More Ships Fewer Planes Going to Cuba


(Recently published in the Miami Herald)

Visiting Cuba by sea is turning into the preferred method for American travelers — at least for now.

On Monday, Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line announced it is adding a second ship for four-day cruises to Havana, following a barrage of announcements from airlines about reduced or canceled service to Cuba.

Norwegian, which already sails with the 2,004-passenger Norwegian Sky from PortMiami, will now also add voyages with the 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun, but from Orlando’s Port Canaveral, in the summer of 2018. The Sun, like the Sky, will also offer all-inclusive sailings, which means unlimited drinks.

“Our all-inclusive model aboard Norwegian Sky has been very well-received and as we evaluated the opportunity to expand upon that concept, we felt that Port Canaveral was the ideal location to offer our guests a value-rich onboard experience and exciting action-packed ports-of-call, including an overnight call in Havana, Cuba,” said Andy Stuart, president and CEO for Norwegian Cruise Line, in a statement.

The Sun’s four-day cruises will also include a stop in Key West. The ship will also sail three-day cruises to the Bahamas from Orlando. The trips begin in May 2018.

Norwegian, as well as other major cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, have continued to add sailings to Cuba as other travel sectors have struggled to gauge demand to the island. Airlines have concentrated most of their flights to Havana, where demand has remained strong, and eliminated flights to other parts of the island.

But cruise lines, experts say, have experienced continued growth largely because they bring their own accommodations and coordinate tours, making it easier for American travelers to follow the changing restrictions for travel to the island.

American travelers must fit within one of the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba, including the popular “people-to-people” cultural visits that include most cruise passengers. President Donald Trump recently amended some of those restrictions, barring Americans from taking individual people-to-people trips and doing businesses with entities that are owned and controlled by Cuba’s military. Exactly how the policy works will depend on regulations that have yet to be released.

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