A horror of group activity means that, up until now, we at CruiseSceptic have steadfastly avoided organised tours on cruises. In the interests of research, we decided to take one for the team and book a tour for our stop in Progresso, Mexico. As it turned out, Progresso itself is just a giant pier for various ships to dock at and a dusty town centre, so heading to something interesting was a good call.
Before sailing, we booked a tour described as “VIP Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik-Kil - mainly because the idea of swimming in a Cenote was irresistible. For the unfamiliar, cenotes are sinkholes that lead to underground rivers.
Again, praise goes to Carnival for the way the process itself was handled - the simultaneous departure from the ship of hundreds of passengers headed onto dozens of different tours was slick and well organised. There were, of course, still people complaining that they weren’t being individually led by the nose, but that’s the general public for you.
What we weren’t so happy about was the lack of advance information about the day itself. For example, we may have not chosen this tour had we known in advance that most of it (four hours out of seven) would be spent in a minibus. On the other hand, we may have been more relaxed had we been told in advance that the Cenote location had excellent lockers and changing facilities - rather than wondering about how to prevent valuables been stolen while we were splashing around in the earth’s crust.
The “VIP” part of the tour turned out to be the use of minibuses, rather than coaches, which travelled faster and so enabled us to visit the Cenote, rather than just Chichen Itza. The quality of the guide was however, also first class.
As it turned out, both parts of the tour were worth the time bent double in a minibus. Chichen Itza is simply incredible, even if packed with tourists and purveyors of tat. Our guide seemed able to navigate us around the worst of the chaos.
The lunch at Cenote Ik-Kil wasn’t worth tuppence, but the day would have counted as a triumph if all we’d done was swim in the Cenote - it was just a magical experience.
Booking an official Carnival tour, which guarantees that the boat will wait for you, was also worthwhile - it meant we remained relaxed even as we crawled back through Progresso’s rush hour with only minutes to go before the ship’s scheduled departure time.