We took the same Carnival Cruise twice, three years apart, and booked two wildly different shore excursions in Progresso, Mexico. The first excursion was tourism at its worst — local merchants constantly pestering us to buy cheap souvenirs as we attempted to sunbathe on the beach. This most recent excursion was a grand adventure, rich with local culture, beauty and physical activities. (Though the scuba nightmare and the human sacrifices lent a chilling air to the experience!)
Our excursion began with an hour van ride to a small Mayan village. (Yes, the Mayan people still exist!) A primitive dirt road wound its way past simple, side-by-side shacks and led to our first stop, a bicycle shop, We hopped on mountain bikes and trekked along bumpy paths through the jungle to a cenote — a natural sinkhole filled with crystal clear water. The cenote resembles a water-filled cave with stalagtites and stalagmites.
The Yucatán Peninsula is the site of the largest series of cenotes in the world. Two creepy facts: First, the ancient Mayans performed ritual (as in human!) sacrifices at the cenotes and just a few days before our visit, a scuba diver got lost in the vast array of underwater caves, never to be seen again. Thankfully, our snorkeling in the cenote was not nearly that dramatic. Before we jumped in the water, a Mayan shaman “blessed” our adventure with a Mayan prayer. Then he told us just a bit about the local plants and herbs he used to cure a host of physical maladies among the local villagers. An interesting guy!
After a bit of snorkeling, we pedaled to a larger cenote and snorkeled there. Then, we hopped back on our bikes and pedaled through the jungle to an open-air cottage with a thatch roof. Here the local Mayans fixed us a tasty, authentic Mexican lunch. (And no, we did not get sick eating it because they washed all the produce with bottled water.)
The van ride back to the cruise port found many of us dozing. We were exhausted but man, it was a good adventure! If you take the Carnival Cruise to the Yucatán Peninsula, be sure to book the Biking and Cenote Snorkeling Expedition.