Havana Harbour by night
At present there are a handful of officially sanctioned direct charter flights from the US (operated by a Cuban entity), however despite the close distance individual US citizens are prevented from simply visiting this beautiful and culturally rich neighboring country. In order to visit Cuba currently as a US Citizen, a license is necessary, along with the stigma and hassle it generates.
Things are about to dramatically change however; compliments of a thawing of relations initiated by recent events that were acted upon by the Obama Administration. The Cruise Industry will be one of the greatest benefactors of this change.
A little basic Cuban cruising history
In the past a vessel which docked into a Cuban port was prevented going to the US as a consequence, hence many Cruise Lines especially those American based found it most intimidating.
Some Cruise Lines did break the mould though. Costa Cruises for example famously home-ported in Havana for a period in the 1990's during the days of Alfonso Lavarello, however when the American Cruise market leader Carnival Corp. purchased Costa, all ships were prevented form visiting Cuba again. Lavarello left and was gifted the port of Havana as a kind of compensation.
Due to the active promotions of Alfonso Lavarello, for 2 years as from 2001 the pan-European Cruise Line Festival Cruises commenced cruises from Havana and later Santiago de Cuba. Festival Cruises pioneered new Shore Excursion in the region and executed highly successful cruises. In the words of Grant Holmes, former Director of On Board Revenue, Marketing, Shore Excursions and Tour Operations "Cuba was our second most profitable itinerary from an Revenue perspective; part of the reason for this was the attractive/unique Shore Excursion program we developed and the general Guest Satisfaction generated as a consequence". Festival Cruises operated the largest Cruise Ship to have docked into Havana to date called the "Mistral", which is now part of the Costa fleet "neoRiviera".
In recent times...