A cruise to Mexico might evoke feelings of “The Love Boat,” as you make your way through the ports of the Mexican Riviera. You might stop on the popular island of Cozumel during a Western Caribbean cruise. Or, you might find yourself on an expedition in the Sea of Cortez surrounded by arid, uninhabited islands and spectacular marine life.
Because of its rich, 5,800-mile coastline, Mexico has so much to offer visitors by way of cruise ship – whether you’re lounging at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta or drinking a margarita in its birthplace of Ensenada, in Baja California.
Some of the best snorkeling and diving anywhere can be found in Mexico. The second-largest coral reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, lies off the coast of Cancun, Riviera Maya and Costa Maya, drawing underwater enthusiasts from across the globe.
History is another attraction in Mexico; Mayan ruins are accessible from various cruise ports including Playa del Carmen with its nearby Tulum ruins. The structures – built thousands of years ago – are a stark contrast to the kitschy portside souvenir shops selling touristy sombreros.
Almost every popular shore excursion -- whale watching, ziplining, kayaking, Jeep tours and even wine-tasting -- can be found throughout the varied ports of Mexico.
Mexico is a year-round destination, though the country can get steamy during the summer months; most lines call in the fall/winter and even spring seasons. Plus, the dry season is typically November through May. Though weather will vary depending on where you are, expect daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit.
If you're heading to Mexico for the whale watching, especially in the Sea of Cortez (off Mexico's west coast), come during the winter. Whales begin to arrive in December, and your best chances of a sighting last through March.
Cozumel, an island off the coast in the Caribbean Sea, is one of the most popular ports of cruising, let alone Mexico; it's one of the marquee ports on a Western Caribbean itinerary. Costa Maya, Cancun and Playa del Carmen are also featured on select Western Caribbean cruises.
Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta are top ports along a Mexican Riviera sailing, which crisscrosses where the Gulf of California empties into the Pacific Ocean. Many of these ports can also be featured on a Sea of Cortez cruise along with lesser-visited places like Loreto, Topolobampo and the uninhabited island of Todos Santos.
Departure ports catering to Mexico span California cities of the U.S. West Coast, like Long Beach (Los Angeles) or San Diego, to New Orleans and Galveston in the south, and Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and even New York on the East Coast.
Riviera cruises tend to depart from the West Coast, while Western Caribbean itineraries leave from the East Coast. Expedition or immersive sailings in the Sea of Cortez will typically sail from La Paz, Mexico (accessible from Cabo San Lucas airport).
Cruises to Mexico run year-round as part of Western Caribbean itineraries or dedicated Mexico sailings. It's a surprisingly large country, densely packed with sightseeing opportunities.
The main regions of Mexico visited by cruise ship are Baja California (Ensenada) and Baja California Sur (La Paz), which are the "arm" attached to the left of the mainland; the west coast along the Pacific and Gulf of California (Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo); and on the east coast around the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula along the Gulf of Mexico (Cancun, Cozumel or Playa del Carmen).
Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to Mexico. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (they select for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from a brand you like, then you can get the best price for a specific cruise to Mexico. Last minute cruises deals to Mexico appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually 1-2 weeks in advance. Taking a cruise to Mexico in the shoulder season (before or after the peak season) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal.