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10 Things To Do In Progreso



(photo: Nancy Schretter)

By Nancy Schretter

Located on the shores of Mexico’s Gulf coast, Progreso is often found on shorter Western Caribbean itineraries. The port is also used as a substitute stop when hurricanes and mechanical issues necessitate itinerary changes. So, what’s there to do in Progreso? Don’t let the size or appearance of this town fool you – there’s plenty to do in this port. Here are ten of my favorites:

1. Tour Chichen Itza: This important archeological site is listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Once the home of the great Mayan Empire, this legendary city’s grounds and structures are both visually and historically impressive. Chichen Itza is more than a two-hour bus ride from Progreso, but it’s well worth the trip. Here you can view the gigantic pyramid of Kulkulcan, see the well-preserved Mayan ball court, as well as the temple of the warriors and the observatory, where Mayan priests accurately calculated celestial events. On the occasional itineraries that include an overnight stay in Progreso, an afternoon and evening tour of Chichen Itza – complete with a nighttime light and sound show – may be available.

2. Discover Lesser-Known Mayan Sites: Cruisers with a strong interest in the Mayan civilization will appreciate Progreso’s proximity to a wide variety of Mayan cities and ceremonial centers. Those who have already visited Chichen Itza should check out tours to Uxmal and Dzibilchaltun. Uxmal is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the Mayan world. The site is famous for its beautifully carved facades, terraces, plazas and pyramids originating between 200 and 900 AD. Dzibilchaltun is one of the more important ceremonial centers of the Mayan world and is closer to the port of Progreso, making it a perfect option for those who want to see a Mayan site, but don’t want to take a full day tour.

3. Take a Beach Break:  There are plenty of seaside beach clubs in Progreso offering chairs, food and drinks. Many cruise passengers also enjoy getting an inexpensive massage on the beach while they’re here. Massages range in price from $10 to $35 for an hour-long treatment. Those looking for something more exclusive may opt to take one of the many beach tours offered by the ship. These include trips to all-inclusive beach resorts, Corona Beach parties, and other options.

4. Explore Historic Merida: The lovely city of Merida was christened in 1542 and its Mayan and Spanish colonial roots are still in evidence. From colonial to cosmopolitan, Merida is a study in contrasts. Here, you’ll view the French-inspired Montejo’s Boulevard, the country’s National Monument, the 19th century Government Palace, as well as the Cathedral, built in 1774 from stones that were once part of the pyramid of Xbacluum-Chan. Opportunities to shop in stores surrounding Merida’s main plaza and other areas are also included.

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5. Hone Your Bargaining Skills: Downtown Progreso is home to a small colorful market where cruisers can buy casual jewelry, t-shirts, and inexpensive souvenirs. There are stores on the way to the beach in Progresso. More are located in the main pier area where the cruise ships dock. Based on our experience, prices in Progreso are lower than those in Merida and Cozumel for similar merchandise. Selection, however, is rather limited.

6. Kayak Through the Mangroves: Cruisers looking for a peaceful activity can take a kayak tour through the mangrove lagoons around Progreso. These natural settings are a nesting place for local birds and the natural tunnels in the mangroves are fun to explore. Tours to view the native flamingos in an area near Progreso are also typically offered through the cruise ship and by private vendors in town.

7. Hit Some Balls: Play the 18-hole championship El Jaguar course at the Yucatan Country Club. This Jack Nicklaus Signature Course features lakes and natural cenotes in a tropical jungle setting. This course works well for a range of golfers, as five sets of tees provide play of anywhere between 5,000 to 7,253 yards.

8. Learn Something New: Those seeking a Mexican cultural experience can take a cooking class in Merida and learn how to make authentic Mexican salsas and guacamole using local fresh ingredients. Complimentary margaritas and Mexican beers complete the tasting experience. Then, perfect your dancing skills by learning the Salsa, one of the most popular Latin dances. The many Mayan site tours also teach guests a great deal about the Mayan culture and the history of the Yucatan peninsula.

9. Hop in a Dune Buggy: Load three of your friends into your stick-shift dune buggy and drive about 45 minutes to the Xcambo ruins, built over 2,000 years ago. Then drive for an hour to a beach where you can relax and take a refreshing swim in the ocean.

10. Cool Off in a Cenote: Cenotes, large natural pools located in the open or inside limestone caves, are quite common on the Yucatan peninsula. During your visit to Progreso, you may have the opportunity to take a dip in one. Sometimes cenote swims are combined with other activities, such as biking. Purification ceremonies presided over by a Mayan Shaman may be held as part of selected tours.

Progreso has the longest cruise ship pier in the world at about 4 miles in length. Free shuttle buses run on a regular basis from the pier to downtown Progreso. From the drop-off area where the market is located, it’s a few-minute walk to the beach. Rest rooms are available in the marketplace building and a number of restaurants are located nearby.

Want to get to Progreso? Several Carnival ships include Progreso in their itineraries from Gulf Coast home ports such as Galveston and New Orleans. Check with your travel agent or visit the Carnival website at for more details.

Nancy Schretter is Managing Editor of the award-winning Family Travel Network.

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5 Unique Things To Do In New York City After Your Cruise



Two of the best things about sailing out of New York City are the incredible views as you head down the Hudson River, and the opportunity to spend a little time in one of the greatest cities on the planet. So it’s not surprising that a lot of folks fly in a few days early (or stick around a few days after disembarking) to hang out in the Big Apple. Many will opt to see the Statue of Liberty or the 9/11 Memorial, but if you want to get a bit off the beaten path, we have a few suggestions for you.

1. The McKittrick Hotel/Sleep No More

Practically defying explanation, Sleep No More is an interactive theatrical experience in which you don a (provided) face-concealing mask and step back in time to the 1930s to explore something like 100 rooms within an “abandoned” hotel. All around you, the tale of Macbeth unfolds, sans dialogue and mostly in the form of gesturing and dance. This involves a fair amount of walking around (including trudging up and down staircases in pursuit of actors) and is not for the easily intimidated. But, as the occupants of the hotel are fond of saying, “Fortune favors the bold.” Those looking to make a whole evening of their visit can opt for dinner and/or drinks at the hotel’s atmospheric restaurant, The Heath, or rooftop venue, Gallow Green.

2. Beer Culture

What better way to prepare for a week of imbibing than visiting this cool little bar right in the heart of midtown? Located on West 45th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, Beer Culture is – as the name suggests – all about the brewskies. Don’t wander in here expecting an umbrella drink or a martini, because the only beverages on tap here are beer and whiskey. But for lovers of either, this is like a little slice of heaven, with knowledgeable barkeeps ready to help you find the perfect draft beer or, for the more adventurous, rows of fridges stocked with more types of beer than you dreamed existed. It’s a small venue with limited seating, but the vibe is chill, the locals are friendly and you’ll probably pay less here than you will on the ship.

3. The Museum of Sex

The days of pimps and hookers working Times Square may be long gone, but their spirit lives on at what many affectionately call MoSex. Located on the corner of 5th Avenue and 27th Street, this is the kind of place you’re likely to enter giggling and slightly embarrassed, and yet emerge with an uncomfortable combination of titillated and well-informed. With a constantly-rotating line-up of exhibitions, one never knows what to expect. It might be a photo gallery examining how New York City’s discos influenced the sexual culture of the 70s or works of art created by people whose obsessions label them outsiders. And lest you think this is all lust and laughter, no less than Forbes magazine dubbed the latter “one of the 5 most anticipated New York art museum exhibits of winter, 2017.”

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4. The Ride

This one’s a tad on the touristy side, but hey… it’s also a blast. Even those who’ve never been to New York City know about the double-decker busses which ferry tourists around from one popular location to another. But The Ride takes that concept and gives it a modern twist. More moving theater than bus, the vehicles feature floor-to-ceiling windows and stadium style seating. During the 75-minute tour hosted by improv artists, passengers are treated to performances that unfold on the streets and sidewalks, even sometimes catching innocent bystanders up in the unfolding show. The “tour” takes place mainly in the midtown area, and it isn’t one of those hop-on/hop-off experiences, but rather a show in and of itself. It’s not for everybody – click here to see if it might be right for you – but it is definitely a unique experience.

