Why Don't More Cruises Stop at Progreso (and other ports that should be hit more)

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#1
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Relatively rare poster here, and I'm not sure if this specific forum is the place for discussions like this, but it said ask a question, so here goes (along with perhaps starting a personal discussion about this).

I certainly understand why many cruises stop at Cozumel, and I'm not knocking the place, as though I personally took an excursion to Tulum when there, it seemed to have beautiful beaches, and was well catered towards tourists, and had a pretty interesting mix of experiences, overall.

With that said, why doesn't Progreso get more hype or have more lines choosing it as a port of call? Sure, the beach itself there isn't as pretty as Cozumel, and there may not be that much to see immediately around, but go south a little ways, and it's a TREASURE TROVE. Within a half hour, you run into Merida, perhaps one of the ten most European looking (at least from pictures I've seen), cities in all of the Americas. Highly praised for it's local specialties foodwise, and even creative stuff has gotten praise from an expert themselves (Rene Redzepi-would seem to be a pretty good source). Seems to have an active town social scene, pretty old streets and architecture, etc., crosses most boxes. Then, beyond there, you have what are possibly considered two of the five outstanding ruin sites in the whole of the Americas (Uxmal and Chichen Itza), as far as esteem is concerned, plus scores more that aren't well as well publicized, but outstanding. You have a pink lake biosphere with tons of flamingos and biodiverse/endemic species, you have other picturesque gorgeous little towns like Izamal, Campeche, etc. It would seem to me that a place that culturally significant, would deserve an overnight in port, similar to how a place like Saint Petersburg has that option.

But yet, as things go now, it's not especially common to find a route going that way. There are several Carnival lines that do, but they do so out of Mobile and Galveston (in Tampa, about a 7 hour drive which is a difficult sell when there's a cruise terminal right in my backyard), and they only stay there for 7-8 hours, which I suppose would give you enough time to SEE Chichen Itza, though not thoroughly, and certainly not to explore some of the other charming places in the region.

I'm not particularly opposed to doing a place like that on my own, as I just returned from a trip to Mexico City which I now believe is my favorite major city in the world (I don't think there is another city/50 mile radius on earth that offers so much diversity and quality from a natural and man-made standpoint, of things to see and do), we were there 5 days, had no problems, and Merida overall would be more manageable than that. It seems that direct flights to Merida are quite limited in nature, and that travel time as a result would be 9-10 hours (you could nearly jet boat across in that amount of time!), and fares are nearly double what they are to Mexico City. Cancun, on the other hand, does have some nonstops (albeit decently more than a good number of places that are further afield), plus there would then be the matter of getting across to Merida and other destinations from there (logistically difficult). So, while I want to go, I'm not quite sure when it will happen, unfortunately.

What are some other places that you feel, in the Caribbean, etc, that cruises should stop at more? In addition to Merida, I would add Cartagena and Panama City. None of those three particularly have a reputation for being unsafe (by Latin American, or even by American standards). Yet, cruises rarely stop there in spite of each offering a wealth of things to see and do beyond just the beach. So, what gives? (Caveat: I don't have a distaste for the beach, but it's just, another feather in the hat for me, and not really THE thing. Give me mountains/geologic features/a historical or modern city any day, and if there happens to be a beach too, that's cool as well to visit for an hour or so on either end. Noting that perhaps my tastes are different from most travelers, esp. those that cruise, esp. those that cruise in this region of the world).
#2
32 Posts
Joined Sep 2017
Just dropping in to say I support your post 4739384% and concur with your thoughts/logic. Cartagena and Panama City, please!


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#3
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Aww! Well I really appreciate that! Also interesting to see that you did a Western Caribbean cruise for your honeymoon (like my wife and I!) A little over 20 months apart : )

Thank you for taking the time to read, I know my posts/writing in general has a tendency to be somewhat long winded lol.

