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Old January 17th, 2011, 04:15 PM
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Default California Cruising in Critical Condition

California Cruising in Critical Condition


By Paul Motter This is the month that the largest ship the West Coast ever had on a permanent basis, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, left California for good. The ship was relocated to Los Angeles in 2008, meant to offer 7-day cruises to the Mexican Riviera permanently, but after three difficult years RCL is moving the biggest ship in California to more profitable cruising regions (Europe and eventually Galveston).

Adding to the decline of California-based cruising, Royal Caribbean also moved Radiance of the Seas and Carnival removed Ecstasy out of San Diego last year. Both of these ships were offering mostly five day cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Catalina Island and Ensenada.

Last month Norwegian Cruise Lines announced that its only West Coast ship, Norwegian Star, will not return to Los Angeles after a summer season in Alaska, but will relocate to Tampa, Florida.

Just last week Carnival Cruises also announced that Carnival Spirit, an iconic West Coast ship for many years, will be leaving permanently in 2012 - bound for Australia. Spirit offered some of the most creative Mexico itineraries in the winter and the best Alaska values every summer. The West Coast is going to be a very different place without Carnival Spirit.

The only Mega-ship left in Los Angeles with regularly scheduled weekly cruises to Mexico; Carnival Splendor, made the news last month as the ship that went dead in the water. Splendor is still out of service and will not return until late February at the soonest. It is scheduled to be towed from San Diego to San Francisco this week to be repaired in the deepest dry dock facility on the West Coast.

There are a few bright spots. Disney Wonder is currently spending the 2011/12 winter season sailing out of Los Angeles but will relocate to Alaska next summer and is not scheduled to return to Los Angeles for the following winter season.

That leaves these ships still sailing out of California in 2012/13 on a regular basis; Holland America's Oosterdam, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Splendor when she returns to service. Sapphire Princess will sail to Mexico semi-regularly, but also has Hawaii, Asia and Australia itineraries.

In the middle of the 2000-decade it appeared the Mexico market was doing very well. Then the 2008 H1N1 outbreak knocked the air out of the Mexico cruise market literally overnight. Next came news of extreme violence in Mexico, which started to affect all tourism there. All of this has been further mitigated by the continuing national economic crisis which hit California especially hard.

Interestingly, the state of Texas has weathered this national recession far better than California, and as a result Galveston has become one of the most popular new ports in the U.S. In 2011-12 Galveston will have Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Magic, Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.

These California problems are bad but not insurmountable, but one of the the biggest challenges is making Mexico destinations as appealing as Caribbean ports of call. I had the opportunity to sail on two Mexico cruises in the last year, to the Mexican Riviera and the Sea of Cortes, and although the shipboard experience was perfect on both of them, the ports of call are sadly unrewarding - leaving a big gap in the cruise experience. Mexico has not done nearly enough to develop cruise tourism in my opinion.

On a typical seven-day Mexico Riviera cruise to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, the first two ports are sadly lacking in activities. Sightseeing is marred by dirty and scary cities, while outside of the cities there are few unusual activities. Only Cabo stands out as a clean and modern city with nice beaches as well as golf, horseback riding and even excellent shopping.

Shopping - never underestimate the importance; shopping made Saint Thomas the premier Caribbean port decades ago. Neither Mazatlan nor Puerto Vallarta offers anything beyond the typical temporary tourista stalls of pottery and leather goods.

Today, a Mexican Riviera cruise should be considered a shipboard vacation first - rather than a destination experience. Which makes it even more troublesome that some of the nicest ships are now leaving or have already left. But the problem is that we know Mexico's problems are beyond the reach of our help. But is it possible that California could do more to encourage cruises on the west coast?

In fact, California has long been a hotbed of anti-cruise sentiment, but at least one city, San Diego, has been especially hurt where it matters most, in winter tourism dollars. Perhaps California needs the same kind of wake-up call that was given to Alaska last year. The Seatrade Convention is right around the corner.

On the Horizon
The 2011/12 winter season may be the last decent season we see for the Mexico market for a long time with Disney Wonder and the last season for Norwegian Star and Carnival Spirit.

What will be offered in the 2012/13 season? Holland America offering the Oosterdam on seven-night cruises from San Diego is one of the brightest spots. Carnival Splendor will return to Los Angeles and Sapphire Princess will continue to offer Mexico cruises along with Hawaii and long sojourns to Asia and Australia. Carnival will continue with two Fantasy-class ships (Paradise and Inspiration) offering three, four and five-night cruises to Catalina Island, Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas from Long Beach.

Typically, port popularity ebbs and flows, and with ships leaving the region Mexico cruise prices will likely go higher, but that won't help California or Mexico tourism. If you think about it, cruises and other tourism are terrific opportunities for the U.S. to revive its relationship with Mexico. But it is going to require more than just upgrading port facilities.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
Interestingly, the state of Texas has weathered this national recession far better than California, and as a result Galveston has become one of the most popular new ports in the U.S. In 2011-12 Galveston will have Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Magic, Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.
I think Ecstasy is going away, too. We get Triumph and Magic.

