The popular Mexican destination of Playa del Carmen may be getting its own cruise port, if plans from Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, work out well. AMLO is seeking to regain control of 2,000 hectares of land (4,900 acres) with the hope of developing it into a cruise port for the coastal resort town.
Land Currently Under U.S. Company Control
The generous parcel of land is currently controlled by a U.S. construction company, Vulcan Materials Company, which extracts crushed limestone from the region to use for road construction in the United States and Mexico.
Vulcan Materials Company, based in Birmingham, Alabama, is a world leader in producing crushed stone, sand, gravel, and slag, operating quarries throughout the United States. The Calica quarry operated near Playa del Carmen is its one operation in Mexico, worked as a joint venture with one of Latin America’s largest construction conglomerates, Ingenieros Civiles Associados, S.C.
In its initial stages, part of the project involved construction of a deep-water port, which required dredging more than three million tons of stone from the harbor at Playa del Carmen. This makes the location perfect for a cruise port that would be able to service even the largest vessels in today’s cruise market.
In fact, cruise ships, including Carnival Cruise Line’s Fantasy-class vessels had previously used the Calica facility as a port of call.
AMLO has already met with executives from Vulcan Materials Company to discuss options, keeping the area’s natural beauty in mind for responsible development.
“We are now looking for an arrangement so that these lands are used for tourism, that this can be restored,” he said during a press conference on Thursday, March 24.
“I have already spoken with the owner of the American company to guarantee that we are going to give them permits, with the permitted density, protecting the environment, because here there are areas of (…) vegetation,” AMLO explained.
Playa del Carmen Ideal for Cruise Port
Playa del Carmen is already popular as a tourist destination, welcoming more than one million visitors annually who enjoy its links to Mexican history and culture, nearby Mayan ruins, amazing beaches, snorkeling opportunities, and more.
Located just across a narrow channel from the island of Cozumel, Playa del Carmen is already part of many cruise ship’s offerings, with regular shore tours being provided to Playa del Carmen from ships docked at Cozumel.
If a new cruise port were to be developed, it is possible more tours would be available to cruise travelers, and shorter, more affordable tour options would attract even more visitors.
No cruise lines have yet commented on the possibility of port development, though it would undoubtedly bring more itinerary options to the region, particularly when Cozumel is already booked to capacity. Cozumel is the world’s top cruise destination, with visits from more than 4.5 million passengers per year.
It is also possible the port could be designated as a cruise ship homeport for embarkations and debarkations, with Cancun International Airport just an hour’s drive away – comparable to the drive from Orlando to Port Canaveral, for example.
Support Not Universal
Despite the Mexican president’s support of the idea, not everyone in the region is in favor of developing a new cruise port.
Many business owners in Playa del Carmen oppose the idea, believing it would detract from their businesses. From a cruise ship, visitors could simply enjoy the region for a few hours, instead of staying for several days and having a greater economic impact for local restaurants, retailers, and hotels.
Similarly, it is likely that businesses in Cozumel may not favor a new port so close by, as it could split business between ports and not as many ships may visit Cozumel directly.
Environmental groups are also concerned about the idea and what impact the project could have on the region, both in the short term as well as long term impacts to environmental health and resiliency.
Whatever the outcome, the prospect of a new cruise port in the region is a tantalizing one for cruise passengers, and it is sure to be watched with interest by all cruise lines with itineraries visiting the Yucatan Peninsula.