Baja cruise - Ensenada and Catalina questions

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
DD17 and I booked a fairly short-notice March 4-nighter on the Wonder. I went on a Mexican Riviera cruise years ago, but it did not include Ensenada or Catalina Island, so they are firsts for both of us. Hoping for some help/advice.

Catalina Island - I'm not planning to book an excursion. We want to rent a golf cart and drive around, go to the botanical gardens, shop, nothing that needs pre-planning... except I wasn't sure about the golf cart. Do they have rental booths close to where the tender drops us? (Thinking of Key West - where all that kind of stuff was right there on the pier for last minute rentals, no need to pre-book.) Or should I book in advance, and if so - any recommendations?

Ensenada - none of the excursions look that enticing for a 17yo who can't drink alcohol, isn't interested in seafood, and will not love hour long bus rides that they all seem to have. She's really only interested in shopping and beaches, but the excursions imply the beaches are far away. I'm thinking that we might just shop near the cruise pier area, which sounds easy, but don't want to miss something amazing. Am I overlooking a really great beach experience somewhere?

TIA!
 

auntlynne

Aunt Lynne
Joined
Sep 2, 2008
We visited Catalina by ferry for an overnight trip. I can’t address your specific questions, but will say that it was a nifty island. My family members did bike rental. I somehow managed to get to the botanical gardens, by foot or a bus/ shuttle. Nothing screamed cruise port at this location, which I consider a positive.

I have never heard anything great about Ensenada, other than it meets the legal requirement to visit a foreign port. You might want to do a search of the trip reports thread to find any mention of Ensenada.
 

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
We visited Catalina by ferry for an overnight trip. I can’t address your specific questions, but will say that it was a nifty island. My family members did bike rental. I somehow managed to get to the botanical gardens, by foot or a bus/ shuttle. Nothing screamed cruise port at this location, which I consider a positive.

I have never heard anything great about Ensenada, other than it meets the legal requirement to visit a foreign port. You might want to do a search of the trip reports thread to find any mention of Ensenada.
Thanks! Catalina Island looks pretty cute, from what I have seen in little videos.

I have searched for Ensenada mentions in the DCL forum, and it's all wineries, seafood, or "I didn't get off the boat", unfortunately.
 

auntlynne

Aunt Lynne
Joined
Sep 2, 2008
Thanks! Catalina Island looks pretty cute, from what I have seen in little videos.

I have searched for Ensenada mentions in the DCL forum, and it's all wineries, seafood, or "I didn't get off the boat", unfortunately.

I was just scrolling through it after my recommendation, too. Wine seems to be the draw, then food. Two other places I will check are Cruise Critic and Viator (to see what independent tours are typically offered).

Quick check of those 2 resources still shows wineries as the number one draw.

I did see a Model T tour of Ensenada - if nothing else, the photos give an idea of what the town looks like. McD’s, Ensenada sign (big individual letters for photo-op). There’s a blow hole stop included on several excursions.

Mentioned is a bus/shuttle that will take you to the shopping area for ~ $4 (RT or OW, it wasn’t clear). But it sounds as though you don’t dock right at the town.

There are some ATV excursions and an additional entire park with a zip line.

The only mention of a beach is that this area is not known for having them. It looks like the area is fairly arid, rocky, and on an elevated area.

Short cruise - maybe the day for playing by the pool.

Have a great mother/daughter cruise.
 
Last edited:

PrincessShmoo

DIS veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2009
I'm thinking that we might just shop near the cruise pier area, which sounds easy, but don't want to miss something amazing. Am I overlooking a really great beach experience somewhere?
This is approaching the dock in Ensenada:
ensenada 4 wonder 2012 27041 100_7454 1500.jpg
The big red/brown building houses a market of small vendor booths. Very touristy, but the only thing that's close to the ship. You can walk 5 or 6 blocks out of the dock area and there's not a lot to be seen. We did that on one of our cruises that stopped there.

I'm not sure of any beach excursions, but if that will work for your daughter, I'd suggest that. Primarily because you'd be with others from the ship and not on your own.
 

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
I was just scrolling through it after my recommendation, too. Wine seems to be the draw, then food. Two other places I will check are Cruise Critic and Viator (to see what independent tours are typically offered).

Quick check of those 2 resources still shows wineries as the number one draw.

