Why the Loss of Cruise Ships Is a Win for Cuba

By Michael Ritchie

Constantino Arias’ photo titled Ugly American, showing a late-1940s Batista-era tourist in Havana, Cuba.

HAVANA TIMES – I write this as a loser in the Great Cruise Ship Wars in my hometown Key West, Florida— Havana’s sister city to the north. I have witnessed first-hand the virtual destruction of this once-peaceful (if somewhat quirky) island paradise in the turbulent wake of cruise ships.

When representatives of the cruise industry first approached the Key West city commission more than a decade ago, they promised a low-impact, high-profit win for the island. “And there will likely be no more than one or two ships a week,” they noted.

Free money.

Well, that one or two ships per week grew almost overnight to five ships a week, then ten and… well, it’s still growing. Each of those ships disgorged from 1,500 to 3,000 people onto our tiny streets, clogging pedestrian and vehicular traffic. They even wanted to dredge our harbor to accommodate even larger ships carrying up to 5,000 tourists. A referendum of local residents rejected that plan by more than 70 percent. Not to be denied, those larger ships are now showing up anyway. Go figure.

It quickly became clear to many residents that the city had made a mistake by ever allowing cruise ships in our small port. They mildly protested. As a journalist, I loudly protested. But by the time we spoke out, a few merchants were already making big money off of the boats. Very few, though.

You see, cruise ship passengers are notoriously, well, cheap. They do not stay in hotels. They do not eat in many restaurants. And the merchandise they buy is limited in dollar amount—usually a shot glass and a refrigerator magnet.

But the few merchants making money had very loud voices. In fact, some of them were city commission members—the very ones in control of the cruise ship issue.

Some were made gifts of annual free junkets on cruise ships. So guess how they voted any time objections to cruise ships arose.

Cruise ships are like cancer; once they take hold, they metastasize until the host is overwhelmed and consumed. Which is what happened to Key West.

My quiet island was lost, irretrievably lost.

By 2014 I began spending most of my free time in La Habana. I found the people to warm and welcoming– gentle, yet full of life. And while the city had suffered decay over the years, it still offered some of the most beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture in the world. Truly the pearl of the Caribbean.

Havana was a dream come true for a historian of the Cuban Revolution, steeped in rich, proud history. I spent endless hours in the Museo de la Revolución and the impressive Plaza de la Revolución.

I wanted to make my relationship with Cuba permanent, by hook or by crook.

Then, early in 2016 I heard the news that the U.S. and Cuban governments had agreed to allow cruise ships access to Cuba’s harbor.

The Carnival Corp. cruise ship Adonia’s 700 passengers arrived in Havana on May 2, 2016.

I was there, in the garden of the Hotel Nacional overlooking the Malecón and adjacent Gulf, on that fateful morning when the first ship arrived. My heart sank. I knew that all I had come to love would be destroyed—like so many destination ports from Key West to Venice.

Resistance was useless, though I tried desperately to reach out to Cuban leaders through Twitter, urging them to deny access to Cuban ports. But the genie was out of the bottle. Already the number of cruise lines requesting access was increasing exponentially. Already Old Havana was becoming congested with cruise shippers.

One of my great pleasures was relaxing in the Bar Vista del Golfo at the aforementioned Hotel Nacional. Pure elegance with gentlemanly bartenders and strolling musicians. [Although I felt equally at home when visiting a little family restaurant called Wakamba just a couple blocks away across La Rampa.]

That all changed with the arrival of the ships and Transtur buses. Hourly groups began to interrupt the tranquility of the Bar Vista with groups of US tourists stamping noisily through, waving chits for a free Mojito they’d been promised by the tour group. Sans tip for my good friend and bartender, Anjelito.

It was all over.


On Tuesday, June 4 of this year, the greatest news arrived. The Yanqui Imperialists were ordering cruise lines out of Cuban waters and ports.

Now there are those who would disagree with my celebration at the cancellation of all those cash cows. Which brings up the WIN part of this piece [Took long enough!].

Fact is, cruise ships are not sustainable tourism. They do more harm to a community and state than they do good. As Fidel said in reply to President Obama’s “honey-coated” words, “We don’t need any gifts from the Empire.”

