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Cozumel to Get Crowded as Cruise Routes Redrawn in Irma’s Wake

After Hurricane Irma devastated popular Caribbean islands like the Bahamas, St. Thomas and Cuba, cruise lines will have to reassess their tours for the foreseeable future.

After Hurricane Irma devastated popular Caribbean islands like the Bahamas, St. Thomas and Cuba, cruise lines will have to reassess their tours for the foreseeable future.

As they seek new ports, Mexico is likely to jump up as an option. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings Inc.’s sailings through November will now only make stops in the western Caribbean, the company said in an emailed statement. Norwegian’s Escape ship, with 4,000 passengers who had been cruising the Caribbean before Irma hit, was diverted to Cozumel, Mexico, to avoid the storm.

“Sadly, it’s likely that some Mexican ports will benefit from the devastating effects of the hurricane on some Caribbean islands,” Jose Arturo Musi, president at the Mexican Association of Businesses Serving Cruise Passengers, said in an interview from his office in Baja California Sur, Mexico. “It could be that Cozumel, Mahahual or Progreso could see more arrivals.”

Tourism is the main economic activity for the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, where the ports are located. Quintana Roo contributed 1.7 percent to the national gross domestic product in 2015, while Yucatan provided 1.6 percent, according to the latest data available from statistics agency INEGI.

It may take some time for cruise companies to establish new routes, Musi says, although Miami is likely to remain the main home port of the region. “Few other ports have the capacity to supply fuel, food and immigration services needed. Maybe Puerto Rico or Panama, but not Cozumel,” he said. “Miami has the capacity to jump back up quickly.”

— With assistance by Christopher Palmeri

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