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Cuba Cruises Going Strong

Written by  Lillian Africano

CRUISEDespite hurricanes and Department of State restrictions, cruises to Cuba continue to grow in popularity, with new sailings, new itineraries and the addition of more overnights.
With a strong commitment to the destination, Azamara has added new 2018 and 2019 Cuban itineraries that range from four to fourteen nights. A variety of getaway options includes two new ports of call. Cienfuegos, known as La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South), is located on Cuba’s south coast, with an Urban Historic Center that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second largest city, located southeast of Havana was founded by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The city is home to the citadel of San Pedro de la Roca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is also where Bacardi Rum was founded.

Azamara will also offer longer stays in port (such as two overnights in Havana), and onboard Cuban-themed programming. Starting in 2018, the line will offer AsAmazing evenings on select sailings; these are private events that allow guests unique opportunities to experience the local culture.

Following a strong response to the line’s first Cuba cruises that were announced earlier this year, Carnival has added five voyages featuring extended calls in Havana in 2018. These include three five-day cruises to Havana and Cozumel or Key West; a Six-day sailing featuring Havana and Grand Cayman; an eight-day sailing with stops at Havana, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. All include a day-long call and overnight in Havana; the eight-day cruise offers two full days in the Cuban capital.
Carnival Paradise guests can select from nearly 20 different shore excursion experiences that showcase Cuba’s vibrant culture, majestic beauty and centuries-old architectural landmarks.

Celestyal Cruises, a Cuba pioneer, sails 7-day cruises departing either from Havana or Montego Bay, Jamaica, and calling at Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The line offers a great variety of shore excursions, including traditional sightseeing tours, cultural tours (Hemingway, music, cigars and rum, etc.) and immersive people-to-people experiences, such as farm living for a day

Holland America’s Veendam sails a variety of itineraries to Cuba. The Cuba Explorer travels roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale on 10-, 11-, 12- or 21-day voyages from March to December. All cruises call at Cienfuegos, most include an overnight in Havana. Through April 2018, the Veendam does 7-day cruises with nine different itineraries; all overnight in Havana. During the Summer Cuba program (2018), 14- and 21-day cruises depart from Boston or Montreal in June and July and include an overnight in historic Havana, as well as a stop in Cienfuegos and such Caribbean ports as Grand Cayman, Jamaica and the line’s private island, Half Moon Cay.

Lindblad Expeditions’ second season in Cuba begins December 6, 2017 and continues through March 2018 aboard the 46-guest Harmony V. These cruises introduce guests to Cuba’s cultural heritage and natural wonders through their People-to-People land and sea program.

MSC Cruises continues to offer, through March, 8-day/7-night sailings, with most beginning in Havana, spending 2 1/2 days in the city and then cruising the Caribbean and the Antilles. In addition, the line also offers some longer sailings, ranging from 22 days/21 nights (departing from Miami); 15-day/14-night sailings (departing from Havana or a Caribbean port)

In May 2017, Norwegian Sky became Norwegian Cruise Line’s first ship to sail to Cuba, making her maiden call in Havana. The ship continues to make four-day voyages to Cuba through April 2018, with overnight stays in Havana. The line offers a selection of 14 half- and full-day OFAC-compliant shore excursions, where guests will have the opportunity to have a farm to table dining experience, explore the flora and fauna of Soroa and see modern Havana in an American classic car.
Oceania Cruises has announced ten new journeys to Cuba in 2018, sailing roundtrip from Port Miami. The itineraries range in length from 7 to 10 days; all include calls in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The line added calls to Havana on four Regatta sailings in the spring and autumn of 2018. Passengers on these cruises dine on a wide selection of authentic Cuban dishes that were born from generations-old family recipes. Adding to the cultural enrichment nature of the journey, authoritative and engaging experts deliver lectures on Cuban history, art and music.

Pearl Seas Cruises ran four Cuba cruises in November and December of this year, with a full schedule planned for 2018. This fall, the line began offering an 11-night cruise with an additional stop in Casilda, a port that will offer more opportunities for cultural exchanges with the Cuban people. Pearl Seas will continue to offer the most immersive Cuban itinerary, with a circumnavigation of the island, including stops in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, El Cobre, and Santiago de Cuba. Trinidad, Cuba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a preserved Spanish settlement from the 16th century and is known as Cuba’s oldest and most captivating outdoor museum.
As part of this people-to-people cultural exchange, guests of Pearl Seas Cruises will engage with local musicians, historians and artists. They will also have the opportunity to explore Havana in a classic American car, enjoy a pottery demonstration in Trinidad and experience a guided excursion in Cojimar, the fishing village that inspired Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

In 2018 and 2019, Royal Caribbean International will sail 4- and 5-night cruises that depart either from Miami or Tampa and call in Havana and either Key West, Nassau or Costa Maya. Some of the 5-night cruises overnight in Havana.

In October 2018, Scenic Cruises offers two Cuba itineraries that are rich in people-to-people experiences, as well as a variety of cultural excursions. The 14-day in-depth cruise (roundtrip from Miami) calls at Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Atilla (birthplace of Fidel and Raul Castro) and Isla de la Juventud, the second largest island off Cuba’s shore, known for beautiful black-sand beaches and pirate lore (it’s popular with divers hunting buried treasure). The cruise will include several overnight stops, as well as opportunities to experience Cuba’s bustling nightlife in iconic Cuban cities such as Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Antilla. While in Havana, guests will be able to enjoy two exclusive People-to-People Scenic Enrich experiences: a private display of Cuban percussion drums and dancing, as well a front row seat at Castillo del Morro to witness the tradition of the firing of the cannon, with the city lights as the backdrop.

Guests will also have 41 Scenic People-to-People Freechoice activities across the eight ports, from a horse and carriage ride around Havana’s historic city center and a visit to meet with cigar factory workers to a visit to Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba and a dance lesson in Antilla. With Scenic Eclipse’s onboard kayaks and Zodiacs, guests can choose explore Cuba from the water as well as land in Cayo Largo Sur, Antilla and Isla de la Juventud  Scenic’s 10-day Taste of Cuba & Caribbean cruise departs from Miami and docks in Cartagena, spending two days in Havana before moving on to calls at Providencia, the Bocas del Toro Archipelago and the San Blas Islands before docking in Cartagena.

SeaDream Yacht Club will visit Cuba in 2019, from January through April, with itineraries departing directly from Havana and Cienfuegos. Ports of call include: Cabo Cruz Cuba, originally founded as a Spanish port in the earth 18th century, is a cape that forms the western edge of the Granma Province in southern Cuba and is recognized for its 19th-century manned lighthouse called “Faro de Cabo Cruz”-and Cayo Largo, an intimate resort island that has a zero-permanent population and some of the world’s finest
undeveloped beaches.

From mid-December 2017 to mid-March 2018, Variety Cruises offers two 8-day Cuba cruises, with passengers flying from Miami to either Havana or Cienfuegos. In addition to these two cities, the cruises call at Trinidad, Isla de la Juventud and Maria la Gorda, a port where the lush landscape is home to many species of exotic wildlife and which only accommodates smaller vessels. Authentic Cuban mojitos and fresh seafood are served along the beachfront.
In 2017, Viking offered an 8-day Cultural Cuba itinerary, Miami roundtrip, with calls in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The line repeats the itinerary with three cruises in November 2018 and three in 2019, in January and February.

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