Map of the Baja Peninsual In February, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert stating that Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict (among themselves and against officers of the law) -- mainly concentrated near Mexico-U.S. borders -- warning that "large firefights" have occurred. The travel alert specifically cites Baja California, visited on Mexican Riviera cruises, as an area where crime has spiked.

However, at this point, no cruise lines have announced itinerary changes due to the conflict in Mexico. Norwegian Cruise Line, for one, says in an official statement that "we continue to call in Mexico and have been advised by local and federal authorities that there is no reason to alter our published itineraries." Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean have issued similar statements.

It's important to note that even on the Baja peninsula, cruise ports are a good distance from the international border. The closest, the Mexican Riviera port of Ensenada, is approximately 65 miles from the city of Tijuana, located right on the border and where violence has indeed escalated. Oft-visited ports like La Paz and Cabo San Lucas are much farther south. On the east coast of Mexico, popular Western Caribbean cruise ports like Cozumel are likewise quite a distance from the border.

The State Department has not advised against travel to Mexico. However, citizens are encouraged to travel on main roads, remain in tourist areas and be alert to safety and security concerns. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped across Mexico, but in the case of the ongoing drug wars, most crime victims are Mexican citizens, according to the State Department.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor