Cuba: Magical, mystery tour for Yankees

Sail for Cuba from Jamaica, or take a charter to Havana and leave for Montego Bay surely  will  be a magical and mysterious trip for a “Yankee”, after more than a half century unable to legally enjoy holidays in Cuba.

Following the announcement on December 17 last of the governments of the United States and Cuba over the thaw in bilateral relations, a Canadian cruise operator said it want to see more Americans aboard its  cruises to Cuba.

Cuba Cruise, the Canadian cruise operator, announced that Americans can now legally book its Cubaaround-the-island cruises that depart Havana or Montego Bay, Jamaica, through a U.S. travel agent in addition to directly through the company or an approved U.S. tour operator partner.

Any “habanero” which usually wander around they capital  port city could often see the 1,200-passenger cruise ship Louis Cristal  operated  by  Cuba Cruises that depart from  Havana to Montego Bay.  The U.S. government’s recently loose travel restrictions to Cuba and introduced new general licenses for 12 categories of authorized American citizens to the Island.

These licenses no longer require a formal application, prior permission or post trip report to a U.S. official, making it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba to visit family, participate in educational and religious activities and humanitarian projects, among other qualified reasons.

A couple of Americans who arrived in Havana aboard the Louis Cristal a few days ago said that they do not want publicity, but one of them confessed that the trip to Cuba was a wonderful occasion. “Before this trip we felt that Cuba was on another planet,” she said to the TTC reporter.

Cuba Cruise’s people-to-people cruise program, offered in partnership with the nonprofit Fund for Reconciliation and Development, qualifies as an educational opportunity under these new general licenses, the Calgary cruise operator said.

John McAuliff, the nonprofit’s executive director and coordinator of the Cuba/US People to People partnership, said in a statement that “participants in our educational program have a unique opportunity to move comfortably and efficiently between four distinct regions of Cuba aboard the Louis Cristal cruise vessel. “We’re proud to provide Americans with a new way to visit Cuba … during an exciting time of opening between our nations”, he added.

Cuba Cruise , cited by Sun Sentinel journal, from Florida U.S said  that once the U.S. travel agent books the Cuba Cruise trips, customers have to register directly with the New York-based nonprofit agency. Passengers then will receive letters from the nonprofit advising them that they qualify for travel to Cuba under its general license.

The cruise program departs from Havana on Mondays and from Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Fridays through March 30. Cruise-only rates for the seven-night sailings start at $660 per person double occupancy, plus a $75 registration fee. The company also said that passengers sail aboard the 1,200-passeger Louis Cristal cruise ship, which offers 480 staterooms and suites, multiple restaurants and bars, a disco, casino, fitness center and beauty salon, among other amenities.

Americans who choose a “cruise only” package have to purchase airfare to Havana through an approved charter service departing select U.S. cities such as Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa. Or they can book scheduled flights to and from Montego Bay to catch the cruise there. A “cruise and air” package provides flights to and from Toronto to Havana, but airfare between the U.S. and Canada is additional.

Cuba Cruise launched in January 2013 to offer travelers a unique opportunity to experience Cuba’s history and culture. The company said it’s seeing a surge in interest from the U.S. and expects to sell out its remaining 2015 departures soon.


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