SECOND SHIP FOR CUBA CRUISES?

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

Sunrise on a second Cuban sun dream?

Sunrise on a second Cuban sun dream?

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.

 

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6 comments

  1. Well Funchal needs a new home. She could slide in and out of the ports nicely. Love Cuba and want to go back again sometime. We did the whole of the island by train & bus. We did see Stockholm in the Dock in Havana behind closed doors. This was 10 yrs ago.

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  2. Once they arrive, the big lines will not have any trouble with serving Havana, even with Oasis of the Seas. They can go to the nearby port of Mariel, which is served by double track passenger rail from downtown Havana. Mariel has 60 feet of water compared to 36 feet in Havana. It’s a 40-mile trip from Havana but that is less than the distance between Rome and Civitavecchia.

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  3. Having talked about Mariel, here is a paragraph from a book called “Ports of Palm, Ports of Pine” by Alice Sharples, published in 1939 and describing the arrival in Havana by cruise ship:-

    As you sail past the grim-visaged fortress of Morro Castle and enter beautiful Havana harbour, the city, with a single welcoming gesture, tosses all her riches at your feet. The famous Prado, paved with marble and shaded with laurel trees, stretches from the terraced seawall of the Malecon to the commanding arches of the Capitolia. The President’s Palace, too, is on view, facing you across the stately palm trees of Maceo Park. The towers of the San Christobel Cathedral are limned against the sky, and the ancient palaces of colonial Cuba, their
    wrought iron balconies festooned with jasmine, follow the gracious curve of the harbour…

    Other seaport capitals are so often entered by the back way, so to speak, via unsightly warehouses, freight elevators and commercial buildings. But in Havana, you sail straight into the “grande sala.”

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