Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico? The Answer is Yes

At the start of this decade, many ocean cruise lines began pulling out of the Mexican Riviera, citing fears about violence in places like Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, and beyond.

The streets of Mazatlan’s Centro Historico. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Now, cruises to the Mexican Rivera are slowly coming back. Carnival Cruise Line has increased its commitment to the region, particularly as it sends its 3,012-guest Carnival Splendor back to the Pacific in January of 2018. Holland America Line has increased its departures out of San Diego for the winter of 2017-18, and Princess Cruises has a full roster of sailings to the Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

So is the Mexican Riviera safe to cruise to? The answer appears to be “yes.”

Perception vs. Reality

While there are certainly problems with crime in Mexico, violent crime is usually removed from tourist areas, particularly as Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta are concerned. Nearly all Mexican Riviera cruises stick to these three major ports of call, all of which cater heavily to tourists thanks to a robust hotel and all-inclusive resort business.

These ports need the cruise lines, too, and many have gone out of their way to improve service and facilities in the intervening years. On our last visit to Mazatlán, we were impressed with how much cleaner the port facilities and terminal were, and with how friendly the locals were.

Holland America’s Westerdam, at anchor off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

In fact, the locals in all three towns we encountered were nothing but polite and gracious. While there is still a bit of the “hustle” that goes on for independent tours, particularly on the long walk into Cabo San Lucas from the remote tender pier, we noticed that the overall hard-sell seems to have gone down. A simple “No, thanks” or “No, Gracias” goes a long way.

As to violence, if you stay to the main tourist areas and behave responsibly, you should do just fine. Don’t go around flaunting wads of cash or glitzy jewelry – advice that you’d probably heed in any major city around the world.

Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon promenade. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Two years ago, before Mexican Riviera cruises had really come back into their own, I walked from downtown Puerto Vallarta back to the cruise pier; a distance of four kilometers, or roughly 2.5 miles. During that time, not a single soul harassed or otherwise threatened me. The only person I encountered who spoke to me simply asked if I’d like a cold cerveza. “Signor, it’s hot out. You should be careful to drink enough fluids.”

Still, the Government of the United States and the Government of Canada both have travel advisories issued for Mexico, warning travellers to exercise a high degree of caution. Typically, these warnings exclude the cities of Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta.

Cliff Divers, Mazatlan. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Crime, of course, is not the exclusive property of Mexico. The Chicago Times reported that 4,368 people were shot last year in Chicago. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice also noted that Chicago alone accounted for 55.1 percent of the total increase in urban murders across the United States in 2016 alone – yet we still travel to Chicago.

The Bottom Line

Mazatlan, from Carnival Miracle. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

A cruise to the Mexican Riviera can be a fun and rewarding vacation in the sun. It is particularly convenient for travellers on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, and with more lines increasing the number of departures and ships in the region, it seems like the Mexican Riviera is ready to bounce back in a big way.

Go with a positive attitude, and be aware of your surroundings. Take the normal precautions you would in any major city or foreign country, and you should be just fine. If you plan to take independent excursions, vet the operators and book these online ahead of time. When in doubt, the cruise line excursions are always a good bet, as the cruise lines have established working relationships with the operators (the operators, and even the tours themselves, have changed very little in the intervening decade).

Most of all, enjoy yourself, and have fun.

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One Comment

  • Baja is Safe to travel north or south, just don’t drive at night, too many loose animals.

    The Major Problem in Baja: Do not drive to Ensenada, the Mayor is a joke his Name is Mr. Novelo and he is a Novela (a disgrace to city management) him and his cronies City Council members and delegates from the region in Maneadero really don’t care about your safety and they are all hated by most Citizens because of failed attempts to correct the wrong that he as done here for decades, not years. Road repairs here last only 3 months then the potholes are back. Politicians always say we will do this repair. Not! No one paid them off. That’s the real problem. Sick of them hun?

    This Mayor and his crones have lied to the public that they will repair the roads, and the contractors use cheap asphalt, they also use interior paint on making divider lines on the roads that fade away in 2-3 months, and they fail to add reflectors to the roads because they are saving money for their pockets and too pay off the city road inspectors who oversee contractors work. (see hwy 23). When its foggy or rains, more accidents because you cannot see the lines or reflectors, get it? They never clean the streets at all, no street sweeper here.

    So safety is not of their concerns at all for tourists or local drivers in Ensenada, look at Hwy 23 to La Bufadora, more accidents here, wait till you see the road barriers on the curves, you can count how many accident have been there.

    CARNIVAL CRUSE PEOPLE: Do not take a bus to La Bufadora the road is not safe and the workers there hustle you with the same old Mexican products and stuff you can buy in United States and all over Mexico or Olvera Street in Los Angeles/cheaper here; Save your money; there is also a lot of disappointments there because they don’t tell you when its high tide, that the only way you can see the La Bufadora splash or there is nothing to see; and the workers there rip you off and charge higher prices (gouge tourists) than at other regular stores.

    They are mostly con-artists there and watch out for thieves. Hardly anyone there speaks the languages for tourists/visitors, they act like they know, and they don’t. They cheat you there. They think all backs visitors are ghetto there, they talk like ghetto to visiting minorities; they are not hip at all, just idiots…do not do the tequila tasting there, it’s cheaper to go to the market in town and buy it there.
    The Indian dancer is not indigenous of the natives from Baja. He is not Kumiai.
    And he wants to get paid to take a photo with him. Not. The same on the hill, the lady wants to charge you for taking a photo from the hill or near her old car. Duh! Rip offs.

    Carnival cruse administrators, demand they repair this road now, or when you have a bus accident we can all laugh at you. I will not feel sorry for you at all, because you done nothing to demand safer streets to travel in Ensenada. You too must be corrupted with this Mayor to turn your head to safety for tourists; some people have warned your staff at the carnival cruse ship lines and you send tourists to La Bufadora; you are putting them at risk as well. Duh! Boycott Ensenada until they fix the roads correctly, not using cheap black oil to cover the road. It looks nice, but….potholes return quickly….Duh.

    The Death Stretch: Reforma Highway 1 is known as the DEATH STRETCH, they have accidents here weekly. Deaths/injuries here all the time. The Mayor and this city council and the delegates are a joke and very weak people managing the resources of this City. The tourists and local people are getting screwed by these
    so called Lame leaders. What a bunch of corrupted mentality of fake leaders. They really are that bad. Do not trust government officials in the City road department as all. They are asking the public on what do about this highway 1 in today’s El Vigia newspaper – that is so wrong, if they cannot figure out how to remake or redesign this road, why do they continue to work at City Hall or for the State of Baja road department?

    They should all be fired and/or go to the University of “You Tube” to learn how to repair roads or make roads for that matter, and how to make the rain water flow away from flooding the streets (Drains); the winter time is worst here, all thanks to this Mayor Novela who owns the Estero Beach Hotel and Hotel Las Rosas, boycott these places please. His family members also tore up the beaches (environment destruction) at Punta Estero beach and knocked down walls of property owners to make a road so he can build more homes in front of the other beach homes there already, what a cold hearted family of pigs and greedy pigs. Do not support his businesses at all; there are better places to stay.

    The people wish he die already or move to Russia where he can lie to them; He and other officials are really useless inhuman idiots here….so are his other representatives, they stole most of the street repair funds we heard in the grapevines. They make a lot of false promise here by most public officials and workers. Prove me wrong dear official, prove to the world we are wrong …I dare you.


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