Cruise shippers are, for the most part, rude and demanding. They clog Havana’s quaint streets with thousands of loud, pushy tourists looking to spend only on items valued at one or less CUC.

They stay only a few hours and do not stay in hotels, Airbnb’s or casa particulars. They do not spend money in the new paladars (meals are included on the ship). They cause great impact on Havana’s shaky sewer system. (If you’re a Habanero there’s no need to explain the delicate state of sanitation in the city.)

Cubans who work in the shops and service industry are stressed and quickly come to resent the overwhelming number of foreigners who don’t speak Spanish but demand instant service. Stress, the Cuban people do not need.

These are people who know nothing of Cuba’s rich history and its residents.

In short, cruise shippers are, again for the most part, the quintessential “Ugly Americans” (as pictured).

Again I defer to El Jefe Fidel and his response when approached by an Italian cruise line in 2008: “”These are floating hotels, floating restaurants, floating theaters, floating fun, they visit the countries to leave their garbage, the empty cans and the papers for a few miserable cents.” In fact, he added further— at the time– “Cuba will never accept cruise ships.”

In fact, Carnival Cruise Lines recently pleaded guilty to dumping thousands of gallons of plastic and gray water (sewage) into the world’s ports.

Yes, this turn of circumstance is a win for Cuba. Cuba does not need (or want) cruise ships.

Cuba does need quality tourists—including the non-“Ugly” American ones— who spend real money and spend quality time with the Cuban people. That will be a true Win.

This cold war noise will end soon. The U.S. will renew relations with Cuba. It can only be hoped that the Cuban government will think twice about inviting cruise ships to return.

55 thoughts on “Why the Loss of Cruise Ships Is a Win for Cuba

  • Your Key West , I was born in raised in Miami sir and with all due respect the
    cuban people that you speak of drove the family business into the ground demanding that we the business owners speak English ( my father and grandfather both spoke Italian and Spanish) , they piss outside our business doors, spit on the street !!
    You might want to watch what you say because you may not be as welcomed as you think.

  • So basically, YOU want to go and visit these countries like some kind of aristocrat and those that don’t live up to YOUR standards should stay home. You don’t want visitors to YOUR Key West but you have no problem infiltrating someone else’s neighborhood, in say Havana. By the way, it’s not YOUR Key West. I pay homeowner taxes here too.

  • I have been to Havana while the ships were docking and since the prohibition. The author is incorrect in the assertion that the ships brought little cash to Cuba. Every person exiting the ship paid a $75.00 visa fee, all going to the government. Every cigar and bottle of rum those cruise passengers bought was sold by the Government. Most of the businesses in Old Havana are controlled by the government. Who knows what the cruise ship companies paid for access, but it was certainly not cheap. Cuba needs all the foreign cash it can get.

    As for individual Cubans, those tour guides, taxi drivers and others who depended on it have been devastated by the lost – I have asked many of them. But really we are only talking about only a few thousand people in a country of more than 11 million.

    I prefer Havana without the crowds, but the thousands of cruisers I saw were well behaved, having fun and leaving a trail of cash.

  • I was fortunate to visit Havana and Cienfuegos in May this year on the Empress of the Sea cruise. I have never felt more welcomed than a lot of countries that I have visited. I remember my tour guide Anna Maria in Cienfuegos telling us that she hope that the USA will not stop the cruises as they really need the tourists revenues. It is always the simple people of Cuba that gets hurt the most with such actions. I hope the Cuban people will stay strong and endure these tough times. Viva Cuba.

  • Hola from manchester England uk.
    Very few people will profit from these floating hotels long term.
    I have visited cuba 6 times.
    I have met some lovely people,in holguin district.
    The more you get to know them,the more they invite you to see the real cuba.
    I sponsored a local football team on my last visit,they all now sport a new orange strip for the season.
    Thank you real plaza fc ,guardalavaca district.
    Memories forever.
    Real cuba.

  • Michael if you’r great grandmother is María Mantilla you are José Marti his great great grandson .

  • Tourists don’t set the prices they pay, the companies who offer the services/goods set prices. Anywhere there is tourism, there are high prices. Why? Companies want to capitalize off the patrons. That is their prerogative, it’s their business. If patrons like the services/goods, they’re going to spend the money. What you are really saying is that you hate capitalism. At least be honest.

