Cruise ship will circumnavigate Cuba
BY PAT BRENNAN, FOR POSTMEDIA NEWS
Cuba is getting a fancy new resort this winter where you can eat Alberta
prime steaks, drink Canadian beer and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs
defeat the Ottawa Senators, but the resort doesn’t guarantee that outcome.
There’ll even be a casino, although Fidel Castro banned gambling on his
island after the 1959 revolution. This casino, however, can’t open until
the Louis Cristal has slipped her lines and moved away from the dock.
Toronto entrepreneur Dugald Wells will introduce a revolutionary new way
to learn all about Cuba this year. He has hired the 1,200-passenger
cruise ship Louis Cristal to circumnavigate the island each week pulling
into some of its most exotic ports – including Havana – so tourists can
head out on shore excursions.
The famous Bay of Pigs – scene of a botched CIA-led invasion in 1961– is
not on the itinerary. “We asked to go to the Bay of Pigs and also
Guantanamo Bay, but, so far, they’re off limits,” said Wells. ‘But we
have a variety of other ports and areas of Cuba that are quite diverse
in geography, history and culture.”
It’s the first ship tours of Cuba since Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Wells’ idea for Cuba ship tours was sparked by Toronto home builder
Craig Marshall. The two have been close friends since they were
teenagers. Marshall builds luxury homes in Toronto. He went to Cuba to
entice its burgeoning entrepreneurial class to import Ontario lumber and
other building materials for new home construction.
A government official asked him to look at a new cruise terminal the
government had built in Havana harbour that was sitting empty and unused
because no cruise ships were coming to Cuba. They considered converting
the terminal to condominiums.
Back home, Marshall mentioned it to his high school buddy, now a
maritime engineer who had grown up through the shipping industry to own
and operate Cruise North Expeditions Inc. which conducts small-ship
tours into the Arctic Ocean.
Wells thought Cuba offered excellent cruise opportunities and Cuban
officials liked how Wells worked with the Arctic’s Inuit residents.
Eventually a touring agreement was signed.
Wells said his passengers will learn much about Cuban culture both on
shore and at sea. The Louis Cristal will be crewed by many Cuban natives
from the engine room up to the navigation bridge.
And there’ll be plenty of Canadian culture aboard too – such as NHL
games via satellite TV in your suite, plus an Alberta steak house, maple
syrup and other traditional Canadian foods.
“We’ll also serve a wide selection of Cuban and Caribbean dishes,” said
The onboard entertainment will be a mixtof Cuban, Caribbean and
Canadian. Wells said Canadian gymnasts will be doing Cirque de
Prices start at $586 Canadian and you can board the Louis Cristal in
either Montego Bay, Jamaica or Havana.
There is a wide selection of land excursions offered by Wells’ cruise
team, such as touring historic Havana in a 1950s era American-built car.
These vehicles are a marvel of ingenious engineering and mechanics often
held together by binder twine and twisted coat hangers.
When your cruise starts in Havana you’ll sail for a day to Holguin on
Cuba’s north shore. Christopher Columbus claimed it to be “the most
beautiful land ever seen by human eyes” when landed there in 1492. It
still boasts some of Cuba’s finest beaches and the UNESCO biosphere of
Chuchillas de Toa is one of six world heritage sites listed among Cuba
Wells says for vacationers at beach resorts along Cuba’s Veradero
Peninsula getting to these interesting and isolated sites means many
hours on pothole-filled roads in challenging vehicles.
“Our ship will visit all areas of Cuba and our passengers will get a
taste of the diversification of this island nation” said Wells.
Santiago De Cuba is on the south shore and is considered Cuba’s music
capital. It’s also Fidel Castro’s home town.
If your cruise leaves from Havana you’ll call at Montego Bay in Jamaica
after Santiago De Cuba. Some Cuba Cruises start in Montego Bay.
Passengers have the option of picking their disembarking port and the
Jamaica port has more air connections from Canada. Montego Bay is also
renowned for its duty free shopping.
Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth sits 50 kilometres off Cuba’s south
coast. You’ll see why it used to be called the Isle of Pines. The island
is home to Presidio Modela, a prison operated by Cuban dictator Batista
and one of its prisoners for two years was Castro after his failed
attack in 1953 against a police barracks in his home town Santiago De Cuba.
Wells said Louis Cristal’s 480 cabins are larger than traditionally
found on cruise vessels. The cruises run weekly to the end of March.
Source: “Cruise ship will circumnavigate Cuba” –