Another one that seems to hardly ever get stops, and should I think is Santo Domingo, DR. Granted, perhaps safety may be a factor there, I'm not certain how the situation on the ground is, but at same time, I can't think it is all that bad, especially in central areas. The place has an economy that seems to be booming (it has recently expanded a relatively decent sized metro line) of late. This is a picture of the Zona Colonia: https://www.google.com/search?biw=12...blVwGkBQWHtGM: I mean-this is a place that was founded in 1496, and has many of the oldest European structures within the new world (cathedral, etc.), and was a significant place of colonialism for the likes of Christopher Columbus (who is buried in the oldest church here) and for Sir Francis Drake, who began a conquest of the New Spanish Empire here. Regardless of whether they may have a checkered historical legacy, ethically speaking (though it needs to be noted that feeling is subjective)* this is still a super architecturally and historically important and fascinating place.

But yet, most lines only stop at Punta Cana or Amber Cove, which are at least 2 hours away, and thus difficult to do much of a visit from. I personally like variety, so a 5 Day Itinerary from Miami that was something like:

Miami-Sea Day-Santo Domingo-Grand Turk-Sea Day-Miami, I think would be super enjoyable.

I feel like most people feel to get the European aesthetic/historic charm/feel, they have to go across to Europe, and while I'm not saying that isn't a destination in it's own right, it isn't true, as a number of ports around this region offer that sort of feel/ambiance, and could sorely use additional tourist dollars, and general appreciation and prestige for the unique historic landmarks and charm that exist right in our own continent.

I think there is a real romance factor and charm to towns like this too. A young couple just starting out, or a solo college student, or really ANYONE, needs to know they can find these types of places (and FOOD!) right in our backyard. For the record, never been to any of the places I've mentioned so far. But they are on my list!
#4
11 Posts
Joined Mar 2018
We desperately tried to change ships to get a different route that didn't have Progresso. Our neighbors returned very unhappy and after looking at excursions and the beaches, I can see why. Unfortunately we seem to be stuck with our booking. Next cruise we will make sure it's not a port stop.
#5
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Interesting to see this different perspective. So, the beaches in Progreso may not be up to the standard of what you'd generally be looking for, but isn't there sometimes more to a destination than that?

Merida, as mentioned below, is a thoroughly impressive and unique historical city, with lower crime rates than any other significant city in Mexico (and most in the states). Here is a list of things that one can do within the city (of course, a few look like it would be necessary to be there in the evening, or longer to enjoy, but still

http://www.roamingaroundtheworld.com...merida-mexico/
-90 Minute Free Walking Tour
-At least 5 Free Museums just in the Immediate Downtown
-Something Happening in the Plaza Basically Every Day
-Amazing Food Scene (Both street and formal)

Merida is no more than 30 minutes from Progreso, so I am certain whether with the cruise or otherwise, there is an excursion willing to take you there.
https://www.google.com/search?biw=16....0.lLAbiBmUOYk

Then there is Chichen Itza, easy proximity to there, and considered one of the 10 Most Impressive Ancient sites on the planet (Howard Hillman has it rated ahead of such places as Petra and Cappadocia)
https://www.google.com/search?biw=16....0.lTHZyjiVL5A

I'm sure there are excursions going there as well as to Uxmal and numerous smaller sites, with cenotes which are super cool underground pools with mind blowingly clear water.

If you want a smaller town, there is Izamal, the Yellow City, and also a UNESCO site I believe:
https://www.google.com/search?biw=16....0.7qWW7yZpkW8

And the aforementioned pink lakes of Las Coloradas:
https://www.google.com/search?biw=16....0.z9b4WuJtIKI
(This place is further afield though and thus may be too much for a day trip.)

So, there is certainly an array of options here. If you are more of just a lounge at the beach or do those types of things at every port person, Progreso likely isn't for you, and there are different strokes for different folks so I can respect that. But otherwise, I would encourage you to check out the many different things this area has to offer!
#6
11 Posts
Joined Mar 2018
We will be there soon. 35days or so til that port stop. We looked at a lot of different activities but decided that the majority included long bus rides and very limited time at many places. I went to Chechen Itza back in 2004 and climbed the pryamid. Now that is off limits but definitely a must see place! At that time we were in spending time at El Dorado seaside suits (amazing, btw) so we had plenty of time. I always told the kids we would take them but not on a shore excursion, just not enough time. ��
We are trying to keep an open mind and a sunny disposition �� If nothing else we might try a massage, some shopping and then head back to the boat. All my kids want to know is "DO they have Mcd's?" �� So I see a short stop there for sure.
#8
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
I can definitely understand where you'd say Chichen Itza (or Uxmal and other places I mentioned, for that matter) is too long drive wise for one day. Hence, my reasoning for why there should be a cruise that is more catering to the "cultural cruisers", that perhaps does an overnight in Merida so that one can do Chichen Itza justice as you say, and also perhaps leaves time for checking out Merida (especially by night, seeing the live music, eating street food on the plaza, wandering the cobbled streets, and seeing/cheering on the traditional Aztec game (minus the brutality) live in the square, would be an EXPERIENCE! I would certainly eliminate a number of those destinations on my list then though. I'd focus my efforts perhaps on Merida then, out of all the ones I mentioned. It's only a 30 minute trip by bus or taxi.

