Travel SOS: cruising to Cuba

Julie would like to visit Cuba and wants to know if it’s possible to cross by sea from the United States. In today’s Travel SOS, Lee Mylne advises her on how to cruise to Cuba.

Q. Julie

I would love to visit Cuba and I’m keen to combine my visit with a cruise. I know that the restrictions between the US and Cuba have been relaxed so is it possible to cruise between the two countries? Is there anything I should be wary of? Is there a particular cruise company I should be looking at?

A. It is possible to cruise to Cuba from the USA, Julie, but your options are still a little bit limited because of the restrictions on Americans travelling to Cuba. However, some small ships owned by non-American companies operate Caribbean itineraries including the Cuban capital, Havana. Things are definitely changing since President Obama moved to reopen diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Canadian-owned company Celestyal Cruises offers weekly Cuba Cruise sailings on Celestyal Cristal from Montego Bay and Havana, seasonally (December to March), and homeports the ship in Cuba year-round. 

Carnival Corporation is the first mainstream American cruise line to cruise to Cuba from the United States, first sailing in June 2016 under its Fathom ‘social impact’ line. The 704-passenger MV Adonia undertakes seven-day ‘cultural exchange’ voyages from Miami, with stops in the Cuban ports of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba.

lady on a ship as it leaves miami for cuba

Other companies that include Cuba on their itineraries include Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Thomson Cruises, Variety Cruises, Noble Caledonia, MSC Cruises and the tall ship company, Star Clippers. International Expeditions this year chartered the 48-passenger Panorama for Cuban cruises.

If you want to get a real feel for the island, you need to go beyond Havana, and the companies that make multiple stops offer the best chance of getting to see more of this fascinating country. For this, look at Cuba Cruise, International Expeditions, Fathom and Noble Caledonia.

Other cruise lines make an overnight port stop in Havana, which will give you a taste of Cuba, but this is likely to only whet your appetite to see more.

Most cruises to Cuba run seasonally, between December and March, when the weather is typical for the Caribbean, with temperatures around 28 degrees.

Don’t forget that you will need a visa to enter Cuba. This can be obtained through your travel agent or from the Cuban embassy in Canberra.  You should also note that travellers must present proof of comprehensive travel insurance in order to enter Cuba (but I hope you’d have that wherever you are travelling!).

Some useful websites when planning your trip:

Related articles:
Catch Cuba before it changes
Cruising extras worth the money
Cruising etiquette


Lee Mylne has managed to combine her two passions – travelling and writing – into a long and successful career as a travel journalist. Her work is published in newspapers, magazines, websites and travel apps in Australia and around the world.
Do you have a travel question for Lee? If so, email your Travel SOS to [email protected]

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