Spanish Pullmantur is launching what may be the first-ever cruise program dedicated exclusively to the Mexican market.

The 1,400-passenger Ocean Dream (ex-Pacific Star) will be sailing year-round weeklong cruises from Acapulco, beginning in February, calling at Ixtapa,(Zihuatanejo), Manzanilla (where she will also embark passengers), Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. Ninety to 95 percent of the passengers will be sourced from Mexico, and the remainder, South America and the U.S., according to Joe Arriola, Pullmantur's general director, who told Cruise Industry News that creating a cruise product for the Mexican market "makes sense," as not only is cruising of interes tto Mexicans, but there is also "the visa issue," he said, "in that while Mexicans need one to cruise in the U.S., that is not the case in Mexico."

According to Arriola, approximately 250,000Mexican passengers will cruise this year. "And this could increase significantly," he pointed out. "Five years from now, I can see two or three of our ships based out of Mexico."

In 2009, the Ocean Dream will source some65,000 passengers in Mexico.

Demographics for these cruises are the "Mexican middle class" - including many families, Arriola said, noting that the age range is a broad 25 to 55. Brochure rates run $800 per passenger per week.