Cozumel Begins Year With High Number of Cruise Passengers

Cozumel has cause for celebrations as the port welcomed more than 400,000 cruise passengers in January, showing recovery is complete.

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Cozumel, Mexico, has long been considered one of the world’s most popular cruise ports and a favorite destination for cruise passengers from around the world.

In January 2023, Cozumel lived up to its reputation, welcoming over 400,000 cruise passengers and 106 cruise ships to its shores.

These impressive figures represent a significant increase of 185% over the same period in 2022, signaling the recovery from the pandemic both for the cruise port and the cruise industry.

For the cruise industry, these numbers are a cause for celebration. After the pandemic hit in 2020, it experienced a significant downturn. However, not everyone is happy with the return of mass cruise ship tourism to Cozumel.

Cozumel’s Cruise Tourism Fully Recovered

The Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to the cruise industry, leading to a sharp decline in passenger numbers, significant financial losses, and a halt in cruise operations worldwide.

However, Cozumel has managed to bounce back remarkably well in the past 18 months, and the number of passengers it has welcomed in January 2023 is evidence of this.

While the number of passengers is still below the ones registered in 2019 and 2020, the figures are still considered impressive. They show a significant recovery from the pandemic for the cruise port and the cruise industry.

Cruise Ships in Cozumel, Mexico
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

In January 2019, Cozumel welcomed 485,136 passengers, and in 2020, the port welcomed  476,633 cruise guests during the first month of the year. 

In the first month of this year, 106 cruise ships visited Cozumel, bringing 408,633 guests to the island to enjoy the stunning beaches and resorts such as Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club.

This is a great sign that tourism in Cozumel as a cruise destination, and the cruise industry as a whole, have now fully recovered.

The fact that the numbers are so close to pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 and 2020 is a cause for celebration. It means that tourism is back to the levels that it enjoyed before the pandemic hit.

Cozumel is the World’s Busiest Cruise Port of Call

Cozumel has established itself as the world’s busiest cruise port of call, with more cruise ships and cruise passengers arriving on the island than any other cruise destination worldwide. 

The only ports that exceed the numbers seen in Cozumel are the homeports in Florida, PortMiami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades. This year, Cozumel expects to welcome 1,152 cruise ships with 3,127,250 passengers, a 25.75% increase over 2022. This impressive figure is a testament to the popularity of Cozumel as a destination for cruise passengers.

However, it seems unlikely that Cozumel will beat pre-pandemic numbers in the coming years. 

Despite the incredible increase in cruise tourism in Cozumel, the construction of a fourth pier remains in limbo due to ongoing protests from environmental groups and local citizens. Without this, the growth of cruise tourism in Cozumel is unlikely to continue.

Cozumel, Mexico Cruise Docks
Photo Credit: Mariusz Lopusiewicz / Shutterstock

Cozumel has three existing cruise piers. Adding a fourth pier would allow the port to handle significantly more ships and increase its capacity to welcome more cruise passengers. However, environmentalists are concerned that the fourth pier’s construction will harm the environment, including the destruction of corals and an important coral rejuvenation project in Cozumel.

Cozumel’s dependence on the cruise industry has been evident, and the pandemic has hit the island and local businesses hard. Yet, protests and pending court cases reveal growing concern among environmental groups and locals about the impact of the cruise industry on the environment and the local community.

While the economic contribution that the cruise industry brings to Cozumel has positively impacted the local population, it seems that value, quantity, and quality do not always go hand-in-hand.

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