Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, is expecting a call any day giving final approval from the Cuban government for several of the company's ships to cruise to the island. The ships will come from the Oceania line, but ships from the flagship lines could also be included.
At a press briefing onboard the Seven Seas Explorer -- Regent's new "world's most luxurious ship" -- Cuban-born Del Rio said he's already received tentative approval to send Oceania Cruises' 684-passenger Regatta to Cuba before the end of the year. That ship is expected to offer itineraries that include circumnavigations of Cuba.
Also headed to Havana (assuming the final okay) will be the Oceania line's 1,250-passenger Marina in 2017. Del Rio mentioned that other NCLH ships will visit the island on Western Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries, but he stopped short of saying whether the ships would be in the fleets of Norwegian Cruise Line or Regent.
However, when I asked what port he might drop in favor of Havana, he was quick to say Key West -- which happens to be on some Western Caribbean itineraries of the Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Pearl, Seven Seas Mariner, and Seven Seas Explorer.
Del Rio also suggested that Havana could be substituted for a day at sea or even Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line's private Bahamian island.
"We want to use Havana as much as possible," he said. "It's an incredible place. I cried more than once when I went there in September… I have traveled the world, and I just marveled [at Cuba]."
Currently, the only American brand cruising to Cuba is Carnival Corporation's social impact line Fathom, with the 705-passenger Adonia doing bi-weekly cruises out of Miami. Royal Caribbean is also looking to launch cruises with its 2,020-passenger Empress of the Seas ASAP -- meaning as soon as they get the green light from Cuba.