Tex-Mex At Sea

Carnival Ecstasy cruises the Mexican Caribbean with a bit of Texan flair and Mexican flavor

By: By Deborah Dimond


Carnival Cruise Lines
Galveston Limousine Services

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While it took me awhile to adjust to all the "Ya’lls" and "Ma’ams" that I heard throughout my cruise onboard the Carnival Ecstasy, they certainly made this cruise a truly Tex-Mex experience. The Carnival Ecstasy departs year-round from the Port of Galveston, Texas, and sails to some of the most popular spots in the Mexican Caribbean.

"With more than 50 cruises departing from Galveston to Progreso and Cozumel in 2008, this Western Caribbean sailing is clearly one of our most popular itineraries," Mico Cascais, vice president of tour operations for Carnival Cruise Lines said.

Merida’s Cathedral on the Plaza Mayor, the oldest in North America. // (c) FJ Adorna
Merida’s Cathedral on the Plaza Mayor, the oldest in North America. 

The ship’s itineraries range from a four-day cruise to the island of Cozumel to five-day cruises that include the Port of Progreso, located some 18 miles north of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula. Progreso is a popular gateway to the historic Maya ruins of Chichen Itza.

The ship’s short itinerary is ideal for young professionals who want to make the most of limited vacation time; most guests live close enough to the Port of Galveston to travel to the ship by car. Carnival also does an excellent job of catering to young singles who fill the nightclubs and flirt away at singles mixers. The younger set seems to attract an interesting cruising demographic — groups of young men looking forward to a couple days of sun, golf and not having to worry about who’s the designated driver. You might think of it as the male counterpart to the girlfriend getaway.

If your clients are arriving to the port by plane, be sure to allow plenty of time getting to and from the Galveston docks. There are two Carnival buses that service the local airport, but they fill up quickly. To avoid the crowds, you might consider making a reservation with Galveston Limo Services or order a small van for your clients.

The modest Carnival Ecstasy is an older, smaller ship, built in 1991, that can hold just more than 2,000 passengers. While it lacks the bells and whistles of the newer mega-ships, it has plenty of activities to keep cruisers of all ages busy. Another added bonus is its Texan flavor, which clients can experience in everything, from the food to the main theatrical show, a truly over-the-top country revue.

The ship has a total of three swimming pools, including one with a waterslide, a mini golf course and organized programs for children ages 2 and up to their teens. They also have formal and casual dining venues, a spa, a total of 12 bars and nightclubs and a full casino.

The Port of Cozumel has long been known for its white-sand beaches and excellent scuba diving and snorkeling. Whether your clients want to experience the beauty of the ocean from above the water or beneath it, there are plenty of activities.

If your clients prefer to stay dry instead of taking a dip in the sea, they can take a trip to Discover Mexico, a park that introduces guests to Mexican history and culture. Shoppers might prefer to just take a quick walk off the dock to a pristine mall of stores, all in an effort to find that perfect souvenir.

After the ship drops anchor at the Port of Progreso, clients can engage in a guided Segway excursion that lets them explore Merida, the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula as well as the oldest continually occupied city in the Americas.

The most popular excursion at Progreso is a visit to the famous ruins of Chichen Itza. For clients who want a similar taste of history but would prefer to avoid the crowds and a long bus ride, they can choose to explore the Dzibilchaltun ruins, a smaller Maya archaeology site that is located just 10 miles north of Merida. This less-publicized site is home to the Temple of the Seven Dolls, a temple that was discovered by archaeologists in the 1950s under the ruins of a later pyramid. And, for guests who want to immerse themselves in a form of natural history, you might suggest they take a dip in the Dzibilchaltun Cenote, an ancient swimming hole.

Other excursions here in Progreso include golfing at a Jack Nicklaus-designed championship course, snorkeling in underground caves or gallivanting through the jungle in rugged, all-terrain vehicles.

Despite the short itinerary, the Carnival Ecstasy seems to have something for everyone, whether it’s history, adventure, a truly Mexican cultural experience or a taste of Texas.