Mexico’s Cozumel port gets first cruise ship since pandemic

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican resort of Cozumel on Wednesday welcomed the first arrival of a cruise ship carrying passengers since the coronavirus pandemic essentially collapsed the industry.

Officials in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo welcomed Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas as it arrived from Nassau in The Bahamas at the arrival at the world’s busiest stopover for cruise ships.

The cruise line requires all passengers 16 and over to be fully vaccinated. Those that aren’t have to get COVID-19 tests.

Gov. Carlos Joaquín said about 5% of passengers aboard the ship — about 150 youths or those with chronic health conditions — haven’t been vaccinated and would be subject to special rules. State and federal health officials were on hand to oversee the arrival.

“The company proposed that the non-vaccinated group can only disembark on excursion packages with sanitary “bubble” protocols, not just to any place,” Joaquín said. “As you can see, these cruise ships have very strict conditions.”

The cruise line touted the trip as “a chance to venture into Maya history during a visit to Cozumel.”

Quintana Roo is home to resorts like Cancún, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. The state depends on tourism for 87% of its economic activity.

Alejandra Aguirre, the state health secretary, wrote of the cruise ship arrival, “We are working together for an orderly revival of economic activity.”

However, fate didn’t appear to be smiling on the return of the cruise ships; Wednesday’s weather started off fairly rainy, with significant amounts of sargasso seaweed at many of the state’s beaches.

Mexico has not instituted any testing requirement for incoming passengers, and anecdotal evidence suggests tourists are attracted to Mexico’s Caribbean resorts in part because there has been no lockdown and health precautions are largely voluntary. Many visitors shed their masks when they reach their hotels or beach clubs.

The state has seen a recent upsurge in COPVID-19 cases, in part linked to increased travel around Easter week, and partial reductions at businesses like hotels and restaurants have been implemented to stem the upsurge.

Mexico has never enforced a strict, European-style lockdown.