I think to review RotN, you have to break it down into three pieces: the boat ride, the meal, and the show.
When you arrive at the Vallarta Adventures base (we were in NV), you check in at the desk. We booked our tickets online on the VA website. It's a great way to save a few bucks, if you're able to schedule in advance. When checking in, we were assessed a $40peso PP "dock fee" in addition to the tickets we bought online. I don' t know what it was for, or if it's always collected. They seem to own all the docks we stopped at, so I don't know who gets the fee… We got our tickets and headed back to their café space, near the docks. We were called aboard based on our ticket number. You can pay extra to have early boarding, so you can choose your seats for the ride. Those who bought preferred boarding got on first.
The boat ride
The boat was two-levels and open-to-the-air, with bench seating around the perimeter and plastic, stackable chairs set out in the middle of the deck. They're lawn chairs that are in no way mounted to the deck. It's a large boat and probably carried a couple hundred people out, on the night we went. I saw other posts concerned about the number of lifejackets and lifeboats on board. I'm ashamed to admit, I didn't even think about assessing that when we got on. The evening boat ride itself is lovely. For us, it was a relatively clear, warm evening and we got to watch the sun set into the ocean on the horizon. It's surprisingly rocky in the bay and anyone but a seasoning mariner would need to keep at least one hand free to catch themselves from falling, if walking around during the trip. The staff serve pre-mixed drinks, like margaritas, and beer as they circulate through the crowd. It takes 45-60 minutes or so to get to Las Caletas.
They serve dinner in two seatings: before and after the show. We were in the early group, and after getting off the boat, we went straight to our table. Dinner is a buffet that includes a salad bar, hot Mexican dishes, and dessert trays of assorted sweets. A server brings drinks and busses plates while you eat. The food is meant to appeal to most people, and therefore is unremarkable, but I enjoyed it and went home full to the top.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but it's quite a remarkable acrobatic show, set in the local environment and based on local legends. Seating is in a natural amphitheatre on wooden benches that aren't all that comfortable. Spectators are crammed in cheek-to-cheek into the long rows of benches. Before the show starts, make sure to use the washroom so you don't have to go while it's on. The cast did some amazing acrobatic tricks including contortions, trampoline leaps and flips, and fire juggling. Pretty exciting show, I must say! It lasted about an hour, if I had to guess.
After the show, the early dinner folks are shepherded to the boats and head back to the VA home base. The second-seating folks are directed to their tables for their dinner. The boat ride home is loud and tinny with music blasting through the PA system on-board. The staff do a little show of their own to entertain the guests for the hour or so boat ride in the dark. Bringing earplugs might be a good precaution, if you're over 30 or under 10.
Bring your pesos, even though you've paid for the excursion (and dock fee) already. As with all activities, all staff are keen for tips. Plan to leave a tip for your server at dinner and the boat crew when you disembark. Taxis will be outside VA and waiting to take you home.
This is an excursion that you should do at least once. It was fun. Now that we've done it, I think we're good. Next vacation we'll enjoy more of the cultural tours that VA offers.