The Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Mexico is situated on the Yucatán Peninsula of the country, west of Cuba. It consists of the resort city of Cancún on the Northeast of the Pennisula on the Caribbean coast, with Playa del Carmen and Tulum to its south which offer beautiful sandy beaches and seaside Mayan ruins, with the popular cruise destination of the island of Cozumel to the east of Palaya del Carmen.

Recently the U.S. State Department issued a warning to its federal employeees not to travel to Playa del Carmen following an explosion on a Mexican ferry which shuttled cruise passengers and other tourists between Palaya del Carmen and Cozumel. The U.S. Consular Office in Playa del Carmen was temporarily shut down due to crime threats unrelated to the threat against ferries operating Quintana Roo Mexico Cancun Cozumel Playa del Carmen between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.  U.S. government personnel are still prohibited from using the Mexican ferry services). Some cruise lines have cancelled all excursions using the ferry services, as we previously reported.

Although Cancun is known for its spectacular white sand beaches and turquoise waters, the tourist hotspot, many report, is “in the grips of a brutal and growing crime wave that threatens to leave it a ghost town.”  The same article writes:

“Amid a thriving drug trade and widespread extortion, fear is rampant and most of the murders go unsolved. Now, the situation is so dire that its multi-billion dollar tourism industry is under threat.”

British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy recently reported on the out-of-control violence in Mexico, fueled by drug cartels and extortion, in a special for SBS’s Dateline called Mexico Beach Wars. He reported that there were 169 killings in the first half of 2017, a per capita murder rate far, far higher than anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.

The fear is that the beaches in Quintana Roo will become like Acapulco, a once popular Mexican beach resort in Mexico frequented by movie stars in the 1950’s and 1960″s, which has long since been abandoned by the cruise industry due to violence.

The Mexico torurism officials, or course, are pushng back and claming that the region is safe for tourists to visit. Following the bombing of the ferry in Palaya del Carmen, the Ministry of Tourism for State of Quintana Roo in Mexico quickly issued press releases where it claims that there is “no risk” to tourists when visiting Cozumel. Meanwhile, the expanding cruise industry is still promoting Mexico as a regular attraction to its guests.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Interested in this issue? Please read:

Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?

Cruise Lines Return to Acapulco Amidst Violence.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Tainted Alcohol & Crime: Mexico Struggles With Image As Cruise Destination

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

See also: Washington Post – Acapulco is Now Mexico’s Murder Capital.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Rz6t2FEablA%3Frel%3D0

 

An explosion aboard a Mexican ferry in Playa del Carmen ten days ago, followed by at least one explosive device planted on the hull of another ferry which was discovered yesterday, triggered a United States embassy’s alert last night, prohibiting embassy employees from using ferries operating between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

On February 21, 2018, we reported on a violent explosition on a ferry in Playa del Carmen which seriously injured around 25 passengers, includuing 7 U.S. citizens. The explosion on the Barcos Caribe, which has been operating a Playa del Carmen-Cozumel route, injured passengers as they were disembarking from the ferry to the dock. Mexican authorities initially said that the explosion was the result of a Carmen del Playa - Cozumel Warning Explosive Devices mechanical malfunction; however, news sources are now reporting that the explosion was the result of an explosive device.     

This news comes after a second device was located on another ferry in Cozumel also owned by the Barcos Caribe company, which provides regular service to toruists between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. A Mexican newspaper article contains a photograph of one of the explosive devices attached to the hull of a ferry. According to news accounts, Barcos Caribe is associated with former Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo who acquired the ferry line while he was still in office. After leaving office, Borge became a fugitive and was later captured in Panama. 

Roberto Borge Martín was apparently on board the first ferry at the time of the February 21 explosion, although the was reportedly uninjured. 

A Mexican drug cartel recently claimed responsibility for the explosion. According to a news source, the Cártel de “El Pumba” y “Tata,” associated with the Los Zetas drug cartel, threatened blow up the home of the current mayor of Carmen del Playa.

At least one cruise line, Princess Cruises, has cancelled excursions which use ferries between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. A copy of a letter dated today from Princess to cruise passengers on the Royal Princess sailing to Mexico arriving to Cozumel is above to the right.  The Princess letter to its guests on the Royal Princess states that "we strongly advise that ferries to the mainland be avoided." 

The violent ferry explosition injurying U.S. tourists is an ominous reminder of the often violent and dangerous state of the Mexican tourism industry. 

Meanwhile the Ministry of Tourism for State of Quintana Roo in Mexico is issuing press releases where it claims that there is "no risk" to tourists when visiting Cozumel. 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Video credit: El Pais YouTube  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ys187GcxNbg%3Frel%3D0

Carnival TriumphA search is underway for a passenger who reportedly went overboard from the Carnival Triumph last night, according to passengers onboard the Carnival cruise ship.

Several passengers on the ship notified me that a woman went overboard from the Triumph, which was announced to the passengers around 8:30-9:00 last night. It is less than clear when the guest actually went into the water. The ship stopped and initiated a search and rescue and then began circling to search for the passenger. Crew members launched rescue boats in the water and scanned the waters for the passenger. The master of the ship also made regular announcements of the search and crew members have been showing passengers a photograph of the missing guest. 

The Triumph is on a cruise to Mexico and was heading to Cozumel, at the time of the disappearance, where it was scheduled to arrive today, after leaving New Orleans on Saturday, January 20, 2018.

In March of 2015, a 54 year old passenger went overboard from the Triumph during a cruise to Mexico. 

Over the past three years, five passengers went overboard from the Carnival LibertyCarnival VictoryCarnival Elation, Carnival Ecstasyand the Carnival Liberty (yes, two passengers from this Carnival ship in last two years).  A crew member disappared from the Carnival Inspiration two months ago. 

To my knowledge, Carnival has not equipped its fleet of cruise ships with automatic man-overboard systems with cameras which would send a signal to the bridge whenever someone goes overboard. Modern systems today can record the person going over the rails and track them in the water via motion detection, infrared and radar technology. (MSC recently announced that it has begun implementing this technology on its fleet of ships; read MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays).

According to cruise expert Ross Klein, there have been 303 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 

Last Friday, a woman died after falling from the balcony of her cabin on the 14th deck down to the 11th deck on the Carnival Elation cruise ship. Her traveling partner was arrested and taken to jail in Freeport, Bahamas.

I contacted Carnival for information but have not receive a statement at this time.  

Have information regarding this latest overboard? Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Scott Lucht – Own work, GFDL, commons / wikimedia.

Here is a statement received from Carnival: 

"Earlier this evening, a 44-year-old female guest was seen going overboard from the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico while the ship was on the second day of a five-day cruise from New Orleans.
Search and rescue operations are underway and all appropriate authorities have been notified. Carnival’s CARE Team is providing support and assistance to the guest’s family.
Carnival Triumph operates four- and five-day cruises from New Orleans."

Update: The search has been assumed by the Mexican navy and coast guard as of this morning (January 22nd); the Carnival Triumph is now proceeding to Cozumel.

News sources in Mexico are reporting that an excursion boat with cruise passengers aboard sank last week. 

Riviera Maya News reports that the cruise excursion incident took place on Wednesday January 3rd, approximately 15 minutes after the boat sailed from Cozumel with ten cruise guests aboard it. The boat’s crew instructed the cruise passengers to head to the bow; however, the boat took on water quickly and the guests had to jump into the water. The cruise passengers reportedly were from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity ship (the Celebrity Equinox). 

The cruise passengers were reportedly rescued from the water by other boats in the area, 

Local news sources state that none of the cruise passengers were physically injured.

The YouTube video at the bottom shows the bow of the sunken tourist boat bobbing in the water with some of the passengers being rescued. 

There have been several other similar incidents during cruise excursions near Cozumel, Mexico. Just six weeks ago, 95 German cruise poassengers from the Mein Schiff 6 cruise ship were rescued after a catamaran boat began to sink during an excursion, acording to the Baja Post (photo below).  

