NCL and Royal Caribbean Granted Approval to Sail to Cuba
Last Wednesday two of the largest cruise lines in the world, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, announced that they will offer cruises to Cuba as of 2017. The cruise lines were granted approval by both the U.S. and Cuban governments. Norwegian is planning to sail ships from two of their lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania. The port of call of Havana, has been added to their Caribbean itineraries. Norwegian plans to sail the Marina starting on March 7 and the Norwegian Sky in the spring of 2017.
Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO, Frank Del Rio, was born in Cuba and immigrated to the U.S. with his family after the failed U.S. backed Bay of Pigs effort to over through Fidel Castro.
"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," Del Rio said in a statement.
Royal Caribbean is also planning to sail two of its cruise lines to Havana, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises. They have not yet said what ships will be sailing to the new port of call.
Carnival Corporation's Fathom Cruises became the first cruise line to sail to Cuba for the first time in 50 years back in May of 2016. Carnival's main focus for Fathom was to be volunteer-based. However, The Carnival Corporation has announced that the Fathom Adonia, Fathom's only ship, will sail it's last cruise in summer of 2017. They announced that they are ceasing the operation of the line due to low profitability.
All of these cruise lines listed above are subject to current U.S. rules that ban tourism by American travelers to Cuba. The government has said that the cruises must be "people to people" cruises. This means the cruises must be themed on things such as cultural exchanges.
However, some people in the travel community have expressed concern that Donald Trump may reinstate restrictions on travel to Cuba. After Fidel Castro's death on November 25, 2016, the president-elect tweeted: "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal."