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Hooded gunmen robbed Carnival Splendor cruise guests on bus in Mexico

February 26, 2012 |  1:55 pm


Hooded gunmen commandeered a bus and robbed 22 guests of the Carnival Splendor cruise as they traveled from a nature hike in the jungle to the Mexican port city of Puerto Vallarta.

Mexican media said the gunmen intercepted the tourists' bus as it returned from the pueblo of El Nogalito, known for its trail through the jungle, featuring a waterfall, heavy canopy and tropical wildlife such as parrots and iguanas.

The gunmen boarded the bus about 5 p.m. on Thursday and took cameras, money, watches and other valuable items, according to the newspapers El Norte and La Jornada. The gunmen then fled toward the hilly countryside. None of the guests were hurt, and all made it safely back to the cruise liner, Carnival said in a statement.

Local authorities criticized the tour operator for failing to follow recommended security procedures, and Puerto Vallarta Mayor Salvador Gonzalez Resendiz said these kinds of tours in the countryside are supposed to be conducted only in the morning. The mayor said a security guard or police officer should accompany the tours.

The 22 guests took the tour while on a weeklong cruise of the Carnival Splendor, which left the Port of Long Beach on Feb. 19 and returned Sunday morning.

The cruise line has suspended the guided nature trail tour where the robbery occurred. The company said it was working with guests to reimburse them for lost valuables and assist with lost identification.

"Carnival sincerely apologizes to its guests for this very unfortunate and disturbing event," the Miami-based company said.

The Carnival Splendor ship generally carries more than 3,000 passengers, and operates year-round weeklong cruises from Long Beach.

In 2010, the Carnival Splendor lost power after an engine fire, leaving its passengers to spend four days aboard a dark, cold ship; passengers were served spam and hot dog salad after the electricity failed.

As of last fall, only one cruise line had decided to suspend stops in Puerto Vallarta, a popular port of call, because of the ongoing drug war. That decision was made by Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines.

Carnival itself did not suspend making ports of call in Puerto Vallarta on its namesake cruise line. Princess Cruises was set to resume visits to Puerto Vallarta this month.

A port just north of Puerto Vallarta has received far more skepticism by cruise lines.

After a February 2011 shooting left two dead in a parking lot of a hotel in the tourist area of the city of Mazatlan, several cruise lines began canceling stops, including Carnival Cruise Lines. Spokesman Vance Gulliksen said Carnival's cancellation of visits to Mazatlan remains in effect.


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II in Los Angeles and Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City

Photo: A photo of the Carnival Splendor in 2010, when the ship lost power after a fire in the engine room. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times