U.S. operators set up new cruises and flights to Cuba as travel restrictions ease

With the gradual easing of sanctions and restrictions on Cuba from the USA (at least under Obama’s administration), U.S. Operators are, for the first time in some 55 years, able to provide their passengers service between mainland USA and Cuba. It all started back in August when JetBlue hosted the first scheduled commercial passenger flight, travelling from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Santa Clara, Cuba.

At the top of the month, Delta launched their first flight to Cuba; a non-stop service from their hub in Atlanta to Havana. Interestingly, they’re the only airline in operation today who was offering flights to Cuba when the restrictions of travel were first laid in 1961. Back then, it was a service from New Orleans.

And just this week, Southwest added Havana as their 100th travel destination – with Cuba now sitting as the 9th country outside of the USA the historically domestic carrier is travelling to. They only started travelling internationally in July 2014. They are currently flying between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, as well as Tampa and Havana. Today they are launching flights to the 101th destination, and third in Cuba: Santa Clara. Their first was to the resort city of Varadero last month.

Seven other airlines – Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Silver Airways, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines – are also either already flying to Cuba, or have routes planned in 2017. This brings the total number of approved carriers to ten.

Though these flights have heralded a new era of travel to the iconic destination, there are still quite a few restrictions in place. Those who are travelling between the countries must full under one of 12 permitted categories, and U.S. airlines can only offer a total of 20 daily flights to Havana.

But flying isn’t the only way to get to Cuba. The easing of restrictions have also allowed U.S. Cruise Operators to resume operations between the countries. Among the first to jump in on the opportunity are Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., who recently became the first U.S. Cruise Operator to have their full portfolio of brands approved to sail to Cuba.

Beginning in March 2017, all three of the company’s brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, will offer travellers the opportunity to visit the culturally and historically rich country on select sailings starting next year.

The company’s first cruise to Cuba will set sail from Port Miami on Oceania Cruises’ Marina on 7th March 2017 with select Caribbean itineraries featuring overnight calls on Havana, offering travellers the chance to spend two full days in the iconic destinations. You can find out more about these cruises on their official website. The Seven Seas Mariner, of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet, will call on Havana during two cruises in April 2017. Norwegian Sky will also offer a selection of four-day voyages that will overnight in Havana in May 2017.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.