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.

{ 834 comments… read them below or add one }

Pari Stix September 29, 2014 at 11:31 am

We are retiring to Mexico and are delighted at the idea of the ferry, please inform us by email of your progress. thank you


Russ Hilderley September 30, 2014 at 9:38 am

The Yucatan does not include Cancun,nor Cozumel…..as you well know…..
So where exactly….is this proposed service to be routed?
We leave for Cancun January 3….but would prefer driving to Tampa, loading our car….and take a cabin over to mainland Mexico…..then have the vehicle to use in Progreso,Chixculub area
Through to April 30,2015.

Ferry service to Mexico from Florida….???
I may not live long enough to see that happen.


Tim September 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Keeping my fingers crossed!!!


Larry Brust September 30, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Please keep me posted. Very interested.


Tisbeth Mejia October 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm

We are waithing so bad for the ferry to open. We are so ready please advice went you are open and ready to go :)


Elaine October 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Yes, we have been waiting a long time for this to happen but still think it is a great idea.
I am sure that there would be ample business/passengers now with people still wanting to visit Mexico and the worry of driving through Mexico. We would have no hesitation to get on this ferry ASAP!!


Herbert Unger October 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm

we would take advantage of the ferry service this winter. We are waiting for years for the ferry service to get off the ground.
Pls. notify us immediately.


frank schmidt October 2, 2014 at 11:22 pm

We would love to know when this is available.


Pedro meeler October 3, 2014 at 10:26 am



fred October 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I plan on making regular trips with cargo/vehicles. I hope this service is operational soon.


Joanna Randolph October 4, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Anxious to hear of all updates &looking forward to the opportunity to use this ferry service, Can’t wait, thanks for the updates!


Dolores & Mike Rosner October 4, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Mike and I have been waiting since 2002 to make this crossing. We did the Portsmouth run way back when and had planned on doing the Yucatan run.. Never got the chance. Moved to St. Petersburg, Fl. to be close to the ferry and am still waiting. Hurry before we get too old to cross. Last year 2013, we took a Carnival Cruise out of Tampa, but didn’t see any place where the ferry would land. The price is right for passengers. What is the price for a vehicle? Are the round trip tickets good for return on later dates. We used to spend many winters in the Yucatan. Do not want to just go and return immediately like on a cruise ship. If we bring an RV with us, would there be a places like RV parks to store them for further visits.? If I take a trip to the Tampa port, will there be anyone there whom I can speak with? Am anxious to get going. Dolores


Brian Wilkins October 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Yes, We winter in Mexico each year and we currently drive our RV from Nova Scotia. Although we usually winter on the Pacific coast, we would love to cross to Progresso and then drive to the Oaxaca coast from there. The new Portland Maine, to Yarmouh Nova Scotia, ferry (Nova Star) supposedly has a winter route they haven’t announced yet. Any possibiilty that might be the ship you could use?


Miguel October 6, 2014 at 4:52 am

Fear of flying and love to drive. Definitely plan to be one of the first when service is available. Please let me know ASAP.


Yvonne October 6, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Please let me know when the service is available. The ferry would make it possible for us to be in Yucatan more often – which we would love.


Pascal October 9, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Interested to take my Motorcycle to Costa Rica! would cut my trip down around the Gulf! ;-)

keep me posted!
Will be one of your first guests!


Bob Seward October 9, 2014 at 6:35 pm

My wife and I are very interested as well. Our timeline for moving there is at about Jan 2016. pleas e
kept us informed!


Jude October 10, 2014 at 7:07 am

Will be my mode of travel to the Yucatan, if it happens!


Leonard Cabrall October 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm

In the late 1980 my friend told me to take the ferry from Portland Maine across the Bay of Fundy. Being from New York the only reference I had to a ferry was the Staten Island Ferry. When I saw the ferry across the Bay of Fundy I had no idea that it was more akin to a cruse ship that carried my car. I did not know what to expect but I trusted my friend to suggest something I would like. I did not realize it was a 10 hour ferry ride to Nova Scotia, Canada, that in addition to my car I had a cabin, a full bar, restaurant, a casino and nightlife. To top it off there was a duty fee shop to buy liquor without the U.S. taxes. What was also surprising was I was able to bring my pet. It was the best trip I ever had. Everyone on the “ship” was wonderful, accommodating and friendly. (I also won a few buck at the casino). I was treated like a VIP even though I am not. I returned several times until I move to Florida and the service stopped operating in Maine. I have been looking for an alternative experience ever since. Cruses are nice but I miss the independence my car give me and I can not bring my pet. I found this website and am ecstatic. Finally a ferry with everything I was hopping to find. I want to be informed of when your service will be available and hopefully I can manage to schedule your maiden voyage. If my schedule does not allow the maiden voyage I expect that I will be on the first voyage my schedule allows. If your service is anything like my past ferry experiences I assure you that I will be a regular traveler.


Cheryl Robb October 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Can’t wait for this service! We’ll be there when you’re ready to go. Please keep us updated. Thanks!


John Haumersen October 13, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I am planning to use the ferry the first week of Novemer 2014. I can not find anynew information to convince me to drive to Tampa instead of Texas to get to Cancun. When are you going give us a schedual so we can plan to be there on a specific day and make reservations for that day?


Mary larkin October 13, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Please keep me informed. We are ready to go.


Scott October 13, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Please keep me posted!


Douglas Winburn October 14, 2014 at 11:24 pm

I’m interested in your ferry service so that I can visit my friends in Cancun. Please let me know and send a schedule. Thanks!


Sheryl aleksinski October 15, 2014 at 8:52 am

Please update me on ferry from Tampa to cancun


Chelsea Ingle October 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm

We are interested in relocating to the Yucatan peninsula. Our mode of transportation is preferred to be on land with our car and to travel by boat from Florida. Please inform us of when this possibility becomes a reality.


Michael Saenz October 18, 2014 at 7:40 am

It’s October 2014 …… Any further news ? I’m ready to book passage on first sailing …..


Corinna Cobos October 20, 2014 at 9:33 am

Can furniture be brought in as well?


Diane Soltner October 21, 2014 at 10:44 am

I would like to know when the ferry service starts and a way to make a reservation when it does. Thank you!


Donna Brett October 23, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Please send information on booking as soon as it is available.


Larry October 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm

How much is it for vehicle shipping? If that’s only $350 then sign me up! My wife and I had our RV shipped there a few years ago and it cost an arm and leg, even though we spent considerable time finding the cheapest option. (for those interested: https://www.a1autotransport.com/services/rv-transport.php ) Just did a quick web search and didn’t find anything as of yet, so I assume it’s still in the works.


Willie lanuza October 23, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Planning to retire in mexico….i now live in georgia….let me know the progress of this project


John October 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

My wife and I travel every two months from Miami to Cancún. It would be a god send to be able to travel with our car and dogs! Keep me informed on the progress.


Danny Zane October 25, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Definitely looking forward to this! Is the plan to dock at the Progreso Pier?
thanks, Dan


Barbara October 25, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I will be moving to Progreso and would like the option of coming back and forth to US and have friends and family visit me. Hopes are high for this to get off the ground


caroline October 25, 2014 at 10:23 pm

please let us know if and when this service will begin ~ gracias


Rue Thais-Williams October 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Your ferry service would be the answer to a prayer. Please advise me ASAP, when this service becomes available. Will be traveling frequently.


Brenda October 27, 2014 at 7:13 am

Please include me on the VIP information list to find out about finalized plans for the ferry. Thanks for the info!!


Gary October 28, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Yep, let us know please. It beats driving there.


Tom October 29, 2014 at 5:15 am

This would be great.


patty Fiedler October 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Retiring and anticipate spending a lot of time in both Fl and mexico. Would love to travel from and to more conveniently than by air.


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