MIAMI, Florida– 2017 is approaching which means that cruise ship giants Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises will soon be taking their cruise ships to Cuba. Two of Royal Caribbean’s ships, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises, are scheduled to set sail around late April. All three of Norwegian’s ships, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Ocean Cruises, are scheduled to start sailing to Cuba in May.
In fact, on Tuesday Norwegian Cruise Line opened up its bookings for its four-day trip to Cuba starting May 1 on the Norwegian Sky. The Norwegian Sky is the biggest United States ship to make its way to Cuba holding 2,004 passengers. Additionally, according to recent reports, the Norwegian Sky is the cheapest cruise ship to Cuba out there at the moment. The Norwegian Sky is scheduled to make five trips to Cuba in May, leaving from the Port of Miami.
It remains to be seen how popular these cruises to Cuba will become. Even though Fidel Castro has passed, Cuba continues to be a communist country with Fidel’s brother currently running the country. Of course, the cruise ship industry always brings a lot of money to the ports it travels to, and what impact this will have on the United States public remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen how our new president, Donald Trump, will handle the new relationship with Cuba that has developed under the Obama regime. Will we revert back to the restrictions? If he does, cruising to Cuba may be short-lived.
The only cruise ship company that has sailed to Cuba so far has been a Carnival Corporation ship, which reminded us how critical it is to carefully read the passenger ticket with all the terms and conditions associated with it. In April, included in the fine print Carnival tickets was a ban of Cuban-born Americans from sailing to the island. Although that ban has been lifted, it emphasizes that reading the fine print is especially vital for cruising to a place that has not allowed cruise ships from the United States in over 50 years. Most cruise line company’s tickets are available online to view, including the terms and conditions. It is important to remember that the terms and conditions found on cruise ship passenger tickets severely restrict passenger rights when something happens to them during a cruise or during a shore excursion at one of the ports that they travel to. Whether any other new terms and conditions will be added to the passenger tickets of these particular cruises is unknown at this time.
Additionally, it is also important to keep in mind that a cruise to Cuba will not be an average cruise experience where you have the freedom to do what you want at the different port. Here the cruise lines are required to make all excursions on the island educational. This enables passengers to fit into the one of the 12 categories of United States citizens allowed to visit the island.
It will be interesting to see not only to see how the Cuban government capitalizes on their new visitors from the cruise ship industry but also whether cruise ships continue to go Cuba for years to come.