Check-out of my hostel in Acapulco was at 11am and having nothing else to do, I headed over to the cruise ship terminal to be told wait. Already 5people were wanting to check-in and by about 11:30 they let us into the terminal where we could check-in. First, rather burly Mexican men hand-searched (!) our luggage. Then we proceeded to the counter to do passport formalities and credit card swiping, neither of which was successful on the first 3 tries as the scanning machine seemed to be having difficulty. Good thing there wasn’t a long line at that time! Eventually all was set and we were allowed to board the ship, along with an additional 10 or so passengers who had arrived by this point. I later found out why they were hand-searching luggage, because it is the embarkation port’s responsibility to supply the luggage-scanning machines and similar facilities and services crucial for embarkation. However, the Port of Acapulco is not equipped to be a port of embarkation, therefore they did not have scanning machines so the staff was expected to be able to find scissors, knives, other sharp objects, any bombs, and any and all alcohol. Needless to say, an almost impossible task and they were more successful in some people’s luggage than in others.
Finally getting on the ship shortly after noon, I figured I’d go straight to my room, but then a crew member offered to take my bag and told me to go enjoy buffet lunch until 1pm when my room would be ready. Not being very hungry for lunch, I went back into Acapulco to go shopping around the Zocalo, the Old Town shopping area. Besides this area, Acapulco is also famous for its cliff divers who dive off cliffs into the ocean at night with fire torches and for the Fort that still dominates the bay. It seems to me that Acapulco has really become a destination for Mexican tourists rather than for foreign tourists. There are certainly nightclubs and restaurants catering to all crowds. One night I ate at Carlos’N’Charlies and I have to say, that is the most overpriced, overrated restaurant. There was no atmosphere, nothing special about it, the food was fine but waaay too expensive, and large margaritas were approaching US$20.
One restaurant that I did like alot was 100%Natural (many locations along Costera in Acapulco). Its a fresh, healthy restaurant with emphasis on fresh juices, salads, whole grains and other healthful foods. It was very reasonably priced with an extensive menu and excellent food. What I found interesting was that this was not the only place catering to a healthy crowd. There was a chain of ‘healthy’ frozen yogurt meets GNC-type supply store that were always packed with people having granola on their fro-yo or buy vitamins. There was also numerous GNC-type stores stocking everything from vitamins to protein powder. This was all very surprising to me considering Acapulco is primarily a beach destination for Mexicans and I hadn’t realized Mexico was a particularly health-conscious nation. Apparently the wealthier, beach-going Mexican have an interest in health and the money to spend on it. I further noticed that there must be some monied Mexicans who vacation in Acapulco when wondering around shopping malls as nice as those in the States and which sold items I wouldn’t even pay that much for in the US.
By about 7pm that night, after my family had all come aboard, the ship set sail for Huatulco. A Mexican beach destination farther south down the Pacific side of Mexico.
From before I’d arrived in Huatulco, Mexicans telling me ‘ooooh, Huatulco is nice,’ so I had high expectations. Huatulco was beautiful with cliff side-dwellings looking over crystal blue water and a small beach. The beach was nice and the water warm enough to swim in, so on that day it was very popular. There’s also a small outdoor market nearby, but a taxi ride will get you into a bigger town with more local color. But I saved the town with local color for the next day…
The following day the ship docked at Puerto Chiapas, a new port, very recently developed for cruise ship. The terminal is supposed to be the 1-stop place for all passengers: shops, restaurants, bars, live shows, and even a swimming pool. Well, all of it seems rather contrived and unappealing, so we decided to pay $10 to take a bus into the bigger town. Given that it was Christmas Eve, this town called Tapachula was packed with locals buying all their last minute Christmas gifts and provisions. It was certainly not a town that saw many tourists but it was good fun wandering in the markets and seeing all the locals (who are primarily more ethnically similar to Guatemalans than the rest of Mexico) prepare for Christmas. It was hot, very colorful, and a very attractive little town.
Unfortunately, the ship was unable to reach Playa del Carmen (on the Caribbean side of Mexico) as planned due to poor weather conditions. From what I’ve heard Playa del Carmen is absolutely stunning with great beaches and fanstastic snorkeling. Well I guess that’ll be another trip…