Port of Call The Island Of Cozumel
This port of call is often referred to as Cozumel, but it is actually island on the southeast coast of Mexico and the actual port city is San Miguel de Cozumel. Located off the Yucatan peninsula it is part of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and a very popular cruise stop on most western Caribbean itineraries. Its real claim to fame are the beaches and the diving sites but it is also a good place for bargain shopping.
Where Your Ship Docks
Terminal de Cruceros or Cruise Ship Terminal is the major location for cruise ships but there is another major terminal located in downtown proper. With this destination being so popular there is a possibility that your ship could dock at either location.
The Terminal de Cruceros is a well developed area with excellent facilities, two shopping villages, a number of bars (the infamous Mini Senor Frog’s and Three Amigos) and a number of good restaurants. It is about two and a half miles into downtown San Miguel. It is right next to a remarkably good snorkeling area right at the terminal “beach”.
The other cruise docking pier is central to San Miguel and an easy walk to the main shops, restaurants and the actual original Senor Frog’s.
Disembarking – This port has a several developed cruise ship piers but the ease of disembarking varies by the individual ships gangway designs. For passengers using wheelchairs there can be a moderate ramp incline to deal with.
Port Characteristics – This port has a good wheelchair infrastructure. Outside the port area you may experience moderate to narrow sidewalks. Intersection crosswalks may have curbs or other wheelchair obstacles.
If you are looking to get to locations within a few miles of the pier the best choice is a taxi. They are plentiful and moderately priced. Just make sure you settle on a fare before heading out. If your goal is to do some diving or serious snorkeling the recommendation is to book with a tour operator of which there are a number right at the pier and they usually include transportation. Taxi drivers also will offer a fixed price tour of the island and most people we have spoken with have been happy having taken this option. There are also numerous tours you can book with your ship.
The local currency is the Mexican peso ($1 about 2 pesos) but U.S. Dollars are commonly accepted. One word of caution – this is a port where liberating tourists from their money is a popular past time. Be cautious of ATM’s, money changers and especially pay phones that accept credit cards cannot be trusted. ATM fees can also be unuaually high.
Both at the cruise terminal and in the town there are a number of bargains to be found. Mexico is famous for silver, onyx and pottery and often the prices are too good to pass up. For the best savings pay attention and for:
- Mexican Handicrafts especially Talavera Pottery – Talavera is a Mexican tradition founded on the art of the Spanish colonial period rich with old world design and a colorful heritage. While the intricate polychrome and more typical blue and white designs show their Old World legacy, native floral and animal motifs claim these colorful ceramics as classically Mexican.
- Hand-loomed wool blankets
- Leather boots, purses and bags – Pay attention to the leather for its quality. Pay attention to the way that it smells. Faux leather smells similar to plastic. Low-quality leather is often thinner and will smell like the chemicals that were used to treat it. High-quality leather has a true leather, earthy smell.
- Handmade Hammocks
- Silver, gold, coral, onyx, and amber jewelry
- Quality Tequila and Vanilla Extract – In shopping for vanilla don’t be tempted by those large, cheap bottles of vanilla available in many gift shops. They may not contain real vanilla extract, and sometimes may contain something that could hurt you. That “something” is coumarin, an extract of the tonka bean that imparts an intense vanilla aroma and thus makes it smell like the real thing. Coumarin was banned as food additive in the U.S. in 1940 because of toxicity. Pay attention and make sure you know what you are getting.
- Fine Cigars and specialty liqueurs
The two items that are always a good deal are vanilla and tequila.
Beaches – One good recommendation is a visit to a beach and one popular choice is Chankanaab. The cruise ships will offer tours including beach trips and snorkeling but if you are looking for a day at the beach our recommendation is to take a taxi to Chankanaab Beach Park and pay the park admission. You’ll save a lot of money over the tour cost and can go and return when you want. It’s not far and there are usually taxis waiting at the park to take you back to the ship. There is a beach bar, a couple of food options, snorkeling and beach chair rentals and the water is great. To get out to the better reefs it’s a bit of a swim though.
Looking for some history? Cozumel has San Gervasio, Mayan ruins centered on the sanctuary of the goddess Ixchel, the island´s ancient deity.
For the more adventurous there are usually tours available that will take you two hours south along the coast to Tulum, the pre-Columbian Mayan walled city. The ruins are situated atop 12-meter tall cliffs above the Caribbean Sea. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya between the 13th and 15th centuries.
For a price many cruise ships also offer tours to Chichen Itza some two hundred miles inland (by plane of course). This Mayan city is on everyone’s list of the seven ancient wonders of the Americas with the central city covering almost two square miles of temples, stadiums, courtyards and palaces.
A Cautionary Note: Cozumel has a reputation as a party town and there are no age restrictions on drinking alcohol. It almost seems to be a sport for bars to work at getting teen visitors drunk. So pay real close attention to you children if you go ashore. The problem has been bad enough that many cruise ships no longer stay in the port in the evening because of issues with drunk teens.