Now, don’t y’all get all huffy on me when I describe a place we didn’t spend much time in, but I’m just trying to ‘splain for your edification. Our ship stopped at Cozumel, an island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatán Channel. The municipality is part of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The economy for Cozumel, like other stops on this cruise, is based on tourism. There are a number of visitors to the island's balnearios (seaside resort town), scuba diving, and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel.
The island is covered with mangrove forest which has many endemic animal species. Cozumel is a flat island based on limestone, resulting in a karst topography (Karst topography is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves). The highest natural point on the island is less than 49 feet above sea level. The cenotes are deep water filled sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone soil for thousands of years. Cozumel's cenotes are restricted to qualified cave divers with appropriate credentials.
We also learned another tidbit not taught in our schools that in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, to meet with the Mexican chargé d'affaires Matias Romero to explore the possibility of purchasing the island of Cozumel for the purpose of relocating freed American slaves offshore. The idea was summarily dismissed by Mexican President Benito Juarez, but in 1862 Lincoln did manage to establish a short-lived colony of ex-slaves on Île à Vache off the coast of Haiti.
Scuba diving is still one of Cozumel's primary attractions, mainly due to the coral reef on the western shore of Cozumel. These coral reefs are protected from the open ocean by the island's natural geography. In 1996, the government of Mexico also established the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, forbidding anyone from touching or removing any marine life within the park boundaries. Despite the importance of healthy reefs to Cozumel's tourist trade, a deepwater pier was built in the 1990s for cruise ships to dock, causing damage to the reefs, and it is now a regular stop on cruises in the Caribbean. Over the past few decades, coral reef health has significantly declined in Cozumel, with much lower coral cover now present than was historically recorded. I’m not a diver or snorkeler, but it seems to me that the government has shot themselves in the foot with this one. The one big draw this island has/had for tourists was for divers to visit a beautiful coral reef and the government, rightly so, put all kind of protections on the area but then they turn around and ruin the reef by building huge docks for the cruise ships. Typical of any government, I guess – The “squeaky wheel” syndrome.
Tourism, diving and charter fishing comprise the majority of the island’s economy. There are more than 300 restaurants on the island and many hotels, some of which run dive operations, have swimming pools, private docks, and multiple dining facilities.
Other water activities include parasailing, kite surfing, and a tourist submarine. There are also two dolphinariums. At the cruise ship docks there are several square blocks of stores selling Cuban cigars, jewelry, T-shirts, tequila, and a large variety of inexpensive souvenirs. San Miguel is home to many restaurants with a huge variety of different cuisines, along with several discothèques, bars, cinemas, and outdoor stages. The main plaza is surrounded by shops; in the middle of the plaza is a fixed stage where Cozumeleños and tourists celebrate every Sunday evening with music and dancing.
All food and manufactured supplies are shipped to the island. Water is provided by three different desalination facilities located on the island. That’s about all I plan to tell you about the island town of Cozumel, now for “da meat” of the story.
We took a very large Ferry for a 30 minute roller-coaster ride from the island of Cozumel to the “mainland” for the purpose of visiting and exploring the Tulum Ruins, another Mayan “got to see”. BTW – you don’t need to jump on a plane or take a boat ride to this location to see a Mayan ruin. The Mayans purportedly started in Guatemala hundreds of years ago and spread out all over the Caribbean where their ruins can be found at over 20,000 locations, or so we were told. Our destination was the Tulum Ruins, about a 30 minutes drive from our landing. Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city which served as a major port for Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The ruins are situated on 39 foot tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya; it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists.
The site might have been originally called Zama, meaning City of Dawn, because it faces the sunrise. Tulum stands on a bluff facing east toward the Caribbean Sea. Tulúm is also the Yucatán Mayan word for fence, wall or trench. The walls surrounding the site allowed the Tulum fort to be defended against invasions. Tulum had access to both land and sea trade routes, making it an important trade hub. From numerous depictions in murals and other works around the site, Tulum appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Diving or Descending god.
The first detailed description of the ruins was published by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1843 in the book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. As they arrived from the sea, Stephens and Catherwood first saw a tall building that impressed them greatly, most likely the great Castillo of the site. They made accurate maps of the site's walls, and Catherwood made sketches of the Castillo and several other buildings. Stephens and Catherwood also reported an early classic stele at the site, with an inscribed date of AD 564 (now in the British Museum's collection). This has been interpreted as meaning that the stele was likely built elsewhere and brought to Tulum to be reused.
Both coastal and land routes converged at Tulum. A number of artifacts found in or near the site show contacts with areas all over Central Mexico and Central America. Copper artifacts from the Mexican highlands have been found near the site, as have flint artifacts, ceramics, incense burners, and gold objects from all over the Yucatán. Salt and textiles were among some of the goods brought by traders to Tulum by sea that would be dispersed inland. Typical exported goods included feathers and copper objects that came from inland sources. These goods could be transported by sea to rivers such as the Río Motagua and the Río Usumacincta/Pasión system, which could be traveled inland, giving seafaring canoes access to both the highlands and the lowlands. The Río Motagua starts from the highlands of Guatemala and empties into the Caribbean. The Río Pasión/Ucamacincta river system also originates in the Guatemalan highlands and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It may have been one of these seafaring canoes that Christopher Columbus first encountered off the shores of the Bay Islands of Honduras.
The beach at Tulum is protected for nesting sea turtles. Tulum archaeological site is relatively compact compared with many other Maya sites in the vicinity, and is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites. Its proximity to the modern tourism developments along the Mexican Caribbean coastline and its short distance from Cancún and the surrounding "Riviera Maya" has made it a popular Maya tourist site in the Yucatán. The Tulum ruins are the third most-visited archaeological site in Mexico, after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza, receiving over 2.2 million visitors in 2017.
Our guide was a wealth of information, but we only had so much time to visit the ruins and I was anxious to actually see and touch them so I moved ahead of the group and missed much of what he was saying, but read up on what I missed. As it turned out, the group got the information, but I actually got to see, touch and take a lot photos. To each their own, yeah?
We returned to the coastal town for more sightseeing and, of course, shopping and barely made it back to the ship before it left us stranded (yeah, they do that). The ride back on the bumpy Ferry was no better than the ride over. I had to have a few drinks to settle my stomach before having dinner. Oh wait, I didn’t have dinner. That’s o.k., I can afford to miss a few meals.
This was also the last night for the big shows on the ship. Many of the crew representing just about every section of the ship from cabin steward to cook to maintenance all the way up to the Captain. Here is part one of the video we shot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54YbqJyo9ak. Here is part two https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5owkRiXtx54.
Next stop, Florida to wait for our next ship going to the Amazon River, Brazil. Thanks for being with us.