This mishap occurs just over two weeks after a deadly bus excursion accident near Costa Maya, Mexico when a bus with 11 cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity Cruises ship was heading towards a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. 

Hahe a thought? Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Video credit (below): 5to Poder Periodismo ConSentido YouTube page. Image credit (bottom) of November 16, 2017 sinking –  Noticaribe via Baja Post.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=uqyzASqwGHg%3Frel%3D0

 Mexico Excursion Accident

 

What happened? On December 19, 2017, an excursion bus (identified as tourist bus number 1012, Mercedes Benz, license plates 82 RA7V), operated by a Mexican transportation company on behalf of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., carrying passengers from the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas and from the Celebrity Equinox (also owned by Royal Caribbean) ran off the road while dirivng to a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. The accident resulted in the bus flipping over, shattering windows and ejecting some of the passengers onto the road and the shoulder of the road. The two cruise ships sailed from ports in South Florida, with the Equinox leaving from PortMiami and the Serenade leaving from Port Everglades, with both ships arriving at the port of Costa Maya (Mahahual). Royal Caribbean stated via Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises Bus Excursion AccidentTwitter that there were 27 passengers aboard the excursion bus (in addition to the bus guide and the bus driver), although the federal police in Mexico stated that there were 31 people on the bus.

How many guests were killed? Eleven passengers and a Mexican guide were killed in the accident.

The Swedish and Canadian governments confirmed the deaths of cruise passengers from those countries. There were two passengers from Sweden and one from Canada (from Quebec) who were killed. The U.S. embassy in Mexico City confirmed that there were eight American deaths. There are news accounts of multiple injuries to U.S. passengers as well as Royal Caribbean guests from Canada.

How many guests were injured? The Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office had reported that seven injured tourists had returned to the cruise ships while 13 remained hospitalized, six of them in Tulum and seven in the city of Chetumal, near the Belize border. Of the thirteen people seriously injured, there are three Americans, four Brazilians, three Canadians, and two Swedes (who reportedly have already been flown to the U.S. for medical treatment), as well as the Mexican bus driver.

How did the accident occur? The cause of the accident remains under investigation. Initial information is that a passenger on another bus which passed the crash site observed skid marks on the dry pavement. According to NBC News, Quintana Roo state prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen Royal Caribbean Bus Excursion Accidentsaid at a news conference that a preliminary investigation indicates that the bus driver’s negligence led him to lose control, and when he tried to return back to the narrow highway, the bus flipped, struck a tree and landed in vegetation along the roadside. “Due to a lack of care the driver lost control of the bus’ steering to the right, leaving the asphalt,” Pech Cen said. He said signs found at the scene indicate the driver was going too fast.

The Associated Press reported via NBC News that Mexican authorities said “driver negligence and excessive speed caused the crash.”

Reuters is reporting that the front tire of the bus may have exploded, according to the local police chief in Mexico.

There is conflicting information regarding the whereabouts of the driver of the excursion bus. Some sources say that the driver has been arrested and will be prosecuted for criminal negligence. Others reports indicate that the driver’s whereabouts are not known to Mexican prosecutors.

At least one passenger (photo left) was quoted as saying that “the seat belts were tied below the seats, no one told us to put them on . . .” This may explain why some of the bus passengers were apparently not restrianed in their seats and were ejected from the bus.

Is Royal Caribbean Responsible? Cruise lines have a legal duty to conduct a through background check into the reputation, qualifications and safety record of the tour operators which they involve in their excursions for their guests. They are legally required under U.S. maritime law to vet the individuals and companies who/which drive their customers in ports of call. Cruise lines also have a legal duty to warn passengers of dangers in foreign ports of call. If other passengers complained that the tour drivers were speeding or driving recklessly or there were no functioning seatbelts available for use by the guests on the buses, then the cruise line had a duty to intervene and correct these dangerous conditions or warn of these dangers. Cruise lines can be held liable in the U.S. court system for accidents which occur in foreign ports of call for the negligent operation of excursion buses operated by the local agents, particularly when the cruise lines misrepresent that the Cruise Bus Excursion Accident - Mexicoexcursions are carefully vetted and safe.

Royal Caribbean operates many thousands of excursions around the world. It would require the cruise line to vet and inspect ten to fifteen foreign cruise excursion and transportation companies around the world each and every day of the year if it were inclined to perform a background check on each tour operator at least once a year. The cruise line does not devote the resources necessary to properly vet and oversee the safe operation of excursions aroud the world, despite the hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars it collects from its passengers who take such cruise excursions.

There are reports on social media that other cruise customers have experienced unsafe conditions on this excursion before this accident. Posters leaving comments on the popular Cruise Critic site have stated: “We went on probably this same exursion which is down a dirt road at top speeds for 45 minutes. We feared our life and would never do it again . . . ” Another poster stated: “This is the exact cruise port and the exact bus tour and the exact road we were on, a week and a half ago . . Speed and driving and safety rules are not the same in other countries. On the way back from the tour, the bus was going extremely fast. I commented that we better hope nothing unexpectedly comes out of bush. It is a lery long, 45 minute straight stretch of road.”

A newspaper in Mexico writes regarding the local tour company ” . . . is not the first time that (it) is involved in an accident due to the lack of caution of its operators that drive exceeding the speed limits . . .”

What is Royal Caribbean’s Excursion Safety Record? There have been at least six bus excursions throughout the Caribbean in the last ten years where Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises passengers have been killed or seriously injured. You can read more about prior cruise excursion accidents here.

Cruise lines collect hundreds of millions of dollars promoting and selling shore excursions in foreign ports of call, and are not even subject to U.S. taxes on this highly profitable business.  Yet, they claim that their local agents are “independent contractors” who are not subject to jurisdiction here in the U.S. when their cruise guests are injured or killed during these excursions.

Read: Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Sentinel: Can cruise lines ensure shore excursions they offer are safe?

Read: NBC News:  Mexico tourist bus crash: Survivors heading home, 2 victims ID’d.

Image credit:  Celebrity Equinox (top) – CBS News; cruise passenger (middle) – Time magazine; scene of accident (bottom) – CBS News; video below – CBS News; Facebook loading page of Serenade of the Seas by Sunnya343 CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

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Multiple news sources are reporting that at least twelve people died when a bus carrying anywhere from twenty-seven to thirty-one cruise passengers on an excursion to Mayan ruins in eastern Mexico flipped over on a highway earlier today. Additional cruise passengers, with some sources suggesting up to eighteen people, were also injured in the accident.

The excursion bus was heading from Costa Maya to the ruins at Chacchoben, about 110 miles south of Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The majority of the passengers were reportedly from the Serenade of the Seas.

The photos and videos of the incident show many passengers lying in the road or beside the overturned bus, indicating that many people in the bus may not have been furnished with working seatbelts and they were ejected when the bus overturned. Unfortunately, we have seen this situation in other cruise line excursion bus cases, including those operated on behalf of Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises.

There have been a large number of excursion bus accidents involving Royal Caribbean and its sister Mexico Excursion Bus Crashcruise line, Celebrity Cruises.

In 2015, Celebrity passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed and injured in an excursion bus accident in Tortola.

In 2012, there were two cruise excursion bus crashes in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers. Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Serenade of the Seas were injured during an excursion in St. Thomas. A Royal Caribbean sponsored excursion tour bus crashed in St. Martin and injured passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.

In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information on the Dominica excursion accident in an article “Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami.”

Cruise lines face legal liability when passengers are injured or killed during sponsored excursions. Cruise lines have a duty to vet the excursions companies and warn of dangers in the road conditions and driving in foreign ports of call. Cruise lines can also be held responsible for negligent hiring and retention of the transportation companies and for vicarious liability based on theories of agency.

You can search this blog for other discussions of numerous cruise ship excursion bus accidents.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

The Miami Herald quotes our firm in 12 reported dead as tourist bus crashes in Mexico.

