According to a survey conducted for USA Today by one of North America’s largest travel organizations, few Americans have booked cruises to Cuba despite a dramatic increase in the number of offerings.
The survey, conducted by Travel Leaders Group, questioned 1,034 travel agents who book cruises and found that nearly 42 percent experienced customer interest in new Cuba sailings, yet only 2.9 percent of agents reporting actual purchased bookings.
Travel Leaders Group spokesperson Kathy Gerhardt said, “There is excitement and interest, but it really is too early to see that translate into a significant amount of bookings.”
According to USA Today, demand is likely suffering from existing travel restrictions that require structured, “people-to-people” exchanges. General leisure travel from the US to Cuba is banned under current US embargo rules. Another factor dampening demand is price; new sailings start at about $6,000 per couple for a week-long trip, not including taxes and port fees.
In recent weeks, small-ship lines Pearl Seas Cruises and Haimark and cruise giant Carnival Corp.’s new fathom brand have announced new Cuba cruises from Miami. The parent of Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises also is looking into launching Cuba cruises.
The survey further suggests demand for Cuba cruise bookings will increase dramatically when the US government removes all travel restrictions to Cuba.
In the premium sailing category, entrepreneur Paul Madden has launched a licensed yacht charter business featuring authorized sailings to Cuba under the people-to-people exchange provision.