  • Hi! Ugly american here…I was looking forward to our cruise to Havana that will no longer take place. But our travel planning misfortune is nothing when compared to the tour guides who will be without clients. I pray something good can come of this situation for all those impacted.

  • All the comments that l read already against the cruises in Cuba, reminds me the same words of the Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro. He also was against the cruises due “environmental issues” anyways bigger cruises sail to Jamaica, Haiti and others islands of the Caribbean l am a cuban American living here for more than 20 years and everybody knows how people struggling in the island, a lot of them want but at the same time they bet to find a better way to survive there, so l dare to ask to the writer of this article : Tu quieres que ellos se jodan? I believe they are Cubans as well you are!
    So, l believe you better find another excuse because that you tried to convince us in this article, is the same point of view of the Cuban regime…for them cruises were a necessary evil, never liked. But like prostitutes they go with the big bidder! Thanks!

  • and not all of them elect one as their president!

  • Cheri – you and your fellow cruiseshippers certainly left an impact. You guys have inflated prices so much it is a crime. The only Cubans who can afford to eat in the same places as you are the ones involved in tourism (or the party) lol. Not only that but all these cars that are available for tours for tourists. Ever wondered where they all magically came from? Many were collectivos – taxis for Cubans. So not only have you created enormous price differentials, but mass cruise ship tourist have been the root cause for taking vehicles out of circulation for the transportation of ordinary Cubans. Then there’s the stupid US tipping culture to skew the situation even more. It is frankly ugly, crass and embarrassing to see Americans throwing so much money around. It is not how to improve the lot for Cubans.

    The beers you drink – are you aware that the high influx tourist demand meant that Cristal beers are often unavailable for Cubans to buy. Finally, if someone is going to be able to charge $30 for a meal, they are also going to be able to bribe the butcher or whoever, to make sure they get the meat and not the ordinary juans/juanitas who have to go without. But yay, those millions of dollars in revenue are really helping. Not.

  • Damn right, Carlyle.

  • Why do you bet that Eva? Are you insinuating that the editor is biased. I think that is one of the amazing things about HavanaTimes – it gives a voice to all even though the voices can be a bit clunky or politically biased or… etc. It obviously struck a nerve with you to have the negative aspect of how you vacation pointed out. It is not just the volume of tourists disgorged at the same time but cruise ships are very harmful to the environment in so many ways: air pollution, water pollution, acoustic, and oil pollution. Ships are responsible for more than 18 percent of some air pollutants and can emit as much particulate matter as a million cars every day. Why on earth should locals suffer this – the majority do not stand to make any financial/social gain from having you lot visit.

  • Some sweet propaganda lol. Saying all Americans are ugly is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There are a-holes in every country.

  • Michael Ritchie ought to read the article Havana vs, La Habana. Then he might know a little about Cuba and the plight of its citizens.

  • I have been to Cuba more than 40 times. I opened a personal tour business 4 years ago called Out of the Box Tours that employs wonderful men and women as guides and as drivers. The customers enjoy the architecture & history of the city, but also the countryside and paladars…. and shown as much of REAL Cuba as we can. It was easy to help change the lifestyles of every one of my staff. The cruise ships made a huge impact on lot’s of people, but that will now be different for an undetermined length of time. I’ve never been on a cruise nor have the desire. There maybe lot’s of negative impact as well as helping out fund the Cuban government, but it did help lot’s of individuals as well.

  • To say nothing of the environmental hazard posed by these cruise mega-ships.

    Not at all like the “good old days” when the only flights out of Cuba went to Moscow, East Berlin, Prague, Madrid, or Mexico and the few tourists to the island were either Communists or Party sympathizers.

  • I still have family in Cuba, I’m 45 yrs old, and I lived in Cuba for 30 years, and it is so sad when you read articles like this one. I have nothing against the author, but the situation of the Cuban people still hurts me, and I can not understand how somebody can be so blind to the reality of Cuba, how the author here is so worry about how the presence of cruisers are ruin his peaceful and relaxing vacation while the Cuban people are in lines for hours to buy a piece of chicken. I don’t see any logic and any compassion in what he wrote.

