First-Hand Account from Costa Maya/Majahual
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After days of silence, Mexican officials and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association -- which represents 10 lines including Carnival, Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean -- are stepping up to the plate to assist in the relief effort for Majahual. The small, quirky fishing village, a short cab ride from the cruise port of Costa Maya and a popular day-trip for those calling at the port, was all but destroyed during Hurricane Dean's Category Five hit.
It's important to note that recovery of Puerto Costa Maya itself -- the pier and manmade tourist village -- will be funded by its owners and investors. Where help is needed is in neighboring Majahual, which wouldn't be on cruisers' maps if it weren't for Costa Maya. Since Costa Maya's inception in 2001, port owners and investors have collaborated with the local government to pave roads and bring electricity and phone services to Majahual. Cruise Critic has been hearing from local shop owners, who paint a picture of devastation; many houses and businesses are simply gone.
Cesar Lizarraga, marketing director for Puerto Costa Maya, tells us that a major component of the recovery and rehabilitation in Majahual is an allotment of 18 million Mexican pesos ($1.6 million) from the Federal Government (through SECTUR, Mexico's ministry of tourism) and the State Government (Majahual is part of the state of Quintana Roo, which also contains Cancun and Cozumel).
Majahual was already allotted 10 million pesos for a previously proposed improvement program; however, in light of the storm, the agencies have added 8 million pesos to the funding, all of which will be made available by the end of September.
At this point, further details about the project -- such as a timeline for completion -- are yet to be determined. However, we do know that 100 workers have already begun a beach and street cleanup project organized and paid for by FONATUR, Mexico's national trust fund for tourism development. Preliminary estimates indicate that the dock will be out of commission for the next six to eight months.
On the cruise industry's part, the FCCA is scheduled to meet with port officials today at NCL's headquarters in Miami to discuss and share data; what relief efforts will be organized remain to be seen.
Our thoughts are with those affected by Hurricane Dean. We'll keep you posted on the relief effort -- and how you can get involved -- as more information is received.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor