This week, I'm writing from the Internet center of the Grand Princess, docked in Majahual, Mexico, about 200 miles south of Cancun. We spent the day biking and kayaking along the sunny Costa Maya, and tomorrow it's zip-lining across the jungle canopy in Belize.
If there's a shortage of kids in Texas this week, don't worry, I've found them on this spring-break sailing from Galveston.
Majahual is a tiny fishing village with friendly people and natural beauty. By the pier, there are new shops and bars, but beyond the port's gates, en route to the ocean-front main street of the village itself, there is heart-wrenching poverty.
The cruise industry is the big game in town, and money is being invested with the hope that Majahual will be the "next Cancun", which sprang from almost nothing to become a world class resort area in only three decades. For that to happen, tourists who first visited by sea must be enticed to return for a land-based vacation, and on the merits of that proposition, the jury is still out.
In fact, it is the growth of the cruise industry and overcrowding in all the popular Western Caribbean ports that is driving the development of Majahual. The cruise lines need a viable new port in the region, and the Mexican government wants a new tourist destination in the pipeline. Almost everyone here has a job that revolves around the daily infusion of cruise passengers -- and cash -- into the local economy. I hope the infusion continues.
As my son and I pedaled down a sandy coastal road, we passed many dilapidated houses, one of which was apparently the local pre-K or daycare. Inside a fence, there were perhaps 20 small, barefoot children playing in the dirt. They were oblivious to the taxis and trucks that passed, and to the continuous clouds of dust that filled the yard. But as our convoy of bikes rolled by, the children ran to the wire fence to wave "Hola", a heartfelt greeting that we gladly returned.
Life is changing here, some would say for the worse, but I think for the better. From this hard-scrabble beginning, may something good come to the children of Majahual.
Vacations To Go
Grand Princess Cruise, Part 2: Ziplining in Belize