Cuba Opportunities are Expanding
Although Fathom Cruises is being disbanded, cruising to Cuba is not going away. With the announcement about Fathom Cruises, Carnival Corporation emphasized that their other brands (i.e. Carnival Cruises, Princess Cruises, etc.) will be adding Cuba-focused itineraries in the near future. Additionally, other cruise lines have recently announced their own plans to include Cuba has a port of call in 2017.
With the limited information that has been released so far, Cuba itineraries will primarily include a port of call in Havana. At the present time itineraries do not look to be Cuba-exclusive with multiple Cuba ports of call (like the Fathom itineraries), but this can all change in the future.
Azamara Club Cruises has recently announced a 13-night itinerary departing Miami on March 21, 2017 which not only offers a stop in Havana, but an overnight stop in Havana. Billed as the Hemingway Hideaways itinerary, it also stops in Key West (a Hemingway requirement of course) and overnights in New Orleans for two nights.
As cruising to Cuba matures, the cruise lines will likely get permission to include additional ports of call in Cuba, and be more creative with future Cuba itineraries.
However, cruising to Cuba is not set in stone. As of right now, government restrictions have been relaxed which opened up the cruise option. With the upcoming change of political party control in Washington, DC, there is no saying whether any of these policies will be dialed back. On the other hand, we don’t know if the recent passing of Fidel Castro might lead to opening travel to Cuba even more.
So how do we promote cruising to Cuba right now, not knowing how things may change in the future? My plan is to be cautiously optimistic. I will be actively market cruising to Cuba as a new opportunity. However, I plan to re-emphasize in my disclaimers and waivers that cruise lines can change itineraries without notice and without compensation. When talking to clients, it will be important to single this out, and explain to them Cuba could be removed as a port of call if government regulations change.
We all cringe when clients book a cruise because of a specific port of call, knowing that disappointment can rear its ugly head if the itinerary changes. But Cuba will definitely be a draw for clients who will book these cruises specifically because of the port of call. We will have to balance our advice to clients so as not to dissuade them from booking, but at the same time setting the expectations in case the itineraries do change.
We should know early in 2017 if Congress has any intentions of changing the regulations about travel to Cuba. After that point we might be able to breath easier and market Cuba cruises without concerns that those itineraries will be cancelled or changed.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.