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.

{ 763 comments… read them below or add one }

LUIS August 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm

i being to yucatan express before is going to be great good luck luis and maggie

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Jewell August 16, 2014 at 4:19 am

Hopefully the ferry will come about. Many people are still hoping. Many people wishing to move or visit Central American no longer wish to travel thru Mexico so there will be a lot of business there.

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Ron Allanach August 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

Hi Bruce,

I called you this morning from Vancouver, BC.. Sorry to have personally disturbed you – thought I would get a office.

Anyhow, very excited about the possibility of ferry service between Fla and Progresso. There are more and more
people interested in the area, but detest the airline connections.

I know many who are from Vancouver BC which surprised me. Many own homes in
Merida or are thinking of doing so.

I suggest at some point you contact the Vancouver Sun and the Province newspapers so they are aware. I happened
upon your project in the Yucatan Living site. I had not heard about the plan, however, before doing so. I had often
asked, why would there not be a ferry?

I will certainly take the ferry.

The boats look similar to those used by BC Ferries. We all love them!

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Denyse August 17, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Hi,
I want to plane my trip to Mexico for the beginning of January 2015, and I would love to go by ferry. We have a condo in Fort Lauderdale so to leave from Florida by ferry would be something that could interess us for many years.
Please keep me up to date I need your info to make a reservation.
Thanks Denyse

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Kathy August 17, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Please add my address for updates.

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Victor Pereda August 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I am very interested in this fairy I traveled from Mexico City to Lakeland Florida at least twice a year, I do not like to fly, so please give me as much information as you can
Thanks

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Sandy August 19, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Please send information as soon as you have an actual start date. Can’t wait to use this service!

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Margaret August 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Would be interested in using this ferry. Please send updated details as soon as possible.

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Janet Kroeker August 22, 2014 at 10:46 am

Will there ever be a ferry to Belize?

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Barbara Berrie August 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Am driving to Merida with my husband and two dogs just after Christmas 2014, would absolutely love to take the ferry back rather than drive back to Canada. Please put me on your list to inform as soon as you have a start date for this service. If this was available I would rent in Mexico every year and use the ferry both ways. Thanks

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Robert L. August 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

This project is very interesting. I would surely used it.

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Roberta Larson August 23, 2014 at 12:13 am

I’m very interested in the Ferry. I would travel to Cozumel more often.

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Natalie Fritsch August 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I would like to be added to the list for updates :)

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Dawn August 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I can not wait for this ferry. We have a home in Tampa . We also have 7 kids so this is a much cheaper alternative to flying. I pray this red tape gets cut soon.

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Dawn August 24, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Please add me to list so I can book the first ferry trip. :)

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tom August 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm

We have a house in Playa and haven’t used it because we can’t get our dog down. This would allow us to go every year.

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Karen August 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I am interested as well

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Michael R. August 28, 2014 at 7:00 am

I’m very interested in this ferry. Would like to take my RV to Mexico and i do not want to pull it all the way there. It is a great plan i hope it actually happens.

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Aneeta & Matt August 28, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Have been following the news about the ferry with great anticipation as we have a vacation home in Puerto Morelos. We have had to drive through Mexico twice: once with our SUV & trailer then 2 months later with an RV to transport our 2 dogs (totaling 300 lbs). The ferry would give us the ability to go back & forth easily, especially with pets. Please get the ferry going and help us avoid more scary drives!!!

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Kenneth Fung August 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

How much does it cost for a 22 passenger school bus?

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Dolores P. Rosner August 30, 2014 at 4:54 am

When I lived in California, each winter we would go down to the Yucatan by bus. it was a 17 hour journey but we loved Playa Del Carmen so much, it was worth the trip. Now retired we live in St. Petersburg and have been waiting patiently for the express boat passage to the Yucatan to restart their service. Please put us, Mr. & Mrs. Rosner on your list. We definitely would like to be regulars on the run back and forth to Mexico. Thank you, Dolores

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