  • Congratulations Kevin! Embracing the culture, lifestyle and language is the way to go – there really is no alternative unless living in Havana or a tourist hot spot – the centre of Cuban society is la familia and the soul of the country, it’s music. We who are married to Cubans and live in Cuba although adopting the Cuban society are as you indicate fortunate because we have money. Without it, we like Cubans do, would find life very difficult. It takes a lot of tolerance, ingenuity, resignation and cooperation with la familia to exist on the equivalent of $21 US per month. However it does also demonstrate that given the opportunity to earn a decent living wage, Cubans could enjoy a good life. I have an eight year-old God-daughter who I have the joy of being with daily when at home, and when I look at her I pray that one day she may know the freedoms that are accepted as normality in the capitalist world.

  • I’m about as Juma as one can be. I moved to Cuba 2 Nov 2017. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. In two months I was conversational, in three, fluent. I was 60 years old.
    I am now 62 and have been married for 15 months to a wonderful woman. We are rarely apart.
    It’s not easy. I still have to come back to the EEUU to regulate business affairs. I discovered a few envíos y remasas to get my pension. We try to live without sticking out.
    I have embraced the culture, lifestyle and the language. I stand in the cola just like everyone else (¿Quien es el último?). I ask “¿permiso? and plead “disculpe” when I mess up.
    I understand that we are blessed, that my pension gives us an advantage few have. I am blessed with a wonderful esposa, nuestro hijo y los tres nietos.
    I am not a “milionario”. I am not “rico”.
    I thank Cuba and my neighbors for accepting me in your country.
    For an estadounidense with no Latin heritage, living in Cuba can have its challenges, but it’s worth the effort!

  • Nelisa, a mi esposo y yo visitaremos Cuba, Deciembre 2018 por un crucero, Oceania. Yo se que me espanol no es bueno pero me gusta practicar, especialmente con la gente de Cuba. Cuando hable con persona en Habana, Cienfuegos y Santiago de Cuba, todos fueron muy simpaticos y agradable. Comimos en un paladar. La comida fue muy deliciosa. Cuando viajamos, compramos articulos local. Disfrutamos hablando con los personas de pais. Lo siento que el autor tiene la opinion malo de turisticos. Gracias por compartiendo tu pais bonito con mi esposo y yo.

  • Yes John! That is the reality of existence in Cuba for Cubans. You are also correct in your inference that Havana has better conditions than most other communities. The GAESA distribution system gives preference to popular tourist destinations. Currently the supply of necessities is deteriorating even more. That in turn is causing hoarding.

  • Elena, I couldn’t agree with you more, While this jerk author is enjoying the view and his $7.00 (equal to a weeks pay for a school teacher) Pina Colada at the Hotel National. The average Cuban is at the market waiting in line to buy chicken, which they just ran out of, and the ship with much needed food from Brazil has just left the harbor with all it’s food undelivered because the government could or would not pay for it. So they go to the other markets to find that there are no potatoes, cooking oil. flour, tomatoes or cucumbers and beef, fresh milk, and butter has been unavailable since the revolution. even at the hard currency markets. And this is in Havana, the capital, they get the first and best of everything. I go to Cuba often, 8 days in Cuba, 3 weeks in America then repeat the process for more than two years, I have a fiance and a baby girl there. I know how difficult and uncomfortable their existence is.

  • Great article- I saw the demanding attitude of the cheap floaters invade Tortola and change the nature and character of the locals towards all tourists. Even the “mini-cruise vessels” are diesel belching pigs, leaving no money and a wake of anchor damage and prop washed coral.

  • The implosion of the Castro dictatorship, its totalitarian system of government and the expulsion of all the gullible, unethical tourists sustaining the regime with their dollars would be the biggest win of all for the Cuban people.

  • Go to Cubaparticular,com and take your choice of casa particulars – it is a free service.

  • “if conditions were right”?. Why would it be necessary to get money from elsewhere? Only Cubans can own property in Cuba – it isn’t anything to do with being American. But if and when Michael Ritchie you succeed in moving to live in Cuba, don’t move to Siboney, Mirimar or Vedado in Havana – go and live as most Cubans in La Lisa or Pinar del Rio on $25 per month and enjoy the wonderful life that you obviously anticipate under your chosen political masters. Don’t dream Michael – go and enjoy the reality.

