Cruise travel to Cuba is now really starting to get interesting.
Beyond Carnival Corporation’s Fathom, many more cruise lines are now beginning to head to the Caribbean island nation conveniently roundtrip from Florida, but it could all be for naught if President Trump follows through with his campaign promise of modifying relations first opened up by President Obama.
My sincere hope, however, is that this does not happen and that instead travel flourishes there.
As I had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand aboard Fathom, the cruise industry is on to something great sailing to Cuba. The chance to finally visit the once-forbidden fruit with an overnight stop in Havana and day calls on Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba was a fantastic cultural exchange experience—the kind travel is best known for.
If Trump is shortsighted and puts on the brakes against such invaluable opportunities, it would be most unfortunate.
Following Fathom’s lead, now Pearl Seas Cruises is regularly sailing to not only Havana; Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba but Trinidad; Isla de la Juventud; El Cobre, Santiago and Parque Baconao, Santiago as well.
Next to go to Cuba in 2017 is Oceania Cruises with the Marina set to depart for Havana on March 7 followed shortly behind by Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest on March 21. Luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner will then head to Havana come April 11 with Royal Caribbean International’s Empress of the Seas going on April 19 as well. Norwegian Cruise Line will round out the mainstream lines going to Havana with its first departure on May 1.
After the first wave of announcements, extensions of Cuban cruise programming have already been made as far out as May 2018. Initially, it looked like Carnival Corp.’s Cuban endeavors would expire with Fathom ending its sailings there in May 2017, but the Carnival Cruise Line brand has received permission to take up the torch and continue onboard the Carnival Paradise to Havana starting on June 29, 2017, on 4-night and 5-night voyages.
Even Oceania has added additional sailings to Cuba through this December, expanding from only Havana to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba as well. Its six extra cruises start up again on November 14.
What’s great about Pearl Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, in particular, is that they are visiting more than just Havana, mirroring Fathom’s itineraries at the very least and going well beyond in Pearl Seas’ case. Promising for the future is that Carnival has a sailing scheduled on May 3, 2018. So, it’s very likely that even more cruises will be granted in between by the Cuban government, which leaves only our government as the variable to the future of Cuban cruises and travel there from the U.S. in general.
Having experienced three Cuban ports myself, I only wish more U.S. citizens also have the chance to enjoy the historic destinations, riding around in classic American cars, listening to Afro-Cuban music pour into the streets and interacting with the friendly locals.
So, Trump, please don’t take that opportunity away from us. If you feel so inclined to modify trade policies, fine, but travel exchanges are a whole other matter that requires delicacy for cultural sharing to not only be maintained but cherished.
If things are allowed to continue, the cruise industry might very well include Havana and other Cuban ports as frequently as Nassau in the Caribbean. Of course, there are infrastructural limitations currently, but in partnership with the people of Cuba, the future could hold much bigger things, and I’m optimistic that we will see them.