Is it safe to cruise to Mexico? Are you worried about going to Mexican ports because you heard about crime and kidnapping?
This article reviews the safety of Mexico ports on a cruise.
Safety is every cruise line’s top priority. That’s why you do a muster drill every time you cruise.
Cruise lines also want to take you to safe places where you’ll have fun. They establish relationships with the cruise ports. They approve of certain local tour operators.
Nothing is worse than going on a cruise and having something terrible happen.
While Mexico tourism has gotten a bad rap, you can enjoy your cruise with confidence if you follow a few guidelines.
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Tips for Visiting Mexico on a Cruise
Always check the US State Department’s website for travel advisories on countries and states. You’ll find out their assessment of that location’s risk.
Make sure you have a valid passport
While a passport is not always required, you’ll be glad you have one if there’s an emergency.
If you have to go to the hospital in Mexico, the cruise may without you. You need a passport to return home by air or ground transportation. (PS, make sure you have travel medical insurance too!)
Be smart about your surroundings
Situational awareness is your best defense.
Don’t assume you can go anywhere and be safe. Stick to areas made for tourists.
Keep your money under your clothes* because pickpockets are common.
Book excursions through the cruise line
Yes, you’ll pay a bit more, but you have more peace of mind.
For one thing, you’ll be with other people from your ship.
Also, the cruise line guarantees not to leave you behind if the excursion returns late.
Don’t look wealthy or blingy
If you like to dress to the nines, reconsider when leaving the ship.
It’s not wise to go into port wearing expensive jewelry and brand name clothing.
It invites attention–the wrong kind of attention. You put a big, flashing light-up saying “mug me.”
Use the buddy system
Avoid trekking solo off the ship, so enlist a traveling companion while you explore.
Make sure someone on the ship knows where you’re planning to go. You can even leave a note in your cabin about your travel plans that day, just in case.
Just stay in the port
Cruise ports have high security and cameras everywhere. Most Mexican cruise ports have a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars.
Cozumel has Senor Frogs and Margaritaville in the port. Some, like Costa Maya, have pools and an aviary.
Why not just enjoy the day in a safe, secure area, beyond the reach of the public?
When in doubt, stay on the ship
Every cruise ship has fun activities if you stay on board.
You can enjoy the amenities without the crowds.
Visit the pool and get sun without the crowd. Relax in the lounge and read a book or write in your travel journal.
Take time for a peaceful lunch at the buffet with no lines.
Spas usually offer discounted treatments on port days, too. If you wanted a massage, port day is a great time. They’re not busy and you’ll save money.
Which States in Mexico are the Safest?
According to the US State Department travel advisory, most port states in Mexico are at an increased caution level or higher.
The states of Quintana Roo, Baja California, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Veracruz are the lowest risk areas. Of course, these are the states where most cruise ships visit.
However, other ports on the west coast have higher travel warnings such as “reconsider travel” and “do not travel.”
Why is Mexico a Higher Risk Country?
The US State Department’s website states:
Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Violent crime – such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery – is widespread.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico, as travel by U.S. government employees to certain areas is prohibited or significantly restricted.
If Mexico were a truly dangerous country, cruise lines would quit going there.
Consider Honduras. The State Department recommends “reconsidering travel” to some areas, and “do not travel” in others.
However, when cruise ships go to Honduras, they don’t go to the mainland. They visit Roatan, a Honduran island in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a more contained and predictable political environment.
What does US State Department Recommend?
If you decide to travel to Mexico, here is the State Department’s advice:
- Keep your traveling companions and family back home informed of your travel plans. If separating from your travel group, send a friend your GPS location. If taking a taxi alone, take a photo of the taxi number and/or license plate and text to a friend.
- Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
- Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
- Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
- Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
List of Cruise Ports in Mexico
Caribbean (East Mexico/Western Caribbean Sea & Gulf of Mexico)
- Cozumel, Quintana Roo
- Costa Maya/Majahual, Quintana Roo
- Calica, Quintana Roo
- Cancun, Quintana Roo
- Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo
- Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
- Merida, Yucatan
- Progresso, Yucatan
- Veracruz, Veracruz
Mexican Riviera (West/Pacific Ocean side)
- Ensenada, Baja California
- Cabo San Lucas, Baja California
- La Paz, Baja California
- Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California
- Isla Partida, Baja California
- Loreto, Baja California
- Guaymas, Sonora
- Topolobampo, Sinaloa
- Mazatlan, Sinaloa
- Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
- Manzanillo, Colima
- Zihuatanejo (Ixtapa), Guerrero
- Acapulco, Guerrero
- Huatulco (La Crucecita), Oaxaca
- Puerto Chiapas, Chiapas
What Should I Do in Port in Mexico?
Mexico has a rich history of ancient culture, including the Olmec, Maya, Teotihuacan, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations.
Take an excursion to ruins, a pyramid or temple.
Get in the water
The waters off Mexico are incredible, particularly in the Caribbean.
You’ll find great diving, snorkeling*, swimming and sunbathing activities at the beach*.
Maybe you’d rather take a booze cruise on a catamaran or go fishing.
Stay on land
If adventure is your game, try a 4-wheel ATV tour or stand up paddleboarding.
Animal lovers also enjoy the diversity of wildlife on kayak or hiking eco-tours.
Have a bite to eat
Mexican food is an integral part of American culture, so why not experience it in the best possible place?
Have an authentic Mexican cuisine experience at a restaurant near the port or take a food tour.
As with anywhere you travel, even within the US, be aware of your surroundings.
Don’t travel in Mexico alone, but don’t be afraid to get off the ship.
Mexico has a lot to offer. You’ll be glad you went.
Have You Been to Mexico on a Cruise?
What did you enjoy doing?
What tips would you offer other travelers?
Join the discussion on Facebook and share your experiences.