Costa Maya is forecasting 180 ship calls and approximately 450,000 passengers in 2010, according to Cesar Lizarraga, vice president of marketing and sales. Next May, the Oasis of the Seas will start calling in Costa Maya, followed by the Norwegian Epic. Norwegian Cruise Line has made a five year commitment to call at the Mexican port.

Since Costa Maya was demolished by Hurricane Dean in Oct. 2007, the port rebuilt to the tune of $16 million and was back in business by Oct. 30, 2008. But it is taking time to get the ships back, Lizarraga said, noting that the port beat its own rebuilding deadline by a month, while the cruise lines played it safe. By the end of the year, Costa Maya expects to have regained 70 percent of the business it had before the hurricane struck.

One challenge the port may not have counted on is the extent to which some cruise companies have invested in their own port facilities, Lizarraga explained, and these ports are given preferential consideration. (Carnival Corporation owns terminals in nearby Cozumel.)

In its present configuration Costa Maya can accommodate three ships simultaneously – two as big as the Oasis, Lizarraga told Cruise Industry News, and one in the size of the Radiance class. All three would be alongside.

However, Lizarraga said that the port would not have three ships of the Oasis or Epic size in port on the same day. The itineraries are public information, he said, so the planning is left up to the cruise lines, which cleverly avoid calling with their biggest ships on the same day.

Passengers continue to be 90 percent Americans on Caribbean cruises, Lizarraga said, who also noted that since the recession took hold, shoreside spending is down 25 percent.

Future plans do not include expansion of the port facilities in order to preserve the quaintness of the area, but infrastructure development will continue, according to Lizarraga.