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Mexico's Inside Waters Rocky, Too

Over a group lunch on Sunday, we eavesdropped on a conversation in which one person’s daughter was going to Mexico for spring break.

“Isn’t your daughter worried about going to Mexico?” someone asked.

This week, the Mexican Tourism Board is at the Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 trade show, trying and hoping to sell their towns and cities as port stops. Is there a tougher job in tourism right now?

The mere mention of “Mexico” draws skepticism, most often from people who have never been there. We have been many times, going back 40 years, and it’s always been memorable. A trip to Loreto with “three amigos” in tow was for a long time our favourite family vacation, and still ranks in the top five.

Loreto?

It is, or was, a small town about halfway down the peninsula that is Baja California, on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, the inside waters of the Mexican Riviera. Our memories are of great “liquados” (milkshakes), terrifying car rides, gratifying deep-sea fishing (we don’t fish but did there and caught three large yellowtail tuna) and beautiful weather and beaches. And nice people, especially Rosario and Antonio. There are whales but the only ones we saw were by the pool, covered in suntan lotion.

In recent years, Loreto has been a cruise-ship port, on the route that also takes you to little-known (or obscure) ports such as Pichilingue, Guaymas and Topolobampo (and a train ride to the magnificent Copper Canyon as our cruise colleague Phil Reimer discovered just over a year ago). In 2011, Loreto saw an increase of 25% in cruise passengers, to 10,400, primarily from the Crystal Symphony and Holland America’s Zaandam, which has one stop scheduled next spring as it makes its way north to Alaska.

In 2012, nada. No ships. No passengers.

Disney’s Wonder sails by it. Azamara used to sail by but doesn’t any more. Oceania, like Crystal and Holland America, used to stop there, but doesn’t any more.

The tourism people from Mexico have a tough sell this week in Miami, and little Loreto — with no reported murders nor thefts — is the toughest of all.

DAILY DEAL:
Carnival Fascination
4 nights
May 3, 2012
Jacksonville (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside $349
Cost per day: $87
www.carnival.com

Fish Story and Mexico's 'Inside Passage'

Before launching (nautical term) into today’s blog, may we indulge you with our introduction to the Sea of Cortez, that finger of water between mainland Mexico and Baja California?

This was just a few years ago, and you’ll get the short version, in part because time has a way of eroding long memories. Three kids, Mom and Dad in Loreto, Mexico, on a one-week all-inclusive vacation. Fishing in the Sea of Cortez is our off-shore excursion.

“Just take a cab to the beach and Rosario and Antonio will meet you there.” Those were our only instructions.

Meeting time: 5 a.m. December, so it’s dark outside. That means dark on the beach. The cab drops us off and we start walking onto the sand, in the dark. Can’t you just imagine doing this in today’s Mexico? Out of the darkness, we hear a voice…

“Senor.”

The source is Rosario, or Antonio (it’s that erosion of memories thing again), and they promptly load us onto their “cabin cruiser” for a day of fishing. Short version — a wonderful half-day on the Sea of Cortez produced the first (and only) yellowtail tuna this family ever caught. Three of them.

Oh yes, today’s blog.

According to a website that features all things Sea of Cortez, Holland America plans to make Puerto Penasco a home port by 2013 and to sail one cruise a week to the growing vacation mecca, on the sea’s northern shore. The cruise ship line has been experimenting with Sea of Cortez cruises since 2008 but, according to this website, representatives from Holland America and Carnival recently visited Sandy Beach, alleged site of the terminal in Puerto Penasco.

This will change the face of cruising Mexico, for sure. Until now, almost all cruises have been up and down the Mexican Riviera, on the other side of Baja California. This will be like exploring the “inside passage” of West Mexico.

And if anybody wants some tips on how to catch a 30-pound yellowtail tuna, just ask us.

If we can remember, of course.

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