Out to Sea for March 11/17
(c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Cruising to Cuba is more than just a trip to the beach.
That’s because U.S. homeported cruise lines – in order to receive permission to sail to the once off-limits Caribbean nation – must prove these are “cultural and humanitarian exchanges.”
Now that the strict embargo by the U.S. for cruisers has been lifted, Cuba has become a hot, hot, hot destination.
|Cruisers can now visit the vibrant port city of Havana, Cuba.|
Canadians have freely visited the Communist island nation that’s been stuck in a time warp since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, but not usually by cruise ship.
Now, lines are scrambling to add Cuba to their ports of call.
“Cuba is an island jewel unique from anywhere else in the Caribbean and we are thrilled to have this rare opportunity to take our guests to this fascinating destination,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.
Bob Binder, president and CEO of Oceania Cruises, said there has been “tremendous demand from consumers for voyages to Cuba and our inaugural voyages to the island have been a sell-out success.”
Other cruise lines that have recently announced new or expanded sailings include Azamara and Norwegian.
|Vibrant sunsets are
seen in the Caribbean en route to Cuba. (Jim Fox photo)|
A first for Carnival
Carnival Cruise Line will add Havana to select Carnival Paradise voyages from Tampa starting on June 29.
This follows the history-making launch of cruises to Cuba on Carnival Corporation’s Fathom brand last year.
Overnight visits to the Cuban capital will be featured on 12 cruises of four and five days so vacationers will have a “rare and exciting opportunity to explore this fascinating destination,” said Vance Gulliksen, senior public relations manager.
Four-day cruises through to May 3 of next year include a daytime and overnight visit to Havana.
Five-day voyages from Aug. 14 through Oct. 9 also include a stop in either Cozumel or Key West.
|A fun day at sea on a Carnival Cruise Line ship.|
“Carnival Paradise guests will be able to choose from a range of exciting shore excursion experiences that showcase Cuba’s vibrant culture and majestic beauty, along with the island’s warm-and-friendly people, and centuries-old architectural landmarks,” Gulliksen said. carnival.com
Upscale Azamara Club Cruises quickly sold out its first voyage to Cuba sailing March 21 from Miami.
With the theme “Hemingway Hideaways,” Azamara Quest sailings stress “passion, history, culture, vintage cars, fine cigars, incredible architecture, exotic rhythms and stunning beaches.”
The line says: “After sampling Key Lime pie in Key West, experiencing the fascinating Dali Museum or the white sand Clearwater beaches near Tampa and strolling through the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, it's off to discover the dazzling island of Cozumel.”
Then the “vibrant and stunning” port city of Havana has an overnight stay with time to “discover its cobbled streets lined with classic cars, craft markets and colorful buildings.”
Other sailings, also round-trip Miami, are “Havana Discovery” leaving Nov. 20 and “Havana Getaway,” Nov. 27. azamaraclubcruises.com
Oceania takes the plunge
Luxury Oceania Cruises has an additional series of journeys to Cuba in November and December, ranging from six to 13 days from Miami.
The voyages include the line’s first call at Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, along with Havana, said Tim Rubacky, director of corporate communications.
Each sailing on the 684-passenger Insignia includes gourmet dining with “continental specialties along with the bold and vibrant tastes of Cuba.”
There will also be lectures on Cuban history, art and music, and games of dominoes, a Cuban staple. oceaniacruises.com
Norwegian Cruise Line is extending weekly round-trip cruises to Cuba from Miami aboard Norwegian Sky through December.
The added sailings begin in June, after five in May, with the 30 voyages featuring an overnight call in Havana.
The four-day cruises will also visit Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.
Shore excursions include visiting with Cuba’s “warm and friendly residents through people-to-people exchanges,” a farm-to-table dining experience, exploring the flora and fauna of Soroa and viewing modern Havana in a classic car. ncl.com/cruises-to/cuba-cruises
Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at email@example.comFor more Out to Sea trip tips: http://outtoseatravel.blogspot.ca