December 20, 2017 Update:  A local newspaper in Mexico writes that the local tour company  ” . . .  is not the first time that (it) is involved in an accident due to the lack of caution of its operators that drive exceeding the speed limits . . .”  ABC Radio reported the acccount of a passenger who travelled to the same excursion site, saying … “one of the sides of the bus was ‘smashed’ after it fell on its side and that the ‘whole windshield was gone . . . “The seat belts were tied below the seats, so no one told us to put the seat belts on . . . ‘”

A Mexican newspaper quoted the national police that the death toll has increased: “there were 15 deaths, 14 tourists and 1 Mexican guide, 11 died on the spot and 4 on the way to the hospital.”

The Washington Post reoports that a Mexican state prosecutor alleges that the deadly bus crash was caused by the driver’s negligence and excessive speed of the bus.

Photo credit: TV AZTECA (top); Video image –  7 cty youtube (middle); video – AP via Miami Herald (bottom).

Mexico Royal Caribbean & Celerity Cruises Bus Excusion Accident

 

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A couple who went on an excursion during a cruise to Cozumel had “no idea how they made it back to their cruise ship cabin” after they “had a few drinks” ashore, according to the Journal Sentinel newspaper.  In an article titled As Dozens More Report Blackouts at Mexico Resorts, Country Says It Will Act on Tainted Alcohol, the Journal Sentinel explained that a couple from North Carolina who cruised to Cozumel went drinking after a snorkeling excursion. “The last thing they remember is vomiting . . . They woke up hours later and felt lucky to be alive. One had a large bruise on her thigh. Both her knees were scraped and bloody.”

The story is one of several dozen incidents in Mexico investigated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that surfaced in the wake of the death of college student Abbey Conner who visited a resort in Playa del Carmen earlier this year. In an article titled A Mexican Vacation, a Mysterious Death, and Now Mexico Travel CruiseEndless Questions for Wisconsin Family, the paper reports that 20 year old Abbey was vacationing with her parents and her 22 year old brother, Austin Conner. Abbey and Austin went to the swim-up bar at the resort where they “toasted the completion of final exams with a couple shots of tequila.”

But a short time later, the hotel staff found them both unconscious, face down in the pool. The parents were later notified that their children were taken to a local hotel; the Mexican doctors diagnosed Austin with a severe concussion with a “golf-ball sized lump on his forehead.”

Abbey was reportedly unresponsive and in a coma, on a ventilator, with no reflexes to light, touch or pain. Her collarbone was broken, according to an account in the newspaper.

Abbey’s parents flew her to a hospital in Cancun and then on to a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, where doctors concluded that she was brain-dead.

Another recent story (video bottom) involved a tourist from Texas who enjoyed a few rum and cokes over the course of several hours at a swim up bar at a Mexican resort, only to be later found floating unconscious in the swimming pool. He incurred $57,000 in medical bills from the local hospital.

Travel Weekly was just one of many travel journals reporting on what it characterized as “deeply disturbing” incidents in Mexico where “American visitors believe they may have been drugged, incapacitated and possibly abused.” Travel Weekly went on to opine on the apparent “indifference to the victim’s plight from resort personnel and police, reports of an avaricious medical system eager to exploit foreign patients and the seeming impossibility of justice” which “could have a chilling effect even on repeat visitors who love the country.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State just issued an updated travel advisory for Mexico, and expanded its warnings about crime and violence in several regions which are home to Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. The U.S. cautioned U.S. citizens that homicide rates are on the rise in areas such as the states of Quintana Roo, which includes Cozumel, and Baja California Sur, which is home to Los Cabos, where Cabo San Lucas is located.

The State Department stated that “resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.” Nonetheless, while most of the homicides are targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shootings, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.

Many fans of vacationing in Mexico may say that the violence is limited to the drug trade but the Department of State warns that innocent tourists are at risk of becoming victims.

The Travel Weekly article warns that tourism to Mexico is at risk if Mexico does not implement training to resort staff and tourist police, as well as place pressure on local medical facilities to stop exploiting tourists. But it seems highly unlikely that these proposed changes will take place anytime soon.

