OK, we admit, Mexico's kind of scary, what with all the drugs and guns and freaky brown people running around. But is Mazatlan -- one of the only luxury-cruise stops that actually feels a tad bit like a real city, as opposed to a manufactured island photo op -- really too dangerous for the fat 'n' happy American cruise crowd altogether?
According to the Disney Cruise Line, oh hell yes.
Because with a real city comes pickpockets, peeping Toms, scammers and worse. Especially a real city in Mexico. And that, Disney says, is not what a family vacation is all about.
The Disney Wonder vessel just moved into the Port of Los Angeles on January 21 for a three-month stay: It'll be taking six- to 10-day "Mexican Riviera" trips until it moves on to Alaska in April.
Originally, on the seven-, eight- and 10-day cruises, Mazatlan was one of the chosen "ports of call." (See, cruisers like to pretend they're on a real ship accomplishing real naval duties like responding to ports that call, when in reality, they're just floating around aimlessly white stuffing nonstop buffet glory into their muffin tops. Just sayin'.) Here's how Disney still describes Mazatlan on its site:
"Once a playground for partygoers, Mazatlán now attracts families and experienced travelers the world over. And it's easy to see why. Boasting golden beaches, historic sites, fine dining and some of the best shopping in Mexico, the city features something for everyone."
Now, it seems "partygoers" have also been replaced by... ruthless Mexican gangsters! Due to some mysterious rise in tourist-targeting Mazatlan crime that Disney officials won't divulge, the city's been completely scratched from the Riviera itinerary.
So. What to do, with one less call to port?
The Disney Wonder will instead be spending two days in Cabo San Lucas: No. 1 fiesta spot for Spring Break bro-skies and sometimes destination of Angelenos looking to murder Canadians in hotels. But what about the "day at sea" slated to buffer Cabo and Mazatlan?
After all, cruise officials would not, heaven forbid, want to deprive their customers of 24 more hours of drinking $8 margaritas while soaking up skin cancer by top-deck Goofy's Pool.
Here's where things really get stupid. A spokesman for the cruise line told KNX news radio last night that the Wonder will dock in Cabo, then undock for a full day and night to go putter around at sea, then return to Cabo and do the whole thing over again.
Wow. If the whole concept of cruising was pointless before, at least we felt like we were moving forward, making our way toward some super-fun connect-the-dots finish line. What do we draw in that "day at sea" space now, squiggles?
"Safety is very important to us and we believe this change is necessary to provide the best family vacation experience for our guests," Disney spokeswoman Christi Erwin Donnan said in an e-mail to the Associated Press on Wednesday.
The Holland America Line followed suit with a similar decision, "in response to recent incidents of violence in Mazatlan," and Carnival Cruise is still mulling the possibility, due to "recent security incidents."
However, according to the AP piece, Mazatlan Port Director Alfonso Gil Diaz told an industry mag that "the incidents causing concern were minor, such as one passenger whose necklace was snatched."
So what's the big deal? (Well, aside from the fact that the Mexican state of Sinaloa has been dubbed the capitol of drug crime, where even the feds are too scared to intervene.) From the AP story:
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"In the bigger picture, crime overall in Mexico has had an impact on business from southern California because drug crime happens a lot in border communities and that gets a lot of coverage," [Carnival Cruise spokesman Tim] Gallagher said. "While it may not be happening in Puerto Vallarta, Americans see stories on crime in Mexico and that influences their travel decisions."
Hey wait -- didn't a Carnival Cruise ship erupt in flames and force passengers to chill in their own stink for two days while tugboats pulled it to shore last November?
And didn't an L.A. County man beat and strangle his wife to death in a Carnival Cruise ship bathroom a couple years ago?
But at least those damn Sinaloans won't rip off our puka shells no more.