With the start of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season less than a month away, we want to know: Has Cozumel recovered from Wilma's wallop in October 2005?
Yes, but not fully -- and we're hearing differing opinions on the extent of damage that still exists. A spokesperson for Cozumel's Paradise Beach tells us that while damage to some waterfront buildings and the piers is still evident, we'd otherwise be "hard-pushed to believe that a hurricane had passed." However, Cruise Critic's Senior Contributor Steve Faber, who just returned from a trip to the island, shares a slightly more somber story: "The damage to all the piers in Cozumel is horrendous. The shoreline looks like a jumble of fully renovated or totally undamaged structures, punctuated by completely gutted high-rises and older, smaller buildings reduced to rubble."
One thing is for sure: It's still business as usual. Almost all of the beach clubs are open, and many are wooing cruisers with deals: Paradise Beach offers cruisers free entrance -- including lounge chairs and umbrellas -- but also sells "fun passes" for $8 each, which entitle the user to unlimited use of beach toys (such as climbing icebergs, trampolines, kayaks and floating sun mats). And most downtown restaurants and business are operating -- many since late November.
"The shopaholic will have no problem finding as much silver as they want," Faber assures us, "and, in the thinning crowds, it's a buyer's market: The merchants are in a great mood to bargain."
We've included more commentary below from both our spokesperson on the island and Senior Correspondent Faber, but want to hear your opinion! Tell us what you think about the clean-up and recovery in Cozumel.
Notes from the Island....
"If you drive around the island, trees and plants are still recovering," Paradise Beach's spokesman tells us, "although it's looking pretty green again. All the main roads have been fully repaired and only part of the old coast road is still in need of repair. The island is 100 percent passable by car. The areas where you will still notice damage are when you arrive to the island by tender."
Notes from our Correspondent....
"For me, the most striking thing is what has happened to the natural assets of the island's edge," reports Faber. "To the casual observer, or first-time visitor, nothing may seem amiss -- a dense thicket of trees crowds the beach. But those who know better or look closer will note that one thing is lacking: leaves. Half the trees are uprooted, left standing only by the support afforded by the close proximity of neighboring trunks, but standing or felled, they are all dead. Gone is the sense of lush tropical rainforest pressing up against the beach."
Notes from the Boards....
Some posters have mentioned that rocks in the water, no doubt brought to the shore line during the hurricane, can make for an unpleasant swim, but for the most part, reaction to Cozumel port calls is positive:
"You can tell they are recovering from the hurricane. Lots of construction going on." -babylet'scruise
"[I] was there the first week of April. Around the docks you can see obvious damage but major reconstruction ... went to Playa Mia and had a wonderful time!" -CrooznFool
Member CozSally, who lives in Cozumel, writes that the International pier -- one of three in Cozumel, all of which sustained damage during Wilma -- is now docking one ship per day, and that Punta Langosta is slated to have one ship per day docked there starting in July.
Editor's note: A Carnival spokesman has confirmed that one pier is indeed open for business, but no details are available on the status of the line's Puerto Maya pier; at press time, a Cozumel tourism representative was unable to provide a date for the re-opening of Punta Langosta.
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Update on Cozumel: Six Months After the Storm
May 5, 2006