Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Potential flights from Ft. Lauderdale on Jet Blue and Spirit

Cuba travel clears one hurdle in Broward

The Broward County Commission took the first steps to becoming a gateway to Cuba.

Residents and travelers with relatives in Cuba might be able to hop a plane or boat out of Broward bound for Cuba.

Broward County commissioners on Tuesday approved seeking permission from the federal government to allow flights to and from Cuba at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
County officials will also ask the U.S. Department of Treasury to designate Port Everglades as another point of entry.

Commissioners approved the item without discussion.

But the chances of the county getting approval -- and when the trips would start -- are unknown.
``We want to put ourselves to be in a position to be considered,'' Broward airport director Kent George said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. government eased travel restrictions to Cuba to allow those who have relatives there to visit more often. More than 100,000 people of Cuban descent live in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

But the federal government still has to create a national policy that will determine whether several airports and ports are granted access at once or gradually, George said.

Spirit Airlines and JetBlue have expressed an interest in starting such flights out of the Fort Lauderdale airport. George estimates the airlines would start offering service a couple of times a week.

Currently three airports have permission to fly to Cuba: Miami, New York-Kennedy and Los Angeles.
Several airports nationwide, including Key West and Tampa, have expressed interest in offering service to Cuba.

If Fort Lauderdale wants to be successful, ``I think they better get to Washington,'' said Vivian Mannerud, owner of Airline Brokers Company, which charters flights from Miami to Cuba. ``There are other airports in the U.S. that have been lobbying very heavily to get approved and they have been at it for seven or eight months.''

George said he had no immediate plans to send lobbyists to Washington, D.C. though he said that is a possibility.

Adding flights to Cuba would not increase costs for the airport.

Said George: ``We have the gates, customs and security.''

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

British Cruise Line to Add Cuba

Thomson Cruises Will Sail to Cuba in 2010-2011
October 7, 2009

Havana (4:30 p.m. EDT) -- British line Thomson Cruises is shaking things up in winter 2010-2011 with a series of new 14-night Caribbean itineraries -- including Thomson's first-ever calls in Havana, Cuba. The cruises will be operated by the new 1,506-passenger, 54,000-tonne Thomson Dream, which will join the fleet in April 2010.

Havana is an exciting choice because not many cruise lines visit the Cuban city, due to U.S. restrictions on travel there. Even U.K.-based Fred. Olsen has only four cruises calling in Havana in 2010; German line Hapag-Lloyd offers just a couple of calls in Cuba, as well. However, when Thomson Dream sails its new two-week cruises from December 2010 to March 2011, it will not only offer a full season of Cuban visits but also will feature two or three days in Havana on each itinerary.

There are three different types of itineraries from which to choose -- Caribbean Experience, Cuban Adventure and Classic Caribbean. What's unusual is that the ship will actually sail a repeating, 21-night route that will be divided into 14-night segments. That means passengers will debark, and new passengers will board halfway through your cruise. Also, because each 14-night segment is a one-way sailing, Thomson will not offer a fly-cruise option. (There is no option to sail three weeks roundtrip from any of the departure points, as many ports of call are repeated from segment to segment.)

Here are the highlights of each:

Caribbean Experience: This cruise sails from Barbados to Havana, visiting multiple Caribbean islands and Central American ports, including Roatan, Costa Maya and Cozumel. The itinerary features an overnight in Cuba. Departure dates are 23 December 2010; 13 January, 3 and 24 February 2011.

Cuban Adventure: This cruise sails from Montego Bay to Barbados, visiting Central America and Southern and Eastern Caribbean ports. The itinerary features three days and two nights in Cuba, mid-cruise. Departure dates are 30 December 2010; 20 January, 10 February and 3 March 2011.

Classic Caribbean: This cruise sails from Havana to Montego Bay, concentrating on Caribbean islands. The itinerary begins with an overnight in Cuba. Departure dates are 6 and 27 January and 17 February 2011.

In addition to Havana, these Caribbean itineraries include two more new-for-Thomson ports: Santa Marta, Columbia (on Classic Caribbean and Caribbean Experience), and Roatan, Honduras (on Caribbean Experience and Cuban Adventure).

Thomson Dream's Caribbean itineraries will go on sale on 5 November 2009.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor