Cruise industry dreams of sailing into Cuba
Published: Feb 10, 2015 6:01 a.m. ET
By CHARLES PASSY REPORTER
It’s been more than a month since President Obama announced his plan to
loosen restrictions on travel to Cuba. And the cruise industry is
talking up the possibilities, with one prominent executive calling it
his “unfulfilled dream” to see one of his ships “cruising into Havana
In a recently televised interview with Miami’s CBS affiliate, newly
appointed Norwegian Cruise Line NCLH, -2.10% Chief Executive Frank Del
Rio added that this wasn’t just a pipe dream. “We have itineraries in my
upper right-hand drawer ready to go. People want to go to Cuba,” he said.
The obstacle, of course, is that U.S. restrictions still prevent travel
to Cuba purely for tourism. President Obama’s announcement applied to
those seeking to make their way to the Caribbean island nation for other
reasons, including visiting family. In essence, a lifting of the embargo
would be necessary to fully open Cuba to Americans.
But if such a day were to come, the business could be sizable, with the
American Society of Travel Agents estimating that more than 500,000
American cruise travelers would visit Cuba within the first two years.
Still, the obstacles for the cruise industry aren’t just those involving
U.S. policy. The fact remains that Cuban ports aren’t necessarily
equipped to handle the mammoth ships that have come to define cruise travel.
Who qualifies to go? Will you need a visa? How much can you spend? Can
you book a trip directly with a U.S. airline? WSJ’s Tanya Rivero reports.
“There are a number of factors for consideration before a cruise line
would commit to adding a destination to an itinerary,” said the Cruise
Line Industry Association in a statement after President Obama’s
NCL’s Del Rio argues that if cruise ships could travel to Cuba, the
beneficiaries would go beyond cruise lines or vacationers. He says
Florida’s economy would also benefit since the added number of travelers
would likely necessitate the expansion of local ports.
“The impact will not just be on the infrastructure in Cuba, but also the
infrastructure in Miami,” he said in the televised interview.
Source: Cruise industry dreams of sailing into Cuba – MarketWatch –