Destination Spotlight: Cruisers Rediscover Mazatlan

February 19, 2014 | By | 5 Comments

It’s been two years since cruise ships—any cruise ships—have called at Mazatlan, Mexico. So on February 1st when our ship, Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest, docked at this vibrant Pacific coast port, it ranked as one of only a handful of recent cruise arrivals. No wonder everyone I met in “Mexico’s colonial city on the beach” seemed genuinely glad (should I say relieved?) to see us.
Why cruise ships pulled out of Mazatlan is still controversial. Some blame a weak U.S. economy. Most claim safety issues troubled the cruise lines, whether or not Mexico’s drug-related crimes were local or distant incidents.
“If something happened here, it didn’t happen to a passenger,” sad Jose Birrueta, marketing director of the Mazatlan Tourism Board. Whatever the reason ships sailed on by, they began their slow return in November, 2013 with a call by Holland America’s Veendam.
Stepping off our ship, I immediately noticed the beefed up security. First, there was the mandatory tram to safely transport us the short, easily walkable distance between Azamara Quest and the cruise terminal.
Next, city officials spent big bucks installing security cameras and painting the town blue to welcome cruisers. A blue line painted on the streets earlier this year stretches from the modern cruise terminal to Plaza Machado in the heart of Mazatlan’s historic district, a 20-minute walk away. I spotted the helpful, you-can’t-get-lost line once I exited the terminal and made my way past the huddle of taxi drivers (by the way, they all accepted my first “no thanks” for an answer).
Before I even reached the line, half a dozen “blue shirts” handed me a blue line map and offered assistance. Dressed in blue T-shirts sporting a big question mark and the words “Mazatlan Tourist Aide Volunteer,” the group serves as semi-official greeters. Best of all, these volunteers speak fluent English.
Most are Americans and Canadians who make their home in the city either part or full time and who are aware of visitors’ safety concerns. They were quick to make passengers feel comfortable by pointing out the many Mexican families casually strolling around town day and night.
There’s more. Security guards and police watched out for passengers near popular tourist attractions. Their presence was particularly noticeable in the historic district where my travel partner and I visited the exquisitely restored Teatro Angela Peralta (opera house) and the Museo de Arte.
As one fellow cruiser noted, she had no worries poking around on her own with so many guards around. And we had no second thoughts about joining a tour to El Quelite, a traditional Mexican village a half-hour’s drive into the countryside.
In addition to Azamara Quest, Mazatlan is welcoming cruisers sailing on Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Mexican Riviera itineraries through the rest of 2014.

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    5 Responses to “Destination Spotlight: Cruisers Rediscover Mazatlan”

    1. Hazel Dibble
      February 19th, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

      Was on the Veendam when it visited in November 2013. The welcome was fantastic and absolutely loved Mazatlan. So much to see. Took a private taxi tour with an amazing guide. Going back on the same cruise December 2014.

    2. christine
      February 23rd, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

      Docked here in 2009 NCL. The locals crowded us offering taxi service …. Begging for us to purchase odds and ends….etc. they would not take NO THANK YOU for an answer…. My personal space was crowded and we were trailed even after we begged for them to leave us alone. What a horror show that place was. I still get anxiety thinkin of the experience .

    3. Lee Jacobs
      May 4th, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

      Christine, so sorry for your experience in ’09. Our wonderful port city has seen ‘a few’ changes since then. Our group, Mazatlan Tourist Aide Volunteers, was formed in Feb, 2011, for the sole purpose of welcoming and assisting our visitors. We’ve had a great impact… far more than we expected!… on how our service providers (taxis, shop keepers, etc) approach foreign visitors. By example, we’ve shown them what visitors need in personal space. For many of the ships we’ve had in port this year, I’ve been at the Port, in the courtyard area, greeting folks as they come through, and helping them decide on how to get around town, including, but not limited to the ‘blue line’ self-guided walking tour. The atmosphere around the courtyard area is now one of helpfulness and happiness. We volunteers have maps that we give to our visitors, after pointing out where various points of interest are on the map. One day, a taxi driver asked to see what we were giving the passengers. I handed him a map. After studying it, he asked if he could keep it. Before long, I noticed him approaching a group of passengers, offering the map, with an explanation that he would be happy to take them on a private tour, or they could ‘walk the blue line’ into the Centro Historico part of town on their own. Guess what! They accepted his offer of a private tour! It’s all in how we meet and greet our visitors, and make them feel welcome to ‘Paradise’… Mazatlan! Hope to see you again one day, Christine!

    4. Larry
      May 4th, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

      The reason for the tram within the port area is safety, not security. This is a working city and the port area is alive with moving vehicles. Simply walking from the ship to the port exit is not a good option because of those vehicles. Ride the tram and listen to the “blue shirts” describe their home.

    5. Janet
      May 5th, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

      We have been RVing in Mexico for over 20 years, plus a couple of cruises. We love Mexico and the Mexican people. However, you must remember that the Mexican people are very poor and, to them, you are very rich, especially if you get off a cruise ship. Please, please be polite to them. They are not banditos, they are merely trying to put food onto the table for their families.

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