  • Very well said. Am a tour guide from one of the private tour companies in havana. We are currently unemployed. And nit only us… street vendors, paladares, bars, cars workshops… i mean, the article is very “philosphical” and idealistic, defends the responsible tourism and more (beautiful idea) but these cruise ships improved the life of millions of cubans!!! We won with the cruise ships!!!! And lost without them…. most of my clients from the ships were very interested in our culture, history, and folklor, and if they were not I tried to show them a side of mi city that they would be fascinated about…
    Jimmy from cubanclassic tours.com

  • Author is a communist that says he would move there but with his capitalism acquired gains, an opportunity cubans don’t get. ” El Jefe” what a clown.

  • So true! I spent six days in La Habana and still didn’t experience everything I wanted to see or do.
    The six to eight hours a cruise ship would allow would have left me with…

  • Hi
    I am a tour guide from Havana and I am really upset with this article. Someone who really cares about cuban people doesn’t think like that. I can ask to the bartender of the National Hotel, Angelito, how is he doing after the cruises stopped and he will be like me: struggling to find a new way to survive. How someone who really appreciates cuban people wants empty business? Think about tour guides like me, taxi drivers, bartenders, paladar and any private business. How we will survive now?
    About the ugly American… Sorry to tell you that those are our favorite clients. We like people who enjoy their time with us, people who look happy all the time. Who said that we like Havana empty? We leave at the streets. We spend more time outside than in our house. More people mean a bigger party.
    I don’t think you care about cuban people. You are just a grumpy old man who doesn’t want to share the beauty that you found in Cuba. If you really cared about Angelito try to find a way to help him. He needs it now!!

  • I was reading this article and maybe you are right about how crowded the Keys are after the avalanche of cruisers, but I also noticed the description of the time you were spending in Havana, visiting museums, relaxing at the hotel with the view and a drink, and everything was ruined after you saw a cruise arriving at the Havana port. My question is : what about the Cuban people that are not able or even allow to enjoy the same places and things you were enjoying there? The city is falling apart, people are hungry not only of food but of freedom, the Cuban people can’t do what you do, and you are complaining that your day was ruined because of a cruiser, I’m sorry but can you be so blind to the reality of the Cuban people?

  • I am a US citizen that will be visiting Cuba for a week in February. I am coming through Mexico. Can you recommend a casa particular for the week? I was in Cuba last year overnight on the cruise ship. Thanks.

  • I have to disagree with your article. We left a financial impact during our visit and know that thousands of others have as well. Just one of our 3 tours was $90. We tipped $35. That was one month of state earned wages for our tour guide!

    Especially for the Cuban itineraries many many passengers were eating off the ship. One of the more popular things Americans wanted to experience was local cuisine and that was found in your restaurants and paladors. We spent another $30 in just one meal and I know countless others who did the same.

    Are some of the tourists who arrive rude, pushy, cheap, etc? Sure. Those individuals exist everywhere including non tourist towns. However, I respectively disagree with your summary that cruising does nothing but harm the local economies when the ships arrive. Do the ships also bring some challenges with them? Certainly and I won’t disagree. However, they bring millions of dollars in revenue and I don’t think you are accurately depicting this particular in Cuba!

  • Thanks Dan Segal for a very well written and thoughtful rebuttal to the ugly american opinion writer of this article , surprised they even allowed it , that I hope to never encounter in Cuba.

    He lies about wanting to live in Cuba as he would never enjoy the freedoms he enjoys Florida ,like the freedom to express his ugly opinion openly and without interference.

  • Michael,
    I, too, have traveled to Cuba many times. My great-grandmother was Maria Mantilla, the little girl in the photo with Jose Marti. You may have seen her if you went to the museum at La Plaza de la Revolucion.
    I think the only way we would be able to live there would be a few months at a time in a casa particular. Unless you marry a Cuban…
    We have to vote our current president out if we want relations with Cuba to become more stable. I do kind of agree with you about the cruise ship situation. But it’s not only Americans traveling by ship. They were groups of people from different countries going all around Old Havana with their group leaders. Kind of funny actually. And, yes, Havana does need to work on their infrastructure along with many other things to be ready for such large groups of tourists! Anyway, interesting article! Thank you. Victoria Romero

  • Clearly it is hard for people to read about an American who wants to spend more time in Cuba, but complains that other Americans and tourists who also want to see Cuba ruin it for him. And I can see why–it does rub the wrong way when you think of it that way. Also you may lose some readers here when you mention looking for moments of uninterrupted bliss, and deep connections with the Cuban people, on the Hotel Nacional back patio. It’s a lovely spot but it is a high-end spot too…Of course as genuine and kind as Cuban people are, the Cuban people working in the hotel are of course paid to provide service with cheer…I often find it helpful to think about our own lives at home, in comparison, as we all try to come to our own understanding of Cuba–Yes a tourist in the US can find aspects of the ‘real’ United States in downtown Manhattan/New York City, but you may not find it as easily at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. Because there, it’s all a show. But walk longer, venture further out, sit at a quiet coffee shop on a side street for a while, or just get off the main drag, and the soul of New York City is impossible to miss. Or head north 3 or 4 hours out of the city and see farm country and you’ll realize that’s a whole different world–but both are ‘real’ New York. I love visiting Havana and feel that I’ve had countless ‘real’ interactions, conversations in Spanish, etc. with people who are not in their service work mode. Speaking half-decent Spanish, and being willing to do so, goes a long way and makes a big difference from what I have seen. I am not a fan of the cruise ship model at all, even if some cruise shippers can find some ways to get out of that model for a bit. But those of us who love Cuba as outsiders should probably not complain too much about how cruise ships ruin our experience in Cuba. It should be about how it affects Cuba and Cubans, which people responding to this article are trying to articulate. I think I’d put it this way: I hope Cubans don’t feel that cruise ships are a miserable necessity for survival…and I hope they can soon have an economy that doesn’t need cruise ships.

  • And all the while, while insulting this writer, you are ever so clever to promote your travel agency..lol.. folks are funny some times.

  • I am a proud American and I recently visited Cuba (2 weeks ago) on my honeymoon via Cruise ship. I hired a guide separate from the cruise ship and was provided a great experience. In fact a friend referred the tour guide and driver to me. Through social media the tour guide learned about me and the types of things I like and offered me a personal tour. I was so happy with my experience I am looking forward planning a future trips with groups.

    I am also a Travel Agent at http://www.bdreventsandtours.com . Immediately upon returning home I started planning my strategy to help my customers visit Cuba.

    By stereotyping all Americans you are no better than the Americans you bad mouth.

    I met very nice people in Cuba and they seemed genuinely happy to welcome American Tourists.

    If you have a issue with the cruise ship companies focus your words on them.

    I will return to Cuba with friends, will learn about the culture, interact with people that interested to know us, spend money and enjoy ourselves. Hopefully we do not encounter self righteous and opinionated people like the author of this article.

  • I liked most of the article, but I have to say I disagree on something: Some people were negatively affected when cruise ships stoped coming to Havana and other cities. I was just talking to a taxi driver and friend of mine and he told me at least 90 other drivers from his agency decided to cancel their membership on June 6th, because most of their clients came from cruise ships. Another fact is not every cruise shiper goes with the official tours (the ones that use the big busses), some people directly hire local tour guides to show them around, and you can be sure than more than a Cuban family was possitively impacted by that, my family being one of those. I do agree that cruise ship is probably not the best way to experience real Cuba, but as someone said on a previous comment “…para gustos los colores…”.

  • The real Cuba? Is Havana not the real Cuba? I’ve been to Holguin and I have seen mostly drunken Canadian male pensioners wandering around and hanging out in the restaurants all day doing nothing but getting drunk.

  • I think it’s hypocrites like the author of this article who ruin the island and key west is a bunch of drunken ugly weird Americans, who didn’t move nor arrive there from cruise ships, most come by plane or drive in from Miami.

  • As an American I can say that cruise ships are horrible. I’ve been on one cruise and will probably never go on another one. You don’t get to experience the culture of the place you’re visiting when you cruise.

  • The cruise ships didn’t only affect Havana. Beautiful Trinidad with its narrow colonial streets was also affected. Since Obama reduced the restrictions upon American travel to Cuba, there has been marked inflation in Trinidad. Bucanero at 2 CUC, with increased prices at restaurants and paladars, more homes converted into casa particulars and paladars. The charm of Trinidad rapidly evaporated.
    Rich Americans staying for example at the Hotel Nacional (0ver $400 per night) are understandably concerned about the disturbance of their cossetted lives, and have little knowledge of the lives of average Cubans outside the confines of tourist services.

  • Bien dicho. I remember the unspoiled early 90’s when the only “tourists” to be seen were from the Partito Communista Italiano. Lately, I haven’t been able to bear going to Havana because of Westerners looking for mojitos and old cars, and caring for little else.

  • Amazing article and I have to agree, one can not see or immerse themselves in Cuba when visiting on a cruise ship!
    I for one love all of the time I have spent in Cuba..6 trips to different parts of the Country learning something new in each place!

  • Like grandma use to say ‘ cada cerebro es un Mundo. ‘ Or like Uncle Pedro use to say ‘ para gusto se han hecho colores.’ The tourism draw by The Cuban Gov’t is nothing more than a ‘ curita ‘ for the inmense development problems facing them as an under-developed country with an attitude.

  • Michael Ritchie.
    I think this an amazing well written article. I am an American, and have been to Cuba many times, but fly there , and stay in casa. I never thought the cruises were a good fit for the unique , amazing city of Havana. I am a frequent poster on Trip advisor Cuba forum and posted your article there, you will find many nice comments, and reaction. I look forward to my next trip to Havana in November, and will not miss the crowds from the ships .

  • Thank you for your article. IN years gone by, I visited Key West and understand completely what you mean by the impact of the cruise ships. I now spend my winter in Cuba and I know exactly what you are talking about with the crowds of “tourists” pushing their way through the streets and leaving with little understanding of what Cuba is about and how Cuba people think! As a winter resident for over 30 years, I am distressed by what the US is doing, but hopeful that after the next election, things will get better! Let’s hope!

  • Thanks for your comment, Sky. I’m gratified to hear such nice responses.
    I meant that if conditions were right I would have moved to Cuba two years ago. But I have to be able to transfer money from U.S. banks and currently can’t do that. Also Americans can’t buy homes or land. And there’s the issue of long-term visa which is also difficult.
    Soon all will be worked out, I hope.
    Thanks again.

  • You sound more ugly than any American “cruiseshipper” you describe, and arrogant to boot. The well-meaning point of your writing is lost in that. Agree that the sudden crowds from a ship can be a detrimental experience but do not even deny that the benefits to the private entrepreneurs in Habana were immediate and well-received. Having been a cruise shipper over a dozen times in the last two years (physically unable to fly) I can assure you that the only thing we did on the ship while docked in Habana was sleep. We enjoyed overnight stays so it made trips out to Matanzas to visit with our Cuban guide’s family possible. We ate in many wonderful paladares, we explored the countryside, we visited Fusterlandia, Cojimar, Varadero, and Matanzas several times. We are heartbroken for our friends in Cuba who are now so stressed about how to replace the private income they generated with tours. Shame on you for a one-sided article. Bet I don’t see this comment.

  • A good article, true facts, well written. But one thought, if you want to see the real Cuba, don’t stay in Havana, the Holguin area is GREAT, the people are amazing, very friendly, and honest. And they love Canadians.

  • Yes indeed. You don’t need to be/agree with El Jefe to realise what a load of bs cruise ship tourism is, on so many levels. Since they have been coming to Havana, the pollution has become worse (no stats as too hard to unearth but you only need to walk around HV to feel it, to smell it) and the only noticeable impact is the proliferation of tat at the market (went downhill fast since it was moved from next to Catherdral Square) and partial chichi-ification of HV (goes without saying it is the tourist part rather than the local’s homes etc). Very few ordinary Habaneros benefitted. I’m not sad either. Wondering what the author meant by he wanted to stay in Havana by hook or by crook.

  • You are very correct, I have spent a lot of time and money in La Habana, when the cruise ships were in the streets were packed with noisy loud americans. They pushed the way through crowded streets oblivious to the people who lived there, taking photos of people without asking, doing things like throwing garbage on the streets because there is no trash can in sight. Some street vendors gained from the visits, most were turned off by the attitude portrayed. Prices immediately doubled for trinkets. American dollar bills were the monopoly money of choice. No loss to Cuba in general. The few dollars they brought in were negated by the garbage, sewage and other things left behind.

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