The emergence of Cuba as a hot cruising destination is clearly evident at MSC Cruises. Demand for the mysterious Caribbean island has been so strong that the rapidly growing cruise line has said it will now double its presence for its second season next year.
Ahead of the arrival of MSC Opera on 22 December for its maiden season in Cuba, MSC Cruises has decided to add a second ship – MSC Armonia – for the following year in order to meet passenger demand. More about that later…
MSC Opera, fresh from being lengthened during a recent dry dock renovation and refurbishment, is now on its way from its European base to the Cuban capital of Havana for its maiden winter season, due to arrive on 22 December.
Thereafter, the 1,712-passenger ship will begin seven-night cruises from Havana. Unlike many cruise itineraries however, the holiday actually begins in Cuba, with the first two days spent docked at the embarkation point, the ship serving as the base and hotel and offering a range of shore excursions before passengers even set sail. After two-and-a-half days in Havana, the ship spends one day at sea before visiting Montego Bay, Jamaica; Georgetown, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico before returning to Havana.
For next year, the much larger and also-reinvigorated 2,679-passenger MSC Armonia will join the fray, sailing two alternating seven-night itineraries, also from Havana.
The first itinerary will begin with two days and one night in Havana before setting sail for Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico and Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. The second journey will spend two nights in Havana before departing on a similar itinerary to MSC Opera, visiting the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Montego Bay, Georgetown & Cozumel.
For guests with more time at their disposal, both itineraries are able to be combined into one 14-night journey which allows for up to four days in Cuba at different stages of the holiday.
MSC Cruises is the first major global cruise line to base one of its ships in Havana – a destination which is re-emerging onto the global scene after decades of mystery and largely fortified borders, a result of long-held tensions with the United States of America which are only now beginning to be cautiously relaxed.
Havana’s embarkation cruise terminal is situated right in the centre of the Old Havana district, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site and one which will allow passengers to step off the ship and directly into a hub of Caribbean flavour and activity.
MSC Armonia will arrive in Havana to set up alongside its sister ship in November 2016, however itineraries are not yet on sale.