The most common route is to dock on the island — where you will typically find several ships lined up in a row — and book a shore excursion to the mainland either through your cruise line or a tour operator. How much time your ship spends in port will determine how much of the Yucatan you can see.
For those who are staying late into the evening (as some Carnival ships have started doing recently on the nights they have concerts onboard) you can swim in a cenote (an underground river that runs through caves) or check out Chichen Itza, the area’s most famous Mayan ruin. It’s a long day, but both are worth the trek in from the island.
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Then again, so are the beaches — which are lined with palm trees and sit on clear blue water. And don’t forget the snorkeling, especially since the reef here is the second largest in the world.
For more advice on traveling in the Caribbean and other destinations, go to www.insightguides.com.