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The Havana International Fair was the backdrop for an announcement this week from Virgin Voyages. The line's first ship, Scarlet Lady, will call on Cuba during its 2020 inaugural season.
The decision reflects the extremely high interest in Cuba as a destination. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is certainly a fan of the Caribbean nation.
"Virgin Atlantic has been visiting Cuba for 13 years, and I cannot wait to see our iconic Scarlet Lady gleaming in the Havana Harbor. Havana is the perfect place for our sailors to go and experience a city that exudes an irresistible energy and passion," said Branson.
Branson and Virgin Voyages president and CEO Tom McAlpin have previously stated that the line's passengers will be known as "sailors."
"We are thrilled to share the news about our partnership with Cuba and can't wait to take our sailors to Havana, which is without doubt, one of the Caribbean's most authentic and enriching destinations," McAlpin said. "This fantastic place offers the chance for our sailors to create their own unique stories as they uncover cultural treasures, meet the locals and just soak up the atmosphere."
Virgin Voyages will sail to Cuba from PortMiami. Itineraries will include an overnight stay in Havana. Shore offerings will comport with the people-to-people regulations currently in place by the US government. Specific details about shore excursions will be available in 2019.
"We have a long-standing relationship with Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group and are pleased to announce this new partnership with Virgin Voyages," Cuba Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said. "The Cuban people look forward to welcoming Virgin Voyages' first ship, its crew and passengers to our shores in 2020."
The president of Cuba Educational Travel, Collin Laverty, noted that Virgin Voyages will make a distinct imprint on the country. And vice versa.
"Virgin Voyages will service a new demographic of travelers to Cuba, which will greatly benefit the Cuban economy and the Cuban people," said Laverty. "The Virgin brand is a perfect match for the incredible music, art and dance that Cuba offers."
Virgin Voyages has joined the ranks of several other high-end lines visiting Cuba. Those lines include Silversea, Seabourn, PONANT, SeaDream and Regent Seven Seas.
Virgin Voyages was in the news earlier in the week, as well. Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri revealed plans for a fourth newbuild.
Ana Figueroa is a veteran travel industry writer based in Los Angeles. She's a former contributing editor for Travel Agent...
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