Cozumel, a tiny island off the southeastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, is one of the Caribbean's busiest cruise ports, and it welcomes more than one million cruise passengers each year. Despite typical cliché tourist venues, such as fast food restaurants and corny souvenirs, you can still find some true gems of Mexican culture at this popular destination.
Featured Cruises to Cozumel
Royal Caribbean: Weekend Cruises
While most cruises visit a series of ports over a period of 7 to 30 days, Royal Caribbean's short, four-day cruises visit just one. That gives you the time to take a range of shore excursions and really get to know Cozumel beyond the normal look-and-leave tourism.
With three pools, yoga classes, a library, and ship-wide Wi-Fi, Brilliance of the Seas has all the facilities you will need to enjoy a great four days. You can even keep up with your hobbies and pleasures from back home.
Sailing round trip from Tampa, pricing for this cruise begins at less than $350 for 4 days.
Disney Cruises: Wedding Cruises
On board a Disney ship, you will enjoy a wedding full of the kind of wonder and magic everyone expects from the world's most famous animators. As well as the usual two-tiered cake, champagne, and photographer, Disney will treat you to a solo musician, a dinner for two, and $100 of stateroom credit to spend on spa treatments and onboard activities.
Disney Magic is a high class ship. It has a chandelier designed by the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, as well as art deco furniture and works of art in each and every one of the guest areas.
This is a round trip voyage from Miami, and the price for this cruise starts around $1,400 for 5 nights.
Holland America Line: Art
Each of Holland America's liners has an extensive and original art collection. Passengers can pre-download self-guided tours so they can familiarize themselves with the works they will see once they board their ship.
Aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam, you will have the chance to admire a mural by Harold Vlugt that expresses the historical link between Amsterdam and New York. Contemporary artists on display include Andy Warhol, Roland Estes and Roy Lichtenstein. There's a 30-40 minute tour narrated by Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman.
Sailing round trip from Fort Lauderdale, prices for this cruise start just under $1,100 for 14 nights.
Regent Seven Sea Cruises: All Inclusive
There is a good reason Regent Seas' prices are so high. They have some of the most luxurious ships in the industry, and one of the highest ratios of staff to passengers. All of the ship's onboard activities and on shore excursions are included in the price. That means free on-shore excursions, a pre-cruise one night stay at a luxury hotel, and free unlimited beverages.
With one crew member to every 1.5 guests on board, you can guarantee you will be well looked after onboard the Navigator. A Connoisseur club and a piano bar completes that its high class feel.
Sailing round trip from Miami, prices for this cruise start around $7,000 for 18 nights.
Celebrity Cruises: Special Occasions
Celebrity will help you celebrate a range of special occasions with compliments such as dinners and drinks. Special occasions include engagements, weddings, honeymoons, and anniversaries, as well as graduations, birthdays, reunions, and retirements.
Celebrity Constellation offers something for all tastes. If you enjoy good, healthy food, you can eat what they call clear cuisine at their Blu restaurant. Beer lovers can try one of their 64 international beers. Kids will love the X-box and the ship's variety of clubs.
The base price for a round trip voyage from Fort Lauderdale is about $350 for 5 nights.
Arriving in Cozumel
Due to the island's tiny size, the dock simply cannot accommodate the up to sixteen Cozumel Mexico cruises that may visit each day. While the dock is suitable for even larger ships, many vessels drop anchor offshore first, and then ferry passengers in with tenders, which are large, stable boats that can transport 150 or more passengers on each trip. When you arrive in Cozumel, be sure to take note of whether your ship will remain at anchor or if it will move to occupy a dock slip later in the day. Three piers surround the downtown area of San Miguel. Punta Langosta is the largest pier right in the heart of the shopping district. The other two piers are only a short taxi ride away.
Some important facts to know about Cozumel include:
- Spanish is the official language, but English is spoken in many tourist areas as well.
- The peso is the official currency and is equivalent to approximately $0.08. However, U.S. dollars are commonly accepted in bars, restaurants, stores, and as tips for shore excursions.
- Many shore excursions in Cozumel are more expensive than similar experiences elsewhere because they require transportation to the Mexican mainland.
Due to its popularity with cruise ships, Cozumel has come to rely almost completely on tourist dollars, particularly through money paid for shore tours. A wide variety of shore excursions are offered, including:
- Catamaran sailing
- Bike tours
- Dolphin swims
- Party cruises
- Horseback riding
- Helmet diving
Most excursions offer different difficulty levels to accommodate both novices and experienced guests, and the tour guides are knowledgeable and friendly.
See the Ruins
More expensive shore tours include Mayan ruin excursions, which usually take visitors to more impressive sites on the mainland. Cozumel does host several areas of ruins, but they are unimpressive when compared to the extravagant sites of Chichen Itza or Tulum. Chichen Itza is inland, but it's worth the trek for its impressive Mayan pyramid, sporting arena, and other ruins. In fact, the most impressive ruins on Cozumel are actually replicas, but the guided tours include plenty of culture and history despite that minor flaw.
No matter which pier your ship uses, shore excursion tours will pick you up and drop you off near our ship.
For the vast majority of cruisers, shore excursions in Cozumel are far more entertaining than personal exploration, particularly since many of the best sites are frequented by numerous tours and can become quite crowded for unescorted individuals. Nevertheless, Cozumel does offer a number of attractive sites, including:
- Carlos 'n Charlie's: This Mexican equivalent to the Hard Rock Café is a wild escape from normalcy with raucous music, copious drinks, and feverish dancing. Not for the inexperienced, this bar is still a major attraction for party-going passengers.
- Chankanaab Nature Park: An exquisite preserve, Chankanaab offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean, including explorations of a sunken ship. Pristine underwater caves have become an archeological park, and more than 60 species of marine life occupy the sanctuary's lagoon. The white sand beach has various rental booths available for different types of equipment, or visitors can choose to explore the botanical gardens.
- Museo de la Isla de Cozumel: Located in downtown San Miguel (Cozumel's only town), this historic site was once the island's first luxury hotel. Today it is an interesting historical attraction that features exhibits that span pre-Hispanic times to the present and offers a glimpse of Cozumel's rich history.
- Shopping District: Immediately after debarking from the cruise ships at the Punta Langosta pier, passengers find themselves in the heart of Cozumel's high-energy shopping scene. Dozens of merchants offer a wide range of merchandise, including jewelry, blankets, ponchos, and more traditional trinkets such as photo frames, shot glasses, and other souvenirs. Visitors may even stumble upon a mariachi band or another impromptu attraction amidst the multitudes of shops.
A Few Tips
Bargaining is an art form in Cozumel, but beware of dealers who promise the best deals just to you. Since tourist dollars are the main source of income, competition is fierce to lure unwary shoppers into more expensive deals. Many merchants offer similar items and bargains are easily found. If you speak Spanish, you may be able to haggle an even better deal that wouldn't be offered to most tourists.
Shore tours are most visitors' highlight of Cozumel, but be aware that excursions to Mayan ruins on the mainland may take several hours, and leave little time for exploration, shopping, or relaxation. To compensate, several cruise lines offer extended stays in Cozumel.
A Wonderful Cruise Destination
Once a quiet, sleepy island, today Cozumel is a bustling cruise port that hosts thousands of visitors each day. Despite the influence of cliché tourist settings, the island retains much of its Mexican charm and hospitality, which makes it a wonderful destination for both adventurous and laid-back cruisers.