Cruise ships will be launching from Rocky Point in neighboring Sonora, Mexico for the first time this winter. But a long-awaited cruise port in the beach town won't be finished by the time they set sail.
Construction began in 2013 on a cruise port in Rocky Point, but it's been stalled for years, and the port will still be incomplete when Rocky Point's first cruise embarks this December into the Sea of Cortez.
"The port, it isn't going to be finished by December, but it doesn't matter," said Héctor Platt Mazón, assistant coordinator for the Sonoran tourism commission. "It actually is less complicated than you can imagine."
Platt said cruise ships often frequent towns without a port. For now, smaller boats called tenders will shuttle cruise-goers at a time to and from the 550-passenger Astoria cruise ship.
Sonora is still invested in building the port in Rocky Point, he added. The issue is funding. And he hopes the arrival of cruises is a step toward securing federal support to complete the port.
"We're optimistic with us pushing the umbrella for a few seasons, they can get state, local and federal officials to make the investment," said John Dennis, vice president of Cruise & Maritime Voyages North and South America offices, which is operating Rocky Point's first cruise.
He said it's not ideal not to have a homeport for the cruise line in Rocky Point, but it's doable using the tenders to transport passengers and provisions to the ship.
Getting passengers to and from Arizona will also be key to the new cruise, called Treasures of the Sea of Cortez, he said.
Cruise and Maritime Voyages expects most passengers to come from Arizona and other western states, Dennis said. And many of them will likely fly into Phoenix or Tucson airports, so the company is arranging ground transportation from Phoenix and Tucson to Rocky Point.
"So our guests will not only cruise with us, but we're going to ask them to leave the driving to us," he said.
The cruise line is also organizing pre- and post-trip packages both south of the border in Rocky Point, as well as in both Phoenix and Tucson. It's a chance, Dennis said, for cruise-goers to enjoy what Arizona has to offer.
This is the cruise's first season, with six launch dates in December 2019 and January 2020. It's an 11-day cruise with stops in Guaymas, Topolobampo, and Mazatlán, followed by Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Bahia Loreto, and Santa Rosalía.
"Information provided by Sonoran Resorts Newsletter"