You can book most of the excursions offered on the ship right in Progreso. Take the free shuttle along the 5 mile pier to town and when you get off, there will many a salesperson offering trips. Autoprogreso is your best bet, as they are also the ones doing the tours being sold on the ship (at a higher price in most cases!) You will be back in time for return to the ship, no worries.
Dzibilchaltun offers a museum of the Mayan people, an archeological site, a park and a cenote (a sink hole). We arrived early in the morning and had the whole site to ourselves. We hired a guide for our group of 6 and she was very knowledgeable and thorough in explaining the spring and fall equinox in relation to the temple and the importance to the Mayan people. There's lots of room to stroll around and take pictures. Bring your bathing suit for a refreshing swim in the cenote:
This was a day trip from Progreso that was scheduled by Carnival Cruise Lines. We had a very good and knowledgable guide who spoke very good English. The motor coach was comfortable and air conditioned. As the ruins were only 45 minutes by coach we chose this trip so that we were not in a bus all day.
I enjoyed this trip. The ruins, museum, food, and beer were wonderful. This is not one of the huge places like Tulum that is just over run with people so you can actually atke your time and wander in areas where no other people are. I tipped the guide $20.00
The Yucatan Peninsula sits on a limestone shelf which declines into the sea so gradually that the pier had to built at a length of 6.5km so as to reach deep water! Thus much said the waters of Progresso are shallow and safe, as well as being warm, although there is a lot of seaweed which can make it seem rather murky.
The beach itself is practically shadeless with most of it's palm trees having been lost to hurricanes.
Now, I was here in 1999 and it was a sleepy, little Mexican town with no tourists. It had 2 hotels to serve the Mexican's who came here on holiday (particularly their summer vacations)but neither hotel was nice!
Progreso and the towns around it struggle economically. Other than the limited tourist industry, Progreso and Chicxulub are primarily fishing villages. There is no social security in rural Mexico - seniors are dependant on their families for support.
There are a few organizations that exist to help the less fortunate, and the one the we assist is the Chicxulub Food Bank. This food bank supplies basic foodstuffs monthly to fifty Chicxulub families. The foodstuffs include dried beans, rice, pasta, oil, sugar, detergent, powdered milk, salt and cookies. Also the organizer tries to provide something special on occasion - basic school supplies in September, a toque in December, etc.
Email shelgason-at sign-hotmail.com for more info (PS I was told not to put an actual address with the @ on a webpage as spammers scan all documents on the web looking for strings that look like email addresses). One of the problems is bringing things from Canada/US to Progreso. We try and fill one suitcase each visit with things useful for the food bank -- We have even taken to bringing our own soaps and shampoos into hotels when we travel, and taking the hotel ones home and bringing them to Progreso each year so they can be distributed there. The things in demand are kids clothing, school supplies, old prescription glasses, etc.
You can climb the lighthouse (El Faro), but we had no idea that you could, so we missed out. The lighthouse is very close to where the cruise ship buses drop off their passengers (Don't forget that the ship is a few kilometers from Progreso on the long pier).
Notice the outdoor market below. This is where all the booths are for the cruise ship passengers. I am not good at bartering, but I suspect that there is a lot of room for bartering between what you are quoted, and what they will actually sell the goods for -- better to do your negotiating just before you get picked up to go back to the ship as the merchants know once you are on the ship, you are lost forever as a possible customer.
Progreso is on the north shore of the Yucatan peninsula facing the Gulf of Mexico, so the sun does not set into the ocean, but into the western beach. I have included a set of five pictures that follow the sun setting.
You don't see scenic sunsets every night like in Hawaii, but occassionally they are pretty spectacular.
Because Progreso is used both as a service town for locals as well as for tourists, it has everything one needs: large grocery store (called San Francisco's), internet cafes, the mercado (the market with fresh meat and vegetables, etc.), handicrafts (silversmiths, hand-made shirts & blouses, etc.), banks, ATM's, post office, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, even a red light district (but we never saw it as we were never there at night) and bus services.
In 2005, there was even a Burger King in the mall -- the only place I knew to get a hamburger in town, but when we returned in 2006, the Burger King had closed down.
It was amazing the amount of change we discovered between our holidays in March 2005 and Feb 2006. A number of shops had disappeared - besides the Burger King, convenience stores like a 7-11, and a few of the tourist shops that catered to the cruise ships.
Progreso, started out as a fishing village. Most mornings we saw fishermen - in small rowboats fishing just offshore.
About 50 years ago wealthy Mexicans started to build summer homes along the coast to get away from the heat of Merida during kid's summer holidays (July and August). In order to help pay for these homes, they started to rent them out during winter months.
Snowbirds from Canada and the northern US discovered Progreso as a winter home because of the cheap prices to rent a condo. The weather is a lot better than up north and the Yucatecan people have a "laid back" way of life. Don't move here if you are used to the bustle of New York.
The first photo is of our home in 2005. It is one building with 5 apartments/condos. In this building, each condo has three floors with bedrooms on the second and third floors. Also as you can see there is a fresh-water pool for use of the building.
The second and third photos are of our home (or casa) in 2006. This condo is next to our 2005 home. There are 16 apartments on four floors. Again, there is a fresh-water pool for use of the building.
Progreso is an area where peope return year after year. If you contact the rental agencies and give them your needs they can make arrangements to visit the homes while you're there. You may even meet people that rent privately. This was the case when we went to the Rotary meeting in Progreso where many of the members rent privately from contacts they had made over the years.
This is one of the world's largest nesting grounds for the pink flamingo. You can take a boat trip on the "ria" and admire hundreds of flamingos and up to 320 species of birds. The boat will also take you through one of the passageways of the the mangrove swamps lining the estuary. There is also a refreshing cenote in which you can take a dip and a "petrified forest" which is really a forest of dead trees killed by seawater.
Please remember that the flamingos' worst enemy is man and getting too close has a negative effect on them.
When you're ready to eat go into town. There are alot of nice places to eat along the beach.
If you enjoy lots of privacy and solitude, you'll like walking for miles along the beach and meet very few people. You'll find lots of pretty seashells and may spot the occaisonal dolphin. This was the case in March, it's probably different in the summer when families are out in full force.
The reason that cruise ships can now stop at Progreso is the recent construction of a 6 to 9 km long pier (every source seems to say it is a different length). This pier allows ships to dock -- primarily container ships, but also cruise ships.
They would normally not be able to get anywhere near the shore as there is a large bank of limestone (that is present throughout the Yucatan) that projects kilometers into the Gulf of Mexico.
You can see the entrance to the pier in the photo. Unfortunately, private vehicles or pedestrians are not allowed to go on the wharf. You can see what the pier looks like from the air on my introduction page.
The downtown Progreso beachfront is called the Malecón. There are a few thatched shelters, but mostly it is sand, water, seagulls, and the pier.
During July & August, this is a crowded place with fairs nearby, etc. but the rest of the time it’s a nice quiet beach. Warm enough for Canadians to swim (although locals only seem to swim when it’s above 90°F outside). The beach is great for long walks along the ocean. It is not as nice as the beaches in Cancun or the Mexican Riviera. There is more wind - especially in winter, plus the sand is not as fine.
If you click the photo, you will see the pier with the truck on its way out to the docks. The building you see on the right of the photo is only the half way point of the pier.
In the summer months Progreso and most Yucatan towns have fairs on or near their Malecons.
Progresos is across the street from the Malecon.
Here you will find everything.
Food, rides, jewerly, souvenirs.
If you get tired you can go sit on the Malecon and watch the people walk and drive by.
Great for the kids!!