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Chichen Itza & the Mayan Ruins

If you’re sailing a Western Caribbean itinerary that includes Cozumel, you could do the normal things on the island (exploring, shopping, etc.). Then again, you might get the chance to see one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Chichen Itza, which is close enough to visit while in port.

Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.

While cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, I booked an excursion to these legendary Mayan ruins through the RCCL app (Chichen Itza Ruins: Augmented & Virtual Reality). Be ready for a LONG day, because you’re getting off the ship at roughly 7:30am local time & returning between 4:30 – 5:00pm.

At 7:00am, we met inside the Royal Theater on Deck 4 to sign in. The process was quick, providing you had everything they requested prior:
  • Sea Pass Card
  • Government-issued photo ID (passport, driver's license)
Some additional items you’ll want to bring:
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Motion sickness medicine (just in case)
  • Spending money (cash or credit card)
We left the ship & took the ferry over to the Mexico mainland. The ferry takes about 45 minutes to get from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, Mexico & the waters can be very choppy at times, hence the possible need for meds. On this day, the waters were relatively calm and we arrived on the mainland with no issues.

We found our excursion lead carrying the tour name placard. He told us it was about a 5-block walk to the shuttle/bus area. Since it was so early, most of the shops were still closed. We arrived at the shuttle area, where a bathroom break & our food for the day was issued. We were given a ham & cheese sandwich & water at the site. We entered our 15-passenger van & headed out towards Yucatan. The drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza takes well over 2 hours, but it is improving, as they’ve opened a toll road to that area, which cuts the overall commute by about 15-20 minutes. They’re also working on a high-speed rail line between the different Mexican states, which will certainly help the overall commute to this area.

Our guide, Carlos, and our driver, Jorge, did a great job getting us to the site quickly & informing us of many details along the way. They also provided tablets with a PowerPoint presentation, which we used during the ride. Carlos, who was of Mayan descent, gave us tons of information on the history, the vendors (legal & illegal) & the overall experience.

Once we arrived at the site, we were given our tickets & started our journey. They do give you headsets, which helps you focus on your guide & not the noise around you. FYI, you have about 90 minutes at the site, before you head back to the ship (yes, it takes THAT long to get there & back). As we walked the path to the main site, hundreds of illegal vendors were trying to sell you anything & everything. I understand why they are doing it, survival.

Slowly we walked through the jungle and then it appeared through the clearing, El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulcan. Seeing it in photos does not do it justice. As I tried to tune out the noise of thousands of other visitors, I was in awe of the entire site. To see this grand architecture up close & not in photos was incredible. Some of these structures were built as early as the 5th Century AD.
El Castillo
The site includes many structures, including the Temple of the Warriors & the Great Ball Court. So much information was given to us during the tour, including the fact that the acoustics were so good at the Great Ball Court that a whisper on one end of the court could be heard clearly on the other end of the court (over 500 feet away).
The Great Ball Court
Temple of the Warriors
We were given about 20-30 minutes for free time to explore on our own, before heading back to the bus. We were given a fruit bar for the ride back to the ferry as most of our group dozed off. The ferry got us back to the ship & we departed Cozumel shortly after.

Overall, the tour was excellent, although I do wish that we had more time at the site & a little more food. The history & education before we even arrived at the site was perfect. One last thing, two reasons to bring cash with you; One, you can purchase items on-site & many do not have CC machines. Second, make sure to tip your tour guide & your driver.

Scott VanSyckle

Scott has always been an avid fan of travel, but cruising is the thing that appeals to him most. Scott can be reached at


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