The cruise ship tourism industry on Cozumel Island (Mexico) is slowly recovering to pre-COVID levels, with 1.2 million cruise ship passengers arriving on 390 ocean liners in the first three months of 2023. This figure represents 88.4% of the 1.4 million cruise tourists who visited Cozumel during the same period in 2019 before the COVID crisis severely impacted the cruise industry.
Although cruise tourism resumed in mid-2021, the recovery has been gradual. Cozumel received just over 600,000 cruise ship passengers in the first quarter of 2022, which is less than half of the figure recorded in the same period in 2023.
Across Mexico, the country saw a total of 6.6 million cruisers in 2022, according to the Ports Directorate of the Infrastructure, Communications and Transport Ministry. This represents approximately 75% of the 8.9 million cruise ship passengers who visited Mexico in 2019. In 2022, over 60% of cruise tourists arrived at the Caribbean ports of Cozumel and the rapidly developing tourist village of Mahahual, with other popular destinations being the Pacific ports of Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta.
Despite being Mexico's main cruise destination, Cozumel has lagged behind Mahahual in recovering to pre-pandemic levels of cruise tourism. In 2022, Cozumel received 2.9 million cruise tourists, which represented around 64% of its record-breaking 2019 numbers, while Mahahual welcomed 1.2 million cruisers, representing a recovery of 75%. The actual number of cruise visitors to Cozumel in 2022 was also lower than the 3.5 million predicted by the Federal Tourism Secretariat (Sectur) in mid-2022.
In February 2022, a federal judge granted an injunction in favor of environmental activists in Cozumel, blocking the construction of a fourth cruise ship pier. Despite this setback, Cozumel is now looking to expand its cruise routes and recently welcomed the Viking Octantis, a small super-luxury cruise ship from Argentina for the first time this week.