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Get Ready for a Fiesta on Mexico Cruises in 2014-15

From a traditional Mexican fiesta to ziplining through a lush canopy of trees, the 2014-15 Mexico season has exciting itineraries that showcase seven ports along the Mexican Riviera.

Sailing roundtrip from San Diego, Calif., where ships conveniently dock near downtown, the seven and 12-day cruises visit Mexico in October, November and December, then return in March for a month of sun and fun.

Westerdam and Veendam sail seven-day cruises that call at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, and also feature scenic cruising in Bahia Magdalena. Cabo, as it is simply called by those who frequent this beautiful port, lies along the southern tip of Baja California. It is the entertainment hub and the end of the road, where the peninsula goes off a cliff into the sea. San Jose del Cabo is the old town, and exudes classic Mexico. In between the two cities, the resort-fringed coast is slathered in sunshine. Cruise visitors will find that Cabo is fine, the shopping divine, and the beaches all shine. Lover’s Beach is a great place to see the arch at Land’s End. Medano and Chileno beaches are placid and lovely. Las Playitas is a series of mini-beaches tucked into weathered coves.

Clockwise from left: Divers soar from the cliffs in Mazatlan, Cabo's famed "El Arco" and beautiful Puerto Vallarta from the rooftops.

Clockwise from left: Divers soar from the cliffs in Mazatlan, Cabo’s famed “El Arco” and beautiful Puerto Vallarta from the rooftops.

At first, Mazatlan may appear like a cosmopolitan western Mexico beach city serving up great weather, venerable iglesias and an array of beaches. But immerse yourself a little bit and the city gets ever more remarkable. Cliff divers wait at the top of a rocky outcrop for the right wave then plummet 45 feet into the sea. Sunlight filters in through myriad panels of stained glass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Waves crash on the esplanade along Olas Altas beach, providing a soundtrack for an evening stroll. And, mmm, the shrimp. Mazatlan serves it up fresh: Try some al mojo de ajo (with garlic) or in the shell with a tangy squeeze of lime.

Puerto Vallarta squeezed into the thin space between Banderas Bay and the verdant folds of the Sierra Madre. It’s no longer the well-kept secret of the artists, writers and Hollywood stars who first “discovered” it in the 1960s, but “PV” (as it is affectionately known) still retains the essence of the fishing village it once was. Viejo Vallarta, the old town, is a mix of red-tiled buildings, cobbled streets, chic shops and busy open markets. Other highlights include Mismaloya Beach, Gringo Gulch, and Conchas Chinas, the Beverly Hills of Vallarta. Head inland for more adventure, up into the rugged canyons and luxuriant jungles of the mountains.

Westerdam sails this itinerary Oct. 3, 2014, while Veendam cruises the seven-day route Nov. 8 and Dec. 20 and 27, 2014, and March 7, 14, and 21 in 2015.

Guests looking for a more in-depth exploration of Mexico can embark Statendam for a 12-day Mexican Riviera cruise departing Dec. 3, 2014. In addition to scenic cruising in Bahia Magdalena, the ship calls at Cabo, Pichilinque (La Paz), Loreto, Guaymas, Topolobampo and ends with an overnight call at Puerto Vallarta.

A tranquil way of life abounds in La Paz, which means “peace.” Among its simple pleasures: strolling the palm-shaded malecón, lazing on the beautiful beaches of nearby Pichilingue Peninsula, snorkeling sapphire seas at lovely Los Islotes, home to a colony of inquisitive sea lions.

La Paz, left, and Loreto are two pretty ports featured on the 12-day Mexico itinerary.

La Paz, left, and Loreto are two pretty ports featured on the 12-day Mexico itinerary.

Loreto is a peaceful seaside community, founded in 1697 by Jesuit priest and explorer Juan Maria Salvatierra. Interestingly, it was the first European settlement in the Californias. Stroll the cobbled plaza to the Mision Nuestra Se ora de Loreta, burnished with years of devotion, and commune with nature as you snorkel the crystal-clear lagoons of Isla Coronados.

Guaymas lies in a quiet bay in the sparkling Sea of Cortez. Step back in time as you tour the neoclassic San Fernando Church and the Moorish 13 de Julio Plaza in the historic town center. Explore the popular beaches and picturesque bays in nearby San Carlos. Visit a world class pearl farm or journey to magical Las Barajitas Canyon, home to three separate ecosystems.

Have you heard of Topolobampo? Good, don’t tell anyone. Holland America Line is the only major cruise line to call on this peaceful port on Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Awaiting your arrival: playful bottlenose dolphins; the mansion of Don Diego de la Vega, “El Zorro”; grand visions of the Chihuahua-al-Pacifico Railway and a luxury train through Mexico’s scenic Copper Canyon.

Have you visited Mexico with Holland America Line? What did you love most about the region? Tell us below!

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