You’re Going to Love Holland America’s Mexican Riviera

You’re going to love sailing to the Mexican Rivera with Holland America Line. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

After a week aboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam in the Mexican Riviera, I can say the entire experience has been a very positive one. It’s great to see more lines coming back to the wonderful ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta after a multi-year absence.

It’s also great to see how the Holland America product that I’ve known and loved for well over a decade has continued to evolve as the line tries to better court families and younger couples while still providing an excellent cruise experience for its most loyal Mariners.

From start to finish, this journey has been enjoyable, rewarding, and often surprising. It’s my fifth voyage to the Mexican Riviera, but I feel that the region is better now than ever before.

Our full Voyage Report aboard Westerdam:

Westerdam - Mexican Riviera

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Saturday, December 3, 2016San Diego, CaliforniaEmbark Westerdam1600
Sunday, December 4At Sea
Monday, December 5Cabo San Lucas, Mexico11001900
Tuesday, December 6Mazatlan, Mexico08001800
Wednesday, December 7Puerto Vallarta, Mexico08001700
Thursday, December 8At Sea
Friday, December 9At Sea
Saturday, December 10San Diego, California0700Disembark

So what can you expect out of Holland America in the Mexican Riviera? Here are five things that I loved most about this cruise:

Fabulous Onboard Musical Entertainment

Dancing the night away in the Ocean Bar, Deck 3. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

B.B. King’s Blues Club blew me away. I can count on a single hand how many voyages I’ve been on with entertainment this good – and the B.B. King All-Stars are here to stay, featured on every Vista Class and Signature Class ship in the Holland America Line fleet. Bonus mentions should go to the band in the Ocean Bar, the Adagio Duo in the Explorer’s Lounge, and Pianist Stryker in the Piano Bar. Holland America’s musical entertainment is now one of the line’s most underrated qualities.

More Cultural Immersion

Our onboard Mexican Ambassadors. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I remember sailing to the Mexican Riviera back in 2007 on another line, looking incredulously at the roast beef, gravy and mashed potatoes that was to consist of lunch as we dropped anchor in Cabo San Lucas. Holland America is changing all that, with authentic Mexican specialties worked into menus in the Vista Dining Room and the Lido Marketplace buffet. There’s also a Mexican-themed on-deck buffet on one night of the voyage, and Mexican appetizers and drinks on offer during sail-away from San Diego.

Westerdam also features a group of local Mexican Ambassadors on each voyage, who delight guests with folkloric dances, lectures on the history of Mexico and the Mexican Riviera, and who even offer dance classes, Spanish language lessons, and demonstrations on how to make traditional Mexican crafts.

This is a huge win for Holland America, and I hope the line continues the program. It really sets them apart from any other line, and mimics the level of immersion the line typically provides to guests on its Alaska cruises and cruisetours.

Varied Shore Excursions

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I’ll be honest: the shore excursion menu really hasn’t changed in the decade I’ve been sailing to the Mexican Riviera. But it is a varied one, with easy beach-break-and-shopping excursions listed alongside more cultural and historic offerings, like the fabulous tour I experienced to Todos Santos from Cabo San Lucas. Not every cruise line offers the same excursions here, and Holland America’s is tops for variety.

A Technologically-Savvy Holland America

Want to make dinner reservations onboard? Use your laptop or your iPhone and connect to Holland America’s new Navigator portal. Or, phone the restaurant – like in the old days. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Say goodbye to signing drink chits and shouting out your stateroom number at the lifeboat drill: Holland America has redesigned its keycards to be scan-able with a barcode reader at the muster drill, while the need to sign chits for drinks has also been removed.

The theatre productions in the Vista Lounge also benefit from new technological enhancements, like gigantic digital LED backdrops that can be altered for each show without the need for cumbersome props and stage settings.

The Westerdam

Holland America Line’s Westerdam: ideally suited to this sunny run. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the Westerdam here. Even now, while she’s still in something of a state of flux before her spring 2017 refit that will see some fairly substantial changes to her public room layout and her staterooms and suites, she’s a gorgeous and welcoming ship.

Most ships of this size carry far more guests than Westerdam, which holds a little over 1,900 at double-occupancy. At 936 feet long and with 11 passenger-accessible decks, crowding really isn’t an issue aboard Westerdam, though lines do sometimes develop in the Lido Marketplace buffet.

She’s cozier than most of today’s megaships, with plenty of tucked-away corners that heighten the sense of discovery when you first step aboard her. Few people realize, for example, that the Ocean Bar on Deck 3 spans both sides of the atrium, or that you can bypass the Queen’s Lounge and its attractive windowed corridor by hanging a left and following a curving walkway along to the Northern Lights Disco. Fewer still realize that the lights in this corridor are motion-sensitive, and turn on and off overhead as you walk through.

The Lido Marketplace, Deck 9. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

While some areas of Westerdam are rough around the edges (the couch in my stateroom is in particularly bad shape), her public rooms sparkle like new thanks to new carpeting and soft furnishings that have standardized her colours somewhat. Seating in the Vista Lounge is now black, not white as-built. Fabrics in the Ocean Bar and the Crow’s Nest have been swapped out for, and during my voyage, the entire forward staircase received new carpeting.

Westerdam will only get better next year, when she goes into drydock in the spring. She’ll receive new Verandah staterooms, updated fabrics and furnishings in suites and staterooms, and new public rooms that include the Gallery Bar, which will take the place of the rarely-used Northern Lights Disco on Deck 2.

Outside the Ocean Bar, Deck 3, adjacent to the ship’s three-story atrium. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Her Piano Bar, Sports Bar, and the starboard side of the Casino on Deck 2 forward will also be removed to make way for the line’s new Billboard Onboard music venue. I saw this transformation earlier this year aboard Eurodam, and it’s a real winner that opens up this formerly closed-off space and modernizes it in the process.

As she gets ready to celebrate 13 years on the waves, Westerdam is every bit as gracious as she was when she set sail back in 2004. Now, with the new Music Walk venues, B.B. King’s Blues Club, and updated furniture and décor, she’s arguably a better utilised ship than she’s been at any other point in her career.

The Verdict: Mexican Riviera with Holland America

Todos Santos, near Cabo San Lucas. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Holland America has finally brought its classic weeklong Mexican Riviera itinerary back to life after a multi-year absence. The ports and times haven’t changed much, but the onboard experience – and the experience ashore in Mexico – have all undergone dramatic changes for the better.

If you’re tired of the Caribbean, a trip to the Mexican Riviera with Holland America Line should be at the top of your winter getaway wish-list.

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam has sadly come to a close.  Be sure to follow along with our future adventures on twitter by following @deckchairblog. Our next Voyage Report sets sail at the end of January!

Westerdam - Mexican Riviera

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Saturday, December 3, 2016San Diego, CaliforniaEmbark Westerdam1600
Sunday, December 4At Sea
Monday, December 5Cabo San Lucas, Mexico11001900
Tuesday, December 6Mazatlan, Mexico08001800
Wednesday, December 7Puerto Vallarta, Mexico08001700
Thursday, December 8At Sea
Friday, December 9At Sea
Saturday, December 10San Diego, California0700Disembark
 

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