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Kingdoms of the Maya: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize

Program Number: 21222RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/2/2014 - 2/12/2014;
Duration: 10 nights
Location: United States/Mexico/Honduras/Guatemala/Belize/Cayman Islands
Price starting at: $5,599.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Ocean Cruises Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 30; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 11 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Learn about the lofty heights reached by the Maya civilization — in art, language, architecture, astronomy and more — on this voyage to Latin America. Explore spectacular archaeological sites, interact with modern Mayan people and experience the vivid natural beauty of the lands once ruled by Mayan kingdoms.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Aboard Riviera, 5 nights; Tikal National Park (Guatemala), 1 night; aboard Riviera, 4 nights.

Day 1: Arrival Miami, Fla. / embark Riviera

Days 2-3: Key West / At Sea:

Go ashore on Key West to explore some of the island's historic sites during a narrated trolley ride. Return to the ship and continue your journey, sailing through the Straits of Florida.

Day 4: Costa Maya (Mexico):

Experience what life is like for today’s Mayans in a modern community. Visit a family home and cook and eat a traditional meal. Experience the classic Mayan ruins at Chacchoben.

Day 5: Roatán (Honduras):

Walk the trails of Carambola Botanical Gardens and learn about the fruit trade between this island and America. Discover Roatán’s beautiful reef on a snorkeling excursion.

Day 6: Santo Tomás (Guatemala) / disembark / flight to Flores / coach to Tikal National Park:

Leave the ship for an overnight journey to the UNESCO-recognized Mayan archaeological site of Tikal. The ruins here include massive temples and acropolises. Lodging: Comfortable lakeside hotel.

Day 7: Coach to Belize City (Belize) / reembark Riviera:

Discover the ruins of Yaxha, once a powerful Mayan city allied with Tikal. Continue to Belize and encounter the country’s native wildlife at the renowned Belize Zoo.

Day 8: Cozumel (Mexico):

From Cozumel, take a ferry to the mainland to explore Tulum, a lovely Mayan walled city perched atop seaside cliffs.

Day 9-10: Georgetown (Cayman Islanads)/At Sea:

An expert-led island excursion includes the historic Pedro St. James Castle and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, home to green parrots and blue Grand Cayman iguanas in addition to beautiful plant life.

Day 11: Miami / disembark / departure


The sophisticated new ocean liner Riviera sailed on its maiden voyage in 2012. It can accommodate up to 1,250 passengers. Public areas include a Lalique-designed grand lobby, a Canyon Ranch spa, a culinary center for cooking classes and a wine bar. For food lovers, Riviera offers 10 dining venues including a French restaurant by renowned chef Jacques Pépin.