I did see a Model T tour of Ensenada - if nothing else, the photos give an idea of what the town looks like. McD’s, Ensenada sign (big individual letters for photo-op). There’s a blow hole stop included on several excursions.

Mentioned is a bus/shuttle that will take you to the shopping area for ~ $4 (RT or OW, it wasn’t clear). But it sounds as though you don’t dock right at the town.

There are some ATV excursions and an additional entire park with a zip line.

The only mention of a beach is that this area is not known for having them. It looks like the area is fairly arid, rocky, and on an elevated area.

Short cruise - maybe the day for playing by the pool.

Have a great mother/daughter cruise.
I was confused about that shuttle too, from the articles I read, but I guess it'll make more sense in-person.

The zip line park thing caught her eye at first, but it's also kind of far away. We went ziplining in Alaska a few years ago on our last Wonder cruise, and I'm not mad that we did it, but ziplining is kind of EVERYwhere now. The Jeep safari excursion sounds promising from the title, but the description killed it - just taking Jeeps to an olive farm (very boring sounding for a teen). That was actually something a little weird about the DCL excursions for this itinerary - the titles really didn't accurately describe the activities.

Anyway, yes, we will have a great mother/daughter cruise, no matter what we do! Last chance to do something like this before she's off to college. :) Thank you!
 

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
This is approaching the dock in Ensenada:
View attachment 723023
The big red/brown building houses a market of small vendor booths. Very touristy, but the only thing that's close to the ship. You can walk 5 or 6 blocks out of the dock area and there's not a lot to be seen. We did that on one of our cruises that stopped there.

I'm not sure of any beach excursions, but if that will work for your daughter, I'd suggest that. Primarily because you'd be with others from the ship and not on your own.
That seems like a pretty easy outing. We just had a quick convo, and that shopping area will probably meet our needs. I hate to miss out on anything really neat, but it's a short cruise, so I'm probably overthinking it. A 17yo can find plenty to buy in touristy shops!

Do you recall if they were cash-only or if the vendors took credit card? And was American currency ok? (I saw the other Mexico thread on this but assume they were mostly talking about the Caribbean side.)
 

birdmom

ONE BY ONE THE BIRDS TOOK MY SANITY!!!
Joined
Aug 12, 2006
We just did that one a few weeks ago. When you ferry into Catalina the walk to the golf carts take 2 mins. The cost was $60 an hour (CASH ONLY) but if you get there early in the morning they will do a buy two hours get one free. If you walk another 3 mins there is another booth that takes credit cards but I thing the rate was $80 and hour.
As for Ensenada.... Stay on the ship.
 

Carohs

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jun 6, 2022
Personally I think the Bufadora is pretty cool and worth seeing once and there's also a flea market for shopping. The only downside is the bus ride there.
 

DisRecruit

Earning My Ears
Joined
Sep 2, 2022
We actually used to love Ensenada, and even drove there on our own when we used to live in southern California. I agree that it's probably not the best stop for a 17 year old that's not interested in seafood (amazing ceviche and fish tacos there), and obviously wouldn't find much to do on a wine region tour.

We had no problem walking into town and exploring on our own. Would your daughter have any interest in birria? We still dream about Birreria La Guadalajara. Less adventurous, would be a rotisserie chicken place that also does fresh tortillas called El Charro (the aromas called us in after a few drinks at Hussong's.) You can see the rotisserie from the window, and I believe they also have the tortilla makers (usually older women, but I don't want to generalize) stationed near the front windows as well.

You can also find paletas stands scattered around (fresh fruit popsicles). Which are fun for any age :)
 

disneyfaninaz

It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!
Joined
Apr 19, 2007
We're doing the same itinerary in January. Yeah, we stopped in Ensenada on a Pacific Coast cruise in 2012, it just doesn't hold any interest for us. We walked through the booths at the dock, but other than that we're one of those "who aren't getting off the ship."

We are looking forward to walking around Avalon on Catalina however, which is why we booked this itinerary.
 

