Carnival Cruise Line will sail its first cruises to Cuba in June, as it today received government approval to sail to the island nation for the first time in its history.
Carnival Paradise sailings out of Tampa now will feature overnight visits to Havana on 12 different four- and five-day itineraries starting on June 29. This year’s sailings are scheduled for June 29; July 13; August 14, 24 and 28; September 7, 21 and 25; and October 5 and 19.
“We think this is a great opportunity for travel agents to take advantage of a whole new destination in the Caribbean,” senior vice president of port operations Terry Thornton told TMR. “What we’re offering is a great Carnival cruise that offers everything we do so well…with the opportunity to also visit a new destination like Havana.”
Paradise’s size means the ship can dock right in the Cuban capital next to Old Havana, which was one of the reasons Carnival chose it to host the cruise line’s first sailings.
Stops in Havana will include the opportunity to take part in a number of different shore excursions to make guests compliant with the U.S. government’s “people to people” rule for Cuban travel, under which the U.S. government has sanctioned 12 reasons for travel to Cuba.
All will be full-day excursions featuring activities such as touring the city’s architecture, visits to art galleries, tasting traditional Cuban food, and “more extensive tourism with visits to Hemingway’s hideaways and trips to the country [outside of Havana],” Thornton said.
A view of Havana.
The sailings are now available for travel agents to book. Carnival is expecting the 12 sailings to sell out quickly, “there are only 12, so we think they’ll be in very high demand and very popular,” Thornton said. “We’re encourage agents to act on it as quickly as possible.”
All guests sailing to Cuba will be required to have a passport and a tourist visa, which Carnival will provide at embarkation for $75.
Besides an agent’s typical cruise clientele, Thornton said these first-of-their-kind sailings also will appeal to clients who have never cruised before, making the news a great opportunity for agents to sell to their whole rolodex.
“This is an opportunity for travel agents to think about first-time cruisers that might have the opportunity to do a cruise and visit Cuba.” he said. “As a brand, for a long time we’ve been doing everything we can to attract first-time cruisers because we know once we get them we’ve got them for the long haul because they love the experience.”
With the news, Carnival joins Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises, who both received approval to sail to Cuba on Dec. 7, 2016.
All three Norwegian brands—Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruise and Regents Seven Seas—will be able to offer U.S. travelers Cuban sailings beginning in March 2017, while Royal Caribbean will sail its inaugural Cuba cruise on Empress out of Miami on April 19.