Many people contact our office asking whether it’s safe to cruise to Mexico. My thought is that 95% of the visitors who get off a cruise there will have an uneventful experience, if not an enjoyable time, assuming travel to Mexico is your thing. (I wouldn’t recommend cruising to Acapulco because of the problem with violence there, as I have stated before.)

But between the Department of State warnings and the reports of tainted alcohol deaths coming from Mexico, if I were considering a vacation cruise, I might think that sailing out of Seattle or Vancouver through Canada and Alaska might seem a little more appealing.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Mexico – Miami Seatrade Convention Miami – Jim Walker

https://youtube.com/watch?v=kBIsbwonWCs%3Frel%3D0

 

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Acapulco Travel CruiseYesterday, two articles about Acapulco caught my attention due to the widely different headlines and photographs of the former popular tourist destination.

The Los Angeles Times featured a beautiful photo in its article titled International Cruise Lines are Putting Acapulco in Their Itineraries Again. The Times wrote that tourism representatives announced that the number of cruise ship calls to Acapulco increased to 32 this year from 18 in 2016. The visits to Acapulco are from a variety of U.S. and European based cruise lines, including NCL, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Oceania, Crystal, Global, Saga and Hapag Lloyd Cruises. 

But the BBC published an article styled Acapulco: Four Killed in Popular Mexico Resort, with a graphic photo showing a grieving Mexican woman with the caption "More than 400 people were murdered in Acapulco in the first six months of 2017."

But the violence in Mexico is not limited to Acapulco. 

Three days ago, the New York Post published an article titled Drug Cartel Violence Hits Tourist Hotspots Cancun, Los Cabos. The Post vividly pointed to Acapulco as a top spot for out of control crime due to the drug trade: "Drug war violence has already turned one of the country’s preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities with dead Acapulco Travel Cruisebodies being hung from bridges, human heads being left in coolers outside city hall and shootouts occurring at posh hotels."

Due to the U.S. demand for heroin fueled by the opioid crisis, Mexican cartels collect between $19 and $29 billion annually according to this newspaper. The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the U.S. reportedly created a power struggle within the drug cartels which is playing out in Mexico.  

Tourism officials, concerned with the violence affecting travel to Mexico, have worked with the cruise lines to promote cruises to the Mexican ports. They say that the violence is limited to “criminal groups settling scores among themselves” and that Mexican authorities are taking action against the criminals. Also, "the majority of the violence has occurred far from the all-inclusive resorts frequented by tourists."

I’ve written about cruising to cruising to Acapulco and Mexico before – Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Photo credit: Top – Acapulco – LA Times; bottom Getty Images via BBC.  

Big Red - Harvest Caye - NCLThis weekend, a reader of this blog sent me an article from the San Pedro Sun regarding NCL’s exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye.

Scarlet Macaws

NCL reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors.

The article addressed the plight of a scarlet macaw, which is one of the most poached birds in Belize, which was rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR), a non-profit organization in Belize. The male bird, which was named “Big Red,” was rescued and underwent rehabilitation for wild release; however, several weeks ago the bird reportedly was given to Harvest Caye to entertain cruise tourists, much to the outrage of local Belizeans. Critics of NCL’s boondoggle in Belize point out that NCL did not even mention a captive animal facility in the cruise line environmental impact assessment or obtain permission to possess rare birds in its environmental clearance process.  NCL apparently created its own so-called “conservation NGO” but it is not working with any of the existing NGO’s in Belize.

The article about NCL’s conduct, although outrageous, is just one of many examples of the abuse of birds and animals at cruise line private resorts and excursions throughout the world.

Swim-With-The-Dolphins

Dolphin rescue groups have repeatedly protested against ”swim-with-the-dolphins” excursions, like the notorious Blackbeard’s Cay in the Bahamas, which have become a major feature of the cruise experience. Carnival and Royal Caribbean advertise them as “once in a lifetime experiences.” The trade of dolphins in the Caribbean is big business. There are many dozens of swim-with-the-dolphins excursions sold by cruise lines in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. The Dolphin Project writes about dolphins “confined in tiny, chlorinated tanks, where they are subject to relentless sun exposure (often resulting in sunburn), noise pollution, continuous human interaction and water toxins. Some live in polluted harbor waters, in hastily constructed holding pens, “conveniently” close to cruise ship ports for quick, tourist access.”

