Tampa to Cancun Area Ferry Service Coming in October 2014?

November 17, 2013

A few different Mexico and US newspapers are reporting this week that a Tampa, FL to the Cancun area ferry service is slated to be operational in the second half of 2012 early summer 2014 October 2014 (updated 3/6/14). According to Bruce Nierenberg, the CEO of United Caribbean Lines, the ferry service would be similar to services between ports in the Mediterranean, and would carry approximately 1,000 to 2,000 passengers and 500 vehicles.

Nierenberg expects to run two round trips weekly to Tampa, with a cost of $350 $195 (updated 6/30/14) for a round trip crossing in a cabin with meals included.

The idea of a US-to-Mexico ferry service is not new. In 2003, a ferry service affectionately called the “Yucatan Express” ran for one winter season, eventually closing down due to lack of passengers. Business picked up significantly towards the end of the season, but the owners still chose to close down the operation, having invested and lost $5 million USD in the venture.

Will it happen again? Who knows. Significant barriers stand in the way. For one, Tampa’s port director, Richard Wainio, has said  that the service would require the Tampa port to construct ramps for cars and additional fenced areas for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to check vehicles and cargo. That total cost to the port could be $1 million USD.

On the other hand, would it be great to have such a service? Absolutely. As Cozumel island dwellers, having the ability to get off the island and to take our US-plated car to the US, whether for tourist or business reasons, via a 36-hr  27-hr 30-hr (updated 6/30/14) ferry would be fantastic.

As vacation rental managers, we have also noticed a significant increase in 2011 in the number of Americans and Canadians coming to the island for 3-6 month periods. 25% of these temporary dwellers travel over land by car. Would they appreciate having the option of skipping that 3-4 day trip through Mexico and arriving in the Cancun area directly? We’re sure many of them would, and that having that option would attract even more temporary visitors to Cozumel, and the surrounding areas.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed!

Update 1/14/13:

Earlier today, we spoke with Bruce Nierenberg, CEO of United Caribbean Lines. Here’s what he said about the progress of the ferry:

“Project still very much alive. We had hoped to be announcing our start date in specific by now but we have had a few delays. We are still shooting for the last months of 2013 to have the first voyage…”

Bruce went on to say:

“The ex-pats will be our best customers and we intend to make them feel very much at home with the best prices and favorable arrangements to make it an enjoyable and affordable experience.

We will have multiple trip discounts and specials on transporting cars and RV’s as well as specials for family members who are coming to visit ex pats at their Yucatan homes.

We know who our most important customers will be…the ex-pats.”

At least the project is still alive, despite the delayed start date!

Update 3/11/13: 

Earlier today, we received an email from Bruce Nierenberg, CEO of United Caribbean Lines. Here’s what he said about the progress of the ferry:
“Its taken much longer than I had hoped it would as a result of many thing International that are out of my control. But I feel we are getting to the finish line and will be establishing the start date soon.

I know you all plan as far in advance as possible so while I won’t have the start date for awhile let me give you and your friends down there some info as to what they should be planning.

1. The ferry will not start until 2014.
2. It is being targeted for a winter start hopefully by February.

If you all are planning to travel I would not delay any other travel arrangements in any way before these dates… We also will have some special rates and deals for all of you that have been so patient.

You and your friends who live in the Yucatan and Q.R. will be our most important customers and be assured we will treat you all as special guests everyone you sail with us. We will have special rates for all of you that go frequently that will significantly reduce the cost of travel and of course make it safer as well. I know you will all miss going to the airport to be abused!!

Thanks again for being so helpful and patient. Feel free to share this info with you associates in the Yucatan and Q.R.

Update 11/17/13:

Earlier today, we received another update from Bruce Nierenberg, CEO of United Caribbean Lines. Here’s what he said about the progress of the ferry:

We are still chugging ahead on the task of getting this new service up and running. We are still targeting the summer of 2014 October 2014 (updated 3/6/14) for a start date. I am in the middle of the acquisition of ships for our various cruise/ferry services and one of them will be used in the service from Tampa Florida to the Yucatan.

We still plan for the ship to hold a minimum of 1000 passengers and probably closer to 2000. It will carry cars, RV’s, containers and even passenger cargo bins that the seasonal residents of the Yucatan coming from North America can use at a very low lost to bring their larger personal items that will not fit into their personal vehicles. Bedding, furniture, electronics etc. All will be a lot easier now to bring.

So with a little more patience I hope to have some very positive results and announcements to make to all our loyal followers for this new service.

Update 6/30/14:

This morning, we received a ferry update from Bruce Nierenberg, CEO of United Caribbean Lines, the company that is looking to start the Florida to Yucatán route.

