A Miami-to-Havana cruise program starting 10 months from now means that Americans can enjoy a comfortable encounter with the Cuban capital
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.
The Celebrity Equinox Docks in St. Thomas.