Mariner is set to arrive but I am not sure VoS is returning.

The port of Galveston is in the middle of a really nice expansion project to get ready for Magic.

There is the unknown about Carnival Breeze. Maybe it will fill the void for Alaska?
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Old January 17th, 2011, 07:10 PM
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Just got of the Sapphire Jan 15/11. Found the ports very poor with

very poor facilities etc . Some ports need a lot of work just to make

them presentable to the cruise passengers . The best port was Ixtapa

the only draw back was the tendering situation on large ships.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 07:28 PM
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Mariner is set to arrive but I am not sure VoS is returning.
This is correct, the Mariner is replacing the VOS in Galveston next year. The VOS is moving to New Orleans next year for the winter months. This was announced by RCCL a few months ago.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 09:20 PM
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The Carnival Paradise will be in Florida not California.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 09:28 PM
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Indeed this is a loss for California and Mexico.
After having made some cruises to as well as the Sea of Cortez (very interesting if one arranges tours inland) and Mexican Riviera we are now staying (like the last 2 years) for a few months in Puerto Vallarta during winter.
Knowing P. Vallarta and its surroundings rather well I disagree with you re activities and things to see or do or where to shop.
Unfortunately many tourists hardly leave the ship or stay close to it. In PVR it seems Walmart is the place to go for many tourists or just to the closest beach near the port, which isnot the nicest...
I have showed place to friends who had visited PVR before, where they never were before. Either in or around PVR.
People often have the wrong impression about violence in Mexico. For almost 100% it is drugsrelated, certainly not against tourists. Most of the violence is around the bordertowns, and unfortunately around Acapulco.
In the caribean and also in Europe there places where crime against tourists (pickpocketing, robbery etc.) is higher then around here.
I feel sorry for the mexicans making a living here, it might getting more difficult again for them.
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Old January 18th, 2011, 11:12 PM
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some of your information in the article is inaccurate. The Mariner of the seas was relocated to California in January 2009, The shipped arrived in LA February 19 2009 and left LA January 16 20011. She was only here for 23 months not 3 years.
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Old January 18th, 2011, 11:41 PM
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yeah Paul usually does a better job.
When he says Ecstasy, it should be Elation.
The Paradise is going to Tampa.

So there will be even fewer ships than he mentions in summary.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 08:17 AM
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Sorry for the errors in where ships are going. I did this on the fly with one day off when flying from Cabo to Port Canaveral where I am now.

I was mostly looking at what ships would remain in California, but finding where every ship is going was beyond the time allotment I had.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 08:18 AM
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As Far as VOS in Galveston - I did see it listed sailing from there at least in 2011, but it may be leaving after that.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ine View Post
Knowing P. Vallarta and its surroundings rather well I disagree with you re activities and things to see or do or where to shop.
Unfortunately many tourists hardly leave the ship or stay close to it. In PVR it seems Walmart is the place to go for many tourists or just to the closest beach near the port, which isnot the nicest...
I have showed place to friends who had visited PVR before, where they never were before. Either in or around PVR.
I have seen you say this before, and I would like tolook into it. Indeed, I have been there many times and have never seen any beaches as you describe - just the long stretch from the ship. I don't doubt, just surprised I haven't run into them.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 08:33 AM
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Paul, I have to say I am not surprised. I've only done one cruise to the Mexican Riviera and I won't do it again. As you and others have said, the ports we visited are just not "up to par". I was so shocked at the abject poverty, the unfriendliness of the people, and the animal abuse I witnessed.
Yes, there is poverty in the Caribbean too, but not as bad as I witnessed in Mexico, and the Caribbean people are much friendlier.

Regarding the Paradise, I think perhaps the time has come to re-think the decision to take away the only non-smoking ship in ANY fleet.
If I had a choice, I would sail ANY non-smoking ship in ANY cruise line, even if I had to repeat the itinerary numerous times. Being bothered by others' smoking is my number one pet peeve about cruising.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth...

