Update, December 19: In response to Holland America's announcement that it is canceling calls to Mazatlan in January, February and March 2012, the Mazatlan Tourism Trust issued the following statement: "We are disappointed by Holland America's recent announcement to exclude Mazatlan from cruise itineraries ... We realize that this is a difficult time economically for the industry and that there are a number of complex reasons that lines eliminate ports of call, many of which are financially driven -- to save fuel costs, for instance. However, the fact that Holland America claims to have based their decision on an issue no longer relevant is a disservice both to Mazatlan and to Holland America cruise passengers. Continually citing crime as cause for concern permeates a blatant misconception and continues to erode the good reputation of Mazatlan and the unrivaled hospitality of its people.
Mazatlan is widely regarded as one of the safest destinations in Mexico. Holland America passengers may not visit, but two million other travelers flock to our beautiful destination -- evidenced by the fact that first quarter hotel bookings are up 15 percent. Additionally, more than 9,000 U.S. and Canadian citizens have made Mazatlan their permanent or seasonal home between October and April.
(December 15, 1:15 p.m. EST) -- Citing concerns over safety and security, Holland America is cutting more cruise calls to Mexico's beleaguered west coast.
Cruise Critic members tipped us off to the cancellations -- in Acapulco and Mazatlan -- on Friday when they were notified by the line, and spokesman Erik Elvejord filled in the details. "From January to March 2012, we are replacing Mazatlan on Mexican Riviera cruises, and Acapulco on the Inca Empire South America voyage and Panama Canal Explorer sailings," he said in an e-mail.
This latest bout of cancellations impacts 10 Holland America cruises. Oosterdam's seven-day Mexican Riviera sailings (roundtrip from San Diego) will now feature two consecutive days in Puerto Vallarta instead of a visit to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Statendam's 14-night Panama Canal Explorer cruises sailing from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego will no longer include Acapulco. Instead, they will feature additional time in Santa Cruz Huatulco. Rotterdam's 30-night Inca Empire South America voyage departing February 3 will now feature extended time in Santa Cruz Huatulco instead of a call in Acapulco.
Following a number of widely publicized crimes earlier this year -- including the shooting of one visitor in the leg and another shooting in a hotel parking lot -- ships all but stopped calling in Mazatlan. Calls to the port dropped from more than 200 in 2010 to 30 in 2011, and there are fewer than a dozen scheduled for 2012.
In Acapulco, the scene has been even more violent. According to the Guardian, the crime peak occurred in August when, local officials say, 148 people were killed. In early October, the federal and state governments launched an operation, bringing more than 3,000 members of the army, navy and federal police and state police to augment the local police force of 1,500. The official daily death toll has fallen from 3.6 in the two months before the operation to 1.6 in the same period after it. While HAL and luxury line Seabourn have cut calls in Acapulco, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea have left their handful of 2012 visits on the docket.
For HAL's part, Elvejord tells us that "discussions will continue with local authorities in both ports to determine the appropriate time to resume port calls there."
It's not all bad news for the troubled cruise region. Norwegian Cruise Line announced Tuesday that it will be returning in late 2013 after a nearly two-year hiatus. Norwegian Star will sail seven-night sailings to the Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles between December 2013 and April 2014, the traditional season. Ports of call for the Mexican Riviera trips will include Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and ... Mazatlan.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor