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Cruising in Cuba

American citizens are allowed to visit Cuba, but U.S. law prohibits us form spending money there and the U.S. embargo prohibits cruise ships that visit Cuba to enter the United States for six months afterwards. In 2005, cruise shipping came to a near halt in 2005 when Fidel Castro said he no longer wanted cruise ships in Cuba. He cited the cost of day-visit tourists tramping through Havana outweighing the benefits. Fidel criticized cruising for being floating hotels, floating restaurants, floating theaters and floating diversions that try to leave their trash, their empty cans and papers for a few miserable cents. Fidel then cancelled an Italian firm's contract to run Cuba's cruise terminals, with the final nail in the "proverbial coffin" when a Spanish ship, the PULLMANTUR, bypassed the island after being bought by an American firm that was subject to the U.S. embargo.

As a result, only a few cruise ships visited Cuba from 2005 to 2010. However, the Caribbean Maritime magazine in its October-December 2011 issue is reporting that cruising is coming back to life in Cuba. Cuba is actively wooing back European and Canadian cruise lines welcoming in January 2011 its first large cruise ship in almost 6 years. Ships currently visiting Havana and other Cuban ports include the THOMSON DREAM, ADRIANA, EXPLORER and CUBA CRISTAL.

The THOMSON DREAM is a 42,092-ton British cruise ship. Measuring 798 feet in length, it can carry 1,500 passengers and 600 crew. From January to March, the ship's Caribbean tour includes a two-day stopover in Havana. The ADRIANA is a boutique cruise ship, departing Havana and including four other stops in Cuba--the Isle of Youth, Trinidad de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba and Cayo Saetia. The ADRIANA is operated by Tropicana Cruises, with a gross tonnage of 4,591 grt and a length of 340 feet, she can carry 300 passengers with 135 crew.

It is reported that Cuba Cruise will be launching Cuban cruises in December 2011 with its 480-stateroom ship LOUIS CRISTAL, operating as the CUBA CRISTAL. The ship departs Havana and calls at 6 other Cuban ports: Bahia de Nipe, Cayo Guillermo, Santiago de Cuba, Cayo Caguamas, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Punta Frances, the larges of the islands of Cuba and featuring 6 Unesco World Heritage Sites and 4 national parks and preserves. The CUBA CRISTAL, which can carry 1,200 passengers, will be operating mainly in the Canadian market.

It has been reported that a U.S.-based ship, the 24,318 ton EXPLORER applied to visit Havana in December on its world cruise. If approved, it will be the first U.S. ship to enter Cuban waters for almost 50 years.

If you are interested in receiving a complete copy of the Caribbean Maritime article or wish to contact me, you may reach me at miamipandi@comcast.net or motero@houckanderson.com.

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