Thursday, July 29, 2010

British Cruises

Cuba libre for British cruise ships (blog) - July 20

By John Honeywell

It's all very well our American cousins beginning to get excited about the possibility of Congress lifting the ban on US citizens travelling to Cuba.

Even if the 47-year-old law is repealed this year, it could be some time before the island develops the facilities capable of meeting the needs of an influx of cruise passengers, according to MSC president Rick Sasso, in an interview in the Palm Beach Daily News spotted by my colleague Jane Archer.

"Right now, they lack the infrastructure and facilities to handle the huge influx of vessels and visitors," said Sasso, who is chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association.

"It'll probably take one, two or maybe three years before the necessary developments are completed. Lots of work has to be done. We also have to be sure there'll be no political backlash."

But Sasso, who has been a senior figure in the cruise industry for a generation and was one of the founders of Celebrity Cruises, seems to be forgetting one thing - the ban applies only to US citizens, and British cruise ships have had Cuban ports on their itineraries for some time.

Fred Olsen's Braemar is a regular visitor, and will be calling at Havana on a number of cruises from November, and through 2011 and 2012, usually for an overnight stay in the island's capital. Santiago de Cuba, in the south of the island, will be another Braemar desgtination in 2012, and Boudicca will be visiting Cuba during a 35-night voyage from Southampton and back in January 2012.

Thomson Dream will be a regular visitor to Havana this winter. The ship is scheduled for a multi-million upgrade in dry-dock at the end of the summer season in the Mediterranean, and after a brief visit to Southampton will be heading across the Atlantic to spend winter in the Caribbean.

Havana will be a turn-round port for Dream, so passengers will be able to spend extra time in the Cuban capital at the beginning or end of their cruise.

And I'm sure they will be able to tell Mr Sasso - and the rest of the American cruise industry - that the Cuban experience is more enjoyable now than it will be after the island develops the infrastructure he thinks it will need to meet the demands of US passengers.

No comments: