Puerto Peñasco (3TV/CBS 5) -- After years of planning, the first cruise ship to depart from Puerto Peñasco, aka Rocky Point, is slated to set sail in December, even if the pier itself is not complete.
That's the word from Hector Vazquez, Puerto Peñasco's Convention and Visitors Bureau President, as he joined the CBS5 This Morning & 3 TV's Good Morning Arizona news teams Friday in a live interview.
Vazquez confirmed the cruise ship will take on passengers via ferry boats or will dock on the sparkling new pier, if completed in time, for the inaugural run in December. The Cruise & Maritime Voyages ship will tour of the Sea of Cortez, the only one to navigate solely in the Gulf of California.
Right now, there are six 11-day “Treasures of the Sea of Cortez” cruises on the calendar, the first of which is Dec. 7. The last one departs on Feb. 11. Stops along the way include Topolobampo, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, and Santa Rosalía.
The ship, the Astoria, has 277 cabins with a capacity for 550 passengers.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages, an award-winning company based in Great Britain, has already opened reservations for the "Treasures of the Sea of Cortez” cruises.
CBS 5’s Sean McLaughlin has been following the development of the port in Rocky Point since its inception in 2015.
Just last month, he reported that the project was behind schedule.
“The always-optimistic Hector Vazquez, Puerto Peñasco's Convention and Visitors Bureau President, says the project stopped because of two administration changes over the past two years, admitting there has been ‘a lot of ups and downs,’” he wrote then.
Despite those "ups and downs," optimism for the project has never waned. It's always been a question of "when," not "if."
Rocky Point has long been a favorite destination for Arizonans, even touting itself as "Arizona's beach." By that token, the port at Rocky Point could be considered "Arizona's cruise port."
In May, Cruise & Maritime Voyages announced plans to launch its Puerto Peñasco operations in January 2020, which makes the December departures a little bit ahead of schedule.
That original plan called for CMV to send out its 1,250-passenger ship Magellan, which, while larger than the Astoria, is still relatively small by today's cruise ship standards.
[READ MORE: Arizona's cruise port]
"Using smaller 'classic' cruise ships, Cruise & Maritime prides itself on its comfortable staterooms, traditional cruise amenities like afternoon tea, and a high level of personal attention," travel expert Rosanne Coloccia wrote on azfamily.com back then. "For its 'Treasures of the Sea of Cortez' itinerary, the ports -- most inaccessible to larger vessels -- are the true highlight, as opposed to a glitzy ship."
According to CruiseMapper.com, "the average cruise ship passenger capacity is around 3,000 guests for ocean liners."
That means the experience aboard the Astoria will be more intimate.
As Coloccia said, though, it's the itinerary that's the real draw. It's the only one of its kind right now.
"I have a feeling these sailings from 'Arizona’s cruise port' are going to be very popular with vacationers new to cruising, as well as experienced cruisers looking for a new and different itinerary," Coloccia predicted.
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