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Mexican Riviera- Revisited

Island Princess - Puerto Vallarta 1975

In 1975 Island Princess set off on her first season of Mexican Cruising under the P&O/Princess flag having been acquired by P&O at the end of 1974. I joined this beautiful small ship as part of the take-over team., Following a refit in San Francisco she set sail for Los Angeles where she was to base for a series of cruises to Mexico, according to the brochure at the time she took you to the Mexican Gems, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Manzanillo, and Cabo San Lucas.

When I saw a cruise advertised on Regent Mariner covering most of these ports l jumped at the chance of revisiting the playgrounds of my youth. All but Acapulco were included on the cruise being replaced by Ensenada which l had not visited before. Bearing in mind l had not visited these ports of call from for over 45 years, l am sure l Regent Mariner would be in for a major shock.

For a few years in the mid-1970s San Pedro had been my home port and I remember so well Ann and Hank our port agents who looked after us so well. Arriving back in San Pedro l have to admit that I could not remember any of it, it had changed so much.

The early 1970s saw the growth of the container ship revolution and consequently the decline of the British Merchant Navy. The large ports handling these containers started to appear. Consequentially when l arrived back in San Pedro, it had developed into one of the major container ports of the United States handling 20% of all cargo coming into the US.

1970s Advert for Princess Cruises

Sailing at sunset from San Pedro was very nostalgic. Heading for our first port Ensenada which quite frankly I could quite happily have missed, being a gritty Mexican port with very little to attract me. The waterfront has been tarted up with dancing fountains and some large statues for the visiting cruise ships, after that there is very little to attract the tourist, unless you are an American tourist looking for cheap prescription drugs and Viagra, with a tourist pharmacy on almost every corner.

The last time I visited Cabo San Luca it was a sleepy little fishing village,

Island Princess In Cabo 1975.

Photo by Terry Williams

my old ship mate.

So little entertainment was there for the cruise passengers we took a barbecue to the beach and held a beach party. Arrival you see the iconic

Arch of Cabo San Lucas,

but that is where the resemblance of my visit in 75 ends.

Cabo San Lucas 2022

On leaving the pier almost immediately the traders are onto you selling their wears or spaces on impressive fishing charters. Facing you is Senor Frogs I had not realised that the original restaurant that l had visited in the 70’s in Mazalan had now grown to a global brand. Cabo is now one of the major Party, Drinking and fishing resort of the Baja Peninsula.

I loved my day in Mazatlan. Mazatlán was like was the old Mexico as I remembered it, and very little changed, I even found the beach I once spent the night on after a rather boozy night at the original Señor Frog's

The Matalan tourist authority have done a great job at making the town safe for cruise ship passengers. They have a blue line on the sidewalk leading from the ship to the town centre, along the way are tourist police very much in evidence and local (ex-pats) are voluntary tourist guides. It was a great relief not to be pestered everywhere you went. We stopped for an ice cream where a charming young man who spoke excellent educated American English, we asked where he had gone to school only to be told that he had taught himself by watching American Movies. The ice cream was excellent too.

Manzanillo was another port l had regularly visited, nowadays it is the major port for transporting goods to Mexico City, sadly the poverty here was terrible and l truly felt that Mexicans had not benefitted at all from the vast influx of US resort developments that littered the beaches around the bay.

It was here we walked through the shanty town behind the church where the houses were falling down or having never actually been finished and had little sanitation. Chatting to a guy on the ship later that day he informed me that 3.5% of the population account for 12.5% of the GDP and one single man accounts for 6% of GDP and 42% of the population live belove the poverty line.

Mexico has indeed got major problems.

The Cruise Terminal in Puerto Vallarta 2022 - Compare with Island Princess 1975 (above)

Our final port of call was Puerto Vallarta. We intended to walk from the ship to town but discovered it was much further than we thought so decided to take the local bus. It cost less than $1 for the two of us, we had to put the money in a wooden box with a padlock, exact money only no change given. The last time I rode a local Mexican bus was in Acapulco when we used to go to a freshwater lagoon to water ski. In those days we shared the overcrowded bus with hens and vegetables and even a pig on one occasion heading to market. The buses were still crowded and very derelict but without the livestock.

The population of Puerto Vallarta has risen from 31,000 in 1975 to a whopping 544,000 today.

We were in Mexico just before the celebration Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead and saw the towns being prepared for this festival which celebrates the love and respect for deceased family members. This is a different celebration from Halloween. The Mexicans really go to town with this celebration

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Jamie, The Purser
Jamie, The Purser
Nov 29, 2022

Very colourful celebration " day of the dead" - interesting the Mexicans 'celebrate' this festival

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