In fact, here is a possibly outdated thread on how best to get there:
https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=781433

I think your whole family would probably (more than a bus excursion) enjoy just taking a trip down and wandering around down there for a few hours, it would really be a unique experience I'd think. The downtown from pictures, looks possibly analogous to Charleston, SC, but perhaps older, and more vibrant/distinctive for kids. In fact, as luck would have it, there even is a McD's, right next to the main square (Plaza Grande), pictured here (and of course, perhaps more other tasty food options for you guys!)
: )
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Mc...!4d-89.6235131


Edit: One more tip. Dzibilchaltun ruin site is only 20 minutes from the port, has a visitor center explaining things, a cenote for swimming, and is likely less crowded than other sights would be. I'm sure even local taxis would take you up there relatively inexpensively.

I do plan to go there at some point, as the town, coupled with amazing surrounding attractions seems like a great trip. That said, I absolutely fell in love with Mexico City when I was there a couple weeks ago (much more compelling than even Paris IMO), and so that, along with a few others that I haven't yet visited (Cusco, Havana, Iquitos, Bogota, Guanajuato are highest on my "list" in LatAm) though somehow, I get the sense that my ability to hit places/budget might change once kids are factored for sometime in the next few years lol.

I like the idea of more cruises hitting Progreso/Yucatan region, and doing so as an overnight, but a number do overnight in Cozumel, correct? I suppose I could still do all that I wanted from there, it would just be a significantly longer drive (I did enjoy Tulum, but I've heard that further inland places are less busy and more impressive.)
#9
FLAGLER, CO
6 Posts
Joined Mar 2018
Hello!
My cruise in March stopped in Progreso and I wondered the same thing; Why are we the only ship in port while yesterday in Cozumel we were ship number 7 in port? We asked our tour guide, and he told us that Progreso is relatively new to tourism and they don't have the funding for more docks right now. And actually the United States helped them build their 3 mile long pier to get their tourism kick-started.

Now, I personally LOVED Progreso because I thought it was genuine. Cozumel made me feel safer but you could tell it was geared toward tourism and they were used to having half a dozen ships in port nearly every day. Progreso was REAL Mexico. It was dirty, crowded and hot. The vendors were more aggressive in trying to sell their items but I enjoyed haggling over prices with them. A man looking for tips walked up to my 8 year old son and handed him his 12 pound iguana. Just out of the blue. It was awesome. I felt like I could really see and enjoy their culture without it being watered down. My husband was terrified of Progreso lol but I would go back.
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#10
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Interesting to hear! So it's more of a limited infrastructure question than perhaps cruises not wanting to stop there more. I was curious about that, so I am appreciative for hearing that. Obviously, I don't know if Mexico (esp. this region) economy is in a position to do that, but I would think business people in Merida (capital of Yucatan state, just south as mentioned) would perhaps be more proactive about getting a ship port down there. I think a lot of people, upon seeing how many outstanding ruins, a beautiful historic and authentic center, natural reserves, and other small quaint towns, would quite love visiting as an alternative (or in combination with) the more touristy Cozumel/Cancun area. But I think the problem in hand now would be lack of awareness due to lack of resources to get there, BECAUSE of limited tourist infrastructure to begin with. Thanks for clarifying, and I am glad to hear you enjoyed it!
#11
47 Posts
Joined Apr 2017
Since I live in Houston, I have ready access to Progreso out of Galveston. I've been once and did a bbq beach party, which was really a poor choice. My fault for not planning ahead, but I was with my 73 yr old mother and her options were limited. She had been to Chichen Itza before, so we went to Tulum on the first stop and she needed a relaxing day in Progreso. She had vacationed in Merida before also.

