Our Halloween 2018 Cruise on the Carnival Triumph included stops in Cozumel and Progreso Mexico. Dawn and I had just been to Cozumel in February so we were excited to be going back and this time we were taking Hago. Progreso was new to us and there was not an abundance of information available through the searches I went on. Hopefully we can impart some helpful information in case you stop there in the future.
Puerta Maya, Cozumel – Mr. Sanchos
Dawn and I were back at Puerta Maya less than a year after our first visit and could not have been happier! Puerta Maya is a beautiful port and has a lot to offer right off the pier. There is a small sandy area shaded with palm trees to relax in complimentary beach chairs while you take in the amazing scenery. The photo ops there are fantastic as you can get the ships along with the beautiful blues of the Caribbean. There are massage tables a little further down that offer their services for a bit cheaper than at the spa on board, though we did not need to indulge here as our package at Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club already included a couples massage. Restaurants and bars, souvenir shops and a pharmacy await your dollars, you just need to decide where and how to spend them.
Mr. Sancho’s is an all-inclusive beach resort, although not an excursion that is available through Carnival’s Excursions Desk. Sanchos includes several pools with swim up bars, a large buffet full of delicious food (seriously – the food is FABULOUS here), waiter and menu service at your assigned table (the menu is awesome and substantial), a beautiful beach with soft sand all the way to the ocean, locker service, massage services, and even a bath you can dunk your feet in for a fish pedicure. For an additional fee you can play on an assortment of inflatable water obstacles. You can book directly at their website (mrsanchos.com) or look around for discount options on Shore Excursioneer or other booking sites. I prefer to go to the source and it was quick and easy to book requiring only a small down payment to reserve your spot. They do limit the number of patrons allowed daily, so you definitely want to book in advance. NOTE – this goes for the similar but more private beach club Nachi Cocom as well. They only allow 130 guests per day and it is more laid back while Sanchos is more lively.
Since you are booking your own excursion you are responsible for arranging transportation from the port to the resort. So after we had snapped a pic or two in front of Ron Jon’s, we made our way past Fat Tuesdays toward the taxi stand to find a cab. A shared cab to Sanchos should be $17. If they try to charge you more, you can ask the staff to remind the driver of the set fee so that you can avoid the confrontation. Personally, I am very much at home negotiating with cabbies and have cleared up what we are going to pay before we get 15 feet, but that comes from a load of experience in drunken cab rides.
The trip to the resort from the port area is about 15 minutes and is pretty much a straight down a coastal highway. You won’t pass much to look at, but once you see the Burro, you know you have arrived. The cabbie may have to verify your reservations to gain entry and then you are dropped at the entrance to sign in and get your wristbands. The guest services desk will take the remainder of your payment and hand you off to a server to guide you to your table, or in our case cabana.
Prior to Hago booking to join us, I had booked the romantic getaway package which included all the food and drinks, as well as a couples massage, a private cabana and a long stemmed red rose for my beautiful wife. There is also an assigned table for six with a palapa to enjoy your food and drinks on the beach. The rest of the resort is laid out along the beach like a boardwalk. The swimming pools are beautifully designed and the landscaping surrounding the resort ties in very well with the setup. The sand is soft the overall theme makes it very easy to fall in step with the island vibe. With palm trees, sunshine and that wonderful ocean breeze accompanying the delicious frozen concoctions that keep coming, it is not surprising that this is one of the most popular attractions for travelers to Cozumel. Our bartender and waiter kept the drinks and food flowing.
For lunch we ordered from the menu at our table. It took about thirty minutes, so while we waited, I plated up some nachos from the buffet. They keep the chips hot and the nacho cheese is perfect. I just added some jalapenos and kept it simple, but there were plenty of options available. Our orders of coconut shrimp and ceviche arrived perfectly prepared and absolutely delicious! Everything we tried was done right, from the Dirty Monkeys at the pool bar, to the fajitas on the buffet. The staff and service were welcoming and ready to attend to your every need.
The couples massage after lunch just about put me to sleep. We had scheduled our time earlier in the day and when we arrived for our appointment they were ready for us. The massage tables are on the second floor of an open air cabana with amazing views of the water. All in all, it is fantastic place to be facedown on a massage table. They applied their oils and worked on us both into a deep state of relaxation. I think it took about six days to wake up after that. Eventually we made our way back to our little bed on the beach and just chilled for a bit before eventually heading to do a little shopping for souvenirs.
Shopping in port is best done with dollars and patience. Most of the shops sell similar if not the exact same products, but the prices and deals vary from spot to spot. Generally the prices go down as you get further from the ship, but everything is negotiable. What we have found to be effective is to gather several items and ask for a price on the lot. Then you can make your cash offer. Try to save some money! It is a lot of fun to barter and it is expected in a lot of cultures, especially outside the main port areas. Dawn took advantage of the shopping area at the entrance to Sanchos and got a great deal on several souvenirs just as we were leaving. Prices always get better as you are heading away.
