Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

Beginning December 4, a recently incorporated Canadian cruise line named Cubacruise Inc will offer week long cruises around the entire island of Cuba with many stops along the way.

Prices for cruise-only fares start at CAD $586, double occupancy for the week long cruise. All cruises will feature Cuban music and dance, local Cuban guides and interpreters. The ship is a 1200 passenger vessel called Louis Cristal and was built in 1980.

According to Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor, she writes that food and Canadian beer will be shipped to the cruise ship every week. Provisions for a cruise ship in Cuba would be extremely difficult to obtain in Cuba.

Havana to Havana Cruise Itinerary

Many guided tours will be offered to passengers as they circumnavigate Cuba such as six UNESCO World Heritage site tours, four national parks, and several other unique island excursions as seen in the list below.

Cayo Guillermo
City of Moron Plantation Tour
Ciego de Avila
Birán & Pine Forest of Mayari
Bariay & Guardalavaca
Santiago de Cuba & El Cobre
Santiago de Cuba & La Gran Piedra
Sierra Maestra National Park
Tropicana Santiago de Cuba
Cienfuegos City Tour
Dolphins & Cienfuegos
Botanical Gardens & Cienfuegos  
Parque Natural El Cubano & Trinidad
Isla de la Juventud
Havana History
Havana Cigar and Rum Tour
Havana & Hemingway
Las Terrazas
Viñales

YourCubaCruise.com Website

From the About Us page: “Cuba Cruise is a wholly owned Canadian cruise line with over 20 years of experience cruising. Cuba Cruise was created to offer Cuba only cruise itineraries that give passengers an authentic Cuban experience - both culturally and geographically - while meeting the expectations of traditional Cuban all inclusive sun destinations.
This is an all-inclusive that moves.

The on-board experience offers passengers a wide range of typical cruise amenities and events. Nightly shows, casino, gift shops, pool and a wide range of dining and entertainment facilities can all be experienced. Culturally, the influence will be decidedly Cuban in flair.

The cruise offers and exciting, safe way to explore more of Cuba and its people from the vantage of your moving resort.”

According to public WHOIS information, the domain name YourCubaCruise.com was registered on February 28, 2011 but the website went live in July.

The first cruise trip around Cuba is scheduled to leave on Sunday December 4 and will depart Havana weekly every Sunday until March 18, 2012. The goal is to be in a different Cuban port each day of the Cuba cruise.
Passengers can purchase optional shore excursions at every port. Due to the long standing US Embargo against Cuba, American citizens are not permitted under US laws to book a trip on this cruise.

About Cubacruise Inc.

I had the pleasure to talk recently with Dugald Wells, the CEO of Ontario Canada based Cubacruise Inc.. He was kind enough to share with Havana Journal readers some of the background that led to the launch of this unique Cuba-based business model.

He admits that he only recently visited Cuba for the first time in 2009. He went down with a friend who was exploring the possibility of exporting Canadian lumber into Cuba. When he started to investigate cargo shipping to Cuba and the port of Havana, he noticed that the passenger terminal in Havana harbor was empty. Being in the cruise industry for twenty years with Cruise North Expeditions he quickly got the idea for a cruise that would not originate in Canada (nor Miami for obvious reasons) but in Havana… a Havana to Havana cruise. He knew enough about Cuba to know that there are many ports that can service a cruise ship and certainly many on-shore excursions so his Havana to Havana cruise idea was born.

However, many years ago Fidel Castro put an end to the cruise business in Cuba saying that passengers simply came to Cuba to leave their trash and other comments unfriendly to the cruise industry.

Mr. Wells says that the Cuban government liked his concept of a cruise that visits many ports in Cuba and is designed from the ground up to offer opportunities for Cubans including bringing tourists and their wallets to all parts of Cuba, not just the usual resort areas, employing Cubans as crew, contracting shore-side service business etc.. Therefore this business model was seen as a more attractive tourist opportunity to the government.

He went on to say that the first year of preliminary negotiations went slowly but in the most recent six months, his idea seemed to be on a fast track to full approval. He got a sense that senior level decision makers have recently become more accommodating to new business and less obstructive than they had been in the past. This allowed his business application to move quickly up to the higher ranks in the Cuban government. Apparently there was some prolonged discussion inside the Cuban government as to which ministry would oversee this cruise idea, the Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Transportation, but once that decision was made (favoring the Ministry of Transportation), the approval process moved along very quickly.

Currently sales are being generated from tour operators and travel agents and a 70% occupancy rate is anticipated for each cruise around Cuba. Mass market media campaigns are in the planning stages but management is relying on established players in the travel industry to book passengers since this cruise is such a new and unique opportunity.

Twenty Years of Cruise Experience

Mr. Wells is the Founder and CEO of Cruise North Expeditions, a subsidiary of the Inuit-owned Makivik Corporation which is, in a way, similar to this Havana to Havana cruise. Cruise North calls on numerous ports in several Arctic regions followed by land excursions featuring local cultures and unique tours.

From a recent press release “Cruise North Expeditions was founded in 2005 by the Makivik Corporation of Quebec, a highly successful investment corporation born of the first modern-day Aboriginal land claim settlement agreement in Canada (the JBNQA of 1975). Cruise North Expeditions earned a place on Conde Nast Traveller’s prestigious “Green List” for their environmental efforts and commitment to helping preserve Inuit culture through tourism.

Autentica Cuba connection

Canadians are the number one source of tourists for Cuba so this cruise should fill a need although one could wonder why such a cruise has not been offered until now.

YourCubaCruise.com has a special relationship with the Cuban government’s Ministry of Tourism agency Autentica Cuba, a relationship that would be required in order to stop at so many Cuban ports of call along with the ability to offer so many immersive Cuban tours.

YourCubaCruise.com website features numerous photos from the Autentica Cuba website so obviously there is a very close business relationship here.

Autentica Cuba has offices in Germany, UK, Argentina, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, France and Russia.

This association puts Cubacruise Inc in a position to hold a competitive advantage against any other businesses seeking to execute a similar business model.