Mexico's ITM Group and Carnival Corp. are teaming on a bevy of cultural and adventure attractions skirting the cruise berths at Ensenada.
La Española Village would feature Mexican gastronomy with casual and fine-dining food and beverage outlets, wine tasting, music and other live entertainment. And an expansive adventure park tentatively dubbed The Isle at Ensenada would be packed with activities for children and adults such as a river ride, hot springs, bubble rapids, pools, tequila and chocolate experiences and the replica of a historic nao (exploration ship).
New and improved excursions
Plus, working with local tour operators, investment will be going into improving excursions to attractions like wineries and the geyser La Bufadora, and into developing exciting new ones such as a tuna ranch experience revealing the fascinating way wild tuna is harvested for air shipment to Japan where it's sold as the finest AAA-grade sashimi.
In all it's a $25m investment, according to ITM Group's Robert Shamosh, who said Baja California officials are expected to approve the environmental impact study this week. Construction would start in October with completion targeted in summer 2023.
Shamosh called Ensenada the 'Key West of the Pacific ... demand is fantastic.' Because of its strategic location, the port easily fits into abundant Mexico itineraries from San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco and features on Hawaii cruises as an international stop to satisfy US cabotage.
Further down the coast, ITM Group won a 25-year concession with a 15-year option to develop the Port of Pichilingue on the Sea of Cortez at La Paz. It will offer two Oasis-class berths and a fabulous Under the Sea attraction focused on marine life in this area Jacques Cousteau called 'the world's aquarium' for its incredible biodiversity.
ITM Group will be investing $60m into the project including a hefty $20m into shore excursion development alone. This would add more active options like kayaking and dune buggies and expanded opportunities for whale-watching.
'The area has a lot to offer,' Shamosh told Seatrade Cruise News. La Paz is 'pristine and beautiful,' he said, and fits into many itineraries, ranging from a five-day getaway from San Diego to longer Mexican Riviera routes from a variety of homeports.
Ships of Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and smaller operators have visited La Paz, which currently has one Freedom-class berth. ITM Group will extend that to accommodate an Oasis-size ship in the first phase and then build a parallel finger pier to serve a second vessel up to Oasis size.
Under the Sea
Adjacent to the cruise berths, a new Under the Sea development spread across 40 acres will encompass an aquarium, museum, two restaurants, retail, waterfalls/sculptures and, eventually, a Babybeach Club with kids' island, a swim-up bar and a DJ beach area.
The first Oasis-class berth, a passenger welcome facility and most of Under the Sea are expected to be operational by March 2023. A second phase will see the additional Oasis berth and Babybeach Club.
Plus, ITM Group plans to create a water adventure park.
'We think there will be a large revamp, a new market in California,' Shamosh said. 'Our information from the lines is that they're planning additional capacity and newer ships so they're looking for new locations and deeper experiences' to complement their routes.
ITM Group has commitments from cruise lines but Shamosh declined to name them.