Mexico still not safe says cruise line

In the latest round of bad news for travel to Mexico, Princess Cruises pronounced parts of Mexico still not safe Monday and that they would not be calling on Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan any time soon. That’s double-bad news for a struggling Mexico that just wrapped up a week-long anti-crime campaign among other efforts to rebuild tourism. Our ongoing coverage continues.

“As the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan,” Princess spokesperson Karen Candy told USA TODAY.Concerned about violent crime that continues south of the border, the line renewed its objection first voiced in January by canceling calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan through the end of the year. Princess had only one ship visiting Puerto Vallarta this year, the 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess, and that ship will miss just three stops. But beyond economic void caused by the 7000 or so passengers that might have gone ashore, the message is clear: Mexico has a long way to go to win back the confidence of cruise lines.

Mexico knows that and has heard the call for safety loud and clear.

Deploying more than 300,000 police officers, Mexico just concluded a week-long anti-crime campaign that resulted in over 3000 arrests and the recovery of 1,258 stolen vehicles.

“The fundamental purpose was to prevent and fight crime, such as vehicle theft, robberies of passengers during transport, kidnappings, recovery of arms and dismantling of criminal gangs, as well as actions intended to ensure compliance with judicial orders” the government said in a statement reports MSN News.

In addition, Mexico tourism officials have been working overtime to paint a picture of a different Mexico, and with good reason. The continuing violent crime in Mexico is isolated to remote areas of the country where tourists would not normally go. That’s important information for travelers that Mexico officials want us to know.

Mazatlan, poster-city for Mexico crime vs cruise ships, could have done without this latest news from Princess Cruises. Many visitors arrive in Mazatlan not via cruise ship but by air with American Airlines recently adding non-stop daily service between Dallas (DFW) and Mazatlan (MZT).

“Tourism is very important to Mazatlan and its residents. The destination plays host to nearly 2 million visitors per year from all over the world and the number has increased steadily for the past five years” said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust.

Crime involving tourists is an ongoing problem in Mexico. Tourism officials have been accused of attempting to minimize the issue. The US Department of State has urged caution visiting Mexico issuing a Travel Warning in September of last year saying “It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico.”

Risks or not, Mexico remains a popular vacation destination as well as home for many American, British and Canadians who find the cost of living, climate and lifestyle of Mexico attractive.

In our latest coverage of trouble in Mexico we saw that Mexico travel safety kind of depends on who or what we listen to.

On one hand we have the tourism people like Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s secretary of tourism who told who the Miami Herald “We do have a challenge, but Mexico has the equivalent of 2,500 counties. What I tell the travelers is they need to get a map. It would be very helpful for them to understand what cities are involved.” adding “They might have trouble in Juarez; 2,000 miles from there is totally safe. It’s like in the U.S.: If there is an issue in L.A., does that mean that you don’t go to New York? Or if there is an issue in Las Vegas, do you not go to Chicago?”

On the other hand, recent news supports the decision made this week by Princess Cruises. Leonard Schell a Canadian father of two was stabbed 25 times in his Puerto Valarta home last month and robbed of about $13,000, bank cards and passports reports “They cut him from his lip to his throat. It’s terrible, and just to rob money,” Schell’s wife, Elba Ruiz said.

Princess hasn’t canceled Puerto Vallarta calls on sailings beyond the first of next year though. Maybe there’s hope yet for a return in the future.

What do you think? Vote in our poll and leave a comment too.


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Flickr photo by HBarrison

Cozumel: Paradise found in Mexico

In the news, it seems we most often read of a Mexico that is unsafe to visit. Always with an eye on the safety of their passengers, cruise lines have modified itineraries for ships that call at Mazatlan on several occasions. While frequent visitors to Mazatlan stand up for it as a testament to it being safe, it seems the place just can’t get over the safety issue. Travelers want to go places to have fun, not to get robbed, beat up or shot at. Still, to discount the entire land of Mexico as unsafe would be wrong. There are some very safe places to visit in Mexico and Cozumel is one of them.

Cozumel is an entirely different place and to think for even a minute that it is unsafe to visit because it has a Mexico after it’s name is about as wrong as saying Martin Sheen is crazy because Charlie is.
First, let’s get our bearings straight. Cozumel is the biggest island in Mexico, located on the Yucatan Peninsula on the eastern, Caribbean side of Mexico. Mazatlan is on the west side of Mexico, way far away from Cozumel. It is separated from the Yucatan Peninsula by the Yucatan channel which is 12 miles wide.

The town of Cozumel is called San Miguel with a population of about 95,000 people. Most of the population of the island is in the town of San Miguel, on the west coast of the Island facing mainland.

