Barely a week since the death of its long-time dictator Fidel Castro, Cuba has embraced new warmth from the rest of the world, particularly the cruise industry, with Cuban authorities today rolling out the red carpet to five more cruise lines to begin sailing direct voyages from ports in the United States.
The brands all reside within two major cruise corporations with Royal Caribbean Cruises, which consists of Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which represents Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. All have been given the green light to sail to Cuba on exchanges approved under current US regulations.
Royal Caribbean has begun by offering one ship – Empress of the Seas – which will stamp the company’s mark on Cuba from April 2017 in the form of a five-night round-trip from Miami, Florida. Two more cruises will then sail from Tampa on the other side of the state, offering one seven-night and another five-night cruise all calling in Havana.
The line will then offer regular four and five-night cruises from Tampa over the course of the 2017 summer season – the first time the line has based a ship in the port – to the Caribbean, some of which will also stop in Cuba. Elements of the Cuban lifestyle will also be brought onboard the ship during these voyages, with Cuban cuisine and salsa music tempting guests and bringing the ship to life.
On the other hand, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has jumped in head-first, announcing all three of its brands would visit the Cuban capital of Havana in the next six months. The group’s first ship – Oceania Cruises’ Marina – will sail from Miami on 07 March 2017 on a Caribbean itinerary which will stop in Cuba.
Sister brand Regent Seven Seas Cruises will send Seven Seas Mariner on two cruises to the country a month later, while Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky on several four-day voyages which will overnight in Havana from May.
The three brands will offer a selection of shore excursions in which passengers can indulge in the colourful art, history and culture of Cuba, which all abide by existing restrictions on American-based companies trading with the country, which for around 60 years has been lassoed with a trade embargo which is only now being progressively relaxed.
For Australians, today’s news also means you will soon be able to book a cruise between the US and Cuba. It also means MSC Cruises, which has enjoyed a monopoly on sailing in the country for a little over a year due to its European registry and immunity from the embargo, will soon find itself with a significant load of new competition for travellers wishing to see the country from a cruise ship.