Cruise lines stay the course in Puerto Vallarta

Cruise lines are staying the course and keeping Puerto Vallarta on the schedule, days after 22 Carnival passengers were robbed just outside the Mexican resort town during a ship-sponsored tour.

“We are aware of the recent incident,” said Julie Benson, Princess vice president for public relations. Benson said Princess’ security has reviewed the situation and, “based on the information available at this time,” decided that it was safe to proceed with Sapphire Princess’ call today.

“Princess Cruises does not offer this specific tour, nor do we offer any excursions to this area,” she added.

The ill-fated tour took Carnival Splendor passengers to El Nogalito, an area some 40 miles outside of Puerto Vallarta known for its lush natural setting. While they were returning to the ship, masked assailants stopped the bus and robbed the cruisers of their money, watches, cameras and other valuables. A statement from Carnival said there were no injuries, and all passengers returned safely to the ship.

Calls by Disney Wonder, due in port Wednesday, and Carnival Splendor (Thursday) also remain unchanged, according to spokesmen from each line. Like Princess, Disney does not offer the tour in question.

After the robbery, Carnival announced it was canceling the tour in question — a guided nature trail excursion sold and booked through the line — indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Guillermo Ohen, director of Puerto Vallarta’s Tourism board, told Cruise Critic that the operator chosen by the line went off course, deviating from the route as planned. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen refuted that claim, saying that the tour was operating as scheduled at the time of the robbery.

On Saturday, Latitude International, the public relations firm representing the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, called Thursday’s robbery an “extremely rare incident.” A statement on Latitude’s Facebook page said, “minutes after we learned of the incident representatives from the local and state government, tourism leaders and tour operators [moved] to provide assistance to those involved and police and the district’s attorney office started their investigation.”

The robbery comes at a rough time for the beleaguered Mexican Riviera cruise region, which has seen numerous lines pull out over safety and security concerns, as well as issues with demand. Lines have primarily cut calls in Mazatlan, which has seen its scheduled ship visits plummet from 200 in 2010 to roughly a dozen in 2012, but Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta have also suffered.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Mexico. It re-affirmed an earlier warning, in effect since April 2011, saying that millions of Americans safely visit the country annually, and that the majority of drug-related violence happens near the Mexico-U.S. border and along drug-trafficking routes, rather than in resort towns.

This is not the first case of cruise passengers being targeted while on shore excursions. In November 2010, 17 Celebrity Mercury passengers on a tour bus in St. Kitts were robbed at gunpoint. In 2009, 18 cruise passengers on two separate ship-sponsored tours were robbed, again at gunpoint, in the Bahamas.

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