Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced Monday that it will send a second ship to Cuba as of May 2018. The cruise operator plans to expand its lineup of Cuba voyages with new sailings out of Port Canaveral, Florida.
NCL started trips to Cuba in May 2017 with the 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sky, which offers an all-inclusive four-day itinerary from the Port of Miami. The second ship, Norwegian Sun, will sail from Port Canaveral and offer the same four-day itinerary with unlimited free drinks. Both ships will spend one night in Havana.
According to NCL, the Norwegian Sun’s sailings to Cuba “will transport guests to the heart of the action in both Key West and Havana, calling in Key West’s Old Town district and Havana, calling in Key West’s Old Town district and Havana Harbor, located in the heart of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Norwegian Sun will offer guests the opportunity to experience the wonderful culture and incredible history of Cuba, along with the warmth and friendliness of the Cuban people during shore excursions.”
A spokesperson for NCL told the press that several factors played into the decision to send Norwegian Sun to the Cuba, including the popularity of Cuba excursions, the demand for short cruises, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to exempt cruise lines and airlines serving Cuba from the new restrictions he announced in June.
“We were very concerned about any potential changes, given how popular Cuba itineraries have proven to be with our guests,” NCL said in a statement. “And we view this as a win for the cruise industry, our valued guests and travel partners.”
Port Canaveral CEO John Murray welcomed Norwegian’s announcement. He said the port “is proud of our cruise partner, NCL, and we welcome their growth plans for the future.”
“Today’s announcement validates the port’s ongoing investments in state-of-the-art facilities and continuous improvement in cruise operations,” said Murray. “Our record numbers of passenger movements year after year demonstrates we are working hard and meeting the expectations of today’s largest and most sophisticated cruise ships.”
While Norwegian is expanding its lineup of Cuba cruises, many U.S. airlines continue to suffer because of poor demand. Southwest Airlines was the latest carrier to announce plans to discontinue flights to Cuba due to limited demand.
“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens,” said Steve Goldberg, the Senior Vice President of Ground Operations.
Southwest was one of several U.S. airlines that rushed to add flight routes to Cuba after the Obama administration lifted travel restrictions to the island in 2016, but it overshot the demand by a wide margin. Trump’s restrictions on business dealings with enterprises owned by the Cuban military, which controls a large portion of the Cuban economy, might further dampen demand for air travel in the coming months.