5. Dinner in the Dark

Foodies and sensualists will absolutely love the experience offered on select evenings at West Village eatery Camaje. Described as a feast for the senses, guests are blindfolded and, as one reviewer put it, at the mercy of the chef and the wait staff. The $95 per-person charge includes the meal, wine, taxes and gratuity… although not the cleaning bill should you wind up missing your mouth! The menu is kept a secret until after the meal has been served, although those with dietary restrictions can let the restaurant know in advance. This is an amazing experience, but is only offered a few times a month. Check the website to see if it happens to coincide with your pre or post-cruise visit!

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8 Things to Do on Castaway Cay



Disney Cruise Line’s island Castaway Cay is among the best of cruise line private islands anywhere.  The pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water attract cruise guests back again and again.  In true Disney spirit, there’s also a ton to do there, and there will be something for everyone.  Whether you enjoy sporty activities, thrilling adventures, or want to relax for a day, Castaway Cay’s got something for you.  Here’s eight things you can do while you’re in the Bahamian destination for a day.

1. Be a Beach Bum

There’s literally a beach for every age on Castaway Cay.  If you want to stay with your littles and enjoy some family time in the water, there’s the Family Beach.  This beach is closest to all of the action and is full of loungers and plenty of waterfront for a day of frolicking in the waves.  There’s also a huge floating platform within swimming distance from shore that two water slides, a dumping water bucket, and other water features.  For a quieter beach scene, adults 18+ can head to Serenity Bay to enjoy some alone time, and even get a relaxing massage.

2. Play in the Water Park

Aside from the Pelican Plunge floating platform mentioned above, there’s also a play area for kids on land called Spring-a-Leak.  Designed to look like the remnants of a washed-away beach dwelling, there’s dripping pipes, hissing misters, and broken plumbing that will provide plenty of cooling-off fun for the kids.

3. Run a 5k

Not a lot of people realize that each and every time a ship calls in Castaway Cay, there’s a 5k in the morning on the island.  Kids and adults alike can register once they board the cruise, and there’s no additional cost to sign up.  You hop off the ship with the group, and are able to be on the island before most everyone else.  Participants can run, jog, walk, whatever – it’s more of a completion 5k versus a race.  Once you’re finished, you earn a rubber medal to show your efforts!  Then, you have the rest of the day to cool off and enjoy the island.  I think it’s a really neat way to start your Castaway Cay day bright and early, and get in a good bit of exercise too.

4. Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour

One of the excursions that is offered on Castaway Cay is a glass bottomed boat tour.  Guests will board the boat and then venture to the northern side of the island to its barrier reef system.  Through viewing windows in the bottom, guests will be able to see vibrant tropical fish, coral, and other sea creatures in the clear waters.  This one-hour tour is the perfect way to see a bit of underwater life, especially for young kids or adults who may not want to venture into snorkeling.

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5. Ride Bikes

For active guests, renting a bike for an hour or two might just be the perfect way to get a feel for the island.  There are bike paths throughout, and it’s a great way to combine exercise with sightseeing…because who wants to ride a stationary bike in the gym when you can explore a tropical island instead?!

6. Do Yoga

One fitness class included in your cruise fare is a morning yoga session on the beach.  Those that participate will be some of the first off the ship (along with the 5k participants!) and are able to enjoy a peaceful session in the adults-only area of Serenity Bay.  If beginning your morning with one of the most relaxing practices sounds appealing, this activity is right up your alley.

7. Try Parasailing

If thrills is the name of your game and you’re willing to splurge for it, consider the parasailing excursion.  Shortly after disembarking the cruise ship you’ll make your way to Marges Barges and be escorted to a boat after a safety briefing.  Once out on the water, guests will be able to parasail for five to seven minutes high in the sky – making for killer island views and a memory that’s sure to stick around forever.

8. Go Snorkeling

I could hardly mention a lineup of activities in Castaway Cay without mentioning a tropical vacation classic: snorkeling.  The snorkeling area is located off of the Family Beach, and features two trails that guests can follow through their snorkeling adventures.  The first is Discover Trail, and the second is the Explorer Trail for more experienced snorkelers.  You’ll see tropical fish, ocean floor fauna, and even some fun installations by Disney themselves. (Be sure to look out for the hidden Mickey!)

Photos used in Pinterest image: Disney Cruise Line

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The 12 Days of Cruising: 4 Amazing Private Islands



Santa baby, I really wanna yacht, And really that’s not a lot…”

Even though I’ve been exceptionally good this year, I don’t think Santa is bringing me a yacht or private island to go with it. Since I don’t really want 4 Calling Birds, my true love game me 4 amazing private islands to visit on my next cruise. Here’s where you might catch me (and maybe Santa too) next year.

1. Half Moon Cay

Owned by Carnival Cruise Line, this is not only the first private island I ever visited, it’s the very 1st place I ever visited on any cruise ship. It was literally like a post card and I loved my visit to this Bahamian island. In fact, it’s still one of my favorite cruise stops to this day.

The water is warm and crystal clear while the soft sand is powder white. The drinks are cold and the food seems endless. You can relax or explore and there’s really something for everyone to do here. From snorkeling to horseback riding to swimming with sting rays to sitting in the sun or private cabanas to playing in the pirate water park, this private island holds the “cay” to your perfect beach day.

2. Princess Cays

Eleuthera sounds like it might be a place in The Lord of the Rings, but it’s actually the name of the private island Princess Cruises visits in the Bahamas. Unspoiled, natural beaches highlight this private destination; the island itself is 100 miles long!

You’ll find all the water sports here – kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, aqua bikes, banana boats, and more – but also find a charming capital in Governor’s Harbor lined with Victorian-era homes and the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a 25-acre ecologically sustainable sanctuary that is the first national park on the island. Visitors can walk the miles of trails that include views of orchids, edible and medicinal plants, and hardwood trees.

Not interested in getting wet, but still want to see the fish? There are several boat options from the island, including a glass bottom boat and coastal cruises.

3. CocoCay

Owned exclusively by Royal Caribbean since 1990, this island located between Nassau and Freeport may be one of the earliest cruise line privately owned islands.

Manatees, rays, and fish make their homes here, and don’t mind sharing the water with you. You’ll also find nature trails here throughout the island in addition to all the normal water activities.

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If water slides are your thing, you’ll want to take a ($5) ride on the 40-story one, also known as the world’s largest. If water parks are more your style, you’ll find Caylana’s Aqua Park available for $22 per person, per hour of use.

Want to kick back, relax and watch the tide come in with a cold drink in your hand? You’ll find bars in each of the island’s 3 beaches (Barefoot, Coconut Willie’s and Snorkel) that will keep you cool and refreshed all day long.

4. Castaway Cay

Take one Bahamian island, sprinkle some pixie dust on it, and you’ll end up with Castaway Cay, Disney’s private, shipwrecked-themed island.

In addition to the typical perfect paradise amenities, you can experience some special Disney magic in the islands. While snorkeling, you’ll discover sunken ride vehicles from the former ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You can party and pose with Lilo and Stitch. You can run a themed 5k race, complete with finisher medal. Find out what snowmen do in summer at Olaf’s Summertime Freeze.

You’ll find places for everyone in the family: kids-only Spring-a-Leak; Teen Hideout; Scuttle’s Cove for the little ones; Grouper Games Pavilion and Goofy’s Sand Lot for family fun and games; and the adults-only Serenity Bay.

Which private island would you like to own visit this Christmas season or on your next cruise? Do you have a favorite one to visit?

Featured photo: Castaway Cay – Disney Cruise Line

Read our previous entires in the 12 Days of Cruising series:

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