Holland America Returning to Mazatlan; NCL, Carnival Still On Schedule, Too

January 31, 2011

(Update, January 31, 3:55 p.m. EST -- Both Norwegian Star and Carnival Spirit are scheduled to call in Mazatlan on Tuesday -- neither line has announced any changes at this time. Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord has confirmed that Oosterdam will call in Mazatlan on Wednesday as scheduled, and that the line is continuing to monitor the situation closely. We'll keep you posted.)

(1:45 p.m. EST) -- Holland America and Princess Cruises have now both canceled calls to Mazatlan, following the lead of Disney Cruise Line, which pulled the port from Disney Wonder's seven-night Mexican Riviera sailings indefinitely.

Donaldm, who is currently sailing aboard Sapphire Princess, posted the following this morning on the Cruise Critic boards: "The official announcement says in part: 'There have been recent incidents of violence in the Mazatlan area. As the safety and security of our passengers and crew in our priority, we reviewed our call to Mazatlan with our Security Department shoreside. Based on information provided, Princess Cruises, along with a few other cruise lines made the decision to cancel our call to Mazatlan this week.'"

Sapphire Princess is in the midst of a weeklong cruise in the region. Instead of its previously scheduled half-day call in Cabo on Thursday, the ship will stay for a full-day on Wednesday (when it would have called in Mazatlan) and spend a full day in Ensenada on Thursday.

However, the Princess change may not be permanent. According to line spokeswoman Karen Candy, "We have not made itinerary changes to future Mexican Riviera cruises for Sapphire Princess. Our next Mexican Riviera cruise will depart Los Angeles on February 12, 2011 and we will continue to monitor the situation and communicate any new developments or itinerary change."

Holland America's Oosterdam, which embarked on January 22 for a seven-day Mexico cruise, has replaced today's scheduled port call in Mazatlan with a call in Manzanillo. According to a statement from the line, the change was made "in response to recent incidents of violence in Mazatlan. Discussions will be occurring with local authorities to determine what steps are being taken to address this issue."

Like Princess, Holland America has only confirmed the Mazatlan cancellation for the current sailing. The line said it will make decisions regarding future calls on the basis of developments in Mazatlan and discussions with local authorities.

These changes come in the wake of a string of violent crimes in Mazatlan, including an incident in which a 68-year-old man from British Columbia was shot in the leg during an alleged gang shooting on January 17. Furthermore, the Mazatlan Messenger, an online newspaper that covers Mazatlan and surrounding areas, reported on Monday that in January alone, "31 people have been killed in violent incidents, three of which occurred last Thursday."

In response to the situation, The Mazatlan Tourism Trust issued a statement calling the incidents extremely rare and the port city "one of the safest destinations in Mexico, legendary for its history, culture and the warm hospitality of its people."

"What other other cities would they pull out if they applied the same rule? Miami, Los Angeles?" asked MTT spokesperson Julio Birrueta. "It's more perception than anything else," he added.

Still, according to Birrueta, authorities have been quick to act, and the Public Safety Ministry designated a special Mazatlan assignment for 120 elite police officers.

"As you know, Mexico has a challenge in what we call the border areas [between Mexico and the United States]," he said. "We're 1,000 miles away, and we're really trying to make sure it doesn't spill into our tourist areas. We don't want the [recent] incidents to happen again."

In the past few months, a string of other cruise lines -- including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines -- have announced departures from the region, citing decreased demand, possibly due to health and security concerns.

Carnival and NCL, both of which currently have ships sailing in the region, have not reported any itinerary adjustments. Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz told Cruise Critic Wednesday afternoon that with Carnival Spirit's planned Mazatlan call more than a week away, "we are continuing to evaluate the situation but have not made any changes at this time."

We'll be sure to keep you posted with any additional updates.

--by Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Web Content Producer, and Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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