cruise ship

A classy company!

Splashdown at the cenote near Mayapan

Another happy family of cruisers enjoy Angel and a Lawson's tour!

Recently, my friends and I arrived in Progreso via a cruise ship. We have been regular cruisers for years, and always avoid the over-priced and crowded “excursions” through the cruise ship. After reading the reviews of Lawson’s on Trip Advisor, we decided to give them a try. What an amazing day! Angel was right there waiting for us at the cruise bus terminal, and escorted us right into a spacious air conditioned van to whisk us away. First we went to the Mayapan ruins, and we were the only people there! The ruins were amazing, with Angel giving us the history of the Mayan culture. We could even climb to the top for the gorgeous views of the country. Next we went to a cenote for swimming in crystal clear water, and once again, we were the only ones there. It felt like Angel reserved these locations exclusively for our small group. After some time swimming and cliff jumping, we were taken to a local home for a delicious traditional Mayan meal, made by a true Mayan family. We were even taught how to make tortillas over an open flame. We had just enough time left that Angel took us to an area to view flamingos in the wild.

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Angel and his crew catered to us the entire time, providing bottled water and adult drinks. If we wanted to see something or do something, Angel made it happen. If I am ever in Progreso again, I will take another tour with this classy company.

Visited September 2015
— TripAdvisor

Better than swimming with dolphins...

Some great people all the way from Tuscaloosa spent their cruise ship stop time with us. Here is what they had to say about their experience:

I wanted our kids, ages 15 and 11, to see Mexico for more than the usual cruise shopping stop. Our guide, Pepe, picked us up and took us on the tour of a lifetime. We climbed Mayan ruins, swan in an amazing cenote, ate authentic Mexican food in a family home and toured Pregresso. It was the perfect combination of adventure, culture and education. Kids loved this excursion best of all, even better than swimming with dolphins.
— TripAdvisor

Angel was an amazing guide!

Marshall and Christy were here last week, on the Carnival cruise ship. Here's what they had to say about their private tour for two...

My wife and I took a private tour of the Progreso area with Angel as our guide. He was so great to talk to, knew the area and took us to 5 beautiful cenotes and a small Mayan temple. The entire trip was perfect, with us getting a great cooling swim in a gorgeous cenote and lots of pictures. Angel provided snacks and drinks for the car ride (in a great car, leather interior and good A/C!). One of the highlights of the trip was eating lunch in an open air restaurant where Angel ordered us Mayan Tamales and Panuchos. The Panuchos were amazing... the best food we ate on the entire trip, including the cruise ship dinners!

We were a little nervous at first about booking something not affiliated with the cruise ship, but we are so glad we did. Not only was this the highlight of our cruise this year, it was one of our best vacation experiences ever. I can’t say enough good things about Angel and how he made us feel welcome in the Yucatan.
— Lawsons Original Yucatan Excursions website

Do it right, do it with Lawson's

Randy and his crew joined Angel and had a most spectacular time. Read Randy's review of his trip!

I’ve been visiting the Yucatan since the seventies, have met some wonderful people there, and I actually really feel at home when I’m down there. Recently I was talked into going on my first ever cruise and it included Progreso as a port of call. While some cruisers have expressed disappointment with Progreso excursions, If anyone ever goes there and says that they didn’t like it, well they didn’t do it right. They didn’t do it with William Lawson’s. From my first communication with Adriana, I knew we made the right choice. Rather than advise me of our tour itinerary, she asked me about our interests and they sculpted our excursion around our desires. Our group (2 couples) were interested in seeing some ruins and more importantly experiencing cenotes. But I didn’t want to stand in line to visit crowded tourist attraction type places. In Progreso we were greeted and introduced to Angel, our guide /driver. Our excursion included a visit to a rustic but beautiful old church in Tecoh, the Mayapan ruins, and a very special visit to a magnificent cenote hidden in the jungle that we had all to ourselves. All very wonderful experiences that we will cherish the memories of forever. Our guide was very professional and knowledgeable. But what Angel is most is passionate. Passionate and proud of his heritage and very enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge of it and Mayan culture with us, as well as his love for family and our environment. On the way to the cenote we picked up Charly “The Lifeguard”. Charly was to be our escort for the wet part of our cenote experience. After the cenote we unexpectedly stopped back at Charly’s for the best part of our excursion and the most memorable part of my vacation. We were greeted by Charly’s happy family and his “Mommy” welcomed us into her humble “kitchen” where she showed how she prepared meals and even let us help make the best tortillas ever. Then they served us a moderate yet spectacular meal that we I’ll never forget. I can’t express how touched we were by the love this family has for each other and showed us. I am so grateful to Angel for introducing us, and to Charley for sharing them. We were introduced to Angel as our guide but we adios’d him as un buen amigo.
Thanks to Lawson’s Original Yucatan Excursion’s
Randy West
aka “Scott”

