Covid caused mass-shutdown for the cruise industry in 2020. However, with restrictions easing and some sense of normality beginning to return.
Mexico is a hugely popular destination for cruises, with almost 9 million visitors arriving via cruise ships in 2019. The Mexican Caribbean is home to the most popular ports, with two-thirds of the country’s entire cruise activity taking place in the state of Quintana Roo. The most-visited ports here are Mahahual and – topping the list – Cozumel, which offers great attractions for visitors.
Given the huge amount of cruise dollars ending up in Cozumel, and the island’s reliance on that income, it’s understandable that Cozumel would be incredibly keen to restart cruise visits. And it looks like that’s exactly what’s about to happen.
Confirmation of Cozumel cruises in 2021
The Secretary of Tourism for Quintana Roo State, Marisol Vanegas Pérez, recently confirmed that two cruise ships would be docking in Cozumel during the summer 2021 season. More announcements were made shortly afterwards, as companies began the big reveal of their summer schedules.
From next month, Royal Caribbean will be docking in Cozumel on a route originating in the Bahamas. Proudly announcing its status as the first cruise line to restart US operations, Royal Caribbean’s initial US cruise will depart from Fort Lauderdale on 26 June 2021. Caribbean-bound routes from the United States will resume in early July.
Announcing the much-anticipated re-launch, Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President-Sales for Royal Caribbean, said: “The moment we’ve all been waiting for is HERE! Cruises from the U.S. return this July with a full line-up of award-winning ships. We’re getting back to the Caribbean and back to what we do best —making vacation memories with you.”
Norwegian Cruise Lines made its own announcement about its planned cruise relaunch. Norwegian president Frank Del Rio said: “I am pleased to continue our Great Cruise Comeback with plans already announced for 23 of our 28 ships across our three brands beginning in July 2021 and phasing in through early 2022.” Cruise ship ‘Norwegian Joy’, which departs from Florida and includes Belize and the Bay Islands in its itinerary, confirmed it will include the Mexican Caribbean in its routing from October 2021. And from that date onwards, there will be dozens of other Norwegian routes that also include Cozumel.
Opposition to new Cozumel cruise dock
When cruises restart, there will be inevitable pent-up demand to follow. This may result in more cruise liners entering Cozumel’s waters. And it’s likely the three docks currently in use will be unable to keep up with demand. Plans have been put forward to construct a fourth cruise dock to eliminate some of the pressure the extra boats could cause.
However, the proposal has come up against widespread opposition from regional environmental organizations. They argue that building the dock could destroy the delicate coral reefs that are currently forming in the area.
And with a large number of tourists coming to dive Cozumel’s world-famous reef, opponents argue there’s little point in building a new dock that could damage the very reason they’re visiting.
However, the plan for the extra dock is supported by the Quintana Roo tourism industry – as well as the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador – and its completion is expected to generate an additional 20-25% in revenue.
87% of Quintana Roo’s income – and a vast number of its jobs – are a direct result of the tourism industry. So the income from cruises is needed more than ever, to help with the area’s post-Covid recovery. So it looks likely plans for the additional dock will proceed, resulting in more visitors being able to enjoy this little slice of paradise.
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