We did a little more shopping at Puerta Maya and took our cake picture that I love to get Dawn in. You can find this little photo op at several of Carnival’s ports and I just love seeing her pop out! She made some new friends there too as the crowd of onlookers saw her laughing and joined in the fun. Heading back through the DUFRY shops cooled us off for the short walk back to the ship. TIP: Hold onto your hat when you are out and about, it gets very windy on the pier.
Progreso, Yucatan Mexico – Hotel Reef Yucatan
Prior to our cruise I had spent a fair amount of time looking for information on Progreso. I will try to tell you as much as possible from what we were able to learn in our short stay, but basically Progreso is a fledgling port of call trying to carve its niche by building an identity based on their history of independence. Excursions are limited to a couple of beach options, several Mayan ruin tours and a few city tours. We of course opted for the all-inclusive beach getaway thru Carnival’s Excursions. It felt safer to book with the cruise line’s guarantee in a port with so few options.
A shuttle picks you up at the pier. There is no walking from ship out to town here. The pier juts out almost four miles into the ocean and is the center for container shipping in the Yucatan as well as the few Carnival ships that stop here each season. It is one of, if not the, longest piers in the world. There was a considerable amount of construction ongoing when we crossed to the mainland, so I imagine as it continues to grow it will become a more attractive trip from ship to shore, but for now, it is just a long pier and you must take a shuttle.
We met our guy Fluffy, or Tony if you prefer, and he loaded us onto a very comfortable bus for our trip to the resort. If I had to guess, I would say the bus had been purchased from a tour company in the United States, as it had quite a few miles on it, but was very well maintained. The air conditioning worked perfectly and the ride was smooth and comfortable. Fluffy, his moniker of choice, was by far the most educated tour guide I have encountered on an excursion. He was chosen to take part in a scholarship program that took him abroad and taught him how to not only appreciate his own culture, but impart that appreciation and knowledge to others. His sponsors actually relocated from Canada to Progreso and now run a self sustaining business. He began to educate us on the history and thus began Hago’s $70 nap.
Between the port and the resort the ocean views are a constant companion and we learned about a major impact from an asteroid that had struck nearby and is widely believed to be the same event that triggered the extinction of many species, including most of the dinosaurs. The town of Chicxulub (cheek-sha-loob) was a few miles from the crater and so the event is called the Chicxulub Impactor and the Chicxulub Asteroid. Fluffy also told us about the history of the Yucatan and the Spaniards and how Progreso was fiercely independent then, and remains so now. In fact, at port, you see a different flag than you will find flying over any other Mexican destination. I wish I could remember more of the details, but there is a lot to take in and the ride is long (like the liquor store and Police Station sharing a parking lot).
Arriving at the resort is like arriving on a different planet. The grounds are pristinely maintained and the hotel is open, airy and clean. It is quite a stark contrast from the arid landscape that we passed along the road. After stopping by the front desk for our wristbands, we headed out to check out the grounds. The pool is large and has plenty of chairs in which to relax and watch the kids at play, or read a book. The music is not overbearing and the attitude in general is relaxed and unassuming. Past the pool lies the beach and that is where we staked our claim to three reclining chairs under palapas with a table for our drinks. Hagan settled in to continue his $70 nap and Dawn and I wandered around the place seeing what there was to see.
The beach here is a little rockier than other stops we have made, but all in all it is a very nice and clean place to put your toes in the sand and soak up some sun. Our stay was all-inclusive, so Dawn and I took advantage of the drinks to help us recover from the day before, while Hagan sawed logs in the ocean breeze. We walked along the beach and found several cute little shells for keepsakes. Shopping was limited, but we checked through what they had to offer and got a couple of trinkets for the grandkids. Surprisingly, the buffet was more american fare than traditional mexican, but it did include a few empanadas along with the hot dogs and hamburgers, and the food was adequate. So Dawn and I filled our plates and had a little bite to eat, while Brian dreamed of more sober days ahead. The included drink menu is slightly limited and the quality of the cocktails is not tops, but we enjoyed our lunch and drinks and were not disappointed. Compared to what we had the day before at Mr. Sanchos, The Reef Yucatan had a lot to live up to, but the overall experience was excellent and one that I would recommend 10 times out of 10. I mean, let’s be clear, sipping adult beverages on a beach chair in the ocean breeze is a fabulous way to spend the day, no matter how you look at it – Well, unless you see it from Hagan’s point and that would be that a nap on any beach by the ocean is a great nap.