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Friday File: Beaches of Beauty

If you think a beach is a beach is a beach, which people who don’t lie in the sun might feel inclined to do, then you haven’t met our son-in-law. He will structure his family’s vacations around the quality of the beaches. Prompted by his discriminating eye, we’re re-visiting some that we’ve at least seen in our cruise travels…

TulumTULUM: This picture is taken from the ancient ruins of Tulum, and its accompanying beach provides an alternative for cranky teenagers (or adults) more interested in sunshine than sun gods.

GREAT STIRRUP CayGREAT STIRRUP CAY: This is Norwegian’s private island, which means this is Norwegian’s private beach, available only to its cruise-ship passengers. It has everything you might want, especially people.

BarcelonaBARCELONA: You don’t expect to find palm trees, or beaches like this, in Barcelona…at least we didn’t. The lack of beach-goers had more to do with the time of year (May) than the quality of sand. 

Huatulco-2HUATULCO: A nice spot frequented mostly by the locals who live near this pretty place in southern Mexico, and just a short cab ride from the Celebrity Millennium…well worth whatever it cost us.

St. MaartenST. MAARTEN: The bar from which this shot is taken does a booming business all day, thanks mostly to cruise tourists from Philipsburg, 20 minutes away from being this close to landing jets.

MIAMI: There are places that lay claim to being the most famous of beaches, but is there one better known than Miami Beach (okay, Fort Lauderdale) and its view for passing cruise ships?
ArubaARUBA: White sandy beaches that stretch seven miles along this tiny island, flanked by some of the most expensive hotels you’ll find. The good news is the beaches are all public — it’s the law.
Costa MayaCOSTA MAYA: A popular Mexican port still recovering from Hurricane Dean (2007) doesn’t have a lot to do within walking distance of the ship, but this beach near the pier is a hotspot for passengers.

Today at portsandbows.com: Koningsdam coming to America

Royal Princess
14 nights
April 25, 2015
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCorkRotterdamBrusselsSouthampton
Inside: $696
Cost per day: $49


Photo Essay From Cruises To Mexico…

TulumIs there a prettier setting for Maya ruins than in Tulum, close to Cozumel?

AcapulcoAn easy attraction in Acapulco, a short walk from where the ships are moored.

IguanaLots of iguanas all over Mexico, and all look more menacing than they really are.

Huatulco-Playa La EntregaIntruding on a family picnic near Huatulco, on as pretty a beach as we've seen.

Cabo San LucasThe familiar rocks near Cabo San Lucas, a magnet for cruise visitors.

cozumelIn Cozumel, more than the tourists go for a walk on the beach.

Cozumel marketMexican markets are wherever cruise ships land and all of them have deals.

Costa Maya

Costa Maya, just one of the stops on the Yucatan Peninsula with ruins can climb!

Today at portsandbows.com: Windstar — year-round in the South Pacific

Carnival Breeze
8 nights
January 3, 2015
Miami (return): NassauSt. ThomasAntiguaSan Juan
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $34

Gems on the Shores of Mexico

HUATULCO, Mexico — If we didn’t know what to do as first-time visitors to this little-known hamlet off the Pacific, and we really didn’t, the decision was made for us. Huatulco is known for its church, the Our Lady of Guadelupe, so when it’s 10 to 10 on Sunday and there’s a man on the roof ringing the bell, you really have only one choice.

You go to church.

This is not totally out of character for us, going to a church of another different faith in a foreign land to listen to a service we wouldn’t understand. Once we walked into a church in Holland for a service that was Dutch to us. Yesterday in Our Lady’s house, most of it was Dutch to us again.

This was in La Crucecita, Huatulco’s principal suburb. Tour buses are always out front, even when there’s no service, and the tourists are easy to spot. We’re the ones who have to be reminded to remove our caps as we enter the sanctuary. Oops. Despite that, there was a welcome in English and even one reading in English for the smattering of non-Hispanic, camera-snapping visitors.

While not every cruise ship is fortunate enough to be here on a Sunday, the Celebrity Millennium was, for nine hours, sufficient to see enough of “Mexico’s Oaxacan gem” to want to return. A cruise ship in this harbor looks like a tight squeeze, yet there’s room for two at a time in one of the 10 bays along the southern coast, and depending on whom you ask there are either 15 or 90 cruise ships here each year — it’s likely somewhere in between.

Little English is spoken, even outside the church, but the appreciation the locals have for tourists is obvious. Above one establishment was a sign that read “Welcome our dear tourists” and, with probably more taxis per capita than even New York City, there’s no shortage of people wanting to help. The streets are clean and the prices, jacked up to tourist level, are blatantly negotiable — “A Monty Hall Store, Let’s Make a Deal.”

When it comes to food, you pick your spots, and sometimes you don’t really know because the $ is used for pesos and dollars alike. We found a small restaurant, El Chisme, with quesadillas for $1.20 each, so our lunch bill was only $8 — that’s dollars. It’s at the corner of Carrizal and Flamboyan, if you must know.

The competition must keep taxi fares reasonable. We rode from the ship to La Crucecita, at least a couple of miles, for $2 plus tip. We went from La Crucecita back past the ship and along the shore to Huatulco’s hidden beach gem, Playa La Entrega, and later back to the ship for $11, that high only because our driver waited half an hour for us. This is a beach that doesn’t make it onto cruise-ship maps or shore excursions, which is why it’s 80 to 90 per cent locals, but our cab driver, Tereso Jarquin, knew exactly where to go.

One more thing about Our Lady of Guadelupe. The kids’ choir was terrific, the Padre could sing, too, and the church was jammed. Nothing gets lost in the translation there.

That’s it…we’re done.

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