Cozumel is bustling now with land based vacationers as well as cruisers. It is great the island is finally having a “high” season for tourism. Although I admit grumbling a bit as I tried negotiating my way along Melgar (the ocean front road) recently on my bike in all the traffic being held up by cruise ship passengers walking near Punta Langosta pier/mall downtown. Then I remembered that I had become one of “THEM” . . . one of thousands of “boat ants” who travel by cruise ship! April, a Friends of Cozumel volunteer, and I took a 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruise in early December. Although we were sensitive to being “boat ants” as we jokingly refer to cruise visitors, it was a great personal experience for me to recapture a cruiser’s perspective since I hadn’t cruised in years.
The cruise was a humbling reminder of what it feels like to disembark and not know exactly where to go or the process for getting around despite my pre-travel research. Creating your own island itinerary vs. participating in ship sponsored excursions requires a sense of adventure and personal flexibility to deal with whatever happens without the safety net of the cruise line’s “guarantee”. Those of us who live on Cozumel encourage visitors to go beyond Melgar to see and experience the wonderful people and the culture. Yet we don’t often get away to walk in the shoes as visiting tourists in other locations.
We’re used to being on the hosting/greeting end of the cruise experience . . . assisting visitors who offer to help the Cozumel community through bringing donations or volunteering their time. Cruise visitors are a HUGE support to Cozumel families and non-profit organizations. It is exciting to see the volunTOURism trend continuing to grow, especially among multi-generational families vacationing together and groups of all ages who are interested in serving the community.
Many cruisers are repeat visitors, like S.A.I.L., the women’s bible study cruise group that returns to Cozumel each January to continue their mission partnership with several organizations and ministries. Click here to see information inviting women who have a heart for helping others to participate in SAIL 2013.
One of the things I noticed about the six Eastern Caribbean island ports-of-call during our December cruise was the absence of any information about local community service organizations or projects like what we have on Cozumel (i.e. Humane Society, Red Cross, efforts helping children/families). April and I ventured off the beaten path to visit local retail businesses, grocery stores, and a public market where we appeared to be the only cruise tourists. Yet we didn’t see any posters, event announcements, promotional information, donation collection containers or hear mention of community service efforts.