Cayman Island Turtle FarmCayman Islands Turtles

An animal protection group explains that in their natural ocean habitats, green sea turtles can dive to depths over 400 feet and can swim several thousands of miles a year. But held in captivity in what was originally called the Cayman Turtle Farm, subsequently re-branded as the friendlier-sounding Cayman Turtle Centre, the turtles are kept in small, crowded holding pens and are removed only for entertainment purposes to be mishandled by tourists and used for props in selfie-photos. You can also eat the turtles which are bred at the tourist facility. More than 200,000 people visit the tourist-turtle farm each year; approximately three quarters are cruise passengers.

Surrey Horses in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean

Horse tours are a popular tourist attraction for cruise visitors. Cruise lines sell dozens of excursions to tour the various port towns via horse drawn carriages. In many destinations, the horses are poorly fed Carriage Horses - Bahamasand abused. They suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, traffic fumes, noise pollution, stress, and injuries. The situation in Nassau is particularly bad; a malnourished horse dropped dead on Bay Street in downtown Nassau only to be tied by the legs and dragged down the street by a pickup truck. Exploiting horses is a dreadful way to spend a vacation cruise.

The cruise industry supports hundreds of local ports and has great influence over activities by the local communities. For example, if the cruise line would stop doing business with the tour operators who abuse horses and do business only with reputable bus and van operators, the abuse would stop virtually overnight.

Similarly, if the cruise industry would stop calling at port countries like the Faroe Islands which slaughter pilot whales, there would be considerable pressure to end the barbaric sport of killing sentient mammals, as we have urged for years.

There are literally literally thousands of cruise excursions offered by each of the major cruise lines Faroe Islands Slaughter Whaleswhich take the majority of the revenue from the excursion. There’s little consideration given by the cruise lines to anything except how much money the cruise lines can collect. I tend to view the problem as starting at the top, with the greedy cruise executives looking to collect every nickle and dime possible; but thoughtless cruise passengers are part of the problem too. One person commenting on NCL’s exploitation of macaws in Belize posted this comment:

“Par for the course for people who encourage thousands of passengers to swim with captive dolphins, ride tortured elephants, camels and the like. However the passengers are equally to blame.”

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This petition to end the exploitation of Belize’s wildlife on NCL’s Harvest Caye has reached 20,000 signatures. Read here.

Photo credits:

Big Red – San Pedro Sun

Dolphin – Delfines En Libertad, Report on captive dolphins in Mexico.

Turtles –  World Animal Protection.

Horses – Stop Brutal Abuse and Suffering of Surrey Horses in the Bahamas.

Pilot Whales – Green Travel Life.

Yesterday the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Mexico. The warning applies to only certain locations in Mexico and warns U.S. citizens of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security. According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states.

You can read the warning here.

We have heard from cruise passengers of sporadic problems in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The majority of ports in Mexico (with the exception of Acapulco which we recommend against visiting) are not subject the U.S. warning.  We covered the last crime warning from Mexico earlier this year. Our evaluation has not Mexico Crime Warningchanged.

The State Department also issued a crime warning for El Salvador last week. Violence in this country is out of control. The current murder rate in El Salvador is among the highest in the world, an annual rate of 103.1 murders per 100,000 citizens for 2015. In comparison, the U.S. rate is 4.5 per 100,000.

It has become a more dangerous country for tourists even since my article last summer.

It’s so dangerous that the Peace Corps just announced that it was leaving the country.

Mexico and El Salvador attended the Miami Cruise Shipping (photo above) to promote destinations there for cruise passengers.

With crime warnings in these countries as well as in the Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean, families from the U.S. seem  to have fewer and fewer cruise destinations not on the U.S. State Department’s list of countries suffering from high crime rates.

Photo credit:  Jim Walker