Gener was FABULOUS!

Robert took a tour with us to Mayapan and the nearby spectacular cenote and his comments were most enthusiastic:

First Gener was FABULOUS! If you want to book the tour I would HIGHLY recommend you ask for Gener. He is a great guy and a pleasure to listen to. He loves his his Mayan culture and knows it and its history well. Anyone can take you to the ruins, but he tells you why the ruins are the way they are and why they were built the way they were. Mayapan was awesome with only one other group showing up after we had been there about an hour. We were the only ones at the cenote and he took us through a small town on the way there and described everything. He was extremely patient with us and our questions. The cenote was beautiful and the swim was awesome. We asked him to stop a place for lunch and he brought us where he and his family often eat. Brought I right to the boat to drop us off even though he only had to bring us to the bus station.
— email

AMAZING Dive Master!

Our first diving experience! A group of cruisers included two who wanted to dive - yes, actually dive, in a cenote. That is with the fins, oxygen tanks and all that. So we got a divemaster and set that up for them and apparently it went quite well! Read on...

We had so much FUN!

We are going to try and come back on Dec 26th

Can you see if the AMAZING dive master you guys found is available? It will just be me diving. My hubby and daughter will be with me too.
— email

Angel was... amazing!

Lucas and his family took a tour to some Mayan ruins and followed that with a visit to a pretty, hidden cenote. Here's what they had to say...

Thank you for checking on us and I’m sorry for taking so long to respond... We had an absolutely great time!!! Angel, our guide, was amazing!!! Please keep him working with the company as he is awesome!!! The van he picked us up in was in great shape and air conditioned... We felt completely safe the entire time... The Mayan ruins were gorgeous and we had the place almost all to ourselves... I have taken the “boat tour” and this is trip was worlds better!!! We then headed to the cenote, and WOW... Again, almost all to ourselves... Only one other small family there... The was was super clear and soo refreshing!!! Angel had a small lunch prepared for us that was unexpected and very delicious!!! Angel was very cognizant of getting us back to the boat in plenty of time to board...

Please keep Angel working with your company as he is a huge asset!! We will be using William Lawson again and will be referring people to you... We will be adding a Trip Advisor comment as well... I am going to send you a few pics from our tour... I do not have the Mayan Ruin pics with me right now, but will send some of those soon as well....

Thank you, your company, and Angel for a great and unforgettable time!!!!
— - email -

Glad we chose you!

Kari came to town with her family and loved her excursion!

I am very glad we chose to use your company while in Progresso.

We had a great time. Your tour guide and driver were very professional and informative.

I will tell my friends to use your company if they visit Mexico.

Thanks again for answering all of my questions. I know I had a lot of them!
— - email -

Will always remember our day there...

Brent and his family visited us through Carnival and their stop at Progreso. Here is an excerpt from his really nice email:

... My family had the Mayapan and Cenote tour earlier this week. We wanted to thank you all for the experience in Progreso. We had a great time with Angel and Jorge. Angel was such a great and knowledgeable tour guide. We are so glad we decided to do that on our visit. My family will always remember our day there...
— - email excerpt -

Blown away by Lawson's!

Candice, a professional photographer who took some stunning photos that she has generously offered to share (gallery below) on her excursion with us, had this to say about her tour:

I just wanted to say that my boys and I were blown away by your team. We enjoyed our tour SO much. I really can’t express how amazing our guide Jose was.

It’s not easy being in a different country alone, with two small children, but he made us feel so safe and well cared for. I’ve never experienced a tour this tailored to just us and should I ever return to the area (which I may make a priority), we will absolutely book through you again.

Progreso is not highly regarded amongst travelers online, but it was the highlight of our trip thanks to Jose.

By comparison, Cozumel was boring!

Candice K
— - email -

Angel did an Amazing Job!

Ken and Sue allowed me to post their review of their recent trip to the area, where they visited Uxmal with everyone's favorite guide, Angel. Read on...

Upon disembarking with the first group from the cruise ship, we were able to immediately board a bus to take us to the bus terminal in Progresso. Unfortunately, we waited on that bus for more than 45 minutes before it finally left for town. It was waiting till it was full with passengers before leaving. If we had known this information a head of time, we probably would have requested a taxi so we could have started our tour faster. When the bus entered the terminal, Angel was waiting for us so we didn’t have to waste any time trying to locate him, which we appreciated. Angel was very personable and knowledgeable. We appreciated that he shared with us many details of life in Progresso and the surrounding villages. Our main goal was to see the Mayan Ruins at Uxmal so we elected to drive around the tiny town square filled with market/vendors, but not shop so we could spend more time at the ruins. Fortunately we did that since we could have easily spent more time touring Uxmal.

Angel did an amazing job of explaining what we were seeing at Uxmal and has a fantastic grasp of the English language. He definitely gave us insight into the people that once lived here that we wouldn’t have acquired by just walking through the park. Even with the information signs being printed in English we would have missed so many details that Angel was able to share with us. We were disappointed that we ran out of time during the tour so we couldn’t climb the one pyramid at the back of the park. Wish we could have stayed another couple of hours! We were very impressed with this National Park and it’s cleanliness. Your country has done an outstanding job of preserving these awesome ruins with so much history.

We were shocked that your company used a large passenger van just for us. It would have been fine with us to share this tour with another couple or two, while maybe lowering the tour price. What a pleasant surprise to be dropped off at the shipping port since we thought we were going to have to catch the bus a second time to get back to the boat.

Thank you for an incredible experience in your country. We would definitely recommend your company to any friends or family traveling to Progresso.

Ken and Sue Hayes
Arkansas, USA
— - email -

The best guide we have ever had...

Dan came in on Carnival to Progreso and chose our little company to help him see the sites and sights on a private tour. Here's what he had to say about his day:

I wanted to let you know that we had a great time, our guide Gener Vallejos was the best guide we have ever had, he went out of his way to show us and explain the ruins, the area and everyday life in that area. He took us by the village he grew up in, showed us his parents Tortilleria which was great! After the seeing all the sites we just never had a chance to grab anything to eat, his Mom made us food which he picked up on the way back to the ship. Words just can’t tell you how much we loved our time in Progresso and the great job Gener provided for us.
— - email -

Best ruins, best guide!

Another great review from some of our happy guests!

I have visited Chichen Itza, Tulum and Altun Ha. Uxmal was my favorite. Very relaxed feel to the place and gorgeous preservation work. We hired a private guide company (Lawsons Original Yucatan Excursions) and had a most wonderful time with them. From the person who handled my planning (Ralf) to our driver and guide (Angel), we were never disappointed. My husband has limited mobility and we also have a 13 year old child. We were never rushed and the boy was never bored. LOL Angel was friendly, flexible and knowledgeable. Our vehicle had a stocked cooler with sodas and water and Angel even stopped after our hot day to buy us some local handmade popsicles (very interesting flavors). When I go back, I will definitely hire them again!

Visited December 2013

The Personal Touch We Were Looking For Was Provided

Janice and her friend visited Merida on her recent cruise to Progreso sampled food tried some cooking and even made her own tortillas. Her comments:

I just wanted to let you know how pleased I was with our day with Gener. He was very welcoming and an open book of information he shared with us about Merida and all of Mexico. I am sure all your clients are pleased with what William Lawson tours offers. The personal touch we were looking for was well provided. Although my tortilla making was less than stellar I had a blast. I will definitely be in touch again when we are able to return. There is much more to learn about your area.

Janice Cory
— - email -

Y'all are the best!!!

Jen, who visited for a day from the cruise ship, booked a tour for her family to the cenotes ( and had this to say about her day:

Horse-drawn rail platform called a "truck" takes people into the cenote at Chunkanan

The trip was amazing! Angel is an awesome guide! He totally put us at ease and we could tell he really wanted us to see the non-tourist view of the Yucatan! Angel went out of his way throughout our time with him. From making note that my daughter had mentioned she had ridden a horse before and putting her on a mini ride with one of the the horses at the cenote, taking pictures for us of our family as we played in the water, to explaining the culture and life of the towns we went through. It was great going through an actual Mercado.

We will definitely tell everyone about our excursion using William Lawson Guides! Y’all are the best!!!
Thanks so much and God Bless!
San Antonio, TX
— email

We absolutely loved all of it!

Carol from Texas and her hubby Steve took a private tour when they sailed in last month on the Carnival cruise ship. The two of them went to Uxmal and also did part of the Yaxcopoil hacienda experience, complete with a totally private cenote! Here's what they had to say: 

Thank you again for designing our tour for us. We absolutely loved all of it. We enjoyed the unique feel to the tour and thought that our guide (Gener) and driver (Jorge) were excellent. It was very nice of everyone to surprise Steve with a “birthday tortilla”. We appreciate everything and will recommend your company to others. I have already recommended you to someone on the ship that is a frequent cruiser.

I hope we get a chance to do it again.


Awesome Tour!!

Darwin and his group of Blues Cruisers arrived in Progreso and we had the pleasure of showing them just a tiny taste of the Yucatan during their brief stop here. Here is what he had to say! 

I arranged a tour with Ralf at William Lawson tours for our day in Progreso. We had 10 people in town for the day off the Holland America Maasdam on a blues cruise. Since our cruise was a charter, our times were a bit irregular. Ralf earned my business by being the only tour operator I traded emails with that actually paid attention to what I asked and offered to personalize a tour for us. We were supposed to be in port from noon to 6pm, so our time was limited. At first we were going to tour some ruins, but then we decided to lessen the time driving that we would visit a local cenote and eat an authentic Yucatan meal. As it turned out we arrived almost an our late. We had exact directions on where to meet our tour guide, and even though we were late, Angel was waiting for us. He whisked us out of town in a very nice Mercedes van. At our request he stopped just outside of Progresso at a market so we could sample some of the local beers. He helped us pick them out and when they didn’t accept US money he paid for the drinks himself (we reimbursed him in US). Soon we were at the Noc Ac cenote. Our first impression was...that’s it? It looked very small, but we were just looking at the entrance to a cool underground cavern; not huge, but large enough to enjoy and explore. We loved it! After some swim time, we toweled off, loaded up, and headed out for some lunch. Instead of spending time driving to and dining in a restaurant, Ralf suggested that we visit his house where he would have an authentic Yucatan meal catered for us. I was a bit apprehensive, but quickly agreed because I was comfortable with Ralf. He called Angel several times during out trip to the cenote to be sure we were comfortable and being well taken care of. Ralf’s home was beautiful and he had tables set up for us in his backyard garden area. We enjoyed local cervezas, teas, and non-alcoholic beverages and 4 kinds of dips. Then we enjoyed a variety of sandwiches and tacos indigenous to the local area. Our favorite was cochinita pibil, a kind of pulled pork sandwiches. We really liked the habanero sauces, one mild (which is an oxymoron for habanero) and one that tasted mild initially but then had a wicked after-burner kick. Ralf was a fabulous host and took the time to speak with each and everyone of us. To us, he is no longer a tour provider, but our friend and he and his family are welcome in our homes whenever he is in Houston, Seattle, or Connecticut. All too quickly, we had to head back to our ship, but Angel still made time for us to stop at a local grocery for sodas and Halloween masks (so we could participate in a contest onboard...we came in 2nd). All in all, one of the best day trips we have ever had...and we’ve had plenty. We heartily recommend Ralf, Angel, Jorge (driver) and William Lawson for all your Progreso needs.

Visited October 2013

David was an excellent guide!

Kristen and her "boat people" from the Carnival ship in Progreso recently visited Uxmal and stopped at the Hacienda Ochil for a bite of real Yucatecan food. Here's what Kristen had to say. 

Meeting Gonzalo and David in Progreso

Meeting Gonzalo and David in Progreso

Yes we all had a wonderful time. David was an excellent guide and we had a lot of fun. The best and biggest surprise were the cold peppermint towels after our stops! It was just so perfect and welcome.

I will of course endorse you and should we ever return we will call again.

Thank you.

At the Hacienda San Pedro Ochil, Yucatan

At the Hacienda San Pedro Ochil, Yucatan

Cruise Critic in Progreso - A Taste of Merida!

Chris from Cruise Critic wanted to check out a little of what we do on the Taste of Merida tour, which is perfect for foodies. The Yucatan is famous for it's cuisine which is NOTHING like what regular Mexican food looks like, especially that which is found north of the border. Spanish, French, Lebanese and Mayan culinary influences fashion the unique and delicious delights that make up the gastronomy of this area. Here is Chris' write-up. 

The foodie tours start in Merida with a tour of the Grande Plaza, including the cathedral and Governor’s Palace. It also includes a stop at Sorbeteria Colon, which has been around since 1907. While they have traditional flavors, Ralf recommends that you try coconut, guanabana and other tastes that are more exotic (I’m plotting a stop here later tonight).

We went to the traditional Yucatan restaurant where Ralf brings guests who take the tour. He explained the dishes on the menu, and did the ordering. You can create your own salsa, based on what kind of peppers you like (smoky, spicy, sharp). You can also watch a woman at the restaurant make the corn tortillas by hand. So fresh and yummy when they are done that way.

Contrary to what many people think, Yucatan food itself isn’t spicy. The salsas and condiments that they bring adds the spice. The food in this region also has European influences that you don’t see elsewhere in Mexico, primarily because the Yucatan Peninsula was cut off from the rest of the country. In colonial times, people took their culinary cues from Cuba, the Caribbean and New Orleans instead of Mexico City.

Ralf persuaded me to try Michelada - beer spiced with Worcester sauce, served in a glass rimmed with salt and chilis. Think of it as a Mexican Bloody Mary (and it’s tastier than it sounds). Other dishes we tried included sopa de lima (lime soup), empanada de cazon (shark!), longaniza - a smoked sausage similar to chorizo that you eat in a homemade tortilla - and queso relleno (stuffed cheese). I liked all of it except the last, which seemed a little rich to me.

By the end, I was stuffed. But if you’re a sweets lover, ask Ralf about his wife’s cookies. She’s the Mrs. Field’s of Merida, with a baking business that encompasses several stores (and supplies restaurants too). The company is called Kukis. He gave me a box of sweets to bring home. The office will appreciate them, I’m sure.

In my last post, I didn’t mention the prices. For a family of six, the Mayapan/cenote tour is $87 per person. The Taste of Merida tour is $111. All tours include entry fees, tours of sites with qualified guide, food and drinks, tips to local “helpers”, towels, lifejackets etc. Prices go up with more people, down with fewer.

I’m the type of person who splurges on excursions when I travel (in Europe, Context Travel is my go-to service), and I often hire personal guides, particularly in countries where I don’t speak the language. I tend to ask A LOT of questions (and so does my husband), which can annoy people when we’re on a larger tour. I also hate trips where you end up stopping at a cameo factory or papyrus museum that you have absolutely no interest in, just because the guide or tour company is receiving a kickback. So for someone like us, a personal trip like this, tailored to our interests, is a good value. I always walk away from these type of experiences feeling like I met a friend.

