Back on a Cruise – Part 2

A year ago, Rainer Jenss traveled around the world with his wife and two sons and blogged about his experience here on Intelligent Travel.  We’re proud to announce that Rainer’s Jenss Family Travels was selected as one of the Top 25 Family Travel Blogs by  This is Part 2 of his family’s latest adventure–a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

One of the biggest differences about cruising today versus when I was last on a ship 30 years ago is in the ships themselves. Since cruise lines started to aggressively increase the number of berths in the market in the early 90s, they seemed to start placing much more emphasis on their on-board facilities and amenities to attract passengers. This has clearly made them more appealing to parents, many of whom want to make sure their kids won’t get bored while out at sea. But let’s not forget about the ports-of-call. Our boys helped us select our spring break cruise by specifically choosing a Mexican itinerary since it was a country they were really curious about. Personally, I credit the fact that they’re both studying Spanish in school, but that’s me.

Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas were our only two stops on our recent week-long voyage on Holland America’s ms Oosterdam since Mazaltán was taken off the itinerary because of State Department warnings.  These destinations were new to me and since cruises generally only afford you a few hours to take them in, we decided that organized shore excursions were the way to go. At first, I had major trepidations about going this route. With over 2,000 people on-board, I figured we’d find ourselves packed into tour buses with dozens, if not hundreds of other passengers. I was pleasantly surprised when our group sizes were actually less than 20 persons.

One reason they weren’t so crowded was because there were about 30 different options to choose from in each port. For Puerto Vallarta, we chose the Hidden Beaches by Sea & Horseback tour led by Vallarta Adventures. This six-hour outing took us to the traditional fishing village of Quimixto on the southern shore of the bay. The only way to get there is by boat. The tropical jungle along the coast was quite a contrast compared to the developed and tourist soaked beaches of Puerto Vallarta. While in this charming little settlement, we took a scenic horseback ride to a nice waterfall where we all enjoyed a swim in the refreshing waters. Pizota was the next stop–a tiny beach community where the pace of life is distinctly relaxed. Its private beach and pristine waters provided the perfect location for kayaking and snorkeling.  The only problem was that the ocean was too churned up to really see any fish and we only had an hour to spend there, which didn’t give us nearly enough time to relax and unwind before returning to the ship. The lunch prepared and served by the locals was delicious and as authentic as it gets. The tequila drinks mixed by our guide didn’t hurt either.

In Cabo San Lucus, we picked the three-hour Dune Buggy, Beach & Swim excursion. After meeting our guide and being assigned one of their buggies, we drove through town before heading out into the desert. We cruised caravan-style along the beach highway for approximately two hours, including some photo stops along the way. Our final stop was at Chileno Bay Beach, where we spent an hour of free time sunbathing and swimming.

From what I could gather, there were quite a few family reunions and multi-generational families on the ship. This has been a growing trend for cruise lines and it’s easy to see why. Ships offer families an opportunity to gather in one place, with plenty to do for young and old alike. Best of all, no one has to prepare meals, do the dishes or worry about where to stay. It’s all neatly contained and organized in one well-run location. So when we returned back home from my first cruise vacation in over 30 years, my parents came to visit and were anxious to hear all about it. Thinking about some of those families I had met during the week, I suggested that we consider taking a cruise all together next year–maybe to the Caribbean, where my parents cruised with me when I was younger. They were thrilled at the prospect, so apparently it’s not going to be another 30 years between cruises, which suits our boys just fine.

Follow Rainer on Twitter at @JenssTravel.

Photos by Rainer Jenss & Tyler Jenss


  1. Richard Whitecross
    currently Switzerland
    June 5, 2011, 3:13 am

    hi this looks great. I thought yiu, Carole and the boys as i crossed a high psth tgat reminded me of being in Bhutan. I look forward to the next posting. R