MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned global cruise line, announces the start of cruise ship operations this month.
The 2,120-guest MSC Opera will homeport in Havana for the winter 2015-16 season and will offer guests 16 Caribbean region cruises. A second ship, MSC Armonia, will operate out of Cuba starting November 2016 for the entire winter season.
MSC Cruises, the world’s fourth biggest line, said while its cruises were not currently being offered to US customers, bookings by Europeans and Canadians had been “above our estimations.” US citizens are not allowed on the Havana-based cruises due to US travel restrictions and rules.
In November, the U.S. approved ferry services between Florida and Cuba for the first time in five decades.
The US Treasury and Commerce departments gave approval to at least four companies, including Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Baja Ferries of Miami, United Caribbean Lines Florida of Greater Orlando and Airline Brokers Co. of Miami and Fort Lauderdale to run ferry services between Florida and Cuba, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Despite the excitement over burgeoning cruise ship interest, Cuba has decided to wait on approving ferry service from Florida.
“The Cuban government has said they’ll hold off for several months. It’s not a priority now,” Nierenberg said. With U.S. air travel to Cuba booming, Havana has said it wants to focus on building more hotel rooms and on developing facilities for cruises, whose passengers won’t need hotels, he said.
Carnival has announced a Cuba cruise departing from Miami starting May 2016. The newly-established Carnival brand, Fathom, will allow US citizens to cruise to Cuba in compliance with current US travel restrictions and rules.