Photo: Port of Los Angeles Cruises
As the violent drug war continues in Mexico, cruises to the area have been down. In response, cruise lines out of the Port of Los Angeles are relocating some of their ships.
Mariner of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean cruise line’s 31,000 passenger ship, will now dock in Galveston, Texas after its cruise to South America and Europe ends. Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Star will raise anchor at the L.A. port and head to Tampa, Florida, its new home, and Carnival Cruise Lines said it will be sending its ship, Carnival Spirit, to Australia to sail out of there beginning in 2012.
Port and cruise line representatives say the decision to leave the port is because of bad business due to Mexico’s current violent atmosphere.
“We are struggling with our many ships to Mexico,” said the Port of Los Angeles marketing director, Chris Chase. “It’s the economy and the news of drug wars down there.”
Despite the Mexico-cruise slump, the industry overall has actually been coming back after being hurt by the bad economy. The $40 billion industry saw a 6 percent increase in passengers for North America cruises in the first half of 2010 compared to the first six months of 2009.
Hit the hardest by the drop in cruises to Mexico is South California.
“The market out there has literally crashed,” said industry analyst Stewart Chiron.
While most of the violence in Mexico has been in its border towns, it has spread to tourist spots. Last weekend, the bodies of around 30 tourists were found in Acapulco, a popular destination. Fifteen of the victims had been beheaded.
Despite the recent tragedy, cruise executives are quick to say the risk to cruise patrons is minimal, and media coverage is making fanning the flames of fear.
“We would not head into a region where there is any threat to our guests,” said Cunard spokesman Brian O’Connor. Cunard is luxury cruise line that sails out of L.A. to places like Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas.
Senior vice president of Carnival Cruise Lines, Terry Thornton says the negative media coverage of the Mexico tourist destinations’ safety is negatively effecting the cruise lines, though he says “these incidents have really not been focused on tourists.”
For those are not worried about drug violence, and still willing to take the cruises south of the border, they report that there are never any lines anywhere, and that no matter when they go it feels “like off-season.”