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  • Writer's pictureConnie George

Mazatlán Cruise Stop: Day of the Dead and a Day Spa

yellow and white plaster building, blue dressed day of the dead doll

I was prepping for my Discovery Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera, specifically trying to decide what to do in Mazatlán. I enjoy this city, but I didn’t feel like doing a tour or the beach this time around.

I came across a Mazatlán Post article, “30 Things to Do in Mazatlán." And there it was, “Massage at Athina Spa.”

I hadn’t thought of a massage in port. I’ve gotten a spur-of-the-moment chair massage in Costa Maya (a nice few minutes) and an unplanned massage in Key West (not so great), and a nice unscheduled waterfront massage at lunch on a tour of Costa Maya (decent massage in a wonderful setting).

But the idea hadn’t been on my radar for Mazatlán. Hmm! The author completely got my attention when comparing it to a cruise ship spa, “Athina should still come at least 50% less in price, but still equal in quality.” The idea of an equal, but lowered price massage by someone less likely to push buying overpriced products like the cruise lines’ spas do was appealing.

I visited Athina Spa’s website and may have drooled a bit over my options. That’s when I decided I was going to enjoy Mazatlán by getting a massage and taking in the celebration of the approaching Day of the Dead.

day of the dead alter, yellow and orange flowers, crosss, skull, food
Day of the Dead alter.

Dia de lost Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a respectful, meaningful, and fun observance of loved ones who have passed. I was going to be in Mazatlan on November 1st. Día de Los Muertos celebration in Mexico starts on November 1 and culminates on November 2. I had the beginning of my plan.

sign says massage, purple flowers, candles, white stones
When choosing to do a massage in a port, check reviews and location. Know your transportation options.

Athina Spa’s website describes many facial, body, massage, and mani/pedi services. What caught my eye was the 90-minute Deluxe Massage Package which included reflexology, lymphatic, relaxation, and deep massage.

They have two locations: Zona Dorado and Centro. I wanted the Centro one because I wanted to be in the old downtown and found a park square nearby that I thought would have Day of the Dead decorations and alters. At the least, it would be a good place for people-watching.

Map outlines two walking paths between Athina Spa and Plaza Machado.

I made my 11 am appointment online, printed my confirmation, and the appointment was officially in my phone calendar. The plan- disembark the ship at about 10 am, wander the port area for a short time, and taxi (preferably in an open-air cab known as a “pulmonia”) for the 10-minute ride to my appointment. Have a fantastic massage and then wander toward Plaza Macado, that’s only a few blocks from my appointment, to take in all the happenings before getting a cab back to the ship. It’s only a few blocks walk away.

I arrived a half-hour earlier, stopped in, and decided to take a 20-minute walk. I feel safe walking around Mazatlán in the daytime. And the area I was walking in had roads mostly in a grid system with individualized buildings and homes that are not only interesting but help you keep track of where you are going. Therefore, I didn’t have any concerns about wandering the area.

I enjoy walking around Mazatlán, but like walking in similar colonial Mexican areas like Puerto Vallarta, you should be wearing comfortable walking shoes or sneakers and be good on your feet. You’ll encounter cobblestones, (very) uneven walkways, ramps that can be extremely steep and curbs that can easily be 10” or more.

I got back to Athina Spa a few minutes early. Meanwhile, I’d seen Day of the Dead dolls in front of buildings as well as some old colonial architecture, flowers, and people. And got a photo of the local Masonic Hall to send to my son who is a Mason. It was a fun walk.

Speaking of buildings, the Centro-located Athina Spa is in a corner colonial yellow and white plaster building. Inside the modern reception area are a check-in counter, couches, and a pedicure station.

I was greeted by my new best friend for the next 90 minutes, Marta, who led me through a doorway into “the old building.” It’s a bit dark, and I had the thought that the area outside of the treatment rooms may not have been updated in a long time. If ever. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. The ceramic-floored treatment rooms are primarily divided by black curtains that are gently lit with a background of soft music. When I rolled onto my back halfway through my massage, I also saw a neat ceiling with beams.

Marta was wonderful. She asked beforehand about any issues I had and how deep of a massage I wanted. She connected with me a few times to see if I needed a harder or softer massage. She was a miracle worker from my toes to my scalp.

Throughout the 90-minute massage, Marta's skill, the music, the oils, a bonus mini facial massage at the end, and the feel of the energy of this old building that has existed in Mazatlán through generations played into rejuvenating my body and spirit. At the end of 90 minutes, I felt calm and all noodley (my word for when I’m completely relaxed from a massage.)

blue and white 20 Mexican Peco paper bill
Mexico also uses a dollar sign ($), but their Mexican Peso abbreviation is MXN.

The 90-minute massage was 990 MXN which was about $50 USD, depending on where you exchange money. Since I didn’t have $990 MXN, my options were to pay in U.S. dollars at a rate of 16 MXP to the dollar for about $62 USD (still a bargain!) or include a 3.5% credit card fee for a total cost of 1024 MXP which was about $51 USD. I opted to use my MasterCard. The cruise line can’t come near $51 in American currency plus gratuity for a comparable 90-minute massage.

Currency FAQ:
Like the U.S., Mexico uses a "$" sign. But our currency code is USD whereas the Mexican Peso is MXN. At the time of this writing, $20 MXN = $1 USD

Hating to say goodbye to Marta (I wanted to bring her home with me!), who gifted me with a bottle of water as I left, I set out for Plaza Machado. The square didn’t disappoint. There I could enjoy the colors and sounds of the Day of the Dead excitement. There was a giant (my guess is at least 30 feet tall) Day of the Dead doll, a giant sugar skull, alters with items enjoyed by loved ones who had passed, and what appeared to be a beautiful, colorful display that may have been meant to be stationary or it may have been a float for the next night’s upcoming parade. When I first arrived, there were indigenously dressed drummers beating out an intoxicating beat that drew my attention.

white open air small car, parking, curb, flowers, blue water and sky, white clouds
The pulmonaria is an open air taxi in Mazatlan.

There were plenty of taxis by Plaza Machado, both traditional and open-air pulmonia. I opted again for the latter for the 10 or so minute ride back.

I regretted not having the time and stamina to wander Mazatlán’s Malecon (boardwalk) for some more Day of the Dead decorations and people-watching.

Rounded off, here’s what the day cost me in U.S. dollars:

Taxi to Athina Spa - $10 + $2 tip = $12

Massage - $51 + 15 tip = $66

Donation to Mazatlan’s Tres Islas Orphanage Fund = $3

Taxi to Discovery Princess - $10 + 2 tip = $12

Total cost for my independent “Mazatlan excursion” was $93.

Although my self-made "day excursion" was over, I wasn't quite ready to end my day in Mazatlan.

When I got back to Discovery Princess, I spent a little bit more time wandering by the colorful souvenir stalls at the ship terminal along with enjoying a cold local beer and some chips and salsa before finally saying goodbye to Mazatlan and boarding my ship.

What would I have done differently? I would have stopped by the Malecon.

Would I do this again? In a heartbeat, but with one change. If I get back to Mazatlan again, I’m going to do one of Athina Spa's 3+ hour spa packages that includes massage plus other treatments.

Are you planning a Mexican Riviera cruise? Contact me so we can plan the right cruise line and ship that best fits your personality and interests. And we can discuss what activities you may like best during your visits to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.

Happy Traveling!



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