It took longer than expected, but more U.S.-based cruise lines are about to start sailing between the U.S. and Havana. We're curious how demand will hold up.
Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have approval from the Cuban government to sail to Cuba, the Miami-based operators announced Wednesday.
Royal Caribbean will offer “multiple itineraries” on ships from its Royal Caribbean International and high-end Azamara Club Cruises lines. Norwegian will visit the island with all three of its brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
A statement from Royal Caribbean did not say whether the trips will take place solely in Cuba or whether port stops there will be added to broader Caribbean voyages. Details will be released “in the near future,” the company said.
“Our guests have expressed real interest in having the opportunity to experience Cuba, and we look forward to bringing them there,” Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, said in the statement. “Our discussions with our travel partners indicate that Cuba is a destination that appeals to a new generation of travelers.”
Because Americans still cannot visit Cuba for the purpose of tourism alone, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian said they would provide activities on shore that comply with U.S. rules.
Norwegian offered a few more details about its planned trips, which are set for March, April, and May. The first sailing will be on March 7 on Oceania’s Marina.
“We are tremendously excited to have all three of our award-winning brands receive approval from the Cuban authorities to offer cruises to Cuba from the United States,” Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said in a statement. “As a Cuban-American and founder of Oceania Cruises, I am incredibly proud that one of Oceania’s vessels will be our company’s first to sail to Cuba. This is truly a dream come true for me, and I cannot wait for our loyal guests to experience the sights and sounds of my hometown of Havana and get to know its rich culture and its warm and welcoming residents.”
Rival Carnival Corp. was the first operator that received the green light from Cuban officials to sail between Miami and Cuba. Fathom, one of the company’s cruise lines that will be discontinued next year, has been sailing to the island every other week with a small ship that visits three ports. That ship will continue to sail to Cuba through May before heading back to the UK, but Carnival is awaiting approval from the Cuban government to send other vessels.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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Photo credit: Tourists ride in an American car in Havana. Royal Caribbean Cruises just received permission from the Cuban government to sail to Havana on two cruise lines. Desmond Royal / Associated Press