Cuba beck­ons

A Mi­ami-to-Ha­vana cruise pro­gram start­ing 10 months from now means that Amer­i­cans can en­joy a com­fort­able en­counter with the Cuban cap­i­tal

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - DESTINATIONS - BY ARTHUR FROM­MER Arthur From­mer is the pi­o­neer­ing founder of the From­mer’s Travel Guide book se­ries. He co-hosts the ra­dio pro­gram, The Travel Show, with his travel cor­re­spon­dent daugh­ter Pauline From­mer. Find more des­ti­na­tions online and read Arthur Fr

A great many Amer­i­cans have made it clear that they wish to visit Cuba. But how? Apart from the sev­eral, ab­surdly ex­pen­sive “peo­ple-to-peo­ple” group tours mak­ing use of stan­dard Cuban ho­tels (some such tours cost as much as $5,000-$6,000 per per­son for a week’s stay in Ha­vana), the in­de­pen­dent tourist gen­er­ally will need to find a lodg­ing with a Cuban fam­ily in an of­ten-un­com­fort­able and rather prim­i­tive apart­ment (known as a “casa par­tic­u­lar”). The high­qual­ity Ha­vana ho­tels al­ready are heav­ily booked by the Cana­dian, Ger­man, French, Bri­tish, South Amer­i­can and Span­ish tourists who have been flock­ing to the Cuban cap­i­tal for many years.

That gen­eral pic­ture of a ho­tel short­age is an in­escapable fact that needs to be kept in mind when con­tem­plat­ing a Cuban visit. And that fact makes the re­cent an­nounce­ment (in early July) of the first con­tin­u­ous Amer­i­can cruise pro­gram there ex­cit­ing. None other than the mam­moth Car­ni­val Cruises will op­er­ate a bi-weekly cruise pro­gram from Mi­ami to Ha­vana, start­ing in May 2016. Pre­sum­ably ( full de­tails aren’t yet avail­able), the ship will stay each week in the port of Ha­vana for sev­eral days and then ven­ture on to shorter stays in other sea­side cities of Cuba. Pas­sen­gers, for a price start­ing at $2,990 per per­son plus tax, will en­joy the com­forts of a cruise­ship lodg­ing and also will re­turn to the ship for ex­cel­lent meals (in pref­er­ence to the of­ten-lack­ing Ha­vana restau­rants).

Sur­pris­ingly, the ship op­er­at­ing this pro­gram will not be one of the clas­sic Car­ni­val be­he­moths car­ry­ing sev­eral thou­sand pas­sen­gers. Rather, it will be the 700-pas­sen­ger Ado­nia, small enough to an­chor in the docks of Ha­vana, de­signed for the smaller cruise ships of 50 years ago. And it is pos­si­ble that the ex­ec­u­tives of Car­ni­val have con­cluded that to un­leash sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple in Ha­vana at one time would de­grade the unique at­mos­phere of Ha­vana.

Other cruise lines may dis­agree. Ru­mours abound that a gi­ant ship or two can an­chor two or three miles from the Ha­vana port and send groups of 50 pas­sen­gers at a time in “ten­ders” shut­tling them to shore. What­ever course is cho­sen, there is no doubt that the Car­ni­val pro­gram is only the first of what will be sev­eral Amer­i­can pas­sen­ger ships mak­ing weekly vis­its to Cuba.

Be­cause of what un­doubt­edly is a ma­jor, pent-up in­ter­est in travel to Cuba, it is pos­si­ble that Car­ni­val’s de­par­tures with only 700 berths will quickly sell out. Peo­ple want­ing to en­joy the unique flavour of this “coun­try in the Caribbean,” the largest is­land in that sto­ried sea, will want to make im­me­di­ate calls to Car­ni­val reser­va­tions to snare places in the pro­gram.

Note to the reader: Please be sure to con­firm all rates and de­tails di­rectly with the com­pa­nies in ques­tion be­fore plan­ning your trip. The in­for­ma­tion in this col­umn was ac­cu­rate when it was re­leased, but prices are com­pet­i­tive, some­times lim­ited and can al­ways change with­out no­tice.

PHOTO BY KARL GOL­HEN

The Celebrity Equinox Docks in St. Thomas.

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