Editor's note: The schedule we received earlier this month from Costa Maya's Miami-based public relations firm, which indicated the early return of several cruise ships this fall, contained inaccuracies. Costa Maya has since provided us with an updated schedule of arrivals -- click here for the latest confirmed information.
Mexico's Costa Maya, the Yucatan cruise port shuttered since being decimated by Hurricane Dean in August 2007, will be reopened by magic -- Disney Magic.
The 2,400-passenger Disney Cruise Line vessel will make the first post-hurricane call in Costa Maya on September 30, when the port of call is expected to be up and running, according to a Costa Maya spokesperson. Disney Magic will then return to Costa Maya once a month for the rest of the year.
In October, Holland America will become the second cruise line to return when HAL's Westerdam joins Disney Magic in Costa Maya, calling on the Western Caribbean port on October 31. Other major cruise lines committed to returning include Princess, Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas, P&O Cruises, Windstar, MSC Cruises and Ocean Village.
As the Caribbean high season approaches, calls at the port are scheduled to rise to 15 in November and 29 in December, with 17 ships set to make a combined 46 calls in the final four months of 2008. A preliminary schedule has 18 ships accounting for 144 total calls in 2009, and 11 ships have already committed to making 105 stops at Costa Maya in 2010.
Other highlights from the 2008 schedule include weekly November calls by HAL's Veendam and weekly December calls by Norwegian Spirit. Regent's Seven Seas Voyager is the first luxury vessel scheduled to return to Costa Maya, with a single call set for December 6.
Other ships scheduled to visit in 2008 are: RCI's Voyager of the Seas and Independence of the Seas; Carnival's Legend, Glory, Freedom and Valor; HAL's Statendam; P&O's Artemis and Oceana; and Regent's Seven Seas Navigator.
Costa Maya was gaining momentum as a cruise destination when Hurricane Dean hit on August 21, destroying much of its infrastructure, including the cruise ship docks. But the port is poised to come back better than ever, announcing earlier this year that it will be ready to receive ships in July -- three months ahead of original estimates.
The docks have been rebuilt to accommodate the next generation of new-builds, including NCL's F3 class (150,000 tons) and Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas (220,000 tons), a new boardwalk has been built along the beach at neighboring Majahual, and a new zip-line excursion has been created.
Here's more news out of Costa Maya:
New details have emerged about the newly-created BioMaya shore excursion. The experience starts with a ceremonial Mayan purification ritual before you're driven deep into the jungle for a three-pronged adventure. The real fun starts as you head off on a zip-line tour, surrounded by red parrots that are bred on-site, then float off for a tube ride on the Bacalar lagoon and finish up with an educational session that focuses on indigenous trees, flowers and wildlife.
A tourism spokesperson reports that the first phase of the new boardwalk being constructed in the nearby village of Majahual is now 90 percent complete. The project will be constructed in three phases.
There is now a newer, larger lighthouse between Costa Maya and Majahual, creating another scenic landmark along the shoreline.
That's the latest. We'll continue to monitor Costa Maya's progress to bring you updates on the port's ongoing reconstruction.
--by Michael Potter, Assistant Editor