Lacking approval, cruise line cancels more Cuba voyages
Gene Sloan, USA TODAY 11:09 a.m. EDT April 9, 2016
When it comes to cruising to Cuba, saying you’re going to do it is one
thing. Getting permission is another.
That’s the lesson that small-ship operator Pearl Seas Cruises has been
learning in recent weeks as it has been forced to cancel one
long-planned sailing to the island nation after another due to a lack of
Cuban government approvals.
Pearl Seas announced last July that it would launch 10-night cruises
from the USA to Cuba this spring on its single ship, the 210-passenger
Pearl Mist. Six sailings were planned for March and April, and Pearl
Seas began taking bookings for cabins at fares that started at $7,810
But as customers have been finding out in recent weeks, the line was
selling the trips without permission from the Cuban government to
operate them, and as the sailing dates neared, the permission did not
materialize as the line expected. The cancellations began.
The first sailing to be canceled was a March 6 departure, followed by
March 16 and March 26 departures. In recent days, Pearl Seas has added
sailings scheduled for April 5 and April 15 to the list of those it is
dropping. Holding out hope for a last-minute Cuban approval, the line
has been canceling the sailings one-by-one as the sailing dates
approach, sometimes with just a few days notice.
The sailings would have been the first from the USA to Cuba in decades.
But now it looks like industry giant Carnival Corp.’s new Fathom brand
could be the first to offer such trips. Fathom received approval last
month from the Cuban government to operate voyages to the country and
will kick off bi-weekly sailings from Miami on May 1. Like Pearl Seas,
Fathom had begun selling the trips even before it had the approval.
Unlike Pearl Seas and Fathom, most cruise lines hoping to add Cuba trips
from the USA have been waiting for Cuban government approval before
starting to sell them. Cruise operators that have been pursuing such an
approval include the parent companies of Oceania Cruises and Royal
Another small-ship line, Ponant, announced on Thursday that it had
received approval from the Cuban government for Cuba cruises aimed at
Americans. The trips will take place on the 64-passenger Le Ponant and
begin in 2017. Ponant already offers Cuba cruises for Europeans.
The short notice of the cancellations at Pearl Seas has upset customers.
“I’m mad as hell,” Thomas Donoghue, 76, of Westbury, New York, wrote
Friday in a letter to the company that he also sent to USA TODAY Cruise.
Donaghue, the executive director of a medical foundation, is booked on
an April 25 sailing to Cuba that Pearl Seas has yet to cancel. But he’s
not holding out hope that the trip will be going.
“Who could have known that you did not have permission to sail and land
passengers in the ports you advertised,” Donoghue wrote.
A spokesperson for Pearl Seas could not be reached for comment.
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