U.S. State Department Issues New Warning for Travelers to Mexico, Includes Cruise Ports

August 25, 2017
cruise ships in mexico

(4:15 p.m. EDT) -- On August 22, the U.S. Department of State issued an update to its Mexico travel warning. While many of the cities and states listed had been included in a previous report from December 2016, the state of Quintana Roo -- home to the cruise ports of Cozumel and Playa del Carmen and popular shore excursion destinations of Cancun and Tulum -- has been newly added. That means 23 of Mexico's 31 states -- or 74 percent of the country, including 12 operational cruise ports -- are now under a U.S. travel advisory.

The advisories come after an increase of violence in the region, which has reached its peak in 2017. While the shootings and assassinations are largely fueled by drug and criminal organizations and not targeted at U.S. citizens, the U.S. government warns that bystanders could be in danger of being injured or killed.

However, it is important to note that, at this time, no cruise passengers have been targeted or directly affected by the violence in Mexico.

To keep track of where warnings are in effect and what cruise lines are doing, read Cruise Critic's roundup of the latest developments in the region.

Which Mexican cruise ports are included in the August 2017 warning?

According to the latest warning: "The states of Baja California, Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring innocent bystanders have occurred during daylight hours."

Ensenada (Baja California)

Carnival, Disney, Celebrity and more lines call on Ensenada, with no changes made at this time.

Los Cabos and La Paz (Baja California Sur)

Lindblad-National Geographic and Un-Cruise sail expedition cruises from La Paz, with no changes made to their itineraries. Princess, Regent and Azamara also call there.

Holland America, Regent, Oceania, Carnival and more lines call on Cabo San Lucas with no itinerary changes made.

Manzanillo (Colima)

U.S. citizens are encouraged to defer all non-essential travel to this border region.

Princess, Regent, Oceania, Azamara and Holland America all include this port on Mexican Riviera, South America, Central America, Panama and world cruises, with no changes at this time.

Acapulco and Ixtapa (Guerrero)

From the advisory: "Personal travel to the entire state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, is prohibited for U.S. government personnel. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable."

Regent, Oceania and Norwegian include Acapulco on cruise itineraries, with no changes at this time. Earlier this year, Holland America replaced Acapulco over safety concerns on eight itineraries.

Crystal Cruises and Azamara each have an itinerary featuring Ixtapa, with no changes announced.

Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco)

This warning is mainly in effect for travel to the areas of Jalisco that border Michoacan and Zacatecas.

Plenty of cruise lines -- including Carnival, Princess, Disney and Holland America -- still call there.

Huatulco (Oaxaca)

The warning in Oaxaca mainly stresses that government personnel (and visitors) should stay in the tourist areas of the region and avoid using public transportation in Oaxaca City.

Princess and Holland America currently call in Huatalco.

Cozumel and Playa del Carmen/Calica (Quintana Roo)

Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean are just some of the lines that continue to call on Cozumel.

We could not find any cruises calling on Playa del Carmen (Calica) at this time.

Mazatlan and Topolobampo (Sinaloa)

From the advisory: "One of Mexico's most powerful criminal organizations is based in the state of Sinaloa, and violent crime rates remain high in many parts of the state. Travel in Mazatlan should be limited to Zona Dorada, the historic town center, as well as direct routes to and from these locations and the airport. Travel in Los Mochis and Topolobampo is restricted to the city and the port, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport."

Carnival, Disney, Holland America and Princess Cruises all offer itineraries that call on Mazatlan with no changes announced at this time.

Cruise lines like Princess, Azamara , Seabourn  and Silversea offer cruises that call on the small cruise port of Topolobampo.

Puerto Penasco (Sonora)

The port in Puerto Penasco is not yet complete, and so no cruise ships call there yet. The port is expected to be open in 2019.

The State Department advisory for August 2017 says: "Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades. U.S. citizens traveling throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours and exercise caution on [highways]."

Will the new State Department warning affect my cruise to Mexico?

The short answer is "no." Right now, while cruise lines are exercising caution in the region, no current itineraries have been reported as changed or canceled because of the most recent travel warning, with most cruise lines asking passengers to exercise common sense in port.

A few cruise lines have issued statements in response to the latest travel warning:

A representative for Princess Cruises, which calls on half of the ports in question, had this to say:

"We are aware that on Tuesday, August 22, the U.S. Department of State updated their Travel Warning for Mexico, alerting U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel in certain areas of Mexico. The State Department advises that U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation, be aware of their immediate surroundings, and avoid large crowds or crowded places. These are the same common-sense measures we recommend to all of our guests when visiting an unfamiliar city. As the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority, our Security department remains in close contact with public safety professionals and continues to monitor alerts worldwide. We will advise guests and travel consultants should this situation necessitate changing any of our planned itineraries."

Spokespeople for Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, which are part of the same parent company, issued this statement: "The safety and security of our guests and crew is our top priority. Regent Seven Seas Cruises currently does not call in any of the zones that qualify to 'defer non-essential travel.' We always caution our guests in daily communications to use caution, be safe and be alert when going ashore, no matter the destination. We have strict safety protocols in place and cooperate with local authorities regarding security matters at the destinations our ships visit. Port and onshore facilities, infrastructure, and passenger security and services in destinations are strictly scrutinized prior to a ship call. In the event of any safety concerns, we have the flexibility to alter our itineraries as needed to avoid areas of concern."

Azamara Club Cruises is monitoring the situation with no changes at this time, noting "We feel it is important to make our guests aware that the U.S. State Department recently published a safety warning for Mexico. Visitors to Mexico, like visitors to all foreign countries in the world today, need to be mindful of their personal safety. We recommend guests not venture too far from tourist areas, or consider participating in an organized tour. Also, to lower your risk of being a victim of petty theft or other non-violent crimes, please consider leaving valuables and irreplaceable items in your stateroom. We suggest you avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry, carry only the cash or credit cards that you will need on each outing and keep your belongings secure and out of sight. This common sense approach and heightened level of awareness will help you enjoy your visit to Mexico."

Viking Ocean Cruises does not have a port of call in Mexico until late January, and no changes have been made to that itinerary. A representative for the line assured us that in the meantime, they are monitoring the situation closely.

--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor