Cruising in the Danger Zone: Is It Worth It?

February 28, 2012 | By | 32 Comments

Is Mexico’s west coast, otherwise dubbed the Mexican Riviera, unsafe for cruise travelers?
Even before last week’s news that passengers on a Carnival Splendor-organized shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta were held up at gunpoint by masked assailants, the region’s battled with perceptions that some of its ports of call are unsafe for tourists to visit. But at what point does perception equal reality? Cruise Critic member Go Mexico takes a reasonable tone on the Mexican Riviera forum: “Each of us travels differently and not always with the same acceptance of risk. That’s why it’s important to ask questions, do some independent reading on the destinations.”

Perhaps, but I’d argue that when cruise lines greatly reduce the ports that they visit (e.g., Carnival and Holland America both offer cruises with stops at just two ports on a seven-night voyage from southern California — Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta), how compelling is the region to begin with? Add in the fact that the U.S. State Department has revised its existing travel warning for Mexico to include warnings about ports of call, and the questions multiply.
Some claim that the real problem is a false perception that the region is not safe.
“There’s so much bad publicity about cruise destinations perhaps because everything newsworthy is so instantly available,” writes Shirley Miller Lee on Cruise Critic’s Facebook page. “My comment: Be careful with your cameras, money, etc. Buy a good fanny pack. Take precautions as we’ve had to do traveling for many, many years.”
But do you really want to go on vacation in a danger zone?
“I did a tour north of Puerto Vallarta with Holland America last April,” writes Suze Moore on Facebook. “Since we were going inland a bit, they had two jeeps with soldiers and guns escorting us. Had I known it was that dangerous we never would have done it!”
“It’s just not worth the risk in my opinion,” writes JackieClay Holbrook on Facebook page. “Even though these incidences are few and far between, it’s enough to make me think twice. Why even take that chance?”
From where I sit, travel is what you make of it. Cruising in Egypt, an exotic locale where cruise line tour buses are regularly accompanied by local police, doesn’t faze me at all. On the other hand, if I just want to chill out, I’d prefer a place where armed guards are not necessary. But there’s more to it than that: Part of the joy of cruising for me are the ports I visit and the people I meet when I’m there — a seven-night voyage with two measly calls may be heaven to those who live for sea days, but I’ll take more stops and less uncertainty, please.
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    32 Responses to “Cruising in the Danger Zone: Is It Worth It?”

    1. localady
      February 28th, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

      Your opinion understandable is not one of a West Coast cruiser (yes we do exist!) Your opinion leaves West Coast cruisers with no options other than Alaska, which is not an option in the winter months. Most folks don’t have 2 weeks to cruise to Hawaii, and although I did, I won’t again, way too many sea days for me thanks.
      At least with the Mex. Riv. itinerary we got 2 days in PV and one in Cabo. I have done it yearly for many years and never felt unsafe. Many of the Ft. Lauderdale based cruises offer just 3 days in port. But flights to Ft. Lauderdale are horribly expensive from the West Coast and getting more expensive daily. For all those FLL-based cruises, it is way too much time in transit (as well as expense) for just 7 days on a ship. Cruise lines have left us “West Coasters” with little to no alternatives. Time to go back to land based resorts I guess. It is truly a shame.

    2. Alex
      February 28th, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

      Funny how the author only picked the negative comments to feature on her article. Biased much?

    3. Mike Mitchell
      February 28th, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

      My wife and I just returned from Cabo, PV and Manzanillo on an 8 day cruise on the Carnival Spirit. Before leaving we read the travel info from the US State Department so that we were traveling informed. We took Carnival tours in PV and Cabo. We never felt unsafe. We walked the downtown area of Manzanillo. Once again we were treated well and did not feel unsafe. We found it interesting that the tour guides went to great lengths to explain that Mexico was safe as long as we followed the safety recommendations of the ship’s staff and the tour staff. Our tour guide said that much of the Mexican Rivera was feeling a little “snake bit” by the bad press in the US. He also said that many feel that the Cruise lines were “over reacting” by cancelling ports of calls due to a few rare incidents of crime. I am not sure how I feel about his comments but my wife and I will continue to travel to Mexico. It is a beautiful place with wonderful people. We love cruising but feel like we may do other types of vacationing if the cruise lines continue to limit choices on the west coast where we live. Air fares to the east coast have become cost prohibitive so we have few options. Crime is everywhere in the world and is a fact of life. Living afraid is not living…it is existing. Hopefully things (preceptions) will get better so that we can continue to enjoy crusing and the west coast of Mexico.

    4. xriva
      February 28th, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

      Some ports should be skipped. We’re booked on a 2013 Canal crossing and there are three stops in Mexico I could do without. I am going for the Canal, not for the ports.

    5. Ine
      February 28th, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

      Living in Puerto vallarta in wintertime I can tell you Puerto Vallarta is NOT unsafe.This was an unfortunate isolated incident.As witnesses state it seems it was 1 man with gun who robbed a group hiking in the mountains in a region outside of Puerto Vallarta.
      A few years ago a almost same robbery incident in a bus took place around Las Vegas, that didnot make that area unsafe. Also in the Caribean the same has happened before.
      You will find thousands of tourists (many “snowbirds”) having a good and safe time around here without any problems in any way.
      Last Sundaynight the Malecon was full as always with tourist and locals. Free concert and people were dancing on the square.
      Crime is in many places in the world, but since this was in Mexico it made headlines.

    6. smartytour
      February 28th, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

      I think the cruise industry should make the Mexican government to increase more security to protect the tourist if not it will affect their economy.

    7. Stuart Orenstein
      February 28th, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

      So we should also avoid Europe, the Ocean where ther are pirates! And the Caribbean where a similar hold up happened?!? Crime happens everywhere. Tourists are often targets. For 99.9% of travelers Mexico is safe. Don’t avoid visiting Mexico.

    8. xriva
      February 28th, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

      I will be making a number of stops on Mexico’s west coast in 2013, but I’d rather not. It’s part of a Canal crossing, and I’m much more interested in the Canal than Mexico’s Pacific coast. By skipping the ports, I’d feel safer and it would be a shorter cruise.

    9. Kendall
      February 28th, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

      Admittedly, Mexican and Western Cruises are not our first choice in cruise destinations in the first place due to a lack of worthwhile cruise ports. That said, the facts are Mexico IS increasingly more crime ridden and more dangerous for travelers. A friend of mine vacationed at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun recently and said local police stop travelers in rental cars for bogus traffic infractions and shake them down for cash to let them go. She has experienced that several times in recent years and no longer rents a car while in Cancun. (We will not be vacationing in Cancun either.) I have family in Arizona just across the Mexican border and they report rampant violent crime also. Jamaican soldiers greet you when you deport in Ocho Rios. We won’t give up cruising, however, we have decided we will no longer schedule cruises with ports in cities with uncontrollable crime. It’s definitely not worth the risk to us.

    10. Sinister Smiles
      February 28th, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

      As a west coaster, We don’t have many choices for cruising. And I love cruising. So when I can’t afford the air flights it is nice to just hope on a boat and go. I have cruised Mexico many times and not felt that it was any more dangerous then walking downtown Los Angeles. I have been to Costa Rica-which had armed guards with us the whole excurtion, and Jamacia-where we were told not to leave the group because of the high crime rate, to which one of the cruisers in our group left the group and was robbed or in Rome-where you are warned about the pick pockets and gangs of boys that rob visitors. I have also driven down to Mexico, and that is a bit more scary but not any worse then driving in East LA. We take the toll road, and go in a group. Danger of crime is every where we go. This is true of most foriegn countries as well as here in the Great USA…..we have crime too. So get over it, if you don’t feel safe don’t go. I chose to not be runned by fear when it comes to travel but face it and do everything I can to make my trip as safe as possible, and if a crime happens don’t fight-after all it is just things-just give them what they want. I will still travel with open eyes and enjoy it.

    11. Robert Wahl
      February 28th, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

      We have cruised down to the Mexican Riviera since 1995 and we have always loved our trips. However on the last cruise in 2010 we were surprised to see armed Mexican Soldiers at the dock when we came in. My wife has said she won’t travel there any more with the increased crime wave down there. We had creat trips to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta and I am glad we have those memories of terrific cruises to those places. We will not take the risk, however, as long as the troubles continue down there. What a shame that Mexico changed for the worst. It was a great destination but is not worth your life.

    12. Carolyn
      February 29th, 2012 @ 11:25 am

      Localady and SinisterSmiles, as a former West Coaster I absolutely get where you’re coming from, that close-to-home cruises from southern California aren’t as plentiful as those from other home ports. It’s a tough situation. The cruise lines really need the Mexican Riviera. Here’s hoping things get settled soon. When that does happen, they’ll return, no question.


