No Longer Deadly, Mazatlan Returns To Cruise Itineraries

Photo – Chris Owen

Cruise lines have stayed away from Mazatlan, Mexico for several years, largely due to concerns the cruise experience might include a visit from a dangerous drug lord. With crime rates down in Mexico, west coast cruise ship itineraries are now retuning to Mazatlan.

Cruise lines had steered away from the port because of safety issues. There was no way that they would endanger the lives of their passengers by dropping them off at an unsafe place. The move was primarily a precaution as drug lord activity was happening far to the north of Mazatlan.

“We understand that travel agents and providers have a duty to inform their customers, but we feel as if we have been unfairly singled out as an unsafe destination,” said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust, according to Caribbean News Digital.

Indeed, I walked the streets of Mazatlan at 3 a.m. with no problem on a recent trip. We explored the area during the Day of the Dead stroll and festivities in 2011, at the height of drug lord mania in the travel world. Held in Mazatlan’s old historic district, the centuries-old tradition, also called All Souls Day, honors those who have died with a Mardi Gras-like walking procession through town.

“We didn’t just sit around hoping they would return,” said Frank Cordova, secretary of tourism for the state of Sinaloa. “We made a lot of changes to upgrade security and to improve the visitor experience.”

Holland America Line’s Veendam will return to Mazatlan on November 9. Norwegian Star starts arriving December 22 and Azamara Quest returns on December 29.

Ziplining in Mazatlan, Mexico

State Department Strengthens Warning Against Travel To Egypt

Obama Condemns Violence in Egypt

The State Department strengthened the intensity of its warning against travel to Egypt on Thursday. Overriding an earlier warning issued on July 3, the new alert advises U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Egypt at this time and asks Americans currently in the country to leave.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on July 3, 2013.

The announcement followed a new series of protests in Cairo, which have caused more than 500 deaths at this writing.

For the full warning, visit the State Department’s website.

Fish Discovered in Sweden Will Make You Think Twice Before Skinny Dipping

Simon Q, Flickr

Sweden has always been a relatively calm and safe country; the only concern for tourists has been long lines at the new ABBA museum. But that all changed with the recent sighting of a pacu, a fish that’s closely related to the piranha.

While the waters of Øresund, the strait that separates Denmark and Sweden, are normally still and relaxing, the sighting has prompted the nearby Natural History Museum of Denmark to release a serious warning: “Keep your swimwear on if you’re bathing in the Sound these days — maybe there are more out there!”

The fish is more often found in warmer climates — in fact it’s the first time that it has been reported in Scandinavian waters — and while it’s not lethal, it doesn’t have a good reputation. Henrik Carl of the Danish museum pointed out that, “the pacu is not normally dangerous to people but it has quite a serious bite, there have been incidents in other countries, such as Papua New Guinea, where some men have had their testicles bitten off.”

The pacu can grow to 25 kilograms (about 55 pounds), and in large parts of the USA and Asia it’s considered an invasive species. So how did it end up in Scandinavian waters? It is thought that the fish may have escaped from a nearby aquarium.

A huge crotch biting fish? Keep your swim trunks on gentleman.

Inside The Crime Statistics Of Major Cruise Lines

Thomas Quine, Flickr

In an aim for more transparency for travelers, you can now learn all about the crime statistics of major cruise lines, or at least those of the three major lines Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line.

According to the New York Times In Transit Blog, the three lines, which hold almost 80% combined market share, recently released the figures in response to a new Senate bill that would require all cruise lines that land in American ports to report their crime statistics.

The data released by the companies outline everything from suspicious deaths to kidnappings. Cruising is apparently fairly safe. You’ll be happy to know for example that there have been no homicides in this year. Theft however, seems to be a general trend, especially when it comes to crew members stealing more than $10,000 of goods.What other crimes happen on a cruise ship? Assault, sexual harassment and rape. In fact there are attorneys that specialize in in Cruise Ship Sexual Assault. But overall, it seems that travelers choose cruises no matter what the statistics.

Will this new form of transparency help make cruise ships a safer place? Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia who proposed the bill is convinced that it’s only in passing legislation and making cruise ships more accountable that changes will be made.

“It’s notable to see they’re trying, by voluntarily posting some crime data online, but serious gaps still remain in the information they’re making available. I’m convinced the only way we’re going to make a meaningful difference for consumers is by taking legislative action.”

The bill, if passed, would not only require transparency of cruise lines to release such data, but also set up a toll-free hotline for customer complaints.

Attempted Child Snatching Is An Amusement Park Safety Reminder

Eric.Parker, Flickr

Talk about getting too close for comfort. It turns out a man who was repeatedly getting within reach of a 2-year-old boy at an amusement park in Ohio may have been attempting to snatch the toddler. After he was arrested, police found toys and movies of children in his truck. Then, they came to find out he was secretly recording children all day with a hidden video camera in his sunglasses.

When it comes to kidnapping, amusement parks terrifyingly provide an environment ripe for the picking. But the truth is, there’s a much bigger chance families can get separated in crowded and chaotic parks. To avoid a potential horror story, consider these tips next time you spend a day at the park:

  • Establish A Meeting Place: Before you even set foot in the park, map out where you should meet if someone gets separated or in the event of another emergency.
  • Point Out Park Employees: Make sure your child understands what a uniformed park employee looks like. This way, if you do get separated, your child can find someone to help.
  • Have “The Talk”: Tell your kids about the importance of staying close. This doesn’t mean you need to barrage Junior with stories of kidnappings, but it couldn’t hurt to let them know how much you’d miss them if something happened.
  • Stay Alert: Everyone, including children, should should stay aware of their surroundings. This will not only help you stay together, but can keep kids away from running into obstacles like trash cans, barriers or other people.
  • Choose Bright Clothing: There’s no missing your child if he or she is wearing Dayglo orange (unless everyone else is, too).
  • Get Your Kid a Tattoo: Not a real one, silly. Companies now make temporary “safety” tattoos that allow you to put your telephone number on your child — and it won’t wash off in the wave pool like a marker does. This could also be good if your child has an allergy or medical condition.
  • Stick Together: Above all, don’t let your kids get lost in the crowd. This means staying by their side at every moment — from the concession stands to the restrooms.