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
We just did that one a few weeks ago. When you ferry into Catalina the walk to the golf carts take 2 mins. The cost was $60 an hour (CASH ONLY) but if you get there early in the morning they will do a buy two hours get one free. If you walk another 3 mins there is another booth that takes credit cards but I thing the rate was $80 and hour.
As for Ensenada.... Stay on the ship.
Thank you, this is very, very helpful! There is no way I would have thought to bring that much cash to Catalina. I can't remember the last time I carried over $100 cash for ANY reason LOL!
We actually used to love Ensenada, and even drove there on our own when we used to live in southern California. I agree that it's probably not the best stop for a 17 year old that's not interested in seafood (amazing ceviche and fish tacos there), and obviously wouldn't find much to do on a wine region tour.

We had no problem walking into town and exploring on our own. Would your daughter have any interest in birria? We still dream about Birreria La Guadalajara. Less adventurous, would be a rotisserie chicken place that also does fresh tortillas called El Charro (the aromas called us in after a few drinks at Hussong's.) You can see the rotisserie from the window, and I believe they also have the tortilla makers (usually older women, but I don't want to generalize) stationed near the front windows as well.

You can also find paletas stands scattered around (fresh fruit popsicles). Which are fun for any age :)
Her brother is my foodie; she would be happy just eating food on the ship. Sounds like I should have a re-do of this cruise with DS in a few years and take a culinary tour! :) It is a little funny planning for just the 2 of us. Usually we figure out how to morph their preferences, but if she just wants to shop for trinkets (which DS would hate hate hate and DH would merely tolerate) - then I guess that is what we do, and I enjoy the lack of "this is so boring" commentary, ha! She might go for a paleta though!
 

auntlynne

Aunt Lynne
Joined
Sep 2, 2008
Another poster asked about a restaurant in Ensenada; there’s a thread called “La Guerrerense“ on this forum. Between these two threads I have culled some info about this port (not the same as having been there, but at least it is some info to share - and it is mainly from tourists).

I found some ideas that show the shuttle/bus ride from the port to the central zone of the downtown.

For walkers, it is not that far from the pier to town, but it seems to be like some other ports where they don’t really want cruise pedestrians lose in a working port.

There is big letter photo-op sign for E N S E N A D A by the waterfront. And there appear to be lots of restaurants where the bus drops off.

I would have suggested staying on the ship, but after looking up info, I would say give it a try. Travel is an opportunity to see the world for the differences - and abundant similarities between cultures.

Current info is showing RT shuttle price as $4 pp - older posts mention $3.

I won’t re-post photos or maps here, but suggest checking out the other thread if you want to see what I discovered. (Of course, just start An internet search of Ensenada and you can be entertained for hours.)
 

bcwife76

DisneyMomma
Joined
Dec 10, 2014
We're doing the 5 night Ensenada and Cabo cruise end of this month. It's our second time doing this itinerary. In Ensenada my husband and youngest (12) are doing a horseback excursion through Disney. Older DD (14) didn't see anything she wanted to do and while some of the food and wine ones appeal to me, I don't want to do an excursion on my own (even with Disney). So she and I are staying on the ship. When we did this itinerary in 2019 we did La Bufadora and it was long and extremely underwhelming. The best part was the market with great shopping and food stalls. On the way home our bus was stopped about 15 minutes from the ship and boarded by armed police officers supposedly looking for a kidnapped child. Not a great experience.
 

Nike4000

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
We did this same itinerary with a different cruise line in August. In Catalina, my DS19 and DW did the Fantastic Catalina Race and had a wonderful time. We're huge fans of the TV show The Amazing Race and it was basically a replica of that show with teams traversing all over Catalina searching for clues and doing small "challenges" - i.e. figuring out that you need to eat an ice cream cone to get to the clue hidden in the cone or figuring out how to open a padlock using a combination found along the way. My DS says it's the best excursion he's ever been on and is ready to do it again. They ended up seeing the bulk of Avalon. They didn't run at all and missed out on winning by mere seconds. The two of them ended up partnering with two other participants, but they could have easily just stayed a 2 person team.

In Ensenada only my DW and I got off the ship. We took the bus to the shopping area and were promptly skeeved out. There were cars driving up the street that would slow down and roll next to us as we were walking along. Nothing ever happened and the people in the car never said anything to us, but if we stopped, they stopped. At one point we stepped into a touristy shop to look at some trinkets and there was a group of guys in the back beckoning my wife to come and talk to them. They couldn't see me initially, but when they did, they stopped hollering to her. We quickly left the store and found a larger group to walk with just because it made us feel a bit safer. After about 2 blocks we took the bus back to the ship. Like others have said, bus fare was $4/person for round trip in August 2022.

