Skift Take

Flights to Cuba are expected to be less in demand once the Trump administration's travel restrictions are enforced, but could that lead to more interest in cruises? Norwegian Cruise Line's announcement indicates the cruise operator is expecting a bump in business.

While individual Americans won’t have an easy time traveling to Cuba under new restrictions announced last month by President Donald Trump, cruise ships are allowed to keep sailing.

And one cruise operator just announced that it is doubling its presence on the island next year.

Norwegian Cruise Line said Monday that it will send a second ship to Havana as of May 2018. The Miami-based cruise line started visiting the island in May of this year with the 2,004-passenger Norwegian Sky, which sails four-day itineraries from Miami. Norwegian promotes the sailings as “all-inclusive” because they include unlimited free drinks.

The company will take a similar approach with its second ship, though it will sail from Port Canaveral on the east coast of Central Florida. Norwegian Sun, with capacity for 1,936 passengers, will also include Havana in a four-day sailing that offers free booze.

Both vessels will spend one night in Cuba; Sky will also stop at Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas, while Sun will call on Key West. The ships will alternate four-day cruises that stop in Cuba with three-day trips to the Bahamas.

Norwegian Sun was originally scheduled to sail in Alaska next summer; instead, the 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel will sail weeklong Alaskan itineraries from Vancouver and Seward starting in early June. Plans for Jewel’s deployment had not been announced after March of 2018.

Norwegian has announced itineraries for Cuba through the end of 2018. Sky will visit through December of this year and then return for the 2018 season in late March. Competitors have also announced long-term plans for Cuba: Royal Caribbean has deployments announced through March of 2019, while Carnival Cruise Line is visiting a dozen times through May of 2018.

Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Vanessa Picariello said in an email that several factors played into the decision to shift Norwegian Sun to the Caribbean next year: the Trump administration’s decision to leave cruises out of new travel restrictions; the popularity of Cuba itineraries; and the demand for short, inclusive cruises.

When Trump announced the crackdown on travel to Cuba last month, parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said at the time that 70,000 people were booked to sail to Cuba across three brands.

“We were very concerned about any potential changes, given how popular Cuba itineraries have proven to be with our guests,” the company said in a statement. “And we view this as a win for the cruise industry, our valued guests and travel partners.”


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Tags: cruising, cuba, norwegian cruise line

Photo credit: Norwegian Sky is shown leaving Havana earlier this year. Norwegian Cruise Line will start sailing a second ship to Cuba in 2018. Norwegian Cruise Line

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