Prologue: After committing several unauthorized assassinations, DEA agent Rico Caraballo leaves the Agency and retreats to a mission in Columbia's back country.
Rico returns to the mission after an absence and finds the resident Priest and a Sister murdered. Colombian Army troops arrive at the Mission accompanied by Mike Stilwell, DEA liaison with the unit. Mike recognizes Rico as a former agent and friend.
Angered by the unprovoked murders, Rico agrees to consider returning to the Agency. Several days after Mike and the troops leave, Rico learns that renegades searching for him committed the murders. It becomes apparent that Father Ramon died protecting Rico.
Rico discovers that the man who wants him dead is Jaime Morales, the Jefe of a large Columbian criminal enterprise, the same Jaime Morales who was badly disfigured by a bomb Rico planted.
Morales' purchase of The Mayan Princess from a defunct cruise line gets the attention of the DEA, and the nature of the vessel's renovation coupled with an upsurge in Morales' foreign contacts alerts the CIA.
The vessel is preparing for its maiden voyage when Rico and Mike meet with Flory Gomez who arranges Rico's reinstatement in time for an assignment to uncover the ship's mission. At Cartegena, Rico and Flory board as passengers, and Mike as a crew member.
Morales joins the maiden voyage and learns from his cousin Julio Castano that Rico could be the person who planted the bomb that disfigured him. He invites Rico and Flory to dinner. It's an invitation that results in a series of confrontations between the agents and Morales' cohorts protecting their interests, even after disavowing their insane leader who forces upon them a premature and deadly conclusion to the voyage.