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Old January 19th, 2011, 09:59 AM
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As Far as VOS in Galveston - I did see it listed sailing from there at least in 2011, but it may be leaving after that.
Yep, it is here this winter, but will be in New Orleans for the 2011/2012 winter season.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
I have seen you say this before, and I would like tolook into it. Indeed, I have been there many times and have never seen any beaches as you describe - just the long stretch from the ship. I don't doubt, just surprised I haven't run into them.
Tuesday Jan.19 was an extreme busy day again in Walmart and adjoining Mall, because there were 3 ships in port.....I just wonder how many of them took a bus or cab after that to see Puerto Vallarta and/or surroundings....
Paul next time you come to PV and in case we are here, I will gladly show you around.
Rollerdonna, in all the time we are here we are often surprised by the friendliness of the mexicans, rich or poor.Yes there still is poverty in Mexico, as you will find worldwide if you travel, less visible in some places then others.
On our cruises we have seen unfriendliness in a.o. Curacao, Miami, Athens, Istanbul, and also in our hometown Amsterdam.
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Old January 20th, 2011, 10:00 AM
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I agree with RollerDonna's comments regarding the Mexican Riveria. I cruise for the experience of not only days at sea (my favorite part of the cruise) but also for what each port /country brings to the overall experience. I went on a Princess 10 or 11 day cruise years ago from LA down to Acapulco and found that only Mazatlan and Acapulco to be worth getting off the ship. The others were differentiated by only the spelling of the town's names, otherwise they were basically the same. It appears that nothing has really changed except for being older.
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Old January 23rd, 2011, 01:13 PM
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Is The Carnival Paradise all non smoking now? It was not when I went in March 2010. I wish all ships were totally non smoking but that is another topic.
I am booked with my 2 teenage daughters on The Splendor in late March, as my kids have never done a MR cruise. I have read many reviews of things to do on cruisecritic for Cabo, PV, and Mazatalan and not as many sounded as negative as the article Paul wrote. It sounds like many cruise passengers just go to beaches or places within 1/4 mile from the cruise dock and that is their impression of the place. The area around the ports in most countries is not usually representative of the whole city, you have to go a bit farther to have a better experience. I think if you do a little research before you go you can find some fun things to do in the MR that are not scary.
I went to Progreso on a Western Caribbean cruise this Nov and many people said it was dirty, had many locals bugging you to buy their trinkets and the cruisers did not like it. I found the people very sweet and friendly, yes they were selling things, but that is how they make a living. I like being a traveler not a tourist where I go which means keep an open mind. I will let you know we liked the MR when we get back from our trip.
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Old January 23rd, 2011, 02:06 PM
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The Carnival Paradise is no longer a non-smoking ship.
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Old January 23rd, 2011, 05:54 PM
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I also have to disagree about Puerto Vallarta. We first visited on a cruise and loved it so much we flew down and stayed for a week. The beaches south of town toward Mismaloya are beautiful golden sand. The beaches at Nuevo Vallarta are wide and clean. There is so much to do in the area if people would just venture off the pier and stay out of WalMart. The west coast itineraries give a glimpse of the real Mexico, while cruises to Cancun and Cozumel are visiting an Americanized version of Mexico. Perhaps that is why they are so popular. As for the people being unfriendly - no way. Mexicans are the friendliest people we have ever met. I would rather visit PVR or Mazatlan any day than be accosted by surly folks in Jamaica and St. Lucia.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 05:03 PM
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from today:

Mexican Violence Forces Cruise Lines to Drop Port of Mazatlan - FoxNews.com

Yesterday I read Disney was stopping Mazatlan till April...this article says till further notice...some serious issues...
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Old January 28th, 2011, 10:00 PM
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If cruise-lines will withdraw ships anytime there are incidents, there will be not that many ports left.
Almost 100% of the violence is drugsrelated, almost never is a tourist involved.
Yes unfortunately in Mazatlan a tourist was hurt, but he wasnot a cruise-passenger.
Remember the incidents in the past in Jamaica, St. Thomas, Rome, Barcelona, to name just a few. And at the moment the civil unrest in Egypt, Tunesia, Thailand....
Apart from various shootings (also not against tourists) in the USA and Canada.
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Old February 10th, 2011, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Regarding the Paradise, I think perhaps the time has come to re-think the decision to take away the only non-smoking ship in ANY fleet.
If I had a choice, I would sail ANY non-smoking ship in ANY cruise line, even if I had to repeat the itinerary numerous times. Being bothered by others' smoking is my number one pet peeve about cruising.
There was another thread regarding smoking and that subject soon became a heated topic so after several pages the moderator locked the thread.

We all have rights, smokers and non-smokers.

On a more positive note. Leaving in 10 days and Cobo is the only port we are going too. Any comments regarding that post? We have a time share in Mazatlan and have been going there for 20 years and never had a problem. Most of the day, we spend it at the resort but evening we go to the golden zone to eat and party, no problems. But will have to agree for the people coming off the ship and being transported to the golden zone most likely will be disappointed because of the number of business that have closed down over the past few years. The mega resorts offer more than the golden zones do. IMO.
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Old April 3rd, 2011, 09:29 PM
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As a resident of Mexico for the last nine months, I´m sorry to hear your analysis of these ports. Puerto Vallarta is one of the most beautiful ports in all of Mexico and the world for that matter. Over the last thirty years I have spent weeks and months there as a tourist. It is extremely safe and beautiful.

Travel is of interest to most tourists because of the differences in culture, lifestyle and language. White plastic¨and clean¨America is not and should not be an example
to which all cultures should aspire. And things are not so rosey in most parts of the U.S.A. if you only scratch the surface.

Drug related gangs are just as prevalent and probably even moreso per capita if you really do the math. There are other serious problems such as environmental catastrophies such as the gulf oil spill that make the good old USA not as perfect as some may think.

Let´s try to be less ethnocentric when viewing and defining the rest of the world. Or so it seems to me!
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Old April 3rd, 2011, 09:34 PM
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I just read the Fox News comment. Why does anybody use Fox News as a fair and balanced news source. Mexico is one of our two closest neighbors and allies.Let´s treat our partners with a little more respect.
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