By paul motter
It was exactly one year ago that every cruise line cancelled all stops at Mexican ports of call due to the impending outbreak of the Mexican Flu. The virus did not even have its proper name yet, nor was it even known as the swine flu. It was the Mexican Flu, and to say there was a bit of sensationalism in the media is an understatement.
One morning the three largest cruise lines had each stated they had no intention of changing their itineraries to avoid Mexico. That afternoon the Department of Homeland Security recommended cancelling all "non-essential" travel to Mexico and every cruise ship immediately tugged hard on the reins and brought Mexico visits to a screeching halt.
One ship even reportedly had Cabo San Lucas in its sights, yet it spent the next seven days at sea without touching land until the end of the cruise in Los Angeles. In retrospect, that seems pretty ridiculous, but at the time the fear meter was glowing bright red.
I don't know about you, but it seems like several years since those events occurred. Just a few months earlier the Mexican Riviera (along Mexico's Pacific coast) was known as a booming cruise region - the fourth most popular cruise region after the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe. That is saying quite a lot.
To address the growing demand Royal Caribbean and Carnival had each relocated two of their better ships to southern California earlier in 2008, Mariner of the Seas for Royal Caribbean arrived in January and Carnival Splendor had just arrived April 1st. Keep in mind; both ships are too large for the Panama Canal and had to circumnavigate the entire continent of South America.
But with the "Mexican Flu" demand plunged immediately as ships like Mariner were re-routed to northerly itineraries for the next two months, even calling in Vancouver, Canada - not exactly the first choice for people hoping to escape cold winter weather.
It was two months before cruise ships started calling in Mexico again and by then prices on seven-day Mexico cruises dropped as low as $199 per person. The faltering economy in California did not help any. Ironically, the outbreaks of the virus within Mexico were not centered anywhere near any cruise ship ports of call.
Still, the stigma against Mexico cruises remained and unfortunately for California they still have not regained the popularity of 2007. And now, a year to the day, the really bad news...
Royal Caribbean just announced it plans to move that same ship, Mariner of the Seas, out of California as of January 2011.
This is a huge loss for California. Mariner is the biggest and most exciting cruise ship on the West Coast. Yes, we still have Sapphire Princess and Carnival Splendor, but Mariner is almost 20% larger than each of those and has a ton of onboard features not found on any other west coast ship - such as rock climbing walls, an ice rink, a huge indoor promenade.
Mariner was the only ship of the Voyager-class or later built by Royal Caribbean ever to reach the west coast. So, I highly recommend that everyone in California who has not yet seen a Royal Caribbean megaship take a cruise on Mariner before it leaves.
Mariner will sail every Sunday from Los Angeles to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas from now until January 2011. Seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from September through December begin at $479 per person, double occupancy for an inside cabin, or $764 for a balcony cabin facing the sea. Fares are slightly higher during the summer months.
Mariner is the most exciting ship west of Texas and no vessel of its caliber is scheduled to replace it. It is great for active families of all ages. Onboard attractions include an ice rink, rollerblading, mini-golf, kids' and teens' centers, spa services, a elaborate gym, pools, hot tubs, great entertainment, and a huge indoor promenade area.
Make your reservations early as I predict this ship will sell out soon.