    13. Eleanor
      February 29th, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

      I wish that the cruise ships would not go to Mexico, I had and experience in 2010 on a Royal Caribbean ship, we stopped in Mexico and when I looked from my balcony I saw soliders standing on the dock with guns. Right away I know it was not safe to get off. Why would these mega ship company want to risk their passengers lives by stopping there. The stop was Cozumel.

    14. Dollhouse Duchess
      February 29th, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

      When we did the canal from FtL to San Diego on HAL, our favorite stop on the way North was Loreto…lovely Mexican town, not overly touristy, lunch and local folkgroup show at local hotel. We felt very comfortable, and the pelicans all over the dock and local boats there were a fabuluous site. Don’t miss it if you have the opportunity.

    15. Debra
      February 29th, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

      We love Cabo. We try to go every October for a week for Sammy Hagar’s Birthday Bash and take a cruise for 7 nights on Carnival to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo every year. We have done many excursions and have never felt scared or unsafe. The Mexican people are very friendly and helpful. I have been in a wheelchair for several years and it’s a little harder to get around in Mexico, but everyone is very kind and friendly and help me get in and out of the taxi vans and the sunset catamarans we love to take. I highly recommend a cruise to Mexico! And you can’t beat the cost! We are taking a cruise to Alaska this summer and I can’t believe how expensive it is and the excursions are extremely expensive, too!

    16. Dennis
      February 29th, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

      That’s the reason I won’t visit mainland Mexico on a cruise or otherwise. We did however take a family reunion cruise out of TPA to Cozumel and there were Mexican Marines at the pier. That’s what those Marines are doing there,making sure there was no trouble.

    17. Candice
      February 29th, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

      We have owned a timeshare at the Sheraton Buganvilias in Puerto Vallarta since 1991. We go there every year and last year was no exception. We stayed two weeks from December 3-17, 2011, and we brought five friends; no one in our group felt unsafe. We went out every day, and at night, along the Malecon, to Old Town (my husband’s favorite area to hang out), on a bus tour into the Jungle, we never felt unsafe. One day, we, 3 women, walked from the timeshare to Old Town for breakfast (probably about 2 miles); shopped the day at the River Market and along the Malecon; then we took the bus home. We made a mistake on the bus route and had to walk several blocks that evening, in the dark, to the resort in what some may consider an undesireable area. Mexico is and continues to be a wonderful place to visit and we will continue to do so. As others have indicated, crime happens in all sorts of places, even at home.

    18. Mike
      February 29th, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

      I have traveled to PV, Mazatlan, Zihuatanejo, Ensenada, the MExican Riverea, etc, many times, and I felt quite safe – certainly safer than I ever felt in Detroit, Chicago or Washington at night!. There is definitely a problem in northern Mexico, at the Mexico/US border, due mainly to the drug trade, but several newspapers and travel guides have done extensive research, and you’re generally speaking as safe or safer in the tourist areas of Mexico (which are well policed) than you are in your home town. So far as the military presence at Mexican ports of call, they are there for your security, not to threaten you. While the US may not have soldiers at their ports of entry, you do have well armed guards, who serve exactly the same purpose.

    19. Kathleen Browning
      February 29th, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

      I have traveled to Mexico many times – cruises as well as land packages. My husband and I were just there in Feb. – rented a car and drove around Mexican Riviera near Playa del Carmen without any problem. Yes, we saw Mexican federales with guns at stops, but we found this reassuring. We are going again to Cancun in April, feel totally safe. We will not be anywhere near the Mexico/America border where all the violence is occurring.
      Of course, violence occurs everywhere. Children are not safe in schools in Ohio. In Florida, where we live, in broad daylight, elderly people are robbed and attacked. Happens everywhere. You have to educate yourselves and know exactly where the risk is – look at the warnings from the US government. There are no warnings against Cancun, Mexico City or Mexican Riviera. We look forward to our next visit to Mexico without any worry.

    20. Michael
      February 29th, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

      I would buy the trip insurance so you can get your body flown home. There are too many beautiful places to waste money on Mexico. Try Malaga in southern Spain or the Canary Islands. Mexico sucks.

    21. TIM DEVLIN
      March 1st, 2012 @ 3:18 am

      In this safety debate I’m tired of the endless…”Oh I was there and it was safe” chat. Remember you only need to be attacked, knifed, raped, or murdered once and you will change your mind. I might run across the track and never get hit by a freight train but what a dumb idea to take the risk. I was robbed and assaulted by Gypsies in Lisbon in the middle of the day. If your walking around in a group your safer but those of us who tour alone are at greater risk.

    22. Mark
      March 2nd, 2012 @ 12:19 am

      Growing up in Southern California and now living in San Diego, I have been to Mexico MANY times. Driving to Tijuanna for day trips, strawberry margarittas at the Rosarito Beach Hotel (before it became popular), even camping on the beach between Ensenada and Rosarito (looking back THAT have been foolish, but I will always cherish it), baja lobster and husongs in Ensenada, and most recently two cruise from San Diego to Cab, PV. LOVE Mexico and always will! Never any problems, save for the one time being pulled over by the mexican hiway patrol and paying an “on the spot fine.” Don’t be frightened, crime is here and it’s there and it happens everywhere. You can’t live your life in fear. Live your life in awe and love!

    23. Mike V
      March 2nd, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

      To All on Both Sides:
      Note, I take vacations to have fun and get away from a stressfull work life. If going to a location that adds stress to my life I do not do it. If going to a place that adds stress to your life if fun for you, than do it. Please do not try to convince me that additional stress should be fun for me and I will not try to convince you of the opposite. Best of luck to those of you on both sides. I truly hope you do not have to experience a bad situation in whatever port you visit.

    24. LCDR Roberto Prinselaar, USCG (Ret)
      March 2nd, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

      We love Mexico, especially Mazatlan. Didn’t care for Acapulco that much but loved Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta,Mazatlan, Loreto, and Cabo. As far as armed guards, try the airport in Amsterdam or some other places. We had armed escort in Guatamala, but wherever we went the people were super. We still think that the shopping in Mazatlan is the best, and also the long long beaches stretching endlessly. Viva Mexico con no problemas!

    25. Kay Stewart
      March 2nd, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

      I have read your comments with interest. Thank you everyone.
      I live in New Zealand,and the Mexican Riviera is on my “bucket list”.However the stories I have heard are a bit off putting.
      Last year I went on a Caribbean cruise.Flights from NZ to Miami were far more costly than to the west coast.
      Also as a world traveler and cruiser I have been a victim of theft in Europe [twice] and in Honolulu.
      We are always cautioned on tours,and need to be mindful,in order to avoid the necessity of replacing credit cards,travel documents and
      passports,as I have had to do.
      Thank you,the Mexican Riviera is back on my bucket list.

    26. RichG
      March 5th, 2012 @ 12:15 am

      Life involves risk, be it travel to Mexico, a walk in Central Park or crossing the street in front of your house. I visited Colombia in 2008; part of the delight of the adventure was the warm hospitality extended to the few Americans willing make the trip.

      Take intelligent precautions but don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from enjoying life.

    27. CathyWolf
      March 12th, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

      I’m not sure how long some of you have been traveling to Mexico, but in my experience of traveling there for 12 years, land and cruise, there have been armed marines, army, guards every time every where since I started traveling there, that is nothing new at all and doesn’t mean the crime is high in that area.

    28. Hickey Law Firm, P.A.
      March 16th, 2012 @ 9:20 am

      The Cruise Critic member quoted in this article is exactly on point: it is important to ask questions about your cruise ports, but it is equally important to understand the risks inherent in the cruise itself. Cruise ships are not safe havens between dangerous ports, though the cruise industry may work hard to make it appear otherwise.

    29. Timid Tom
      March 24th, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

      Based on some of the above comments, the assumption has to be made that it’s not safe to visit Disneyland in California. After all, Anaheim is not in the best area and I heard the local police carry guns!!!! Also heard that the murder rate there is higher than Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Loreto, and Cabo.. Thats it for me then, Mickey and Minnie are out for my next vacation. Maybe I’ll wrap myself in cotton wool and hide under the bed.

      \Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.\ ~Marie Curie

    30. mjgruskin
      April 30th, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

      The answer is right down there 90 miles from Key West. It’s called CUBA. Enough with Key West, Cozumel and Nassau. The attitude of the West Indies is terrible and getting worse. The US needs to get over itself and let Carnival and RC stop at Cuba. Enough with the cigar ban and why is it OK to stop where C Columbus enslaved the Caribbean population but not OK because of what Castro did? Nonsense.

    31. independent fort lauderdale escorts
      May 7th, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

      The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lot of great information which can be helpful in some or the other way. Keep updating the blog, looking forward for more contents.

    32. James
      July 6th, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

      in my opinion the real problem is a false perception that the region is not safe

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