Cruise Critic Visits Progreso. Tours with Lawson's!

Chris from the website Cruise Critic, affiliated with TripAdvisor, visited Progreso and we had the pleasure of showing her our Mayapan and hidden cenote excursion. Here's the write up.

I just returned from about seven hours spent with William Lawson and his Lawsons Original Yucatan tours. Even though there are no ships in Progreso today, I asked him to give me as close an experience as I could get. I chose the company because it seemed that many people on this board were curious about him, and what he had to offer.

A caveat about this company: They specialize in private, small group tours. They don’t believe in mixing strangers together, although Ralf (the owner, originally from Canada) says that he does get groups who came together from CC roll calls. This is the company to call if you have a specialized interest, want to go somewhere off the beaten path or want to make sure you can do things at your own pace. He uses air-conditioned vans that seat a dozen to 16 people, although he can get a larger bus if the group is big enough.

I love swimming in cenotes, and know that Yucatan has some of the best. So Ralf suggested that I take his Mayapan and Cenote tour that caters to cruise tourists. It gives you a little bit of everything, and still gets you back to the ship by 2:30.

Mayapan is not as grand as Chichen Itza or Uxmal. What it is, however, is unspoiled. You won’t find vendors or crowds, and you could even have the site to yourself. While I was underwhelmed with the lack of stelae or details that you see at some sites (apparently hacienda owners and thieves carted off the more intricate stones), I did appreciate the peacefulness. You can still see pottery shards on the ground.

What’s also great about Mayapan is that you can climb the 90-foot main pyramid, if you aren’t afraid of heights (there is no railing and some of the rocks are uneven, so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re the nervous type). I’m not the fittest chick in the world, but I didn’t have problems climbing at all. The view from the top gives you a good look at the surrounding jungle. Ralf had a driver with us who is Mayan in ancestry, and we had an interesting discussion about the Mayan calendar and hoopla surrounding last year’s alleged “end of the world.” On my visit, it was cloudy; normally, you’ll want to pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat as there’s no shade at all. Some bug spray would be also be appropriate.

After checking out Mayapan, we drove a short distance to the tiny town of Pixyah. A crowd of children greeted our van, most of them speaking Mayan (which you don’t see in Merida; most people in Yucatan’s cities speak Spanish, at least in public). We visited a small grocery store, where Ralf picked up a bag of sweet and savory pastries known as hojaldra. I found them addictive.

From the town, we followed a local guide down an unmarked road (bumpy but not obnoxiously so) to what Ralf calls the “hidden cenote.” I promised that I wouldn’t tell anyone exactly where it was, as tour guides have been known to poach other peoples’ routes. Suffice it to say that you’re pretty deep in the woods by the time you get there.

The cenote itself looked in great shape. On my visit, the skies were gray because of Hurricane Ingrid, but when the sun is shining, the light makes the cenote water turn blue. You take some steep wooden steps down to a platform, where you can leave your clothes and towel for a swim. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, Ralf provides life vests, as the water gets deep pretty quickly (I didn’t have any problems). I spent about 30 minutes happily paddling around the clear water, which had a temperature of 75 degrees or so. It felt good on a cloudy day; on a typical steamy Yucatan afternoon, it would feel like bliss.

Some logistics: I wore a swimsuit under my clothes and closed toe water shoes around Mayapan (which does have a modern, clean bathroom). After the cenote dip, I changed into my underwear in the van; Ralf and the driver stayed a respectable distance away (and the windows were tinted dark). Towels were provided, as were drinks and some snacks.

If there’s time before the ship leaves, Ralf will take visitors to a second cenote. I had wanted to do part of his “taste of Merida” tour instead (I’ll write that up in a separate post). He’s very open about tailoring the tour to your group’s needs, and welcomes suggestions. In short, if you’re the type of cruise passenger who really wants to experience something different in Yucatan and have an adventurous streak, this tour would be a great choice.
Chris Gray Faust
Destinations Editor, Cruise Critic