Caribbean Cruise Ports – Cozumel

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The island of Cozumel lies 12 miles off Playa del Carmen on the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsular, 30 miles south of Cancun. Cozumel is 30 miles long and 9 miles wide, and this relatively flat island has an interior covered by parched scrub, dense jungle and marshy lagoons. The western coast is wild and rugged and pounded by Atlantic rollers. It is edged by coral reefs but it has a beauty all of its own. The beaches are windswept with distinctive white sand which geologists discovered contained the fossils of diocoaster, an organism extinct for 70 million years. The water is warm but the surf is wild. In contrast, the beaches of the Caribbean-facing part of Cozumel are a paradise for snorkellers who can dive in the crystal clear water and explore the famous reefs with their colourful marine life. It is on the Caribbean coast that the main resort hotels have been built, due to its calmer waters.

According to Mayan myth, Cozumel was home to the gods. It has certainly attracted many other individuals including pirates and buccaneers including Jean Lafitte and Sir Henry Morgan. Just offshore lies the Palancar Reef, which is considered to be one of the most spectacular coral formations in the Caribbean. The name, Cozumel, comes from the Mayan phrase ‘cuzum huzil’ which means ‘land of the swallows. ’ For more than 4, 000 years Cozumel was inhabited by the Mayan Indians, who left behind many amazing archaeological sites. Colonised by the Spanish, who claimed the island for the Spanish crown, they brought the deadly smallpox virus with them which eventually wiped out the island’s native population. For nearly 3 centuries it lay almost uninhabited until the mid-1800’s, when Mayan refugees fled persecution by the Spaniards in other parts of Mexico. It was home to many American GIs during World War II but now it is a popular tourist area. Tourists come to snorkel and dive amongst the fantastic coral reefs which ring this island.

Although Cozumel has seen amazing development which has transformed the island in the past 10 years, it still has areas where abject poverty is highly visible. It has a population of just over 175, 000, but everything has to be imported as the land is fairly barren. Every stone, every block, every tile for building has to be brought from the mainland, and the enormous cost of this is reflected in the many half built homes that litter the island. It can take years for a house to be finished, and during this time the family must bide its time in the squalor and dirt which often surrounds these building sites.

The town itself has been highly developed in recent years and boasts a new and very modern shopping mall plus the inevitable numerous ubiquitous precious stone shops, such as ‘Diamonds International. ’ In recent years a brand new terminal has been built to the east of the town, and this has numerous souvenir and local craft shops as well as restaurants and bars. There is also a new terminal right in the centre of Cozumel town, which enables passengers to walk off the ship into the centre of the shopping area. In recent years tourism has become highly developed, and there is even a new championship golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. This amazing golf course utilises the natural features of Cozumel, including the mangrove thickets and natural wetlands.

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