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

Program Number: 21222RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/3/2015 - 2/13/2015;
Duration: 10 nights
Location: United States/Mexico/Honduras/Guatemala/Belize/Cayman Islands
Price starting at: $5,799.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Ocean Cruises Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 29; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 10 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

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.

Activity Particulars

Walking on uneven and hilly terrain. Stone steps without railings at archaeological sites. Must be able to swim to take part in snorkeling.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Aboard Riviera, 10 nights.

Day 1: Arrival Miami, Fla. / embark Riviera

Days 2-3: At Sea / George Town (Cayman Islands):

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

Day 4: Cozumel (Mexico):

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

Day 5: Belize City (Belize):

Take a scenic boat ride on the New River up to the Maya ruins at Lamanai. The ancient ceremonial center is surrounded by dense jungle and includes impressive structures such as the Jaguar and Mask Temples.

Day 6: Santo Tomás (Guatemala):

Discover Quirigua, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is famous for its expertly carved sandstone stelae. Some of these impressive Maya structures are more than 30 feet tall.

Day 7: 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 8: 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.

Days 9-10: At Sea / Key West, Fla.:

Sail through the Straits of Florida then go ashore on Key West and explore the island on a narrated trolley ride. Visit the historic Custom House, now home to an art and history museum.

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
George Town, Cayman Islands
Cozumel, Mexico
Belize City, Belize
Quiriguá, Guatemala
Roatan Island, Honduras
Costa Maya, Mexico
Day at Sea, Mexico
Key West, USA
10 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

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. The Port Miami is located at: 1015 N. America Way, Miami, Florida 33132
  From End of Program
  Location:  Key West
  Nearest city or town:  Key West
  Nearest highway: US-1
  Nearest airport:  Miami International Airport.
  Transportation from site: Taxicabs are available at all cruise terminals. The fare between the Miami International Airport and PortMiami 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. Please note that these rates are subject to change.
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.
(Tuesday, February 3)

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.
Get to know your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Day at Sea -
Cruising the Straits of Florida.

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

Enjoy a lecture about exploring the eastern Caribbean from the late Ice Age through the Classic Maya period when the sea was defining the feature of the spiritual realm as well as an important avenue of communication.

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

(Thursday, February 5)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: After breakfast, disembark and 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 endangered 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.
 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 return to the ship.

Recap and orientation for the next day.

Afternoon at leisure to enjoy the ship amenities.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Cozumel, Mexico -
Ferry to Playa del Carmen/Exploring Tulum Ruins.

(Friday, February 6)
 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.

Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Belize City, Belize -
Lamanai Ruins.

(Saturday, February 7)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: After breakfast, transfer to the New River dock and embark on a scenic boat ride (approx. 31 miles) upstream to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. While navigating the calm waters of the New River, try to find and identify some of the many bird species found in the area, including: Black-collared Hawks, Northern Jacanas, Mangrove Swallows, Olive-throated Parakeets, American Pygmy Kingfishers, and Purple Gallinules, to name just a few. If lucky, we may even catch a glimpse of the rarely seen Jabiru Stork! Get close-up views of mangroves and virgin forests flanking the narrow waterway and try to spot the colorful orchids that grow along the river banks.

Disembark at Lamanai for a walking exploration of the more than 50 impressive structures found at the archaeological reserve.

This large Mayan ceremonial center is set in a tropical forest on the banks of the New River Lagoon in the north central region of Belize. Unlike most Mayan sites, the ruins found at Lamanai were built in layers; each generation adding on to the existing structures. Some of the site's highlights include the Jaguar Temple, the High Temple, and the Mask Temple. A beautiful panoramic view of the lagoon and surrounding jungle can be seen from the top of the High Temple. It is believed that the ancient center was occupied during more than 3,200 years, and as recently as in the 18th century.
 Lunch: Lunch at site.
 Afternoon: Boat ride and bus transfer to Belize City and board the ship.

Take advantage of some free time to freshen-up before dinner.

Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Santo Tomas, Guatemala -

(Sunday, February 8)

Note: Participants who would like to visit Tikal can sign up for a shore excursion with the boat directly.

 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Guatemala’s port town of Santo Tomas de Castilla is our gateway to Quiriguá. Transfer 1 1/2 to 2 hours to the nearby Mayan ruins at Quirigua, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quirigua is famed for its intricately carved stelae sandstone columns, some of which are over 30 feet tall. Completed in the 8th century a.d., the carvings depict the deeds of local rulers, mythical figures, and animals, and contain Maya glyphs
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: This afternoon as we transfer back to the ship we pass by the town of Rio Dulce, where we cross one of the largest bridges in Central America. After a stop for lunch, we will visit the Spanish colonial fort of Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, built to prevent pirates from entering the lake from the Caribbean when this part of Central America was an important shipping and staging point.

Late afternoon, return to the ship.
Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Roatan, Honduras -
Carambola Botanical Gardens/Reef Ecology and Snorkeling at West Bay.

(Monday, February 9)
 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 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.

Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Costa Maya, Mexico -
Chacchoben Archaeological Site/Local Maya Community.

(Tuesday, February 10)
 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.

Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Day at Sea -
Cruising the Straits of Florida/Shipboard Activities.

(Wednesday, February 11)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Lecture: Sailing into the Dawn of the New Mayan Age – Review of the Maya Calendar, the Maya in the Modern Period and the Prospects for the Maya in the post 2012 era.

Opportunity for discussion with the group leader and other members of your group.
Disembark in time for an early lunch.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Afternoon at leisure to enjoy the ship's wide range of amenities.

Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Key West, Florida -
Exploring Key West's Historic Sites/Trolley Tour/Free

(Thursday, February 12)
 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.

Recap and orientation for the next day.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: End of Cruise/Disembark in Port of Miami.
(Friday, February 13)

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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