After a flare-up of civil unrest around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, led several cruise lines to skip port calls scheduled there, officials of the Mexican government and cruise lines last week me to work out a solution.
Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Infinity, Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder, and Royal Caribbean International's Jewel of the Seas all substituted days at sea for Puerto Vallarta on calls scheduled from May 10 to 12.
Combined, the destination lost more than 7,000 passengers, while news of the missed calls sent an unwelcome signal to some that the resort area was not secure for tourism, which Mexico authorities denied.
Officials from Puerto Vallarta traced the origin of the cruise lines' decision to "unfortunate events" on May 1, including the downing of a Mexican military helicopter by a drug cartel using rocket-propelled grenades.
The U.S. State Department's Mexico Travel Warning calls for tourists to "exercise caution throughout" Jalisco, the state where Puerto Vallarta is located.
Officials from the affected cruise lines met in Miami on May 12 with government and tourism officials from Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding state of Jalisco to assess the situation following the cancellations. Also attending were officials from the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, the Mexican Tourism Board and Carnival Cruise Line, which did not cancel a scheduled May 12 port call by the Carnival Miracle but did curb some shore excursions.
Of the four cruise lines, only Carnival is making regular weekly calls at Puerto Vallarta during the summer. The three other ships are all heading to Alaska and won't be back until the fall.
A spokesman for Disney said the Wonder only has two scheduled calls this year at Puerto Vallarta, on Panama Canal itineraries.
After the Miami gathering, tourism officials in Puerto Vallarta issued a statement saying that meeting participants had agreed to improve communications and ensure that cruise lines have real time updates about the destination.
It also said security will be enhanced at Puerto Vallarta's marina, "to ensure the whereabouts of all passengers who go ashore."
In a statement, Carnival said it has met in person with security officials from the area.
"Given Mexican law enforcement's comprehensive security plans currently in place in Puerto Vallarta, we will continue with our scheduled calls to the destination," the statement said.
"However, in an abundance of caution, since earlier clashes between local groups and law enforcement occurred outside Puerto Vallarta, we have temporarily suspended a small number of shore excursions that require travel outside the main city," Carnival said.
Media reports about the May 1 unrest said a drug cartel had been stepping up a campaign against the government, which included setting vehicles ablaze and blocking roads in Guadalajara, the capital of the state of Jalisco.
Puerto Vallarta tourism officials said the attacks were "quickly contained and resolved.
"No harm came to any residents or visitors to Puerto Vallarta and no disturbance, restriction or limits affected tourists in the area," the statement said.
U.S. vacation packagers said last week that bookings for Puerto Vallarta have held steady.
The Mark Travel Corporation, MLT Vacations and Apple Vacations all reported that bookings have not been impacted by the reported unrest, and Mark Travel said it had even recently increased capacity into the destination.
Lynn Clark, vice president of travel agency engagement for Mark Travel, said that departures to Puerto Vallarta are leaving on their normal schedule, and the company has not received any calls of concerns from customers or travel agents about the destination.
Puerto Vallarta officials said 65% of cruise passengers explore the area unescorted.
They said the city would get local tour operators, taxi drivers and other tourism service providers to use "new measures that inform the ships of their passengers' location."
Michelle Baran contributed to this report.