Cruise lines ready to pounce on Cuba
Cruise lines that cater to Americans could be calling on Cuba within
months of getting the go-ahead from U.S. lawmakers.
At least, that's the word from industry watchers such as Robin Farley of
UBS, who notes that major lines such as Carnival are ready to pounce
should the U.S. lift its embargo on the Caribbean nation.
TODAY IN THE CRUISE FORUM: Who wants to go to Cuba?
"Havana is a natural deep-water port, and we believe operators could
build dockside infrastructure on a much faster time line than it would
take to build U.S. branded hotel product," notes Farley. "Itineraries
could be sold with just several months advance notice."
Few industry watchers expect the USA to lift its embargo on Cuba anytime
soon. But Tuesday's resignation of longtime leader Fidel Castro has
raised the possibility that changes in the country — and in the USA's
relationship with it — could be coming.
"While reports of Castro having resigned as Cuba's president do not mean
that the US will end its economic embargo in the near future, new
leadership could be a positive event for the cruise industry if
diplomatic relations resulted in the opening of Cuba to American
tourism," says Farley.
Farley says the lack of extensive hotel infrastructure in Cuba would
give cruise lines a big advantage in the early years after the U.S.
lifts its embargo.
"Cuba would represent a new itinerary with significant pent-up demand
from American tourists," she adds. Only 230 miles from Miami, the
largest of Caribbean islands "has long been in the cross-hairs of the
American cruise lines."
So far the major cruise lines are staying mum on their plans. A
spokesperson for Royal Caribbean tells USA TODAY that while the line
hopes to have its ships visiting Cuba in the future, "it's premature to
judge how events will unfold there, and (we) don't have anything to say
at this time."
Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliken also deflected questions. "Until there
is fundamental change in that government that would lead to a change in
the U.S. government's policy, there's really nothing we can discuss at
this time," he tells us.
A spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, tells USA TODAY the
line's executives are unavailable to discuss the topic due to all-day