Disney Wonder Day 4: Puerto Vallarta, Boogie Boarding and Not-nude Beaches

I am not a beach person.

It’s complicated. I love the ocean but don’t care for the sand and heat that are often associated with it.

And so why would a non-beach person submit herself to the beach on a regular basis? Because I want my kids to love the ocean and there is just something special about a tropical vacation. This was reconfirmed in Puerto Vallarta.

Shore Excursions

Name a popular destination and Disney Cruise Lines probably sails there. From the Disney Magic‘s 7-night Mediterranean itinerary out of Barcelona to the Disney Wonder’s 7-night Alaskan cruise. The brand spankin’ new Disney Dream launched this year out of Port Canaveral to Bahamian ports and the Disney Fantasy will be unveiled in 2012.

Yes, please to all of the above.

Choosing a cruise itinerary and then shore excursion is always tough for me to. Fortunately, I had never been to the ports offered on the Disney Wonder‘s Mexican Riviera–Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Options were narrowed down even more when Mazatlan was yanked from the itinerary due to dangerous travel conditions. We instead stayed in glorious Cabo for two days instead of one.

Talk about a sacrifice.

Disney Cruise Line makes it easy to find age-appropriate shore excursions at their Web site where you simply click on your port, age range, activity level (active, moderate or mild) and type of activity (i.e. nature, teen or family adventures). I found the perfect activity: Dolphin Kids where my kids would get some one-on-one time with Flipper.

Only it wasn’t perfect, it was full so be sure to book early. We instead opted for the Paradise Beach Adventure at Paradise Village Beach Resort (adults $69, kids $34).

Puerto Vallarta’s Paradise Beach Adventure

It was not love at first sight when I gazed upon Puerto Vallarta from our stateroom’s balcony. The city boasts a 40-kilometer Shangri-la of rivers, mountains, coastline and beaches but even that can’t make up for first impressions: the Disney Wonder was parked a stone’s throw away from Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

Not quite the exotic Mexican destination I envisioned.

Fortunately, my disappointment was salvaged with our Paradise Beach Adventure. About 300 fellow Disney cruises were shuttled 20 minutes away to Paradise Village Beach Resort, a veritable beach-front oasis with Mayan architecture. We snagged some chairs in front of one of the two spectacular lagoon pools with waterfalls, reptilian water slides, a rope-swing bridge and rocky underwater grottoes.

For the first time on our cruise, I had my relaxing pool experience and the kids had the time of their lives.

Part of our package was a delicious buffet lunch consisting of local favorites such as papaya and Mexican beef. But the true highlight was when we hit the adjacent beach, Nuevo Vallarta. The water is not the azure-blue you’ll find in Cancun, nor was it particularly warm but it was gloriously devoid of people because most opted to stay in the shade.

We showed our ship I.D. at a rental hut and were able to check out some sand buckets for free. I also grabbed some boogie boards because I had a stroke of genius to give Haddie a tutorial.

This can also be referred to as the blind leading the blind: I can’t recall ever boogie boarding.

My adept swimmer took quickly to it but it was Bode who shocked me the most. Here’s a bit of background on him: He has flunked his entry-level Minnows swimming class two times because he refuses to dunk his head. I wasn’t even planning to put him on the board but after a few minutes, he nonchalantly said he wanted to try…and was hooked. “I WUV it,” he squealed as he shot through the surf, droplets spraying in his face.

I didn’t bother to tell him this actually counted as getting his face wet.

I had to drag him out at the end of the day and prior to heading back to the pool, we hit the open-air showers next to the beach. As I hosed the sand off Haddie, I was shocked to turn and see Bode had completely stripped down.

“Bode, put your swim suit back on! The Paradise Beach Adventure is not that kind of a beach.”

But it sure was a fun one.


If you missed it:

*It’s a Wonder Cruising with Disney: A Day-by-day Guide
*Day 0.5: If Getting There is Half the Fun Then I’m in Trouble
*Day 1: Kids Club, Sail Away Party and Fat Kitty Stowaway
*Day 2: Stateroom, Oceaneer Club, Pools, Entertainment & Pyrotechnics, Oh My!
*Day 3: Our Slacker Character Breakfast, Oceaneer Lab’s Little Red Hen and the Magic of Animator’s Palate
*Day 4: Puerto Vallarta, Boogie Boarding and Not-nude Beaches
*Days 5 & 6: Cabo, Lands End, A Brush with Death and a Newfound Love
*Day 7: Farewells & Our Favorite Moment of the Trip

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