June 2017: Isla Mujeres, Key West, and the End of the Voyage

posted on
January 8th, 2019 by

May 30th:  Isla Mujeres, Mexico

After arriving, we checked in with the marina, and then went into town for our official country check-in. We remembered that it was fairly easy to check in at this port, and not nearly as time consuming as it had been at Cozumel. The marina staff made all of the many, many document copies we would need. Symbiosis did not have an import permit, but since we were only staying for ten days or so, it was possible they didn’t need one. I made a report that is posted on Noonsite – here is the text:

Reported by MV Tropical Blend: May 2017 – Checking in without an agent at Isla Mujeres

We cruised from the Caymans to Isla Mujeres, which took 54 hours. We did not make a pre-arrival notification. We asked the marina to notify the authorities, but they said they do not do that. We could not figure out any way to notify authorities before arrival.

We arrived at Marina Puerto Isla Mujeres around 9:30 on a Tuesday morning. After docking and registering at the marina, we proceeded to Centro to check in. The marina made all of the necessary copies for us: clearance from Grand Cayman (which includes a crew list), boat documents, and passports. We arrived with a buddy boat, Symbiosis. The taxi to the Port Captain’s office cost 60 pesos, a little over $3.

At the port captain’s office, we were greeted in a friendly manner, and were given two forms to fill out. They were only in Spanish, and some of the words didn’t translate, but we managed – it was data on ourselves, the boat, and our recent ports. The officer, who could only speak a little English, explained the process to us:

  1. Health inspection – he called the doctor, who would see us at the port captain’s office
  2. Immigration – about three blocks from the office
  3. Agriculture – done at the office
  4. Customs – done at the office
  5. Port fees – done at the office

Health Inspection

We only had to wait about 10 minutes for the doctor. He actually asked health-related questions (unlike when we checked in at Cozumel in 2014), such as our recent state of health, and he measured our body temperatures. Our buddy boat had officially checked in to Haiti (Ile la Vache) so they got more scrutiny. We were all asked if we had ever gotten measles vaccinations, or had measles. After completing the interview, he stamped all of our documents, gave us the two health forms (sanitation in Spanish), and charged us 50 pesos per boat.


We proceeded to the immigration office, where English is spoken well. We handed over four copies of our docs – the ones stamped by the doctor. The officer then gave us the forms for the bank payment, and recommended we go to Banamex, as it would be faster. The bank is just a block away, and we quickly paid the 500 pesos each ($27) for the tourist cards. We returned to the immigration office, filled out our declaration forms, and received our tourist cards and a couple of the stamped docs. The officer reminded us to keep the receipts. In Mexico, when you check out, you have to show the receipt for the tourist cards, or they charge you again.

Agriculture & Customs

Returning to the port captain’s office, we were told that the customs officer would be there    in 30 minutes, but she actually showed up in about 10 minutes. The agriculture officer was also there. The officers quickly completed the forms – we weren’t asked anything about ship’s stores and provisions. Technically, you cannot bring meat and produce into Mexico, but they never asked.

Port Fees

We then gave the final docs and forms to the port captain, and he gave us a payment form for the bank. Both boats were charged 813 pesos, which I guess covered our customs, agriculture, and port fees. We paid this at a nearby bank, HSBC. Note that you can only pay the fees in cash, but there are ATM’s at all of the banks.

We returned with the receipts, and we were told it we be a few minutes. This was the only hangup in our check in: a few minutes turned into an hour and a half, and we have no idea why. We asked a few times, but the answer was always “un momento, por favor”. Finally we received our cruising permits.

How long to check in here without an Agent?
Including the hour and a half wait at the end of the process, the total time for checking in was 4 hours. That was worth not paying $100 for an agent. The procedure here was much simpler than in Cozumel, where we spent over two days and $20 in taxi rides.

As an aside, we were not asked about a TIP. We had one from our previous Mexico cruise, but our buddy boat did not. We told them we were planning to stay one to two weeks – perhaps a TIP is not required for a short stay?

We recommend checking in at Isla Mujeres instead of Cozumel, and we don’t think that an agent is necessary, or justified by the expense.

                         Cancun skyline                                             The beach at the north end of Isla Mujeres
                                                  Passing along the beach on our way to the marina
                        Relaxing at the pool                                          Getting started with the check-in cha-cha

Isla Mujeres is a tourist town, but not nearly so much as Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The streets are still charming, the merchandise is interesting, and the food is fabulous. Cruise ships don’t call here, but a lot of cruise ship riff-raff ferry over from Cancun, so it can be crowded during the day. A lot of people rent golf carts to zip around on, but we used the inexpensive taxis. One of the first problems we had was at an ATM. When we had come through here in 2014, I used an ATM where the card is returned at the end of your transaction. Most machines require you to remove the card to get the cash, but not that one. I left the card in the machine, and remembered after we were over in Cancun. I had mentioned that experience to Scott when we were in the Caymans, but you guessed it: the same thing happened to him. After he realized what had happened, we hustled back to the bank, but the card was now gone. I’m not sure what happens to them – does the next customer get them, or does the machine eat them? We could not get a bank employee to tell us – the answer was “no se”. After talking with his Credit Union, it was clear that he could not get a replacement card anytime soon, so we floated them the pesos.

We really enjoyed the food, as usual. We had not had actual authentic Mexican meals since the last time we were there.
                                                                  Mmmmm – muy delicioso!
                  The streets are filled with shops                                    Skulls are a big deal in Mexico
                                     To say that Trump is not popular on Mexico is an understatement

The NBA finals had started, with the Warriors facing Cleveland again. We found a sports bar in town that would have the game on, but we didn’t relish coming to town at 9:00 and leaving at midnight. We found that the buffet room at the marina / hotel had a TV, and we asked if we could see the game on it. The answer was a different form of “no se”, but we gave it a try. First, we had to find the remote control, which the office was supposed to have. They didn’t have it, but a guard found it for us. After some doing, we were able to find and watch games one and two. For some reason, we were not able to get game three, but I had gotten a local SIM card, so we were able to use the phone wi-fi to stream the game. We won the first three games handily, but game four would be on as we would be cruising to Key West.