Yet another cruise line announces plans for Cuba sailings
Gene Sloan, USA TODAY 12:28 p.m. EDT July 28, 2015
Add Pearl Seas Cruises to the list of companies touting voyages to Cuba.
The small-ship line on Monday announced plans for seven- to 10-night
sailings to the island nation out of Florida in spring 2016.
The trips will take place on the line’s 210-passenger Pearl Mist and
include stops in such Cuban ports as Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de
Cuba. Itineraries on both the southern and northern coasts of Cuba are
in the works.
Pearl Seas says the sailings will be structured as “people-to-people”
exchanges that are allowed under the USA’s five-decade-old embargo of
Cuba. General leisure travel from the USA to Cuba including traditional
cruises still is banned.
Pearl Seas says the voyages still must be approved by the Office of
Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of
Commerce as well as the Cuban government.
The announcement comes just two weeks after tour giant Globus and
small-ship line Haimark announced plans to market people-to-people
Cuba cruises starting in January and February, respectively. Globus is
selling cruise tours out of Miami that include a week on a
960-passenger, Cuba-based ship operated by Celestyal Cruises. Haimark is
selling sailings out of Miami on its 210-passenger Saint Laurent.
Cruise giant Carnival Corp.’s new fathom brand also recently announced
plans to offer people-to-people cruises to the country on
its 710-passenger Adonia starting in May, and tour company International
Expeditions is starting people-to-people cruises to Cuba in December on
a chartered, 48-passenger vessel.
Like Pearl Seas, Haimark is awaiting U.S. and Cuban government approval
for its trips. Carnival Corp. has U.S. government approval but still is
awaiting Cuban approval. Globus and International Expeditions already
have all necessary approvals.
The cruise sellers are entering an increasingly crowded field of
companies offering people-to-people tours to Cuba. Just last month,
package tour giant Apple Vacations announced it would add such trips
this fall, joining a growing number of land-based tour companies
offering Cuba tours.
Under U.S. government rules, people-to-people trips to Cuba must focus
on educational exchanges between U.S. travelers and Cubans, and they
typically feature a full-time schedule of interactions with Cuban
musicians, artists, business owners and other locals. They aren’t
tourist-oriented, and breaking away from the group for self-directed
exploring or skipping an activity isn’t allowed.
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