No Longer Deadly, Mazatlan Returns To Cruise Itineraries

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.

How to Travel to Cuba if You Are an American

While restrictions still apply, the long-awaited guidelines defining who can travel freely to Cuba were released and made official this week. Supporters of the changes say more exposure to Americans will lead Cubans cutting the ties with their government.

The new rules allow journalists plus religious and educational groups to travel to Cuba pretty much whenever they want to. They also allow Americans to send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba. That is limited to $500 per quarter (up from $300) and that money must be intended to support private economic activity.

One of the biggest changes brings back licenses for people-to-people educational exchanges (like foreign-exchange students) which the Bush administration suspended. Back in January the Obama administration lifted some restrictions to Cuba.

But let’s back this up a little bit. Are you looking to travel to Cuba? You can.

It is commonly believed that U.S. citizens and foreign residents are forbidden by law to travel to Cuba. This is not true. The often-misunderstood guiding legislation behind that belief is the Trading with the Enemy Act under which the restriction is not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba.Of course one can practically equate the ban on spending money in Cuba to a travel ban because in normal circumstances a visitor must spend on accommodations, food and other necessities.Exceptions to the ban on spending money in Cuba are allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department. When you see a news report of a government “sanction” against some country, these are the people that administer and enforce those economic and trade sanctions.

While specific individual requirements must be met as to the nature of your travel to Cuba, it can be done. This is a really good example of travel plans that can benefit greatly with the aid of a qualified travel professional. USA Cuba Travel specializes in travel to Cuba and arranged for over 100,000 Americans to get there last year. They urge would-be travelers to Cuba to take a very realistic view of what is ahead of them.

“Cuba which is still a socialist country, lives at a slow pace. At the same time, the country is very popular with the almost 2,000,000 tourists who travel there each and every year. In Cuba there is no central reservation system equipped with sophisticated computers that is open 24 hours a day” the company says on it’s website adding “It takes time, (up to one week) to make any reservation”

Flickr photo by twicepick