Meals and Lodgings
   Riviera - Oceania Cruises
  Day at Sea, Mexico
Key West, USA
Day at Sea, Mexico
Costa Maya, Mexico
Roatan Island, Honduras
5 nights
   Camino Real Tikal
  Tikal, Guatemala 1 night
   Riviera - Oceania Cruises
  Belize City, Belize
Cozumel, Mexico
George Town, Cayman Islands
Day at Sea, Mexico
4 nights
 Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: The Riviera is a mid-size cruise ship capable of accommodating up to 1,258 passengers in 625 comfortable cabins.
  Ship Information: STATISTICS Year Built: 2012 Year Entered Present Fleet: 2012 Country of Registry: Marshall Islands Tonnage (GRT): 66,084 Guests (Lowers): 1,258 Passenger Decks: 11 Number of Crew: 800 Officers' Nationality: European Cruise/Hotel Staff Nationality: International STATEROOMS Total Rooms (all categories): 625 Suites: 147 Balconies: 444 Ocean/River View:18 Interior:16 Accessible: 6
  Contact info: 8300 NW 33rd Street, Suite 308
Miami, FL 33122 USA
phone: 800-531-5619
  Room amenities: Private bathroom, hair dryer, bath robe and slippers, toiletries, minibar/refrigerator, in-room safe, TV with in-stateroom movies, and direct-dial phone.
  Facility amenities: Multiple restaurants: Grand Dining Room, Jacques, Red Ginger, Polo Grill, Toscana, Terrace Cafe, Waves Grill, Privee, La Reserve wine tasting center, Afternoon Tea, and Baristas coffee shop. Entertainment options include a casino, a cocktail lounge with live piano music, a full service bar, a lounge featuring nighttime entertainment, and an observation lounge with bar service, The ship also features a Spa, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, jogging track, beauty salon, a culinary arts center, shops, infirmary, and laundry services. Smoking is expressly forbidden in all staterooms and suites, on verandas, or in any areas of the ship other than officially designated smoking areas.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Camino Real Tikal
Type: Hotel
  Description: Set in the heart of the Peten Jungle close to the island of Flores, this hotel offers a great starting point for exploring Tikal and the surrounding area.
  Ship Information: Not applicable.
  Contact info: Lote 77, Parcelamiento Tayasal, San José
Peten,   Guatemala
phone: +502 2337-4402
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, private bathroom, cable TV, mini bar, safety deposit box, and private balcony with lake views.
  Facility amenities: Pool, billiards, bar, restaurant, beach and table games, Jacuzzi, and souvenir shop.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Embarkation at Port of Miami by 3:30 p.m. Set sail at 5 p.m. You will be staying at Riviera - Oceania Cruises that night.
  End of Program:
Dock at 7 a.m. Disembarkation at Port of Miami. You will be staying at Riviera - Oceania Cruises the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Long term parking is available at all cruise terminals ($20 per night). Disabled permit spaces are available. Spaces available for oversized vehicles in Lot #2. Facilities patrolled by security. Payment by cash or major credit card (no debit cards).
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Dade Transit Bus Route 243 provides weekly rush hour service to and from the Port of Miami.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Day at Sea
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available from the Miami International Airport and area hotels. Port Miami is located at: 1015 N. America Way, Miami, Florida 33132
  From End of Program
  Location: Day at Sea
  Transportation from site: Taxicabs are available at all cruise terminals. The fare between the Miami International Airport and Port Miami is currently a flat rate of $24. For other destinations, the cab fare is $2.40 upon entering the taxi and $2.40 per mile thereafter.
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Embark on Ship/Set Sail from Port of Miami at 5 pm.
(Sunday, February 2)

Note: All participants must be onboard the ship no later than 60 minutes prior to sailing.

 Afternoon: Embark ship.

Participate in the ship's Safety Drill.

**Note: Participants will receive a full itinerary once onboard. The Road Scholar group leader will deliver an itinerary to each participant's stateroom and try to meet all members of the group prior to dinner and the program orientation.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
 Evening: Welcome Orientation.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Key West, Florida -
Exploring Key West's Historic Sites/Trolley Tour/Free Time.

(Monday, February 3)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Enjoy a lecture about Harry Truman's Little White House with Bob Woltz, our Truman expert on board the ship.

Disembark in Key West and take the City View Trolley.

We will take the Trolley for an hour long, narrated trip around the island- 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. This will help you see why this is such a fascinating place to visit!.

We will get off the trolley at stop 6, to visit the Hemingway House and a professional docent will lead us through this famous residence of a very colorful former resident.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch we will get back on the trolley and complete the tour and get off at stop 1, where we will visit the Little White House and Audubon House both led by a professional docent

Return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Day at Sea -
Cruising the Straits of Florida.

(Tuesday, February 4)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Lecture: The Watery World of the Ancient Maya.

Opportunity for discussion with leader and members of the group.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Free afternoon to enjoy ship amenities.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Costa Maya, Mexico -
Chacchoben Archaeological Site/Local Maya Community.

(Wednesday, February 5)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Morning at leisure to enjoy the ship amenities and get ready for today's activities.

Disembark at Costa Maya Port in the town of Mahahual.

Transfer to the Chacchoben Maya community (approximately 50 mins drive). Once there, enjoy some cultural interaction and learn about the life of the modern day Maya. Visit the home of a local family.
 Lunch: Learn about local foods and help to prepare a typical meal--including the making of corn tortillas. Then sit down to enjoy the savory fruits of your labor and watch a demonstration of traditional Maya dances.
 Afternoon: After lunch, transfer to the nearby Chacchoben Archaeological Site.

Most of the ancient Maya buildings at Chacchoben were designed in the Peten style and were constructed during the Classic Period (A.D. 200-700). The complex contains a number of temples and smaller structures that were used for ceremonial purposes. Because some of the buildings still have the remnants of the original stucco and paint, visitors are not allowed to climb the temples.

Late-afternoon return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Roatan, Honduras -
Carambola Botanical Gardens/Reef Ecology and Snorkeling at West Bay.

