Published On: Sun, Mar 16th, 2014

Ferry service could start operating this year between FLorida and Yucatan

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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 1/31/12) 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 affectionally 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 (updated 1/31/12) 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 wont 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.



Mexico Travel Care




Displaying 15 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. We own a condo in Playa and flying to Playa several times a year. Awaiting the ferry from Florida to Yukatan to take our car to avoid the high costs of a rental car each time.
    I hate to fly and feel so much saver on a ship

    • Alejandro Alejandro says:

      Hello Bettina: Unfortunatelly we have no official confirmation of this information yet, but we will proceed to conduct an investigation with the proper Port Authorities in order to provide more info on this matter to our readers. Thanks for reading The Yucatan Times. Best Regards, TYT Team.

  2. Morphy33 says:

    will use this service with no questions asked, to save me from driving through Mexico

  3. I have a house west of Progreso, and will happily use this service for several years.

    Gulfport is actually closer for me, since I live out west…

  4. carlos dumani says:

    This service be excellent for me and my family we been driving from Michigan to Yucatan for many years but whit so much Crime across the border we stop going please let me know when this service is gonna be able

  5. Eduardo Pena says:

    We are traveling to Central America twice in a year and we need to know when really be ready this old project. We wait your news. Thanks.

  6. Vincent Santamaria says:

    I wanna make another motorcycle ride down to the Panama Canal but don’t want to ride from Southwest Florida to Texas again.
    Please start the ferry before I get too old to ride.

  7. Charles says:

    Can’t wait for service. It will be great to have.

    Not sure what the hold up is. It is now March 2015.

    Let’s get going !!!

  8. May says:

    lots of folks in our community are desperately waiting for this service to avoid driving through Mexico which is not an option these days for traveling from central America to the US by car

  9. Rick says:

    Looking for a start date for the ferry service. We travel to florida then to playa then to Belize every year. We would like to do it by car rathur than fly … Any info ?

  10. Andy says:

    Is the Ship working now between Tampa and the Yucatan?

  11. Tom says:

    Please keep me updated. Thanks.

  12. Pat Gavros says:

    I hope this service starts soon! Can’t wait for a safe way to take our car to Merida & our household possessions! Any venture always loses money at the beginning, but it certainly seems as if there is a LOT of interest and enthusiasm for this project. Let’s get going!

  13. Karen says:

    They have been talking about this ferry starting for a long time now. Will this be starting?

  14. Chris says:

    We don’t fly, so this would be a great opportunity to get to Cozumel for scuba diving. We’ve done the Royal Caribbean cruises before, but 6 or 8 hours is never enough. Would like to go and stay at least one week. Is this ferry up and running? If so, please email details. Thanks!

  15. Chris Stephenson says:

    So any updates on this story? Or did it die?

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