Question: I am going to a wedding in Cancun in August 2010 and wondering if there is a ship/boat/ferry to Havana from Cancun as a preference to flying and if so where I can get more information as I can’t seem to find same on the web?
Answer: Cuba’s strategic location makes it an ideal stop for Caribbean cruise routes, with Havana destined to become one of the most popular ports of call for cruise ships in the world. However, because of the U.S. blockade against the country and the fact that vessels calling at Cuban ports are prohibited from visiting the U.S. for six months, few cruise ships include Cuba. Nor can any U.S. company operate cruises to Cuba.
Until about five years ago, some dozen cruise ships were reported to call in Cuba, while others occasionally docked at the island’s ports. But from about 2005 on, numbers of cruise ships calling on Cuban ports decreased by about 90%.
Nonetheless, a few foreign cruise ships feature Cuba, principally Havana, on their itineraries. But of those that have been listed over the past ten years or so, it’s worth checking them out to find out if they’re still operating. You may well be able to find Cuba cruises if you have your heart set on one, but you may have to be flexible as to your departure point.
The website www.cruisehavana.com purports to keep a current list of Cuba related cruises, but it’s not clear if the site still has links to its various pages. Cruiseserver (www.cruiseserver.net) is a site that includes cruise reviews, cruise line profiles and cruise ratings and has been known to include passengers’ reviews of cruises to Cuba.
Below is a list of cruise ships that have included Cuba on their itineraries in the past decade. The list is not complete, nor is it possible to access all the websites from Cuba to find out if the different companies still include Cuba as a port of call. Perhaps from outside Cuba, you will be able to obtain more up-to-date information.
- Apparently the only cruise line that still stops in Cuba is England’s Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (www.fredolsencruises.com or www.fredolsencruises.co.uk) with ports of call in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In Mexico, its ports of call are Cabo San Lucas, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.
- Spain’s Festival Cruises (www.festivalcruises.com) began operating cruises in 2001, with Havana as the mother port.
- British Sun Cruises (www.suncruises.co.uk) has had calls in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.
- Germany’s Aida Cruises (www.aida.de) has occasionally featured Havana.
- In early 2003, Caribic Cruises (www.caribicstar.com) included Santiago de Cuba.
- The Riviera One, formerly sailing from Cancún, initiated service from Jamaica and included calls in Havana and Isla de la Juventud.
- West Indies Cruises formerly included Havana, and Sea Cloud Cruises formerly included Cuba in its 2003 programs. However, CruiseHavana says that the West Indies Cruises’ ship, Valtur Prima, is currently not offering cruises to Cuba.
- Pullmann cruises used to have a cruise from Havana sailing to the Mayan Peninsula port of Cancun / Cozumel, but it was apparently bought out by a Miami-based American company a couple of years ago. As well, it appears that the Cancun-Havana cruise went out of business because it was not profitable.
- In early 2008, the cruise ship Vistamar stopped in Havana on its way down to Peru.
Some specialist travel agents may be able to provide information about what cruise ships currently call at Cuban ports. There are no scheduled ferry services to Cuba.
As to cruise terminals in Cuba, there are plans to eventually expand the existing terminal along the waterfront of Habana Vieja. Cruise ship terminals also exist in Santiago de Cuba and on Isla de la Juventud, with plans to open a fourth passenger-ship terminal in Cienfuegos.