(Thursday, February 6)

Note: Snorkeling equipment will be provided for your activities in West Bay. Avid snorkelers might prefer to bring their own equipment to guarantee a perfect fit.

 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Disembark at Roatan, the largest island in the Bay Islands archipelago. Once favored by pirates then controlled by the British, the island is now a preferred destination for divers and romantics. It has a mountainous backbone, is surrounded by coral reef, and boasts some of the best snorkeling and diving in the hemisphere.

A short, 20 minute, drive by air conditioned bus will take us to the beautiful Carambola Botanical Gardens. Listen to a lecture on the history of fruit commerce between Roatan and New Orleans before enjoying a guided walk on the botanical garden's trails.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, transfer to West Bay.

A lecture on reef ecology, plus an overview of snorkeling procedures will prepare us for a guided exploration of Roatan's beautiful coral reefs.

Return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Dinner

Day 6: Tikal, Guatemala -
Disembark at Santo Tomas/Flight to Flores/Tikal National Park.

(Friday, February 7)

Note: Pack a small bag for the overnight trip to Tikal National Park. We'll return to the ship the next day. All must walk for approx 20 mins on an unpaved path from the park entrance/visitor center to reach the first ruins. Activities will include climbing steep staircases and walking on forest trails. Bring binoculars, camera, hat, bug repellent, sunblock, rain poncho, good walking shoes, and water bottle. Ave. daytime temps from 88-90F and ave. humidity 75-82%. More rain from Jun-Nov.

 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Diembark and transfer to the airport for flight to Flores*. *Please note that the flight confirmation and itinerary will be provided on-site.

Upon arrival transfer to Tikal National Park and visit the museum.

The Tikal Museum (Museo Sylvanus G. Morley) is a small museum filled with exquisite ceramics and artifacts excavated from Tikal. One of the more notable pieces include the three long-nosed, pale turquoise rain gods.
 Lunch: Lunch at the park.
 Afternoon: Field trip to Tikal National Park archaeological site. During this activity, enjoy on-site instruction on the history and architecture of this impressive Maya complex.

Tikal, with its massive temples rising high above the Petén Jungle, is the kind of exotic place one would expect to see in an Indiana Jones movie. Walking within this enormous archaeological complex can be overwhelming if not accompanied by a knowledgeable guide or a good map. During its apogee in the Classic Period, Tikal was the center of a powerful kingdom that dominated the region both economically and politically. The remains of this once vibrant city are still impressive and include more than 4,000 structures and six of the tallest temples of its kind (some are over 200 feet tall!).

Transfer to hotel and check in.

Time at leisure to enjoy the hotel and surrounding area.
 Dinner: At the hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Camino Real Tikal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Belize City, Belize -
Yaxha National Park/Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center/Embark on Ship.

(Saturday, February 8)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Field trip to Yaxha National Park, located approximately 45 miles from Flores.

The Yaxha ruins are part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve along with the sites of Nakum and El Naranjo. Findings indicate that the city was occupied throughout the pre-classic and post-classic periods and that it was allied to Tikal. Yaxha has more than 500 buildings, including a twin pyramid complex not seen anywhere else save in Tikal.

Transfer to Belize City with border crossing procedures en route.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant featuring typical Beliziean cuisine.
 Afternoon: Field trip to the Belize Zoo.

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center was founded in 1983. The organization was born from an effort to provide a safe haven for a number of wild animals that, ironically, had been used in the making of documentaries about tropical forests. The zoo and its education center encompass 29 acres of tropical savanna and house more than 125 animals native to Belize.

Transfer to Belize City and board the ship.

Take advantage of some free time to freshen-up before dinner.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Cozumel, Mexico -
Ferry to Playa del Carmen/Exploring Tulum Ruins.

(Sunday, February 9)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Disembark in Cozumel and board a ferry to Playa del Carmen.

From Playa del Carmen, transfer by coach to Tulum. Admire and study the ancient Maya ruins of Tulum during walking explorations of the archaeological site.

Although the ruins at Tulum lack the grandeur of Chichén Itzá and Cobá, its setting is breathtaking. The ancient city is situated on a cliff overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean. It is easy to understand why the Tulum ruins are such a popular destination for travelers to the Yucatán.

Despite having been built sometime during the Early Classic Period (250-600), the walled city of Tulum did not gain true importance until the Late Post Classic Period (1200-1530). When the Spaniards arrived in the early sixteenth century, Tulum still operated as an important trading port. It is believed to be one of the last cities of the Mayan world to be abandoned after Spain's conquest.

Transfer back to Playa del Carmen.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant at Playa del Carmen.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure to explore Playa del Carmen.

Take the ferry back to Cozumel and board the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: George Town, Cayman Islands -
Exploring George Town/Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park.

(Monday, February 10)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Morning at leisure to enjoy the ship amenities and get ready for today's activities.

Disembark in time for an early lunch.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant where you can try West Indian fare and savor fresh snapper, conch or marlin prepared Cayman-style.
 Afternoon: After lunch, explore the east side of the island. Start with a drive through George Town, the island’s capital and major financial center. Continue along through the coastal residential district of South Sound with its fabulous homes. Visit Pedro St. James, a refurbished plantation home built in 1780, which boasts a multi-media theatre presentation that explains the history of the island and the house itself.

Continue on to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park to view the colorful Caymanian flora and fauna of the park along with a traditional Caymanian cottage with its medicinal plants and local fruit trees. During the nature walk, visitors can hope to see a variety of native and migratory birds and animals including endangeered Cayman parrots. While you are there keep an eye out for the endangered Cayman blue iguana--one of the park's star attractions.

After enjoying panoramic views of the garden from the park's gazebo, finish the day with a stop at the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory.

Early evening return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Day at Sea -
Cruising the Straits of Florida/Shipboard Activities.

(Tuesday, February 11)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Lecture: Sailing Into the Dawn of the New Mayan Age.

Opportunity for discussion with the group leader and other members of your group.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Afternoon at leisure to enjoy the ship's wide range of amenities.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: End of Cruise/Disembark in Port of Miami.
(Wednesday, February 12)

Note: The ship is expected to dock in Miami at 7:00 a.m. Once at port, the crew will begin readying the ship for the final disembarkation a few hours later.

 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Arrive in Miami and disembark.

Participants will need to undergo Immigration and Customs procedures before leaving the port. Please take this into consideration when booking flight reservations (if applicable).
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Time Among the Maya, Travels in Belize, Guatemala, & Mexico

Author: Ronald Wright

Moon Handbooks - Belize

Author: Joshua Berman

Archaeological Guide to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Author: Joyce Kelly

A Brief History of Central America

Author: Hector Perez-Brignoll

Description: A good overview of the region’s economic, political and social history through the 1980s by a professor at the University of Costa Rica. Well-written, informative and concise.

A Neotropical Companion

Author: J.C. Kricher, Mark Plotkin

Description: From plants and animals to birds and bugs, it's all here in this wonderfully written overview of the ecology, habitats, plants and animals of Central and South America.

A Traveller's History of the Caribbean

Author: James Ferguson

Description: A concise history of the Caribbean Islands, beginning with a description of the islands' formation and geologic attributes and carrying through the first civilizations in the region all the way up to the modern tourism boom.

Birds of Mexico & Central America, Princeton Illustrated Checklists

Author: Ber Van Perlo

Description: An admirably compact, comprehensive guide featuring color plates.

Fishwatcher's Field Guide Caribbean

Author: Idaz Greenberg

Description: A convenient double-sided plastic card showing 75 reef fish of the Caribbean.

Footprint Belize, Guatemala, & Southern Mexico

Author: Footprint Field Guides

Description: A comprehensive practical guide to the Maya World in the estimable British series, strong on the nitty-gritty of travel and with a good overview of history and culture. With maps and a Spanish glossary for the traveler.

Maya Art and Architecture

Author: Mary Ellen Miller

Description: An illustrated overview of the art and architecture of the Maya, making use of the latest discoveries at Tikal, Copan and Palenque to demonstrate the range of Maya artistic influence. With 200 illustrations, 50 in color, including site plans, maps, strikingly rendered reconstructions and color photographs of key temples and buildings.

Moon Handbook Honduras

Author: Moon Handbooks

Description: A comprehensive guide to Honduras, its history, culture and attractions.

Moon Handbook Yucata Peninsula

Author: Lisa and Gary Prado Chandler

Description: A compact, comprehensive travel guide with an excellent overview of the natu-ral history and culture of the region, including Yucatan but also Chiapas, Ta-basco, Campeche and Quintana Roo.

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