January, 2006

100 days on, Cancún receives morale-boost

January 31st, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cancún

February is shaping up to be a milestone month in Cancún’s painful recovery from Hurricane Wilma, despite a muddle over when some hotels will re-open.

An estimated six thousand hotel rooms will be added to the resort’s total available inventory over the next four weeks – a significant leap from the 13,179 open today (48% of the pre-Wilma total) to a much fitter 19,436 (70%) by March 1st.

However, I’ve uncovered further evidence today why ‘official’ pronouncements should be taken with a pinch of salt, and always verified.

Today, for example, the website of the Cancún Convention & Visitors Bureau (OVC) is showing that the Spanish hotel group Oasis will re-open all six its Cancún hotels…

In brief…

Eliza Barclay uncovers some new facts about Cancún’s "beach nourishment" project, including the measures taken to minimise the impact on the local environment.

"In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert excised a 130-foot chunk [of beach], which conveniently formed the very sandbank Jan de Nul will be dredging to form the new beach." - attributed to Julián Adame Miranda, an engineer supervising the reclamation project for the [Mexican] government.

Less profoundly, The Economist magazine publishes a succinct article in its Jan. 28th issue entitled "Halfway Back", which far from being ‘premium content’, says nothing that you cannot already read here for free!

Wish you were here #1

January 26th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Photos

A snapshot of the Mexican Caribbean in January 2006…


Pictured from top row, left to right…

1. Isla Holbox – Jan. 20th
2. Caribbean, Cancún – Jan. 16th
3. Beach at Le Meridien, Cancún – Jan. 16th
4. Le Meridien, Cancún – Jan. 16th

5. Isla Mujeres – Jan. 16th
6. Playa Del Carmen – Jan. 12th
7. Playa Del Carmen – Jan. 11th
8. Looking south from the pier at Playa Del Carmen – Jan. 11th

9. Playa del Carmen – Jan. 11th
10. Tulum – Jan. 10th
11. Beach looking north of Royal Sunset hotel, Cancún – Jan. 8th
12. Caribbean, Cancún – Jan.…

Cancún’s beaches should start to get fresh sand from Jan. 30th

January 24th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cancún Beach Recovery, Cancún

Belgian maritime engineering and construction giant Jan De Nul has begun to assemble machinery and equipment ready for the restoration of miles of Cancún’s beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma three months ago.

Beach in front of the Hotel Le MeridienThis is what I know so far about the Cancún Beach Reclamation Project: 

The first ‘reclaimed’ sands will begin to be vacuumed onto the beach before the end of January.
Approximately 2.7m cubic meters of sand will be dredged from two offshore sandbanks to replenish the 12 km strip from Punta Cancún to Punta Nizuc (view a map).
Operations will start along this stretch of beach in front of the Hilton Cancún Golf & Spa Resort and move south, in the direction of Punta Nizuc.

In brief…

Leaving Cancun - Jeff SchultzThe Cancún Hotel Association reports that of the 11,971 rooms currently available in the resort (44% of the pre-Wilma total), 9,477 (79%) were occupied over the weekend.

This coming week another 500 rooms are scheduled to be ready following refurbishment.

Meanwhile, Cancún International Airport registered a slight increase in traffic on Sunday compared to a week ago: 80 international arrivals and 32 from domestic airlines. The number of departures were 79 and 32 respectively – a total of 223 aircraft movements.

- January 23rd

Holbox kiboshed?

January 20th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox (pronounced Hol-bosch) is a tiny sand-strip facing the Gulf of Mexico, bordered by Cabo Catoche on the east and separated from the mainland by Laguna Yalahao to the south.

I’ve found evidence of how the island fared in the hurricane quite hard to come by.

Isla HolboxGideon Ben-Ami took this photo earlier this month. He spent a few days on Holbox and his impressions were that it looked a little worse for wear.

"There were very few tourists around," Gideon said… "and the locals I spoke to were beginning to feel the pinch."

The beach is looking good though. There’s some seaweed around – brought in by the brisk northerly winds (nortes), which are…

Hoteliers threaten reluctant insurers with legal action

January 19th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cancún, News

Many of Cancun’s classiest hotels and tourist attractions pummeled by the hurricane have resorted to borrowing as insurers dither over post-Wilma payouts.

On Monday, during his stop in the resort for the start of the beach recovery project, Tourism Minister Rodolfo Elizondo Torres angered hoteliers by suggesting that some had not kept up with premium payments while others had exaggerated claims of damage to property. "The government," he said, "could not intervene in what were ‘personal’ disagreements."

The Governor of Quintana Roo, Félix González Canto, said insurers had been slow to react in the aftermath of the hurricane. He accused the industry of taking advantage of every available "legal loophole" not to respond to appeals from businesses…

Playa del Carmen back in business

January 18th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya

A welcome email today from Verena Gerber, a friend who owns Hotel Las Palapas in Playa del Carmen (as well as the Eco Paraíso Xixim at Celestún).

