The largest U.S. cruise ship ever to sail from the U.S. to Cuba just happened. History was again made last month as Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,052-passenger Carnival Paradise set sail from Tampa to Havana, becoming largest U.S. cruise ship ever to sail from the U.S. to Cuba.
Carnival first made history in May when its Fathom brand became the first cruise line to sail from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 40 years
Carnival is currently offering four- and five- day cruises starting this summer and fall that will overnight in Havana, giving guests the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the city’s rich culture and history, as well as its vibrant nightlife. Five-day sailings also call at Key West or Cozumel.
Holland America Line’s 1,350-passenger ms Veendam will sail on seven-, 11- and 12-day itineraries during the 2017-2018 winter and spring seasons from Fort Lauderdale. The ship’s itineraries will visit Havana and some also call at Cienfuegos, known as Cuba’s “Pearl of the South,” which will include shore excursions to the stunningly preserved colonial city of Trinidad. Depending on the itinerary, passengers will also have opportunity to explore other ports of call in the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Mexico.
While U.S. residents are free to travel to Cuba, you need to do so under regulations established by the U.S. government. Here are some things to know about traveling to Cuba:
1 Required paperwork. All U.S. citizens and most international travelers must have a valid passport. All guests are required to obtain a visa in order to enter Cuba. The type of visa that a guest will need will depend on certain factors, including the reason for travel to Cuba. Most guests will be able to enter Cuba utilizing a “Tarjeta Turistica” (or tourist card) visa. Guests will be able to purchase the “Tarjeta Turistica” from the cruise line at a cost of $75 per person. The visa is distributed at the time of boarding your ship. You can alternatively obtain a visa from the Cuban consulate or a visa service, but going through your cruise line is a major benefit.
2 Health fee. The Cuban government requires all guests to purchase health insurance, which will be automatically included in your port charges.
3 Shore excursions. Shore excursions offered by Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line meet the people-to-people educational activities requirement. Both lines offer a wide range of shore excursions.
4 Money matters. Your ATM and credit cards may not work in Cuba. You should plan on bringing cash for any purchases. Pending any updated U.S. Department of Treasury rules, U.S. dollars can be exchanged for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). There is an exchange office at the Havana cruise terminal. The transaction fee for converting U.S. dollars to CUCs is approximately 10%.
5 Staying in touch. Wi-Fi in Cuba requires the use of cards with codes. You are best off sharing experiences with your friends using your ship’s Internet access. If you are planning to use your cellphone, check with your provider regarding service and fees.