PHOTO: Havana will be the homeport for the MSC Opera this winter. (Photo by David Cogswell)
MSC Cruises will base a ship in Cuba for the winter 2015-16 season, the Italian line announced July 3.
The recently renovated 2,120-guest MSC Opera will homeport in Havana and operate 16 seven-night cruises to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico with two nights in the Cuban capital.
“The inaugural cruise will take place in less than six months from now, but we can definitely attest of the strong demand for the product, due to the combination of the attractiveness of Cuba as a culture-rich destination, coupled with the fact that it is offered through our distinctive MSC Cruises experience,” MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said in a press release.
The Cuba program was officially announced overseas, but not in the U.S. since the product is not aimed at American citizens. U.S. travelers heading to Cuba must get People to People licenses for trips that are educational in nature and don’t allow independent travel once on the island.
MSC Cruises said it was offering fly-cruise packages in particular to travelers from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Sales will open July 9.
MSC Cruises is partnering with Cubanacan, a company founded 20 years ago, to operate ground services and shore excursions in Cuba.
The MSC Opera will depart Genoa, Italy, on Dec. 2 for a Grand Voyage to Cuba. The first cruise will depart Havana on Dec. 22, 2015.
On April 12, 2016, the ship will leave Havana to sail to Warnemünde, Germany.
MSC Opera’s originally scheduled winter 2015-16 season in the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco, has been cancelled.
The MSC Opera is now undergoing a renovation as part of MSC Cruises’ $273 million Renaissance Program to upgrade four Lirica-class ships. The MSC Opera is expected to return to service later this month.