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

TSA Prefers That We Leave Hand Grenades At Home

TSA Grendades
Transportation Security Administration photo

The Transportation Security Administration has been working on its image, engaging readers on its blog with the latest travel security information, inviting fans to “meet the bloggers” and more. The TSA is also finding that its message is more palatable with a dose of humor.

This week on its Transportation Tips post, TSA asks readers to please leave their grenades at home. “After reading the title of this post, your first thought probably was, ‘That’s obvious.’ Not always so”, writes Bob Burns. Just this year, TSA officers have discovered 43 grenades in carry-ons and 40 in checked luggage.

Most of the grenades were inert, replica or novelty items, like antiques someone might buy on eBay. “But a few were live smoke, flare, riot, and flash bang grenades, which can pose major safety issues to aircraft and also violate FAA hazmat regulations,” added Burns.That the majority of grenades TSA sees won’t actually explode isn’t the issue. The problem is that they look just like real grenades during screening, slowing down the process, if not closing and evacuating terminals.

The “please don’t bring” advice goes for grenade shaped belt buckles, lighters, soap, candles, MP3 players, paperweights, inert training grenades, and other items can all look like the real thing when x-rayed.

Woman Finds Two Live Grenades in Ex-Husband's Belongings

Selling Fake Bomb Detectors Lands UK Businessman In Jail

fake bomb detectors
What Bolton and McCormick really deserve. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Back in April we brought you the story of James McCormick, who was found guilty in a British court of selling fake bomb detectors to several nations, including Iraq. When I was traveling in Iraq I saw his useless products, based on a novelty golf ball detector, being used at checkpoints everywhere. McCormick endangered the lives of countless people, including myself, and I’m glad to report that he’s now serving ten years in jail.

Well, not totally glad. A life sentence would be far more appropriate, but corrupt businessmen so rarely end up behind bars I’ll take what I can get.

Now another UK businessman has been sent to jail for peddling fake bomb detectors.

Gary Bolton, 47, of Chatham, Kent, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling what he claimed were sophisticated electronic devices. In fact, they were simply little plastic boxes with handles and antennae. The prosecution proved that Bolton knew they didn’t work yet his company Global Technical Ltd. sold them for thousands of dollars apiece to numerous security and law enforcement agencies in half a dozen countries, including Mexico and Thailand. Bolton also claimed they could detect drugs, cash, tobacco and ivory.

It appears Bolton may have been inspired by the success of McCormick’s bogus device, as one of them was found in Bolton’s home.

Who’s up for a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering?

Criticized Or Applauded, Presidential Travel Is One Great Job Perk

presidential travel
ep_jhu/Flickr

This week, President Obama and family fly to Africa for what has been described as both “frivolous spending” and a trip that brings “a great bang for our buck.” The estimated $60 – $100 million trip comes at a time when Americans face a decidedly different flying experience caused by government furloughs and cutbacks. Approve or not, presidential travel and moving the first family around the world is in no way inexpensive.

Traveling to sub-Sahara Africa from June 26 to July 3, the Obamas will be accompanied by hundreds of Secret Service agents and staff, adding to the cost of transportation and accommodations. Still, this is the leader of the free world and protecting him, his family and staff is not going to be a cheap road trip no matter how they do it. When President Clinton visited Africa the price tag was said to be $42.7 million plus the cost of Secret Service protection.

As the trip to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania gets underway, a reported 56 vehicles ranging from limousines to trucks full of supplies will be flown in via military cargo planes. When the Obamas are on the ground in Africa, U.S. fighter jets will be ever-present in the airspace directly above them. That’s in addition to the cost of operating the President’s ride, Air Force One, estimated to be slightly less than $200,000 per hour.
“It is no secret that we need to rein in government spending, and the Obama administration has regularly and repeatedly shown a lack of judgment for when and where to make cuts. The American people have had enough of the frivolous and careless spending,” Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) said in a RT.com article.

But the cost could have been higher. The Obama’s original plan called for a Tanzania safari, which would have required a team of sharpshooters to protect them from wild animals. But President Obama, the first sitting president to visit Cambodia and Myanmar, is visiting African countries that reportedly need attention.

“Frankly, there will be a great bang for our buck for being in Africa, because when you travel to regions like Africa that don’t get a lot of presidential attention, you can have very long-standing and long-running impact from the visit,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told The Hill, reports RT.com.

Still, let’s keep these numbers in perspective. The expense of flowers for the White House alone run up a tab estimated to be $252,000 per year. The Presidential limousine is a $300,000 Cadillac that is clad with 5 inches of armor, has its own oxygen supply, a blood bank of the president’s type and can shoot tear gas and smoke grenades.

10 Interesting Facts About Air Force One

Two Great Travel Apps You Will Actually Use

travel apps
mikebaird/Flickr

New smartphone travel apps are released every day. Keeping up with which ones work can burn time better spent on planning, dreaming or, better yet, actually going some place. Many travelers are appaholics who just can’t get enough. They test, load and organize pertinent apps specifically for each trip. Others want an uncluttered home screen or just travel in a more unplugged way. They only want apps they will use frequently. Here are two of those.

Shall I go on that hike right now?
Dark Sky is a simple weather app that uses state-of-the-art weather forecasting to predict weather at the user’s location for the next 60 minutes. I ran across Dark Sky looking for a good radar application to track spring storms that pop up quickly and might be coming our way. The radar feature is simple and easy to use, but the near, live forecast feature makes this one an app travelers will use frequently.Too many apps?
Passbook, the feature, is an iPhone iOS 6 exclusive and not actually an app at all. This must-use travel feature keeps boarding passes, loyalty cards, retail coupons, movie tickets and more all in one app-like place. I keep this one on my home screen because it also retains boarding passes in history for easy “did I get my miles out of that?” checking later.

To grab all that data, Passbook taps apps from airlines, movie theaters, retail places and more. Another app that works with Passbook, Squarewallet, is making fumbling for cash or cards a thing of the past. By storing your card info then presenting it, along with a photo of you and your signature at an ever-increasing number of retail places, Squarewallet is simplifying paying and eliminating clutter on smartphone home screens.

No iPhone? No problem. There is indeed an app for that too. Passbook Viewer for Android will do the trick. Check this video for more about passbook: