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Friday file: Cruise Port Entertainers

In many ports, especially in the Caribbean, locals provide entertainment for passengers as they disembark. There’s always a bucket nearby for anybody who wants to make a donation to these buskers by the sea but there is, of course, no obligation — and the reality is they provide a musical preview of their country’s customs. Here are some we’ve encountered and enjoyed…

Dom.RepLa Romana: Decked out in traditional Dominican Republic colors, this quartet was just as bright in talent.

AricaArica, Chile: In an outdoor mall close to the ship, this talented duo was singing…'The Piano Man' with no piano!

AcapulcoAcapulco: Mariachis are always an attraction in Mexico, even when their “fifth” member gets into the act. 

CartagenaCartagena: Colorful Colombian dancers on the deck of what was once a Spanish galleon and now tours the harbor.

FalmouthFalmouth: If ever an entertainer looked the part of the needy busker, it was this Jamaican at Dunn’s River Falls.

Labadee: The only thing wrong with this high-energy act beside Allure of the Seas was the intrusion of a passenger.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian back to South America

Carnival Miracle
6 nights
November 1, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $78

Photo Essay From Cruises To Mexico…

TulumIs there a prettier setting for Maya ruins than in Tulum, close to Cozumel?

AcapulcoAn easy attraction in Acapulco, a short walk from where the ships are moored.

IguanaLots of iguanas all over Mexico, and all look more menacing than they really are.

Huatulco-Playa La EntregaIntruding on a family picnic near Huatulco, on as pretty a beach as we've seen.

Cabo San LucasThe familiar rocks near Cabo San Lucas, a magnet for cruise visitors.

cozumelIn Cozumel, more than the tourists go for a walk on the beach.

Cozumel marketMexican markets are wherever cruise ships land and all of them have deals.

Costa Maya

Costa Maya, just one of the stops on the Yucatan Peninsula with ruins can climb!

Today at portsandbows.com: Windstar — year-round in the South Pacific

Carnival Breeze
8 nights
January 3, 2015
Miami (return): NassauSt. ThomasAntiguaSan Juan
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $34

What's to Come of Cruising in Mexico?

Let us begin by saying Mexico is one of our favorite places to visit and, no, that’s not like saying “Some of my best friends are…[fill in the blank].” We love Mexico. Its people. Its music. Its customs. Its crafts. Its resilience. Its ever-expanding cruise-ship ports.

What we don’t like is what we’re hearing, more and more. It starts with fear. Cruise-ship passengers are becoming more afraid of visiting Mexico, with good reason, and if it continues it’s the country that is going to suffer, profoundly. Who can blame tourists for being afraid when they hear that 15 headless bodies were found in Acapulco, which was once the absolute jewel of Mexico’s Pacific shoreline?

Why would a visitor choose to go to a country — even when it’s an enormous country of 111 million people — where the drug wars are fought in not just the border towns but seemingly everywhere. Where the battles are between wealthy drug lords and sometimes-corrupt law enforcement officials who are underpaid and undermanned?

The impact on cruise-ship passengers, some of whom have already tired of sailing the same old ports on the Mexican Riviera, seems to be growing. The Sapphire Princess delayed its arrival in Acapulco because of a political rally. However, there are two sides. There are always two sides. Comments on Cruise Critic range from “They will not hesitate to shoot for no reason…tourists and innocent locals can be victims of cross-fire” to “We saw some fantastic sites [during a political rally] and never felt in danger.”

Right now, Acapulco is getting shelled by public opinion. We have to admit, on our last cruise to Acapulco, we said we didn’t care if we came back…despite the stunning beauty of its bay. It just didn’t have a good feel.

But the reality is that life’s all about being in the right (wrong) place at the right (wrong) time. Yesterday, we went for a walk, and a car backing slowly out of a driveway as we passed suddenly accelerated, stopping only when we hammered on the trunk. Sorry, the driver said, didn’t see you. This happened in a quiet, gated community, not a busy street.

And not Mexico.

Acapulco Vendors Cruisers' Challenge

ACAPULCO, Mexico — When cruise ships like Celebrity’s Millennium are cleared for disembarking at this aged-but-still pretty Mexican beach resort, passengers have two choices. If you’re booked on one of the ship’s shore excursions, you go left. If you go right, get ready to run the gauntlet of what might be called “off-shore” excursions, those run by about 50 local vendors looking to take you anywhere.

They make cruise-ship shore excursions more attractive. The locals are like locusts. If you make eye contact or utter so much as one word, you have become their amigo, and they’ll do almost anything for your business. Noticing the logo on our bag, one said; “I’ll take you to Starbucks!”

This being the tail end of the cruise ship season in Mexico only makes them more aggressive. It’s really too bad, for passengers and for Acapulco, which continues to be diminished from the ultimate beach-party escape it became when Liz and Eddie and Frank and Elvis made it their personal playground in the ’60s.

Once you survive the 100-yard dash through your new amigos, Acapulco has many points of interest, and not all of them cost mucho pesos. For example, the historic Fuerte de San Diego — aren’t all forts historic? — is right across the street from the Millennium and the information panels inside are loosely translated into English for tourists’ convenience. That was to be out first stop, along with our excuse for bypassing the vendors, until one of them told us it was closed on Monday. Six days a week, it’s open, close and costs about $2.50.

If you’re fit and don’t mind the walk, you can trek a couple of miles (or take a cab) to see the famous cliff divers, who leap 125 feet into four feet of ocean water, day and night. When you arrive on foot, there’s a minimal charge.

Or even better, you can do what we did, having already seen the cliff divers: Hop on a local bus and ride to the north end of Acapulco Bay, heart of the local-fare restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and night clubs first made famous in the ’60s. It’s easy to find. Just watch for all those traditional Mexican establishments…Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks.

The bus costs 50 cents each way, and it’s also easy to know which bus to take from the terminal. It’s the one that has hand-written in white paint on the windshield… Walmart.

That’s it…we’re done.

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