The original luxury cruise destination, Central America offers year-round sunshine, convenient access to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and rich diversity of cultures and experiences. Central America is fringed by pristine beaches and is abundant in natural wonders including the rainforests of Nicaragua, the volcanic lakes of Guatemala and the coral reefs of Belize.
The region is overflowing with history, whether you're eager to explore ancient Mayan cities or to stand on the spot where Columbus first came ashore in the New World. The bridge between two continents, each country of Central America has its own distinctive character. And a Central America cruise is the perfect way to see it all.
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- Currency - every country in the region operates its own currency, with the exceptions of El Salvador and Panama that use the US Dollar. The exchange rate for US currency is usually more favourable than exchanging currencies between neighbouring countries.
- Population - Mexico is home to 120.8 million people, with 43.3 million residing in the 7 countries of the isthmus. The largest ethnic group in the region comprises European and indigenous heritage, with the largest indigenous populations residing in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
- Language- Spanish is the dominant language of the region, apart from English-speaking Belize and some destinations on the Caribbean Coast. A number of native languages are still spoken among communities, but these are increasingly dying out.
- Time Zone- Mexico spans 3 time zones, from Pacific Standard Time (UTC-8) in Baja California Norte to Central Standard Time (UTC-6) in Mexico City and most other cities. This is also the time used across other Central American countries, apart from Panama at UTC-5.
- Weather - Central America is characterised by a tropical humid climate, while inland regions of Mexico can be more arid. Average temperatures range from 18 degrees Celsius in the winter to 29 degrees Celsius in the summer, and rainfall is most frequent between September and February.
Did you know..?
In the 7 countries that lie between Mexico and South America, there is no point located more than 200 kilometres from the sea. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are connected by the 77-kilometre Panama Canal.
Who goes there?
There are many long-established cruise routes of Mexico and Central America. Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises operate round trips between the Mexican Riviera and Los Angeles, with Princess also travelling from San Francisco and Disney Cruise Line and Holland America Line from San Diego.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers luxury cruises of Mexico's coast, and Azamara Club Cruises travels between Baja and Costa Rica. Cruises of the Panama Canal with Disney Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Royal Caribbean visit multiple destinations in Central America, with Holland America Line travelling all the way from Vancouver.
Best time to go?
October to April is high season for cruises, with the rainy season ending in November. Cruises of the Mexican Riviera are especially popular from February to April, so travelling earlier in the season will allow you to avoid the crowds.
Things to See and Do
- Mexico - the Mexican Riviera has long been a favourite holiday escape for Americans, and the region has become increasingly popular with international visitors in recent years. The Yucatán Peninsula combines ancient Mayan ruins with breathtaking natural wonders, including vast underground caves and the world's second largest reef system.
- Costa Rica- boasting the greatest density of animal species and national parks in the world, it's no surprise Costa Rica is a favourite destination for nature lovers. The country is a leader in eco-tourism too, so you can be confident that you're not harming the environment as you explore its abundant rainforests in search of monkeys, wild cats and exotic birds.
- Guatemala - combining the best of Central America in a single destination, historical and natural wonders are plentiful in Guatemala. Visit the Mayan ruins at El Mirador, Tikal and Aguateca, climb mighty Pacaya Volcano and take a scenic tour of Lake Atitlan and its surrounding villages.
- Panama - Panama is a country of stark contrasts, from sophisticated Panama City to wild rainforests and two extensive coastlines. Even if you're just passing through on a Panama Canal cruise, make time to tour the historic colonial districts of Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo, and the Pearl and San Blas Islands to experience unspoilt paradise.