“First let me apologize to all of you who have been so patient in waiting for the new ferry service to begin. My partners and I have continued to work towards finalizing the plans for starting the service and have actually come very close to providing a start date. We are still in that stage. I do not have an exact starting date.

I can tell you that from a practical point of view any of you considering holding off in your travel plans this fall in expectation of the ferry starting should make alternative plans.

The earliest the ferry can start will be in the winter of 2015 after the holidays. More likely the start will be in March, April [2016]. We are all meeting next week to determine a more accurate starting date for your use.

Additional facts:

We are still planning to have a combination passenger and car/cargo vessel to use. You will be able to bring your cars and pets. There will be additional accommodations for personal cargo. The voyage will be 30 hours one way. The price will average about $350 round trip including cabin and meals. We will have entertainment and casino operations on the ship.”

If you wish to be added to our VIP information list so that you’ll be the first to know about the ferry when plans are finalized, please leave a comment below.

{ 711 comments… read them below or add one }

julie lacourse July 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

please let me know !!! that would be amazing !!!

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Hans July 8, 2014 at 12:42 am

I really like the idea to have a ferry from Florida to the Cancun area
please let me know when it becomes a reality

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Candace Elliott July 8, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I am really interested! Please let us know !

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Maria July 8, 2014 at 6:15 pm

This is the e-mail they sent to the people asking for information:

An Update from Bruce Nierenberg
This morning, we received a ferry update from Bruce Nierenberg, CEO of United Caribbean Lines, the company that is looking to start the Florida to Yucatán route.

“First let me apologize to all of you who have been so patient in waiting for the new ferry service to begin. My partners and I have continued to work towards finalizing the plans for starting the service and have actually come very close to providing a start date. We are still in that stage. I do not have an exact starting date.

I can tell you that from a practical point of view any of you considering holding off in your travel plans this fall in expectation of the ferry starting should make alternative plans.

The earliest the ferry can start will be in the winter of 2015 after the holidays. More likely the start will be in March, April [2016]. We are all meeting next week to determine a more accurate starting date for your use.

Additional facts:

We are still planning to have a combination passenger and car/cargo vessel to use. You will be able to bring your cars and pets. There will be additional accommodations for personal cargo. The voyage will be 30 hours one way. The price will average about $350 round trip including cabin and meals. We will have entertainment and casino operations on the ship.”

As soon as the ferry is in service, you’ll be the first to know where to buy your tickets.

Thanks for being patient and your continued interest,

Pawel

So, nothing new, I also think it won’t happen ever.

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pablo July 11, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Is the same email my uncle receive yesterday and he gets very sat about it.

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DT July 10, 2014 at 12:13 am

I would like to engage with you as a potential parter in this venture, especially to implement the beginning date of operation to be earlier than projected.
Please reply to engage with me in a serious dialog on this matter.

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Coco July 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

I’m most interesting in any updates regarding the Tampa Progreso Ferry and look forward to its success.

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Steve & Robin July 11, 2014 at 7:28 am

Great idea for our south Florida based vintage British car club to take advantage of

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John Cornelius July 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Please keep me informed. Thanks!

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Tony Martin July 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Please add me to the list of people to be informed of this service.

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Laura Larios July 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Yes.. please ! my husband and I are heading to Cozumel just about that time frame ! This is a long time coming… we are so excited.

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Roberto Larios July 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Keeping our fingers crossed on this one… yes! please notify us.. this time frame is so perfect, as we are planning to head to Cozumel. Thank-you !!

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Cynthia Trevino July 15, 2014 at 9:31 am

I would appreciate any available updates. Thank you!

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Linda Ferich July 15, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Please add my name also. Thanks !

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karl jansen July 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Please do y dont like flying.

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Vicki Walker July 18, 2014 at 10:48 am

Sounds exciting! Please add me to your list!

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Flavia Movsessian July 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm

This sounds amazing!! Can’t wait

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Shelby July 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Let me know
the details please.

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kirk July 20, 2014 at 9:43 am

Me interesa saber cuando estara en operaciones, ya que espero ser un cliente frecuente.

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MARLENE E. COLNA July 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm

HOORAY A BETTER TO GO TO CANCUN. PLEASE KEEP ME INFORMED OF ANY UP DATES..

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T. Goode July 20, 2014 at 10:48 pm

I would like to stay informed. Thanks

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Anny July 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

This would be a dream come true. I hate flying, but I love Mexico.
Every year I wish I could vacation in Mexico; however the flying/airplane part is the only reason why I don’t visit as often as I would like.
Having a ferry to/from Tampa would make me a very frequent passenger. Please keep us posted. I’m extremely excited.

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