Docking in the Yucatan


The ancient Mayan city of Tulum is popular with cruisers taking shore trips.

The eastern Yucatan has several popular ports of call including Cozumel and Costa Maya. What’s new for the cruise industry in this region? What new services or activities are available to cruisers? Here’s a look at some of the developments along the Riviera Maya.

FOURTH COZUMEL CRUISE PIER: Cozumel is poised for even more cruise growth. The state government of Quintana Roo plans to build a fourth Cozumel cruise pier near the small marina, Bank Beach, on the island’s northern end. This cruise pier facility will supplement facilities at three other cruise terminals.

The official operator and promoter is the Administration Port Authority of Quintana Roo (Apiqroo). Construction on this $40 million Banco Playa cruise terminal could begin as early as 2013. Once under way, the project will take approximately nine months to complete.

The cruise pier project will encompass 108,000 square feet. It will have docking stations for four cruise ships as well as a new three-story shopping facility. The new terminal plan already has passed an environmental impact review and officials say it’s more than six miles from the nearest reef. Another reason the site was chosen is that the surrounding area already has some infrastructure such as roadways.

NEW COSTA MAYA CLINIC: For cruisers who go ashore at Costa Maya, a new cruise ship medical clinic has opened in Mahahual to assist cruise guests who need medical services. Located in the casitas area near the cruise port, it’s operated by CostaMed, a partnership of CostaMed Group and AirEvac International.

With 30 years of combined experience, the partners offer emergency services, diagnostic and therapeutic intervention and medical evacuation, if required. Staffed with an English-speaking doctor, the clinic says it’s designed to handle a range of issues including cardiac, pulmonary, orthopedic and neurological emergencies.

The clinic’s laboratory can also perform general analysis and blood tests for kidney and liver functions as well as heart diagnosis. Consult the website for directions to the clinic and videos that show clinic operations. Clinic hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on cruise ship days.

And in case your client has a really serious medical situation, the clinic can call for an Air Ambulance Learjet Series 25, equipped as an airborne intensive care unit. Based in Cancun, the jet is exclusively operated by AirEvac International.

CRUISE LINES' LATEST SHORE OPTIONS: Cruise lines operating in the region constantly develop new shore excursions to help satisfy repeat cruisers. New Carnival Cruise Lines tours from Cozumel include a seven-hour “Playa del Carmen Beach & Shopping” tour: guests take a private ferry to the mainland, shop at Cancun’s 5th Avenue, receive a 30-minute guided sightseeing tour of the attractions, have two hours of free shopping and browsing time, and visit the “In Vogue” beach club. Cost is $50 for adults, $45 for kids six and up.

Also from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, Carnival offers a new “Sea Turtle Snorkel & Lunch” tour, which includes a 45-minute snorkel experience at Akumal Bay National Marine Park, beach time at Playa del Carmen, lunch and an open bar; a maximum of 20 guests are accepted. It costs $100 for adults, $90 for kids six and up.

For those who wish to stay on Cozumel, Carnival offers a new “Xrails to Jade Caverns” excursion. Guests drive a two-person, fully automatic Xrail Buggy five miles into the jungle to the fresh water Jade Caverns for a dip in the cavern waters and a guided tour. Cost is $100 per person. Alternatively, passengers might book the line’s new “Passion Island by Power Catamaran,” tour to Isla Pasion, a private island with long, sandy beach. Perks include a Mexican lunch and open bar. Cost is $70 for adults, $55 for kids five and up.

For Carnival guests arriving in Costa Maya, a new “Segway and Beach Adventure,” tour is $80. Separately, guests booking the line’s new “Salsa & Salsa & Beach” tour, which will be available by the end of June, will learn how to make Mexican salsas and guacamole and also how to do the salsa. Guests also receive margaritas and beach time. Cost is $80 and $60 for adults and kids six and up, respectively.

The Carnival Glory
The Carnival Glory is among the many cruise ships that call at Costa Maya.

On many of the new tours listed above, children ages five and under are accepted free of charge when accompanied by an adult.

Norwegian Cruise Line also has launched several new shore excursions for its Cozumel port calls. During a seven-hour “Tulum & Beach Club” tour, passengers arrive at Playa del Carmen via fast ferry and board an air-conditioned motorcoach for the scenic drive to Tulum. After a guided tour of the ancient Mayan city, cruisers receive free time at a nearby beach club for swimming and a buffet style meal. Prices start at $109 for adults, $79 for kids.

In addition, Norwegian’s new three-hour “12 Meter America’s Cup Regatta” tour from Cozumel gives clients a chance to board and sail on Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup winning Stars & Stripes and True North IV racing yachts. The crew will provide instruction and then it’s off to the races. No previous sailing experience is necessary. Guests grind a winch, trim a sail, punch a stopwatch or just sit back and relax.

Refreshments are provided, and after the yachting race, guests enjoy a complimentary victory rum punch party. Participants must be at least 12 years of age and 21 years of age to be served alcoholic beverages. This active, hands-on yachting race tour is similar to one offered in St. Maarten. Cost is from $99 per person.

NEW MAYAN E-BOOK: Some clients are interested in travel to the Yucatan this year because of the Mayan prophecy that signals the end of the world and a new beginning. One consumer resource: A new e-book, Maya 2012 Revealed, Demystifying the Prophecy, has been written by Jeanine Kitchel, an author and journalist who operates a small English language bookstore in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Kitchel, an American who has lived in the Yucatan for many years, has a deep fascination with Maya culture and history. In her new e-book, she explores the Mayan code, calendar system, astronomy and the night sky, as well as the infamous 2012 prophecy and how that’s viewed by the Mayan elders. The e-book is available on iTunes, Kindle and Nook for $4.99. A portion of the profits goes to educaTE, a Yucatan nonprofit organization that sends needy Mayan children to school. Visit

NEW PLAYA DEL CARMEN BEACH BAR: Party animals and beachgoers alike flock to Playa del Carmen’s waterfront dining and lounge venues. Cruisers visiting for the day might check out the new Wah Wah Beach Bar, a large bar and restaurant that doubles as an entertainment venue. It opened on Playa del Carmen’s white sands earlier this year.

Clients may chow down a brick oven pizza, American-style smoked barbecue ribs, fresh seafood, and pasta, while enjoying a sports bar atmosphere, big screen TVs and live music.

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