On a land vacation, there are plenty of luxury hotels, first class facilities and services. Cozumel International Airport (CZM) is easily accessible from most major cities by many airlines and not far from hotels, beach and other attractions. Cozumel is world renowned for its diving because it hosts one of the largest coral reefs in the world, a big attraction for SCUBA freaks and snorkelers.

On a cruise vacation, one of the most attractive parts of the deal is that you unpack once but get to visit multiple destinations. As your floating hotel goes from place to place, you can choose to go ashore to get up close and personal with wherever it is you are visiting or stay on the ship. In most cases, it’s worth getting off the ship but if you’ve been there before there is a temptation to stay on board and enjoy the ship while most passengers are gone.

Cozumel, Mexico is one of those places that no matter how many times you have been there, the order of the day is to get off the ship. If you cruise much, odds are you will be seeing Cozumel from time to time and that is a very good thing.

That said, let me introduce you to a place I found in Cozumel years ago and return to almost every time we visit.

Paradise Beach is a short cab ride from the cruise terminal and a must-do destination when visiting either by land or sea. It’s a day at the beach like no other with crystal clear water and some of the best food and drink on the island.

Located 5 miles from the International Cruise Ship Pier, it’s about a $10 cab ride each way and there are plenty of cabs available. Once there, one of the first things you notice is how very clean the place is. From the parking lot to pretty much every square inch of the 300 foot-wide sandy beach, the place is spotless, much like you might find in a 5 star beach resort.

The next thing you’ll notice is that it is free. There is no admission here like many other beaches and prices for optional services, food and beverage are reasonable. You could probably just come here and sit in the sand on the beach for free but that would be a mistake. They have some of the best food and beverages on the island which really add to the whole experience.

Chairs are available to rent for only $2 (I paid $15 on Miami Beach not long ago) and the array of toys they have to play with is considerable. A trampoline, 14 foot-tall climbing iceberg, full snorkel gear, floating mats , kayaks, 10ft water slide, a Jungle Joe floating multi-tiered climbing structure, paddle boards, coconut trees to climb or a spacewalker bungee can be had for $12, unlimited use, all day.

It’s a good idea to get there early but only because more time at Paradise Beach is just a good idea. Once settled in, someone will be by to attend to your every need. They will bring you food from an extensive menu that does not get any more authentic than this. Try the Chicken Quesadillas or Guacamole and Chips. You will thank me later. Everyone does.

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Mazatlan just won’t let it go, wants cruise lines back bad

Cruise lines turned a cold shoulder to Mazatlan, Mexico after safety concerns forced them to move ships away and sail elsewhere. Government and tourism officials caught the next plane to Miami, set on convincing cruise ship operators to come back. They did. Once back more crime came up and they went away again. Now, cruise lines have canceled far into the future, still leaving the door open to return at some point but Mazatlan officials have had enough and are lashing out at cruise lines.

“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 reports Caribbean News Digital “Perhaps the recent incidents have received critical attention because we are so widely regarded as one of the safest destinations in Mexico.” added Birrueta.

No, recent incidents received critical attention because more tourists were shot and hundreds of Americans have been killed since 2004.

That’s a big deal to cruise lines. It’s kind of a big deal to cruise passengers too. Are the cruise lines making too big of a thing about this? Is Mazatlan and just Mexico in general a safe place to visit? Some people/animated characters think yes.

Flickr photo by Jesus Villaseca Perez

Video by Simply Vallarta

Cruise lines play it safe, skip Mexico port

In another blow to Mexico tourism and the already-weak West coast cruise business, three major cruise lines canceled calls in Mazatlan this week as concerns over crime continue.

Newly relocated Disney Wonder, bumped to the West coast when new Disney Dream took over in Florida was scheduled to visit Mazatlan on a series of seven-night sailings through April. Instead, that time will be spent in safer Cabo San Lucas.

Disney Cruise Line joins Holland America and Princess as cruise lines continue to skip the Mexican port after incidents of assault and robbery in the last few weeks. It seems passengers and crew of Holland America’s Oosterdam and Azamara Journey were involved.

Crime involving tourists is an ongoing problem in Mexico. Tourism officials have been accused of attempting to minimize the issue. The US Department of State has urged caution visiting Mexico issuing a Travel Warning in September of last year saying “It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico.”

Ongoing crime has affected the cruise business. Earlier this month Mexican authorities discovered the bodies of at least 30 new crime victims in the popular port of Acapulco. Fifteen of which were beheaded reported the Los Angeles Times.

“We are struggling with our many ships to Mexico,” said Chris Chase, marketing director for the Port of Los Angeles. “It’s the economy and the news of drug wars down there.”

Flickr photo by chrisphoto