(This article was recently posted in Travel Agent Central publication)
Holland America Line has become the latest Carnival Corporation brand to sail to Cuba. The line just announced it has received approval to begin sailings to the country from Fort Lauderdale starting with a December 22, 2017, 12-day holiday itinerary onboard the Veendam.
Holland America Line’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, also offers Cuba cruises onboard its Fathom and Carnival Cruise Line brands. Cruises onboard Fathom will cease in June when that brand’s sole ship, the Adonia, returns to P&O Cruises. At the time of the announcement that Fathom would cease operations, Tara Russell, Fathom’s president, said the company was looking to “expand the Fathom experience to other markets in the future.” Carnival Cruise Line, meanwhile, offers four- and five-day cruises calling at Havana on Carnival Paradise from Tampa starting in June. Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, recently toldcruise editor Susan J. Young that the sailings are set to tap in to “pent-up demand” for the country.
The new Holland America cruises will include nine seven-day itineraries calling at Havana. Three itineraries, as well as the inaugural holiday cruise, will also call at Cienfuegos. Depending on the departure day, cruises include the Cuba ports, as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Most of Holland America’s itineraries will include an extended call at Havana, the line said. Itineraries with stops at Cienfuegos will allow the opportunity to visit Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and George Town. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.
Onboard, the line will offer Cuba experiences through the line’s Explorations Central (EXC) program, which includes EXC Guides who will host presentations and EXC Talks to help guests understanding life in Cuba. EXC will also have EXC Port Maps created for the Cuban calls, EXC Encounters to showcase the destination’s history and culture, and more. Additionally, educational and cultural EXC Tours are being developed to explore Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
Bookings for Holland America Line’s cruises to Cuba will open May 26, 2017. Guests booked on Veendam’s previous deployment will be given a full refund and opportunity to book on another Holland America Line voyage, the line said. Fares for Cuba cruises begin at $899 per person, double occupancy. Taxes, fees and port expenses are additional.
The Latest in Cuba Cruises
The new itineraries from Holland America join a number of expanded cruise options to Cuba.
Recently Royal Caribbean announced plans for its newly refreshed Empress of the Seas sail 58 four- and five-night cruise itineraries to Cuba from January 2018 through March 2019, more than half offering overnight stays in Havana. The ship will return to Tampa for summer 2018, offering a series of four- and five-night cruises, calling on Key West, Florida, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, as well as Havana, Cuba, on most sailings. Afterwards, the ship will reposition to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the winter 2018-2019 season.
Additionally, Azamara Club Cruises recently announced the addition of four new sailings to its lineup of Cuba itineraries. Departing from Miami, the new sailings will overnight in Havana and call at new maiden ports for the line Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
Earlier this month, Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Cruise Line’s first ship to sail to Cuba, made its inaugural call in Havana. The ship will sail a total of 53 four-day roundtrip Cuba itineraries out of Miami, including an overnight stay in Havana. The ship will also call on Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas.