called Town, Country and Tequila, and all three were a good part of the tour. We started with a drive and short walk through the town area of Puerto Vallarta, seeing a few interesting sights as well as one of the local churches.

On the way to the Tequila factory we got to see some of the countryside, which at this time of year, is rather dry and dusty and everything was covered in a share of brown from the dirt. It was also here that you see the greatest distinction between the new and old. Driving by an old local house that looked ready to fall down, on one side of the road, and the brand new bright white building of a new fuel/convenience store on the other. At the Tequila Factory, we got to see the process of how Tequila is made from raw Agave, as well as getting to taste a few different types of Tequila.

Raw Agave that has been prepared ready to be baked. Once it is baked it is extuded, before being distilled and aged.

Huatulco – Mexico

Huatulco is a much smaller town, about one fifth the size of Puerto Vallarta. I had already made the decision that since there was a beach here, that would be how I’d spend my time here. None of the tours were really that inspiring and with the weather as hot as it was, the beach was the perfect option.

The Beach in Huatulco, Mexico

Before heading for the beach I did take a short walk around, and took a look at what was around. The area seemed to be mostly set up for the get away from the city. A lot of bars/cafes, all looking out towards the beach, a nice open air church, and a small group of shops. The primary thing that you tend to notice here though is the presence of police and security forces, with what looks to be machine guns. What the actual purpose of this is I do not know, a show of force to put tourists at ease I would assume. However, I am sure it alarmed just as many people seeing this as anything else.

Open air Church, near the beach in Huatulco, Mexico

I did stop at a small cafe here for a couple of drinks, and a chance to just enjoy the view, and get access to my emails. Then I returned to the ship to get changed for the beach and go for a swim. The water was the perfect temperature, and the sun was out, the perfect way to finish the day.

Puerto Chiapas – Mexico

The final port in Mexico for the first half of the cruise was Puerto Chiapas, which was quite different to the first two ports. The first thing you notice is how much greener everything is, which is due to the more southerly location and a more tropical climate. It’s location is also one of the most southerly points in Mexico, just 30-40 minutes from the border with Guatemala, which we got to see on the tour I was on.

The tour that I choose here was called Mayan Tree of Life and Chocolate Discovery. The first part of the tour was a visit to two Mayan sites. The first site was a collection of stone carving’s that had been uncovered depicting a number of different scene’s, which included the Mayan Tree of Life. The second site was the Izapa Ruins which is a grouping of stone and earth pyramid shapes with flattened tops. Both sites were quite interesting, and I am glad that I managed to get on the tour even though it was a last minute choice.

Izapa Stela 5, The Mayan Tree of Life is what this stela depicts, although it is quite worn.

Izapa Ruins, located in the Mexican state of Chiapas

The Second part of the tour was the Chocolate Discovery, and it was after a short bus trip from the site of the ruins that we actually got to see the process they use locally to make chocolate. Which, from the demonstration, is a much more hands on labour intensive method. This creates a much different type of chocolate to what we are use to buying in the store.

The items that are used in the chocolate making process in Mexico, along with crushing the cacao beans.

Still To Come

Getting to see some ports in Mexico was a great start to the cruise, however there are still some other great ports ahead. Which include, Guatemala, Panama City, Panama Canal Transit, Cartagena, Columbia before arriving in Fort Lauderdale to conclude the first half of the cruise. Then of course the second half of the cruise heading back also includes some great ports.