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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

The State of the Mexican Riviera

Since 2009, the Mexican Riviera as a cruise destination has been rather precarious. Following reports of H1N1 outbreaks and local violence, various cruise lines have made adjustments or cancellations to their Western Mexican itineraries. But the present and future of this popular set of ports – including the classics of Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Mazatlán – appears to be brightening.

To this day, Mazatlán – while not the only Mexican Riviera port afflicted – remains the hardest hit by cruise ship departures and perhaps unjustifiably so. While there are indeed reports of drug cartel-related violence within the greater Sinaloa state and even a deadly shooting in a Mazatlán hotel parking lot free of tourist involvement – the truth according to Oralia Rice, Secretary of Tourism of Sinaloa, remains “that Mazatlán has been receiving cruise passengers for forty years and not one of them has been involved in a negative incident.”

Still, there have been other reports of cruise passenger muggings in Mazatlán where a woman’s necklace was grabbed and her husband was pushed. Upon further inquiry into these incidents, the following statement from the Mazatlán Hotels Association was provided on behalf of Oralia Rice: “Mazatlán has been and will continue to be a safe and secure destination for travelers the world over. We will not allow an exceptionally rare incident to tarnish our image.” So, while they do acknowledge these reports, they also consider them to be relatively insignificant when considering Mazatlán’s overall passenger safety record.

Rice herself previously said, “The safety and security of tourists and residents alike is of the utmost importance for local authorities in Mazatlán and the Government of Mexico. Our local authorities are working in partnership with the private sector to implement enhanced security measures.”

Even a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune – the local newspaper for the American port that is also dampened with decreased Mexican cruise traffic – sets out to explore just how unsafe Mazatlán really is and lets those the author interviews mostly conclude otherwise. The article quotes Ruben Salazar, a waiter at the El Cid Marina Hotel as saying, “It’s safe here in the Zona Rosa [tourist area]. But Sinaloa is famous for its mountains, where anyone can hide. I wouldn’t go there.”

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to simply exercise caution when visiting any foreign port and stay to the beaten path. To remain up-to-date on international destinations, the U.S. Department of State provides a detailed website.

Current & Upcoming Itineraries

Despite Disney Cruise Line’s continued reluctance to sail to Mazatlán and the cancellation of four of its Mexican Riviera sailings this season, the line still has the Disney Wonder scheduled to visit two ports – Puerto Vallarta for one day and Cabo San Lucas for two – from the end of October to the beginning of December 2012.

On the other hand, Princess Cruises will call on Mazatlán. Returning to Mexican Riviera sailings this coming September, the line will call on a variety of itineraries to Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, plus Ensenada, as well as La Paz and Loreto – two less frequented ports north of Cabo San Lucas along the Gulf of California – on select sailings. The Star Princess and Sapphire Princess will deploy this year.

Similarly, Holland America has the Zaandam (a smaller ship than the line’s Oosterdam previously sent to the Mexican Riviera) scheduled for Mexico’s west coast beginning in October with an interesting 14-night itinerary in and out of Vancouver, B.C. and making stops at Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta as well as San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The ship then comes and goes from Mexican Riviera itineraries with other stops including Mazatlán and Loreto into next year.

Norwegian Cruise Line won’t be sailing the Mexican Riviera again until December of 2013 with the Norwegian Star, and the Royal Caribbean brands – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises – are still a holdout unless as part of a Panama Canal cruise that hits Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

As for the luxury lines, Oceania Cruises just recently returned to Mazatlán on May 28th with the Regatta. The line will again call on the Mexican Riviera throughout the year on select Panama Canal itineraries as will Crystal Cruises and Silversea Cruises.

But at Carnival the future looks brightest, despite a mishap where 22 passengers were robbed at gunpoint near Puerto Vallarta on a cruise tour out of the city that is no longer offered. Putting it in perspective, similar robberies have also occurred in Jamaica and the Bahamas. The line has three ships heading to the Mexican Riviera – Inspiration (which sails there year-round), Miracle and Splendor – stopping at the pair of Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas or Ensenada alone.

Even more importantly, Carnival has announced a healthy financial contribution of $150-million towards improving Mexico as a cruise destination. Plans include developing a cruise terminal in Calica, a port city near Cancun on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and a brand new port of call in South Baja California – yet to be announced.

The Future – Puerto Cortés

Isla Santa Margarita and Magdalena Bay (Copyright © Google Maps)

This Mexican Riviera mystery port is reported to be Puerto Cortés according to Travel Agent Central. Found on the northeastern side of Isla Santa Margarita, Puerto Cortés faces the southwestern coast of Baja California Sur with Magdalena Bay nestled between the island and the mainland. The port is likely to make for a great ecotourism destination as Magdalena Bay provides a seasonal mating sanctuary for gray whales while local mangrove swamps shelter seabirds. The area is also known for commercial and sport fishing. Only time will tell what other adventures await.

With the returning support of the cruise lines to make exciting new developments, the Mexican Riviera perseveres as a cruise destination with high hopes for even better days ahead.


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