Verena filled me in on their ‘Wilma experience’.

Amazing to compare the photo (right), taken on October 22nd on day two of the hurricane, with the tranquil pre-nuptial scene on the same stretch of beach on December 17th.

Las Palapas re-opened on November 10th with 25 rooms – about a third of its capacity – but were operating normally by December 15th in time for a busy Christmas.

Playa del Carmen was also where Barcelona-based Oliver Hoffmann and his wife spent a week in December.


Wilma stronger than first thought

January 17th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under News, Weather

Hurricane Wilma was even stronger than originally estimated when it slammed into the Mexican Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center said in its final report (pdf) on the storm today.

Wilma was for a time the most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, with top sustained winds near 185 mph and the lowest central pressure ever noted at 882 millibars (Oct. 19th), the report said. Forecasters had already confirmed that pressure, but the report increased the winds by 10 mph.

Wilma made its first landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on October 21st on the island of Cozumel with sustained winds of about 150 mph. At the time, Wilma was estimated to packed 140-mph winds.

Last year’s Atlantic…

Details emerge of plans to restore Cancún beaches

January 16th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cancún Beach Recovery, Cancún

Tourism Minister Rodolfo Elizondo Torres will be in Cancún today to oversee the start of the ambitious project to recover miles of beaches lost to Wilma.

As I reported last month, around four miles (6.5km) of the area’s fifteen miles of beaches were swept away during the hurricane. At least another five miles suffered severe erosion.

Details of the project have been difficult to obtain, but more information is expected to be released today.

However, I understand that beach restoration will start from the Westin Resort at the southern end of Hotel Zone (Punta Nizuc), and work north towards Punta Cancún. (View a map).

Engineers will try to ensure that disturbance to hotel guests is…

In brief…

There are no less than eleven public beaches along Cancún’s Hotel Zone. While the hotels each have their own beach frontage, the beaches themselves, as everywhere in Mexico, are public property.

However, some hotels are not anxious for locals or non-guests generally to know this, as this snippet from Saturday’s edition of Novedades complains.

I find this particularly gauling considering many of those working (six days a week, ten hours a day) to get Cancún working again are migrant workers, not to mention the gardeners, chambermaids…

Cozumel will get better cruise ship piers

January 14th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cozumel, Cruises

Ian Campbell has posted some useful information on wilmacozumel.com about when the piers will fully re-open and a possible doubling of cruise ship capacity on the island.

Repair work to the three piers – a lifeline for Cozumel’s economy – began quickly, but Victor Vivas González, a representative from Cozumel’s Port Authority, has revealed ambitious and potentially controversial plans to increase the pre-Wilma docking capacity for cruise ships.

According to Vivas, the International Pier is expected to be the first to fully re-open, but not until September.

In the meantime, passengers are being shuttled ashore by large tender

Salvage crews close to refloating stricken vessel

January 12th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cancún, News

Novedades reports today that the car and cargo ferry Bahia del Espiritu Santo, which beached near Puerto Juárez during Hurricane Wilma should be back in deep water in about one week. She will then head to Cuba for repairs.

The ship has been captured on camera by no fewer than three different contributors to the After Wilma photo pool; by Ozzy on October 30th, one week after Wilma, and more recently by Esteban on December 27th and Cliff two days later.

In brief…

Kicked-back Cancun kicks in by Danna Harman, USA TODAYJanuary 12th

Riviera Maya: ‘Business as usual’

January 11th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya

Ellen and Jim Fields returned to the Riviera Maya last weekend. They more or less traversed the same route as on their previous visit at the end of November.

You can read Ellen’s largely very positive report here.

AkumalThe word on Tulum is that things are practically back to their pre-Wilma state.

Ellen and Jim dropped in on Paola Sbrizzi at Hemingway’s. As a measure of the speedy recovery along this strip of coast, Paola has already completely rebuilt her restaurant, which overlooks the Caribbean.

Further up the coast, there is practically no evidence of a hurricane ever passing over Playa del Carmen – at least on the blocks immediately behind the beach. …

Paradise is forever

January 10th, 2006 by Steve Bridger filed under Riviera Maya, Tulum

Saumur-based Celso Flores hopped over from France to visit family in Monterrey over Christmas. Before returning to his PhD studies, he diverted to the Riviera Maya where he spent four days and nights at the breezy Cabañas el Mirador in Tulum.

"The region is recovering," Celso writes, "suffering but recovering."

"The Cabañas el Mirador is one of those little paradises, where one can get back to basics (a hammock, sand floor, no electricity or running water). US$10 dollars a night for your own hamaca. The owners, Maria and Humberto, also hail from Monterrey.

"In short, a great place to encounter some very interesting people."

The beach looks in pretty good shape, too. Many of the beaches around…