If your connotations of Cuba revolve around dusty 1950’s Cadillacs, furrowed brows hulked over tense games of dominoes in city squares, and majestic colonial facades tinged various shades of pastel, then you wouldn’t be far wrong.
Having stood still in time since the 50’s, Cuba can be forgiven for the wear and tear it shows around the edges. Wrought iron balconies are photo-worthy despite the rust, while the Malecón attracts a steady flow of expectant visitors, despite the paint that has long since begun to peel from the intricate mouldings decorating the buildings that line the promenade. You won’t find yourself stood beneath the golden arches of a McDonald’s and coffee addicts will be disturbed to discover a distinct lack of Starbucks on every street corner, but that is part of Cuba’s unique appeal.
The past week has brought announcements from two cruise lines, MSC Cruises and Carnival Corporation’s newly launched fathom, with each of them revealing that they are to send ships to Cuba over the coming year. Destination is where the similarities end however, so we decided to take a closer look at cruising Cuba and the two completely different ways the two operators are opening up the country for exploration.
MSC Cruises Cuba Itineraries
MSC Opera will homeport in Havana for the winter 2015-16 season, becoming the first mainstream cruise line to do so. The ship will sail 16 Caribbean, with itineraries including calls in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico. The star of the show will undoubtedly be MSC Opera’s homeport of Havana, with the ship set to spend two nights and almost three full days in the Cuban capital.
If you’re looking for cruising as you know it, with the luxury of time at sea and the chance to be one of the first to experience Cuba before the tourism industry takes hold, the MSC Opera cruise is the one for you. The ship will arrive in its new homeport on 22 December 2015, following its 20 day Grand Voyage from Genoa. If you’re tempted to sway to an Afro-Cuban beat, you’ll need to move fast; MSC Opera will leave Havana on 12 April 2016, sailing another Grand Voyage back to Europe.
Unfortunately, our American cousins won’t be able to join MSC Opera’s Cuba itineraries, but luckily for us they are on sale to UK cruisers now.
Prefer to spend your holidays spreading love and doing good?
Shortly after MSC Cruises announcement, came word that Carnival Corporation’s newest venture fathom would also be heading to Cuba, though the American cruise line is setting sail under more humanitarian methods.
When voluntourism cruise line fathom was revealed last month, it was met with mixed reactions. Now, Carnival Corporation has announced that Adonia will sail 7 night itineraries to Cuba starting May 2016. Cruises will depart Miami, calling at three Cuban ports along the way, though the exact details of these are still to be announced. It is expected that fathom will alternate between Cuba and the previously announced Dominican Republic itineraries each week.
The Cuban flavour will flow throughout the ship, thanks to Cuban food, music and movies, and the Cuban itineraries are set to be slightly more expensive than those to the Dominican Republic; around £1,940 per person.
fathom will be the first cruise line owned by an American mainstream company to sail to Cuba and has been granted special approval from the US Department of Treasury and the US Department of Commerce, thanks to the fledgling cruise line’s voluntourism product fulfilling the humanitarian requirements that currently govern trips to Cuba.
Have you got Cuba on your must-see list for 2016? If so, will you be opting for cruising as we know it with MSC Cruises or swaying down the path of voluntourism with fathom?