Travel

Cruising to Mexico: Food, zip-line and more

Stuffing yourself with food is popular fare for jokes on cruise ships, but it's serious business. I gained eight pounds during a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera in November. My wife gained six.

Did we really eat that much in a week? Did we ever. But we also dieted for several weeks ahead because that's our pre-cruise strategy.

We are becoming cruise veterans, chalking up No. 5 recently on a trip to the Mexican Riviera, so we are well aware of the culinary temptations. And we admit that part of why we cruise is because of the good food.

But there are plenty of other reasons to go: A warm destination in the cold months, activities on board ranging from rock-climbing to karaoke, and port excursions that included a zip-line, soaring from treetop to treetop some 100 feet above the jungle floor.

Is 60 too old for such shenanigans? I was about to find out.

We took our trip aboard Royal Caribbean International's Vision of the Seas. It's smaller than some of the mega ships we've sailed, but it wasn't lacking in amenities and activities.

Swimming pools, sauna, shops, lounges, disco, shuffleboard, rock-climbing wall, belly flop contest, karaoke, elaborate song-and-dance shows in the theater, magicians, jugglers, comedians. Whew!

But we still found time for a nap or two. And there was plenty of quiet time to read on deck or by the pool, or just watch the waves.

Likewise, there was no shortage of things to do while ashore at the ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, which is where Gina, 54, and I booked our zip-line excursion.

After checking in at the dockside office of Vallarta Adventures and taking a great hour-long ride through the Mexican countryside in the back of a canvas-covered truck, we arrived with 11 others at the zip-line site. The company prefers to call it a canopy tour.

Within minutes, we were slipped into body harnesses, handed thick gloves and given zip-line instructions. What's to know? Keep your feet up on takeoffs and landings, and use the glove with the extra thick leather pad to hit the brakes on the overhead steel cable that serves as your conduit from one tree platform to the next.

Fun? Is it ever! We'd do it again in a heartbeat. Strenuous? Nope, unless you count the hike back to the truck, an uphill trek that took about 20 minutes but included a stop in the middle for a cold bottle of water and short rest for weary, old legs. Then it was back to town.

Shoppers (and we are) found the usual tourist trinkets there and in the other ports of call -- T-shirts, colorful Mexican art and jewelry.

Town tours also are popular. We saw a beautiful cathedral in Mazatlan and other wonderful Mexican architecture during a bus trip through the city. For the adventurous, excursions featured -- in addition to the zip line -- such options as parasailing, horseback riding, snorkeling and sand buggies.

But back on board, the most tempting diversions are the edible ones. Restaurants never sleep on some ships. They close for a few hours on other ships, but room service is usually available around the clock.

Cruise passengers can fill up to their heart's desire at the buffet, which features a dizzying display of delectable dishes. And there are almost always hot dogs, burgers and pizza by pool side. Ditto for soft-serve ice cream. Just help yourself.

To step up to white tablecloth service with more silverware than you know what to do with, seat yourself in the elaborate dining room for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

It doesn't get any better than that.

And most of the food is very good. A dish here or there may not fit your fancy, but all in all, quite tasty. As for selection, there's nothing like having five or six main courses to choose from at lunch and dinner.

The fish? How about a steak tonight? Or both. No problem. Waiters are there to please.

Is it lobster night? I'll have two, please.

Appetizers galore. Breads. Salads. Almost no end to the desserts.

For the truly guilty, most cruise ships have handy walking or jogging tracks on upper decks. I'm not sure how many times we circled the track, but it sure helped jostle some of the food down, making room for more later.

After we lose the weight we gained on our last trip, we'll likely head back to sea. What's next? Well, we've cruised the Mexican Riviera, Alaska's Inner Passage, eastern Caribbean, and the western Caribbean twice. The eastern Caribbean is our choice for a repeat cruise.

Are we cruise-a-holics? You bet!

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