From new flights to Havana to a bevy of cruise developments, it’s been another busy month for travel to Cuba.
In air travel news Sunrise Airways expanded its Cuba service recently with the launch of its first-ever flights to Havana. The twice weekly service connects Havana with Port-au-Prince, Haiti, aboard a 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. Flights depart Haiti on Sundays and Thursday at 8 a.m. and arrive in Havana at 10:30 a.m. Return flights depart at 11:30 a.m. and drive in Haiti at 1:30 p.m.
Connecting service will also be available through Port-au-Prince aboard Sunrise Airways flights originating in Cap Haitien and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
In cruise news, Cuba was the talk of the show at the recent Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Port Everglades, FL. At the opening “State of the Cruise Industry” general session, Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), shared the latest updates on Cuba cruises from his company, which offers itineraries to the country through its Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.
When asked about the potential of new President Donald Trump revisiting the policies put in place by former President Obama allowing cruise lines and other travel suppliers to offer broader people-to-people travel to the country, Del Rio said that he hopes Trump revisits the policies “in a positive way.”
“Cuba has infrastructure limitations today but certainly Cuba can be a major force in the cruise business for years to come, and I hope the administration sees that potential,” Del Rio said. “They are business oriented.”
Later at the event, Del Rio told cruise editor Susan J. Young that the company’s first Cuba sailings for all three brands “sold like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and at meaningfully higher prices.” At the same time, he pointed out that that could have been due to pent-up demand and a limited number of sailings on offer at the outset.
Other Caribbean destinations are also planning on capitalizing on the new Cuba cruises. In a speech at Seatrade, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s new minister of tourism, talked the possibility of more itineraries that visit both countries.
“It’s very palatable for all of us to consider the importance of Kingston as a new destination,” Bartlett said, saying that, if Kingston is developed as a cruise destination, it would fit well into a “Northern Caribbean and Cuba” itinerary. Both Cuba and Jamaica had previously signed a multi-destination tourism agreement.
On the contemporary cruise front, Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, recently told Young that the line’s new sailings to Havana on Carnival Paradise are set to tap in to “pent-up demand” for the country. Since some Carnival guests are not used to traveling with a passport, even to destinations in the Caribbean, Duffy said that the line will make it “as easy as possible” for agents to share all the relevant information on the rules governing travel to Cuba with their clients. Additionally, Carnival staff will be sharing information on people-to-people travel and travel to Cuba with travelers while onboard. Carnival Paradise’s Cuba itineraries begin this June.
In terms of new itineraries, Oceania Cruises just added 10 more cruises to Cuba as part of its 2018 schedule. The new sailings will be roundtrip from PortMiami onboard Oceania Marina, ranging in length from seven to 10 days and all calling in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
In small ship news, Cuba cruises are a big part of Tauck’s plan to double its small ship cruising capacity in four years through its partnership with Ponant. New for 2018, Tauck Small Ship Cruising is adding a 10-day journey throughout Cuba aboard the three-masted schooner, Le Ponant. With 2018 departures on December 14, 23 and 28, the new people-to-people cultural sailing calls on ports between Havana and Santiago de Cuba and includes a two-night hotel stay in Havana, complete with guided Tauck sightseeing.