The slow thaw in diplomatic rleations between the United States and Cuba has heated up, with the news that no less than four ferry companies are to be allowed to begin services between the mainland USA and the long isolated Caribbean island in the not too distant future.

The quartet are cited as being Airline Brokers, an operator based in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Second up is Havana Ferry Partners, another Fort Lauderdale concern. Baja Ferries is a Miami based operation and last, but by no menas least, comes United Caribbean Lines, based in Orlando and headed up by veteran cruise honcho, Bruce Nierenburg.

For the present, all four companies will only be allowed to carry all those allowed to travel to Cuba under existing American law. The still outstanding US embargo on Cuba precludes general passenger transport, but for how much longer? I would guess not much.

Of this breathlessly poised quartet, it seems to be United Caribbean Lines that is straining at the leash the most. With 1500 passenger vessels capable of embarking on overnight sailings, the line is expected to begin operations in the autumn from a variety of ports including Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. A provisional schedule lists a daily 1800 sailing from Florida, arriving in Havana at 0700 next morning. Evening departures will be at 1800 from Havana, arriving in Florida at 0700 the next day.

If nothing else, this news will have an already hugely interested cruise industry straining at the leash. The days of Cuba’s pre-eminence as one of the Caribbean’s most popular, vibrant and sought after hot spots seem set for an imminent return.

Exciting times for sure. As ever, stay tuned.

Sunrise on the Cuban run- imminent?

Sunrise on the Cuban run- imminent?


On the morning of May 5th, 1915, the Lusitania was more than half way across the Atlantic on her crossing from New York to Liverpool, the sea was calm and the weather clear and sunny. Any of the drama associated with her sailing on May 1st had largely dissipated like ocean fret.

Proud and aristocratic, the great liner surged purposefully across the sparkling briny. Trails of smoke from her quartet of tall, black funnels spread back in the direction of the new world. Families with babies and small children in tow strolled the long expanses of the boat deck. Bouillion was served to people lounging in steamer chairs, half asleep against a backdrop of clacking shuffeloard disks. With the crossing more than half over, thoughts had already begun to turn to arrival in Liverpool for many passengers.

Crossing the Atlantic by sea has always had the effect of gradually lulling a shipload of passengers into what I have always defined as a kind of dreamy, pampered stupour. Think about it; for a week or so, the only real concerns you have are about what to order for dinner, and making sure that you avoid the odd unsettling person or two. Everything else is done behind the scenes for you. And, as it is now, so it was back on that fateful springtime crossing.

Yes, the ship was heading into the area of the war zone, and it was also known that German U-boats were active in the waters off the south coast of Ireland. But what U-boat could match the cracking pace of the speedy Lusy? Even the idea seemed absurd to many.

Still, there were precautions to be taken. Next day would see the swinging out of all of the ship’s lifeboats, and the darkening of the entire ship at night. And that might have concentrated minds quite wonderfully…

But that was tomorrow, and not today. No, for this one last day, the great Cunarder could go about her business pretty much as she had always done. One last sunny day in the life of a spectacular, legendary ship. Contentment was in the air on that sunny, mid ocean day.

None of those laughing strolling passengers or silently grumbling stewards could have guessed at the horror that was to follow. For the Lusitania, May 5th, 1915 was one last hurrah on an eastbound appointment with eternity.

The Lusitania. Eastbound to eternity....

The Lusitania. Eastbound to eternity….