The city is Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The incident is a now-subdued battle between various drug gangs and the local police force, in an area of that city far removed from normal tourist activities. The brief violence, which apparently has now ended, would probably have not come to the attention of most Americans had it not been for the reaction of three well-known cruise lines. Citing their fears that the city was no longer safe, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line, have cancelled their port stops in Puerto Vallarta. Their giant vessels sailing Mexico's Pacific Coast will now bypass that major cruise port—for how long no one knows.
Carnival Cruises, which has also included Puerto Vallarta on its Mexican itineraries, has not cancelled its port stops there, but has now cancelled several of the group land tours which it had hitherto operated in Puerto Vallarta. (Will passengers simply remain on their ships?)
And all of this has happened less than a month after the U.S. State Department issued a slightly-revised “advisory” for travel to Mexico, stating that the main touristic cities of Mexico appeared safe for tourism in contrast to the outlying areas of that country surrounding the famous resorts, of which many such outlying areas were found to still present grave questions of safety.
As you’d expect, the city officials of Puerto Vallarta have reacted with fierce anger. They claim that the recent, short-lived violence took place in areas of their city far removed from tourist haunts, and had no impact whatever upon the latter’s enjoyment of their vacation. They point out that Puerto Vallarta is currently awash in tourism, its hotels 85% full for many months, and that the cruise lines’ reactions are out of proportion to the incident that caused their cancellation of port stops.
I happen to agree that the main touristic centers of Mexico seem entirely safe to visit. These include Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the Maya Riviera, Tulum, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, San Miguel de Allende, and—yes—Mexico City itself. While I would not wander in the areas around those concentratef resort districts, and in particular I would never think of visiting the border areas of Mexico, particularly those alongside Texas, I have been impressed by the countless e-mails we have received from users of this website, virtually all of them contending that they have enjoyed entirely normal vacations in the great resort cities of Mexico, or Mexico City, without fears for their safety.
One recent statement to that effect, from a user of Frommers.com, is so particularly impressive that I’d like to quote it:
“ We flew into Mexico City, and took a bus directly from the Mexico City airport to Puebla (about two hours). We spent a very enjoyable two days in Puebla, which has a very lovely historical center, with many cultural attractions—and saw NO other gringo tourists. We then spent ten days in Oaxaca and the surrounding indigenous market towns. As I’m sure you know, Oaxaca is a popular tourist destination, with many boutique hotels, restaurants, and coffee bars. There is currently no State Department warning, but Oaxaca is historically rowdy with protest—and currently the zocalo is filled with tents, banners, and the sound of bullhorns (think “Occupy Oaxaca”). We stayed in a lovely hotel only one block away and were totally unaffected by the protest.
"The big surprise for us was Mexico City. We stayed in a quite posh euro-style hotel within walking distance of the zocalo for around $50 and felt entirely safe, as if we were in some cosmopolitan European city, complete with way too many branches of Starbucks! We walked extensively, took public buses, and visited four major museums (Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Popular Art, National Museum of Art, and the Bellas Artes—which had a major retrospective of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson).”
If readers of this blog should feel differently, we’d like to hear from them. Saludos, amigos!