I can tell you that many people on the ship were afraid of Progreso and a large number never got off the ship there. I don't think there is a huge demand for Progreso, although I agree with you and look forward to going back. I still want to hit Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Merida so I need at least 3 more short Progreso cruises!

I would also add to the list Costa Maya and Guatemala. There are very few cruises that dock in Guatemala, but I absolutely LOVED that stop. I was looking to go back and can't find anything there. I prefer more authentic travel experiences than what you get in Cozumel, personally.
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Carnival Freedom Oct 2018 (Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao, Colombia, Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Cozumel)
Norwegian Pearl Dec 2017 (Costa Maya, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Santo Tomas, Belize, Cozumel)
Carnival Freedom Apr 2017 (Key West, Nassau, Freeport)
Carnival Liberty Oct 2016 (Cozumel & Progreso)
Carnival Magic Sept 2014 (Roatan, Belize, Cozumel)
#12
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Thank you for responding!

So, I have to agree with you on your point, re: there not being much of a demand for Progreso, because A) I don't think many people fully know the offerings of the area, B) I think those that do, in many cases seek to visit Merida, archaeological sites in area, etc. independent of a cruise ship and C) I think cruisers like you and I and a few others seeking experiences like this, are in the minority, esp. on the Caribbean routes, where many just want to have a drink in hand, be on the beach, etc. (nothing wrong with that either, I might add!)

Why do you think tourists primarily feel uncomfortable in Progreso, compared to other ports? Is it simply American sensibilities and what has been heard in the media, and thus angst about visiting somewhere that isn't obviously directed at tourists? Or is the port itself actually a bit more rough around the edges? I guess part of the reason I am seeking guidance also, is because of the limited time offered in Progreso on these routes, I am considering booking an independent trip to the area (not so much Progreso, though). Did your mother, when she visited, travel independently? My plan was to stay in an AirBNB sorta like this: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1416824...ico&s=oLhcZinA (yep, places like THIS are UNDER 100 a night), and spend roughly 4-5 days in the area, maybe taking a couple day trips while there to Chichen/Izamal/an ecological reserve. That said, I see you are planning on taking cruises there to see those sights.. Is that due to a general preference for cruising? (On a number of existing Caribbean routes, the cruising in general is the biggest draw, so I understand that), or is there something about the area that would give you pause in booking a more extended trip on land? You have more insight than I do, so I am curious. From what I understood, Merida was one of the wealthier cities of Mexico, and from a crime standpoint, I believe among major US cities the only ones with around as low or lower a rate currently are Portland, Seattle and Manhattan (Merida is below the US national avg.).

I was in Guatemala, maybe a little over 10 years ago (in mid to early high school, so I wasn't quite as cultured up then as now, but still curious enough). I don't remember our landing port, but I believe what we did that day was take a bus several hours inland (significant portion of day), to Lake Atitlan? From there, we were on a boat ride (which was pretty, but I believe the surrounding volcanoes were shrouded in fog, and on the other end, we went to a little village, and spent some time at a resort there. What I can tell you is that village had perhaps the most desperate poverty I have ever witnessed, by a significant margin (infrastructure, etc.), and the most aggressive peddlers/people trying to sell things I have ever seen. While I appreciated gaining the authentic experience, it was disheartening to see things in such tough shape there, and I believe our bus even had an armored patrol with it. I don't say that to knock Guatemala, as LatAm in general can be a significantly mixed bag. I would totally be down to return at some point to maybe see Tikal, explore nature, the stunning town of Antigua, and even some of the capital, which I believe is a mega city now at the regional level. That said, I don't believe very few if any ships stop there now.

Quite enjoyed Costa Maya, though. Had an incredibly laid back vibe. Maybe not a historic place, but pretty hard to beat a beach all to ourselves under a shaded tent, a significant number of tacos, other snacks, and drinks, and free kayak and bike rental for under 25$ for both of us!

Mexico City, while obviously it wasn't universally so (decent number of rough around the edges parts, and the outer end of town to the north has hillsides filled with housing that calls Rio's favelas to mind, mostly lower income people from smaller areas around country hoping for immediate opportunity), but I felt an UNBELIEVABLE sense of affluence and sophistication in the five square mile radius of Centro where we spent most of our time. And not just in a few areas. You could certainly believe the place had an economy that was roughly the same size as Hong Kong or Houston in real dollars, higher if measured in PPP terms. It would be hard to describe the atmosphere there, at least compared to any other LatAm city in North America that I've seen. It felt safer and more bustling than most major cities I've been in, and maybe it's just the way they wanted it to be seen, but it seemed like the economy was booming and there was a burgeoning middle class at a growth rate I'm not sure any US city could match right now. It really made me eager to see more of the rest of the country, truly.
#13
11 Posts
Joined Mar 2018
I was so nervous about Progreso but after taking the advice of the posters on this thread, we kept an open mind.... and we fell in LOVE with PROGRESO 😍😍😍 The vendors were so kind and not nearly as buggy as the vendors in Cozumel. We actually disliked Cozumel. The vendors were rude and would sell you an item and demand a tip! Smh. It was a big tourist trap and I got offered drugs in front of my family. I said absolutely no thanks, and the man kept yellin "kush, buy my kush" and was very annoying. I had to curse at him to get him to shut up.

Progreso we got off the free shuttle and took the Autoprogreso open air bus tour for $9 pp. It was fantastic!! Our guide was Vincente and he was very kind and informative. We got a wonderful tour with many laughs (and a few tears- Vincente showed us the monument dedicated to fisherman lost at sea. He lost his father at sea. He said they waited for him to come home and he never did. 10 years ago we suffered the same fate with my husband's father, he went fishing and drowned in the night. His body wasn't recovered for days and we searched ... until his body was found. I cried, my husband cried. We understand pain of that kind of loss. And we were deeply moved).

After the Autoprogreso tour, we walked around the town and EVERYONE was very kind to us. I saw past the less than beautiful homes and streets, and fell in love with the people and the town. It is a real authentic place. We went to the free beach and the water was beautiful!! We got wonderful massages on the beach for $10 for 40min. I told the ladies that we would pay $10 for 20mins and they were very happy. We had two kids in tow and I didn't want to leave them unattended for long. The ladies said "bring your bebes up here under palapa next to massage tables" there were two older locals who were talking with the kids and seemed to be very amused by the kids chatter.

After our massages we had to head back toward the shuttle and go back to the ship. My family was sad to be leaving. We will be looking at flights and resorts in or close to Progreso. We want to spend our money there. We want spend time there.

I want to thank you all on this thread that helped me keep an open mind about this place!

Can't wait to see Progreso again!!😍
#14
29 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
So glad to hear that you enjoyed your visit! Thank you for the report regarding the town of Progreso itself, truly sounds like a genuine place, and so sorry for your loss but thank you for being so transparent in sharing that. Sounds like the town itself is even worth longer than simply heading up to the beach in the evening to hang out/have dinner/stroll.

Another point of interest near here (showing how much of a nerd I am), is the Chicxulub Crater. It was the asteroid which most believe caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (one of the most significant events in the biologic and geologic history of the earth, of course). It actually is out in the water near the coast of Progreso, and perhaps there would be some interesting diving near the site itself though I'm sure 65 million years of water pressure has certainly had it's impact on the site to make it less than visible. There is an exhibit on it on display at the also outstanding I'm sure Museum of the Mayan World like 20 minutes from Progreso port.

In any sense, thank you for sharing your experiences in what sounds like a very authentic and atmospheric town. Just one more reason to visit this area. Personally, I've decided that I somehow need to get to this portion of the Yucatan sans cruise, because I'd probably need at least 4 days to see it well (one day for Progreso/coast, at least one fully day and esp. evening where it gets most vibrant, around Merida, at least one day for ruins, and perhaps another day beyond that for the charming smaller towns and biosphere reserves/caves/cenotes in the area. You can actually stay in restored 17th/18th century mansions in Merida for around 100$ from AirBNB and live like royalty for a few days I'm sure (Merida was a major boomtown and one of the richest cities per capita in the world during some portions of previous centuries.). I'm all about it. You can even watch a recreation of the old Mayan ball game out in the center square in the evenings, sans human sacrifices of course : ) I plan to hit the area as well!