Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line announced this week that it will expand its trips to Cuba next year with 33 sailings. The cruise line will begin hosting four-day round trips from Miami to Cuba at the beginning of the cruise season in March 2018. Many of those trips will have overnight calls in Havana.
“Cuba is a spectacular destination and we are seeing incredible demand from our guests to experience the beautiful and cultural-rich city of Havana and her warm and friendly people,” said Andy Stuart, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. “We are excited to provide even more opportunities for our guests to experience this incredible destination into 2018.”
Other major cruise companies like Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Corp. also began offering trips to Cuba this year. Together with Norwegian Cruise Line, they make up the biggest public cruise companies in the world. They all secured approval for their U.S.-Cuba trips during the Obama administration. Travel between the two countries is now permitted under 12 sanctioned categories, which includes cultural experiences.
The news comes after two U.S. carriers—Frontier and Silver Airways—announced last month that they will no longer be offering trips to Cuba. Both airlines sought permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to schedule regular flights to Cuba after Obama renewed relations with the island, but demand for flights has been lower than projected.
The Florida-based carriers overshot the demand for travel to the island and scheduled too many flights on the route using oversized aircrafts that often carried very few passengers. The same can’t be said about cruise companies, which are adding trips to meet the demand. Current estimates project that 172,000 tourists will travel to the island this year using U.S.-based cruise companies.
Some experts speculate that the level of comfort tourists can expect on a cruise liner is a major contributor to the cruise companies’ success. Cruise ship passengers don’t face several of the problems tourists who fly to Cuba have to deal with, including inefficient services, lack of accommodation in Havana, and poor infrastructure.
Cruise ships also have modern conveniences and amenities most hotels in Cuba can’t provide, and almost every cruise company offers shore excursions on the island. Travelers can book and pay for everything in advance without having to worry about planning and paying for activities separately.
Still, the future of business and travel in Cuba remains uncertain. Trump vowed to take a more restrictive approach with the island last November. He tweeted that he was ready to “terminate” the last administration’s agreements if Cuba did not “make a better deal.”
Trump’s administration has announced a total review of the current policy, but it hasn’t yet revealed how it plans tackle the issue. Several politicians have reportedly offered proposals for different policies, but the eventual outcome is still a mystery.