Mexico has gotten a bad reputation lately. Every week Americans hear about atrocities committed by the drug cartels. Yet, when I went on a cruise with my family to Mexico over spring break this year, I saw none of that. My cruise, the Carnival ship Elation, stopped at two spots, Progresso and Cozumel, both of which were devoid of the crime their country is known for. Both provided an enjoyable experience. Yet my impressions of the two places were very different.
Progresso was the first stop. It was hot and dusty. My family had signed up for a shore excursion to the Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltun and it took around forty-five minutes to get there by bus. Once there, my family and I were awed by the massive ruins. Our tour guide elaborated on the history of the Mayans and the questions concerning why the ruins had been abandoned long before the Europeans came to the Yucatan peninsula. Afterwards, we were allowed to explore the ruins and literally walk on top of them, which is a luxury, I heard, that people can’t do with most other ruins in Mexico. The only downside was the intense heat. Fortunately, there was a beautiful, clear sink hole in which to swim. The gift shop, which I loved, was full of people of Mayan descent, selling hand-made trinkets. I purchased a beautiful yellow dress while I was there. I felt like Progresso and its people were genuine, and many of them didn’t even speak English.
Cozumel, on the other hand, was a tourist trap. It was very beautiful, for sure. The buildings were brightly painted and the water surrounding the island was sparkling. Palm trees shaded the sidewalk. Yet it was a show, as I first realized when I stepped off the boat and saw a man dressed like Jack Sparrow, painted in gold, waiting for tourists to give him money. As you walked down the streets, everyone was trying to sell their wares and it was uncomfortable. Most of the products were cheap trinkets, made for the tourists, and much of it wasn’t even made in Mexico. Nevertheless, the beauty of the island made up for the annoyances. My family went snorkeling in the ocean, where we saw creatures such as an underwater snake and an eagle ray, neither of which I could see in my backyard.
Overall, I liked Progresso better. The shopping was better (though slightly more expensive) and I could move around more freely while not being followed by a man selling bracelets I didn’t want. One issue I had, which was more directed toward the cruise rather than the cities, was that the time I spent in either place was limited. I didn’t get to try food from either place. I didn’t get to peruse the stores as much as I would have liked, either. I wish I would have had a few more hours to explore.
We all know that Mexico is dangerous. But the thing is, not all of it is infested with drug cartels. Some cities are perfectly safe for some good old family fun. Progresso and Cozumel are two of these cities, and I would recommend visiting both of them. If you can only visit one, Progresso is good for a cultural experience, whereas Cozumel is good because it provides a larger variety of things to do. I’ve learned that Mexico can be a very fun place when you’re in a safe area.
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