Cruise Companies Discuss New Cuban Market in Miami

Miami, world cruise capital and venue of the cruise industry mega-convention

Daniel Benitez  (Cafe Fuerte)

Cruise ship in Havana Bay.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Cruise ship in Havana Bay. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The number of foreign tourists who arrived in Cuba on cruise ships increased by 3,000 passengers during January in comparison to the same period last year, a rather tempting figure for the top representatives of cruise operators gathered this week in Miami Beach.

According to Cuba’s National Statistics and Information Bureau (ONEI), the total number of travelers who reached Cuban ports during the first month of the year rose to 3,937 passengers. Cuban tourism authorities expect some 212 stopovers by 13 cruisers during the current season, which began in November and will last till April.

The publication of this data coincides with Cruise Shipping Miami, a world cruise industry mega-convention which could not avoid the debate regarding the potential benefits of including Cuba in cruise itineraries, while the world awaits the complete normalization of relations between Washington and Havana.

Thinking Cuba’s Reforms

The most important meeting between cruise ship owners and operators around the world, to be held today at 9:30 am, will address the way in which Cuba’s new relations with the United States could help develop the tourism market on the island.

The panel, titled The State of the Cruise Industry: The Future of the Caribbean & How it is Being Re-Shaped, includes the participation of the presidents of the main cruise companies operating in the international market today: Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, Richard E. Sasso, president of MSC Cruceros and Andy Stuart, president of Norwegian Cruise Line.

The keynote address will be offered by Michele M. Paige, president of the Florida – Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

Though approval for travel to Cuba by US tourists on cruisers will depend on the lifting of the embargo, authorization for a passenger vessel to travel to the island for educational or cultural reasons would depend only on the US Treasury Department.

The benefits are clearly on sight. Last year, the Louis Cristal cruiser, rented out to the Louis group by the Canadian company Cuba Cruise, included the island in its itinerary for the first time and has scheduled a Monday departure from Havana and a Friday departure from Montego Bay for the season that began on December 22 last year. The ship will dock at six ports, including Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos, and trips will be offered until March 30.

New Cuba Itinerary

This past Tuesday, the company announced a new itinerary for the 2015-2016 season which includes a two-day stop in Havana and a stopover at the Maria la Gorda beach in the province of Pinar del Rio.

The Canadian company offers a direct Toronto-Havana flight and transfers passengers to the Havana port, a semi-open door for hundreds of US travelers.

ONEI reports that some 371,160 tourists arrived in Cuba during the first month of 2015. Of these, 181,101 (48.8 percent) were Canadian. Canada continues to be the main tourism source country for Cuba.

The second country on the list was Germany, with 15,832 visitors. England takes the third position with 14,526 visitors.

The number of tourists arriving in Cuba during January has gradually increased over the past three years, from 293,329 to 371,160 visitors.

10 thoughts on “Cruise Companies Discuss New Cuban Market in Miami

  • March 30, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I went on the Cuba Cruise last week and I’m an American. Great time in all of the ports. Many of the comments below are accurate. Cuba guys did not stamp my passport, fyi, and I had no issues coming home. I just wish I had brought more ‘gifts’ for the local people like toilet paper, gum, panty hose, etc…

  • March 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    La Habana is ready for cruise ships to come in and the terminal which was built several years ago can handle passengers. Now, is it the best? No. The entire complex was built several years ago and it is a very nice structure but then came a time when Fidel castro made one of his moves and decided that that type of tourism was detrimental and was messing up the bay, etc., etc. and thus cruise lines went away!! But kid yourself not, two major players in the field have been to Cuba in the past and know what is there and what is not so it would be a matter of “re-shaping”. Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Matanzas can be easy to get into by the ships but would need to have the appropriate infrastructure built to handle arriving passengers (i.e. immigration & customs) and it could be minimal in the sense that PAX would only come off the ships for sightseeing, eating, etc. which can be handled by local taxis, etc. Santiago de Cuba has the port but also has a cable running across the bay that represents a problem but the ships can easily anchor off the bay and use their tenders to move PAX. Yes, I have consulted in this matter in the past with various companies/individuals and I am very familiar with the areas discussed.

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