Posted by: cruise2 | 14 March, 2016

Winter Finishes Without A Single Florida-Cuba Cruise

by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing for cybercruises.com

Despite three cruise companies promising to offer Florida-Cuba cruises this winter, not one such cruise has yet taken place to fill the huge gap that has existed in passenger commerce between the United States and Cuba.

Until 1962, a regular ferry service ran betwen Key West, Florida, and Havana (Courtesy Wolfsonian Institution)

Until 1962, a regular ferry service ran between Key West, Florida, and Havana (Courtesy Wolfsonian Institution)

Until the early 1960s, the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company’s 400-berth cruise ship Florida sailed three times a week between Miami and Havana, carrying regular cruisers as well as point-to-point passengers.
But the last passenger ship to leave Havana for the US, in September 1962, was the Key West-Havana ferry City of Havana. City of Havana carried 287 passengers, mainly Cubans with US residency certificates and fifty US State Department employees.
In the more than half a century since, passenger and cruise ships have not sailed between the United States and Cuba.

Last year, three lines, Fathom, Haimark and Pearl Seas, all newcomers, announced that they would be entering the Florida to Cuba cruise market, all with small ships.

Haimark Line's Saint Laurent Cuba proposed cruise itinerary (Courtesy of Haimark Line)

Haimark Line’s Saint Laurent Cuba proposed cruise itinerary (Courtesy of Haimark Line)

Last month, however, Haimark Line cancelled the first of a highly anticipated series of cruises to Cuba because it is still negotiating the availability of its chartered ship with its owner. The February 29 cruise, to be operated in conjunction with license-holder United Caribbean Lines, would have been the first in half a century to sail from Miami to Cuba.
Eight such cruises had been scheduled between January and April 2016 but it now looks as if none of these will be operated. Fares were to have begun at $4,599 per person plus port charges.

Haimark Line had been planning to offer these 9-night cruises on the 210-berth coastal cruise ship Saint Laurent. But that ship is now the subject of an insurance dispute after the ship collided with a lock in the St Lawrence Seaway last June and eventually lead to the company entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October.

The 210-berth Saint Laurent. In this pic she is moored in Montreal

The 210-berth Saint Laurent. In this pic she is moored in Montreal

Haimark has since been in talks with the shipowner, Clipper Cruises, in an attempt to free either Saint Laurent or another vessel in the Clipper fleet for these Cuba departures.

As with others that were scheduled, the February 29 cruise would have taken guests round trip from Miami to Havana, Maria la Gorda, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Humboldt National Park and Holguin.

Meanwhile, competitor Pearl Seas Cruises has more recently had to cancel two 10-night cruises planned for this month between Florida and Cuba in its 210-berth Pearl Mist, but for a different reason. Its March 6 and March 16 departures had to be been cancelled as they did not yet have final permission from the Cuban authorities.

Pearl Mist (Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis, Halifax NS)

Pearl Mist (Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis, Halifax NS)

The cancellations occurred at very short notice. Pearl Seas Vice President Timothy Beebe told Travel Weekly, “Pearl Seas Cruises received notice on March 10 that the meeting with the Cuban government, where we expected to receive final approval, had been postponed until after President Obama’s visit. Therefore we had to cancel the March 16, 2016, Cuba Cultural Voyage cruise” as well.

Most of Pearl Seas’ passengers have transferred to later cruises, but some have cancelled and received full refunds. Pearl Seas has four more Cuba cruises scheduled in March and April, and seven more scheduled in the autumn, starting on October 26.

Pearl Seas has been advertising a series of ten 7- and 10-night voyages in the 210-berth Pearl Mist that include an overnight in Havana and calls variously at Maria la Gorda, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Holguin. The 7-night cruise starts at $5,465 per person while the 10-night voyages begin at $7,810.

Fathom is the remaining operator that has been proposing Florida to Cuba cruises, but its first Cuba departure by the 700-berth Adonia is not scheduled until May. She is presently operating between Florida and the Dominican Republic.

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