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Mexico’s new Gulf route takes shape

Ally

Deckhand
A new Gulf of Mexico itinerary is being proposed as an alternative to the well-trafficked Western Caribbean routes. It includes four Mexican destinations with diverse attractions and can operate in seven days round-trip from five U.S. homeports.

Itinerary planning veteran Herman van Deursen, a consultant to the Port of Tampico, has charted the course from Galveston, Houston, Corpus Christi, New Orleans and Mobile. Bookended by sea days, it visits Tampico on Day 2, Veracruz on Day 3, Dos Bocas on Day 4 and Progreso on Day 5.

‘This route covers all different cultures … It is a brand-new idea and worthwhile for cruise lines to look into,’ van Deursen told Seatrade Insider.

Tampico is known for the Huasteca culture, including the birdmen who fly from a tall mast. A short walk from the downtown pier, a protected historic quarter boasts nearly 200 buildings with architecture resembling New Orlean’s French Quarter. Other attractions are artisans and Miramar Beach.

The downtown pier has length and air draft restrictions, but nearby Puerto Altamira can accommodate big ships and free passenger shuttles are provided to Tampico. A third option, La Barra pier, near Miramar Beach, is set to undergo expansion.

Van Deursen calls Veracruz ‘the most Spanish of Mexican cities.’ A pedestrians-only plaza with sidewalk artisans is a highlight, along with Mocambo Beach and a rich local music scene. Jorge Gonzalez, port director of Veracruz, is a long-time cruise proponent having developed several Pacific Coast destinations.

New to tourism, Dos Bocas is the gateway to Villahermosa and the state of Tabasco, called ‘the garden of Mexico.’ Highlights include a museum devoted to the Olmec culture, cacao plantations, river adventure tours and the archaeological site of Comalcalco, known for its fired clay-brick buildings.

‘The port is making a lot of investments, mostly in dredging and services for tourists like bathrooms,’ said Roberto De La Garza Licón, director general of the Dos Bocas port authority. ‘All the people of Tabasco are excited about our first cruise call in 2009. People mostly work in the oil industry. We want to diversify.’

Progreso, already an important cruise port, is the gateway to beautiful beaches, major archaeological sites and the colonial city of Merida. Van Deursen told Seatrade Insider there are plans to upgrade the pier area.

Holland America’s Zuiderdam is scheduled to visit Veracruz and Dos Bocas in April 2009. The World of ResidenSea, which called at Tampico and Veracruz in 2006, is returning in February 2009 for longer stays at both ports (two days in Tampico and 3.5 in Veracruz), along with an overnight in Dos Bocas and three days in Progreso.

‘These are very different from other Mexican ports we’ve visited,’ said Emilio Freeman, svp operations for ResidenSea. ‘We want to go to places that are authentic. This is the real Mexico.’
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