Daily cruises to Havana may be on the horizon, cruise companies say

Havana, Cuba

Cruise lines are interested in sailing to Havana amid the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, but there are hurdles to overcome first.

(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

In the 1950s, you could take a two-night cruise from Miami to Havana for less than $50 aboard P&O Steamship Company’s SS Florida. That price will never come back, but the cruise ships may.

Cruise line executives at the 2016 SeaTrade Cruise Global conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday envisioned a not-so-distant time when cruise ships would visit Havana every day.

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President Obama heads to Cuba next week in a historic visit intended to improve business relations with the country.


On Tuesday, he eased rules that makes it easier for U.S. travelers to visit independently. Americans may now embark on their own people-to-people or educational journeys without having to be affiliated with an organized group or tour.

But how soon cruise services could begin remains a question.

Dori Saltzman, senior editor at, reported on the conference and why starting operations to Cuba may give the industry a 10% to 20% boost in business.

“Cuba is a great refresher for the Caribbean,” Arnold Donald, chief executive officer of Carnival Corp., said in the article. “It’ll help all brands and all the rest of the Caribbean islands. People who go for Cuba will also go to other ports.”


Indeed, the Caribbean already is the top destination for cruise ships worldwide, and adding Cuba would turn up the heat.

But there are challenges to be dealt with too, namely permission from the Cuban government, for starters. Carnival is still waiting for a permit to allow its new Fathom line to sail to the island nation starting May 1.

And Havana’s port is small, by mega-cruise ship standards.

Pierfrancesco Vago, chairman of MSC Cruises, has a ship located in Cuba. He said in the article that the logistics connected with moving luggage, passengers and provisions are “complex,” but the process could likely be improved.


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