After a second highly successful season offering cruises on the chartered Celestyal Cristal, it appears that the Canadian owned Cuba Cruises might be in the market for a second ship to run weekly winter cruises around Cuba’s highlights.
Marketed mainly to Canadian and European passengers, the two seasons aboard Cristal have been hugely successful, anticipating the presumed imminent opening of the fabled island to mass market tourism after many years out in the wilderness. There can hardly be a cruise line executive anywhere that is not salivating over the prospect of sailing to the Cuban highlights. Passengers want it, marketing men too and now, so it seems, the American and Cuban authorities do as well.
This is all well and good but, as alluded to in a previous blog, the infrastructure of such harbours as Havana remains firmly stuck in a 1950’s time warp. Ships bigger than 50,000 tons are a no- no on the docking front, and it will be many years before this logistical impasse can be properly overcome in terms of passengers convenience.
Here is the one example where mega ships are at a definite disadvantage in terms of what they can do, and where they can go. Having spent several years denuding their fleets of smaller, older tonnage, all of the big players in the cruise industry will find themselves at a tactical disadvantage for some time to come.
However, Cuba Cruises has no such problem. With record figures being carried on the 24,000 ton Cristal, the line is now apparently actively considering chartering a second ship for the lucrative winter season. And, unsurprisingly, their choice looks likely to fall on Celestyal Cruises, their current partner of choice.
Celestyal is uniquely posied to take advantage of this stroke of good fortune. From October through till March, most of it’s vessels are laid up in Piraeus over the winter. The stormy seas make the popular, three and four night Aegean cruises that they offer pretty much impractical over the winter months.
So, what ship might go out to bolster Cuba?
First option is the flagship, the 38,000 ton Louis Olympia. Originally built as the Song Of America for Royal Caribbean, a Cuba deployment would mark a welcome winter return to the kind of Caribbean cruises that this spacious, airy ship was built for. In particular, her vast amount of outdoor deck space is truly impressive.
However, I think that Cuba Cruises will go with her newer, more inimtate fleet mate, the 2001 built Celestyal Odyssey. At around 28,000 tons, this ship is more compatible with the Cristal in terms of size. She is also far more modern in terms of layout than the 1982 built Olympia.
Like her, the Celestyal Odyssey will sail on the lucrative, three and four day cruises out of Piraeus during the summer and autumn of 2015. In fact, this season will be her first with the company.
Rather than going into lay up over the winter, she could well cross the Atlantic to join the Cristal in Cuban waters over the peak Caribbean season. This would result in a welcome stream of guaranteed revenue for Celes
tyal over the traditionally barren winter months. Potentially, this is a win-win move for both sides.
Exciting times for all concerned if this turns out to be the case. As always, stay tuned.