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.
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.
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.
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
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.