The Azamara Quest sails exciting itineraries in the Sea of Cortez. // © 2014 Azamara Club Cruises
Note: As of April 2014, Azamara is no longer offering this itinerary. However, several other cruise lines, including Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, feature similar sailings.
Cruising Mexico’s Pacific Coast means exploring Spanish missions, strolling through colonial town plazas and discovering centuries-old native traditions. Add the natural wonders of Baja and the Sea of Cortez — featuring whale watching, swimming with sea lions, bird spotting, hikes in the Sonoran Desert and more — and you have the makings of a unique, multi-faceted cruise itinerary. There’s even a chance to ride the iconic Chihuahua al Pacifico train to the spectacular Copper Canyon.
Our 12-night February cruise onboard Azamara Club Cruises’ 694-passenger Azamara Quest departed from San Pedro (port of Los Angeles), giving passengers the luxury of two sea days before the first call in Mazatlan. The ship then zigzagged across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz, Topolobampo, Guaymas, Loreto and, finally, Cabo San Lucas.
While it’s easy to wander on your own in any of these ports (and Azamara supplied free bus rides from the pier to most city centers), cruisers who book excursions will enjoy a richer, more varied vacation.
Perhaps the most noteworthy shore excursion of the cruise is the Copper Canyon railway trip. Those choosing the 16½-hour excursion disembarked at Topolobampo before dawn for a two-hour bus ride to the El Fuerte train station, followed by a scenic, all-day train adventure. Comfortable chartered carriages transported cruisers from sea level to 8,000 feet in the Sierra Madre Mountains for scenic views of the canyons. The excursion concluded with a dance show by the local Tarahumara tribe.
“I know one man who booked the cruise just for this tour,” said Carina Constantineau of Azamara Quest’s Land Discoveries staff. “It was on his bucket list, and it fulfilled his expectations.”
Nature lovers also had some unique excursions to choose from on this itinerary.
In the sleepy village of Loreto, Constantineau accompanied passengers on a Coronado Island snorkel tour. She hoped to see whales wintering in the Sea of Cortez; instead, her group saw playful sea lions and 30 to 40 dolphins.
The ship’s whale-watching tours proved a highlight in Cabo San Lucas, but it was La Paz that topped the charts in the once-in-a-lifetime category. February is peak time for whale sharks, and we had a rare opportunity to swim with one. Measuring up to 65 feet, these gentle plankton-eaters rate as the largest fish on the planet. The only way to fully appreciate their immense size is to hop in the water and snorkel beside one of them.
Remind clients who choose wildlife outings that encounters are never guaranteed and to check age limits on physically active excursions. Azamara limits horseback riding on the beach in Guaymas to guests 65 and under, and the whale shark encounter or sea lion snorkel in La Paz is limited to guests under 70 years old.
On our last night in Cabo San Lucas, all passengers were treated to a complimentary “AzAmazing” evening on shore. The special event (offered by Azamara on all but transatlantic cruises) included wine, margaritas, coffee, desserts and an entertaining show performed by mariachis and acrobatic fire dancers. A grand finale of fireworks surprised and dazzled attendees.
The evening was another example of Azamara creating unique experiences for its passengers.