The week after our visit to Ensenada was when the cruise lines skipped the port entirely due to cartel activity.
 

lorimay

Strolling along...
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
We are doing a B2B out of San Diego in January, just going to do our own thing in Catalina and then we will stop in Ensenada on both cruises, probably just get off once and walk around.
We found some good you tube videos to see where we want to go.
"Ordinary Adventures" has good videos from last year when they visited both places.
A channel called "The Beach Life" has a good video one how to walk over to the little area in Ensenada.
Have fun.
 

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
We're doing the 5 night Ensenada and Cabo cruise end of this month. It's our second time doing this itinerary. In Ensenada my husband and youngest (12) are doing a horseback excursion through Disney. Older DD (14) didn't see anything she wanted to do and while some of the food and wine ones appeal to me, I don't want to do an excursion on my own (even with Disney). So she and I are staying on the ship. When we did this itinerary in 2019 we did La Bufadora and it was long and extremely underwhelming. The best part was the market with great shopping and food stalls. On the way home our bus was stopped about 15 minutes from the ship and boarded by armed police officers supposedly looking for a kidnapped child. Not a great experience.
Big yikes on the kidnapped child part!!!

That was my general impression of La Bufadora, from most of what I have read - not worth the time spent getting there and back.
 

bcwife76

DisneyMomma
Joined
Dec 10, 2014
Big yikes on the kidnapped child part!!!

That was my general impression of La Bufadora, from most of what I have read - not worth the time spent getting there and back.
On the bus ride there we were each seated with one child, across the aisle from each other. On the bus ride back we knew they'd be tired so they sat together and yes, fell asleep, while we sat across the aisle. I was very glad they slept through the whole 'police boarding with machine guns' incident.

And yes the blow hole itself was....meh. We ate some of the most amazing fish tacos ever at one of the stands at the market and that was, sadly, the highlight of the entire excursion.
 

cmph

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 7, 2016
We did this same itinerary with a different cruise line in August. In Catalina, my DS19 and DW did the Fantastic Catalina Race and had a wonderful time. We're huge fans of the TV show The Amazing Race and it was basically a replica of that show with teams traversing all over Catalina searching for clues and doing small "challenges" - i.e. figuring out that you need to eat an ice cream cone to get to the clue hidden in the cone or figuring out how to open a padlock using a combination found along the way. My DS says it's the best excursion he's ever been on and is ready to do it again. They ended up seeing the bulk of Avalon. They didn't run at all and missed out on winning by mere seconds. The two of them ended up partnering with two other participants, but they could have easily just stayed a 2 person team.

In Ensenada only my DW and I got off the ship. We took the bus to the shopping area and were promptly skeeved out. There were cars driving up the street that would slow down and roll next to us as we were walking along. Nothing ever happened and the people in the car never said anything to us, but if we stopped, they stopped. At one point we stepped into a touristy shop to look at some trinkets and there was a group of guys in the back beckoning my wife to come and talk to them. They couldn't see me initially, but when they did, they stopped hollering to her. We quickly left the store and found a larger group to walk with just because it made us feel a bit safer. After about 2 blocks we took the bus back to the ship. Like others have said, bus fare was $4/person for round trip in August 2022.

The week after our visit to Ensenada was when the cruise lines skipped the port entirely due to cartel activity.
I need to go to Catalina with DH! He and I have always watched that show together.

That Ensenada experience sounds very nerve-wracking. I am not generally nervous. I don't think Nassau is that scary, for example. BUT I'm also aware it's just me and a teenage girl this time. Kind of changes my perspective. Since we aren't interested in any excursions, I'm leaning toward a short outing to those vendors near the ship (from PrincessShmoo's photo).
 

PrincessShmoo

DIS veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2009
I need to go to Catalina with DH! He and I have always watched that show together.

That Ensenada experience sounds very nerve-wracking. I am not generally nervous. I don't think Nassau is that scary, for example. BUT I'm also aware it's just me and a teenage girl this time. Kind of changes my perspective. Since we aren't interested in any excursions, I'm leaning toward a short outing to those vendors near the ship (from PrincessShmoo's photo).
That picture was from several years ago, hopefully they're still there. I would guess so, since they probably really want US dollars in their economy.
 



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